Friday, December 21, 2007

He started it!

I was thinking last night about one of the most common complaints against atheists.

We're fond of trotting out the argument that religion is responsible for more death, misery and destruction than any other force on earth. I'd say it was the greatest rationalization for death etc., but not the cause. It's always been about power, and if you can say that god's on your side, well, that's pretty powerful.

In response to this strawman, the theists pull out their own paper tiger: the atheists are worse. Look at Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot, they say. And I must agree, those were bad dudes. However, while Stalin (certainly) and Pol Pot (probably) were atheists, they simply replaced religious fanaticism with "communist" fanatacism.

And Hitler was a Christian. he called himself one, his master race was Christian, and he learned well from the Catholic Church. In addition, while the Vatican didn't exactly express solidarity with the Fascists (though in Italy and Spain they were pretty tight), there was a lot of winking, nudging and know-what-I-meaning going on. In fact, I heard a rumor that the current pope was an HJ. Shouldn't that be a flag on your résumé if you're going to lead a church?

But that's not the argument I wish to make. First of all, evil comes from people. Religious and atheist evil comes from people. Goodness comes from people. Religious and atheist goodness comes from people. It's as simple as that. We have all kinds of ways to justify being douchebags, but it simply comes down to whether or not you are a douchebag. NOT your particular flavour of douchebaggery, in my opinion. That's why I can understand Christian Humanists (in fact, if you'll pardon the vulgarity, I'm fucking one). Humanism makes me smile. It's Darwinian, its nice, and it's friendly. Go be nice to somebody. If you had a soul, it'd be good for it.

I also want to point out that the nastiness that theists place at the feet of atheists took place in the 20th century. What does that mean? It means that people had discovered and invented all kinds of new and improved ways to do all kinds of things: travel, communicate, and kill each other, and continued to find new and improved ways to do all these things. We're still looking for great new ways to travel, communicate and kill each other. I expect people to keep doing that for the foreseeable future.

What I'm saying is that when these Atheist douchebags got control, they had better ways to kill. And that's the point. They weren't more evil than the religious douchebags who came before, they just had better douchebag technology. In fact, religious douchebags were using biological warfare on "heathens" as recently as the 18th century, here in Canada, but more notably in Pennsylvania at the seige of Fort Pitt.

When killing the Natives with smallpox, measles and the flu didn't work, white, Christian folks did our best to breed them out and kill their language.

These atheist assholes did more killing not because they were worse men, is what I'm saying. They did more killing because we've gotten better at it. It's as simple as that. And if Islamofascists or a crazy Christian sect or a fundamentalist Buddhist temple (seems ridiculous, but I've heard stranger) got their hands on a nuclear weapon, then religious nuts would take the lead once again.

So, theists and atheists, please. Stop saying the other guy is worse. We're all assholes to varying degrees. Our success or failure as an asshole has more to do with our technology than our ideology.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Father figures

This past summer, my wife had our first child. A beautiful (and really, she is, by almost any standard, and I'm not just saying that, you can see for yourself) baby girl. She's named Mikhaela, and she's a sweetie. She's a good baby: quiet and cheerful. She seems to be philosophical about things like the dog knocking her over, or getting up in the middle of the night, being flung around indiscriminately by her father. She's pretty damn cool.

She's also a Catholic.

How do I know? She was baptized. Apparently, this means that she's been marked by my wife's god. So there you go.

Now, I'm not a Catholic. I'm not a christian. I don't believe in that. So my wife and I have some pretty difficult conversations ahead of us. Santa? Puh-leez. No believing in Santa will be a cakewalk compared to Jesus. So what are we going to do?

I'm not going to church. Not regularly, at any rate. I see no problem going once or twice a year, just to keep Tasha happy. It's a small sacrifice for my marriage.

What will we say when Mickie asks why I don't go to church? Do I tell her that I think church sucks? Do I tell her that it's boring? Do I drop the a-bomb then?

Because we'll have to talk about it some day. And I don't know how to do it. I wish people read this, because I'm going to need some advice. How will I tell my little girl I don't believe in god? Because that's not the end of it. Kids ask, "Why?". And then what do I say.

