Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christ-mass time


What does Christmas time mean to an atheist? This is the time of the year when we are suppose to spend time with the family and be a little bit more generous. What's wrong with that you ask? Nothing. Nothing at all. Now of course I oppose the supernatural aspects of Christmas: Santa Claus, reindeer, Elves. We can still have the tradition, with out the supernatural elements. Like I said before, Halloween started out as a pagan tradition of dressing up in costumes to scare away evil spirits. We still dress up, but no one does it to scare away spirits anymore. So we can still keep certain traditions if they make sense, or if they are fun and pleasant. Halloween is fun. It allows adults to dress up and act like a kid for a day, or step out of their mundane existence and be a character they fantasize about.

Why not continue the celebration of Christmas? Let's be honest, Christmas in America today is all about consumption and business anyway. Putting a tree in your house was a pagan Scandinavian tradition, and not Christian. The supposed birthday of Jesus, December 25th, is in dispute. There is a plausible case that it might have been a Roman god's birthday that Christians have adopted into their tradition. In anyway, having a holiday that allows you to spend time with the family, especially when you aren't a family-type person like me, is something perhaps needed. Giving a little more is needed as well. Traditions can evolve and they can be purged of all of their supernatural elements, like the way Halloween has for so long.

So I'm not one of those atheists who wages the war on Christmas. Because when you really think of it, Christmas is all about money and consumption, neither of which are religious at all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, so said Karl Marx.

As an Atheist I reject the supernatural dimension. The material world is all that I believe exists. Recently, I have argued against the idea of fate, controlled by supernatural energy. A lot of "spiritual" people believe that there is energy that contains an intelligence behind it, that goes around fucking with people's lives to teach them a moral lessen. For example, this energy might make you almost get hit by a car, so that you'll appreciate you life more and thus, have a positive affect on your life. It's the idea of fate that I can't stand. It's the idea that supernatural elements are coming into life, and putting obstacles in front of me, challenging me, so that in the end, my struggle will teach me some life lessen that will uplift my character.

Now I don't deny that some struggles in life can in the end, make you a stronger person. What I reject is the idea that there is an intelligence behind it, whether you want to call it god or energy or balance or whatever. When attached to the supernatural dimension, the events in life that are either random, the result of misfortune, or the deeds of people acting in their own free will, this is where I draw the line.

Imagine almost getting hit by a car, and then reflecting on that and appreciating your life more and your loved ones. It's no wonder that so many people are inclined to think that this is fate at work here. I.E. god or spirits made you almost get hit by that car so that you'd value your life more, and respect and cherish those in your life more. Life lesson accomplished, and all that had to happen was for you to come within an inch of your life.

I argue, that could it be possible that it just happened? What about all the events in people's lives that lead to the becoming worse people? Where does fate play into that?

Monday, December 6, 2010

From Queens...


From Queens, the city is an emerald shining from afar. The early morning rays of a golden Sun glisten on thousands of tiny mirrors and reflect back at you. They are a mere twinkle in your eye. The pointy peaks and angled canopies of this metal forest get bigger as you approach aboard a rickety silver machine, passing ethnic neighborhoods as diverse as the world itself. There's the China-man standing next to you with the horrible breath, the Ecuadorian bundled up in a hoodie, face barely visible, the red-headed Mormon reading the Book of Latter Day Saints. You are all headed into the Emerald city to perform some seemingly necessary function that keeps it well oiled and operational. You look around. Some are yuppie suits with office jobs. Others work in restaurants, or in retail. As the train rattles over its skeletal bridge, you glance down at the morning paper with barely enough room to hold it in front of you. This could be any day, why does it have to be today? Your iPod is almost dying. Why does it have to be now? The doors open and let out the masses. Finally you have a chance to read the paper properly. You glance to your peripheral vision. Could this be a seat that has opened up? No, it's too good to be true. It'll be snatched up before you walk over to it. But it isn't. It's still available. You hesitate. Do you really need it as much as the old lady who just walked in? Why don't you let her have it? Keep reading the paper. There a conflict in Korea. The economy still stinks. You think about your job for a moment. Could it be worse not having one? Could you actually be the lucky one who is going to a job? Could your reality be someone else's dream? Then suddenly you realize you're not in Queens anymore. You're in the city. Hurry up and get to work young man, you'll be late.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Something Else To Mix With Soda


I was thinking of maybe taking this blog in a whole new direction. Perhaps writing more about my personal life and thoughts, and my experiences being a young man in contemporary New York. Sure there are thousands already doing that, but no one quite like me. No one is as crazy and weird. I got back into partying on the weekends. I love going out and meeting new people and losing myself in the moment. There's more to life than just being an Atheist. I can comment on each experience, each situation from an Atheistic perspective.

Saturday nights are best spent very intoxicated, and around a lot of people. A cool bar or lounge will do. A loud club will do too, on some occasions. Making out with a cute girl you just met on the dance floor will definitely do. Running your fingers through her hair while inhaling her scent will do even better. Getting kicked out of a bar after being falsely accused of selling cocaine in it will definitely not do. Looking for more girls to talk to after already making out with one is, well, what you do when you're drunk.

I'm in a weird state of affairs right now. I kind of want to settle down, and be monogamous to one special girl. But then a part of me wants to live the party life that is oh so glamorized. I suppose the right girl can change everything. Is there anything immoral about that lifestyle of debauchery and carnal lust? Everything in moderation is what I believe in, but periods of indulgence are hard to refrain from.

I have to admit that I have not forgotten how fun it was to party every weekend. During my college years, I was working the night shift as a security guard on the weekend. I was taking night classes and that was leaving me with literally no time for any partying. I was sleeping all day and working all night. There was a 2 year period where I think I might have went out less than a half-dozen times. 2008 was the most boring year of my life. This period of my life was my sacrifice, it was my propitiation, but of course not to any god. It was what I had to do to get where I am today, with not only a degree, or a job, but with a career. I have every right to party my ass off now. I sacrificed more than 2 years of the prime of my life, often falling into deep depression because of it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More on Morality from an Atheistic Perspective


I still haven't forgotten religion, oh no no no. It is still a near constant on my mind. And while I may dabble in other topics, religion to me and Atheism is and always will be, the cornerstone of this blog.

I feel like I am almost writing the same things over and over again. I don't want to be repetitive, or redundant, but I do however, want to make sure that with this blog, I tackle every angle from the Atheist perspective. While continuing to watch debates on religion, and argue religion to all those that wish to challenge me on it, or any other aspect of my philosophy, Atheism and morality is one sphere I wish to dwell on a bit more.

The origin of morality is one area that many Theists believe to hold the moral high ground. They claim, that without an objective moral provider, all morality is a matter of opinion. For example, if person A thinks that killing and eating person B is morally right, than person B is in no position to assert that person A is wrong. It is only person B's opinion that person A is wrong. Without an objective, external source of moral authority, let's say person C, who says that person A in this case is morally wrong for wanting to kill and eat person B, than we are only left with subjective, and often self-serving morality. Meaning, person B thinks it's wrong for person A to kill and eat him only because he doesn't want to die, and person A thinks it's right to kill and eat person B because it would satisfy his desire.

This is a basic scenario used by many Theists to explain the importance of having a God, represented by person C, to provide clear and defined objective morality. I've never been too persuaded by this argument, for the following reasons. First, the idea of an objective moral provider makes me cringe, because it is really, when you think about it, just another opinion. It's god's opinion, and doesn't necessarily lay claim to the best possible moral decision regarding the situation. For example, in the hypothetical scenario above, if god (person C) sided with person A, in that killing and eating person B was indeed morally right, would that suddenly be true? Would it abruptly be moral for person A to kill and eat person B, because god said it was so? Would we as a society embrace such an act, because a very powerful and opinionated god sanctioned it? Or would we, in spite of the opinion of an angry and jealous god, condemn such an act? In the most simple terms possible, what do we do with do with an immoral moral objective authority?

It seems to be that the Christian, Islamic and Judaic perspective, has basically taken the position that yes, god is not always fair, and not always moral, but he's the boss and he makes the rules. Therefore, we must obey god's command, even if it doesn't always make sense, or if we have difficulty discerning the moral outcome. Atheists reject this idea and make it one of our key arguments against religion. Why embrace a moral that seems immoral, simply because it is believed to come from a powerful god? Why cancel out commonsense or scientific truth because a book says otherwise? Religions are filled with examples of morality coming from god, that if practiced today, would be so far removed from contemporary moral norms. Was it moral for god to command the Jews to exterminate all their rival tribes, keeping only the marriageable girls? Christians and Jews think it was because the objective moral authority said so.

