How Coke Became Religious Symbology in San Cristóbal de las Casas

San Cristóbal de las CasasI just read an interesting article about how San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico is plagued by diabetes largely related to the consumption of about half a gallon a day of Coca-Cola by residents of the community. The article is interesting in a number of ways but the thing that struck me was the inclusion of Coke paraphernalia in religious ceremonies.

Coke has a large factory in the region that was established fifty years ago and has been producing the sugary beverage ever since. Because the plant is essentially next door, the price of the soda in the region is quite affordable; the result being the enormous average consumption of residents. This combined with changing weather patterns, limiting rainfall in the area, has meant soda is actually cheaper than water for many of the residents.

What’s fascinating is the fact many people in the region believe, after two generations of exposure to the soda, that it has healing properties. They use Coke bottles in religious ceremonies and the so-called “traditional” healers in the region use the soda to treat a variety of ailments. This demonstrates, with little room for argument, how quickly humans can incorporate idiocy into their religion of choice. To be clear, I’m an Atheist. I think all religion is nonsense and I find this series of event exposes many of the natural roots behind religious belief as a whole.

The idea is relatively simple. We human monkey beasts are really good at spotting patterns but sadly we also see patterns where they don’t actually exist. If a child is sick, drinks some coke, and then gets better; we see a causal relationship where one does not exist. If a dog eats a particular treat from china and immediately becomes very sick; we see a pattern. If a child begins to show autistic symptoms after receiving a vaccination we see a connection. The connection, the pattern, is not real. The treat didn’t make the dog sick and the vaccination didn’t harm the child. No amount of double-blind studies can convince us otherwise. We saw the two things happen in succession and we are convinced.

When something becomes as prevalent in society as Coke has in San Cristóbal de las Casas there will inevitably be coincidental incidents between the product and events in the region. People see these as related to one another and quickly seize upon supernatural explanations. Thus, we see Coke and religion heavily intermixed in the region.

We do not see Coke being worshipped in other places in the world because there is no logical reason to do so. Religion is largely a product of seeing patterns where they do not exist. We lean against a tree and soon our child recovers from an illness. A ha! The tree must have supernatural properties that healed the child. We beseech an invisible, undetectable god to solve a problem for us and the problem is sometimes solved. A ha!

To me, the worship of Coke in San Cristóbal de las Casas is no different than the worship of a man on a cross. I’m sure many find the latter far more palatable than the former, from a religious perspective at least. I don’t.

Tom Liberman

Rodrigo Duterte has Finally Gone too Far

Duterte god stupidThe Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has often angered people for many statements and policies but he has finally gone too far for the Christians of his nation. He called god stupid. This is enough for Catholic Bishop Arturo Bastes to declare Duterte a madman with dictatorial tendencies. Duterte’s other sins have not raised quite as much outrage from the religious community.

Let’s take a look at what the Duterte regime has done since he was elected in June of 2016. He has publicly urged citizens of the Philippines to kill drug dealers and drug users wherever they find them. He said, “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” He has described drug users as not human. Any number of the killings appear not to be related to drugs in any way but simply murders carried out with drugs as the excuse. The murders were never prosecuted.

Duterte ordered the military to attack towns in the Marawi district because they might be harboring ISIS terrorists. Those assaults led to the displacement of over a million people and an enormous amount of suffering that continues to this day as the infrastructure of the region is largely destroyed and many of the former citizens are living in unsanitary camps. The terrorists were supposedly evicted although the history of the lasting effects of such actions would suggest they will return quickly enough or simply move somewhere else.

All of that was tolerated, if not supported, by his believers. But now they say he’s gone too far. In discussing the biblical story of Adam and Even Duterte came to the conclusion that god set up a ridiculous test for the young couple and because they made a decision that god apparently wanted them to make, it is moronic for all of their descendants to be branded with original sin. His exact words were, “Who is this stupid god?” and “You were not involved but now you’re stained with an original sin … What kind of a religion is that? That’s what I can’t accept, very stupid proposition.”

Even his supporters, those who believe he did the right thing in encouraging citizens to murder one another without trials simply because they were drug addicts, think he’s gone too far this time.

I’m an Atheist and I think Duterte actually got this one right. I still think he’s an evil man despite his correct interpretation of biblical insanity. I still think he’s a murderous dictator. His being right in this instance doesn’t change my overall opinion of him.

My question is what does it say about a person who supported Duterte in his desire to kill drug addicts without any judicial proceedings, without any attempt to help them recover from their addiction, to make no effort to determine if they were even drug addicts or dealers at all but simply close his eyes to the murders; but who draw the line at his assessment of the concept of original sin as stupid?

You tell me.

Tom Liberman

Exorcism Requests on the Rise

exorcismCases of people asking for demons to be expelled in rights of Exorcism are rising rapidly in at least Italy if not elsewhere in the world and the Catholic Church is responding by holding a conference on the subject. The church hopes to train more priests capable of properly performing the exorcism. There are apparently many young priests who find the entire process questionable and refuse to take part. Good for them.

I’ll be honest right out of the gate, I’m an Atheist. Just as there is no god there are no demons. What people consider demonic possession is generally one of two things. It is mental illness or someone who has done something horrible and is unwilling to accept the consequences of their actions. According to the church, if someone is possessed by a demon they are not responsible for their actions. It’s a good thing our legal system is absolutely not based on the Judeo/Christian religious teachings. Can you imagine if it was? Would any Christian ever be guilty of anything, ever again? It’s a free pass.

