toxic thought waste site

Theological whimsy, metaphysical larks, and other spiritually radioactive waste products.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Great Transformation: Chap 05 - Suffering

600 - 530 BCE.

Well, let's see what trouble those crazy children of Israel can get into today. I think one thing I had never realized growing up as a Christian was the overall plot summary of the OT. In Sunday school you get a family friendly version of Genesis plus some Judges and a little Saul and David. The rest would be a little hard to make palatable for kids. But the Sunday school stories are such a small part of the OT. The rest is largely a tale of a people who basically just got beaten up by their neighbors and exported here and there. They were a tiny beleaguered nation that really didn't accomplish *anything* except write this one certain book. Granted that that book has some staying power but otherwise we probably wouldn't even know anything about the Jews (at least their early history). They don't seem to have been a military power. They didn't produce any interesting technology or art. They just wrote one book...

OK, so Jeremiah basically invents what we now know as Judaism in this era. He puts forth the idea that the reason the Jews are being treated so shabbily is that they have broken the covenant that they had made with Yahweh and so he is allowing the neighbors to stomp all over them. If they become moral, faithful people again then Yahweh will restore them to greatness. Of course it's hard to fault the Jews for turning their back on god. Clearly the gods of the Babylonians and Assyrians are more powerful. As an interesting aside its interesting to note that most of the mythical sounding stories (Garden of Eden, Flood, Job, etc) seem to have been borrowed from their conquerors and reformulated during this period. So if you like those stories thank Nebuchadnezzar and friends. It's amazing just how directly these stories are ripped off. The 7 days of creation, Adam and Eve, the flood. Just cut and paste jobs. The interesting additions are basically showing that unlike the *other* gods of the region, Yahweh worked alone and was completely self sufficient. "P" (the priestly editors) are now active and create the long boring sections of the OT with the precise instructions on how to follow the laws in detail, and census results (they call it Numbers for a reason) and genealogies.

Meanwhile to the North West the Greeks were coming to the conclusion that the gods didn't intervene in human affairs. This would lead to a secular government ruled by reason. It wasn't just reason, reason, reason all the time though. There were the "mystai" rites that were like a haunted house experience with the aim of providing new insights. Even Pythagoras saw mathematics as a religious act of sorts.

The Indians develop (or at least formalize) what we would recognize today as yoga. Of course unlike the relaxing muscle stretches we know today is was "a systematic assault on the ego". Which doesn't sound relaxing at all. In addition the Indians continue to develop meditation techniques.

The Chinese tradition of "gentlemen" warfare is almost completely expunged by this point. Obviously anyone who doesn't follow those rules will find easy victims. Not too much spiritual development goes on during this period but the stage has been set for the first of the great Chinese sages: Confucius


The master summarizes his views on Biblical apologetics

I generally have no taste for discussing biblical contradictions, since I find the matter so boring. Even more boring than bickering over contradictions in Homer. And that's being literature, in plain aesthetic terms, Homer is quite superior to the Bible, although that's just my opinion. I also find this task largely pointless, since the only people who actually think the bible is inerrant are also insanely dedicated to denying any evidence to the contrary with any baloney hoohah they can pull out of their ass. So what's the point?

I'm not yet fed up with apologetics though I'm probably slowly reaching that point. For me it still has a strange fascination. Sort of like meeting a person who insists that they are the reincarnation of Napoleon. They speak good French, have an amazingly detailed knowledge of Napoleon's battles. After awhile there's really nothing left to do but back away slowly...



Dennett on the Charlie Rose show

Dennett is my kind of atheist. More so than Harris and Dawkins I find that hearing him speak and reading his books it's like looking at the future of where my brain will be once I've gotten it up to speed. I find his thoughts on religion better reasoned and his lack of antagonism more sensible in a lot of ways. Plus how can you not like a guy that looks like Santa Claus?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Digital Theology

The Last Question

This is a story I first heard about 10 years ago but didn't get around to reading until just today. I'm really a sucker for religious fiction. OK, that's a bit vague, since it's all pretty much fiction. I'm a really interested in unique variations of religious themes and fiction that takes religious ideas to their (absurdly) logical extremes. My favorite movie on this vein in recent years was Frailty. I'm still not sure I understand why the movie was named that. Great movie nonetheless and perfectly typifies the sort of religious fantasy I find most interesting.

