Monday, December 26, 2011

The Case For "Just" War

With the Iraq War having officially ended this month, I want to reflect on the concept of "just" war. Many of us have an elementary criteria that we apply in determining whether a war is justified or not. But what do we mean when we say that a particular war is "just" or "unjust"? Under what conditions would an act of war be justified? And if we could agree upon a set of standards to justify an act of war, then when applied down to a micro level of individual physical violence and aggression between people, with some exceptions it should be more or less the same.

Self defense is the most commonly agreed upon legitimate motive for a justified act of violence toward another person or persons. That is to say, one has the right to defend themselves against another person's physical aggression, and therefore the injuries incurred to the aggressor are justifiably so. And, if this is true for individuals, the same more or less applies to nations.

With retaliation things get a bit more complicated. Some agree that once one has been the victim of an act of violence or aggression that they could not stop, one then has the right to then retaliate against their attackers. If you agree with this, then revenge could be a "just" cause for violent retribution. And once again, if inflated to the macro level, nations and societies might be justified in their acts of retaliation against their victimizers. Others do not agree, and maintain that only self defensive violence can be reasonably just.

This brings us to to the idea of preemptive acts of violence or war. The invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies in 2003, was a preemptive strike against a rouge totalitarian State, in order to prevent it from being a more imminent, immediate and formidable threat later on. For some, preemptive foreign policy is never justified, and in the case of the Iraq War the supposed reasons for the preemptive strike in the first place, were either fabricated intentionally or the result of embarrassingly bad intelligence.


Christopher Hitchens made it no secret in regards to his support for the Iraq War. Disregarding any social and economic costs this might incur, and never being one to retreat from an unpopular position, Hitchens justified the invasion of Iraq by arguing that it met 4 standards under which a State may lose its sovereignty and be subject to outside intervention. Such a condition would apply to a State that:

1. Tries to invade or occupy a neighboring State.
2. Violates the genocide convention by engaging in or attempting to destroy an ethnic minority.
3. Violates a non proliferation treaty regarding the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and deliberately misleads information regarding it.
4. Is a harborer of international terrorism.

Hitchens argues quite eloquently that Iraq, under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, amply met all of these standards. Iraq invaded Iran and Kuwait; murdered thousands of ethnic Kurds with the intention of extermination; may not have had, but did posses weapons of mass destruction, which it used on the Kurds and during the Iran-Iraq War, and was actively attempting the acquire them through various documented means and routinely lied about this; had within Saddam's the Bath Party, terrorists like Abu Nidal who propogated Jihadist and anti-Semitic propaganda and who committed and supported terrorist acts. Confrontation with Iraq, according to Hithens, was inevitable, and having a preemptive sensibility in foreign affairs, such as war, is not just preventative of disaster, but is necessary to avoid defeat.

That being said, I have reconsidered my position on Iraq. I was for years before and after the invasion of Iraq, a typical anti war left leaning liberal. "The Bush Administration lied about the weapons of mass destruction", I protested, and "no blood for oil" were my justifications against the war. I remember hating George Bush so bad over Iraq, branding him a war criminal, and wishing him to be put on trial, Nuremberg-style, for war crimes. This was at a time when I of course had little information on the larger concepts surrounding the moral justifications for preemptive war.

I now struggle with the idea that the war in Iraq was a just war. If I were to agree with the standards outlined above, that would cause a State to violate its right to sovereignty, then I would therefore conclude that the Iraq War was justified, and that it was as justified as the U.S.'s entrance into World War II. Would this standard then commit the U.S. to other wars with States that violated it? And what if a State violates just one and not all of the standards? Is it then justified to invade that country in an act of war?

I am no expert on the rules of engagement, but from a moral standpoint, and from a philosophical standpoint, I do believe in just war. I believe war to be a horrible thing, perhaps even the worst aspect of our nature. But it is necessary in some cases to prevent worse atrocities and most of us can agree with at least this idea. The primary topic for argument here, is whether preemptive war is justified. If one can agree with the argument, that it is not necessary to wait until a State has committed genocide, or invaded or forcibly annexed another sovereign State, for it to be invaded, then preemptive war is just. For example, would it have been justified for the U.S. or its allies to have invaded Nazi Germany, before it invaded Poland on the onset of World War II? If reliable intelligence existed of the regime's plan to exterminate its ethnic Jewish and Gypsy populations, and was undertaking the initial steps of accomplishing such a feat, would we then be justified in invading? The UN Genocide Convention, drafted in the years following World War II, mandates such intervention by signed parties when a violation of it occurs.

There is no doubt that we will be arguing over the Iraq War and the moral precepts regarding just war for years to come. I want to end by asking you to think deeply about the arguments that I've discussed thus far. Almost all of my friends that I can think of are against the Iraq War, and it seems that a legitimate case can be made against the invasion. The military industrial complex is the most disturbing piece of criticism and I am well aware of the vulture capitalists who profit from war and its propagation. Profiting from war when it is unnecessary, that is to say, unjust, is one of the most abominable acts I can think of. The argument is made here that Iraq did meet criteria for invasion, even though it is clear that some people and corporations did profit immensely from the war, just as others profited from World War II. War is always profitable for the winners regardless of whether it was just or not. The spoils of war are blind to the motives behind the vindicators.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What's an Atheist to do Around the Holiday Season?

