The world is a slightly darker place this morning. We’ve lost a maverick, a pioneer, a visionary. Often controversial. Often combative. Always brilliant! A literary mastermind was Hitchens. He could turn a phrase like none other. His mind seemed to be a Rolodex of information and life-experience that he had the ability to sift through and access any bit of information at any time and bring it to us in fabulous poetic prose.
As a part of the free-thinking, anti-religious movement he was invaluable. Loud and boisterous and yet always eloquent. He was a bright light of reason in an often dark ignorant populous. This is where I believe he will be missed the most.
I wish I could say I knew him personally, but through his writing I feel I had the privilege to get a peek into the machinery that was his thought process. I’m sure that his close friends and family are feeling this loss deeply and my thoughts are with them.
This evening I will raise my glass (several of them most likely) to the man who helped me on my personal journey from delusion to enlightenment.
To Hitch! You will live forever in the words that you’ve left behind!
I really do not care about being comforted by mythology. I’d rather have the harsh truth and learn how to live with it, than believe myths that are just band-aids to cover reality.
This statement popped into my head today, so I figured I’d share it. It really represents the realist in me. Most people misinterpret my realism for negativity. I do try to remain positive in general, but when life experience is combined with evidence, a lot of times reality just isn’t that positive. I firmly believe that I’m not being negative, just realistic.
In the case of this quote, I’m obviously referring to religious belief. To me, I feel a lot of believers hold those views as a comfort. A security blanket if you will. They try to run and hide from the inevitable reality that we all live in. The fact that each of us will have to face our own demise. There’s no escaping it for any of us. I prefer to accept that when I’m gone, I’m gone. It’s helped me a lot lately to value each day more. I live a much fuller life now. Today is a certainty…tomorrow is not. So, today I chose to live the HELL out of life.
Yep! You read that right, I admit it, I’m intolerant. I’m intolerant of…
Intolerance (yep…I’m intolerant of intolerance)
The list goes on. But yes, for these things, I willfully and happily accept the label of ‘Intolerant’
I’ve recently asked a few members of my family a religious/philosophical question that they have not been able to give me an answer to. I feel that it’s a legitimate question, and I really would love to know how they are able to reconcile this. Though, ultimately, I believe it to be irreconcilable under their current belief system. I will post the question below (as was presented to them) and then their initial responses and some of my replies.
Here’s the question:
“You and I are riding in a car and have a horrific accident. We both die instantly. We come to find out that it WAS, in fact, true that there is a god and it’s YOUR god. So, you get to spend eternity in heaven and I, obviously get to spend it tortured in hell. Now, you’re my mother/brother/sister/etc, so please explain to me how heaven is going to be a wonderful place for you to be knowing that I (and probably many MANY other people that you’ve known and loved in life) am being burned and tortured in hell?”
I realize this is a rather harsh concept, but I feel it addresses a rather important issue for believers. They claim that their goal is to get to heaven and spend eternity in God’s presence, but I don’t think any of them have contemplated what it would mean to have their loved ones not there, and according to the doctrine they believe, they are in hell.
This is the response my mother gave:
“One thing i know, God is the only one that can judge your heart and mine. I know his word well enough to know he loves us both. I know you want an answer about how I could enjoy heaven at that thought. I couldn’t. Not the way I am now. How could I. But all of his promises and assurances from the time I gave him my heart to him, tells me I can trust him with all that I have all now, and what I will experieced in the future. He hasn’t failed me. He’s my father. My papa. He brought me through so much pain and gave me peace. He is a loving God and knows the heart.
I love you.
This is an overwhelming thought and I’m praying for a clearer answer.”
I replied to her that I was looking forward to a further response on the question, but one never came. We did talk about it over the phone briefly once, and her thoughts came down to the idea that those memories would be gone. So, she figures she’d have no memories of her lost family members. How is that concept of heaven something desirable? My family, wife, and daughter are the most important things to me. If there was a heaven, I would want nothing to do with it if those things weren’t part of it. Not to meantion that it certainly seems like you would have to be fundamentally changed from who you were in life in order to be that way in heaven.
I posed the same question to my brother (who actively serves in the ‘ministry’). Got the following response…
“I will respond in time, i appreciate your patience…”
That was two months ago. Nothing else has been forthcoming.
The lack of valid responses to the question leaves me to believe that there is no good response. I think it leaves them feeling very uncomfortable because it truly does cause problems with their beliefs. I know I couldn’t resolve this in my own head. I’m open to honest responses from believers. I really am. I’d love to hear from people who can try to explain how they would resolve this. I’ve considered this for quite some time, and for now, I find it to be the ‘irresolvable problem’.
Last night I attended my first CFI event. It was a screening of the documentary ‘The Nature of Existence‘ by Roger Nygard. The film was followed up by a Skype question and answer session with Roger himself.
