Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Creatures of Circumstance.

If we aren't responsible for our actions what does this yield?

From the removal of free will from my beliefs I came to realize there is no use in hating anyone. People all act in the way that they feel is best. The reason the man in the pickup truck cut me off today is because, at that moment in time, he thought changing lanes was the best course of action. A simple children's game can explain why it doesn't make sense to hate (blame) this man for his actions:

Why did he cut me off? Because he's a bad driver.
Why? Because he's got bad eyesight.
Why? Because he has macular degeneration.
Why? Because he inherited it.
Why? Because his parents had it.
Why? Because their parents had it.
Why? Because one person, way before his parents, developed the disease.
Why? Because of a random mutation.
Why? Because that's just the way the world is.

So why did the guy in the pickup truck cut me off?
Because that's just the way the world is. When we learn to view every person, including ourselves, as creatures of circumstance we can then view the world with empathy.

Viewing the world empathetically allows for one to feel a deeper connection to the things that surround and influence the course of nature. When one truly feels this connection-- you can come to understand that the things that surround you and influence you are just as much a part of you as any part of your body.

I also came to realize that even though I don't have control over my actions-- this doesn't change the fact that I still don't know what's going to happen next. A life without free will does not take away from the mystery of living. Some people will say that if we don't believe in free will then our lives are pointless-- but that's ludicrous. That's like saying films aren't enjoyable because the ending is already scripted. I like to think of it like we have a front seat to life-- and the things we do and say will have an effect on the rest of the story which is potentially infinite in length-- that's exciting to me!

I can only hope that as our futures reveal themselves that we, as humans, lean more towards our loving, caring and empathetic nature and stray from our vengeful, destructive and wasteful nature.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


"Look still deeper into impermanence, and you will find it has another message, another face, one of great hope, one that opens your eyes to the fundamental nature of the universe, and our extraordinary relationship to it.
If everything is impermanent, then everything is what we call 'empty,' which means lacking in any lasting, stable, and inherent existence; and all things, when seen and understood in their true relation, are not independent but interdependent with all other things. The Buddha compared the universe to a vast net woven of a countless variety of brilliant jewels, each with a countless number of facets. Each jewel reflects in itself every other jewel in the net and is, in fact, one with every other jewel.

Nothing has any inherent existence of its own when you really look at it, and this absence of independent existence is what we call 'emptiness.' Think of a tree. When you think of a tree, you tend to think of a distinctly defined object; and on a certain level, like the wave, it is. But when you look more closely at the tree, you will see ultimately it has no independent existence. When you contemplate it, you will find that it dissolves into an extremely subtle net of relationships that stretches across the universe. The rain that falls on its leaves, the wind that sways it, the soil that nourishes and sustains it, all the seasons and the weather, moonlight and starlight and sunlight--all form part of this tree. As you begin to think about the tree more and more, you will discover that everything in the universe helps to make the tree what it is; that it cannot at any moment be isolated from anything else; and that at every moment its nature is subtly changing."
Soygal Rinpoche from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, pg. 37.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Free will-- revisited.

Can we control our minds?

"Today we feel good because things are going well; tomorrow we feel the opposite. Where did that good feeling go? New influences took us over as circumstances changed: We are impermanent, the influences are impermanent, and there is nothing solid or lasting anywhere that we can point to.What could be more unpredicatable than our thoughts and emotions: do you have any idea what you are going to think or feel next? Our mind, in fact, is as empty, as impermanent, and as transient as a dream. Look at a thought: It comes, it stays, and it goes. The past is past, the future not yet risen, and even the present thought, as we experience it, becomes the past."
Sogyal Rinpoche from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, pg. 27.

If we cannot control our minds, can we be truly responsible for our actions?


How could evil arise from an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God?

Lin Yutang, in The Importance of Living, provides what seems to me to be the most likely explanation for this aspect of Christianity:

"the origin of the Devil had to be explained, and when the medieval theologians proceeded with their usual scholastic logic to deal with the problem, they got into a quandary. They could not have very well admitted that the Devil, who was Not-God, came from God himself, nor could they quite agree that in the original universe, the Devil, a Not-God, was co-eternal with God. So in desperation they agreed that the Devil must have been a fallen angel, which rather begs the question of the origin of evil (for there still must have been another Devil to tempt this fallen angel), and which therefore unsatisfactory, but they had to leave it at that."

Life in Heaven.

The following quotations from The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang explore the questions-- What would life be like in heaven? and why should I want to go there?

"The question of living is forgotten in the question of getting away alive from this world... Theological minds are so occupied with salvation, and so little with happiness, that all they can tell us about the future is that there will be a vague heaven, and when questioned about what we are going to do there and how we are going to be happy in heaven, they have only ideas of the vaguest sort, such as singing hymns and wearing white robes. Mohammed at least painted a picture of future happiness with rich wine and juicy fruits and black-haired, big-eyed, passionate maidens that we laymen can understand. Unless heaven is made much more vivid and convincing for us, there is no reason why one should strive to go there, at the cost of neglecting this earthly existence. As some one says, 'An egg today is better than a hen tomorrow.' At least, when we're planning a summer vacation, we take the trouble to find out some details about the place we are going to. If the tourist bureau is entirely vague on the question, I am not interested; I remain where I am. Are we going to strive and endeavor in heaven, as I am quite sure the believers in progress and endeavor must assume? But how can we strive and make progress when we are already perfect? Or are we going merely to loaf and do nothing and not worry? In that case, would it not be better for us to learn to loaf while on this earth as a preparation for our eternal life?" (124).

"It is interesting that the general conception of an angel is still that of a human body with a pair of wings. I sometimes think it is an advantage even for angels to have a body with the five senses. If I were to be an angel, I should like to have a school-girl complexion, but how am I going to have a school-girl complexion without a skin? I still should like to drink a glass of tomato juice or iced orange juice, but how am I going to appreciate iced orange juice without having thirst? And how am I going to enjoy food, when I am incapable of hunger? How would an angel paint without pigment, sing without the hearing of sounds, smell the immense satisfaction of scratching an itch, if his skin doesn't itch? And what a terrible loss in the capacity for happiness that would be! Either we have to have bodies and have all our bodily wants satisfied, or else we are pure spirits and have no satisfactions at all. All satisfactions imply want" (58).

"Imagine a world in which there are no stories of murder in newspapers, every one is so omniscient that no house ever catches fire, no airplane ever has an accident, no husband deserts his wife, no pastor elopes with a choir girl, no king abdicates his throne for love, no man changes his mind and everyone proceeds to carry out with logical precision a career that he mapped out for himself at the age of ten-- good-by to this happy human world! All the excitement and uncertainty of life would be gone. There would be no literature because there would be no sin, no misbehavior, no human weakness, no upsetting passion, no prejudices, no irregularities and, worst of all, no surprises" (25).


From Straw Dogs by John Gray:
"Truth has no systematic evolutionary advantage over error. Quite to the contrary, evolution will 'select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray -- by the subtle signs of self-knowledge -- the deception being practised'. As Trivers points out, evolution favours useful error: 'the conventional view that natural selection favours nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution'."

Could belief in God be one of these self-deceptions that has developed because of its evolutionary benefits?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Free Will

I don't believe that humans have free will.

The following is a logical proof against free will paraphrased from Galen Strawson's book Freedom and Belief:

1. In discussing free will we are only interested in rational actions (actions performed for reasons) and those who agree that humans have free will will want to show that these rational actions are, or can be, free actions. Consequently, we are not interested in non-rational actions such as coughing or digesting.

2. The way a person acts when they act rationally is necessarily determined by the state of mind of the individual at the time of the action.

3. If a person is to be truly responsible for how one acts, one must be truly responsible for the state of their mind-- in certain respects, at least.

4. But to be truly responsible for the state of one's mind, one must have chosen that state of mind-- in certain respects. (It is not simply that one must have caused oneself to have that current state of mind; that is not sufficient for true responsibility. One must have consciously and explicitly chosen to have their current state of mind and they must have succeeded in bringing about that desired state of mind.)

5. But a person cannot really say that they have chosen, in any conscious or reasoned fashion, to have their mind be the way it is, in any respect at all, unless a person already exists (mentally speaking) equipped with some principles of choice 'P1'-- with preferences, values, pro-attitudes, ideals, whatever-- in light of which one chooses how to be.