Christmas is here already. I've been so busy with work and other things that I haven't had time to get into the holiday spirit. I don't really get into the holiday spirit anyway, I'm an atheist. Christmas today, at least in America, is all about mass consumption of goods. That is to say, spending money you don't have, to buy things you don't need, for people you don't like, so that you can get deeper into debt, and so the credit card companies can charge you interest, and profit off of your "holiday spirit". That's how I see Christmas anyway, and I do not wish to take part in this festival of floating capital.

Christmas isn't really a Christian holiday anyway. The Roman empire combined their pagan holidays in the end of December when it was adopting Christianity. It was the winter solstice they celebrated, and the birth of pagan gods like Mithra. Scandinavian pagan traditions were included, such as the tree lighting, and Santa Claus, a 19th Century American creation, added secular chapters to the holiday. The birth of Jesus' significance seems to fade away with each passing year.

It is Christmas' reincarnation into a celebration of material consumption that I most have a problem with. I am well aware of its importance in the business world and in truth, many of us benefit financially directly or indirectly because of this. But still, I do not take part for reasons of principal.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Intellectual Enemies

I don't often debate religion with fundamentalists, but when I get the rare opportunity it is often exhilarating. This made me think recently of the notion of an "intellectual enemy". That is to say, someone who holds beliefs that if they became the law of the land, the very air would be difficult for me to breathe. I wouldn't be able to exist as I am naturally. An easy example of this would be having to live under an Islamist state or a theocracy. Another would be living under a Stalinist-style dictatorship. The people then who espouse these religions or ideologies and who are actively trying to spread them, are what I call my intellectual enemies.

Now I regard intellectual enemies a bit distinguished from other traditional enemies. I do not necessarily wish harm on those who think differently from me. When I wrote The Infidel's Guide to Islam I carefully mentioned in the introduction that I did not advocate any violence or harm towards Muslims in any way. Instead, I wrote that debate and argumentation should be the weapons of choice. This is a ideological battle that is ensuing, not a real war. Now that doesn't mean that our war on "terror" isn't a real war against radical fundamentalist Islam, with casualties mounting on both sides. What I mean is that we simply cannot kill our way to destroying Islamists and theocrats; the war must inevitably be won with argumentation and persuasion. Lovers of freedom and secularism must win the opinion war against those who assert that a politicized and literalist interpretation of religion be forced on the masses. So I'll take a moderate Muslim over a fundamentalist any day. I'll take a cafeteria Christian over a fundamentalist any day as well. I'd take a secular humanist over all of them, although I wouldn't necessarily judge a person solely by their religious beliefs.

Doing battle with words can often lead to real life physical violence. I am aware of that and weary, especially when one criticizes Islam, that people can get killed. I acknowledge this reality, while seeing Islam as the most formidable contemporary enemy to the secular way of life that I relish in. What I fear about Islam is its spread in the West. I hate the idea that ever increasing numbers of subversive Muslims are populating the West, with the overall goal of one day victoriously raising the flag of Allah and enforcing Sharia law. You may call me an Islamophobe if you are a liberal sympathizer, but there is credible evidence that this is the objective to a surprising number of Muslims, and it's not just a tiny fringe minority.

Just as Communism and Fascism was defeated, I hope too that one day radical Islam will retreat into the darkest corners of the minds of a few ineffectual people. I would like for Muslims to embrace a secular political system as we have here in the U.S., to adopt modern secular humanist values as most progressive Christians and Jews have, and for them to detach themselves from the superstitious thinking produced by faith. If these first steps can be made, I think here in the West we can coexist without much conflict. If an evolution of sorts like this is not made in the Islamic world, and Muslims remain in isolation among us in the West, making no attempt at assimilation, then we will never reconcile our differences and remain intellectual enemies. Modernity must force the Muslim to open their eyes with the shine of enlightenment exposing the truth. If they refuse to acknowledge what they see and wish to remain blind, then there is no hope for our two civilizations and therefore little hope for humanity's future.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011




I got a text from a friend at work today for Christopher Hitchens to rest in peace. I immediately Googled his name on my phone to see that Hitchens had indeed passed on, succumbing to the effects of his esophageal cancer.

Christopher Hitchens was my intellectual hero, my idol, someone I wanted to emulate, and an inspiration who changed my life in a new direction. His wit, knowledge, propensity for clever argumentation, and his strong opinionated stances characterize why I think he was the most interesting intellectual of our times. He was a fervent atheist, whose arguments strengthened my disbelief and provided the rock solid foundation for it to build on.

I would Google him and search for him on YouTube almost daily, eagerly waiting for the next clip of him debating an opponent or speaking on one of the many topics he so deeply understood. His articulateness, combined with his British accent, flowed out of his mouth like poetry. I would hang onto his every word, repeatedly watching over and over again.