The Old Testament is pretty much devoid of anything resembling a demonic possession although there is a very questionable incident that depends on a favorable translation to fit even remotely into the idea. Exorcism is almost entirely based on scripture that references first Jesus and then his disciples casting out demons with a simple command.
If Jesus could do such a thing it must mean that demons do exist. If demons exist then they must be able to take possession of a person and force them to do things they would otherwise not do. It seems clear to me that people are capable of the most vile and disgusting acts of inhumanity without any supernatural intervention whatsoever. There is also plenty of evidence of mental illness which, until quite recently, was treated in horrific ways.

The issue that presents itself is people are increasingly of the opinion they are possessed by demons. The church and its priests must deal with this phenomenon. It is absolutely real to them and to be treated in the same way any other problem is handled. If a person has a cold, treat it. If a person is possessed by demons, treat it.
There is a list of supposed symptoms that the afflicted will sometimes display if it is a demonic possession rather than mental illness or a simple ruse, but there little or no ability to distinguish between them.

My problem with all of this is twofold. Believe what you will. That’s religious freedom. But when mentally ill or criminally irresponsible people are being treated for exorcism; it means they are not being treated for their real problems. That makes me both sad and angry.

I’m not foolish enough to think that I can change anyone’s mind on this issue. Either you believe demonic possession is possible and can be treated with an exorcism or you think it is complete nonsense. I’m just sad and angry.

Do you believe Demonic Possession is real and Exorcism a Remedy?

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Tom Liberman

Pascal’s Wager is all about Integrity

pascal's wagerI was watching my favorite Atheist Based show, Atheist Experience, when they once again took on the topic of Pascal’s Wager. For me it all comes down to integrity. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. What is Pascal’s Wager?

The idea is an interesting study of probability and decision theory. The premise is that a belief in god will bring an almost infinite reward, eternal happiness in heaven. If, on the other hand, you do not have such belief, you suffer eternal damnation. This is where the wager becomes a true bet rather than a religious argument. What is there to lose or gain in belief or lack thereof?

Let’s say you could wager a penny to win a million dollars. No matter how long the odds of the bet, you’d most likely take that gamble. It’s essentially the same thing as spending a dollar on a lottery ticket when the reward is hundreds of millions of dollars. The single dollar you spend has no real effect on your life and the reward is so enormous, it’s worth taking.

Even if you are almost certain god does not exist, the reward of believing and the punishment for not believing makes it silly to do anything else. Why not believe? You don’t have to go to church, you don’t have to express that belief to others, your life doesn’t really have to change all that much. You just have to believe to get the reward and barely give up anything at all.

Well, that is if you don’t value your integrity. For me the loss in believing is that I’m lying to myself, I’m lying to my family, I’m lying to all my friends. I don’t believe in god. I think the very idea is rather silly. I am certain there is no heaven and if it existed, I wouldn’t want to go as it is run by a misogynistic, murdering, despot.

If I decide to believe in god in order to get a reward although it is against everything my rational mind derives; I have no integrity. What won’t I do? Lying, stealing, cheating, raping, murdering are now on the table, as long as doing so likely benefits me. Why wouldn’t I kill my parents to get the money I’d inherit, particularly if I was certain to get away with it? Here is some news for you; I wouldn’t seek to murder anyone, or rape anyone, or steal from anyone; no matter how certain it was that no one would ever find out. Because doing that to other people is wrong, just as if they did it to me.

Pascal argues that believing in god doesn’t hurt me in any way. That is where he is wrong. Stating that I believe something that I do not destroys my own sense of self-worth. I would be living a lie. My integrity would be gone. If I were to do such a thing I would loathe myself for the rest of my life.

The idea behind the wager itself is worth discussing. The concept of risk-reward is something you should think about when making decisions in your own life. What have I to gain and what is there to lose? Those are questions that should be answered before making major life decisions.

In this case the potential loss is greater than the reward, at least for me. The question is valid, I hope my answer is clear.

Tom Liberman

 

 

Biblical Morality Attacked in Jordan

moralityMany people are cheering the government of Jordan for removing a clause in their legal code by which a rapist is exonerated of their crime if they marry the victim. I, on the other hand, find this attack on biblical morality an affront to religious freedom.

The bible is quite clear on this subject. Deuteronomy 22:28-29: If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution is quite clear about Religious Freedom. The government shall pass no law that infringes on my right to practice religion freely. In the Bible, it is stated quite clearly that if I choose to rape a woman who is not engaged or married, my punishment is that I must pay fifty bucks to her father and marry her. That seems like plenty of punishment to me. I mean, maybe I just wanted to rape her because she was wearing really hot clothes and showing a bit of ankle. A man has his needs. Now I’ve got to marry the ho and I’m not even allowed to divorce her!

Before this affront to my religious freedom I would have applauded Jordan for applying biblical morality to their legal code and only wish the United States, whose own legal code is clearly and completely based on the bible, do the same. I mean, if I want to beat my slaves and they don’t die within a day or two, that’s totally my right. If I kill a dude who has the nerve to say God Damn It and thus violate the Third Commandment, I’m merely following biblical morality. It’s clear to me punishment for such a crime should be death, I mean, it’s third on the list of commandments and therefore of greater concern than murder.

Jordan has caved to the pressure of secularists who somehow think that men can come up with morality that is more just than that provided by an all-knowing, all-powerful God. If God says a rapist must marry the victim then that’s the way it should be, not to mention the $50 bucks!

Now, I know some namby-pamby, cry-babies are going to say, hey, what about the woman who was raped? Maybe she doesn’t want to marry her rapist. Give me a break, she’s soiled property now. Nobody is going to marry that ho after I raped her. I’m far and away the best options she’s got. I’m doing her a favor.

