Sunday, April 4, 2010

Is it just me? Or do some of you also sometimes wonder?

I don't know what it is exactly about reading the bible, stories of God's interaction with men in the old testament, the poetic but often vague language of Jesus' parables, or descriptions of miracles, walking on water, feeding the masses with five loaves and fishes or the casting out of demons. Or perhaps an empty tomb on Easter Sunday, the most important day of the Christian calendar.

Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived. - ISAAC ASIMOV

Somewhere along the way my sense of credulity was stretched beyond it's capacity. And sadly, even the threat of eternal damnation has been unable to restore its elasticity.

Recently, I have been enjoying reading and learning about the bible. As I have said elsewhere, religion has been a topic of lifelong fascination to me. But I just can't help being the naughty non-believer that I am. ;)

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

FollowFriday for the Godless

I created the "Atheists" FollowFriday page as a service to the growing community of outspoken atheists emerging on twitter. Many of them are Atheist bloggers who promote their blog on twitter.

Many like myself just like to share links to interesting atheist related blogs and news reports.

If you follow a variety of atheists as I do, you will soon discover that other than a non-belief in God, atheists don't consistently agree on much of anything else. So, the idea that atheists share a worldview is pure myth.

I don't really like the label "atheist" much. It just seems kind of meaningless to define oneself in terms of what one doesn't believe in. I could also call myself a non-pink-unicornist or a non-spaghetti-monsterist and it would have a near equivalent meaning, that is, if it weren't for all the theists who populate the world around me.

If you check out the FollowFriday page you will see a wide variety of my twitter siblings all of whom have varying degrees of interconnectedness. If you want to get an idea of how well you or another twellow is connected to a twibe of atheists check out Twitnest .

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is the Numbers Game Killing Twitter?

My activity is on Twitter centers on trying to build a network of like-minded people to share ideas with. Generally, I like to post links and comments about current news events that I think might be of interests to other atheists. I try to pick the stuff I think others might enjoy reading, watching or listening to. And I enjoy getting feedback comments, DMs and retweets from my followers.

I've been trying to find new followers who share my interests but I keep getting followed by spammers and scam artists. I recently found this advice online on how to identify accounts not to follow. I wish I had seen this earlier.

Quick tips to identifying Twitter spam:
- Woman’s name + some numbers, in the username.
- Follow ratio is way off, they follow lots, nobody follows them.
- “get rich quick” scheme, regarding followers.
- Look at their posts- all plugs for products

I think the numbers game is killing Twitter. I just wonder how many of my followers represent truly interested users? How many of my followers really care what I post on Twitter or ever click on the links I post? To find out I started using Cligs. Cligs is a URL shortening service that can give you some pretty cool information about the hits your posts get.

Out of the nearly 2000 followers I've got only a small fraction of them respond with a click. So the numbers don't really mean very much.

I've a TwitterGrader rank of 99.4 and they place me at about 17,000 out of nearly 3,000,000 Twitter users. Gradually, I've come to recognise that these numbers and rankings are nearly entirely meaningless. The personal feedback I get is really much more significant.

Most people using Twitter only monitor a small group of their followers by using features provided by Tweetdeck or other twitter clients. So, I think everyone knows the numbers don't mean very much.

I have begun to turn my attention to Friendfeed which I think is a good way to leverage Twitter.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Posting to Twitter from the Command Line using cURL

If you enjoy enjoy "hacking" Twitter's API as Zak and I do you probably already know how simple and easy it is to use it.

You can post your updates via your favorite scripting language. Zak likes Ruby but I prefer using AutoIt3.

You can post Twitter updates via Windows Cmd.exe and cURL.

curl --basic --user screen_name:password --data status=" $text_of_tweet "

Or from AutoIt with this line.

RunWait(@ComSpec & " /c " & 'curl --basic --user screen_name:password --data status="' & $text_of_tweet & '"', "", @SW_HIDE)

;$text_of_tweet = your update

Zak and I have written our own little twitter client programs to make tweeting easier.

Mine automatically saves all my postings to a file on my system for later reference and many other things to make life easier.

If you enjoy exploring how stuffs works, check out the Twitter API and cURL.

Have Fun,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Thunderf00t vs Ray Comfort - Atheist's Challenge - Upcoming YouTube Discussion

There is an ever growing number of atheists active on YouTube. I have to confess, I enjoy watching the atheist YouTube videos. I especially enjoy the debates between believers and non-believers. The videos with Christopher Hitchens are my favorite. Of course, there is a lot of poor quality videos posted on YouTube, but what else would you expect from amateurs.

