A reminder: Atheism isn’t about the belief that we were created from nothing. (Again.)

I can’t believe I’m writing this again, but more posts on this subject will hopefully get one or two curious believers to read one of them…

Yesterday, on a flat Earth Facebook page of all places, I once again rebuked the claim that atheists say we came from nothing, and someone argued with me. He argued that both Dawkins and Krauss have stated it. Your quote mining (without the quotes???) doesn’t change what atheism is.

Atheism is the disbelief in god(s) due to lack of evidence. It is the rejection of the claim that a god or gods exist; the rejection in the claim of creation. (Creation from what, by the way? Nothing? Then the “nothing” argument applies to theism, not atheism.)

The only argument relevant to us atheists is the requirement for evidence that your god exists. We make no claims. We do not propose some alternative argument to creation. We simply reject your claims. The burden of proof lies on the claimant to provide evidence to support the claim.

I’ve argued several times with people who insist that atheism makes some alternative claim. It does not. And no matter how many times you insist that it does, it still doesn’t. Just because you start with the assumption that what you believe is true does not exempt you from having to provide evidence. Projecting your belief of creation onto atheists and insisting we believe in creation from nothing is a straw man argument. When you base your entire argument on this, it also avoids the issue of your lack of evidence. Just because every argument you have is like this and every argument is about as logical as a child who insists Santa is real, does not change the facts.

Insisting that we atheists need to give some answer to where the universe came from is another example of avoiding the issue. We don’t. I’m quite satisfied with “I don’t know”. That doesn’t mean I have to accept your answer, an answer that doesn’t answer anything. It just inserts a placeholder called “god” at the beginning, and by definition that placeholder was always there. Insisting that god doesn’t need a creator is an example of special pleading. If god doesn’t need a creator, neither does the universe.

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Time changes everything

Funny how time flies…

On Monday, I was sitting outside a Brooklyn Brothers restaurant at an entrance to the shopping mall that houses the offices I work in, for lunch number two (don’t judge me), when a strange, skinny woman walked out, cigarette in hand, to the smoking area. The area was empty so she wandered around for a few minutes, then went back into the mall, and came out again because some others had gone for a smoke break. I figured she’d forgotten her lighter.

After I finished my burger, I went for a smoke too, and caught the end of the conversation. Skinny lady was talking to three men she didn’t know, about how much she loved her boyfriend, until she lost track between the start and end of a sentence and switched to the subject of men thinking with their penises. The three bemused men left and then she talked to me for a minute. I just smiled and nodded, nodded and chuckled, kind of like a smile and wave without the effort of lifting my hand. She was terribly high.

Anyway, it occurred to me that somewhere along the way, I’ve lost track. I’ve lost touch with how it feels to be an addict. I remember everything, but it isn’t fresh anymore, raw or urgent. I don’t have this need to explain what it was to be in that state of mind any more either, because it is no longer important. I’m not sure when it happened, but I’m glad it did.

Likewise, if some twat came here and contradicted what I’ve written about 12 step programs being useless because they are not evidence based, and claimed that I was never really an addict because I don’t believe in the bullshit they believe in, I’ll be less inclined to comment and explain the No True Scotsman fallacy. Actually I’ll probably comment, but it won’t be important. That need for me to be understood has faded.

I do still have things to write… There’s this idea I’ve had for years now – maybe it is almost time to write it. It’s about the life that I had, and lost, due to my meth addiction. It will have to be split into at least 3 parts starting with us, happy and living in our little cottage, with 2 cats and a dog. It will be depressing and relate how we lost everything, how pets died, how love died, how hope died for a while. And how, in a way, I died – how the old me is still there in a way – trapped forever in 2009 left lying naked in a pool of his own blood. I was reborn as this person, a true rebirth that required first a death or a tremendous loss, unlike the so called born again Christians who think that making a statement that they accept their imaginary friend as their personal saviour somehow means they were reborn. Rebirth requires death. Maybe I’m finally ready to write it. (But not today.) We’ll see.