I don’t understand how people can possibly imagine the word of god has less weight than any legal remedy created by men. I mean, it is men who create the legal code. Women exist merely to glorify me and tell me how great I am. That’s what a wife should be doing, serving her man, by that I mean the fellow she is lucky enough to marry after he rapes her.

Secularists can suck it! Don’t cave my Jordanian brothers! Reinstate the Rape Clause because that’s what God says.

Tom Liberman

I am a Strange Atheist

atheistNot that I’m a strange person, which I am, but the more I encounter other Atheists the greater struck I am by how I came to be an Atheist. I’ve rarely run into an Atheist who wasn’t religious first. Someone who found that what they were being taught didn’t correspond with their experiences of life. I wasn’t necessarily born an Atheist but I was raised in a largely non-religious household. I was never religious and I never believed in a god.

I thought today I’d talk about my experience in coming to Atheism. As I said, I was born in a non-religious family. My mother dabbled with Buddhism but there were no religious ceremonies in my house and I never went to any sort of religious service. My parents were divorced when I was very young and my father married an Orthodox Jew. So, there was a lot of religion when I was over there every other weekend, but I wasn’t asked to take part for the most part. I read the section during the Seder reserved for the young boy of the family, the Four Questions, but that was pretty much the extent of any indoctrination.

I never even really thought much about religion growing up. I suppose I called myself an Agnostic because I didn’t really want to tell anyone there was no higher power. People seemed so sure. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I started to learn about Critical Thinking, Ayn Rand, Libertarianism, and that sort of thing. Up until then I pretty much stuck with the Agnostic line.

One day I asked myself why I didn’t believe in Zeus at all but was willing to accept the idea that god might exist. So, then I was an Atheist and I’ve been one ever since. I didn’t come to it by studying the bible and many of the logical problems therein. I think that makes me rather unusual. I’ve learned in the ensuing years about all sorts of issues with the bible but not until after my epiphany.

My knowledge of the bible, the koran, and the torah is pretty weak. I’ve learned a fair amount simply by having to perform research in order to counter particular religious arguments and by watching more well-versed Atheist discuss the subjects.

I think one of the important things about me being an Atheist is that I simply cannot believe in god or whatever. It’s not really a matter of choosing to believe or not; I don’t, I can’t, I’d be lying if I said anything else. To my way of thinking there is clearly no higher power. The various interpretations of that higher power don’t make any sense and are largely filled with vile stories of awful atrocities committed by said deity. If your god revealed himself to me in some undeniable way, I’d tell it to bugger off, I want no part of you. Frankly, I’d assume it was some jerkoff alien with sufficient technology to be indistinguishable from magic trying to yank my chain.

Life hasn’t been tough as an Atheist. I don’t think I’ve ever faced discrimination or ostracism because of Atheism, or Agnosticism from when I was younger. I’ve never had a friend refuse to talk to me or associate with me because of my thoughts. And my thoughts were not secret. I went to college in Idaho and many of my good friends were very religious. Some of my great friends even today have quite strong faith.

I’ve definitely faced ostracism but mainly because I’m a socially awkward fellow, I don’t blame my lack of religion, just my lack of social skills.

That’s pretty much it. I’m not trying to convince anyone to be an Atheist. I’m not complaining or bragging.

Tom Liberman

Chess versus Islam

ban-chess-muslimsI read a story from the Associated Press about a Twitter war that is raging because a prominent Saudi Arabian, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdelaziz Al Sheikh, declared that Muslims should not play chess.

No big deal? Just some religious kook making an outlandish statement? I disagree. For Al Sheikh to make this statement there is clearly backing for it in the fundamentalist Islamic world. Scholars have warned against the game in the past.

So why is this a big deal? Because many of the finest chess players in the world are from the Middle East and are Muslims. Chess originated in Asia and Muslims introduced the wonderful game to the western world. It has a long and important tradition in the Middle East and players are very dedicated to the game. Perhaps more dedicated to chess than to their religion.

And that’s important. It is also the way things should be. You should be more loyal to the things you like than to a religion or to a nation. That is the heart of the Libertarian political belief. We should associate with those who enjoy the same things as us, and let others do the same.

I don’t like playing with dolls but it’s not my business if you do. I love playing chess and spend my time watching chess videos and playing the game with acquaintances from all over the world. And it’s none of your business how much time I spend doing it! Nor would it be the business of any leader of whatever religion I happened to believe. I’m an Atheist for public record so it’s a moot point in today’s argument.

I happened to be born in the United States of America and a chess playing friend happened to be born in Iran. What is important is that we both enjoy playing chess. That is our bond and it has nothing to do with the circumstances of my birth or an edict from a ruler or religious leader. It is my choice to play chess with those who also enjoy the game.

I hope my chess playing friends, who happen to be Muslims, recognize this ridiculous statement for what it is. It’s simply an attempt to control them by restricting the things they love. Sound like anything governmental or religious leaders have done to you? Maybe you need new leaders or perhaps you should give up on the idea of an organized religion altogether.

That being said, religion itself is not the problem here, it is the twisting of power to control adherents that upsets me and hopefully some of my friends. If you believe in Allah, God, Lucifer, the Earth Mother, or any other deity, that’s cool. It’s your business and I don’t much care. Would that everyone else felt the same way.