It was sometime around 2009 when I saw Hitchens on a YouTube video debating religion, that he caught my eye. I loved his style, his audacity, his skills as polemicist, and his ability to so easily expose the most ridiculous and contradictory aspects of religion and the faithful. I was instantly hooked. I bought his best seller God Is Not Great, and devoured it while on vacation in Asia after I graduated college. Getting into Hitchens so late in his life is a bit disappointing considering his early death. I didn't have the time to enjoy him for decades as others have. His works however, both written and oral, are immortalized and can be enjoyed forever. His legacy will live on the spirit of those he touched and for those like me who will continue his argument against the wretched effects that religion and faith produces.

Hitchens was a hard-lined drinker and smoker, a lifestyle that I have embraced more often then not in my adult years. As I glance toward the pack of cigarettes on my coffee table contemplating another smoke while writing this blog, I wonder whether I too will meet such a fate. Burning the candle at both ends, as Hitchens puts it, make one shine brighter, but makes one a candidate for an early visit by the grim reaper. I've always made attempts to do everything in modesty, for the obvious reasons. I've always been a recreational user of any substance. Cigarettes however, pose the biggest challenge to moderation. It's such a subtle and situational addiction. Even Malcolm X famously compared the relative ease at quitting heroine to quitting cigarettes.

I bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label, his favorite scotch whiskey of choice, as a tribute celebrate his life and death. I had planned this months ago knowing that the end for Hitchens was nearing. I was clinging on to the hope that he would be a rare exception and beat his cancer, while acknowledging that the odds were not favorable. I had dreams of him dying and how I would feel upon the news. It never is quite as you imagine it to be when it really happens. I have rarely experienced death in my short life. Perhaps I am lucky. I do gleefully rejoice in the opportunity to having had briefly met Hitchens after one of his debates here in New York. I remember making him laugh with a slight joke about having the King James version of his book. It was a great moment, in my life anyways.

While walking home from work, depressed, thinking of Hitchens' death, and staring at the sea of anonymous faces during the rush hour commute, I had this strange thought that it would be better to be dead now with Hitchens dead too. Realizing this macabre prospect, I mentally raced back to rationality, with the knowledge that life goes on, and that it is worth living for. Usually.


This drink is for you Hitch.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Politeness

The essence and implications of politeness.

Think about it for a moment. It's no secret why politeness is socially advantageous: Social creatures must deal with each other. But I’ve often wondered how polite I come off to people who I encounter. Well sure it would matter what situation I was in at the time. It would depend on whether I was working, whether I was in a social group, whether I was inebriated. I've been told that I can come off as quite a bit arrogant. I know for example that I often do not go out of my way to be accommodating, and I usually want to just keep to myself in my own little bubble when in public. And I can see how that can sometimes come off as arrogant. Not acknowledging someone can seem rude, not smiling or laughing at others and initiating small talk when it seems appropriate can sometimes seem cold.

As someone passionate about philosophy, the contemplation of politeness makes me think about ethical egoism. Ethical egoism is a philosophy constructed around the idea that it is best to consider your own benefits, both in the short and long term when making moral decisions. Under ethical egoism, politeness and generosity are good behaviors because in the long term, it will eventually come back to you, and you will benefit from it. To be selfish can be socially disadvantageous, and therefore selfishness is not in your best interests. We all practice ethical egoism in our daily lives whether we know it or not. Now it is true that it has its critics, who espouse that every act of supposed altruism by the ethical egoist, is really done out of selfishness, and benefiting their own well being. This makes me wonder about how we view politeness: Do we act polite only because we think we will ultimately benefit from it?

When I reflect on politeness, I think of how much I like a polite society, but I also think of how I may not fit into a really polite society, in light of my unaccommodating nature. I also know that feeling of elitism I sometimes get within a certain crowd, that feeling like the air I breathe is more sophisticated, and deriding things that are below me. I know how much I hate it when that is done to me by others. This sounds like a great occasion to apply the golden rule, in theory and in practice. A great piece of wisdom when applied strategically, can eradicate years of ignorant folly. If I adhere to the golden rule in principle (while acknowledging it is not perfect), mustn't I adhere to it, in practice?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Agnosticism Vs. Atheism

Why not Agnosticism?

What is the difference between the agnostic vs. the atheist? First of all let's be clear about one thing: No human being can prove or disprove, with empirical evidence, and absolute certainty, that god does or does not exist. There is no smoking gun, no piece of evidence, tangible or not, that anyone can present to another, and say "Ah-ha! This proves I'm right!".

That being said, every argument for and against the existence of god, is an argument of probability. That is to say, given the amount of knowledge and evidence that exists, what is most probable, what is most likely truth, that god exists or that god does not.

Now the agnostic looks at the evidence for and against god, and comes to the conclusion that none of it is compelling in either direction. He basically sits on the fence saying that the evidence is about equal and could go either way. Or, in the absence of proof, he says the truth cannot be known, and therefore remains ambivalent. Some argue that agnosticism is the rational position to hold. However, we would all then have to be an agnostic on everything that we didn't have absolute proof on, and we would never ever be able able to take a position.