Now with 55,462 Subscribers, Thunderf00t is one of the most popular atheists on YouTube. If you haven't seen any of his videos I suggest you check out his channel.

Thunderf00t has invited Ray Comfort, creator of the infamous "Banana" Atheist Challenge Video, to a have a discussion. And although initially Ray wanted Thunderf00t to come up with $100,000 to donate to a cause supported by Richard Dawkins, he has since dropped the demand and accepted Thunderf00t's proposal. I can't wait to see how the upcoming discussion will play itself out. Who do you think will score the most points with the viewers?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The COMPLEX - by John Duignan Exposing Scientology

A new book on Scientology has been blocked in the US by Scientology. The Complex by John Duignan exposes some hidden aspects of the cult. John — who had never heard of Scientology — was 22 and living in Stuttgart with his German girlfriend but their relationship was on the rocks. Depressed and lonely, he accepted.

John, now 45, says: “The test is a clever recruitment device because it appeals to people who are searching for something. I was unhappy and latched on to the prospect of gaining confidence. I probably needed proper psychological counselling but I got nothing of the sort. The result of my initial test was Urgent Action Required.

“These friendly people seemed to have the answer in Scientology and I surrendered myself to it.” In the following weeks, John was grounded in the Scientology doctrine. Under a regime of sleep deprivation, brainwashing and so-called counselling, John gave up his mind to the bizarre teachings. John quickly became fanatical about his new-found faith. He says: “I saw myself as a soldier for Scientology. I believed it was the only route out of oblivion for mankind.

“The doctrine teaches a human’s body doesn’t matter because it is the Thetan, or soul, which survives. “If I’d been told someone had to be eliminated because they were a threat to Scientology I could have justified the killing. They’d just lose their body, which isn’t needed.”

He says: “As a Sea Org member I’d get to wear a special uniform and be highly respected by other Scientologists. We were told other members would bow to us. Suddenly I felt important.” But when John arrived at the cult’s headquarters in LA, conditions were not what he’d imagined. He says: “We were expected to work, eat and sleep Scientology with every minute of the day scheduled, from 7am until lights out at 11pm.” The harsh conditions John endured were in stark contrast to the luxury enjoyed by stars at the glittering Scientology Celebrity Centre down the road.

Read the entire review written by David Lowe - Here -

See also Irish Mail on Sunday, October 31st - Here -

Spreading Bigotry - Charlotte Allen Hates Atheists

Reading Charlotte Allen’s OpEd article just confirms what I have recognized for a long time. Those who build their lives and identities around a belief in the existence of God feel deeply threatened by those who admit their skepticism, or worse openly proclaim their lack of belief.

As a child, I never imagined that I would become an atheist.

It is obvious that Charlotte Allen would like to advance and promote the tired old stereotypes attached to atheists. But why should my lack of belief or that of any other atheist be a threat to her. If she is certain of God's existence why does she need to vilify non-believers. Does she think we skeptics exist just to make her position on faith in God appear tenuous and conditional.

I have an opinion about religion. My opinion has been formed from my own deeply personal experience with it. Giving up my position of good standing in the church came at a very high personal cost to myself. But I do not have a desire to disparage all believers. Yes, there are the wing nuts like Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, but the vast majority, are very virtuous and loving people.

I wonder if Allen has noticed the humanist movement. Humanism offers an opportunity for people to set aside their petty religious differences and join in a wider community of caring and loving people.
OpEd Source

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two YouTubers Dead After Tragic Murder Suicide

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Youtuber Tony48219, Anthony Powell, killed Asia McGowan and then himself on April 10th 2009.

I have watched the start of a few of his videos but honestly I never watched for more than a couple of minutes. If you watch the video below I think you will understand why. I never dreamed he might be mentally ill. But looking back after these tragic events it seems like people should have known he might be dangerous.

Tony was an outspoken critic of atheism and supporter of the notorious VenomFangX .

You can watch a video about this tragedy below.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Atheist YouTube Channels Hit by Vote Bot Attacks

Many YouTube accounts of Atheists have been attacked by votebots. Below you will see a partial list of those effected by the attacks.

I have a YouTube account just so I can follow the activity of some of my favorite atheists. Some of the channels below are really unknown to me. And the quality of the videos varies widely.