I play at Lichess and GameKnot and my user name is tomlib. How about a nice game of chess?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Phil Robertson’s Story of Murder, Rape, and Dismemberment

Phil RobertsonThanks to my Facebook friends I just read an interesting story about Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

Robertson examines the thought processes of a family who is brutally murdered, raped, and dismembered by a group of insane people. He does not mention a second family but the comparison is there, if not overtly mentioned. One family is an atheist family while the other is presumably Christian. Robertson thinks his story is about the world not having a right and a wrong without God, but surprisingly that’s not what it’s about at all.

The real idea is that the family being murdered, raped, and dismembered must be dismayed to know that the men doing this will not be judged in heaven. That a Christian family will take comfort while they are being murdered, raped, and dismembered in the fact that the perpetrator of the crime will eventually be judged and thus can apparently be less distressed about their murder, rape, and dismemberment than can the atheist family. The atheist family must simply go through the torment without the satisfaction of knowing the horror they face will be visited a thousand fold on the people murdering, raping, and dismembering them. The Christian family is thus less distressed by their own horror knowing that their god will inflict a worse punishment. Thus they are likely fairly happy to be murdered, raped, and dismembered.

On a second level it is interesting in that an atheist family will also not be comforted by the fact that god is standing right there, watching, experiencing, and allowing the murdering, raping, and dismembering to happen because there is a purpose behind it. One of the purposes apparently being that eventually the murdering, raping, and dismembering men will go to hell where they will suffer eternal torment and burning because god allowed them to murder, rape, and dismember the Christian family. The Christian family will be comforted by the fact that god is standing at their side, watching and allowing, because it is part of The Plan!

The third and final level I find interesting is that the murdering, raping, and dismembering parties will have the rest of their lives to realize what they did was wrong and genuinely confess their sins. Then those people committing the murder, rape, dismemberment will get into heaven where they can presumably apologize to the family for all the murdering, raping, and dismembering and both groups can live together in eternal bliss.

Perhaps that’s even why God allowed all that murdering, raping, and dismembering in the first place. So that the person committing the atrocities would feel remorse and turn their life around. Thus the murdered, raped, and dismembered family will have served their purpose in the eyes of the Lord.

Hooray, everyone wins.

The poor atheists on the other hand will know that their murder, rape, and dismemberment was not part of God’s plans but just the actions of a group of insane people. Thus they will somehow suffer more.

What does this story really tell us? That Robertson, and anyone who agrees with him, are sick people.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

What if Atheists Proclaimed lack of Faith in Satan?

god_vs_satanI was watching a video from the Amazing Atheist on YouTube just now, he’s rather humorous although a bit free with the profanities for my taste, when something he said caught my attention.

In the video he is railing against a True Believer, we’re not really sure if Christian or Muslim. The person accused him of not being an Atheist but being a Satanist. It’s a ridiculous comparison of course. Anyone who is an Atheist believes the chance the devil is down in hell is equal to that of god being up in heaven, that being no chance at all.

That wasn’t what struck me though. I suddenly asked myself a question. What if all Atheists started to proclaim their non-belief in the devil rather than their non-belief in god? Would that make a difference to the religious community? Certainly Judaism has no devil at all so they might actually consider it an acceptable idea but what about the Christians and the Muslims?

Would they be happier if we Atheists went around railing against the stupidity of the devil? How worship and/or fear of such an imaginary creature is irrational. What if Atheists marched with “There is no Satan” banners? If they said things like, “Hiding from your imaginary devil friend again?”

I think the answer is self-evident. The lack of belief in Lucifer would be as abhorrent to someone of faith as is the lack of belief in god. To deny the existence of Satan is one in the same as denying the existence of god. To deny one is to deny the other! A Christian or Muslim has to believe in the devil as much as they believe in god.

Still, the image of Atheists parading around with anti-devil signs made me laugh a little. It’s all the same to an Atheist after all. Why not?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

On Arranged Marriages and Math Tests

Indian Bride Math QueryThere’s an interesting story making the News of the Weird rounds and I think it’s worth discussing. A woman in India walked out of her arranged marriage when she determined that her potential husband did not meet minimal education standards.

For most of us in the Western world it seems impossible that a woman could not know the intelligence of her husband-to-be just a few short minutes before they were to be married but in India many marriages are arranged by the parents of the couple. In these sorts of marriages the parents pick an appropriate spouse and the two do not meet until the ceremony itself. There is no doubt, from a statistical perspective, that such marriages are more likely to succeed than are so-called autonomous marriages. Even in the United States small groups like the Amish practice arranged marriages and they result in far fewer divorces.

Divorce rate comparisons actually play a role in what I want to talk about today. The idea of an arranged marriage is that the parents of the two participants are slightly more level-headed than the bride and groom. Passions do not cloud judgment. The parents look at things like education level, social status, and general compatibility before other factors like physical attraction.

I find myself largely in agreement with the concept of an arranged marriage although the reality of it not so much. I  harbor no illusions that we here in the United States will suddenly embrace arranged marriages but I found the article interesting nevertheless. What I found most intriguing was the bride’s insistence on giving a mathematical test to her husband in the moments before the wedding. It’s clear she was concerned that her parents had been duped by the groom’s family. I was actually a little surprised by the simplicity of the question (What is 15 + 6) although I don’t know the education level of bride. I would have expected, if she were a college graduate, a more difficult question.

It also makes me wonder if perhaps this sort of duplicity is becoming more common in India, as the bride was clearly wary. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that, in the future, more arranged marriages require that the parents meet with the proposed spouse before making any agreements.