I have no problem coming out to my kid. "Mickie, I just don't believe in god. You do, and your mom does, and that's okay (it's not, really, but I won't say that). But I don't.'

She's gonna ask why. And that's when I tear her down.

These beliefs are tightly held. By children, especially (or those who think like them). Mickie will be faced with several pieces of information at once:

1. Mom and the church are right.

1b. Dad is wrong.

1c. Dad is probably going to hell.

1b(2). Dad is lying.
2. Dad is right.

2b. Mom and the church are wrong.

2c. Mom and the church are lying.

2d. Mom and the other people at church are crazy.

She'll get all of this. Maybe not right away, but before too long. And it's going to mean some very awkward conversations. How can I tell her that I think her mom's wrong, or a little crazy, or both? How do I tell her that Jesus was either just some guy or never anybody at all? How do I tell her that the church is lying?

I'm afraid. This could really hurt her. It will really hurt me. And it will really hurt Tasha.

Any advice on how to avert the catastrophe?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mea Culpa

I think I owe the world in general an apology. And particularly, perhaps, a Mississauga family.

Upon hearing the news that Muhammad Parvez had killed his daughter, I, along with the rest of the nation, it seems, and probably the rest of the world, assumed that he had done it for cultural, if not religious reasons.

That's not fair. All we know is that he killed his daughter (and we're not even 100% certain of that). Really, all we know is that he's been charged with second degree murder in the death of his daughter. Based on some comments by her friends, we all assumed the worst.

As did I. I should have known better.

It seems likely that Muhammad Parvez killed his daughter because she was disobedient. The most visible argument seems to have been about the hijab.

However, I'm sure that many men have been so furious with their daughters that they've beaten them or strangled them to death. That doesn't make it right (of course), but it does make it culturally unspecific. White trash men, black Christian men, Muslim men, Hindu men, and Native American men have all killed their daughters.

This story is about more than a dead girl and her Muslim father charged with her murder. It should be, anyway. It's now about how we all assumed that it was the man's religion, and by extension, culture that were responsible.

It should now be about how we're all bigots.

So I'm sorry. I regret my flippant comments. I will not delete them, instead, I will leave them as a testament to my ignorance. To remind me, and any readers I actually have, that we all make mistakes, and that we can learn from them.

I hope the Parvez family will find peace. I hope that Muhammad Parvez is punished severely if he's guilty. I hope we all grow a little because of this.

Friday, December 14, 2007

If you're up there, save me, Superman!

I m sic of teh Jesus!

Really. I am. I thought I'd make it my Facebook status today, but I have some friends (and family) who actually love the Jesus. So I'm going to say it here, because as far as I can tell, none of my friends or family actually read this.

I have almost made the acquaintance of two strangers who saw fit to comment on my last blog, particularly about my remarks on Aqsa and her father, Muhammad, but I don't think they're regulars, or anything like that.

So, once again, I am sick of the Jesus.

First of all, it's Christmas. And though Christmas has ceased to actually be about Christ anymore (it has a lot to do with stuff, I understand), there's still a lot of the Jesus-freakness happening. Mostly from the States. They're all up in my atheist face with their Jesus. I don't get this much Jesus from my wife, for god's sake (pardon the pun). It's mostly the war on Christmas guys, and although I find them entertaining, they need to quit it. Christmas isn't going anywhere. If you actually gave a shit about Christmas, you'd have stopped it from turning into this orgy of consumption and gone to church instead. I understand the root of the word "Christmas" is "Christ+Mass".

I thought that meant the Jesus 'n Church.

To be fair, I like stuff, and I can't get enough of beating up Jews (KIDDING!), and there's the whole too much food & alcohol aspect to this holiday that you just can't beat. But enough with the Jesus. It's not really his birthday anyway.