The atheist sees the evidence, and concludes that it is overwhelmingly more probable that god does not exist. The atheist does not have to prove empirically that god does not exist to hold his position, no more than the theist has to prove that god does exist, to maintain his position. They each see the evidence as being skewed towards their position.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Atheistic Journey

My atheistic journey was an uneventful one. I was raised in a mostly secular home. We never prayed, we never went to church, and we never had religious artifacts or symbolism around house. I remember asking my mother at about the age of 4 with the usual child-like curiosity about what happens after you die, and I remember her responding to me that when you die, you just die. In other words, its just like it was before when you were born.

That belief didn't stop me from being sent to a Catholic preschool for a year. I still don't know why I was forced to go to this day, although I assume it was my devoutly Catholic grandmother who spearheaded that decision. My year at Catholic preschool was the only attempt that I can think of during my youth, when I was indoctrinated into religion. My parents made no attempt at home to inculcate or coerce me into faith of any kind.

As you can imagine, I am grateful for this. But even in preschool, as I was being instructed to say my daily prayer before lunch, "god is good, god is great, let us thank him for our food, amen", I knew something was bullshit. I could smell it in the room somehow. I wasn't the sophisticated, world traveling, cosmopolitan, intellectual that I am today. I had no knowledge or of science, metaphysics, evolution, or philosophical argumentation. But I did have an inner intuition of reality and reason, even at the age of 4 to see past the fallacy of religion.

Throughout my adolescence my doubt in god and religion continued, altering from mere secularism to borderline anti-theism. I always had a distaste for religion, especially Christianity in my youth, yet I never was overly pugnacious with my beliefs. I remember being about 9 or 10 or so one summer when this girl, I believe her name was Linda, came to the playground where my friends and I used to hangout. All she wanted to talk about was god, and Christ and would constantly confront us with the fate of those who disbelieve in Jesus. I immediately began questioning her rationality and one particular day I remember spending hours on a splintered old bench going into the logical inconsistencies for and against god's existence. If only I could see and hear now as an adult what took place that afternoon.

I had a brief flirtation with agnosticism for a short period later. Agnosticism was the closest I ever got to believing. I think it is really important for one to deeply question their beliefs, even for atheists. It is a bit smug to assert a metaphysical claim without a steady foundation to stand on. That's why I am a thinker. I struggled with these concepts for years and years. It was not often easy. Even now, I do not entirely rule out the position of the believer. I really try to imagine the existence of god and of all individual religions as a serious, rational, and tenable argument. But it is not before long, that the ability for easy and pathetically unsophisticated criticisms chip away at that foundation and I return to atheism.

Now in my adulthood, the new atheists, like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris, as well as the "old" atheists and skeptics like Bertrand Russell, David Hume, and Socrates have strengthened my atheism and its foundation. It is almost unbreakable. I still seek knowledge and truth and wisdom and I want to learn as much as I can during my tenure here on this pale blue dot. Philosophical and scientific argumentation is a near constant for me. In other words, my atheistic journey is just getting started.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Declaration of Independence from Religion

I am an Atheist. Not only do I not believe in god, I derive great pleasure from arguing against it. I was thinking recently of writing a declaration of independence from god, or religion. What would it be like to declare independence from religion and its oppression? Just as how the founding fathers of this great secular country declared their independence from the clench of the British empire, atheists and rationalists such as myself, should declare our independence against the totalitarian grip that religion holds.

Then I begin to ponder whether this declaration should be for just the U.S. or should it be for human kind as a whole? Surely, I would like this to be extended to all nations and to all people, especially how in light of the humanist movement, it is becoming less and less politically correct to be nationalistic when speaking of rights. I suppose it is religion that is the main oppressor, and not god. It is religion after all, that give us these outdated, unpractical, fatuous rules and regulations that one must live by. God in this case is a mere figurehead, the enforcer of these rules. A deistic god doesn't sit on the throne and take perverted pleasure in this way. It is the religion itself that is the culprit for so much of our conscious imprisonment. I shall for now focus on a declaration of independence from religion.

Rather than start from scratch, since original Declaration of Independence is so beautiful in form, I decided to basically retool the document as a fight against religion and all its forms of tyranny in place of British style despotism. The declaration then goes as follows:



When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for all people to dissolve the religious bands which have connected them with one another, and against one another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, and that Religion has for so long, been the primary hindrance of mankind achieving such an objective.

That to secure these rights, Religious institutions among Men and Women, are not to infringe them with coercion, force, capital, subversion, theocracy or any other power they have at their disposal.

That whenever any Form of Religion becomes destructive by infringing upon these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new forms of organization and policy, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Religions long established should indeed be changed for enlightenment and humanist causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that if no attempt at modernity be assembled, that humankind are more disposed to suffer, and it is hence better to right themselves by abolishing the religious forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Theocratic Despotism or totalitarianism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such a Religion and its authorities, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of humankind; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Religion. The history of religion is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the mind, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over belief and consciousness. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.




Religious tyranny of all forms needs to be oppressed. I sincerely believe that it is for the good of the future of all mankind. I make this no secret in my writings. The original Declaration of Independence gave us our great freedoms that the much of humanity comes to recognize as the template for a modern society. Gone were kings and queens, and their supposed divine rights. Gone were state religions that all had to fund through taxation.