6. But then to be truly responsible (on account of having chosen to have your state of mind) one must be truly responsible for these principles of choice.

7. For this to be possible, these principles of choice must have been chosen in a reasoned and conscious fashion.

8. For 7 to be true there must have existed some other principles of choice 'P2' upon which 'P1's are chosen.

9. And so on. Thus, true self-determination (Free Will) is logically impossible because it requires the actual completion of an infinite regress of choices of principles of choice.

Fairly common sense, eh?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Living the Best Life

I sincerely beg for your understanding on the following issue:

I think I have figured out how to make this world a better place (with the help of friends and some livid guy that Andy told me about on CSPAN).

Before we can get to the solution, we need to address the problem. The problem is that people, especially from different cultures, tend to have a hard time getting along with eachother. I think it can be agreed upon that the major reason humans have had trouble getting along in the past is simply that people have differing interests and beliefs. So let us, for a brief moment, not focus on how we all differ but instead focus on something we all have in common. Namely, I think it can be agreed upon, that everyone is interested in living the best lives that they can. I realize that if you were to ask people to define what "living the best life" means, they would undoubtedly have vastly different definitions; but, I think, much more important than these differences is the simple fact that all humans DO have this common ground: we all want to live the best life we can.

I think it is safe to say that a great majority of humanity would include believing in a specific god or gods as a major part of their definition of "living the best life."

Now the question must be asked "Why do people follow their religion?"

Clearly there are various reasons why people believe their religion to be correct-- but I think that if we look at the picture more broadly then we can see that everyone that follows a religion believes it to be correct based on personal experiences and evidence (which is what all beliefs are based on).

I don't see any problem with this... people can certainly believe whatever they want to believe. However, I believe a large problem arises when people that believe in God state that they know their religion is right. Notice that I am not saying that it is a problem for a person to believe that their religion is right... but simply that it is a problem for a person to believe that they know their religion is correct. Before I get into why I believe this is a problem that affects everyone, let us first look into the issue of knowledge.

The fact is, we really don't know anything about the world. Following the philosophy of Descartes, the only thing we know for certain is that we exist (and, more trivially that doubt exists). This Cartesian doubt is illustrated in the movie The Matrix (yay for pop-culture) which explored the idea that, for all we know, we could be plugged into a machine that is making us have our current perceptions. To explore this, let us apply this idea to the ground I walk on every day. I assuredly believe that the ground I walk on is real (in the physical sense) but there is the minute possibility that what I am perceiving is not real. As I said, I believe very strongly in the existence of the ground I walk on, and the point I'm making is not that my belief is unreasonable-- because my belief stems from experiences and evidence (as do all beliefs)--but at no point, no matter how solid the evidence is, can I say that I know that the ground exists.

Thus, even if it seems like the most ridiculous idea ever (as it most certainly will for many believers) that your religion is incorrect and even if you believe the evidence on which you base your beliefs to be undeniably strong (as you most certainly do)... you still cannot say that you know your religion is correct. The lack of knowlege is not a weakness of religion by any means and, correct me if I'm wrong, it doesn't appear to contradict any religion-- thus, it appears that there's really no need to hold on to the belief "I know my religion is right"(because all that really means is "I believe very strongly based on evidence and experiences that my religion is right").

What problems does the statement "I know my religion is right" cause?

The major problem with making the statement "I know my religion is right" is that inherent in that statement is the statement: "I know your religion is wrong." And it seems to me, since people's beliefs are based on common reasons, that we should grant that people with different beliefs than our own believe these beliefs just as sincerely as we believe ours. By saying "I know your religion is wrong" people with different beliefs will look at you as close-minded and will, more than likely, close all possible doors that could lead to a civil dialogue.

Since it appears that there is no need to make such an assuming ("know") statement, it seems like a much better formulation would be "I believe my religion is right" (with a basis in experience and evidence) which inherently has the more respectful corollary "I believe your religion is wrong." With the latter ("believe") statements there can be dialogue and attempts at understanding other people's views... which is obviously much more conducive to a positive and peaceful society; On the other hand the prior ("know") statements leave absolutely no room for discussion and lead to an us vs. them mentality which is, what I believe to be, the root cause of conflict between societies. Furthermore, by admitting that you don't know whether your religion is right you are also admitting that other religions could be right (even if it seems very improbable to you)-- and this mutual respect for other beliefs is essential to co-exist peacefully alongside other beliefs.

Since both sides have the common ground on why they believe their religions, the natural & peaceful solution is to understand the commonality and celebrate it. Instead of polarizing ourselves by using "know" statements, by using "believe" statements we can work together (by sharing experiences and evidence) as people with similar goals to understand that we aren't all that different.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Making it Easy on You.

Don't be stupid. Question things:

1. How are humans different from other animals?
We're smarter.

2. What evidence is there that a god/gods exists?
There really isn't any strong evidence. Chances are if you disagree with me it is because of one of 4 things that you think constitute strong evidence... 1. some medical miracle is evidence, 2. some freaky experience you had is evidence (usually near-death or out-of-body), 3. the bible has plenty of evidence (or the bible is evidence itself) or 4. "I feel all warm and fuzzy when I talk to god, which leads me to believe that he/she/it exists." If you believe 1, 2, 3 or 4 is true, don't fret, I just think you're believing based on weak evidence.

3. Is the way we are living as a society the best way to live?
Not even close. I mean... we're still using oil to run our cars. So why don't we change? Because most people don't care. Plus we're all lazy.

4. Is it possible that there's more than one "good" way to live?
Of course. But then why does our government continually interfere in people's lives? Who are they to say what the best way to live is?

5. Should marijuana be illegal?
No. It has fewer negative effects than alcohol and tobacco.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Proposition 2

Texans are being called to vote on a number of amendments to the Texas State Constitution. Among these proposed amendments is Proposition 2 which reads as follows:

"The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Why would somebody support Proposition 2?

Here is one argument supporting Proposition 2:

"Defend the institution of marriage: Vote YES on Proposition 2.

Marriage has always been about the Union of Man and Woman, and it is only meant to be this way. We are certainly called to love everyone equally, but we are not called to compromise the truth.

'Everyone has equal access to marriage, and everyone is equally subject to its restrictions. In our country, each person must meet the five criteria below in order to get married:
1) You cannot already be married.
2) You must be an adult and marry an adult.
3) You cannot marry a close family member.
4) You must marry a human.
5) Your spouse must be of the opposite sex.
Everyone abides by these same rules, and anyone who meets all five criteria can enter into marriage. Same-sex marriage advocates subtly distort the law in order to justify their cause. They claim, falsely, that the right to marry lies in any couple, when in fact it lies in the individual. Not just any conceivable configuration of people have the right to marry because rights belong to individuals --not groups.'- taken from www.texansformarriage.org/faq.htm"

I will take issue with the above argument piece by piece:

1. How can you support the claim "Marriage has always been about the Union of a Man and a Woman, and it is only mean to be this way. We are certainly called to love everyone equally, but we are not called to compromise the truth."?

Marriages may have started as only between males and females but it is untrue to say that marriage has ALWAYS been about man and woman. There are many instances in American Indian tribes where men married other men. Also, there is legalized same-sex marriage in other parts of the world, thus the claim that "marriage has always been about the Union of a Man and a Woman" is simply untrue. And therefore, the "truth" that this person is speaking of is, in fact, not "truth" but "fiction".

2. "Everyone has equal access to marriage, and everyone is equally subject to its restrictions. In our country, each person must meet the five criteria below in order to get married:
1) You cannot already be married.
2) You must be an adult and marry an adult.
3) You cannot marry a close family member.
4) You must marry a human.
5) Your spouse must be of the opposite sex."

The argument is that "straight people can't marry people of the same-sex either-- so since the law is equally applied it does not violate the 14th amendment (No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; ... nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws)

The funny thing is that this exact same argument was used by those people that supported a ban on interracial marriages in 1967. The law stated that non-whites couldn't marry whites and whites couldn't marry non-whites, thus, the law was equally applied and, therefore it was not unconstitutional. Seems to make sense, however, In the court case Loving v. Virginia the supreme court stated that "the fact of equal application does not immunize the statute from the very heavy burden of justification which the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes". Thus, simply because a law is equally applied does not mean that it equally protects.