What struck me the most was the groom’s family lying on such a scale in order to gain a favorable marriage. It’s clear to me that the woman would likely never have been happy with such an uneducated man. In a culture where arranged marriages are the norm it is the responsibility of the parents to find the most likely match for their child. In this case the groom’s family failed him badly, as did the bride’s although that was because of lies told by their counterparts.

That’s a real shame. If your parents aren’t looking out for you, who will?

No profound revelations here today. I do applaud the bride’s diligence and adherence to Libertarian Principles. Always look out for yourself.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Atheist Murderers – Craig Stephen Hicks

craig-stephen-hicksThere’s a pretty big story making the news in that a self-proclaimed atheist murdered three young students in North Carolina who were Muslims. I’ve written a number of times about the nature of fanatics and the underlying cause of violence.

I think I’ve been pretty consistent about my thoughts on this subject but they’ve come in a variety of posts over the last few years and these terrible murders made me suppose I might clarify my thinking on the subject in a single post.

What I see, and have seen in the past, when someone of a particular religious or non-religious persuasion murders people there is pretty much instantly a round of the blame-game.

I’ll state my position clearly. The blame goes to Craig Stephen Hicks. He was clearly suffering from a tremendous case of frustration which lead to rage and then to violence. I wrote about how frustration is often the underlying cause of the expression of rage through violence in another post. The fact that Hicks is an atheist has no bearing on the subject any more than if he was a Christian. I know that people will think I’m just saying this because I’m an Atheist myself but I’d urge you to read through my other posts on this subject. Let me explain my thinking to save you all that reading.

People who commit such murders are generally acting out of either extreme frustration or fanaticism and often both. People who are frustrated in life find something on which to focus their rage, be it religion or the lack of courtesy when others use parking spaces not assigned to them. When we get frustrated with things in life it leads us to anger. When the frustration persists eventually to rage. In those who lack the ability to control themselves, for whatever psychological reason, eventually to violence.

Today I blame the murderer not the religion or lack thereof. Tomorrow I’ll do the same even if the murderer is a Christian or a Muslim. Those who kill like to latch on to something to excuse their behavior. Religion is often a good excuse as is political affiliation. It doesn’t mean that religion has anything to do with it. The blame is clear in these cases and it will always be so.

I don’t blame Atheism. I don’t blame Muslims. I don’t blame the media stoking such rage with nonsensical news stories designed to inflame. I don’t blame the victims taking up parking spaces. I don’t blame the lack of laws restricting access to firearms. I blame the murderer.

We make our choices in this life. As a Libertarian I think people should have great freedom. With that freedom must come responsibility.

We make our choices and we should be rewarded or punished appropriately.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Malarkey – The Boy Who Didn’t Go To Heaven – Along with Everyone Else

alex-malarkeyThere’s an interesting story in the news today about a young man whose story was made into a book. He was in a coma for a couple of months and when he came out of it he made up a story about going to heaven.

This comes as a huge surprise to me. Obviously not because he made up the story, I knew that all along, but because he admitted to making up the story. That’s a real shocker. Once someone commits to a massive lie, as did Alex Malarkey, it’s unusual to see them admit to it. Usually, like say Vice President Cheney and the weapons of mass destruction evidence, they won’t back down regardless of the evidence proving their story was a lie.

At first I was ready to applaud Alex for his admission but as I read the article it became clear to me that perhaps his motivation was not simply coming forward with the truth. It seems clear he is angry that the book publisher, author (his father), and others are making a lot of money off of his name and this rankled his sense of fairness. Lying for the last six years apparently not so much. Fooling millions of people with his lie didn’t bother him as much as the fact that someone else, his father the author, was making money off of his name. Once his parents divorced and mom wasn’t getting her share of the profits, suddenly it was a lie.

Good for Alex for coming forward, I suppose, but I’m not all that impressed. He is still using religion in his quest to get what he wants. He makes an excuse for himself by saying that only the bible is accurate (nonsense, of course) and that all men lie. Perhaps we all do lie about some things, particularly to ourselves, but all of us don’t lie about what we experienced in a coma. Some of us have more character than that. I’m willing to give Alex a small break because he was a young boy when he told the original lie but his coming out now, six years later, and apparently with the soul motivation of his lack of remuneration for the book doesn’t garner my sympathy.

The most ridiculous quote from the now suddenly honest Alex is: They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible. Hey Alex, the bible was written by men.

Alex’s message largely seems to be driven from his mother who admits that she knows what it is like to be pulled in. By this she means she willingly participated in the scam because she thought it was going to make her a lot of money. When she finally realized it wasn’t she suddenly gained a conscience.

The whole thing is despicable. From beginning to end. I have no kind things to say about Alex, his mother, the book publisher, the book author, or anyone involved in this money grubbing scam. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more from Alex and his amazing conversion in the future, although this time he and his mother will be sure to get the contracts right so they reap the profits.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Je Suis Charlie

charlie-hebdo-magazine-shootingI think almost all of us have read about the despicable attack in Paris against those who work for a French magazine called Charlie Hebdo. A bunch of religious nut-jobs decided they could further their cause by killing some people who posted cartoons of their prophet.

I’m not going to waste time denouncing these murderous scum. There are plenty of people already doing that. What I want to do today is try to explain, rationally and calmly, why such actions harm their cause greatly.

The thinking of the terrorist is that if they frighten people they can get them to do what they want. It’s a behavior that works in certain instances and thus those who promulgate its use are encouraged. The long term reality is far different. The embracing of terror as a weapon to achieve political gain is destroying the entire Muslim religion and laying waste to hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of young lives. While twelve innocent Frenchmen and women were killed, there is no doubt that the actions will result in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent young Muslims.