Back to the story above. I've had several people summarize this story to me over the years. In finally reading I see that they had subtly changed the plot and basic gist. The thing that's most memorable is the "punch line" at the end, which everyone seems to get right. I find it strange that people remember this story so inaccurately. Perhaps it's the kind of story where you want it to say a certain thing and so you just make up plot details.

Any way, enjoy. Do you have any favorite religious fantasy you think I should read/see?

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Delusion Inventory

Time for a delusion inventory, wherein I catalog and classify delusions for your epistemological pleasure.

Delusions of which I'm (almost) entirely unaffected:

  • Religion: there are no gods or spirits, or more accurately there may be, but you have no evidence either way.
  • Sports team affiliation: while it is a joyous thing to behold an athlete at the top of their abilities, thinking that it matters whether one team or the other wins, or even caring is delusional behavior. I'm fairly confident that when the brain is completely mapped that the religion lobe and the sports team affiliation lobe will be almost complete overlaps.
  • Alcohol is delicious: alcohol (beer, wine, etc) are *all* disgusting. If you believe that a beer on a hot day after a long day of hiking is delicious it is because you have strongly associated the taste of beer with the real thing your body craves - alcohol. True, some alcohol is less nasty than others, but it is ALL disgusting.
  • Same for coffee (but with respect to caffeine)

Delusions that I experience, being all the time aware of their delusional

  • My kids are the smartest, cutest, funnest, best behaved kids on the planet. Or at least far, far above average. This is not likely to be true. I can deduce that this is not true, but I experience this as true nonetheless.
  • My spouse is the most beautiful, talented, generous, kind person on the planet. Not likely to be true, but I'll be damned if I can see her any other way.
  • Coca-Cola is delicious. This falls under the same category as alcohol and coffee, it's just that for what ever reason in this case the delusion of delicious makes it past my filter.

Delusions that I'm still delusional about:

  • I have freewill (see Susan Blackmore among others for this and next two)
  • Stream of consciousness is real
  • A self exists that is me.
  • ____________ (lots more I'm sure, by definition this category is all but impossible to self assess)

What's in your delusion inventory?



Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Great Transformation: Chap 04 - Knowledge

(c 700 to 600 BCE)

The Indians now have turned their religious rites almost entirely inward. And their religious texts seem to be moving towards a zen like propensity for stating what the truth isn't rather than what it is. Interestingly women were an active part of religious life. During this period the concept of karma appears for the first time. Abandoning the aggressively self-assertive ego is the goal of this inner practice.

Unlike the the Indians the Greeks were giving more detail and focus to their gods. This is the era of Hesiod who refashioned the stories of the gods to emphasize the importance of justice between humans as a way of becoming closer to the gods. In other axial age cultures the idea of selfless-ness was a religious ideal, with the Greeks it was a a soldierly virtue.

The Chinese are not due to have their pivotal axial age moment for another 200 years or so, but in the mean time they are perfecting intricate rituals and creating a society of gentlemen. They appear have have had crazy notions about wars where it was more important to appear gentlemanly than to win. In fact you could win by being the more modest and restrained of the two armies. Obviously this sort of warfare didn't do too well against neighboring "barbarians" who just wanted to win.

And now the Jews. I just have to say one thing: these guys really got raked over the coals in their history. In fact it's more than a minor miracle that we even know of the Jews at all. They seem to get completely trounced by who ever is in the neighborhood. What's most fascinating about this century is that it is likely the time when the Jewish Bible is actually created. There is an episode where King Josiah's priests "find" the "lost" books of Moses (Deuteronomy) and they use the rules therein as a blueprint for how to reconstruct their society and get right with Yahweh again. Clearly they are not right with Yahweh since Israel proper (the northern kingdom) was completely destroyed and only very small Judea (really just Jerusalem) is left. An interesting new development of this new canon is that there is now a more formal difference between the the religious and the secular. The king is no longer the conduit to and special son of Yahweh. He is just another human with no special privileges and had to follow the law like everyone else. The Deuteronomists were especially interested in Moses and Egypt and augmented those stories quite a bit. Egypt was one of their major threats at this time so they wanted to have a narrative that showed God keeping them in check. Also the God of the Deutornomists was much more a sky god than a guy who would come down into Eden and walk around in the cool mornings. He was becoming much more abstract. Another interesting point is that having the Bible as a written document and having increased literacy meant that more people could go off and just study the text on their own with out having to receive the teaching from another. This would have pluses and minuses.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Infidel Links - 2007-01-21

Hilarity, thy name is Mr Deity:

Metaphors in the Bible:

Apparently, women *aren't* property (who knew?):

Intelligent Design zoo:

Steven Weinberg is the man!,,25349-2552017.html

we have the fossils:

This guy wins the preaching to the choir award every time. But he still cracks me up.