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Recovery | 4 Comments

The voices in your head are not real

Recently, someone named Ryan commented this

 

(Not sure if the soundcloud embedded link is working with the editor I use. If it does not, use this link.)

I knew I wasn’t completely crazy because of this audio track. I felt what I could not hear. It’s specifically in contradiction with your article. It’s not for children.

That was in response to what is unfortunately the most popular post on this blog, one that I wrote a while ago about the way meth voices start with pareidolia.

I don’t know if Ryan and Spectre Inspector, who posted the clip to soundcloud, are one and the same, but the latter seems pretty far gone. (Edit: It is the same person.) His comments are mostly incoherent ramblings and he seems obsessed with some girl who looks “identical” to a girl from his delusions, and at one point he describes someone he heard singing – “I could not find the source, as best I could tell it came from the closet.”

Rather than writing it all over again… my reply to Ryan was this:

I don’t know what you think you heard, but thank you for making my point. This is exactly the kind of white noise, similar to loud wind and rain, that lends to you hearing voices when you’re on meth. Finding meaning in the meaningless when it is noise is like seeing rabbits (or jesus or whatever) in clouds.

It works similarly to the type of radio scanners and white noise generators used in so called ghost boxes (or spirit boxes). They (the deluded who believe in that) also have videos, and unless they add subtitles and you “hear” the same as other people thanks to the power of suggestion, no two people will ever hear the same voices.

So tell me, do you hear the same “voices” every time you listen to it?
I suspect not – rather the white noise creates a foundation, an audio “platform” on which you build your hallucinatory soundscape.

Thanks again. This is a perfect example of how meth voices start with pareidolia. But beware, because if you use meth long enough, you won’t need it any more. Eventually you’ll hear voices all the time.

I thought my argument was quite clear. Anyway, the Merriam-Webster definition for pareidolia is the following:

Definition of pareidolia. :the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. The scientific explanation for some people is pareidolia, or the human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness. Think of the Rorschach inkblot test.

It’s worth adding that pareidolia can be auditory as well as visual. (Mentioned in this RationalWiki article.)

My original post described how the voices started for me, when I was high on meth and paranoid, after I had already been using a substantial amount daily for a couple of years. It started with auditory pareidolia, in that when there was a lot of ambient noise, such as rain, wind, a loud train that I was travelling on, and similar sounds, I’d hear faint sounds that appeared to be voices in the background. This progressed for me and after a few months, the voices became clear. Eventually I’d hear them all the time, without any noise required to stimulate my brain into “hearing” those patterns and finding meaning in the meaningless.

That was the entire point of the post! … that the voices start that way. I didn’t know that people out there actually sit around listening to white noise and intentionally search for meaning in the meaningless. I didn’t! And that is exactly what EVP is… People deluding themselves into “hearing” voices in white noise. It isn’t clear whether those people are simply extremist believers, psychotic, or under the influence of drugs like meth, but it is clear that whatever they think they hear is not real.

It saddens me that so many people have commented on that post, to say that the voices are real, and written details of the various delusions they have built up around the voices they “hear”. How come all your delusions are not exactly the same, lunatics? Huh huh huh???

For fuck’s sake people, if you hear voices that nobody else can hear, it is not logical to assume that you are special somehow and that there is meaning in those voices. Instead, logic tells you that something is going wrong in your brain, something causing you to hear voices that aren’t really there.

When that happened to me, it became frighteningly obvious that methamphetamine was doing serious harm to my brain. It became important to make a plan to stop using meth. And fortunately for me, the voices stopped as soon as I was clean for about two days. (I didn’t get sobriety right straight away, but every time I quit, that’s what happened.)