With the Declaration of Independence from Religion, let there be no despots, or religious ruler of any kind, or state sponsored religion, or creationism in the classroom, or ten commandments in front of the courtroom, or tax dollars to print holy books, or religiously inspired laws, or freedom of speech muted out of religious sensitivity. Let there instead be a rational, secular society that promotes free, scientific inquiry as a means of finding truth about our natural world, and to guide us to creating the just society.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Logically Implausible God (Part 2)


If you are reading this for the first time, please first read part 1 of the The Logically Implausible God where I introduce the contradictions in the traditional concept of the monotheistic god being timeless.

For part 2 of The Logically Implausible God, I will focus on the belief by many that god is morally perfect. As I mentioned in part 1, there are so many differences in the characteristics of god between faiths and even among individuals of the same religious sect, that it will be impossible for me to address all these concepts. I cannot stress this enough. Rather, what I will do instead, is conflate the many concepts of god into one single entity that is an all powerful, omniscient, omnipotent, morally perfect, timeless being, who is essentially kind and compassionate, and who is the "first cause" in the creation of, at the very least, our universe.
That being said, I want to focus on the idea of the "morally perfect" god and how I think that this is not a characteristic of the god of Judaism, Christianity or Islam. I'm not even sure that a morally perfect being could exist in the first place.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

First of all, where does morality come from? Theists disagree tremendously on this concept. We are told by some theists that god is morally perfect, and that morality comes from him. If god is morally perfect, then his very nature must therefore also be morally perfect. Now this brings us to The Euthyphro Dilemma, from Plato's dialogue Euthyphro. It asks the question, "Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?" I love this brilliant wisdom of the the ancient Greeks. Let's analyze this a little deeper. If god says stealing is wrong, is stealing wrong because god commanded it, or is it wrong independently of god's will and god agrees with it because so? If stealing is wrong only because god commands it, then morality is simply just determined by the opinion of god and can be arbitrarily decided, in other words, might makes right. But, if god said stealing is right, then it would therefore be right. I think the Islamic viewpoint has the biggest problem with this part of the Euthyphro dilemma, since it is a religion that is so dependent on gods commandments to believe what is right or wrong.

If what is morally good is commanded by God because it is morally good, then god is just a moral middleman, who is not needed in determining what is morally good. Meaning if god is taken out of the picture, the moral would still be just as moral. Christian theist William Lane Craig, who I cited in part 1, makes the third proposition that god's very nature is moral perfection and that whatever god happens to command must be morally perfect because of his very nature. This fails to refute the latter part of the Euhyphro dilemma, in that he is still falling into one of the two propositions. Even if god's very nature is that of moral perfection, if he were taken out of the picture, the morals would still be just as moral. I recently had an interesting conversation with professor of philosophy Massimo Pigliucci, about the argument from Plato's Euthyphro at a panel discussion on free will, where I gave him Dr. Craig's (who he debated twice) third proposition and he said no matter how you try to twist it, you are always going to fall into one of the two parts of it.

I haven't even expounded much on divine command theory, (the latter part of Euthyphro Dilemma) or reasons for and against objective morality here, although I have gone into greater depths in other blog postings, linked here and here.

Is God Morally Perfect?

Who dare say, that god is morally perfect? There exists a plethora of pretty solid philosophic arguments against god as a morally perfect being. I mean the commandments in the old testament to killing unruly children (Lev 20:19), homosexuals (Lev 20:13), adulterers (Lev 20:10), and for owning and beating slaves (Lev 25:44-46 & Exodus 21:20-21)are just a handful of the type of morals we consider illegal in the west today. If god is morally perfect, then why has he commanded us to do such things that we can clearly regard as immoral today? Furthermore, is god subject to the very same "objective" moral code that he has commanded to us? The answer differs depending on which theist you ask. I think most theists would say that no, god does not have to be held to the same moral commandments that he commands us to live by. But then, if god's commandments are morally good because of god's intrinsic morally good nature (Dr. Craig's argument) and if god is not subject to his own moral commandments himself, then isn't it impossible for god to be morally perfect, since he can defy his own commanded morals that are based on the will of a morally perfect being? It seems to me that if god is not held to his own standards of moral perfection, he cannot therefore be morally perfect.

For more information on the problems that arise from god and concepts or morality, please see the link here to "Discovering Religion", whose YouTube channel has dozens of finely edited and narrated videos on what religion and god are are really about, through a critical lens.



Further reading on arguments against god:

The Kalam Cosmological Argument
The Fine Tuning Argument
Objective Morality Without God
Refuting William Lane Craig: "Is Good from God?" A Debate Review
Refuting William Lane Craig: The Moral Argument
The Logically Implausible God
God, Time & Creation: More Problems For William Lane Craig
The Ontological Argument: Putting the Absurd Where it Belongs

The Logically Implausible God

Although it is true that no human being, atheist or believer, can disprove the existence of god with empirical evidence, this is not a requirement for the Atheist position. I'm not in any way, going to make the claim that I will be the first homosapien to disprove the existence of god, but my doubt in god's existence relies in large part due to some logical contradictions that I think exist.