The best way to get theology is from dinosaurs. But a close second is from legos:

WWJP (what would Jesus poop)

The joy of "X":

With a catchy tune like this how can you not believe....?,521,n,n

skeptical suckers! (oops)

Be a monster, you know you wanna!

God, Inc.,549,n,n

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Friday, January 19, 2007

God Hacks

  • Foreword (by Pope Benedict XVI and Brian Flemming)
  • Preface
  • Contents
  • God basics
    • Why "god hacks"?
    • Minimal system requirements
    • Determining which god is right for you
    • Turning off the nagging voice of doubt
    • Care and Feeding of your god
  • Understanding your owner's manual
    • Stop laughing, it's all true.
    • Quick overview of how we got here and what we are supposed to do now.
    • Contradiction Harmonization: it's all too crazy *not* to be true.
    • Navigating the silicon age with the wisdom of the iron age.
  • Installation, Upgrades, Fix packs, Uninstalls
    • How do I install a deity ("Getting saved")?
    • How do I upgrade up to the "next level"?
    • How do I uninstall my deity ("Apostasy")?
  • Communication Hacks
    • One-way asynchronous mode ("prayer")
    • Troubleshooting the "Deity Not Found" response.
    • Avoiding ironic answers to prayer.
    • Discriminating between hearing God's voice and "those crazy voices"
    • Classical interpretation techniques: tea leaves, entrails, and you
  • Divine Wrath: Avoidance and Responses
    • Is it wrath or just random?
    • Diagnosing the reason for the wrath
    • Efficient, results-based grovelling
  • Keeping the Commandments:
    • If it feels good: Stop!
    • Killing infidels
    • Sharing the Joy: Mind virus transmission techniques
  • Afterlife hacks
    • Performing a vice/virtue audit for estimating your current eternal reward status
    • Work arounds for predestination
    • Asbestos underwear: preparing for worst case scenarios.
  • Financial Considerations
    • Calculating your ideal tithing rate to maximize ROI.
    • Determining the most cost efficient religion for you
    • Starting your own religion for fun and (mostly) profit.
  • Hacking Theological puzzles
    • How to interpret God's silence as proof of his existence
    • How to use the concept of freewill to explain away god's non-interference policy
    • Putting God in the gaps and keeping him there.
  • Reboots, System Recovery
    • Sin (understanding the point system)
    • Forgiveness
    • So you've traded your soul for a fiddle....
  • Troubleshooting
    • Your options when god breaks his promise
    • Help, my god is commanding me to _____. (Dealing with unreasonable requests)
  • Advanced Hacks
    • Making your own god from scratch
    • Becoming a god your self (apotheosis)
    • Removing the "god virus" from yourself and others

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spiritual Rosencrantz and Guildensterns

I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but you are no Hamlet.

You see, it occurred to me recently that a lot of people are more than slightly confused about their role in the cosmic order. Most distressing is the belief that this world was created for them by a loving god for their benefit. Now far be it from me to suggest that there is not a loving god who creates things for the benefit of beloved creations. But look at your life, do you really think that things are working for your benefit right now?

So, here's the scoop. You've heard that "all the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players". Well, there's more truth to that sentiment than you might have realized. An important fact that may have escaped your attention up to now is that there are two main classes of people on this planet: stars and supporting actors (extras). As the bible says there are only 144,000 people going to heaven so the chances of you being one of those is vanishingly small. You have a better chance of winning the lottery. Twice. No, only the stars are going to heaven (or at least are in the running). God specifically designed the earth as a testing ground for them to learn life lessons, experience the highest highs, lowest lows and engage deep spiritual truths. In the end they will grow close to god and speak with him and truly know his will.