As for the 5 requirements for what constitutes marriage... I realize your list is an accurate representation of the status quo, but just because the law IS this way doesn't mean that it OUGHT to be this way. The laws once defined "citizen" as "white land owner". It is easy to change the meanings of words... we could easily change the meaning of "civil marriage" to include same-sex couples.

3. How will changing the definition of "civil marriage" threaten "the institution of marriage"? I can honestly see no valid arguments to support this.

4. "Same-sex marriage advocates subtly distort the law in order to justify their cause. They claim, falsely, that the right to marry lies in any couple, when in fact it lies in the individual. Not just any conceivable configuration of people have the right to marry because rights belong to individuals --not groups."

This line of argumentation is obviously flawed because the same arguments could be, and were, used to justify a ban on interracial marriage... which I don't think anyone would support. You may argue that there is a difference between race and sexual orientation... to anyone that makes this argument, I must ask, is it ok to deny homosexuals equal protection of the law because you disagree with their orientation? If you don't think it's ok to deny homosexuals (or bi or transexuals) equal protection of the law then you shouldn't support a proposition that will ban a certain group of people from having equal rights. If you do think it's ok to deny homosexuals equal protection of the law then you are a fascist that is making the same flaw in argumentation that people who were against interracial marriages made.

If you still believe that this ban would not violate the 14th amendment (which calls for equal protection of the law [which Loving v. Virginia said is not simply "equal application"]) then I must make a simple analogy that I feel shows the flaw in this line of argumentation:

There are two groups of people, group A & group B. The members of Group A are biologically/psychologically prone to having deep feelings of satisfaction from drinking water. The majority of people under this government are members of Group A. As the majority, Group A decides they will make laws that give certain benefits to water drinkers. However, members of Group B are biologically/psychologically prone to having deep feelings of satisfaction from drinking juice and they don't get any satisfaction out of drinking water. Moreover, many members of Group A think that drinking juice is wrong. In this system there is not equal protection of the law for juice drinkers because the benefits of the law won't apply to members of Group B... thus, this situation would fail to pass the 14th amendment.

This has been my argument within the current social framework of the U.S.-- however, if you wish to dismiss the constitution and argue from another standpoint... then it is possible to argue:

Homosexuality is "wrong" and you shouldn't support legislation that supports people's "wrong doings".

Certainly you do not think that everything that you consider "wrong" should be illegal. Should it be illegal to say God's name in vain? If you think that it should be illegal to say God's name in vain... then you are a fascist. If you do not, then you must admit that it is not the job of the government to decide "right" and "wrong". I believe it should be the job of the government to favor those actions that promote happiness and condemn those actions which impede on another person's freedoms (i.e. actions that cause harm). Since allowing same-sex marriage would promote happiness, through benefits, to homosexuals and since these benefits do not cause any harm, I see no solid reason for banning same-sex marriage.

Giving homosexuals equal rights causes harm to no one-- Why would you want to deny homosexual couples these rights that heterosexual couples can receive by marrying?:

-Spouses are allowed to make medical decisions in the case that their husband or wife is incompetent or disabled and they generally are allowed to visit their partner in the hospital.
-Married persons are allowed to make unlimited transfers and gifts to each other without paying taxes.
-Spouses are given the automatic right to inherit without a will; the inheritance is also untaxable.
-Married people receive Social Security and veteran benefit payments upon the death of a spouse.
-Criminal penalties are imposed on spouses who abandon a child or a spouse.

Actively fighting to deny these rights to homosexual couples is outright hateful... it's not bad enough that the status quo denies homosexuals equal protection of the law... but the bigoted right is so homophobic that they feel the need to ban something that is already not legal... so ridiculous.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Legislating from the Bench

The argument I hear over and over again when it comes to civil rights related court decisions that conservatives disagree with is as follows:

"Activist Judges are legislating from the bench! They are going against the will of the majority and using their power to create laws based on their beliefs. Judges should be interpreting the law... not making it."

If you have been guilty of such an argument... let me ask you this: Do you know of a certain political philosophy that the U.S. has adopted known as "systems of checks and balances"?
If not, let me explain-- this system says that if congress passes a law that is unconstitutional then it is up to the judicial system to overturn that law.

This power has been used many times in the past-- and many laws have been overturned by our courts... Do you hate the "activist judges" that made these decisions?

Brown v. Board of Education ended the "separate but equal" justification for segregation.
Gideon v. Wainwright gave people the right to a defense attorney if they can't afford one.
Korematsu v. United States deemed the Japanese war camps unconstitutional.
Loving v. Virginia overturned a law that made interracial marriages illegal.
The following are court decisions that overturned laws that infringed on our first amendment right to free speech: Texas v. Johnson, Gitlow v. NY, Schecter Poultry Corp. v. US, US v. Butler, Yates v. US, Tinker v. Des Moines, Island Trees School District v. Pico, NY Times v. Sullivan

It can be easily argued that "activist judging" is what we owe most of the progress of our country's civil rights to. Had we not had these decisions, America would be a much less free country than it is today. The reason we need these "activist judges" is because congress is made up of a bunch of meatheads that want to pass laws to criminalize sexy dancing, marijuana flavored lollipops and butt-sex... somebody in this country has to interpret the constitution and our congressmen/women are not the people to do it. The members of congress tend to just ignore the constitution when they put forth legislation... to see evidence of this just make a quick read through the Patriot Act.

Perhaps you think that issues like abortion, gay marriage, flag burning, and the 10 commandments should be decided by popular vote... I mean we are a democracy aren't we? Shouldn't the laws reflect what the majority wants? ........ do you honestly think that we can rely on common citizens to cast intelligent and well informed votes? The majority of people in the US can't even spell constitution let alone interpret it.

The reason we shouldn't allow civil rights decisions to be made by popular vote is because citizens just tend to vote against things they don't like... with no regard for constitutionality. For a historical example: if the south had voted on whether to keep slavery over 100 years ago, they probably would have voted to keep it... or if the south had been allowed to vote on whether to keep a ban on interracial marriages, they probably would have. Plain and simple... we can't rely on the majority to make responsible decisions, especially for the minority... just look at the 11 states that voted to ban gay marriage (which I've given a constitutional argument on earlier in my web log).

"Activist Judge" is just a ridiculous name given to a judge that makes a decision that you don't agree with. The funny thing is that those who throw around the phrase "activist judge" are most often the biggest hypocrites... Sean Hannity loves labeling judges that he disagrees with as "activist judges"; however, during the Terry Schaivo case he was outraged that the judges in the Florida courts wouldn't go against what the law states and give custody of Terry over to her parents. Hypocrisy? Yes.

The fact of the matter is that we need judges to make sure that laws are constitutional-- if they don't, nobody will... and if nobody does... no more sexy high school cheerleader dances.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Why exactly are we so pissed off??

Both sides, Republicans AND Democrats, have people that are pissed off about Bush's nomination of John Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court... and their reasons for being pissed off are just really silly.

That's right people-- Conservatives are upset because Bush chose somebody that the Democrats couldn't get pissed off about and the Democrats are upset because they don't know whether or not they have any reason to be pissed off.

I personally think appointing Roberts was a really smart move by George W. Bush-- perhaps one of the first political moves he has made that hasn't drastically increased the division of our country. Yes, I personally think it sucks that a republican is getting to appoint a Supreme Court Justice-- but there is nothing I can do about it-- Republicans won the election... they get to appoint the justices. I'm just happy that Bush didn't appoint somebody ridiculously controversial like Anne Coulter. That's all we need-- more pointless filibusters.

Who would have thought that the controversy would be that there is not any controversy???

It's ridiculous-- I heard Sean Hannity talking today about how he wishes that Bush had picked somebody that everyone knew for sure was pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and pro-ten commandments on public property. From what I know about GW I'm fairly certain that he wouldn't have selected a justice that was pro-choice or pro-gay marriage (why would he?)... but it's much better for America that the left doesn't have anything concrete to be pissed about (other than the shitty campaign run by Kerry). Some Democrats just don't seem to understand that Bush is the person that gets to nominate the judge-- and no matter what they do... no matter how much they complain... Bush is not going to nominate a liberal. So why waste all this energy? I hate blind party politics.

Everyone should be happy!! -- there is nothing to be pissed off about!!