The online battle between the Atheists and the Theists can be very entertaining sometimes. For example the battle between Thunderf00t and VenomFangX.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Uncle Milt and the Marxism of the Right

Ideas have Consequences, and that is why I so vehemently object to objectivism and Ayn Rand.
Read - Critique of "The Objectivist Ethics" by Michael Huemer

In the video below you will hear Naomi Klein say, "Ideas Have Consequencies". She attempts to lay the blame for our present economic collapse at the feet of "Unlce Milt" (Milton Freidman). And she does a pretty good job of it. You may not follow all the things she refers to unless you have read her book the "The Shock Doctrine". If you haven't read it, I recommend it to you whatever your political persuasion. (Klein is a "pinko" humanist. Those on the right are known to roll their eyes at the mere mention of her name.) She a good writer and an excellent journalist.

Friedman's ideas altered government policies toward deregulation and lower taxes for the richest. Conservatives adopted many of the ideas of Libertarians. And under Newt Gingrich there were political moves to the "starve the beast" - which were really just attempts to cut funding to social programs while maintaining corporate welfare and give tax breaks to the wealthy. It was the conservative legislatures, through unprecedented levels of spending, that laid the foundation for our current problems.
Some have said Friedman was as dangerous as what you might expect a Rush Limbaugh with a PhD to be. Economics has risen from the lower ranks of a mere social science. Gaining greater status in academic circles and in Washington and on Wall street. Freidman liked to say that he was a "hard-nosed realist". But the truth is that his idealistic ideas didn't really play out they way they were expected to when applied to real-world situations. Hell, Watch the video.

Naomi Klein Rips Apart Milton Friedman's Utopian Fantasies! The sound quality isn't great on this video, so turn up the vol.

Milton Friedman was a Corporatist Prostitute.

Now follow it up with this exposure of the political philosophy in libertarianism for what it really is - Marxism of the Right -

The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. - Read How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution - "The Big Takeover" by Matt Taibbi - Posted Mar 19, 2009

Some see conspiracy lurking behind our current economic collapse. I can't buy the idea these financial guys set out to set up a situation in which they can take over the world. -- It has just been a series of complex events in which the participants weren't really able to project the outcome of decisions that were being made. Alan Greenspan reported that he assumed the banks would act more responsibly than they have because, he thought, the banks depend on the trust of their clients for future revenue.
Greenspan seemed to miss the fact that deregulation was allowing banks to sell off their risk to greater fools and lock in profits - at least on paper. The reason this happened was the fact individuals were getting huge bonuses for moving paper. Many of the key players honestly didn't give a shit about the consequences - being only concerned with their immediate gains. This really mirrors the "Tragedy of the Commons". Our currency in this case is "the commons" that is being destroyed.

Now that the shit has hit the fan - the same banking wizards are believed to be tho only ones capable of sorting out the mess. They know very well if their plans had to be made in public no one would go along with them.

As long Treasury and the Fed can conduct business behind closed doors they will continue to grow in power, usurping all individual rights, and debasing our savings and transferring wealth to the insiders.

The present course will not change as long as people remain ignorant and complacent and reliant on the government to bail us out of the crisis.

Listen to this debate on NPR - Who's to Blame -Washington or Wall Street? - The Whores or the Greedy Bastards?
Look for the play list on the right and click on the debate link.

What's the Trouble - Housing Bubble

Friday, March 13, 2009

Micro-Blogging with Twitter

Twitter is a very powerful tool for reaching a living, breathing online audience. It gives "Tweeters" the potential of reaching thousands of followers immediately with a message, comment or a direct instruction, such as the one here on the left. Being restricted to 140 characters forces one to be creative. Bloggers use it to redirect their followers to their new blog posts. Mavens use it to extend their influence and stature. Marketers use it to redirect people to their pitch-page. Conservatives use twitter to organize their political activities via "Action Projects." (see (TCOT)

In order to capture attention tweets should strive to stand out in some way. Talented tweeters know that a catchy phrase, an attention grabbing comment, a provocative bit of news, or a "one-liner"can garner a cherished "Retweet" from their followers and reach second tier follows (followers of followers). This potential is called reach. If a tweet goes viral it could reach hundreds of thousands of people in minutes. Little wonder the social media gurus are so enthusiastic about Twitter.

Having a blog or website to back up your twitter activity is very helpful in letting people get to know you, or the "persona" that you wish to project. I suggest that your tweets stick to just one or just a small number of themes. My theme, as you can see, is atheism. But, I also comment on politics and other things occasionally. My posts are usually like headlines that include links for those who want to follow up and learn more. In a one sense, I am providing an editorial service by previewing sources and picking out stuff I think might appeal to my followers. In yet another sense I'm a promoter. And as the number of my followers grow my potential reach expands. But more importantly, I'm having fun, and getting to know other like minded people.

TwitPic can give tweets an edge over those without "pics." Many of the best Twitter client programs support an immediate view of posted images - followers don't have to click on the link to see the posted image. Thus tweeting can now be thought of as "Micro-Blogging" in a very real sense.

Twitter networking constitutes a very versatile and immediate way of participating in a social medium. Twitter followers are often the first to hear of a major news event, arriving via cellphones, eyewitnesses tweet about an event as it unfolds. Reporters use twitter as a resource of premier immediacy.

Twitter is also analogous to a massive, communal, living brain enabling hundreds of thousands of people to interact, like neural networks where neurons fire off signals, and then they get routed along to other pathways and other neurons and pathways into near infinite complexity. I don't think anyone has, as yet, been able to grasp Twitters true potential, though many hope to utilize its power to make real immediate contact with real people.

You and your followers may limit yourselves to a small exclusive group sharing personal intimacies only among yourselves or like most twellows your tweets may be open to everyone on Twitter to read and follow as they like. Your messages reach your followers directly but can reach far beyond if they are retweeted. Twitter users altogether constitue a huge crowd with all the dynamics of a living mob. Trends somehow get started and seem to ripple their way through the teeming mass and then peter out as they lose momentum.

My first contact with Twitter left me questioning whether I would ever find a use for it. I have overtime learned how to use twitter. An now I wonder why more people haven't discovered it. I think each user discovers Twitter's usefulness for themselves, each according to their own comprehension of its function and their personal need.

It is a great way to interact socially. Or it can used as a simple way to broadcast messages. But I think if you aren't reciprocating, aren't getting yourself involved in the social give and take, you are missing out on its real power. To really capitalize on Twitter's power you should give people a chance to know who you are, what your values are, and what you think. Once others can comprehend your nature and motives they will not only know how to interact with you but also know how to help you. If people can't make the connection they will not feel inclined to help you achieve your goals, share in your purpose or care about your success. Try to get into the give and take - take the time to learn about your followers their interests and what motivates them. When people share a mutual purpose, enthusiasm and motivation grows for everyone. This is how you build
loyalty, Twitter leverage and extend your reach. Once a tipping point is reached your efforts will return exponential gains.

Being silly and playful makes twitter all the more fun as you tweet yourself towards acheiving your goals. My advice - Be yourself, tweet about the things you really care about, and have fun with Twitter.

I noted yesterday that BubbleTweet has created a way to post video on your twitter page - Who knows what new capabilities might be added to Twitter in the future.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Open Source Model Applied to Political Action Using Twitter

The "0pen source model" used for software development is now being applied very effectively by political conservatives using the power of Twitter to connect people online. On their site they maintain a list of "Action Projects" members are welcome to join and participate in.

At TCOT (Top Consevatives on Twitter), the projects are led by PS-Ls (Project Servant-Leaders) . They chose the term "PS-Ls" very intentionally to reflect the stewardship nature of leadership in their group. There is a definite hierarchical structure to their group but the projects are open to people who wish to contribute to achieving the groups goals. They seem to disavow and disaprove of an autocratic leadership style. They want you to leave your ego at the door, so to speak, if you decide to get involved.

Their stated goal is to restore limited government, free markets, and conservative principles to the governance of the United States.
"Team members who devote the time and money to the accomplishment of the goals of the project, therefore, should be lead with recognition of their commitment. Servant-leadership is an inherently conservative principle. Just as a government with too much power inevitably leads to problems, a leader with too much power does the same. Government - or leaders - with too much power either take away freedom and initiative or poorly allocate resources.

As a grassroots volunteer organization facing a huge challenge, (TCOT) cannot afford either reduced initiative or poorly allocated resources. PS-Ls will, in contrast to autocratic leaders, ensure the group receives the most value and best results. PS-L's, in essence, recognize the power of the free market in political ideas and organization."