But that's them. If you lived before Jesus arrived or in some town that has never heard the gospel, then you have 0% chance of going to heaven. And the chances aren't much better even if you *have* heard the gospel. The truth is you are not a star. You are just an extra, a bit player. More than likely you don't even have a soul. God may be stern, but he's not wasteful. Why make a soul for someone that has no chance of doing anything with it? So I guess you can think of yourself as a meat robot.

Don't get me wrong you will still experience emotional highs and lows. Fall in and out of love. Etc. But you must keep in mind that this is for the benefit of the main narrative flow, which does not include you in any meaningful way. You may be called to play a part in a scene that teaches how precious and fragile life is (ie. you are killed in a most random fashion). You may be called to act in a scene where hard work pays off in the end. Or to act out whimsical coincidence that makes people stop to think about the grand scheme of things. Perhaps you will play the part of a skilled doctor and at a moment of greatest need you save the life of one of the stars. Lord help you if you are asked to participate in an act showing that bad things happen to good people. Those gigs really suck. If given a choice try to get a role in "Why do good things happen to bad people".

So if your life seems empty or bizarre and you don't really feel connected to the big picture, well, now you know why. If this information is too much you may be tempted to break free from your role and live a more authentic life of your own choosing. That's a noble goal to be sure. But it is also what your role calls for and your struggle will prove a valuable lesson to one of the stars; when they see your perseverance they will be inspired. You on the other hand will still be a supporting actor.

10 strut
20 fret
30 goto 10

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Infidel Links - 2007-01-14

Loving your children as god loves us

The New Testament in 4 panels

PBS decides it's their turn to talks about atheists

Teaching both sides of the issue

Satan can do a mean downward facing dog, but prefers proud warrior

Atheists backlash

Santa Claus, the easter bunny and now... Conservative Atheists

Stupid inconsistent atheists pretending to be all moral and stuff

Oldie but a goodie: IF - Intelligent Falling



And my newly adopted religion is ...

For 2007 I've decided I need a religion to try out for the year. But the whole "is there actually a god" thing is proving to be a real stumbling block for me. So I've decided to be religious about something that I can really throw my whole heart into. Something that at worst will have no negative effects and will likely have positive effects on my life. So my new religion is GTD.

How can a personal productivity and organization system be a religion?

- it has a charismatic messiah/prophet in the form of David Allen
- it has a holy text (Getting Things Done)
- people make all sorts of claims how it has transformed their lives
- it requires adherence to some basic principles. Some of these principles
seem too easy to work, and some seem just weird or too hard. (How's
that for a concise overview of religious practice!)
- it has a notion of sin (not following the system) repentance (returning to the system) and a long term victory over evil (clutter, unfinished todos)
- it promotes introspection (weekly review, outlining of life goals)
- people become evangelical about it

The one thing that it's missing is some sort of just crazy nonsensical belief. So I'm just going to append a belief so that I throw some faith into the mix. If I implement this system correctly and with my whole heart and being then I will have a huge financial windfall. (The amount, and scheduling of this windfall are at the discretion of the powers that be).

All hail GTD, glory to it's name and its prophet David Allen.



Friday, January 12, 2007

The Great Transformation: Chap 03 - Kenosis

I'm learning so many interesting but useless words: kenosis. This chapter covers the years 800 BCE - 700 BCE.

The Israelites are about to be visited by some prophets. The Jews are experiencing a period of economic growth, but the gap between the rich and poor is growing unbearable. The more things change the more they stay the same, I suppose. The prophets come and really start to push for a moral dimension to religion. The Israelites are now being pushed towards kenosis (emptying). They need to transcend their own self interests and rule with justice and equity. There is a movement from a mere reliance on rituals to the belief that you must also do good or the ritual is worthless.

This chapter also gives a nice overview of "J" and "E"'s contributions to the Bible. If you aren't aware of this theory, basically the idea is that there are at least 4 different "voices" or schools of writing in the OT. These are differentiated on the basis of writing style and subjects emphasized. Two of these are discussed here: J refers to the author(s) who refer to god as Yahweh (Jehovah), and E refers to authors who call god by the name El. J is writing from the perspective of the southern kingdom, Judah, where Abraham is revered and King David is one of the greatest heroes. J's god is strongly anthropomorphic and much of his contribution is to show that the world is a really harsh place, hence all the awful stories in the OT. E was bigger on Moses. E's god is more transcendent. Understanding that these two voices (among others) were mashed together helps explain the contradictory stories and redundancy we find in the OT. The editing together is believed to have occurred as a way to help unite the two kingdoms.