Liberals, if you want a liberal judge-- get a liberal elected president.
Conservatives, If you want a controversial judge to piss off the democrats and further divide the country-- you're an asshole.

Monday, July 11, 2005

AM Radio

The following is a fictional depiction of a typical AM talk radio segment-- inspired by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingram:


Today at the Bay Colony Community College in Spanglebrook, Massachusetts, George Hornswallow a liberal, economics professor spoke to a group of liberal democrats at a young democrats meeting on campus. During his speech he described the Republican party as, and I quote, "a party of white, uber-religious sheep following a mentally retarded shephard on a path of racist destruction-- not unsimilar to the destruction caused by Nazi Germany."

This is a perfect example of liberal America's detachment from the mainstream... liberals are so blinded by their hatred of America and freedom that they will say and do anything. What nerve these democrat hate mongers have-- How can they think that it is ok to relate their fellow Americans to the most hateful and destructive regime in history? For those of you who are wondering why they do this-- it is a ploy... it is a ploy to try to get people to join their conservative hate party. I know a group of people who use similar tactics-- a group that spreads lies about American policy to get people to join their ranks.... the terrorists. Liberals don't listen to reason, they hate the system that has put their republican counterparts in power, and they cannot stand our christian morals-- the morals that our forefathers so clearly wanted to be a part of our government. Terrorists have the same exact philosophy-- they don't listen to reason, they hate our system of freedom and they hate our religion... and just like the liberals these terrorists will say and do anything to disrupt the wants and needs of mainstream America--- just look at how the liberals attempted to block the nomination of judges!

This makes me happy though-- because I know as long as these lunatic liberals keep up what they're doing-- they will never have control of the house, the senate or the presidency ever again...

And as for George Hornswallow-- I believe that we cannot have the people that are in charge of teaching our children saying obviously anti-american and questionably treasonous statements... I am urging you to write to the president of Bay Colony Community College and demand the removal of this lunatic. We have to work together to end the major problem we have with college professors in this country: radical liberalism. I think we can all agree that we need to make sure that this man never teaches another class as long as he lives.

If you think i'm exaggerating... just turn on AM radio during the day and you will hear this kind of crap repeated over and over again... it's on 9 hours a day (not to mention 24 hours a day on a certain cable television news channel). If you don't understand why the above segment is total crap leave an Anon message and I'll explain.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Pro-death v. Pro-obligation

"When does life begin?"

Pro-lifers have very strong evidence showing brain waves, heart beats, fingers, movement early in a fetuses development-- all this evidence points clearly to the existence of a life. They say that to end this life is murder.

Pro-choicers usually ignore this evidence and point to the constitution saying that fetuses aren't citizens of the United States and and aren't protected under the constitution. Or they will say that to ban abortion is to infringe on a woman's right to control her body-- the supreme court in Roe v. Wade made their ruling based on similar reasons by saying that abortion is a woman's right to privacy.

I think both sides have valid points-- some more valid than others-- but when you delve into these arguments you come across conflicting definitions... and the two sides will come to agreement when answer the questions: What is life? What constitutes a person? What constitutes murder? When should a person have legal protection? If we continue to simply place all the importance on the actions, and not the consequences, then both sides will merely talk past eachother.

My argument-- which I hope doesn't talk past anyone:

As I stated in my post "What utility does religion serve?" I hold that what is considered "right" and "wrong" is based on our laws. I stated that we use our own personal moral codes to influence the laws. I stated that I believe that we should label all things that are beneficial to a society as "right" and all things that are not beneficial to a society as "wrong." Therefore, I will argue that legal abortions are beneficial to a society-- and criminalizing abortions would not be beneficial to society.

Advantages of having legal abortions:

-fewer unwanted children
-respect for the personal plans of the mother and father
-less financial strain
-less emotional strain
-less emotional or physical abuse of unwanted children
-fewer children in foster homes
-fewer unwanted marriages
-fewer Illegal/non-clinic abortions
-less injury, disease and death of mothers
-fewer annoying little kids running around

I see very little that is disadvantagous about having legal abortions. All of the possible disadvantages of having an abortion (depression, medical complications... etc.) are all based on a choice made by the mother-- it is not as though any mothers would be forced to abort.

To avoid somebody asking the following questions or making the following statements-- I'll do it for them:
(1) "Thank goodness Adam and Eve weren't pro-choice".
Adam and Eve could have been pro-choice and simply chosen to have children.
(2) "Aren't you glad your parents didn't have an abortion?"
Yes. But I wouldn't have really cared if I had never been born... considering I never would have had the mental faculties to care.
(3) "What if Albert Einstein/Jesus/Gandhi's parents had an abortion?"
Good point-- but what if Pol Pot/Hitler/Bin Laden's parents had an abortion?

I understand the view from people who, due to their religious beliefs, think that abortion is wrong-- but I don't hold your same religious beliefs-- and who is to say that your moral code (based on religion) is more right than mine (based on beneficiality)?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

oh yeah... that one guy

Does anyone else remember a guy by the name of Osama bin Laden? He's about 6'6" tall, long gray beard, leader of the group that killed thousands of Americans? Heard of him?

Why the fuck have we not caught him yet?

Why aren't people outraged that we haven't found that bastard?

Why are we devoting all this time, energy and money on Iraq (which has arguably created more terrorists than it has killed) when we haven't even captured the person in charge of the group that has killed Americans and specifically states that its purpose is to kill Americans?

Anybody who argues that the war in Iraq has helped to decrease terror from groups like Al Qaeda is an imbecile. What better way to keep extremist muslims from wanting to kill us than to blow up a country full of muslims without a valid reason? The war in Iraq has hindered the war on terror, not helped it.

If we had not gone to war in Iraq and instead had focused all the same energy, time and money on catching Al Qaeda members-- the rest of the world would still feel sorry for us instead of hating us, American and other allied soldiers would not be dying for an unjustified war, Spanish and English civilians would probably still be alive, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians would still be alive, we would have probably caught Osama and further dismantled Al Qaeda.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

You Reap What You Sow

So the supreme court also decided on Monday that it's a good idea to spread eminent domain to the private sector. So now if a city thinks that a one private owner would make more money for the city than is currently being made by the current private owner of that land-- they can take away the land from the current owner and give it to the other private owner.

So a man named Logan Darrow Clements has proposed to the city of Weare, New Hampshire that he wants to build a hotel on the land that is now owned by Supreme Court Justice David Souter. He argues that he will certainly generate larger tax revenue than the current owner of the land. Oh, how awesome would that be if one of our Justices got personally screwed over by one of their own poor decisions?

You can read the article here: http://dsdsdemo2.ap.org/aponline/strange_stories/15_ds_826083.html

The Decalogue

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled that the monument infront of the Texas Capital was constitutional because its context was secular and they ruled that the framed 10 commandments in a Kentucky courtroom were not constitutional because they promoted a religion.

Typical argument against the 10 commandments being on public property:

Having the 10 commandments on public property violates the "separation of church and state" and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

Typical arguments for the 10 commandments being on public property:

(a) "Separation of church and state" isn't in our constitution.
(b) Our government was based around judeo-christian philosophy and, thus, the Ten Commandments are of historical relevance.

This is why I think the typical argument against having the 10 commandments on public property doesn't work:

I can't see how anyone can argue that having religious monuments on public property is unconstitutional. The words "separation of church and state" are not in our constitution and I don't think that having a religious monument on public property violates the first amendment "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." No law is being made... congress is not even involved... and this in no way prohibits the free exercise of religion.

This is why I think that the arguments for having the 10 commandments on public property don't work:

(a) People are correct when they say that "separation of church and state" is not in our constitution. However, I ask those people-- Do you think that our country would be better if church and state were not separated? I think we have seen enough historical evidence to show that the separation of church and state is, overall, benificial to society.

I think Sandra Day O'Conner said well it in her opinion on this case "Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?"

(b) As for the historical relevance of the 10 commandments-- I have yet to see any evidence that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian philosophy... Yes, it was probably founded by Christian people who may have followed Judeo-Christian philosophy-- but I have not seen what effect that had on our government. Many people claim that the founding fathers were deists (I haven't seen any strong evidence to support this claim)-- however, it doesn't matter if they were Christians or Deists or Wiccan-- what we do know is that they specifically wrote into the constitution that they wanted free exercise of religion and that they didn't want to have a state religion. It seems to me that the personal religious beliefs of the founding fathers are of very little historical relevance.