Dreams of Summer


It's late November and the weather has just started to get really cold, an indication that Winter is on its way. The trees are mostly naked, with just a few of the strongest leaves managing to cling on. I brace myself for another Winter: Short days, fierce winds, hats, and gloves; shivering on the platform while waiting for the train to arrive; dirty, mucky slush hardening on the edges of my shoes.

Just recently, since I started my new job and have been hectic and busy, I started reminiscing about last Summer. My vacation to Asia, looking back at it now, was so amazing. I rarely get to appreciate moments like that as they happen. Instead, months or years later I get to think back and wish I was relaxing on that sandy beach, or navigating the urban canyons of that far off exotic city.

Oh I wish I could turn the clock back just a few months. I love vacations, and I especially do when I don't have to pay for them. I loved being able to lounge around with no obligations to worry about. I love being in some exotic locale, different in every way from where I live. I love hearing different languages, smelling new foods, seeing different streets and architecture.

When I travel, I often stay at people's houses, from either relatives or friends. I love that feeling being in someone else's home, that is designed according to the local culture. The smell of the traditional food, the chirping of birds I don't hear in New York, the lizards crawling on the walls.

Oh I yearn for warm tropical air. I mean, Winter has its niceties, but there is something about Summer that I just can't get over. It always seems to be over just as you find out you're having so much fun with it. I guess I could move to Miami, it's like 80 degrees there now. But, maybe it's best that Summer happens for just a few short months. It makes it that much more memorable. Much like how we cherish a rose, only because we know that it will die in a few weeks.

And while I long for Summer's embrace and my recent vacation, I noticed that I didn't actually write much about it. I think I had devoted one or two posts to my Asian expedition. I suppose I would have written about it more in depth. Perhaps another time. Until then, I will dream of palm trees, and fresh coconut juice, and laying carefree on a mountain of pillows, as I slowly close my eyes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Generation A.D.D.


I've come to notice that when I write while distracted by something else, like the TV, or something on the web, my writing often doesn't make sense. Or, the literary flow will seem more like a series of separate statements grouped together in a what appears to be at first, a paragraph. But it is no paragraph. It's more like how an album that is collection of singles is not grounded on a concept. Distractions are terrible for cohesive writing. I generally don't free-write. I like to stick to a central theme and plan every sentence and paragraph out before it's written.

We are the generation ADD. We lose interest at the slightest waning of excitement. When the TV looks interesting, our eyes are on it. When the internet can give us something gratifying our eyes are on it. When that video or site bores us we find something else that suites our immediate needs.

I plead guilty on all charges. That is what I am doing right now. I have the TV on while I am typing this. I just cannot focus on one thing right now. I can't stay focused on blogging. Our culture of instant gratification has resulted in a whole generation not being able to read or write or even watch TV with out having to obtain entertainment elsewhere.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Same Faces Everyday


It's strange how you can see the same people everyday on the subway in such a large city like New York. I used to think that everyday I saw different people on my commute to work. I usually don't notice who I ride the train with, but recently I have started to see the same people on the subway everyday. I've gone through this routine of riding the train into the city every morning, so many times. I've almost always worked in Manhattan. However, it hasn't been until now, that I've started to notice the same faces on the train on my way into Manhattan.

There are so many immigrants where I live, mostly Asians and Latinos. They seem almost in a way, anonymous to me. Most of them are the rednecks of their country, if you will. They are from the countryside and rural areas. They come here to work, many of them illegally. Most are totally out of style, and can't speak english. They are the type of people that I usually never notice. They all look similar, and they all look different at the same time.

7 million riders everyday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Conversation


We sat talking at the edge of the bar, oblivious to the noise around us. She was a pretty young brunette who had just transferred here from California. I was an overworked, jaded New Yorker in need of some Friday night beguilement. "I work in advertising" she says, barely audible. "Oh nice" I respond, "So what's better, New York or L.A.?" This question is one I frequently ask everyone I meet who moves to New York from L.A. I'm always comparing people's experience of New York to that of where they grew up. "Well," she says digging deep into her little mind, "New York is more convenient because everything is close by. And, you don't have to drive everywhere." I feign interest and pretend like her point is something I haven't heard. Unfortunately, I've heard it all.

I, the jaded New Yorker, have had this conversation one too many times. It's gotten to the point where, I already know what they're going to say. To spice things up, sometimes I play the guessing game, where I guess where they're from, or their ethnicity or religion. Just the other week, I correctly guessed two girls were Jewish just by knowing what neighborhood they grew up in.

Then suddenly, the conversation got interesting....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Over Employment


I have a new job, as a Technical Support Analyst, and it is taking a considerable amount of my free time. That's why I haven't been blogging as often recently. I am now over employed. It's quite the opposite from what 15 million unemployed Americans are currently undergoing. The job market appears to be getting better, but still not where it needs to be. My new job is with a software company, whose technical support is located in Manhattan. I've thought about why they haven't outsourced this position. A few years back, I got extremely infuriated when I began learning that many U.S. companies are outsourcing positions to cheaper labor markets.

It really enraged me to think, that even a college education, is no barrier to unemployment. A good paying job that required a college degree, or at least some technical training, could easily be sent to a person just as qualified, in another country. He or she will of course, be payed less than the person performing the same job in the U.S. This is a threat to millions of good paying, skilled jobs in the U.S., and a problem that will not disappear anytime soon.

For now I have a job and I'm making good money. I can move up the ladder using the skills I have learned to get an even better, higher paying position in the future. This country does reward hard work, and all I simply want is to make sure it stays that way.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Post Debate: Htchens Vs. Ramadan


So I went and saw the Hitchens/Ramadan debate: Is Islam a Religion of Peace? After the debate I got the chance to get Hitchens' autograph on two of his books that I have. I even made him laugh when I joked that one of the versions of his book that is a different size was the King James version. I told him that I'm a huge fan, and he replied "don't be a fan, don't be a fan." He doesn't like followers or "fans." I'm not sure what term he prefers for those who respect him. I also managed to get a really, really bad photo of him and me as he was autographing the books, but it's so blurry it's almost useless. I shook his hand and said "thank you sir" and he gave me a weird look, almost that of discontempt, at my fawning over him. I don't think he wants his fans to worship him like a religious figure or god, like the ones he so deeply criticizes, rather I think he wants critics who'll challenge him.

About the debate itself it wasn't what I expected. I mean there was meat in it, no doubt, so I'm not saying it was void of substance. They never actually analyzed the Qur'an's verses itself, especially the really violent ones, and from that I'm a bit disappointed. Instead, Hitchens focused on critiquing Islam's claim to be the answer for everything, and to being impeccable on every level, while notoriously not being able to handle criticism very well. The audience was pretty much all for Hitchens, and they cheered wildly when he ended his rebuttal on saying what we need is a secular government, with a godless constitution, and not Islam.

Tariq Ramadan replied, when asked during the Q and A if Islam's goal is to have the world living under Sharia Law eventually, he beat around the bush but basically answered yes. I almost couldn't believe it. It's been a fear of many critics of Islam, including me, that Muslims want to slowly populate the West, peacefully, and then when the time is right, when they have enough Muslims in power, try to impose their religious based laws on the people. I'm pessimistic of the future, when I say that I think the West and Islam are locked in an ideological battle, that might only just be getting started, that we and our children will have to be engaged in for our entire lives. That's why I think Atheist like me should become more outspoken, and shouldn't hide our beliefs, and when cornered, show the enemy no mercy.

Hitchens clearly won the debate, but even Tariq Ramadan and Hitchens both admitted that the question whether Islam was a religion of peace, was poorly chosen. Tariq said Islam is about life, to which war and death are sometimes a part of. Islam is suppose to encompasses everything, he says. Tariq is very good at giving very political answers and avoiding questions head on. He is also trying to take the position as the western-friendly, "moderate" Muslim, but I'm not buying it. I think his sympathy and loyalty will always be with Islam, no matter what passport he holds, or what cosmopolitan city he currently resides in. He may be cultured in the West, but he'll always be a Muslim.

So it was a great debate that I wish had lasted an hour longer. I fucking met Hitchens, my hero, and two days later I saw Sam Harris give a lecture on morality and science. So, this past week I saw half of the big 4 Atheists, the so called "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." I love living in the Secular Metropolis!