Not just from retribution attacks but simply from the setback in relationship between nations. Countless young Muslim boys will look to this as an achievement and spend their own lives in the fruitless and eventually deadly pursuit of similar activity.

Young Arab men are dying everywhere in this world. Killing each other and trying to kill others. It’s a terrible waste of their lives.

This attack also inestimably set back any attempt to get people to respect Muslims, the Islamic world, or Arabic people in general.

If the terrorists hoped to have the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo splattered over every blog, every newspaper, every media outlet, papered onto every mosque in every western country, and generally shoved down the throats of Muslims everywhere, well, their actions were well-thought out.

If the murdering terrorists wanted to make enemies of rational people the world over then they have succeeded.

If they wanted Arabs who are trying to live in peace in Western countries to be beaten, ridiculed, or even killed by those seeking revenge, well, then their actions were certainly well-planned and carried out.

If, on the other hand, they hoped to gain respect from other people then they have failed. If the goal is to have people respect your prophet then the solution isn’t to murder those who don’t. That only generates hate. The result of the actions of these murderous scum will be felt by peace-loving Muslims all over the Western world. And not in a good way. If their goal was to gain respect, admiration, and acceptance of their religion … they have failed and failed tragically with horrific consequences for so many, mostly for those whom they think they represent.

So terribly sad. Twelve people dead and the exact opposite of the goal of the killers achieved. Everything they hoped to gain by their attack is destroyed instead. Stupidity. Useless rage.

The Muslim world better get their act together soon because enough attacks like this are eventually going to result in such terror and horror a million times over and not against cartoonists. Wake up Muslim world. Save yourself before it’s too late.

Je Suis Charlie
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

We were Blindsided – Misleading Headline

School District Bans HolidaysI just read an interesting article and was “blindsided” by the blatant and disgusting misleading blurb that accompanied the headline.

The story  comes from Yahoo news and involves a Maryland school district that decided to remove all religious holiday references from their calendar rather than include references to Muslim holidays.

The headline itself is accurate: School district strikes Christmas from calendar. It’s the blurb that is an example of the vile reporting that causes stories to enter into my Misleading Headline posts. “We were blindsided,” it states authoritatively.

I want you to think for a moment about the intent of that quote in this blurb. It’s an absolutely accurate quote. One of the parties involved in the situation said those exact words.

Ready?

It was the Muslim organization’s representative. They are dismayed that the other religions had to have their holidays stricken from the calendar. They simply wanted Muslim holidays mentioned on the calendar. That’s it. Mentioned. Instead of mentioning a Muslim holiday the school district decided to strike all references. The reason is, of course, because they are not comfortable listing Muslim holidays but are keenly aware that they cannot exclude one religion while including others. Their solution is to remove all such references.

That’s certainly the choice of the school district and as an Atheist I’ve got not problem with such a decision. Good riddance, I say. If they wanted to include the Muslim holidays along with Jewish and Christian I wouldn’t have a problem with that either. Frankly, I don’t care either way.

My problem is with the blurb on the headline. Completely and totally misleading. It’s clearly designed to make people think the school board was somehow blindsided by the request from the Muslim organization. It’s not even misleading. It’s really just a flat-out lie.

Congratulations Yahoo News. You win Misleading Headline of the Week!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

 

666 is not the same as 6 – 6 – 6

Monster Energy DrinkI’m rather ashamed I’m even posting this. The great Monster Energy Drink is Satan debate bores me to tears. Honestly. It’s so stupid that even talking about it makes me feel dumber. Just a quick fact and I’ll let you go on your way.

The Hebrew numeric system was not like the Arabic Numeral system we use. I’m going to go with a Roman Numeral equivalent just so it’s a little easier to understand. Hebrew numbers were like Roman numbers. They didn’t go by base ten. So the number eleven was not the same as two number ones next to each other.

Let’s examine the number six expressed three times in Roman Numerals.

VI – VI – VI

Now let’s examine the number six-hundred and sixty-six in Roman Numerals.

DCLXVI

There you have it. Not the same.

Does the number six-hundred and sixty-six have any meaning? No.

Is Monster Energy Drink a sign of Satan? No.

Are we all dumber for having discussed this? No. Hey, at least we learned something about numbers!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books

How I Feel Talking to a True Believer

uzz_Aldrin_Describes_His_UFOI’m an atheist. I’m not a what I would call a fundamentalist atheist in that I’m not out there trying to convince every Christian, Jew, and Muslim that atheism is the only right thing to believe but I do get into conversations with religious people on occasion. I think religious freedom is extremely important to the survival of the United States and people have every right to believe what they want and every expectation that the government cannot try to influence those beliefs.

I just read an interesting article from Yahoo Finance, of all places, about Buzz Aldrin‘s supposed experience with an alien space-ship during the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was during this mission that Aldrin saw a light apparently moving in tandem with his own craft. His words on the experience have long fueled those who believe aliens are among us.

So what’s the connection between Aldrin’s supposed alien experience and my atheism? If you scroll down and read the comments on the Aldrin story you will encounter what I frequently see when discussing the existence of God with the faithful. In the article Aldrin states specifically that when debriefed by NASA after the mission both he and fellow astronauts were of the opinion the light was sunshine reflecting off just released panels. He was interviewed about the matter years later and during that interview said the same thing but the producers of the show left that out of what was later aired.

While reading the comments below the article I was struck by how often those who truly believe in aliens were willing discount Aldrin’s explanation. They believed the original quotes without their attendant explanation were his true opinion and that he was hiding something now by giving a new explanation. This, of course, defies the fact that Aldrin’s original explanation is the one that makes the most sense and is a story he has told from the beginning although it wasn’t always published.