Plus, only 3 of the 10 commandments relate to our government at all:
I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
III. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
IV. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
V. Honour thy father and thy mother.
(VI. Thou shalt not kill.) -- relates only because we have laws against murder
VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
(VIII. Thou shalt not steal.) -- relates only because we have laws against theft
(IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.) -- relates only because we have laws against perjury.
X. Thou shalt not covet any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Just because we have laws saying we shouldn't murder, steal, or perjure-- and the bible also says not to do these things-- that doesn't automatically make the 10 commandments historically relevant to our government. We have to look at why we have those laws-- is it because the bible says we shouldn't do those things? or could it be that it is just common sense that these things should not be done because they are harmful to society?

My argument:

I don't think that the ten commandments have any place being on public property. This is why:

1. Just because something is constitutional doesn't mean it should be done. It may be constitutional to put a monument with the tenants of national socialism on public property-- but I don't think it has any business being there.
2. I think separation of church and state is a good idea.
3. I don't think the 10 commandments are historically relevant enough to our government to be put on display.
4. I constantly have to look at or hear Christian messages from evangelists, T-shirts, bumper stickers, AIM profiles and presidential speeches-- and I don't want to have to look at them on public property.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Beloved Bush

I was thinking-- and I really don't understand why conservatives love George W. Bush so much and I don't understand why they think he is doing such a wonderful job as president.

A great number of people who voted for George W. Bush did so because of his position on "moral issues". I think it is safe to say that the major moral issue that caused people to vote for GW is his views against abortion. So if conservatives are so happy with Bush** then wouldn't you expect that Bush would have done something about the issues that got him elected?

Bush is probably the most conservative, god-fearing, anti-abortion presidents we've had in modern day and conservatives have control of both the house and the senate-- yet abortion is still legal. In fact, I have heard no serious talks from him about criminalizing abortion (though he has spent a good deal of time trying to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage). If this die-hard christian and uber-conservative congress haven't even made a serious attempt at making abortion illegal... shouldn't people be mad that nothing has been done about the major reason they voted for him? But I see no anger-- most of the conservatives are just fine with the way he's doing his job.

For those of you who are morally against same-sex marriage and abortion-- I think you should ask yourself a serious question-- Which is a more important moral issue-- same-sex marriage or abortion? The president has spent a great deal more time trying to ban gay marriage than he has trying to ban abortion-- does this parallel your beliefs? I doubt it.

And honestly-- if you care so much about moral issues-- shouldn't you be upset that we were unjustified in going to war and that thousands of people have died because of the Bush administration's screwup? Or do your morals not stretch all the way across the ocean?

** People were happy enough with Bush to vote him the 6th greatest American in history on TLC's "Greatest American"-- this show was hilarious... it may be one of America's "Worst Shows" ever-- Who do you think should be the greatest American? George Washington? Martin Luther King Jr.? Abraham Lincoln?-- Who actually won? Ronald Reagan...... how awful is that?
Other ridiculous people in the top 20: Bill Clinton #7, Oprah #9, Billy Graham #11 and Bill Gates #18--- These people are clearly greater Americans than Rosa Parks...?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Flag Burning

The house just passed a bill that would criminalize flag burning and it is now going to the Senate. This bill is just proof that our politicians do jack shit. Our politicians are more worried about combustible symbols and sexy dancing cheerleaders than real issues.

If you think that a ban on flag burning is a good idea-- this is why you are wrong:

(1) The main argument I hear is from people that say "People went to war and died defending that flag-- it is disrespectful to burn it and it should be illegal." The people who have fought and died for our freedom have done so to give us freedoms just like burning our flag. To make it illegal is to criminalize dissent.
Just because it makes you mad doesn't mean it should be illegal.
(2) Whether or not you think burning a flag is "right", it is a form of free speech-- and should be allowed.
(3) What constitutes a flag? Would it be legal to burn a shirt with a flag on it? A napkin with a flag design on it? Some cloth that resembles the US flag? Or would it only be illegal to burn official US flags?

If it passes I am going to be the first person to burn a flag afterwards... The ACLU would represent me-- I could be on Hannity and Colmes-- I could write a book-- and, plus, there is no way that this bill would ever hold up if it went to the Supreme Court.

People just need to stop trying criminalize everything that pisses them off. Here's an idea-- try dealing with your anger in a way that doesn't screw with my freedom.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Way Too In-depth Look at a Famous Quotation:

I read this quote in two different places today:

"I believe in God like I believe in the sunrise. Not because I can see it, but because I can see all that it touches." -C.S. Lewis

The funny thing about this quote is that it can be understood to mean two things-- and both of them are equally absurd:
{SS= He Can See a Sunrise}
{BS= Belief that there is a Sunrise}
{ST= Seeing what the Sunrise Touches}

I'm pretty sure that he's saying this:
(1) ~SS ; BS→ST
He can't see sunrises (~SS)-- and in order for him to believe in a sunrise he must see what the sunrise is touching (BS→ST).

However, it is also possible to understand the quote to mean this:
(2) SS; BS→ST
He can see sunrises (SS) [but that is not the reason he believes in them]; He believes in sunrises because he can see all that the sunrise touches (BS→ST).

Number 1 = dumb because you can see sunrises.
Number 2 doesn't work because it means that he chooses to believe in sunrises because of what they touch when he could have chosen to believe in sunrises because he can actually see them-- this comes across numerous problems; the first being that the only way you could say that a sunrise "touches" anything is to say that the light waves coming from it are what touch things-- and this creates a horrible analogy because there isn't any solid evidence that God touches things in a way similar to the way that light waves touch things. Not to mention that I can't see God like I can see sunrises.

The reason that I believe in sunrises is because I know the definition of a sunrise and I see (if i'm awake) the characteristics that compose sunrises every morning...and I certainly do not see the characteristics that compose God at 6am (or thereabouts) every morning.

--My statements about how I made C.S. Lewis my bitch have been removed because people are overly sensitive about replacing "Christ" with "Crap"... I challenge you to make fun of the title "Mere Christianity" without sounding disrespectful--

Yes this is a ridiculous overanalysis.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Iraq War

How can you justify the US going to war in Iraq?

One argument that I hear again and again is this:
"There isn't a country called 'Al Qaedia'"... as if to say that we went to war in Iraq because of Al Qaeda.

The Bush administration tried so desperately to make it seem like there was a strong link between Al Qaeda and Saddam-- however this connection turned out to be, at best, very flimsy-- the connection that they found was that Al Zarqawi (a member of Al Qaeda) had been treated in an Iraqi hospital after he was wounded in Afghanistan-- which basically just goes to show that somebody in Al Qaeda had been to Iraq... which seems to me to be a much weaker link than the link between Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda (considering 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia). Even the Bush administration has given up on touting this supposed connection.

So since there was no strong connection with Al Qaeda how is this war just?

The typical answer I hear is:
"A bad man is out of power and Iraqis are better off now than they were when Saddam was in power."

Here is a scenario to show why the above argument fails to justify the war:
Suppose we were told by our president that a fascist leader was slaughtering his own people and that we needed to go to war immediately to save their lives. So we give the president the power to go to war-- he immediately sends troops to that country to stop the killing. Our troops show up, we dismantle the goverment and then we realize we screwed up... there was actually no killing going on...

At that very instant there is no possible way for the war to be just. It doesn't matter what good we end up doing for that country-- It doesn't matter what past acts that leader may have done-- the war cannot be justified. The justification for going to war was wrong AND you can't change your justification for doing something after you've already done it. However, our president has done just that-- instead of admitting he was wrong and instead of apologizing to the thousands of American and Iraqi families who have lost friends and family members he justifies this war by saying "We're bringing freedom to this country"and he continually holds that he did the "right" thing-- and the majority of Americans (as shown by our election) are perfectly fine with the decisions he made. However, I don't believe for a second that congress would have given the president the power to go to war if he had said "The main reason we need to go to war is because we need to bring democracy to Iraq"... it just doesn't contain any scare-tactics that this administration has found to work so very nicely (except on social security).

It is just so horrible that two of my buddies from high school are in Iraq now putting their lives in danger because the current administraion, at the very least, screwed up in going to war. War should have been the last option-- and it wasn't-- if it was, we would have waited until we knew for sure that our reason for going to war was sound.

The argument I often hear to that is:
"If we had waited then it could have been too late and we could have had another 9/11"

An analogy to show why that argument doesn't justify the war:
Suppose you were to hear that somebody that you hate (for justifiable reasons) might have a gun that they might give to somebody that might try to use that gun against you or your family... and in response to this you blow-up the house of the guy you hate.

If this war was a justifiable Self-Defense war (which it must be in order for it to be a just preemptive war) it should follow closely to what our country considers to be "Self Defense". And in the scenario I gave, our courts would never consider an act like that as a self-defense. The "If I had waited bad things could have happened" argument would be laughed out of court. That argument doesn't justify anything.

War should be the very last course of action... our soldiers trust our leaders to only put them in harms way when it is completely necessary. And it seemed to me that this war was definitely not the very last option for our President... and, actually, at times it seemed like it was right at the top of his "to do" list.

Since the beginning of the war in Iraq we've lost 1714 american soldiers-- 47 have died this month. The number of Iraqi civilian deaths caused by military intervention is now up to, at the very least, 22,248 people. The number of WMD's found is now up to a staggering figure of 0.
I really wish we could justify this war.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Reuters Article:

"World military spending rose for a sixth year running in 2004, growing by 5 percent to $1.04 trillion on the back of 'massive' U.S. budgetary allocations for its war on terror, a leading research institute said on Tuesday. With expenditure of $455 billion, the United States accounted for almost half the global figure, more than the combined total of the 32 next most powerful nations."

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Bush Administration's Hypocrisy

Today Donald Rumsfeld made a speech in Singapore where he bluntly criticized China for spending too much money on missiles and "up-to-date military technology". He said instead that money should be used to further China's political freedom and open markets.

Does that sound hypocritical to anyone else? Considering the US is spending 8 times as much money-- $350 billion more-- on our military than they are. Who are we to tell China how to spend their money? I wish China would turn back around and tell the US to quit paying favors to big businesses like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman who we gave the largest military contract in history --$250 billion-- to build 6000 new planes and cut down on our military's size. Which will never happen because of the corporate handjobs given to all of our politicians. That $250 billion contract is the perfect picture of how much big corporations run our government-- the guy who was put in charge of choosing who to give the contract to was Air Force Secretary James Roche-- who just so happened to be a top executive at Northrop Grumman for 17 years. This is made even more humorous because of what George W Bush's campaign advisor Richard Armitage said before the 2000 election:

"George Bush has said if he is fortunate enough to be elected president, he is going to look at our whole military situation, including the tactical air account. He's noted that the 3000 number [of planes] seems a bit much."

Apparently 9000 planes isn't a bit much. So why did Bush's mind change? 9/11? Maybe-- but it seems more likely to me that he showed up in Washington and realized that the people building those airplanes were giving a lot of money to him and to pretty much everyone with any pull in Washington. It's not surprising that Lockheed spent $2.7 million on soft money contributions (more than 2/3 of that money going to Republicans) in the 2004 election. Northrop Grumman split around $4 million between the two parties. James Ukropina, a director at Lockheed, made the maximum legal contribution of $1000 to almost every republican candidate running in California and to George W. Bush for president. If that's not legal bribery then it's at least good old fashioned conflict of interest.

It just erks me that Donald Rumsfeld can keep from cracking a smile when he's telling China that they should stop spending so much money on their defense. I guarantee that the Bush administration wouldn't be saying anything if China had asked Lockheed to build their planes (unless homosexuals would be flying them)-- and, hell, he wouldn't even care what China blew up with those planes as long as they payed Halliburton to rebuild it.

I'm so tired with the hypocrisy in our system. The US telling China to stop spending so much on their military is like Ken Lay telling Martha Stewart to use ethical business practices.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Defense Budget = Ridiculous

Why spend so much money on defense? Because we need the defense? Watch these videos and see how ridiculous the amount we spend on our military really is:



Monday, May 16, 2005

Think evolution is a crock?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Chas, Nate and Tim's shift in topic

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with the comments to my last post, starting with a comment from Chas, the conversation has shifted, via Tim and Nate, from same-sex marriage to an attempt to find the system that would best yeild a happy society. Since the scope of this conversation is wider reaching and, I think, gobs more important-- I felt like a post devoted solely to this topic is a splendid idea.

To recap-- Correct me if I’m wrong-- (you can still read Chas, Tim and Nate's own words under the comments section of the last post)

It seems there is a general consensus between nate and tim that what we are searching for is a system that has the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people—although, nate is still unsure as to whether it is better to have (a) 100 people with a happiness state of zero [net of zero] or (b) 99 people with a happiness state of -1 and one ridiculously happy person with a happiness state of 100 [net of positive one].

It has also been agreed that, as a base, one person's happiness state should not physically impede the happiness state of another person; that is, there should exist protection to keep people from gaining happiness at the expense of other persons physical (and arguably emotional) pain.

Nate’s definition of what we’re searching for:
“Given that we both respect each other's desires to obtain states, what is the set of mutual status states that minimizes our mutual interference with each other's desired states?”

I guess the big question I have for both of you and everyone is whether we should prefer the happiest (net) society or a society with equal possibility for happiness—This relates to the scenario that Nate brought up about a net happiness of 0 possibly being better than 1.

To bring this back to same-sex marriage—it seems completely likely that the pleasure that conservatives get from keeping their word “marriage” from the sinful clutches of homosexuals would amount to a higher net happiness than if we allowed homosexuals to marry. Considering the population of homosexuals (and those who support gay marriage) is so small the average amount of happiness gained by homosexuals (and those who support gay rights) would have to be considerably higher than the average happiness lost by those in the majority who oppose gay marriage.

I guess I’m not really bringing anything new to the conversation—I just can't figure it out. If we go for the greatest happiness while still maintaining equality it seems like we're shafting society-- because there could potentially be a happier society. If we don't maintain equality then we're shafting minorities-- because they could potentially be happier. So which is it? Somebody solve it for me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Same-sex Marriage

The 14th amendment states:
"No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Some people will argue that the current laws on same-sex marriages do protect people equally since heterosexual persons cannot marry people of the same sex either. This was a popular argument when interracial marriages were not legal. People argued that white people cannot marry people of a different race either; thus, the laws are not discriminatory. However, in the court case Loving v. Virginia they declared that the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution does not refer to the mere equal application of a law—they stated that a law that is discriminatory, even if it discriminates equally, violates the Equal Protection Clause of our constitution.

Therefore, if I can show that our current laws discriminate against homosexual couples then it should be agreed that those laws are unconstutional. Here is a short list of benefits that heterosexual couples are given by the state that are denied to homosexual couples:

-Spouses are allowed to make medical decisions in the case that their husband or wife is incompetent or disabled and they are allowed to visit their partner in the hospital.

-Married persons are allowed to make unlimited transfers and gifts to each other without paying taxes.

-Spouses are given the automatic right to inherit without a will; the inheritance is also non-taxable.

-Married people receive Social Security and veteran benefit payments upon the death of a spouse.

-Criminal penalties are imposed on spouses who abandon a child or a spouse.

By not offering the same benefits to homosexual couples that are offered to same-sex couples-- the laws are obviously discriminatory. Our government, through its laws, is saying that heterosexual relationships are the preferred type of relationship-- it is not the job of our government to decide what type of lifestyles are preferred and then to discriminate against the ones that are not preferred.

Even if you think that homosexuality is "wrong" you cannot deny them equal protection of the law.

Why do you still think that same-sex marriage should be banned?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Why do I care?

Why do I care whether or not people believe in God?

Since we live in a representative democracy what you believe effects the system. People that share similar viewpoints of the majority get elected. Thus, when you believe in God you affect my world and the world of other people that don't agree with you.

Exactly how does someone's belief in God affect me? (the following can and probably will be devoted whole posts)

1) Due to the fact that the bible says that the earth was created in 6 days-- some people are trying to get the "divine creator" theory taught in science classes even though there is no scientific evidence to back it up.

2) Because the bible says (in often very vague terms) that homosexuality is wrong-- our society has decided that it is ok to deny homosexuals equal protection under the law by denying them the right to civilly marry each other. (I think this will be the subject of the next post)

3) People are fighting to remove the use of contraceptives from sex-education programs because the bible in some vague manner leads them to believe that contraception is wrong.

4) Non-believers cannot get elected to office-- which means that illogical beliefs are getting more airtime than logical ones (since i've shown that there is no logical reason to believe a God exists).

5) Many believers think that non-believers are "bad people".

6) I can't buy liquor on Sundays for some reason.

7) Non-believers cannot pledge their allegiance to our country like everyone else without saying something that goes directly against their beliefs.

Plus I think that believing in things without proof is a dangerous habit to be getting into. If you believe in God without proof-- why not believe that Iraq has WMD's or that social security is going to go broke in 7 years without proof? This habit can lead to many other things that could potentially affect the lives of everyone. Be careful where your faith lies.

(Obviously the things listed are not meant to describe every believer.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A problem I have with Christianity:

If God created Humans-- then he created us with rational thinking brains.
Using my rational thinking brain I cannot prove or disprove the existence of God.
God is willing to send me to hell for all of eternity because I do not believe in him.

It seems to me that the failing is not mine... it seems as though God should make himself a little more apparent. The fact that he is willing to send me to hell for all of eternity because I don't believe in him makes me glad that I don't worship him. What kind of monster would send anybody to hell for all of eternity because they didn't believe in him? Especially when it could have been avoided if God only had the gumption to show himself in a little more apparent way. We spend around 80 years on this earth... I can't imagine anything that would warrant an eternity in hell... that's a ridiculous punishment.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


"I believe it because god just can not be described, understood, or defined by logic."-Nico
"God was never about logic or reason, although some people think that their belief is based on reason and logic."-Om

This paragraph will not be an argument against faith-- instead it will be a journey down a hypothetical path. Assume, hypothetically, that I am inventing a religion. I have everything I need to start a religion-- I've invented a God, I've invented a book written by my God, I've written down moral laws that I think are awesome, I have ways followers should worship God, I've designated a specific day of the week that should be devoted only to the worship of my god... the only thing I don't have is any kind of proof that my God exists. What can I possibly do? I know what I could do.... I could write it into the text of my book that followers of my God should not try to prove his existence and instead should just believe in him blindly without any evidence or proof. Wait... nobody would fall for that... unless I came up with a different, more romantic name for "believing in something blindly without any evidence or proof"... I could call it... "faith"...Problem solved.

The first problem I have with faith is this... how do you decide what to have faith in?

You could have faith in anything... a flying orange rhino, a 3 inch tall inside-out giraffe, Buddha or Jesus. How do you decide? You must use logic and reason. If you're trying to decide which religion you think is correct you are using logic and reason... but if you're using logic and reason you should see that there is no logic or reason behind believing in God. So ultimately in the search for which religion is right you are searching for the most logical of the illogical. Which I suppose is good enough for some people-- but sounds ridiculous to me.

The second problem I have with faith can be expressed in the form of this simple argument:
1) We should act in accordance to logic and reason.
2) The absence of logic and reason is in the definition of "Faith".
3) We should not have faith.

The typical counter-argument attempts to show that I, the non-believer, have faith in a lot of things in the world-- thus, for me to say that one should not have faith is to make a hypocrite out of myself. Thomas almost made this argument when he said:

"Reason itself is a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all."

However, he made a mistake in choosing reason...In the definition of the word reason there is nothing having to do with the relation of ideas to the real world. We can certainly use reason without needing to know anything for certain about the real world. It's really one of the few things we do know for sure... this is Descartes 101: I can doubt everything away (it is possible that we live in something like the matrix where what we sense is not real) except for two things: (1) myself as a rational, thinking being and (2) doubt. I cannot doubt my mind or doubt away because to do that would be inherently contradictory; To doubt reason is to partake in reasoning.

Had Thomas not used reason and instead used something in the real world-- he would have been using a very common theist argument... something similar to these:

How do you know that you have a brain? You've never seen it or touched it... you have no experience of it at all. Thus, if you believe that you have a brain then you must have faith that you have a brain. If you have faith in your brain why not have faith in God?


When you experience something you have no proof that your experience coincides with the actual world. To trust your experiences is to have faith in them. If you have faith in your experiences then why not have faith in God?

These arguments assume that I believe that I have a brain and assume that I trust my experiences... However, I do not think we can know anything about the world with certainty... therefore, I would say that I don't know that I have a brain and I don't trust my experiences. Whether or not the world I live in really exists as I experience it is something I'll never know-- but I do know that for now I am stuck experiencing the world as it is. So how do I function in the world that I can never be sure even exists? I use probability based on experience. I have seen evidence that shows how humans function and that shows that humans need a brain to function... so it is possible that the evidence I saw was bogus and humans really don't have brains-- but the number of people that would have to be involved to make that lie happen is so astronomical that the probability of me finding a brain if I cut my head open is extremely large. Granted I do not know for sure.

Many people will try to tie this to religious faith. Even if you think by acting with regard to probabilities that I am having some kind of faith it still would not give any justification to having faith in God. Faith in God is not based on experience, logic, reason or probability unlike my use of probability in regard to my brain or gravity. Some of you will say "Of course faith in God is not based on experience, logic, reason or probability... if it was based on those things it would not be faith!"-- precisely... and that is why when I base choices on the probability of me having a brain or of gravity working tomorrow I am not exhibiting anything like faith in God.

As can be seen by our hypothetical journey-- it's easy to see why creators of religions would want faith to be an integral part of their religion... there's really no way to argue against it. Faith is defined as "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence"-- so to argue that it is illogical to have faith sounds silly since the concept of illogicality is contained within the definition of faith.

"Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence"-- when read alone it sounds as though this sentence is a definition of a fallacy of argumentation... not a definition of a belief that people would want or be proud of having.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Long Awaited Existence of God Post:

There is no logical reason to believe in God.

First, no religious text provides proof that God exists. The majority of religious texts talk in very general terms about God, are written by biased individuals and were written in times when people were very gullible. There is no way we can trust the people who wrote the Bible (or any religious text) and there is no way to know whether or not what it says is true. Religious texts must be assumed to be purely written by man until, at least, we can prove that God exists.

The following are common arguments for the existence of God followed by rebuttals based on David Hume’s philosophy:

1. The cosmological argument- The universe must have been caused by something which was itself uncaused; God.

There is nothing in the word "universe" that implies that it must have had a cause. There are no observations to support the claim that the universe must have a cause. Just because everything we have observed has had a cause does not mean that everything must have a cause. What caused God? If you think it is ridiculous to say that the universe didn’t need a cause—it is the same as saying that God didn’t need a cause. Just because we can’t grasp or understand that something (with the exception of God) has always existed does not mean that it hasn’t. Why must we think that the universe’s existence is intelligible?

2. The teleological argument- Based on the design of the things we can observe in nature there must have been some intelligent designer; God.

This argument is based on the following analogy--

Watch : Intelligent Watch Maker :: Universe : Intelligent Universe Maker (God)
Why assume that the universe is orderly or designed? Even if it is orderly the only analogies we can make are those based on experience. We have not fully experienced and we do nut fully understand the universe, thus, we cannot conclude using an analogy that its existence is analogous to that of a watch. Order does not imply design. Even if we could use an analogy to prove that an intelligent designer is necessary then we can only conclude that the designer has at least the amount of goodness/intelligence found in the universe. Therefore, the intelligent designer could be a malicious designer, the universe could have been designed by a group, could have been designed by an incompetent deity, and the designer could have died in the process of creating the universe or some time thereafter. Imperfect effects only require imperfect causes. Thus, even if I grant you all the steps (which is not reasonable) you still cannot prove the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God.

3. The miraculous world argument- Things happen that have no explanation other than to explain them in terms of defying natural laws—we call these things miracles; miracles require God.