An interesting interpretation of Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Isaac. In many religions of the region a son would be given to the gods in sacrifice as a way to help replenish the gods energy. This story more than being a test of faith is also showing that Yahweh doesn't need to be replenished.

While the Greeks explored different political ideas their religion sort of stagnated. Their concept of the afterlife was that of a shadowy existence. Not heaven or hell, just not on earth anymore. The only real idea of immortality was that of becoming a hero who's deeds were recorded for posterity. While the Greeks didn't seem to be approaching kenosis they did have a sense that immortality thru celebration of your deeds wasn't anything great compared to actually being alive still.

For the Chinese their rituals continued to become more elaborate but there was an increasing sense that just performing the rituals was useless without understanding the symbolism being employed.

Among the Indians the tradition of "renouncers" was developing. A renouncer would beg for food and spend all their time living in the woods and meditating. The external rites were being turned into an inward exploration. The fasting, celibacy and other pre-ritual activities were slowly becoming the ritual itself. These renouncers were viewed as spiritual heroes.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

You say Jeremiah, I say Zechariah, let's call the whole thing off

Some aspects of Bible apologetics really impress me in a way. Just when I think I have found the killer, no possible response passage, they come up with some plausible explanation. Of course, it's just a matter of showing that something isn't *necessarily* a contradiction, rather than showing it's definitely *not* a contradiction. Not convincing to me personally, but I must tip my hat to their inventiveness. Of course some apologetics is so bad that it seems to require an apology itself. I recently came across this gem from the grand master himself, Augustine. The passage below refers to an apparent error in Matthew that *seems* to be attributing a passage to the wrong book of the Old Testament:

St. Augustine in his work De Consensu Evang (III 7) said that Matthew knew very well that the sentence came from Zechariah, but he also knew that he was writing at the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and he dared not take the liberty of correcting it. And why did the Holy Spirit dictate an inaccuracy? To show that all the prophets were equally inspired and that it did not matter whether what was said by one was ascribed to another!!

I think the nuttiness of this sort of thinking doesn't require comment, but one thing about this does sort of encourage me. No serious apologist would present this sort of argument these days. So that's some progress...

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Monday, January 08, 2007

The after life: now with hot and cold running virgins

I'm always looking at how to fast track my way to heaven. Not believing in heaven makes this pretty hard, but I like a challenge. On that vein I've been pondering the glorious route of the suicide bomber and his 70 virgins awaiting him in the afterlife. There are a number of things that puzzle me about this scheme, I must admit. Instant access to heaven seems pretty cool, but what's up with the 70 virgins? I guess if you are a virgin junky that sounds pretty cool at first, but think about it: you have to make these nubile love slaves last for eternity. And they'll only be virgins once. So you'd really need to pace yourself. Maybe dip into the virgin pool once every 1000 years. But even at that pace you'd run through your virgins in a relative blink of an eye and have nothing but non-virgins for the rest of eternity. So caveat emptor I guess.

But more importantly seems like you could do a lot better than 70 virgins. Really I think you'd want 70 highly trained call girls. Something like a spaceship full of Inara's from Firefly. Wouldn't that be a much better reward than a bunch of inexperienced virgins?

I wonder where these virgins come from? Are they just young girls who died on earth and now are in the afterlife servicing strangers? That would be some eternal reward. Good job on getting to heaven now hop on this bed while this stranger rapes you for eternity. Or does god handcraft the virgins from scratch? Do they have souls, freewill? Do they get to choose which suicide bomber they get enslaved to?

Almost makes you wonder if this view of heaven was designed by men for men. Of course if Aristotle was correct that women are deformed men without souls, then it's really no big deal.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Infidel Links - 2007-01-07

The science of tsunamis

I forget, is it against the law to kill atheists?

Sam Harris on Colbert Report

Fundamentalist atheism



Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Great Transformation: Chap 02 - Ritual

Next up the years 900 BCE - 800 BCE.