I’m not here to discuss the merits of aliens or religion but simply the idea that it is all but impossible to convince someone that the thing they believe is false. I can present all the evidence I want for the lack of a divine being in the universe. I can trot out all the Flying Spaghetti Monster arguments that illustrate the bad logic of many religious claims. I can point out the huge gaps in logic in the Bible and other religious texts. I’m not getting anywhere with the True Believers. They have faith and you can’t argue logically with faith.

So what’s the point of my little blog? I’m speaking to those of religious faith who think the idea of aliens visiting the earth is a rather silly notion. Have you ever tried to convince a True Believer that their pet alien theory is nonsense? If you have, you know exactly what experience I have had trying to talk to people about the notion of God. I know this comes across as insulting, even demeaning but I hope that it will give those of faith some insight into what the atheists among you feel when discussing such topics.

Believe what you want, that’s not only your business but a Constitutionally guaranteed right. I’m not here to convince you you’re wrong. I’m here to tell you that I know you’re wrong. There’s a difference, however subtle.

Care to tell me that you know I’m wrong? The comment section awaits.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books

Tim Lambesis – The Murdering Christian/Atheist

Tim-LambesisThere’s apparently been a big story roiling the Christian Rock world for the last year or so although until I spotted a headline I was completely unaware of the turmoil. It seems the death-metal band As I Lay Dying’s lead singer, Tim Lambesis, was arrested for trying to hire someone to kill his estranged wife. Happily the person he tried to hire was an undercover police officer.

Good job San Diego Sheriff’s department!

The arrest and accusation apparently sent deep shock waves through the Christian Rock community. Now Lambesis is saying that he actually was no longer a Christian but had forsaken his religion for Atheism.

So why am I talking about this? Because I’m an Atheist and in reading the comments about the story I found what I think is a common theme among many Atheists and Christians. The Christians were all blaming his Atheism for his “turn” in behavior while the Atheists were all blaming his Christian underpinnings. I see this quite a bit in the Atheist community and the religious community. Both sides blaming a person’s religion or lack thereof for that person’s lack of ethics and criminal behavior.

An Atheist will argue that religious fervor has been responsible for an incredible amount of violence throughout the history of the world. A religious person will argue that an Atheist has no moral compass at all because there is not the carrot of heaven or the stick of hell to keep them ethical.

I have a different take.

Some people are without morals or ethics. Some people will hire someone to kill their estranged wife because they lack the ability to control their emotions. It has nothing to do with their religious beliefs. There are wonderful religious people in the world who are kind, caring, considerate, and would never hire anyone to kill their spouse no matter the provocation. Many Atheists fit that profile exactly as well.

We are quick to lump people into classifications these days. Christian? You must hate homosexuals. Atheist? You must hate Christians. I drive a Prius. On at least a dozen occasions since I’ve been driving my 2006 Prius I’ve parked near a large vehicle as the owner of said vehicle was emerging or going into it. They’ve rather sheepishly asked me if I hate them. I don’t. I think people should drive the car they want to drive but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.

It’s this general lumping of people together that gets us into a lot of trouble in life. The car a person drives, the religion or non-religion a person practices, the suit he wears, the beard on his face, the tattoos on his body; where he lives, who he votes for; these things mean nothing. What is important are a person’s actions. Is he kind to his wife? Does she help co-workers when they ask her? Does she help her friends when they need something? Does he call his mother when she’s not feeling well? (Get better soon, mom).

Lambesis, murderous scum. Why? Because he tried to hire someone to kill his wife. That’s all I need to know.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books

My Friends’ Children and My Atheism

atheistsThere was an interesting question in Dr. Abby this morning and it made me think about my own situation in regards to Atheism and my friends’ children. In the column an atheist couple had been asked by their parents to refrain from telling nieces and nephews about their lack of religious belief.

I’ve been asked by children of my friends on a number of occasions about my religious beliefs and I don’t hesitate to tell them I’m an atheist. I like to think I’m not a jerk about it. I tell them that I think everyone should believe what they want to believe and that I don’t think any differently of them for believing in god or not. That I like them just the way they are.

The thing that I wonder about is that by doing so am I alienating my friends. Do they cringe when I tell their children that I’m an atheist. When I explain that I don’t find the evidence for the existence of god to be convincing. Do they perhaps not invite me over because they are afraid I will expound on my atheism to their children. Are they concerned that my arguments will turn their own children into atheists.

One of my friends has a son who has become an atheist himself and I wonder if there is some resentment that I perhaps my own lack of faith was instrumental in his turning away from their religion.

These are not lighthearted concerns. If a person is of a deeply religious nature and their child becomes an atheist it is their belief system that this child will be forever torn from them in the, admittedly non-existent, eternal afterlife. While I’m absolutely certain that no such afterlife exists, my friends feel differently and the idea that their children will not be with them in this fantasy realm is emotionally and likely physically disturbing.

None of my friends has asked me to refrain from talking about atheism and the only time I do so is when I’m directly asked about my religious beliefs. However during everyday conversation I often speak about scientific topics that contradict biblical inerrancy; including things like continental drift, evolution, and space-time. For example I occasionally talk to children about how North and South America fit together like puzzle pieces with Europe and Africa and how this relates to plate-tectonics. These are topics that I worry about.