I’m not qualified to give advice to anyone who hears voices without using meth, but I can say that whatever you hear is not real. If you hear voices, it means that something is going wrong in your brain. Finding meaning in those voices is a path to psychosis, assuming you’re not psychotic already. The appropriate thing to do is to get help. An inappropriate thing to do is to go to the blog of someone who tries very hard to explain how dangerous those hallucinations are and how they start, and claiming that the voices are real. They are not. I’m always tempted to delete such comments, but maybe they do serve a purpose – they demonstrate how dangerous drugs like meth can be, as they damage your brain, and that damage might be permanent if you don’t do the sensible thing and try to get help when you realize that you’re hearing voices in your head. I can’t fucking believe I even have to explain this. It’s really quite simple: If you are hearing voices in your head, you have a problem.

I don’t know what else to say really… Is there any way I can get through to people like Ryan? Convince him that he needs help? If you reach the point where you are so convinced that the voices you hear are real, that you place a device in the closet to record them, and upload the tracks of nothing but static and background noise to the internet, maybe you’re lost… lost somewhere in your own head; lost in your delusions. Maybe there isn’t always a way back, not for all of us. And that’s sad. Despite my dark humour (using words like “lunatics” and so on), Ryan is not so different to me. He’s not stupid. He just followed the path his brain took him, his brain that has evolved like all of ours to recognize patterns and sometimes get it wrong. I knew several meth addicts who thought the voices were real, and some of them didn’t even know that they heard voices. Don’t be like Ryan. Get help before you lose your mind.

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Yet another loaded question for atheists: What do atheists fear the most?

All of us who regularly participate in atheist Facebook groups have no doubt been exposed to many stupid questions. Imagine my reaction to this, when I just happen to be someone who has always hated stupid questions.

It’s not just that the questions are stupid, and loaded with the same asinine assumptions and a refusal to understand what atheism actually is… it’s that the imbeciles who ask them could merely scroll down a little to see the answers given to previous idiots who asked the same questions.

There are questions like “Why do you hate god?” when we don’t believe in any gods and would have to look at the idiot’s profile to figure out which one they mean… “Where do your morals come from?” or the more insulting questions which are loaded with the assumption that we have no morals… which assumes objective morality and that morality came from a particular deity somehow. But yesterday’s question left me wondering just how stupid the person asking actually is. I mean – thank FSM for Velcro or that poor sod probably wouldn’t be able to tie his or her shoelaces… so much stupid!

In this case I’m not even sure what was assumed. Could it be something to do with fear of death, or fear of eternal punishment in a Hell that doesn’t exist? Who knows?

Anyway, despite my post about the fear of death yesterday, I’ve suspected for some time that theists are insecure and even with the false comfort of the belief in an afterlife, their fear of death is often worse than mine. But I’m not going to assume that all theists have exactly the same fear because that would be stupid, just like the assumption that all atheists fear exactly the same thing, or that any individual atheist’s fear has anything to do with their atheism. Why would it?

I’m not ruled by fear. I have fears because that’s normal. Even fear of death is natural because I like being alive. If I have to think about it, my greatest fear would be anything terrible happening to my son, including the fear of his death before mine. I’d also hate anything bad to happen to his sister, even though she is not living with us, because I love her. But that’s just me, and my fears would not likely be any different no matter what I believed.

Update: A friend just shared this to make fun of them:

loaded

That sums it up perfectly really… A meme made by the type of idiot who asks those questions, with the answer they want to hear. And they keep asking because no atheist would ever answer that way.

They assume:

  1. An argument from morality.
  2. Sexual deviance. By the way, even your popular religions didn’t always conflate morality and sexuality. Why does what’s between your legs have anything whatsoever to do with morality?
  3. that we hate “God”.

I’m not saying all theists are stupid, but people who think like that are.

Note also the misogyny in the meme. The man asks the woman why she is an atheist. He is in the position of the theist who usually asks the question. She says that she loves sin and sleeping with many men. Apart from the conflation of promiscuity with morality, this is implicitly saying that women who sleep with many men have poor morals, but the men are not at fault.

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Mortality frightens me

All too often, in the various atheist groups I belong to… the subject of death rears its grimacing skull. It seems that the general consensus is that we should not fear death. After all, you won’t know when you’re dead, because you’ll be dead. But I fear it all the same.