First of all, what do I mean by god? There are a myriad of different concepts of what god is, between religions and even within religious sects themselves. For instance, ask two believing Christians what they think is the nature of god, and you will get two totally different (and even contradictory) answers. With all these apparent differences in beliefs, I will try to focus on the general concept of the monotheistic god believed by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

To the three monotheistic traditions, god is an all powerful, omniscient, omnipotent, morally perfect, timeless being, who is essentially kind and compassionate, and who is the "first cause" in the creation of, at the very least, our universe. Now these properties of god all have slight variations in the beliefs among Jews, Christians and Muslims (as well all the other religions) and we all know this has led to centuries of bickering and bloodshed (praise be to god!). I am not here to argue these differences, but rather I am here to make a case for how a simplified, conflated view of these beliefs in god comes across some logical contradictions, just as the religions themselves do.

Part 1: The Logical Implausibility of a Timeless God

We are told that god is timeless, but what does this mean? Believers say that god exists outside of time, but how is this really possible? If god created the universe, then there was a moment when god existed alone, before he created the universe, and then there was a moment when god exists with the universe, after he created it. But you cannot have concepts of "before" and "after" without time. In order for god to do anything, there must be a time before, and a time after he does it. Therefore, it is logically impossible for god to exist outside of time.

Now if god exists inside of time, then that brings up other problems. For example, believers say that everything that begins to exist must have a first cause, except god (how convenient). But if god does not have a first cause, and exists in time, then he must have an infinite regression of time in his past. To have an infinite regression of time in one’s past, also means that there are an infinite number of events in their past as well. To quote an argument made by the Christian theist William Lane Craig in his debate on the existence of god with Christopher Hitchens, Craig states that "mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things, leads to self contradictions. For example, what is infinity, minus infinity? Well mathematically, you get self contradictory answers." Craig is on the right page on infinity’s impractical implications and is using this logical contradiction in defense of god, however he is failing to realize that the very same argument he is trying to make for god, is better applied against god. In other words, if god exists in time and therefore has an infinite past, then it would take an infinite amount of time for god to get to the present, and thus he would never have enough time get here.

If god is immaterial, does it make a difference?

Now what if you hear the argument that god is immaterial, and therefore cannot exist in time? Something that is immaterial that is also not an abstract concept (like a number) but instead is a thinking, intelligent mind that has effects on the universe, such as intermittently violating its laws of physics, must exist in the same time that the universe exists in as well. In order to be conscious and timeless, one would have to be frozen still, like being paused. Not a single thought or action would be possible. The moment it thinks or creates a temporal event, its relationship with the temporal event forces it to exist in time since you will then be able to chart the being's chronology of actions on a linear path, and this requires time.

Does timelessness exist at all?

In black holes for example, time is said to stand completely still because of the immense gravity. But this state of timelessness is only relative to events in the black hole, the rest of the universe around it carries on in time unaffected. The black hold itself still has a temporal relationship with the universe and any object unlucky enough to get sucked into the black hole is said to become frozen into immobility as it comes near the event horizon. It is hard to wrap our brains around such a concept given that we (thankfully) don't live near any black holes. Hopefully as scientists research this field in greater depth, we will someday unlock the mysteries of time itself.

Aside from the extreme conditions caused by black holes, I know of no other place where timelessness can exist. If god existed in a timeless vacuum before he decided to create the universe, what was he doing? If god is eternal, does he have a conscious eternal past? If god decided to design and create the universe wouldn't he need time to do it before he materialized his design. I have never heard any theologian adequately explain how consciousness can exist together with timelessness since thoughts require time, and I think that logical contradictions involving consciousness, time and concepts of infinity will be mutually irreconcilable.

What then do theists have as an answer to this dilemma?

So in the end, what are the best logical arguments I have heard again this problem? We are often told that god is mysterious and that our intelligence, as best as it is, will never be able to understand the nature of god. Essentially, this is a cop out. It is like saying that my explanation for the cause of the universe is far too complex for anyone to understand and so it's exempt from scrutiny. Furthermore, this opens its own contradictions. Many of the brightest theists, when asked whether god can create a rock too heavy for him to lift will answer, "no". This is because the question refers to a logical contradiction, just as god cannot create a married bachelor, or a square circle. In other words, god can only to what is logically possible. But, if my argument is correct that god cannot be timeless and is also not created by his own "first cause" (i.e. god's god), then he must have an infinite past, which as Dr. Craig argues is logically impossible. Thus, the logical plausibility of god's existence comes into question, and since god cannot achieve that which is logically impossible, the traditional concept of the god of the bible is like a square circle - that is to say a concept that only exists in our minds.

When we cut to the bottom line, no matter how brilliant our brains, or how sensitive our insights and intuitions - it still comes down to a matter of faith in the sense of accepting things that cannot be proved.

- Raqaiyyah Waris Maqsood in "What Every Chistian Should Know About Islam"



Further reading on arguments against god:

The Kalam Cosmological Argument
The Fine Tuning Argument
Objective Morality Without God
Refuting William Lane Craig: "Is Good from God?" A Debate Review
Refuting William Lane Craig: The Moral Argument
God, Time & Creation: More Problems For William Lane Craig
The Ontological Argument: Putting the Absurd Where it Belongs


The Thinker's Social Dilemma

My very own mind is often my own worst enemy. In social situations, I can sometimes think of everything that can go wrong, even when there are really no outward signs of them independent of my mind. For example, I know that I'm the kind of person that doesn't easily get along with most others. It is something that I've learned to accept, although it took many long years. My interests and passions are topics that for the most part, are enjoyed by a tiny minority of the populace. For instance, I have no fucking interests in sports whatsoever. I don't care for stupid reality shows, and pop culture has never seem so dis-interesting to me.

That being said, when I am put in a social situation, such as getting a new job or meeting a bunch new friends of friends, my mind starts having these thoughts. Thoughts that I will not get along with them because the chances that they are into the kind of stuff that I'm into, are so rare. My mind is usually, actually often right that I won't get along, however I don't necessarily need someone to be interested in my passions for me to get along with them. I can chat about some off-hand interests at length, sometimes. However, without another person having interest in what I really love, there is no hope for a real close friendship. And this is why I have not really made friends with anyone at work at all. Sure I can chit chat with them, but actually hanging out and becoming real friends is impossible since the only thing they really care about is sports.

So where does that leave me? I can't change who I am. I can't get into the other shit that most guys are into. Sure I can brush up and refine my social skills and small talk, but at work at least, I don't even have the motivation to do that. I'd rather not even engage at all.

And so I am very picky about who I keep as my friends. I have a small inner circle of people who I can hold real conversations with. They are mostly atheists and thinkers. We do not agree at all about our views on god, religion, morality, politics and economics, but that doesn't necessarily matter. What matters is our interest in the topics themselves, and our ability to have stimulating and passionate conversations about them. And it's this, aside from loyalty, that is all I pretty much all I ask for in a friend.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Dear Occupy Wall Street Protesters,

You have my utmost support in taking our country back from the corporate fascists that have taken over our country, and have destroyed the very fabric of who we are: the 99 percent.


For the past month the Occupy Wall Street movement has grown from Zucotti Park, in downtown Manhattan to a world wide movement. Although I haven't been down there, I support their cause. Many critics of OWS, especially the Fox News assholes, say the protesters have no central focus. Let me explain that the main principle at the source of the rage coming from OWS is the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States, due to the long cozy relationship between our elected officials, and big business. OWS has giving voice to many of us who are disgusted by the practices of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations that are controlling our political system and thus are controlling the national agenda.

For example, most, if not all of our congressmen, senators, mayors, governors and presidents are bought and sold by corporations. The corporations are funding their elections, and therefore once these politicians are in office, they are beholden to the corporations and not the voters, even though it was the voters who elected the politician. This is why legislation often contains within it loopholes that corporations use to escape whatever practices the regulations were intended to stop.

But you already know this right? What corporations get away with today, is some of the most disgusting immoral behavior in the world. It makes me sick. It's just unbelievable what the state of American politics is today. Will it ever end? Can anything really be done to divorce this grotesque relationship between big money, and government?

I feel I should be down there protesting. Although I have a job and have benefited well from my college education, I am very passionate about the movement. We need Wall Street to hear our voice. Their greed cannot go unpunished. What is at stake here is nothing less than the future of the middle class, which in turn is the future of the United States. Should we raise taxes of the rich to pay for our debt? Of course!

OWS is all about:

1.Ending the influence that corporations and banks have on our elections and legislation.
2.Protect the middle class; stop the increasing economic disparity between the rich and everyone else, by
3.Making the economy work for everyone (especially the 99%).

Why is this so controversial? Because the banks and corporations who control the government and a large percentage of our media, are using their money and power to mischaracterize the OWS movement and are actively trying to frame it so that OWS looks like a socialist revolution. They are very good at using fear mongering, a la Fox News, to scare Americans into thinking that OWS wants to destroy capitalism and replace it with a communist-style socialist market. OWS protesters don't want a handout, they want jobs. They want good paying jobs with benefits. They want to work and earn a living and to be productive. They don't want the 1 percenters taking the lion's share of wealth and leaving everyone else to gnaw at the tiny pieces of meat left of the bones. Who can blame them when the wages for middle income people has been virtually flat for 30 years and the richest 1 in the U.S. soared 275 percent from 1979 to 2007.

Revolution is inevitable under such circumstances.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Does Free Will Exist?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer: The notion of human free will. Does it exist? Do we have free will? Christopher Hitchens sarcastically says we have free will because we have no choice. I say we have free will, but, and this is a very big but, it is conditional. We do not have the free will to choose whether we are born male or female, how tall or how short we are, what race we are, what language, culture and geographic area of the world we are born into, how rich or how poor we are, and what year we are born. Not of this is willed by us. These decisions are made by forces and circumstances outside which we can control. As such, many of us might want to have been born as different people or at a different time all together.

Considering how conditional our experiences are, how can any of us say we have free will at all? Well, although we do not control the origin of our life circumstances, we do have control in how we react to them. And therein lies our free will. Even when you are forced to recon with an instinct and personality that is not of your own choice either, your rational mind allows you to make decisions. Being human is being rational. We can control our rage, conquer our fears and forgo our selfishness. This of course doesn't mean that we always do.