Here's a clip from the debate:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Religion: The One Issue That Just Won't Go Away (For Me)


Hmmm. How long has it been since I wrote about religion? Not that long. It seems most of my posts are about god and religion. I dabble in other subjects as well, but god and religion are my main themes. After all this blog is entitled "Atheism and the City," not "Atheism and the City and Other Things."

Islam today is with out a doubt the most controversial religion out there. I just wrote a critique about its beliefs in my last post "The 'Infidel's' Guide to Islam." I intend to make it into a pamphlet or a booklet to be passed out. The Islamic concept of god and the universe is one I have tremendous antagonism for. A Muslim friend of mine once gave me a book called A Brief Illustrated Guide To Understanding Islam by I. A. Ibrahim. He told me it has scientific explanations that "prove" the Qur'an is true. I took it home and threw it on a shelf were it sat, collecting dust for almost 5 years. Then, when my infatuation with religion and god sprang front and center a few years back, I took it off the shelf, blew several layers of dust off of it, and began reading it.

The guide is basically a vain attempt to try to convince the modern, post-scientific, yet impressionable individual, that Islam and the Qur'an can be scientifically proven to be true. It cites evidence in climatic, geographic and biological realms, that point to verses in the Qur'an that explain some previously unknown information. It asks how could Mohammad have known this before science confirmed it? Well the Greeks and Chinese made some hypotheses that later turned out to have been true before the advent of modern science. That doesn't prove any of them were prophets. In short, if you throw a lot of mud at the wall, some of it is going to stick. What about all the contradictions in the Qur'an (that you can read about in my last post) and all the beliefs it gets wrong? I'm not going to dwell too much on the supposed "proofs" in the guide because they are so superficial, that they are laughable to any person with reason and a tiny bit of skepticism.

The guide further explains some concepts about Islam that I had not previously known. It mentions that if one converts to Islam, all their previous sins are forgiven by Allah, just for converting. I see this as an obscene attempt to bribe believers of other faiths, that they can start out on a clean slate and suffer no consequence to any immoral action they might have performed, no matter how great. From the book it says "The Prophet said: Didn't you know that converting to Islam erases all previous sins?" What can be more immoral that that? You mean I can be a thief and a rapist, perhaps committed one or two murders, and my responsibility to these actions will simply be deleted, like so many useless spam emails, upon conversion to Islam? I guess the Muslims is forced to believe that whatever Allah does is moral, and is granted no opinion on the matter.

Another problem I have with the Islamic concept regard attitudes aimed at the non-believer, which I have already mentioned in my last post, but I'll add further. In the Islamic concept, no non-believer can ever be moral. The way to salvation in Islam is toward Allah. An analogy would be as if we are all on a giant highway headed toward Allah, who is at the end. There are various exits to the left and right that lead to sin and lead away from Allah, some of them being other religions. This is an example I heard from one Islamic scholar. There doesn't seem to be a path one can take that is righteous, that doesn't involve Allah. Take a person, for example, who volunteers with out pay to help those less fortunate, stays committed to their spouse, and never hurts anyone else intentionally, basically an all around morally sound person. But, they don't believe in Allah. Where is this person on the highway analogy? They haven't deviated with sin and hedonism, they just don't accept Islam. According to Islam, to my humble knowledge, Allah has no mercy for those who disbelieve, and he affirms this over and over again. I don't think he makes an exception even for those righteous, noble and humble. No, rather the Islamic concept of non-believers is that they are all filthy, corrupt, evil-doers who deserve to be thrown in the hellfire forever.

Finally, the idea of eternal hellfire is another concept, though not unique to Islam, that I have tremendous disdain for. The idea of anyone, being tortured in the most horrible ways imaginable, for eternity is something I just can't wrap my head around. The most horrible, evil person I can think of from history would have to be Joseph Stalin. He organized the mass murder and torture of tens of millions of his fellow countrymen, and then some. And all of this, with complete and utter indifference to their suffering. Stalin was a megalomaniac sociopathic madman. But even he in my opinion would only deserve a finite amount of torture and misery for what he did, say, a life sentence for everyone he had killed. But the idea, that an atheist child who happens to die in an accident, who was not a believer, gets the same amount of torture for the same amount of time, as Stalin or Hitler, is somehow justice under an infinitely intelligent and moral supernatural being, is I think itself, immoral. Recently Christians and Muslims have negated this by saying god makes exceptions, and judges individuals by what they know, and their overall morality. This stands in stark contrast to what theists have been saying for hundreds of years, and that is that the only way out of hell is through one religion and the teachings of one prophet. Now, some theists are backing away from this in light of our modern liberal moral ethics. Furthermore, if god made frequent exceptions that righteous non-believers can get into heaven, then there is really no real need to be a Christian or a Muslim, or religious at all. All one would need to be would be morally sound. So the theist who takes the new approach on divine judgment, is in a way negating the advantage of their faith. Hmm. These are problems for the theist to reflect upon, not the atheist.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The "Infidel's" Guide to Islam



Introduction

When asked, “Is Islam a religion of peace?” what should one reply? We are often told by the politically correct western media, that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by extremists who have perverted it, and have used it to justify violence. In a way that’s the media’s job, but those who aren’t in the position of having to make everyone happy, as our news media and politicians often are, can say with confidence that the aforementioned assumption is simply not true. Islam is clearly not a religion of peace by definition, because it justifies violence and unfathomable hatred. A religion that ever justifies violence cannot be considered a religion of peace.

The purpose of The “Infidel’s” Guide to Islam is to educate the nonbeliever or “infidel” (as some Muslims say), to the truth about Islam and what it says. Here you will find the information you need to contradict the lies often told by those who profess the faith, and its sympathizers. This pamphlet is not urging any violence or discrimination towards Muslims in any way, shape or form. Rather, this pamphlet will arm you with knowledge and debate as your primary weapon over the false claims made that are used to spread this religion, and lie to its critics. Do not be the stereotypical ignorant westerner who knows nothing of Islam or its history. Muslims are counting on you being ignorant of the truth of Islam, its history and its culture. This guide is designed as an introduction for non-Muslims to be educated for the ideological debate between Islam (submission) and western liberal democracy (freedom) that simply have irreconcilable differences. How long do we have to tolerate the intolerant?

-Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve -Surah 8:55

Islam on “Infidels”

What does Islam say about those who don’t blindly submit to the “revelation” of Mohammad? Islam contains two sacred texts, one is the Qur’an, the central book considered by Muslims to be the literal word of god (Allah), and the other is the Hadith, which are the written sayings and teachings of the Islamic “prophet” Mohammad. When one reads the “holy” Qur’an he or she will quickly find a plethora of insults, hatefulness, and utter disdain towards all non-Muslims. In the Qur’an, Allah has absolutely no tolerance or sympathy, and has reserved a special place in hell for the infidel. All the good deeds any non-believer does is worthless in the eyes of god (5:5). Behold what this supposed “religion of peace” says for the fate of non-Muslims:

Those who deny their lord, for them will be cut out a garment of fire: over their heads will be poured out boiling water. With it will be melted what is within their bodies, as well as their skins.


The Qur’an further says, as if that’s not enough torture:

In addition there will be maces of iron (to punish) them. –Surah 22:19-21

Only the sickest, most sadistic reader gets pleasure by contemplating the torments of non-Muslims, and rejoices in their discomfort. I wonder what goes on through the mind of the Muslim when he or she reads these verses.

When it comes to Jews and Christians the “holy” Qur’an says:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled. The Jews say, "Ezra is the son of Allah "; and the Christians say, "The Messiah is the son of Allah ." That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?  
 –Surah 9:29-30

The Qur'an says that Christians and Jews are to be trusted or tolerated (2:109) but also says numerous times that they are not to be trusted and association with them will lead to unbelief (3:100) and that it is better not to befriend them (5:51). These contradictions are more evidence that the Qur'an is man-made and comes from the mind of one deluded man.

And to polytheists the message is somewhat more severe:

Fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers, and pay Zakah (charity), then open the way for them, for Allah is oft-forgiving, Most merciful.              
-Surah 9:5


There is a complicated relationship we are told in the Qur'an of how Muslims are supposed to deal with polytheists. Before Islam, Arabia was mostly full of polytheists, and when Islam got started it castigated the perceived idol worship of many pagan traditions. This lead many to see Islam as a threat to their ways and conflict inevitably broke out. Treaties were created and the Qur'an says that if the pagans honor the treaty they are not to be harmed (9:4) but as Surah 9:5 says above, once the treaty period is over, the pagans are to be killed if they do not submit to the codes of Islam.

It seems to be that the wager one must make, given a powerful Islamic force is: Islam, or death. True the restrained infidel has a choice and is not physically forced to convert, for it must be sincere. However, given the circumstances, who can argue that this is really a free choice, when the alternative is death? So as you can see, there is clear justification for violence and war against non-believers, and lethal intimidation for conversion to Islam.

Sure you’ll hear the opposing view that in the Qur’an it says “if any one slew a person…it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (Surah 5:32). I’m not denying that there are messages of peace in Islam, but the messages of hate toward the non-Muslim far out-weighs the few messages of mercy. In truth the Qur’an is full of contradictions to its own claims, which I will address in a later chapter. The Islamic god is a god who hates, whose love is purely conditional. One can literally pick a random page of the Qur’an and start reading and within a few pages or so, hit a sour note on Allah’s view toward the non-believer where sadistic details ensue. Eventually it gets to the point of utter redundancy.

If you’re a non-Muslim, it means that Muslims worship and condone a god who quite literally gets off on the idea of you being sadistically tortured forever upon your death. Some Muslims no doubt rejoice on the thought of the infidel’s fate. So can I be accused of misrepresenting the Qur'an? Can I be told that I’m making this all up? That I’m taking it out of context? I urge all of you to read for yourselves the full verses to get the full story. There are dozens of not hundreds of more quotes I can use to make my point. I don’t expect you to read the entire Qur'an, that’s why I’m summarizing it for you. Be educated and learn.


As for those who have converted to Islam and choose to leave it (apostasy) the Hadith unequivocally states the penalty for those who leave Islam:

Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him. -Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57


This is said to have come from the mouth of Mohammad himself, a man considered so noble and honorable in his ways, that he was chosen by god to reveal to the world his final and unalterable revelation. I think it’s pretty clear that Mohammad had a pretty warped sense of morality, as you will find out more about later. Now let’s see what this “prophet” said about the fairer sex.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Got My Hitchens Tickets!!


My tickets to see the Hitchens/Ramadan debate just arrived in the mail today and I'm so excited!

Plus there is another video of Hitchens kicking Dr. David Berlinski's ass in a debate entitled, "Does Atheism Poison Everything?" In it Hitchens appears a bit weak from the chemotherapy, but he still has his signature articulate atheistic audacity, which appears to be stronger than ever. This will make his debate over Islam all the more interesting.

Watch here:


http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/232872

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The "Infidel's" Guide to Islam Coming Soon


I got an idea recently, to write a short pamphlet addressing the question "Is Islam a religion of peace?" After researching into Islam, and the Qur'an, I can tell you for a fact that Islam is no religion of peace. I'm writing the pamphlet to expose to a non-believing audience, the true horrors contained in Islam's doctrines. Its purpose will be to educate the reader on what Islam actually says of "infidels", and what Islam says of the treatment of women, as well as its views on slavery. There will also be a section detailing contradictions in the Qur'an, which we are told is the "perfect" word of the creator of the universe.

The "Infidel's" Guide to Islam will be designed to shock the reader, with sarcasm and humor, but will be fair in portraying the various sides to Islam, including its messages of peace. I also include a disclaimer urging the reader not to discriminate or commit violence of any sort towards Muslims, just in case, because words can be fatal after all.

I've gotten extremely excited over this, even though there is already a book full called The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran. My pamphlet however, will be my personal critique of Islam and is designed as a light read to quickly educate the reader on what I think is a very immoral philosophy. I'd like to pass them out to young people, in many different languages, so that they become educated enough about Islam to see past the lies told about it, and not convert to it.

I will post the entire guide as soon as it's done.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Economic Darwinism


I've been struggling to find an economic policy that I can agree with. I was flirting with socialism recently but I don't think I can ever call myself a socialist. I've been a capitalist but I have issues with the problems that cut throat capitalism brings, like monopolies. Essentially, I'm a capitalist, but a liberal capitalist. I'm a populist. I believe there's nothing wrong with someone profiting from a clever idea, and hard work. The issue I have is what happens when that business becomes too powerful and starts crushing the ideas and opportunities of others. It becomes a monopoly, or part of a duopoly, and then eventually we're living in a Corporatocracy, like we are now.

My friend is a die hard capitalist. He follows the more conservative line of capitalism, traditionally held by Republicans. He's all for globalization, outsourcing, tax cuts for the rich, and the cut throat tactics used by many corporations. He justifies all of this by the idea of economic Darwinism. Survival of the fittest, or the cruelest. He seems to acknowledge that many of these tactics are somehow immoral, or have negative consequences, but he feels they are necessary in order to succeed. It's very Machiavellian. It's very Wall Street.

I'm a big fan of Darwinism. I regard Darwin as a genius. He made some mistakes in his original theory, and as a result, Darwinism, has been improved upon with modern evolution. Regardless, Darwinism's essential principal is the same however, and that is of course, survival of the fittest. This plays out pretty evidently in the animal kingdom: The strong and cunning survive, and the weak, the slow and foolish die. I'm very weary of applying Darwinism to other areas of the world, such as economics. Survival of the fittest in economics means the strong will dominate the weak because they can, and the weak will have no choice than to submit to the will of the strong, or die. The strong will make it so that the weak cannot get into power and become strong like them, but they will dangle an illusion of opportunity just far enough in front of the weak so that they'll chase it, but can never reach it. There are always going to be those who do not make it in capitalism, and what about them? I've argued with my friend for hours about the fact that our current economic policies create more of the losers who won't make it in this system. He says they can always get another job that will pay more and I respond by asking where that job is going to come from. Is it going to be created out of thin air, like most of our money is?

Economic Darwinism scares me. Do we have to apply Darwinism to everything? I understand it existing in nature, in that it's not necessarily how I want things to be, but I'm willing to accept its existence based on the evidence derived. I don't expect every species of animal to care for the weak, although some actually do. But we are human beings. We have the ability to reason and apply logic to the toughest problems that face us. We created our economy, it's man-made and not natural. The forces of greed have taken over as I feel they inevitably would under capitalism. Can't we have a free market with some protection mechanisms placed in that ensure the poor and middle class aren't exploited by the rich? Can't we have some common sense policies that undermine or prevent tactics that increase short term gains for some, but will punish and create losses for the many in the long run?

I say no to economic Darwinism. I am not that strong financially and I've pretty much accepted the fact that I'm most likely never going to be rich. My friend is positive that he will one day join the upper crust in the top percentile of money makers. That's why he supports economic policies that favor the rich and powerful: he thinks he'll be one of them someday. That's the illusion the rich have dangling in front of our eyes just out of reach, while they do everything they can to make it harder for the poor and middle class to grow economically.

So I ask, what's wrong with just being middle class? Is the whole purpose of life to be rich? Is being middle class as embarrassing as begging for money on the street nowadays? Should one be ashamed to only have one car, or only two computers? Our goals in life have been warped by the hood of economic Darwinism pulled over our heads, blinding our sight with meaningless consumption that leads to debt, and the destruction of our natural world, all to make the rich a little more of what they already are.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Short Days, Long Nights


It's that time of the year, the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. I can see the sun setting lower in the sky. This is the time of the year where one has to take full advantage of every pleasant day if you live in northern latitudes. In my beloved New York that is especially true. For a long cold winter is almost certainly ahead. Maybe this winter won't be so bad. I hope not. It was a decent summer. I'm not sure what my best summer was. Maybe the summer of '99. I partied a lot that summer and had my first sexual experience. It was a hot one. I always want to show off my body that I've sculpted all winter long in the summer, but this past winter I did no such thing. Consequently, my summer body this year was just as scrawny as it was for many past summers.

I didn't go shopping this summer to show off any new looks. I had the same old same old wardrobe. There have been clothes that I've fantasized about having, and that having it will make me happier. I too am not immune to materialistic pleasure. I usually never get that item of clothing, but in fantasy I wear it and rock that look I so desperately want. I constantly evolve and so does my look. Now that I'm getting older I've changed and matured my look a bit. I no longer dress like some 20 year old pot head. I want to fashion myself as an intellectual. It doesn't always go with my company or environment. I don't want to dress too square. I want to be stylish yet sophisticated. To do this I need to be creative since buying a new wardrobe is a little out of the question.

No summer love this year. I think I already mentioned that in a previous post. My friend keeps convincing me to go to this local bar that I can't stand. I hate the girls that go there and the general atmosphere. I only ever go there because it's closest to me. I barely went out "bitch hunting" as we used to say, this summer. I went to the South Street Sea Port several times where I did meet one pretty young European girl that I briefly dated that quickly went nowhere. I didn't really hit my usual stomping grounds or the bars most favorable for meeting single ladies. Come to think of it I barely went bar hopping this summer. I guess on the account of how expensive it is.

I'm noticing that I'm writing too much about my personal life here. This blog is not suppose to be a personal blog. I guess the fact that I'm writing period is a good sign of productivity, since I can on occasion, go long periods without writing.

I'm reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity now. He is a writer most know probably for writing The Chronicles of Narnia. He is a Christian often cited in religious debates and he is credited with bringing a slightly more modern interpretation of his faith to the masses with his book. Even though I see through his arguments in favor of his faith and god like a fishnet bra on a hooker. I guess that if I wasn't educated in the new atheist's philosophies that have made my atheism stronger and unbreakable, I might possibly fall for some of Lewis' arguments. Perhaps if I was younger.

Lay Bored Day


Today is Labor Day. Last year I was camping upstate, it what was I think the only camping expedition that went with any incident of some sort. I sit home alone today, on the internet. The weather has cooled down quite a bit from our last heat wave just a few days ago. A slight chill is in the air indicating the inevitability of fall just around the corner. But it is nice and sunny out.

I am excited about going to see Hitchens even though I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch. I'm scared he could have a medical emergency in the meantime that could cancel the event. I hope not.

Other than my addiction to making 3D building models for Google Earth, I am still addicted to my philosophical atheism. I'm constantly pondering theistic, deistic, and atheistic concepts of life and the universe all the time. It's still a huge obsession of mine. I ought to read a great deal more about it. I've been extremely lazy for the past two days. Saturday night I went out drinking but I didn't get that drunk. I still however, felt like I woke up from a nasty hangover on Sunday morning as if I had really gotten hammered the night before.

Today I'm equally lazy. I could roll over and take a nap right now if I want. Sometimes what really helps me get out of this sloth-like mood is stepping out on my porch and breathing is some cool fresh air. I really should work out too. I can feel my muscles shrinking. I never get where I want physically. All I ever wanted was to build was 15 pounds of muscle, just to bulk up a little. But even that was too hard for me, for laziness took over and I embraced apathy as my solution.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm Going to See Hitchens!!


A random web search for "hitchens" (which I rarely do), led me to hitchensweb.com, a site that keeps tracks of all his writings and news. There, I saw an advertisement for an upcoming debate starring Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan entitled "Is Islam a religion of peace?" I couldn't believe it, it was upcoming and I now had the chance to see Hitchens live! So I quickly got my tickets. I can't wait to see Hitchens live in action. I really thought that after he got diagnosed with cancer that I would never get the chance to see him. Now I'm excited and relieved knowing I'll get a chance to see my hero before he dies. I just hope he doesn't die before the debate.

I'm excited about the topic of the debate too. "Is Islam a religion of peace?" is an interesting question. I'm already convinced that it's not. I have long discussions with friends about the utter disgust that the Qur'an has for Jews, Christians, and most importantly, non-believers. It's no wonders there is so much fanaticism among Muslims. I hope that chemotherapy has not dulled Hitchens' intellect and wit and I hope that he brings it to this debate. I wonder if he'll be signing autographs afterward, I have two of Hitchens' books that can be signed, but I'm nervous because he has a tough criteria for signing books. He wants a receipt present as proof that you bought the book. Also I don't have his new memoir and I wonder if he'll only want to sign that. Anyhow I'm really excited that I'm actually going to be seeing my hero Christopher Hitchens! This is like seeing your favorite band or celebrity level satisfaction.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer's almost gone.


While studying and sharpening up my IT skills I've burned out a little bit and need to take a writing break. There's a heat wave blanketing the city. Temps are in the mid-90s. I've been stuck home for the past several days. There really is no reason to go out in this oppressive heat. Why would I want to swelter outside in the heat and humidity? The only reason I can think of would be to rejoice in what will probably be the last time temperatures are in the 90s until next summer. Heat waves always make it feel like summer. I've always liked the way summer felt. Some of my greatest memories have been during the summer. I like warm weather. I have a new appreciation for the fall but it's never an easy transition from hot to cold for me. I always want summer to last a little longer.

Don't go away summer! Last until October please!

I used to think really hot summers meant really cold winters followed. I hate especially cold winters. A little snow is OK. I don't have to drive and I don't live in a house so I don't have to shovel anything. We want it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. NY in the winter appears more urban. There aren't any green patches to contradict the concrete. The concrete wins. I'm in so much debt that I might not even be able to go shopping this fall to get new clothes. I'll have to come up with new ways to recycle my old looks. I kind of gotten out of the whole fashion thing recently anyway, but the urge does pop up from time to time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Anthony's Nose


I just got back from camping upstate on a mountain called Anthony's Nose with my friend. It's about 900 feet high or so so it isn't technically a "mountain" (a mountain has to be 1000 ft high) but more like a hill. It sits across the Hudson river from Bear Mountain. As soon as I first saw it about 6 years ago I've always wanted to climb it, and this weekend I finally did. It's a nice little 30 minute or so hike to the top, and there are beautiful views of the Hudson Valley from some of the lookout points. It's so good to get out of the city to visit nature once in a while. I love the Hudson Valley and the Catskill mountain area. I feel this deep connection to the Northeastern part of the U.S. for some reason, and I'm really attached to the land here. It's probably because I was born in the Northeast.



Camping upstate has become an annual ritual for me. There is a bus that takes you from the Port Authority near Times Square to Bear Mountain State Park in a little over an hour. I love how on the return trip, you go from the wilderness to being left off right on 8th avenue in Midtown Manhattan, and experience such a dramatic change of environment.

Making a fire and sleeping outdoors is always a nice way to experience the way our ancestors lived for millennia, minus the packaged foods. The weather was perfect although a little chilly at night and a little too hot on Sunday. But either way we were blessed with fair weather, and clear skies that allowed us to see the stars that the city hides away. Although, Bear Mountain State Park, isn't far enough outside the city to see enough stars. At only 40 miles north of NYC, it sits at the edge of the NYC metropolitan area. Another 40 or 50 miles or so upstate is required to really see the stars.

I'd like to try camping in Autumn or even Winter one time. All I have to do is wait a few months and still want to go camping.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Debates About God, and Religion


Here are some interesting debates on YouTube about God and religion, check them out:





Part 2:




From the Center for Inquiry:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Seven Deadly Sins


Long is the way. And hard, that out of hell leads up to light.
-John Milton

When I was in high school I became obsessed with the movie "Seven". It's about a serial killer who kills his victims according to the seven deadly sins. The movie is a very dark portrait of a decaying American city, filled with crime, despair and awash in sin. I loved it and it had a profound affect on my during my adolescents. I wanted to do what the killer did, and rid the world of evil people. I've grown out of this fantasy over the years, and now that I'm older and know a great deal more about religion, I can reflect on the movie and its theme.

The seven deadly sins are not mentioned in the Bible, or by Jesus, they came about hundreds of years later in the 4th century by a monk named Evagrius Ponticus. They're an interesting list of vices that I won't dwell too deep into. They are:

Lust
Gluttony
Greed
Sloth
Wrath
Envy
Pride

I haven't read much literature about the seven deadly sins, but I might in the future. The movie is what I'm focusing on. It's suppose to be New York, before gentrification, before there was a Starbucks on every corner and million dollar condos were being built right next to housing projects. But New York is never mentioned in the movie, and the city is suppose to be a large anonymous American city, a template that could substitute for any large urban center. I loved how dark they made the movie. Seven was the darkest movie I had ever seen up until that point. Even the score was extremely dark and moody. The director used these low camera angles, and very low, dim lighting that is often pierced by bright yellow flash lights. We never see much of the cityscape, but only close ups of its more uglier districts. Every day it rains during the scenes in the movie, kind of like what's been going on in NY for the past 4 days. Rain rain rain. It's pouring rain now. The weather reminded me of the movie Seven and I guess that's why I wanted to write this post.

On the seven sins, the killer finds one person that exemplifies each sin to its extreme. An obese man, obviously guilty of gluttony; a lawyer filled with greed; a drug addict and pedophile guilty of sloth; a prostitute - lust; a beautiful model full of pride. The last two sins are part of the twist ending, and killers plan for himself to die. I see the movie as an example of how religion can make a man go absolutely insane with obsession and to find a perverse way to justify murder. I mean the killer was probably insane already, but religion gave him the justification he needed to torture and kill his victims. In his eyes, they were guilty of sin, of violating God's laws, and he was doing God's work by killing them. He thought God was on his side. He believed he was chosen by God to commit the murders he did: a martyr for God. Christopher Hitchens ponders what limits will people put on themselves when committing evil acts if they think they have God on their side. He makes the argument that when people think God is on their side, they will stop at nothing. No amount of violence or death is too much for the believer who thinks God is on their side, it justifies everything that might otherwise be deemed immoral.

And the movie "Seven" shows exactly how that can be true.


"One pound of flesh, no more no less, no cartilage no bone but only flesh, this task done...and he would go free."



Monday, August 23, 2010

Transitions


Today is the first somewhat cool day of the summer, indicating that Fall is just around the corner. I turned my air conditioner off, didn't need it. Opening the window does just as good. It's gray and rainy out. This type of weather pretty much guarantees a depressing mood, but strangely enough I felt motivated and a bit happy this morning.

I don't want to bore you with my petty little feelings so I'll get to some issues. I was reading the Qur'an recently and noticed how easy it is to find messages in it inciting hatred towards the nonbelievers. One can pretty much pick a random page from the Qur'an, and start reading, and within a few pages find some nasty descriptions of the nonbeliever. There is a part that clearly says the nonbeliever should be thrown into fire. Maybe that's a metaphor. Even if a Muslim isn't actually going to throw an infidel into fire, the hatred behind sanctioning such an act is enough.

Then there's the Qur'an on women. It clearly says men are better than women because Allah made one better than the other. So women were designed with a flaw in them that men don't have. I wonder if this means for everyone without exception? There seems to be a recurring theme regarding Allah as the shit. Allah is constantly praised over and over to the point where redundancy becomes overkill. It makes me sick. Can he do now wrong? Is there anything that he is capable of doing that isn't absolutely perfect? Muslims don't think so. I've already established that Allah is not the most beneficial or merciful in past posts. He sounds more like a sadistic, ego maniacal character made up in the mind of a desert Arab, however noble he is said to have been.

The Mosque controversy continues and has now become a full blown national issue. I know that block where it is to be placed. A friend of mine used to live there. Truthfully, yes it is not at ground zero. If I wasn't against religion so much I wouldn't care about the location. Since I've read about and done my research on the Qur'an, and Islam, I do not think that Islam is a religion of peace. It seems to equate the nonbeliever with being a lier, and a despicable person, full of hate and rage. "Hell with you and those that follow you, every one" the "holy" Qur'an says about the nonbeliever (Surah 38:85). It shows no mercy for those who don't accept what they consider to be revealed truth. Many Muslims even have sympathy towards non Muslims (the misguided). It is not a very tolerant philosophy Islam is. At all.

The largest source of material I use against Islam is the Qur'an itself. Ridding the world of this menace would do society an enormous favor. Have I become an anti-theist? Pretty much.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer 2010


Oh what a long hot Summer it's been. I was hoping for some Summer love, but it just didn't happen. Summer won't be over for another month, so who knows. Maybe they'll be some Autumn love. Maybe there won't be any at all. I dated one girl this Summer, but it didn't result in anything significant. This was a Summer without love.

I went on vacation in the beginning of the Summer to Asia, which made it a little different this year. I hung out a lot, but spent a lot of time alone. I didn't have work this Summer which was weird. I am always a bit depressed when the Summer ends. It used to be caused by going back to school in the Fall but now it's mostly about the weather changing and getting colder. I've learned to appreciate the Fall a little more recently. The transition from hot to cold, abundance to scarcity. Wearing jackets and sweaters. I won't be shopping this Fall because money is too scarce for me. I'll have to recycle old looks and try to make them look new. Anyhow, longing for Summer to stay at the end of August is something I do annually, it's a part of me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Urban Density


Continuing on my fascination with cities, particularly NY, it strikes me how much suburban sprawl there is in America. While making 3D buildings on Google Earth I noticed that a lot of European cities are much denser than almost all American cities. Most people live in apartments in Europe, even in the smaller cities and towns. In the U.S. most people live in detached houses. That's always been the American dream.

Americans like owning houses and Americans like their space. Space is what the pioneers found when they arrived in the New World: a giant near-empty continent, sparely populated by Indians. So they spread out from the cities of the east, to the great plains of the Midwest, eventually reaching the Pacific. What we have as a result is miles and miles of suburban sprawl, aided by the invention of the automobile, and the domination of the "big oil" companies. The epitome of this is Los Angeles. Many American cities and towns are built around transportation by automobiles. European cities are not. They were built years before automobiles and thus remain tightly compacted for easy transport. A few tiny parts of a few American cities resemble this, most notably the Wall Street District of Manhattan, and Boston's North end.

That tight density gives European cities their distinct flavor. It gives them their street life. Most American cities with several exceptions, have no street life because everyone is in their car. What you'll have is a few strip malls or a single commercial district, where people park their cars in go right inside to do their shopping. No walking, no motorbikes, or any bikes. I was in Portland, Oregon a few months ago and was shocked at how dead it was on a Saturday night, there wasn't a soul around. That's one of the things I hate about American cities: they're too boring and void of life. NY is the obvious exception to the rule here. NY has great street life, and not in just the Central Business District. That's one of the reasons why Europeans like it here. That's also why so many American tourists from other cities are shocked at how many people are out walking on the streets of NY.

In LA (which I loath) the rich want to live in the sprawling suburbs, whereas in NY the rich often tend to want to live in the city. They city, and city life is what draws people to NY. Who would want to live in the suburbs of NY? They are practically just like suburbia of almost anywhere else in the US. No, it's the city that people want. The exact opposite is true for many other cities in the US. Consequently most inner cities look like shit and many people have to drive 10 or more miles to get to work. I wish that we would, as a nation, move towards a more urban way of living, less reliant on the automobile, and reinvest in our cities. This is beginning to happen but the problem with this is that the poor who are living there, are often kicked out as a result. How can we balance this? Well for one thing even without investment, the poor can make their communities look better by not polluting and taking care of their environments. "Don't shit where you eat" comes to mind. You don't need massive capital investment to clean up a neighborhood. This concerns me since I may never get rich, and I don't want to get pushed out to the suburbs one day if I can't afford to live in the city anymore. In the end money almost always wins out, which is why I had a fall out with capitalism recently. But I have not embraced socialism fully as a result. I'm still trying to find the type of economic system that's perfect for me. It's like capitalism but with elements of socialism intertwined with it. That's really for another post anyway.

The bottom line is: suburbia scares me, and I want American cities to look more like Europe's.

The Reason for Ritual


As an atheist, I have often forgotten the power of ritual, and ceremony. I was once having a really stressful day at work, fixing some computer problems at this Jewish school. Then this young Hasidic Jewish man came into the room and he started singing in Hebrew, this religious chant. I had no idea what he was saying, but almost as soon as he began singing, I felt this immediate wave of calm over me. It was amazing. I had another experience when I was surrounded by some Hindus who lit some ceremonial incense and began moving it around the room. Upon seeing this and smelling the incense, I felt that same sense of calm and relaxation that engulfed me. It's a great feeling.

Now, being that I'm an atheist and don't take part in any ritualistic ceremonies whatsoever, I have rarely experienced this type of religion-induced state. I have to admit that I realize why ceremony and ritual, and I'd say meditation also, is so important to so many cultures and religions. They do have very powerful effects on the human psyche. I'm not against any of these acts, in and of themselves. I do when superstition takes over and persuades people that if they don't do the ritual right, or on the right night, spirits or God(s) will punish them, or their livestock and crops. The superstition that the rituals are tied to are what I am against.

Some say that without the superstitious element behind the ritual, the ritual won't be as powerful, they'll be rendered impotent. I understand this, but there are many traditions and rituals that take place today that were started as religious or pagan practices, that have had their supernatural elements discarded. Think of Halloween. Can't we have singing and chanting and traditional foods and dance, without the superstition behind it? I don't want to eradicate all of the aforementioned, just the outdated supernatural elements behind it. What's wrong with that? It's a move towards modernity that I want to instigate, while trying to retain tradition.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Zeitgeist


A close person to me told of this documentary that I must see. Zeitgeist a documentary by Peter Joseph has 3 parts to it: part 1 about the astrological and pagan origins of Christianity, part 2 about the 9/11 conspiracy, and part 3 about the Federal Reserve and its true characteristics that many aren't aware of. I'm not a big 9/11 truth-er, if fact I believe the planes took down the towers, but I am deeply interested in the origins of organized religions. Zeitgeist has an excellent chapter explaining how natural astrological phenomenon centered around the Sun's movements in the sky led to the creation of the myth of Horus, an Egyptian God, who was a precursor to the story of Jesus.

Horus was born on December 25th, around approximately 3000 B.C. His birth was accompanied by a star in the east and 3 wisemen. He was baptized at age 30, had 12 disciples, and performed miracles. There are too many similarities between Horus, and Jesus to be a coincidence. Horus gives us insight into where the Jesus myth originated from. I'm not sure as to whether Jesus was made up entirely or was an actual person whose life was mythologized. Either case involves a re-tinkering of the Horus myth to accommodate it to a new audience. Check Zeitgeist out and learn.



For a deeper look into our monetary system and all its ills take a look at the second documentary by Peter Joseph. It has many interesting points:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crossroads...


Where do I go from here? Which path is right for me? Fear lurks in every direction.

The pain of debt. The humiliation of owing others. The sadism of interest. The masochism of borrowing.

Who's design was this?

Who masterminded this perfect storm? Who kept us ignorant of its ways?

Who lied to keep the wheels in motion? Who greased this ugly machine?

Who will liberate my madness? Where shall I go?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Moving to New York...


It's amazing how many people want to move to New York, the big exciting city. I meet so many people from other countries, including tourists, people here doing internships, as well as people from around the U.S. who come here and fall in love with the city and want to stay. I remember not that long ago, just back in the 90s when all I heard was negative things being said about New York. The crime, the pollution, the noise, the small apartments, foreigners! I still remember a time when people wanted to move out of New York so bad. Most of my white friends growing up moved out to suburbia during the 90s. I stayed and I'm glad I did.

I'm worried that my area will become too nice an as result, completely unaffordable. So what happened was the exact opposite of what the fears of my white friend's parents were worrying about. The areas got better instead of worse, crime went down instead of up. As a result of those white families moving out, the city became more ethnically diverse. This is a classic case of white flight: fear that minorities will bring crime up and reduce property values cause whites to flee to suburbia, resulting in those neighborhoods becoming much less white.

Now however, whites are moving back into New York, drawn to it by the culture and diversity, that was a result of earlier generations of whites moving out because of the increasing diversity. Irony works in mysterious ways.

I can definitely understand why one would want to move to NY. If I grew up anywhere else I'd want to live here too. Suburbia is boring, as is the country life. Nice places to visit, but not to live. So what does NY have to offer a newcomer? Nightlife, culture, history, and an incredible cityscape to envelope you. Market rate rents are atrocious, however. All the new construction is luxury apartments or condos designed and built for the upper middle class and the rich. I've long worried about the fate of the middle class in NY.

NY does offer the chance to live in a secular society unlike many parts of rural America. I couldn't believe how religious some people were when I was down south. They use religion like a crutch to cope with daily life. I can see the glow in their eyes, when they speak of the God that is out there who loves them personally, and cares about their suffering and wants them to be happy. These are all the things that make religion so appealing to its victims. You don't meet a whole lot of those kind of people in NY. The ones you do see who are like that in NY are usually shouting from a street corner or a subway train, while panhandling.

I'm glad I live in NY, and my area, Queens, is urban and diverse. It's not Manhattan, but still no doubt the city. I can only hope I live here for a long time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Random Thoughts


Oh what is there to do on a Saturday night, when your friends are all broke and/or homeless? I guess that means it's time to write a blog.

There is a video of Christopher Hitchens on the internet now of him during Chemo therapy, bald with a few scraggly hairs. He looks bad, and his type of cancer, esophageal, which I never heard of before, doesn't have a kind record of survivability to its victims. So he may be on his deathbed. I hope not because I only just recently got into him, and I really want him to live as long as he can and remain as a loud voice for Atheism. If he dies I'll be really sad.



How has my life changed in the past year? I'm not sure. I have realized that I want to spread atheism around the world, to be a voice for it, and to instigate a new enlightenment for those people still stuck in the 20th century, or the 7th. What the world needs now is love, and secularism. No mosque at ground zero or anywhere else. No tax dollars of mine or anyone else to be used to print Korans for our prisoners; to pay the salaries of chaplains in our military; to drop Bibles out of U.S. military airplanes along the Afghan border; or to fund Jewish settlements on the West Bank for fanatical Zionists.

No no no no and no.

What else is on my mind?

The rich. High society. Something I'll probably never be a part of, and don't necessarily mind. Typewriters. What we used to use before computers. I wonder how scary it was to be a writer not have a computer, to not have a spell check, to have to print onto paper, which could be damaged or lost or to make a mistake on the last word of a well-written page, scary thoughts. I guess back then people had to be very good at spelling and grammar. I use spell check far too often to image having to use a typewriter. I guess you could always whiteout a mistake and retype over it. Did they have whiteout back then? When was it invented? Oh now I have to Wikipedia it. Just a moment....Ok it seems whiteout first appeared on the market in 1951. Earlier than I expected. So at least since 1951, typists and writers have been able to blot out mistakes. Still not as good as a delete button.

Angry drunks. I don't like them. Never got along with people who can't handle their liquor. I've known too many people who turn into complete assholes when they have a few drinks.

Food. Food is on my mind. I'm hungry. Time for some... KFC? I don't want to but I have little choice right now. It's late and New York City, contrary to what they say, does sleep.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Addiction...


I don't normally write about my personal life but I recently have become completely addicted to Google's SketchUp artist program. I have been spending the past 3 days making models of various buildings in Queens. I'm obsessed with Google Earth in general and can be on it for hours on end. Once I learned that I too can make 3D buildings like the thousands that are in Google Earth, I just couldn't stop. I've literally spent all my waking hours for the past 3 days making models. I even have skipped meals to continue models that take especially long.

It's crazy. I've made some good renderings though. I want to make models for all the tall buildings that are not inside Manhattan particularly in Queens. The other night I was up until 6 a.m. making models. I justify it by thinking that I'm not just doing it for me, I can share this with the entire world and benefit millions. Who doesn't benefit from their world in 3D? No one that's who. Some complex building models like the high rises that are in Long Island City can take 6 or more hours. Simpler buildings can take 20 minutes. I keep getting better at it every time I do another. I even want to do more now but its getting rather late and I don't want to be up until 6 a.m. another night.


I'm going to have to fight the urge.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Change is the only thing that's constant


I'm starting to learn that many good writers write daily, sometimes for hours. I've noticed that I make usually about a half dozen entries on this blog a month. Maybe I should be writing more. After all the more I write the better I will become at it. Great writers also read a lot also. I read a lot on the internet. I read a lot of news, but a great deal of my knowledge lately has come from watching videos on YouTube that explain concepts of science and philosophy and economics. This is very typical of the young today who can't even deal with the cliff notes anymore and have resorted to watching and listening to videos instead of actually reading about any of it. It is a pattern that a friend advised me to not get comfortable with.

Spelling is not an issue anymore thanks to the spell check mechanism. But spell check cannot make you a exceptional writer. I hate the laziness that comes and goes in me. I don't even have to get off my couch to do what I am doing now, and still I find an excuse to be lazy and not do it. Remember when you had to actually go out to obtain knowledge about a subject, to the library in the freezing cold? Those days are long gone and with it, that energy one had to have.

I did keep a written journal for years at a time and wrote several notebooks worth of events, documenting various stages of my life from high school to as recently as a few months ago. I still have one that I stopped writing in and for some reason I guess I stopped, maybe because of this blog. But in my notebooks I would write much more personal things regarding my personal life, and on this blog I've chosen for it to not be about my silly mundane day-to-day problems. My old journals I burned and destroyed years ago so no one could read them. I guess I wish I could have saved them until now, they'd be fascinating to read.

I really wish I was writing about my experiences hanging out with metal heads in high school in the 90s. It was a great era and subculture to document since a lot has changed in New York in the past ten years, and also because the heavy metal culture that existed back then has significantly waned. Change is the only thing that's constant. And that's never more true than in the secular metropolis.

High school was tough. I had a really hard time fitting in. Even among my own clique I was kind of the outcast. It took me a really long time to find myself, and to find my place. I'm still kind of looking but I'm a lot more focused now. I really wish back then I had the knowledge I have now, or at least (since saying that has become so cliche) I wish that I was as passionate about the same subjects back then as I am now (namely atheism and philosophy). I was always into atheism pretty much, but never had the passion to really dig deep into the philosophy behind it and religion. Also, I wish I had payed attention to more of the cultural changes over the years as they evolved slowly instead being shocked by seemingly abrupt changes that were really just the result of years my neglect towards them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Confusing Message About Faith


I hate how we in America like to stress the importance of faith, but at the same time like to stress the importance of moderation, religious moderation. The two seem contradictory to me. How can you embrace faith strongly and be moderate at the same time? Are these ideas stressed by the same parties or different ones? It seems to me like they are coming from the same source.

I remember during the Bush era especially the emphasis put on our nation to keeps its faith strong and secure. Then they urge the Islamic world to move towards moderation. What I really get from this message is the urge to embrace the Christian faith. What the right wingers and conservatives really want is for all the people of the world to embrace Christianity, but they can't come out and say it like that because it might offend Jews, Muslims and Hindus. So, instead they spew out this debatable message to embrace faith while urging some towards moderation. What they want is people to embrace Christian faith, while people of other faiths should embrace moderation. I agree that Muslims should move towards moderation, as I think all people of faith should. I'd go a step further and urge all people of faith to move towards Atheism, in a calm and timely manner.

This issue of moderation is another thing. What does it mean to be a moderate? It plainly means that one must disregard all the beliefs of their faith that seem outdated and don't make sense anymore. For example a moderate Muslim, might look at the prohibition against alcohol and say, "Ok I'll scrape that." He might look at rules forbidding sex before marriage, the mandatory praying of 5 times a day, the rule to distrust Christians and Jews, the allowance of slavery and the subjugation of women and say, "Ok OK I'll scrape those too." And voila! Now we have the modern Muslim, compatible with Western culture, able to live amongst infidels without conflict. Or do we?

Whenever a Muslim is accused of being or having ties to, right wing Islamic fundamentalists, there's always that inevitable defense of the claims that they are very moderate and harbor no extremest beliefs at all. So, then the accused must now put on this show about how they're actually very westernized and not one of those types of Muslims, who takes their faith literally. So if taking ones faith literally means being an enemy to the West, or an enemy to freedom, then why is faith a good thing? Why must we keep this silly parade going on about faith being a good thing? When will the world realize that less faith is a good thing, not more? The whole world is never going to embrace your faith, you Muslims and Christians. And even if it did it wouldn't make the world a better place at all. Just look at how Sunnis and Shiites and Catholics and Protestants alike have been hating and killing each other for hundreds of years, all while praying to the same God. More faith is not a good thing and it is my duty to spread this word.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Queens Farm Indian Pow Wow


Continuing with my ongoing love affair with New York, I mentioned to a friend recently about how my travels made me realize how just how much I love this city. I went to an Indian Pow Wow today and saw some Native Americans dancing in their traditional ways. It was quite a sight, although it was a small gathering. A fierce storm came over and it starting pouring rain and it ended the dancing prematurely. I did get to eat an Indian Taco, which wasn't all that good, but nonetheless I respect it as respect the Native Americans.





There are festivals out west that draw thousands of Indians and spectators alike. I hope to visit one of them one day. The Pow Wow took place at the last remaining continually used farm in New York City, called Queens Farm. A working farm in the city, with a green house and crops being growth just as they are on thousands of acres across the Midwest. I love that about New York: You have the dense urbanality of Manhattan, and a working farm within the limits of the city. How many cities can claim this? Not many.

So as my love affair with New York continues, I have been with other cities, yes I've cheated on New York. But I always come back here. New York is my long term lover, others were mere flings, even one night stands. But I often long for New York even when I'm in the middle of a fling with another city. Few cities keep interested on a long term like New York does. But then again, there are a shit load of cities I haven't been to. I've never caroused through Paris or Barcelona, or Venice, or Berlin, or Rio. So who knows. One day another city might win over my heart. Or New York might drive me crazy as it often does, but to the breaking point, where I leave her in a fit of anger never to return again (due to my stubbornness).

We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Atheist I Could Have Been


What to do on a summer afternoon? While I enjoy writing, I don't do it as much as I guess I should. I don't read as much as I guess I should either. I'm therefore not as good a writer as I think I should be, or could be. I was talking with a friend recently about what lifestyle we all envision for ourselves ideally. I told him that I'd love to be the president of an Atheist club on a college campus somewhere. I'd coordinate and participate in debates with the Christian club and Muslim club and the Jewish club. We'd grow members through carefully written propaganda and meetings. Oh that would be so great.

I remember when I was in community college passing by a hallway window display from the Muslim club showing their supposed reasons it's a good idea to embrace Islam. One part I remember mentioned that evolution was originally a racist idea, their reason apparently to not believe in evolution or Darwinism. Well in truth, it's true that early on, evolution was used by some people to justify racism. Darwin himself was a racist, or at least had racist tendencies. He thought that blacks weren't as evolved as whites. He was sexist also, and thought that women were inferior to men. All true. But it still says nothing about whether evolution is true or not. There maybe some uncomfortable consequences upon the discovery of the mechanism that brought about the world's species and ultimately us, but should we throw out scientific knowledge simply because it makes us confront uncomfortable possibilities? I say no. The religious often say yes, which why many others and I believe religion hinders scientific advancement and is one of the main reasons why Atheists don't like religion.

I would have loved to debate the Muslim club on those issues in a public forum, just like the debates I love to watch online. If only I was as into and as knowledgeable about religion as I am now. Damn. Even just a year ago I wasn't into religion and Atheism with the passion that I have now. I was always into it a little bit but It really kicked off last September, when I started watching online videos of Atheist debates and quickly became addicted to them. I would have gotten into a totally different career field if I was like that back then. I would not be in the boring technology field like I am now, but instead philosophy, history, or science. It's not too late but....who knows.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Blog Name


I just changed the name of my blog to "Atheism and the City." It just popped into my head while writing my last blog entry. I often find it difficult to find an appropriate title for my blogs and sometimes choose to write the blog first, and then find a title based on the blog's contents. So I Googled "Atheism and the City" and what a surprise, it's not on the internet anywhere, amazingly. Usually almost every creative idea I thought that I had thought of when Googled turned out that someone else thought of it first. I was a lovely delight to see no one has used this before.

My old blog name was my silly attempt to make it seem like I didn't even want to write this blog and was forced to do it. Well in actuality I was: this blog was created as part of a school assignment last summer. Now I guess because of that I can use it to grow my ideas, and my writing for the benefactor of creating and sustaining like-minded individuals, so that we can together create and sustain the secular society. Which in the end, will benefit all of us.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm Back from the Far East



I just flew in from Hong Kong a few days ago. I'm adjusting back to New York and suffering from some severe jet-lag. I'm up all night and asleep almost all day, there is a 12 hour time difference between the two cities. My time in Hong Kong was fun, I got lucky with good weather considering summer is their rainy season. I was mostly alone by myself just walking around and sightseeing. I got a bunch of cool shots of the H.K. skyline. In H.K. there is pretty much the skyline to see. I wasn't there to spend any money. I didn't buy any souvenirs. I was really there to experience what it's like to walk around on the streets and see the cityscape. H.K. does have a lot of really tall buildings. They say if has the best skyline in the world, better than N.Y.'s. Well I'm not sure about that. I'd have to wait until lower Manhattan is rebuilt to compare them equally. H.K.'s skyline is just as good as New York's is. I'd say N.Y.'s is just slightly better.

H.K. does have a lot of skyscrapers. More than N.Y. Walking around H.K. you do get a real sense of the urbanization and really feel like you are walking in a real city, and not some puny half-ass city. Its streets are tight and development is highly dense. The subway system, or MTR as they call it there is decent. It's pretty fast and smooth. A decent amount of people speak English there. Although it is still considered the official language, you mostly hear Chinese being spoken everywhere.



I went to Mount Victoria and got some cool shots of the skyline from there. The Tram ride up is exciting. It hits an almost 45 degree angle at some points and there's a point when you can feel your ears pop. The view is breath taking.



Final thoughts on H.K. What does walking around H.K. feel like? It feels kind of like Chinatown, Manhattan, when you suddenly realize that you are the only non-Asian person on the whole block. Now just imagine the whole city like that and there you have Hong Kong. Well, not quite exactly. There are a decent amount of Westerners in H.K. most are tourists though. There are these Indian guys who try to sell you suits on the street. I was warned of these guys before I arrived. These guys apparently live there.

While traveling, I did miss New York almost immediately. I guess I'm just so attached to this city. New York does seem so much more cleaner than H.K. Many buildings there look like they are on the verge of collapse. They are either old or poorly maintained and overused. People there are living on top of each other packed in like sardines. Only the financial district downtown can match the density that most Hongkongers are living under. It is more pedestrian friendly than Tokyo is, however I still think that NYC is one of the most pedestrian friendly major city in the world.

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