I'm also sick of the US presidential candidates out-Jesusing each other. What's the matter with that country? There's the whole guns thing, and then the oil thing (no moral high ground here, I'm just sayin', is all), and the Iran thing (not that Iran seems like fun, but c'mon), and then to top it all off, the Jesus thing. Mormons love Jesus, but not as much as Huck loves Jesus. And Jesus would't like illegal immigrants, and there's no way in hell he's be for socialized medicine. And also, Jesus hates atheists. They're not fit for public office. Because Jesus was a big fan of the government. Render unto Caesar, he used to say. I think he said it on the cross. Magdalene asked, "Are you upset?" and Jesus said, "Naw. After all, one must render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. But I'd sure like to know why God has forsaken me." And Mary Magdalene walked away, confused, and went to Seder.

I like when world leaders are chosen because they understand shit like economics, rudimentary science, international politics, and how to speak in complete sentences. When you give a guy access to nuclear weapons, I want to be sure that he's not anxiously awaiting the end of the world, so that Jesus comes back. And if he likes Israel, I want to know that it's because he wants Jews to have a homeland, and not becuase the prophesies say that Israel is a prerequisite for Armageddon.

While I'm on the subject, I'd like to kick John the Divine's ass for making the omens of the second coming the same as the effects of climate change: plague, pestilence, drought, mass extinctions, and war. "We're fucking up the atmosphere! Praise Jesus! It's the rapture!"


And finally, I just saw a few minutes of the film, Superman Returns. It wasn't that good. And then there was the Jesus thing. He comes from the sky, to save mankind. Then he gets stabbed in the side. And then he dies. And then a few days later, he comes back to life, visits a few friends, and promises to come back someday.

I think I've heard that before.

So Jesus, do me a favour. Give it a rest for a while. Or come back and shut us all up.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007


A couple of things, today. No real theme, and the promised rundown of Xmas songs has yet to occur. However, a sneak preview: Christmas at Ground Zero makes the list.
Pastor forced sex on women, jury told: My favourite part is the pigeon bit. That's some Old Testament shit, there. But the biggest revelation in this story? This guy likes GIRLS!

Dad charged in teen's death: This guy's first mistake was emigrating to Canada. If you want to beat your disobedient daughter to death (*cough*honour killing*cough*), stay in Saudi Arabia. Or whatever. What should Canadian authorities do to this guy? I say 200 lashes and a public beheading. And 60 lashes for his son.

Serial-killer Pickton has no chance of parole for 25 years: You know how in the movies, serial killers always kill the sinners and think they're acting on god's behalf? Welcome to East Van.

That's it for tonight. Happy Solstice, all!

Monday, December 10, 2007


I was going to write a list of an atheist's favourite Christmas songs today, but I wanted to embed them, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow. Then I can do it from home.

Instead, I want to talk about anger. Righteous anger. The answer to the question, "Why are atheists so angry all the time?"

I understand your confusion. Seriously. There's no god, end of story. Let's get on with solving the climate crisis. I'd prefer nothing more. We need to seriously look at peak oil, too, but that's just too radical for most people. And we can't even get our shit together on GHGs, so peak oil is just going to blow everybody's mind. And with any luck, peak oil will solve the climate crisis for us.

But I digress. God's not real. Fine. Let's get on with other issues. I'd love to let it go. All this atheist wants is to be left alone. No more god talk. No more miracle bullshit. No more praying for stuff. I'll keep the blaspheming expletives, if it's all the same to you, simply out of habit. Besides, as much as I like the idea of shouting "Thor!" when I stub my toe, "Jesus H. Christ!" elicits a better reaction. It's culturally specific, like the French shouting "Tabarnac!" Screaming, "Church!" just doesn't do it for Anglos. I am, as Dawkins points out, a cultural Christian, meaning I'm surrounded by Christians in my culture, and blaspheming against their god is much better than blaspheming against a god nobody cares about.



But alas, it is not to be so (to return to my point). Atheists are not being left alone. JWs came to my house yesterday. Fortunately, they bugged my wife, because she's far more inclined to be polite than I these days. I might have started pointing out the logical fallacy of their faith in particular, on the way to pointing out the fallacy of god. She took their magazines and smiled. On the plus side, I now have their magazines. I can read them for a chuckle.