I do think the grand-parents in the case of the Dr. Abby column are making a mistake by hiding the fact that atheism is even a possibility and this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that their children have become atheists. I don’t think lying to children, or anyone for that matter, is a good or effective policy. The truth almost always makes itself known in the end. I think the grand-parents would be better off explaining that some people don’t believe the same thing as they do. That being said, I’m not a parent.

Any other atheists out there have any thoughts? Any religious parents with atheist friends?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

My Friends' Children and My Atheism

atheistsThere was an interesting question in Dr. Abby this morning and it made me think about my own situation in regards to Atheism and my friends’ children. In the column an atheist couple had been asked by their parents to refrain from telling nieces and nephews about their lack of religious belief.

I’ve been asked by children of my friends on a number of occasions about my religious beliefs and I don’t hesitate to tell them I’m an atheist. I like to think I’m not a jerk about it. I tell them that I think everyone should believe what they want to believe and that I don’t think any differently of them for believing in god or not. That I like them just the way they are.

The thing that I wonder about is that by doing so am I alienating my friends. Do they cringe when I tell their children that I’m an atheist. When I explain that I don’t find the evidence for the existence of god to be convincing. Do they perhaps not invite me over because they are afraid I will expound on my atheism to their children. Are they concerned that my arguments will turn their own children into atheists.

One of my friends has a son who has become an atheist himself and I wonder if there is some resentment that I perhaps my own lack of faith was instrumental in his turning away from their religion.

These are not lighthearted concerns. If a person is of a deeply religious nature and their child becomes an atheist it is their belief system that this child will be forever torn from them in the, admittedly non-existent, eternal afterlife. While I’m absolutely certain that no such afterlife exists, my friends feel differently and the idea that their children will not be with them in this fantasy realm is emotionally and likely physically disturbing.

None of my friends has asked me to refrain from talking about atheism and the only time I do so is when I’m directly asked about my religious beliefs. However during everyday conversation I often speak about scientific topics that contradict biblical inerrancy; including things like continental drift, evolution, and space-time. For example I occasionally talk to children about how North and South America fit together like puzzle pieces with Europe and Africa and how this relates to plate-tectonics. These are topics that I worry about.

I do think the grand-parents in the case of the Dr. Abby column are making a mistake by hiding the fact that atheism is even a possibility and this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that their children have become atheists. I don’t think lying to children, or anyone for that matter, is a good or effective policy. The truth almost always makes itself known in the end. I think the grand-parents would be better off explaining that some people don’t believe the same thing as they do. That being said, I’m not a parent.

Any other atheists out there have any thoughts? Any religious parents with atheist friends?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Prayers to Satan – Religion and Government

ConstitutionI wrote a post about a misleading headline last week but now I’d like to talk about the article to which the satiric story was really about.

There was a Supreme Court decision last week which allowed a municipality to open their meeting with a prayer as long as that prayer is not intended to convert listeners or denigrate other religions. The community, Greece, NY, has opened their town meetings since 1999 with a prayer. In all that time it has always been a Christian denomination giving the prayer except a brief period when the lawsuit was filed after which four of the twelve prayers were non-Christian. Since then all prayers have been Christian in nature.

So the Supreme Court says that municipalities can open their meetings with a prayer. Christian groups think they’ve won. They haven’t and I’ll tell you why.

Now that government agencies are allowed to open meetings with a prayer to a specific religious deity, everyone wants to open the meeting with a prayer to their non-existent god. Yes, Satan. And that’s only the beginning. When religious groups “win” the right to display religious monuments on city property guess who immediately starts to submit requests to start having their own monuments?

Satanist, Pastafarians, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all sorts of non-Christian organizations. If those organizations are banned from presenting their prayers or their monuments then the state is clearly violating the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Basically this has come to mean that no political organization should be in the business of endorsing any one religion over another. Belief is a private matter for the free citizens of the United States. When the state says only Christians or only Muslims or only Jews or only Atheists are allowed to present then they are establishing that this is the religion of choice. This is bad for anyone of any faith.

When Communist Russia banned most religions and enforced Atheism this imposed belief from the state. When Religious Oligarchies like Saudi Arabia impose Sharia Law upon their population this is religion sponsored by the state.

What I think most Christians struggle with is the idea that there are people of other faiths out there and that when Christians politicians are allowed to sponsor their religion the door is opened to anyone, Satanists or not, to sponsor their own religion from the state house.

Christians think they’ve won when they get the right to sponsor their religion in a local municipality but in reality they have opened the door to their, and my, ultimate destruction.

I don’t want Christians preaching to me at state sponsored events but I don’t want Muslims or Atheists or Wiccans doing it either. I want to have my private beliefs separate from what the state sponsors. I’m in the Atheist minority while Christians are in the majority. It seems as though having the state sponsor your religion is a good idea when you are in the majority but time moves on and suddenly there is a town where the majority of people are from a different religion or no religion at all. Then this state sponsored religion that they fought to promote doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

The solution seems so simple to me. People of a particular religion persuasion should simply meet in a private chamber somewhere and have their prayer or invocation or whatever. At Rams football games the players who are Christian meet at the center of the field and have a prayer after the game. Not during the game. Not before the game when the audience is waiting for them to start playing.

This insistence on the right to say a religious prayer before an event doesn’t seem to me to be a position of faith but actually a lack thereof. Those with true faith shouldn’t need, or even desire, the state to say a prayer in any form.

The Founding Fathers didn’t feel the need to put religious slogans on our coinage. They didn’t feel the need to put the words “Under God” in their oaths. They didn’t feel the need to Pledge Allegiance to anything. They were confident men who believed in themselves and the ideas they promulgated, the ideas of freedom. Were that they were around today.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere