Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Coffee, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

Here again

I have been delinquent in my posting, so sorry. A long needed vacation got in the way.

Beach (1)

Just before leaving for my vacation, I had some nice interaction with some family members about my atheism. I am very sure that most of you have already gone through this:

Why do you have to be so vocal about your atheism? Why don’t you just keep it to yourself?

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No offense, I love you and my intention is not to offend you…I like many have my doubts, and sometimes I believe and sometimes I doubt.I respect that you’re an atheist and you are absolutely sure of your belief. But what I criticize and I see as even a little ridiculous is making atheism a religion, with lectures and symposia. All you need now is to start having Masses to Saint Atheist.

 

How do you like them cookies?

Nice double standard. I have to – and do – tolerate people wearing crosses, a star of David, an Om symbol or whatever symbol of religiosity, but I can’t wear my atheist bands or t-shirts without somebody bothering me. Good thing my Happy Humanist pins don’t cause any trouble. I must tolerate constant references to a deity, but one word of disbelief and I am being militant.

And well, I am loved and respected but I am ridiculous. But enough of that, on to the vacation.

By no means was I only lying on the beach and sipping on a nice cool drink.

I got a chance to read Testament: Memoir of the Thoughts and Sentiments of Jean Meslier and to start reading  L’ Esprit De  L‘Atheisme (The soul of atheism) by André Comte-Sponville. The first book I bought on my own accord and the second was a gift from a friend.

Meslier’s book is an interesting impeachment of religion with a dash of anti-monarchism, a pinch of animal rights and a touch of communism. It is probably the first book on atheism. A very interesting read although a bit repetitive. Meslier really wanted to get his message across.

I will get back to you on my thought of Comte-Sponville’s book when I finish it.

At lunch the very first day I came back to work, I got into an enjoyable discussion  on some well-known topics:

You can’t have morality if you don’t have religion.

Hitler was an atheist.

Homeopathy works.

I already have a previous post on the first one: Borrowed Morality and never have given the second much of a thought, although what I read in Mein Kampf depicts a Christian, but now I will have to read Ian Kershaw‘s books on Hitler. The third point is defenseless, homeopathy has no scientific backing. You might enjoy this 2009 article in Forbes or this one in The Lancet called Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy and allopathy .

Things got back to speed very soon after vacation time and that is just fine. How was your week?

See you next time.

P.S.  The Hotel had a nice Nespresso bar so I was never without my daily dose of caffeine.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Politics, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Youth: you are the hope of the world

A recent poll by YouGov / The Sun Survey Results has reported results that give hope for the future.

The poll was taken from June the 14th to the 19th and involved young adults aged 18 to 24.

The questions related to their feelings about the future, jobs, relationships, buying a home, etc.

The poll demonstrated, contrary to popular belief, that parents have a great deal of influence upon this group. Much more than politicians, celebrities and a great deal more than religious leaders.

What was most striking were the results of the questions related to religion.

According to the results 56% of this age group have no religion. Only 25% believe in a god and 19% believe in a spiritual greater power. That means that 56% of young adults are non believers, a big difference when compared to the 2011 census. Atheists accounted for 38% and Agnostics 18% which is higher than earlier reports  I have commented before.

Belief in god graph
Click on graph to enlarge

For a link to the complete survey click here.

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Humor, Neuroscience, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Gesundheit

Fred Ott's Sneeze (film by William K.L. Dickson)
Fred Ott’s Sneeze (film by William K.L. Dickson) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When somebody sneezes, most people respond in an automatic fashion with a “Bless You”, “Gesundheit” or something along those lines. The person who sneezes does not say anything immediately  after sneezing.

As a noisy bodily function you could expect the person who sneezes to say “excuse me” as when one burps, but no.

We have made this response to a sneeze a part of everyday etiquette and do not pause to ask ourselves why we do it.

Where does this come from?

The response to sternutation has its origins in superstition. Long before germ theory, it was thought that our life was intimately connected to our breath, so when one sneezed, there was an increased risk of death. In other stories it was believed that the act of sneezing expelled a demon from the person’s body and the phrase “bless you” was said in an attempt to avoid the demon from reentering the person who had just exorcised himself through the power of the sternutation. Some believed that heart stopped when sneezing or that your eyes could pop out. Pope Gregory the Great during the 6th century ordered prayer for those suffering from the plague and a “God Bless You” for those that sneezed as a wish that they would not fall to the plague. And from this we acquired the custom.

This habit is so ingrained in society, that even though we know it serves no purpose and is rooted in ancient superstition, I find myself saying Gesundheit or an equivalent. Well, sometimes I can fight it back and remain silent.

All over the world there are responses to sneezing that relate to blessings or to health.

I think that the person who sneezes should excuse themselves, just as they do after a burp.

Sneezing is a bodily function that most times serves the purpose of expelling a foreign particle that irritates the nasal mucosa, other times it can be the manifestation of  an infection such as the flu or  cases like photic sneezing (“sun sneezing”), just the expression of a higher sensitivity to visual stimuli or rarer situations like snatiation or even sneezing due to sexual ideation or orgasm (take a look at this great post by Dr. Mark Griffiths called “Sneezy does it: Sex, sneezing, and sneezing fetishes”).