So here's the thing. My atheism is not respected. At all. God's in my Charter. He's in our publicly funded schools. He's in my house (but to be fair, I knew that, and I have to live with it). He's on TV, he's in magazines, and he's in the newspaper. If religious folk left us atheists alone, we'd be cool. We can seek god on our own, if we want. In fact, I like to watch Jack Van Impe. His hair alone is worth the time it takes. And then his wife's name: Rexella. I didn't think ANYBODY EVER named their kid Rexella. If I named my daughter Rexella, I'd expect her to be an atheist, because how could god let anybody do that to their kids? But there she is, hawking the books and DVDs and cheering breathlessly as her husband spouts apocalyptic nonsense about the newspapers (as he has for as long as I can remember, which admittedly is not very long, but long enough for people with any sense to begin to doubt the imminent return of our lord and saviour).

I also like the idea that an election in Germany can signal armageddon. It's quaint.

So some atheists are angry. And they have every right to be. If a bunch of muslim assholes can be furious about a drawing of Mohammad, or naming a bear after him, then atheists get to be pissed off. It's not like we're going to kill anyone or anything. We just want our rights respected. In Canada, more than other places (*cough*US*cough*), we are tolerated. Not enough, mind you, but we are at least considered citizens.

But elswhere, we won't be equal until we're mad enough to demand it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

'Tis the Season

This evening was more or less my favourite holiday-type stuff. We ate, then my wife wrapped Christmas presents while I drank eggnog and watched Christmas movies.

In honour of this occasion, in no particular order, are this atheist's favourite Christmas movies.

  1. A Christmas Story: (1983) "You'll shoot your eye out!" A sleep hit that everyone has seen by now.
  2. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: (1989) "Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where's the Tylenol?" Likely the funniest holiday movie EVER.
  3. Black Christmas: (1974) "Filthy Billy, I know what you did nasty Billy!" Apparently, my mom was pregnant with me when she went to see this movie. She says that's what's wrong with me.
  4. Die Hard: (1988) "We're gonna need some more FBI guys I guess." Not your usual Christmas fare, but it does take place on Christmas eve. So it counts.
  5. Die Hard 2: Die Harder: (1990) "Oh man, I can't fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?" Not as good as the first (Has the sequel ever been as good as the first?), but still fun, and Bill Sadler is in it.
  6. Ghostbusters II: (1989) "You know, I'm a voter. Aren't you supposed to lie to me and kiss my butt?" Again, not as good as the first, but still a lot of fun. And, the villain (Vigo the Carpathian) was in Die Hard. I only noticed as the he blew up.
  7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: (1966) "It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!" The original, narrated by Boris Karloff. Not that two-hour crime against humanity starring Carrey.
  8. Life of Brian: (1979) "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!" It starts on Christmas. Incidentally, it ends at Easter (and Passover, coincidentally), so it's an all-round holiday movie. Plus, it really pissed off religious people when it was released.
  9. Scrooged: (1988) "The bitch hit me with a toaster." Bill Murray in his heyday. Plus, Mary Lou Retton, and some very funny homeless people.
  10. Four Rooms: (1995) "Well, most recently, there's room 309, there's this scary Mexican gangster dude poking his finger in my chest. There's his hooligan kids snapping their fingers at me. There's a putrid, rotting corpse of a dead whore stuck in the springs of the bed. There's rooms blazing afire. There's a big fat needle from God knows where, stuck in my leg, infecting me with God knows what. And finally there's me, walking out the door, right fucking now. Buenas noches." Not a Christmas movie. New Years. But it's funny as all hell, and I needed to make this an even ten.
I could have thrown "It's a Wonderful Life" in, but it isn't always, and it has angels. Another candidate was the Muppet Christmas Carol. It gets honourable mention for the greatest number of puppets. Except possibly the Fraggle Rock Xmas special. Or the Muppet Christmas movie, where they pack as many puppets onto one set as they could fit puppeteers. It was a dog's breakfast of puppets, if you'll recall: Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggles. There were probably more, too. I think John Denver was there. So bonus points for having a real ghost of Christmas Past.

Stay tuned for this atheist's favourite Christmas music.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A prayer

There's nobody out there, I think. Prayer and blogging have a lot in common, seems to me. Here I am, shouting into the blackness, and I have no idea if anyone hears me, because there's no answer.

So, based on that analogy, I'm going to ask the audience (I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing) for their help with my job interview today.