The film was very entertaining. I was a little worried about watching a documentary in the evening after having worked a very rough schedule this week and running on very little sleep. However, I ended up not having any trouble at all. A great mixture of humor, insight, and very interesting commentary made for an entertaining viewing.
As expected, answers to the real question of the movie ‘what is the nature of existence’ were, of course, not forthcoming. But then, I can’t imagine that anyone would have had that expectation to begin with. What was delivered, however, was a ton of great perspectives from some very interesting ‘characters’. Roger seemed to include everyone from a radical, in-your-face street preacher, to a guru from india, to druids in Great Brittain, to a 12 year-old-girl who has an amazing sense of reality and perspective for someone as young as she was.
I found the film to be nicely balanced. While Roger appears to be a free-thinker, I don’t think he let his bias get in the way of allowing all the differing opinions to be relayed. The content was really comprehensive. He travelled the entire world and included a great majority of the major religious views, and quite a few of the not-so-well-known varieties. The religious views were balanced out by including opinions and commentary from several established members of the scientific fields. Leonard Susskind (one of the fathers of string theory) and Richard Dawkins to name a pair.
The follow-up question and answer session was great, too. Roger is extremely well spoken and courteous. He had no problem spending extra time to answer questions.
I would recommend this film to anyone who is looking for answers to the ‘big questions’ of life. While you probably won’t find specific answers here, you will get a sense that you are most certainly not alone in your quest. And there are many MANY differing opinions on the topic. So, check out the film, check out the website, and enjoy!
Pascal’s Wager is probably the most popular tool that believers use to try to use to get non-believers to reconsider their positions. It’s also one of the easiest to refute. So, I’m not going to go into the arguments in either direction, as there are literally gazillions (I love hyperbole) of articles out on the web that do just that. Go look them up if you’re curious.
What I would like to do in this post, however, is discuss the hypothetical situation where I find out that I’m wrong. First though, here’s a definition of Pascal’s Wager for those that don’t actually know what it is:
An argument according to which belief in God is rational whether or not God exists, since falsely believing that God exists leads to no harm whereas falsely believing that God does not exist may lead to eternal damnation.
Look, if I end up being wrong, and there IS a god that I have to meet after I die, I would expect that he’s probably a reasonable guy (wouldn’t you expect that the creator of all that is would be?). I hope that he examines me honestly and understands that I went out of my way in life trying to learn the things that I needed to learn to believe that he existed. It wasn’t like I just turned my back and said ‘screw you’. I know myself, and I know that I’ve examined the possibility honestly and with massive amounts of thought and research. If that isn’t enough to convince him to spare me of some eternal torture based on rules that he put into a book several thousand years ago, then there’s not much I can do about that. I can’t force myself to believe something when all of the logical and rational processes of my mind tell me it’s untrue. But before he damned me to eternal hellfire, I would hope I could at least ask him a few questions. Questions like:
“What was with all the hiding?”
“Where’s the evidence?”
“What’s your hangup with foreskins?”
“Slavery? Slavery is ACTUALLY ok in your view? please explain!”
“You created women, and immediately turned around and wrote a book that demeans them in every possible way. What’s up with that?”
“Thou shalt not kill, but wiping out entire civilizations is ok as long as YOU command it?”
“If your book is divinely inspired, why are there so many inconsistencies and contradictions?”
Seriously, though, Pascals Wager is so tired that I can’t believe it’s even used anymore. But, alas, I hear it all the time.
In some ways it’s not surprising. In others it’s just downright baffling.
Recently, my great-aunt passed away. We weren’t particularly close and she lived a good, long life that should be celebrated. Of course, any death is a sad time, it’s also an inevitability for all of us. So, if that person has lived 70, 80, 90 or more years, when that time comes, grief (at least for me) tends to be quickly replaced with awe and respect for a long life, well lived.
That said, here is a run-down of something I read when my mom posted about her aunt’s death on her Facebook status. The response from one of my mom’s friends (who I’ve talked about here before) was this:
my condolences. I wish I was going with her
This just left me scratching my head. But only momentarily. As I said at the top of this post “In some ways it’s not surprising”, and definitely NOT the first time I’ve heard something like this. So, to understand the mentality of this fundamentalist belief is to understand that this life, in their view, is very temporary, and almost an inconvenience. They want nothing more than to get on to eternity in heaven. So, instead of embracing life and living it to the fullest and enjoying it, they seem to hate this life and wish it away. They seem to view it as a separation from their god. What’s sad is that none of them have a single drop of evidence to support the idea that ANYTHING happens after they die. Let alone their particular brand of afterlife. So, to squander this one and only life by wishing for it to end creates in me a sadness for them that I can’t even begin to conceptualize. I just wish they would have a wake up call and realize what they are doing.