One thing I've always wondered was how seriously the Greeks took their religion. Zeus and his ilk always seemed sort of comic-booky to me. This chapter makes the point they did believe. The bizarre, dark and tragic elements were likely inspired by the massive loss of peace and civilization they experienced during their Dark Ages. The stories and rituals were designed to show that life is hard and random, but you can successfully come out the other side.

With respect to our friends in Israel, we see a people who have no trouble worshipping a large number of gods. Apparently the idea that there was only one god was a later addition to their belief system. Up until the 6 century BCE there is ample evidence that the Israelites believed in the existence of and frequently worshipped other gods. Part of the reason for this is that the cult of Yahweh was largely about warrior culture, so if you needed help with crops growing or health issues you needed to look at other parts of the pantheon (e.g. Baal). Obviously there wouldn't be so much attention in the Bible to there being only one god if people didn't take the opposite hypothesis so seriously. Elijah is apparently the guy who started the idea that Yahweh was good for one stop shopping; you don't need the other god's because Yahweh can do it all. In psalm 82 we see Yahweh take charge of the assembly of gods and demanding justice. This is the start of the important social justice concerns that will make Judaism one of the worlds important religions.

The Chinese seem to have a consistent philosophy of the heavenly and terrestrial being part of a continuum, not two distinct realms. Apparently the kings were highly constrained by their role as the mediator and had to follow special ceremonies. Every moment of his life was expected to follow The Way. If the crops failed he was blamed for not following The Way.

It is during this period that the Indians first start to turn these rituals inward and see the self as a part of the divine nature.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Quotes from "A Brief History of Disbelief"

A number of interesting quotes from historical figures pass by during Jonathan Miller's "Brief History of Disbelief" (google video). I wanted to review some of the more interesting one's and I ended up collecting most of them. When I had compiled most of these I found that another partial list had already been completed (link)

In most cases I've tried to find the original sources for these quotes so you may find that these are slightly different or expanded from those shown in the series. Probably the most interesting fact is that most of the early presidents of the US wouldn't be elected in this day and age if they expressed their beliefs in public.

All your Western theologies, the whole mythology of them, are based on
the concept of God as a senile delinquent and, by God, I will not and
cannot continue to conduct services in praise and worship of this,
this... this... yeah, this angry, petulant old man.

-- Tennessee Williams

I do not believe in any revealed religion. I will have nothing to do
with your immortality; we are miserable enough in this life, without
the absurdity of speculating upon another.

-- Lord Byron

By simple common sense I don't believe in God, in none.

-- Charlie Chaplin

No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor
should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God

-- George Bush (Sr.)

God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy
is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.

-- John Adams

The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as
President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they
believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal
hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this
is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion

-- Thomas Jefferson

I have seldom met an intelligent person whose views were not narrowed
and distorted by religion.

-- James Buchanan

My earlier views at the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of
salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer
and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I
shall ever change them

-- Abraham Lincoln

The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the
absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.

-- Havelock Ellis

Surely you don’t believe in the gods. What’s your argument? Where’s
your proof?

-- Aristophanes

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent.
Is God both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

-- Epicurus

Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am
not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?

-- Epicurus

Long time men lay oppressed with slavish fear, religion's tyranny did
domineer. At length a mighty one of Greece began to assert the liberty
of man.

-- Lucretius

Fear is the mother of all gods.

Nature does all things spontaneously, by herself, without the meddling
of the gods.

-- Lucretius

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to
religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a
ruler who they consider god fearing and pious. On the other hand, they
less easily move against him, believing he has the gods on his side.

-- Aristotle

In this subject of the nature of the gods the first question is: do
the gods exist or do they not? It is difficult, you will say, to deny
that they exist. I would agree, if we were arguing the matter in a
public assembly, but in a private discussion of this kind it is
perfectly easy to do so.

-- Cicero

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as
false, and by the rulers as useful.

-- Seneca

I don't see any god up here.

-- Yuri Gagarin

There is in every village a torch: The School teacher.

And an extinguisher: The Priest.

-- Victor Hugo

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the
humble reasoning of a single individual.

-- Galileo

To command the professors of astronomy to confute their own
observations is to enjoin an impossibility, for it is to command them
not to see what they do see, and not to understand what they do
understand, and to find what they do not discover.

-- Galileo

With our contentions their irreligious humour is much strengthened
- nothing pleaseth them better than these manifold oppositions upon
the matter of religion

- Richard Hooker

Christ is not God, not the saviour of the world, but a mere man, a
sinful man and an abominable idol. All who worship him are abominable
idolaters and Christ did not rise again from death to life nor did he
ascend into heaven.

-- Matthew Hammond

a person who does not believe the existence of a Deity. Many people,
both ancient and modern, have pretended to atheism, or have been
reckoned atheists by the world; but it is justly questioned whether
any man seriously adopted such a principle. These pretensions,
therefore, must be founded on pride or affectation.

-- Encyclopedia Britannica

Tis very questionable there ever was such a monster in nature as a
serious atheist who lived and died so, in the clear exercise of his
reason and senses

-- Thomas Curteis

An atheist is I think impossible, most who would be thought atheists
are so out of indolence, because they will not give themselves time to

-- The London Magazine

All Religions have this in common, that they are an outrage to common
sense for they are pieced together out of a variety of elements, some
of which seem so unworthy, sordid and at odds with man’s reason, that
any strong and vigorous intelligence laughs at them

-- Puerre Charron

Religion is a Common Notion; no period or nation is without
religion. We have, then, to search for what is by universal consent
acknowledged in religion and compare these universal principles with
each other; and what is universally acclaimed as religious truth must
be recognised as Common Notions. Such a proceeding may be deemed
laborious, but there is no other way by which the truths of Common
Notions can be ascertained. I value them, however, so highly that I
think it is only in them that the inner counsels of divine wisdom can
be understood.

-- Lord Herbert of Cherbury

There is a supreme being. This sovereign power is to be worshipped.
Common consent ordains this though men differ as to the means, and
this has always been believed that all vices and crimes should be
expiated and effaced by repentance.

-- Lord Herbert of Cherbury

The universe, the whole mass of things that are, is corporeal, that is
to say, body, and hath the dimensions of magnitude, length, breadth
and depth. Every part of the universe is 'body' and that which is
not 'body' is no part of the universe, and because the universe is
all, that which is no part of it is nothing, and consequently nowhere.

-- Thomas Hobbes

Not one English infidel in a hundred is any other than a Hobbist,
which I know to be rank atheism.

-- Richard Bentley

Civilization will not attain perfection until the last stone from the
last church falls on the last priest.

-- Emile Zola

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night
God said: "Let Newton be!" and all was light.

-- Alexander Pope

It is therefore the third sort of atheists only (namely those who in
the way of speculative reasoning, and upon the principles of
philosophy, pretend that the arguments brought against the being or
attributes of God, do, upon the strictest and fullest examination,
appear to them to be more strong and conclusive, than those by which
these great truths are attempted to be proved;) these, I say, are the
only atheistical persons to whom my present discourse can be supposed
to be directed, or indeed who are capable of being reasoned with at

-- Samuel Clarke

what would he have said, if he had known the
late discoveries in anatomy and physic, the circulation of the blood,
the exact structure of the heart and brain, the uses of numberless
glands and valves for the secretion and motion of the juices in the
body, besides several veins and other vessels and receptacles not at
all known, or so much as imagined to have any existence in his days;
but which now are discovered to serve the wisest and most exquisite
ends imaginable!

-- Samuel Clarke

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in
praise of intelligence.

-- Bertrand Russell

Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and
since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly
wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will

-- Adam Smith

Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in
philosophy only ridiculous.

-- David Hume

His power we allow infinite: Whatever he wills is executed: But
neither man nor any other animal are happy: Therefore he does not will
their happiness. His wisdom is infinite: He is never mistaken in
choosing the means to any end: But the course of nature tends not to
human or animal felicity: Therefore it is not established for that
purpose. Through the whole compass of human knowledge, there are no
inferences more certain and infallible than these. In what respect,
then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy
of men?

Epicurus’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent
evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing?
then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is

-- David Hume

No-one I am confident will ever mistake my intentions. No-one has a
deeper sense of religion or pays more profound admiration to the
supreme being.

-- David Hume

If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear
created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or
disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves
them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to
make the blindness of men serve its own interests.

If the ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, the knowledge of nature
is calculated to destroy them.

-- Baron d'Holbach

Religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness, and kept him
in ignorance of his real duties and true interest. It is only by
dispelling the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover
Truth, Reason, and Morality. Religion diverts us from the causes of
evils, and from the remedies which nature prescribes; far from curing,
it only aggravates, multiplies, and perpetuates them. Let us observe
with the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke, that 'theology is the box of
Pandora; and if it is impossible to shut it, it is at least useful to
inform men that this fatal box is open.

-- Baron d'Holbach

Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but religious tyranny attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.

-- Tom Paine

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear
to me to be no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind,
and monopolize power and profit.

-- Thomas Paine

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

-- Thomas Paine

The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most destructive to the peace of man since man began to exist. Among the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses, who gave an order to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers and then rape the daughters. One of the most horrible atrocities found in the literature of any nation. I would not dishonor my Creator's name by attaching it to this filthy book.

-- Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine needs no monument made by hands. He has erected a monument in the hearts of all lovers of liberty.

-- Andrew Jackson

Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.

-- Napoleon Bonaparte

If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses? If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them? If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him? If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable? If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE NOT CONVINCED? If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest.

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

-- Charles Darwin

Was it through his grandmother or his grandfather that he was descended from a monkey?

-- Samuel Wilberforce

...Tis is the crown and glory of organic science that it does through final cause, link material and moral... You have ignored this link; and, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which, thank God, it is not) to break it, humanity, in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it, and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history... Passages in your book, like that to which I have alluded (and there are others almost as bad), greatly shocked my moral taste...

-- Adam Sedgwick

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one .

-- George Bernard Shaw

The psychoanalysis of individual human beings, however, teaches us with quite special insistence that the god of each of them is formed in the likeness of his father, that his personal relation to God depends on his relation to his father in the flesh and oscillates and changes along with that relation, and that at bottom God is nothing other than an exalted father.

-- Sigmund Freud

Our knowledge of the historical worth of certain religious doctrines increases our respect for them, but does not invalidate our proposal that they should cease to be put forward as the reasons for the precepts of civilization. On the contrary! Those historical residues have helped us to view religious teachings, as it were, as neurotic relics, and we may now argue that the time has probably come, as it does in an analytic treatment, for replacing the effects of repression by the results of the rational operation of the intellect.

-- Sigmund Freud

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.

-- Karl Marx

I'm a good husband, I work hard, and I love my kids...why should I spend half my Sunday hearing that I'm just going to hell anyway?

-- Homer Simpson

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Concerning heavenly rewards: A Christian Koan

Where do good masochists go when they die? To go to heaven would be their hell and hell would be their heaven?


Thursday, January 04, 2007

False Gods - A Public Service Announcement

Since my invitation to the Almighty to demonstrate his awesomeness, a number of false gods have tried to "pull a fast one" one me. Sorry guys, if you don't know the number then you aren't the real deal. But I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that you really can't be too careful with claims of divinity. Please make sure that any being that approaches you and claims to be this or that god (or spirit or what have you) can provide at least minimal evidence for their super-naturalness.

Don't be a victim of spiritual fraud. Always question and don't take salvation from strangers.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My New Year's Resolution

- Determine once and for all which is the true religion.
- Become scarily religious, such that people cross the street to avoid me.
- Sin like a mofo and then beg for forgiveness.
- Lather, rinse, repeat.


Dear God, I'm thinking of a number

between 1 and 1,000,000. I hope you don't mind this little test. I will dedicate my life to serving your will and honoring your name if you can just give me this little sign. Please leave the evidence of your omniscience as a comment. Or for extra credit send it to my Bantu nicknamed account (I'm sure I don't have to tell you which I mean).

Any way, looking forward to hearing from you and finally having a purpose in life.



ps. Please also indicate which religion I should follow so I don't serve you in the wrong way.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

This is who I want to be when I grow up

Who am I kidding, I'm not going to grow up.

Anyway, R. Joseph Hoffman gave a great interview on point of inquiry. He starts a few minutes in.

Great discussion on how to study religion/Bible scientifically.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Infidel Links - 2007-01-01

Disbelief in Thor: Just a fad or a sign of the times?

Stupid design

See evidence of Noah's flood at the Grand Canyon

Atheist Delusion: mailbag

Did he just call me gay?

He blessed his eff-ing head off

Creationism vs Evolution: the board game