Wish me luck! I'm off to the big smoke for a job interview today! Government post! Sweet!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wishful thinking

If atheism were a superpower:

How fucking cool is this?

I got rhythm

As far as I can tell, no one's reading this. Fine. Then apparently my question will go unanswered.

I need someone, preferably a priest, to explain catholic birth control to me. What makes it acceptable by church standards?

While going through marriage training, we discussed many things: kids, money, church, work and sex. We also discussed kids and sex together. Fortunately, these discussions were led by married couples, because I wouldn't be able to take a priest seriously on the subject of sex. In theory, he knows nothing about it. If he does, he's a liar at best. So we discussed what is commonly known as the "rhythm method", though I've been assured it's far more sophisticated than that.

The theory goes this way:

  • Women are not fertile at all stages of their menstrual cycle.
  • Sperm live only for a few days.
  • It's safe to have sex with a woman (preferably your wife, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the horrifyingly poor success rate of this method of contraception) during these days of infertility (some of which, according to the OT, she is unclean) if you are trying to avoid contraception.
  • The sperm will die before the egg is released.
  • The methods to determine the safe days for sex include counting days, measurements of things like temperature, the dilation of the cervix, and the consistency of the mucous within (presumably not the taste, because that's a sin, I've been told).
  • This is approved by a bunch of men who aren't supposed to be having sex with anyone.
  • It's also supposed to be good for trying to have a baby, because then you can figure out the most fertile days and shoot for them (pardon the pun). This must be because just having a lot of sex all the time seems too much like fun for the church.
So, assuming this works, answer me this, smart guy:

What makes this Pope-approved?

Assuming that I, using the rhythm method, ejaculate inside my wife, knowing that there's no chance of her getting knocked up, how is this different from a number of other ways to ejaculate knowing there's no chance of conception? If my wife gives me head, and I come in her mouth, isn't that a sin because she can't get pregnant? During anal sex? Using a condom? When she's on the pill? Just jerking off, even if my wife is there or if I think about my wife? Aren't all these things sins because I'm experiencing orgasm and my seed is spilled, to speak biblically?

Wasting semen, I'm told, is bad. It's baby-making batter, and a gift from god. So, ejaculating in the vagina is the way to go. But if we don't want kids, we have to time it so she can't get pregnant. I'm belabouring a point here, but I want to be perfectly clear.

I'm guessing that the chief selling feature of the rhythm method for the RCC is its unreliability. Married couples are supposed to have kids. Preferably catholic ones. But any other kind is good too (except atheist ones, according to the pope). That's why gay couples can't get married (sorry, guys). We won't talk about barren folks or senior citizens because we're not allowed to discriminate against them (although, barrenness could be considered an imperfection, especially to a god so hell bent on knocking women up, and then you can't go to church anyway; it's somewhere in Leviticus, I think). Contraception is not cool. Not condoms, not the pill, and jerking off is a sin, too.

Maybe if priests could have sex, they wouldn't be so fixated on it. Or on kids.

Ad nauseum and nauseum

One of the most tiresome things about being an atheist is the coming out process. At least some homosexuals are obviously gay. They are out as soon as they open their mouths. Atheists, unless we're wearing that hip new "A" have to tell everyone. Sometimes more than once.

For instance, Monday night I apparently came out to my wife. Again. The fourth or fifth time. When we were dating, and I said I didn't think I believed in god, she was upset. She got over it. Apparently, by forgetting it. When we were going through the marriage training, and I said I didn't believe in god, she was upset, but she got over it. Apparently by forgetting. Then about a year ago, when our daughter was born, I actually said the word "atheist". Again, she got over it, and you can guess how. During the provincial election, again, I said I was an atheist. That was about six or seven weeks ago. I publicly said on more than one occasion that I was an atheist. It was relevant because of the catholic schools thing. I said it to her, explaining the word, and what I believed. Apparently she got over it again. Here it is, a month and a half later, and I'm bitching about the Golden Compass things (again, a catholic schools issue), and I let it slip that I'm an atheist.

Not only is she upset, she's offended. She's upset that I don't believe in god, like it's an insult to her. And she half accuses me of keeping this a secret: "That's not what you said to the priest when we got married."