People get involved by finding a mentor and going through a kind of orientation. Then as talents and abilities are assessed and matched up with "Action Projects" members gain status and responsibility. I am very impressed with they way they apparently manage their organization and the speed with which they can respond to current events.

I think we will likely see more groups of individuals with shared values organizing themselves via Twitter to accomplish all kinds of shared purpose and goals.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Don't Trivialize My God or The Differences in Our World Views

Our ancestors were severely lacking in accurate knowledge of the physical world. This led them to invent explanations for phenomena they didn't understand. Our ancestors would quite naturally attribute agency to mysterious forces they observed. This attribution of agency is thought by some to have been the precursor of mankinds modern religious beliefs.

The video below is Dr. Oakley's response to the "One Less God" argument commonly heard made by atheists. Most atheists I know think the argument is not only a valid one but also funny and clever. Theist, of course, see the argument quite differently. To them it is neither funny nor clever.

Dr. Oakley claims that the "One Less God" is flawed because you can't compare the true God, Yahweh, to pagan gods. A belief or disbelief in the monotheistic god Yahweh who is transcendent, self-contained and eternal is nothing like a belief or disbelief in the pagan gods Zeus or Thor. The meaning he wants to stress is that there is only one true God, his God, the Christian God of the bible.

Then Dr. Oakley uses the "Empty Angst" argument. (Life without God is meaningless.) It is not an argument at all but an assertion that is made by comparing the commonly held misconceptions about atheists to the Christians idealized image of themselves that places them in a cosmic relationship with the almighty. Dr. Oakley presents his argument in the form of a question. What would you rather believe in, the atheistic world view or the Christian world view? Would you want to be the product of impersonal, random chance, devoid of any purpose or meaning, destined to planetary heat-death, or would you prefer to be a creature of God, created by a divine being, with an absolute, transcendental purpose, with God taking a personal interest in you and your well-being? It is clear the Christian narrative is the only correct choice.

Atheist = all bad. Theist = all good. Theist wins. Black and white is easy to understand. Thankfully for us, Dr. Oakley seems to be a master at making clear distinctions. He can see the chasms we seem to miss entirely.

Dr. Oakley's message when reduced to its core is this. Atheists are categorically, and massively wrong when they suggest the difference between a Theist and a non-believer is the number of gods not believed in. Atheists are wrong to trivialize Yahweh. Atheist don't seem to understand the chasm that lies between them and believers.

If atheists could understand just how bad atheists really are and how good Christians are in comparison, they might then be able to understand just how non-trivial the chasm between them really is.

Dr. Oakley makes it easy for me to understand that the vast chasms that separate people are often generated by a belief in God; the more absolute the belief, the wider the chasm.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Submit to Moral Authority or Expect Heads on Pikes

Recently a nine year old Brazilian girl, who, after complaining of stomach pains was taken to a hospital. There it was discovered that she was four months pregnant with twins, the result of allegedly being raped by her stepfather. Pregnancies at such an early age are rare and there is literally no significant accumulated data on the outcomes of such cases but they are generally considered very high risk pregnancies. Her doctor said, "She doesn't have a pelvis able to support a gestation of twins.''

Although abortion is illegal in Brazil
, judges can make exceptions, if the mother's life is in danger or the fetus has no chance of survival. After hearing a report from the child's doctor a judge approved the abortion and it was performed. Fatima Maia, director of the public university hospital where the abortion was performed, said the 15-week-old pregnancy posed a serious risk to the 36-kilogram girl. It's a sad and unfortunate situation that ended in the termination of the pregnancy, but it restored the girl to health.

Enter the Brazilian archbishop, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, being the highest ranking cleric of the archdiocese he assumed moral authority over the situation. And upon hearing the news of the abortion, Sobrinho summarily excommunicated all the people involved in the abortion, the girl's mother and the doctors included. The nine year old girl herself was spared, as being too young. But the stepfather, who had been allegedly raping the girl since she was six, was not excommunicated because the church said that his action, although deplorable, was not as bad as terminating the pregnancy.

Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife in northeastern Brazil, clarified the Churches position by stating that the girl should have carried the fetuses to term and had a cesarean section.

When hearing of the excommunications, Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, lashed out at the archbishop in outrage. Silva said that it was clear the doctors saved the girl's life by performing the abortion. The excommunications are, no doubt, the result of the archbishop's "conservative attitude."