Perhaps the reason is that I accepted the idea of an afterlife for so long? I don’t know, but it seems to me the one thing common to most religions is the idea that death is not the end. They don’t all believe in a heaven or hell, but a soul and some kind of afterlife is the norm. I suppose it’s an oversimplification, but the fear of death must be a large part of what drives people not to question their beliefs. It didn’t work like that for me – seeing that so many religions had a similar concept, I did not find it logical to conclude that there must be some truth to that concept; but rather that there must be something about us that leaves us wanting to believe.

I look at some of the female movie stars I adored so much 20 (or so – I’m not counting) years ago… Women like Neve Campbell, Fairiza Balk, Denise Richards… the list goes on. Look at them now. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying that more mature women are less attractive – it’s just that I prefer looking at the women. (You know!) Us men age just as badly. What I am saying is that age is a sign of our bodies wearing down as the cells no longer repair themselves properly, a sign of impending death and decomposition. And that, the inevitability of death, gets to me.

I do find the lengths that we go to, to “confirm” our beliefs in the supernatural, to be highly amusing. Some might say that the common belief in ghosts is evidence that life goes on after physical death. It isn’t. Take a movie like The Conjuring… In it, Ed and Lorraine Warren’s faithful assistants, even the pseudo-skeptical one, run around capturing the ghosts and demons on film. (I’m remembering the second movie, I think.) Then that can be used as evidence by the church to determine whether or not the case is genuine… Meanwhile, in reality, no such evidence of the supernatural exists. Instead, we have people who impose supernatural significance of their existing beliefs on natural phenomena (or people like the real life Warrens who exploit the gullible for profit), and then those stories, the ones where the subject of belief is accepted as true despite no supporting evidence, are the ones that get written down. And then, those stories are further embellished for movies. They may be horror movies, but in them is a little gem of hope, “confirmation” for the faithful that they will live on after physical death.

And on the subject of horror, I find that the stories without a supernatural element to be more frightening – those that don’t promise us life after death but instead feature a human antagonist and gruesome death. I wonder though… Is my fear of death, despite being an atheist, common? Or is it unusual? I doubt it… I mean, one of the reasons to hang on to irrational beliefs may well be fear of death, but just because I realize the reality of the situation does not mean that fear goes away. If anything, the fear is more threatening to me since I don’t have the false comfort of belief in an afterlife.

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Four Years Clean

Wow. I can’t believe another year has passed. This time I don’t have much to say. I’m four years clean. Fuck you, crystal meth, I won!

Just two days ago, I received a copy of the letter from court indicating termination of foster care and that my son was returned to my care on 15 December 2015. And coincidentally, a new employee, a junior developer who sits beside me, started working with me recently – someone whose father was also an addict. It’s a reminder that these things don’t always have a happy ending.

He stopped seeing his father sometime in his childhood, and due to his father being violent and threatening there was a restraining order preventing further contact… and the man died while my new colleague was still a teenager. Now he’s struggling to decide whether or not to rekindle a relationship with his grandparents. It’s a grim reminder of what could have happened to me – I could have lost my son forever, and then lost my life, if I hadn’t cleaned up four years ago.

But of course I did clean up, and in the end it was easy. I’m not special, and if I can do this, so can you.

While I am enormously proud of my success, I am also humbled by the knowledge that it would have been so easy not to make it. There’s a fine line between the man I am and the man I could have been if I hadn’t stopped using meth. That’s why I don’t judge those who don’t manage to get it right. But the good news is, you can do it.

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I finally received the letter proving I got my son back.

Better late than never? Foster care was terminated on 15 December 2015, but today was the last time the social worker followed up. She called me a few minutes ago and told me she was closing the file. (Yay!)

So I asked her for the document (again) and this time she sent it… (Ignore the concern raised by my brother. Mommy is not violent. She raised me just fine and I hardly ever kill people.)

KM_284e-20170830114611

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