I had to declare my faith in a questionnaire during marriage prep. I think I said I was a Taoist. It made sense at the time. Later, Buddhism seemed more appealing, but I never got beyond reading about it. Agnosticism seemed to me to be a bit of a copout. I've opted for a weak atheist position: in the absence of evidence, there's no god.

This isn't really apropos, but I can't resist it. He looks like
Magilla Gorilla or something.

So how do I deal with this? In theory, if this is really a big issue for her (and I can see it being one), she can request an annulment. Before she does, however, I have some questions about the rhythm method I'd like to ask a priest. I'd better get on that.

However, she seems fairly
happy today. Has she forgotten again? Having these kinds of discussions are tiring. They're difficult. I have to try to be as gentle as possible when I explain my own lack of faith, and not attack hers. Especially when I believe that religious faith is useless, at best, and harmful, more often.

And worse, I've promised her that my daughter will be raised catholic. It's going to be very tough on Mickie and Tasha when Mickie gets to be five or six.

How do you tell your little girl that her mother suffers from a delusion?

Again, not particularly relevant, but I like it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ad nauseum

I'm beginning to thing that I don't have anything to add to this whole "atheosphere" thing. All the arguments I have for being an atheist are being repeated and explored all over the net: sometimes in blogs that are better written than mine, or more considered, or better planned, or from a more solid grounding in philosophy, theology, the Bible, the Qu'ran, or whatever.

So why the hell am I doing this? Because I kinda like it.

It's also helping me get through some of these things for myself.

Although I live in Canada, and we're kinder to our atheists here than the U.S., I'm still surrounded by people of varying degrees of religiosity. My grandfather is strict Baptist, my parents have recently more or less become United, my brother & I are atheists, my wife is Catholic, I'm not sure my sister ever thinks about god (but her kids believe in Santa), my wife's friends are more or less theists, and when I outed my self to a friend of mine on his blog (he writes for the paper), he was astonished that I'm an atheist. So I have to answer questions all the time about stuff like this, and because I'm avidly consuming the material on the blogs, the news feeds, the subscriptions, etc., I'm talking about it a lot. So it's coming up. I'm bringing it up.

In fact, it's a testament to how different things are here in Canada that I can say in a pub, "I don't believe in god at all," and not start a fight.

So I read, and I write, to settle things in my head: here is why I don't believe in god, here is what is necessary to convince me, and here are the things that won't.

So what have I said already? Epicurus' arguments, first. And to be fair, that's pretty compelling. After that it was my own personal revelation. And I'm afraid I wasn't clear on that.

One of the things I get when talking to religious people is the evidence of personal revelation. "I know God (you can hear the capital 'g' when they say it) exists because I've felt Him." or, "He's spoken to me." or, "He answers my prayers." It's argument from personal revelation, and to be honest, the only adequate response is, "You're crazy."

Actually, that's a little harsh, and I wouldn't say that to my wife, or she'd get an annullment. She'd probably divorce me except that she's Catholic.

But since god doesn't exist, he can't speak to people. He can't answer prayers, and he can't make you feel him. Therefore, since we have to assume religious people are telling the truth when they tell you this, it means they are deluding themselves. Or, they've been deluded. But to be uncharitable, you can't be deluded without allowing yourself to be deluded. You are complicit. So, you are deluding yourself, and delusional.

If Tasha's reading this, I'm sorry. It's just logical.

But to return to my original train of thought, an argument for faith is that of revelation. Allow me to rebut.

An argument for my personal atheism is revelation.

I recall the days when I was religious. I talked to god. I asked him questions. I asked for favours. I asked for forgiveness. And I don't recall ever once hearing back. I shouted, I cried, I begged, I pleaded and I wept. There was no response. I remember feeling fear, and despair, and existential angst (though I didn't know it at the time, and I was only 11, so I didn't have enough sense of cool to cultivate it), and ultimately, alone. And there's the thrust of it.

God is supposed to reveal himself: ask and ye shall receive and all that happy crap. He never revealed himself. Ergo, ipso facto, caveat emptor and carpe diem, he's not real.