What one should really do  is face away from other people and sneeze into a handkerchief o tissue paper, if this is not available then into the pit of your elbow to avoid possible transmission of disease.

And in my profession sometimes I have to sneeze into a mask causing worry as what should be done. It is said that I should just sneeze into the mask facing the wound. And in light of this article, it seems the proper thing to do.

Some will think that wanting to change this bit of everyday etiquette is of no use and is an intrusion into other people’s customs. But this custom has no use, no reason to be. I don’t see many people throwing spilt salt over their left shoulder anymore and like that custom, saying bless you or Gesundheit to a person who sneezes is just acting upon superstition.

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

What flipped your switch?

English: Dead Sea Scroll - part of Isaiah Scro...
English: Dead Sea Scroll – part of Isaiah Scroll (Isa 57:17 – 59:9), 1QIsa b (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The road to non-belief is not straightforward, it is in most cases a slow journey. It is the lowly drop of water and not the majestic wave that slowly erodes the stone and in this way our belief in the supernatural is whittled down until one day we realize that what was once incontrovertible, now is an argument that holds no water.

It seems to me that although non-belief is the result of a long list of things that make us question the validity of that which we hold true, many times there is a first question a first doubt. In my case, I think that the first question was something that I would later learn is called the problem of evil.

When I was a kid, I would always think that nobody could ever go to Hell because God being an all-knowing, all-caring and all-powerful being would not allow it. How could he? He knew everything before it happened. He loved everybody so he did not wish bad things to happen and of course he could do anything.

He could do anything and did everything. So where did bad things come from?

What?! You mean God created evil? No way! Well, yes way.

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I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things.

Jewish Publication Society Bible    YISHEYAH (Book of Isaiah) Chapter 45

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I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

 Isaiah 45:7

 King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Pure Cambridge Edition

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Evil exists and God created it. How can that be?  Well this leads us into the problem of evil.

The existence of evil is a contradiction in logical terms to a god that is omniscient, benevolent and omnipotent.

  1. God exists.

  2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.

  3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.

  4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.

  5. An omnipotent being, who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.

  6. A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.

  7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.

  8. Evil exists (logical contradiction).

So following that logic. God is a logical contradiction.

And of course we also have the problem of Hell, but that is another question.

There are many defences and theodicies that theists use to get around this problem. One way that they defend this problem is through the free will argument: It is a very good thing that God has created persons with free will. God cannot eliminate evil, because in doing so he would remove the possibility of free will and making correct moral choices. 

Ok we have free will and can choose good or evil.  We are imperfect and at least one time, if not many, we will choose wrong. God being perfect and endowed with omniscience knows this before we do it, in fact even before we come into existence. Or maybe he cannot know this, but that would strip him of omniscience. Of course this would resolve the problem of evil, but would render God imperfect.

And talking of free will. The concept of free will beyond the constraints of the physical universe is childish, downright stupid. Free will must be understood within the constraints of a physical universe as we are physical beings. To think that we could have absolute free will would make us supernatural, would make us in fact gods. The matter at question is: do we have the ability to make free choices within the constraints of a physical universe? That is the true question of free will.

We do not have conscious free will as has been stated elsewhere, and that seems to destroy the free will theodicy, but we are agents capable of decisions, albeit these decisions are made in a subconscious manner.

And I never even got to the question of natural evil, that is a whole new ball-game.

So what got you started? What flipped your switch?

Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean...
Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean school. Roman copy after a lost Hellenistic original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

See you next time.

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Posted in Art, Coffee, Everyday life, Family, The Conscious Disbeliever

Kopi Luwak

Today I had my first cup of Kopi Luwak ever. This is an exotic variety of coffee, and as I am always open to try exotic flavors, I gave it a go.

English: Piti luwak.
English: Piti luwak. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Due to price and availability, I do not think that it will become my daily fare.

The aroma of the coffee was sweet, with a touch of fruit.

The first impression upon tasting this coffee was one of high acidity, maybe even sourness. Maybe I was not expecting what was in my cup.  On my second sip came different sensations. This coffee was complex, with only a very little of bitterness that was overpowered by a sweet, nutty and fruity drink with a very good body to it. A small hint of wood with a good aftertaste that lasted for more than my  walk back home.

2013-03-10 14.13.04

Thirty minutes after I finished my coffee, I still have a pleasant aftertaste on the tip and sides of my tongue. A subtle sweetness if you will.

For me is tastes better than Jamaica Blue Mountain, that in my humble opinion is a coffee with little body and character that does not live up to expectations. And both coffees are really more hype than anything else.

2013-03-10 17.35.36

The Kopi Luwak I tasted was a good coffee, but not a great coffee, and certainly not worthy of becoming my daily drink or yours. And it does not justify the price tag.

I assure you it will not replace my daily Illy or my ordinary cup of plain coffee made with some Mexican, Costa Rican or Colombian coffee.

See you next time.