Millions of people throughout history have experienced miracles-- how can I not believe in them? I think that our society has gotten to a point where we should realize that magic and miracles are silly to believe in. Especially now in the heyday of surveillance and science-- there has never been anything that has been proven to be a miracle (not to mention that the number of miracles are strangely skewed toward the very religious and poorly educated). I'm not saying that I know that miracles don't happen-- I'm saying there is no logical reason to believe in them.
If you do an experiment and come out with a flawed result are you going to think that you made a mistake or that a miracle happened? Chances are that you'll check everything and make sure there isn't a mistake being made. If you are absolutely sure that there is no mistake being made and you still come up with a flawed result then you'll be forced to change the law to fit the circumstances so that your result is no longer flawed... at no point will you throw your hands up and declare that it's a miracle—just attributing new findings to miracles would be very detrimental to the sciences. The fact is we will never be able to tell the difference between a miracle and a fraud, an unlikely happening or a mistake. And since we have never been able to prove something to be a miracle (unless God starts making himself and his miracles a lot more obvious) it is silly to assume that miracles happen.

I know tons of people have their "miracle" stories—many of them have to do with near death experiences or medical miracles. There are still so many mysteries to the human body that it is impossible to say that "medical miracles" are interventions from God. Also, it is completely natural to want to believe, in a situation where it seems like you should have died, that something kept you alive for a specific purpose—everyone wants to have meaning in their lives. However, these feelings are founded in emotion and passion not reason or logic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A response to Kyle and Anonymous...

I understand the social implications and reasoning behind the verses I selected. I hear from a lot of Christians that the Old Testament is the "old law" and so they reject all the laws that are contradictory or are no longer acceptable in our modern society. The problem that comes when you’re dealing with a supernatural source is that, since we are not supernatural, we cannot change the written dogma. So if you believe that Jesus is your savior and the Bible is your guide—it becomes very challenging to non-hypocritically use the parts of the Bible that you and society agrees with and disregard the rest. Anonymous asked a good question when he/she asked "how is one to choose which Bible passages are absolute, which are relative, and which are merely anachronistic?" I don't know. I’ve also heard people say that the Bible was inspired by God and was written by man—so the parts they don’t agree with are just human mistakes. The obvious problem with that is how do we know which parts are really God and what parts are mistakes? We don’t know... it is entirely possible that God really thinks that women should never have authority over men.

Kyle asked "is it so bad, living under the guidelines of the Bible?"

No, I do not think it is bad to live under the guidelines of the Bible. In fact I live my life under many of the guidelines of the Bible. I think there are many guidelines and commandments in the Bible that, when adopted, are very beneficial to societies. I just think that the need for these guidelines or commandments to come from a supernatural source is unnecessary. As a society we can realize that killing is not beneficial to our well being and, thus, we can label killing humans as wrong without God telling us. So I think that it is fine to use the Bible as your guide in a purely secular way. It is just logically impossible to prove that God exists and then to prove that your religion is the right one and then to prove that your religion’s book is the word of God—and if it was merely inspired by God or if you don’t agree with everything in the book you must justify that belief (which I showed earlier is not possible). It’s just a complicated, unnecessary mess.

Are you honestly suggesting that the average citizen view government as the final source of a moral code?

No, I am honestly suggesting that every citizen should view the government as the current source of a moral code. If they disagree with how the government is being run or what the government says is right or wrong then every citizen should work to change that government so that it is as beneficial to society as it can be. It is not as though I’m suggesting a new type of government. The current American government does change what it considers right and wrong every election (or, at least, every time a new law is passed) and I don’t think this causes our government to be unstable.

Anonymous spoke of corrupt governments—but he/she failed to mention corrupt religious figures and institutions. Many people believe that the books of Matthew and Luke were not inspired by god but instead were inspired by (or plagiarized) the book of Mark. So not only can we not trust religious texts—but as I said before we cannot change them. However, when we find that a government is corrupt it is possible to change the government.

As for Kyle's mentioning of faith and Pascal’s Wager ("Id rather live my whole life thinking there is a God and find out there is not one than live my whole life thinking there is not a God and discover I’m wrong.")—I’ll touch on those in future posts.

Monday, April 18, 2005

What utility does religion serve?

What good is religion?

I think religion has served many purposes throughout history-- but belief in God has always revolved around two things: Fear and Hope.
-People are afraid of death and hopeful that there is something after death.
-People are afraid of eternal damnation and hopeful that God will accept them into his perfect kingdom.
-People are afraid that they'll always be impoverished and are hopeful that one day they will be repayed for all their suffering.
Fear and Hope are very helpful tools to keeping a stable society... so in that sense religion has done good in promoting stable societies.

So then why all the negative quotes about religion?

I think it's about time that our society loses the need to believe in an invisible father figure who comforts them and threatens them in order to keep order. We no longer need to be told what is right and wrong from a supernatural source-- we have many man-made sources we use to tell us what is right and wrong: namely the government.

How could a government possibly determine what is right and wrong?

It's very simple-- They decide what is right and wrong by thinking about what is beneficial to a society and what is not beneficial to society... and then they make laws to encourage the beneficial things and to discourage the not beneficial things.

So if right and wrong is merely decided by those in power-- does that mean that morality is relative?

Yes! Of course it is! Look at some extremist muslims-- they think that it is morally right to fly planes into buildings filled with innocent people and in their small extremist community it is acceptable to think such a way and they consider it "right". Most of the world sees what the extremist muslims did on September 11th to be an immoral act... in our community it is unacceptable to fly planes into buildings and, thus, we label it "wrong".

So if it is all relative-- why choose the government's right and wrong over a religious right and wrong?

It is much easier to change a man made law than it is to change a law that people believe to be a divine law. What do people do when religious laws conflict with social laws? In those instances they have two choices either (a.) oppose the social law or (b.) ignore/lie to themselves/make up some excuse about the religious law so that it fits their liking. This has happened many times through history-- for example the bible states in Deuteronomy 23:1 "No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord." In our society it is not acceptable for churches to discriminate against those who lack their genitalia-- thus, everyone just ignores it. The same goes for Ephesians 6:5 which states that slaves should obey their masters just as they should obey Christ. And 1 Timothy 2:11 which states that women should not have authority over men. It is obviously no longer acceptable in our society to have slaves or to consider women to be inferior to men... so people just ignore those parts and just listen to the parts that society agrees with. It wasn't immoral back then to own slaves and it wasn't immoral to treat women as being inferior because it was accepted and it is immoral now because it isn't accepted. When you decide to ignore some things and accept others as the word of God you are basically being a moral relativist... so why not just admit that morality is relative and quit lying to yourself?

Basically what it boils down to is that it is easier to please a society when we can adapt what we consider beneficial or not beneficial to our society based on the current condition of our society-- instead of religious laws that are rigid and outdated and often clash with what is beneficial to our current society (as was shown by my three prior biblical citings). There is no practical need for religion-- and I agree that replacing it might be "nigh impossible" but that is only because of people's hopes and fears.

Of course this argument is contingent upon there being no logical reason to believe in a God: This will be the topic of discussion for my next post.

-- Also if you wish to leave a message please leave your name attached to it so that I can know with whom I am debating... I promise there will be no hard feelings.

Some quotes I found interesting...

"The Church says the Earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church."
-- Ferdinand Magellan

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." -- Steven Weinberg

"What a queer thing is Christian salvation! Believing in firemen will not save a burning house; believing in doctors will not make one well, but believing in a savior saves men. Fudge!"
-- Lemuel Washburn

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned." -- Author Unknown

"The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality." -- George Bernard Shaw

"A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes." -- James Feibleman

"In Heaven all the interesting people are missing." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Ocean: A body of water occupying 2/3 of a world made for man...who has no gills." -- Ambrose Bierce

"I viewed my fellow man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape." -- Desmond Morris

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." -- Blaise Pascal

"The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma." -- Abraham Lincoln

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." -- Thomas Jefferson

"Puritanism - the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." -- Henry Mencken

"What a man believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index into his desires -- desires of which he himself is often unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way." -- Bertrand Russell

"Where knowledge ends, religion begins." -- Benjamin Disraeli

"The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by Homo Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history." -- Robert Heinlein

"I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion is anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it." -- Bertrand Russell

"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

"Hell is an outrage on humanity. When you tell me that your deity made you in his image, I reply that he must have been very ugly." -- Victor Hugo

"Take from the church the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the unknowable, the absurd, and nothing but a vacuum remains." -- Robert G. Ingersoll

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." -- Albert Einstein

"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration - courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth." -- Henry Mencken

"Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense." -- Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

"Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope." -- Robert G. Ingersoll

"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin." -- Cardinal Bellarmine