I see the Church's public excommunications as dramatic demonstration of their desperate desire to maintain their power and control over their followers. It clearly reveals how sensitive and perhaps vulnerable they are to any open defiance of their "moral" authority. The Church figuratively puts "heads on pikes" by excommunicating those who openly defy them. The Church obvious wants to make it crystal clear to their followers that they depend on the Church for their salvation. This is not the gentle hand of Jesus, guiding and persuading us to toward the light. This is outright psychological extortion. Obey or else. Never mind that little girls may die they are expendable.

Church leaders obviously value zombie like conformity to official doctrine more than human compassion. Lucky for the girl her mother and doctors were able to think for themselves.

The Church seems incapable of dealing with any moral dilemma that lies in the gray zone. Ironically, they don't seem to have the moral courage nor the intellectual clarity to deal with any issue that isn't clearly black or white. Humanists in comparison, not being restricted from venturing into the domain of moral relativism, don't have as much difficulty in considering the relative merits of alternatives choices.

From the Vatican, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re made a rather lame attempt to defend the archbishop saying the attacks on Brazil's Catholic Church were unfair.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Preserving Wealth - Where's the Injustice?

Should the wealthier members of society be forced to pay through taxation, for the poorer members?

I saw recently that the 3 richest men in the world have yearly personal incomes greater than the GDPs of the 48 poorest countries. I didn't verify this factoid but assuming its true; isn't there something obviously wrong. I detest socialism but men like Bernard Madoff make it abundantly clear possession of property and doesn't guaranty a person right to have it. Justice is not an easy issue. It is a lot more complex than micro transactions would imply.

Helping the poor can cripple them or raise them to up to a level of contributing member - It all depends on the nature of poverty and the help provided. The question that a wealthy person should consider is this, "If the poor are not going to be helped, what consequences might there be? Is it reasonable to accept the redirection of a portion of ones wealth to preserve social stability and prevent a violent uprising?" It is not just a matter of holding on to personal wealth. It is a matter of being able to enjoy living in a peaceful world where one doesn't have to hide one's wealth for fear of being targeted (rightfully or wrongly) for the perceived injustices in the distribution of wealth. Helping the poor should be considered as a practical means of preserving wealth and moreover preserving the right to keep one's wealth when others are suffering from the lack of it. It may indeed be a kind of extortion but for the wealthy it might also be the best way to serve one's own rational self-interests.

Life's Purpose - The Irony of Avoiding Angst

Some people like to promote the idea that meaning and purpose come from a source other than oneself.

"If there is no God and no afterlife, what possible meaning could there be in living?" they ask. And at the same time they assume none could be possible. It is strange, while on the one hand they are able to imagine a heavenly father who loves and cares for them from above on the other hand, when it comes to thinking of a purpose for living, their lack of imagination is amazingly absent. The idea that people are free to choose whatever meaning they might want doesn't seem to occur to them.

I am reminded of "Born to Die" tattoos, you know, the ones with a snake crawling through the eye sockets. And I have seen some of these with a Christian motif picturing Jesus on the cross.

Jesus was himself "born to die" just so that some Christians might be born again. Christian leaders employ the "rule of reciprocity" to leverage and evoke obedience to authority.

God's only son had to die for your sins, the least a person could do is to reciprocate by believing in him. Once a person buys into the need to reciprocate then greater and greater levels of commitment may be demanded or expected. Usually, at a minimum, to be a Christian, means making a public professing of a belief in God and submitting oneself to church authority. Whether a person’s profession of faith is genuine or not is indeterminable. Even believers are unclear sometimes what their profession of faith really means. What people actually believe the privacy of their own mind is not available to external observation. As a casual observer, I would say that believers seldom, if ever, behave in a manner consistent with the beliefs that they profess to hold. It's a bit like liars poker. How many are bluffing for the sake of their social standing?

Whether it is for the social benefits, the fear of death or the fear of the meaninglessness of life is not really clear to me. Perhaps it's a mixture of all of these along with other cultural appeals. What is clear is that the religious minded are engaged in a psychological battle against angst. They attempt to vanquish feelings of isolation, the fear of death and meaninglessness of life. They do so by adopting the narrative of the scriptures, which places them in a relationship with an almighty father. They transfer and transform their natural longings and fears. The fear of loneliness, death and despair is transformed into a fear of God or eternal damnation. Longings are transformed to the promise of salvation, belonging to a community of saints and promise of an everlasting life. In the process they also elevate themselves from mere animal to the status of being one of the chosen children of God. They project and extend their perceived destiny into a grand drama that totally eclipses the merely mundane material existence. All in all, religion is a pretty nifty psychological device don't you think.

So there is a built-in elevation of one's status when one adopts the biblical narrative. Attempting to use reason and logic to supplant the emotionally satisfying narrative of biblical reality that places a person in the midst of a grand drama is to cast oneself in the role of the Grinch. When people carry their childish yearnings into adulthood and invest so heavily in the concept of their idealized self it is no longer child’s play. It gets very serious. Then for some who have irrational, primeval fears of evil and imagine Satan in their midst, the atheistic naysayers had better be on guard of potential deadly retaliation.

But is the price paid to be a "believer" worth it? Doesn't it appear to be more than just a bit ironic that their yearning for meaning leads them to reject real world meaning for the make-believe meaning of the biblical narrative?

Is it really that much more difficult to consider the fact that death just might, indeed, be final. Wouldn't it be healthier for people to engage themselves in the many real world problems that need dedicated, purpose driven people to commit to?

On the topic of death, I would like to paraphrase what Mark Twain said.
I have to paraphrase because I don't remember the exact quote. "Why should I fear being dead, I was dead for millions of years before I was born."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Time to Downsize America's Collective Ego

As the nation's economy implodes around us, it might be a good time to re-evaluate our basic values. Considering the fact that the Japanese economy dropped by 10% in a single month this past January, which left thousands in Tokyo without a job, and desperate to find a way to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world, many turned to renting $20 dollar a day rooms that are barely larger than a closet. Others have taken to living in tents, and cars. Similar things are happening in the worst hit areas of the US.

Though I doubt people in the US will suffer the way the poor in developing countries will. It annoys me that the world's three riches men have more personal income than the world's 48 poorest countries combined and worldwide billions of people live on less than $2 dollars a day. But justice is a topic for another day.

For the majority of Americans it is a good time to consider ways to economize and downsize. (Check this out - Tumbleweed

In the 1930's, economic hardships changed the character of the American people. Sayings such as "Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without" became common. People were forced to make tough choices. Americans became more compassionate when they saw their hardworking, self reliant neighbors humbled by the tough times. The kids who arrived at school without shoes and big patches on the knees of their pants weren't laughed at, ridiculed or shunned. (What a contrast to today's standards where kids feel inferior if they wear a WalMart "NoLogo" brand of shoes to school.

The housing bubble set the trend in housing toward ever larger and larger homes. Observing from a distance to me it seemed that America was also in the midst of an ever expanding bubble of arrogance represented by the neoconservative's concept of American "Exceptionalism" (the notion that America has been chosen by God to have dominion over the world). Bush's arrogant leadership style is the hallmark of elitist thinking. (Bush called himself "the Decider." And despite his disapproval rating his administration claimed he had a mandate to rule). The idea that America is too big and too powerful to ever possibly fail should be forever cast from our collective concept of ourselves. Pride goes before a fall. It is time for Americans to wake up the delusional self adoration we have had the habit of promoting among ourselves, calling it patriotism. Sorry, I hate to tell you this but America is not number one.

It is time for Americans to "get real" and find our true place in the world and perhaps, eventually, by self-reliance and hard work, re-create the great nation we once were. In the mean time its probably a good time to downsize your personal lifestyle, by cutting out as many of the non-essentials as possible and redirecting your time and attention from entertainment pastimes to productive activities.

Our focus should shift away from consumption to the production of durable "goods and quality of life enriching services" Our "Conehead" over consumption compulsion has nearly devastated the planet. Over consumption is unjust, spiritually bankrupt and both physically and emotionally self-destructive. (The absurdity and injustice of the situation is easily seen when you compare the life of 10 year old Indonesia girl, laboring 14 hours a day in a piece-work garment factory to produce consumers goods for the overweight middle class woman who drives her Lexus to a super-mall, then rides the escalator to the gym where she works out on a treadmill to lose weight.)

Its not right for Americans to get fat and sassy as others around the world suffer and sacrifice to make our life easier. And worse we are literally impoverishing our children and grandchildren to do it.

It is time to downsize America's collective ego.

-Watch This Report on Job Losses in Japan - Report

-Compare US to China - Superpower China Built by Unseen Hands

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How to Pop a Housing Bubble

One of the nice things about Twitter are the nice people who share valuable links they have found. I liked this so much I decided to embed it here. I hope you enjoy it.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.