So I essentially believe we have free will that is conditional to a sort of happenstance that we have no control over. The idea that god gives us free will is ridiculous because we we are given free will, that takes away the whole point. Meaning we didn't will to have free will, it was decided for us.

Lastly, our free will is constrained by what is physically and logically possible. If I am sitting at a bar and have a choice of 10 different beers on draft to choose from, then I am free to choose any one of them. But my choices (at least at that bar) are limited to what is available to me. Life is full of "you can't always get what you want" situations. And if I will to have powers like a super-hero, I obviously am out of luck due to the laws of physics.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ethical Dilemmas and Principles

Suppose two men agreed they they are going to collaborate on getting a job done. Working together will make the task at hand much easier than if they were to each undertake it alone. The job requires an investment of capital, weeks of planing, time and effort to be put into it in order to be successful. Suddenly, one of the men backs out of the agreement just as all their hard work was going to materialize. Now the other man is left in a situation where he can not finish the job by himself and he has now wasted money, time and hard work. Was it wrong for the man to back out of the agreement so late in the game where by him doing so, it jeopardized the success of the job?

Think about your answer. What is the moral duty to uphold a social agreement? If one agrees upon a "social contract", does one have the obligation to uphold it? Most people would say that both parties have committed themselves into a social contract, while not necessary legally binding, does contain within it, levels of trust and dependency that if broken would be damaging to the parties involved. It is you can say a "socially binding" contract.

Now let's say that the man backed out of the agreement because he suddenly caught a sense of moral contemplation. The job they were doing was to go out and kidnap a young girl for the purposes of raping and killing her. He backed out of the deal because he just couldn't bare to go through with it. Now was he wrong for backing out? Or, was he right for backing out of an agreement to kill someone solely for its pleasure?

The moral idea of honoring one's contractual and social agreements, and of being an honest broker in business clearly has its exceptions. But therefore, the question begs to be asked: Does all morality depend on situational, and relative circumstances? Is, in other words, all morality relative? When Sam Harris outlines the idea of principle, standing firm even when one can find exceptions, he is talking in a way about having rigid morals that do not necessarily have to be absolute in every situation. For example, in chess there is a good principle to adhere to: Don't loose your Queen. But there are situations when sacrificing your Queen is the best strategic option to make, and there are other times where you will have no other choice but to sacrifice your Queen. These exceptions do not have the ability to erode away the solidity of the principle at heart. No one is going to say that because a single exception can be found to the principle of not loosing your Queen in chess, that we must therefore throw out the entire principle or that the principle is erroneous.

One argument theists make about morality absence of god, is that without the absolutism of morality from divine command theory, you cannot have moral principle. My initial example above on the relativism of a moral proposition, shows how morality, while not always absolute in its nature can still have a principle behind it. In principle, I might say, it is morally right to honor those you conduct business with whether contractually or socially, but there are exceptions.

Why is murder wrong?

It is pretty axiomatic that just about every documented society, and every culture, has a basic, core set of morality that it lives by. It's a kind of basic, universal morality. This very general set of ethics, is the by product of socio-biological evolution for us as social primates. Murder for example, was condemned in almost every fashion, at least within the tribe. Historically, there were always justifications for killing the members of other tribes, and for stealing and pillaging whatever they had. In every single advanced social association of people, there exists rules to live by for the insiders. The fact that there are individual exceptions does not take away the principle behind the moral. There will always be sociopaths, and the mentally challenged who do not care, or are not able to reason their way out of murder. One of humanity's greatest challenges was to remove itself from the tribal identities from which it came from, and to learn to embrace one another as all members of essentially the same extended tribe.

Murder is wrong because in principle, it is in our best option to not do so. Sure, I can murder a single individual with no real consequences for humanity as a whole. Perhaps I can do so even to a million people to the same result. But a society that always permits murder with no consequence however, is risking the benefit of being stable. Stability is what allows a society to prosper and advance. In was agriculture for example, that allowed us to cultivate what was once wild, freeing up our ability (and time)to not have to constantly hunt for our next meal. Suddenly, people were free to concentrate on learning from the natural world what they would previously have had no time for. And it was then that humanity began to flourish under the stability that arose. Would therefore, an argument that agriculture was good for humanity sound like a veritable proposition? If so, then saying murder is wrong for humanity holds the same truth and any exception that can be found does not damage the foundation of the underlying principle.

On Social Dynamics and Human Nature

Some reflective writing

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words what you really want to say. I’m not even sure how to word this properly. Sometimes I think about the world around me more than I think about the world within me. We all see the world through our subjective lens. It is therefore, very hard to see the world with you in it. Step out of consciousness and reflect. At any moment of the day, I am having multiple wars going on in my head. I have fear and paranoia, greed to get everything my way, fear and anxiety about the past and hope for the future. I dislike some of the voices I hear. Yet I also wish others would speak up louder. I turn to seek enjoyment in temporary pleasures through self destructive acts. I get jealous and horny and angry minute by minute. It is almost like my inner conscience is a mirror of the world today.

Social dynamics are a fascinating topic. I read a book a few years ago about a guy who wanted to get more successful with the ladies, so he travels around the world to meet men who are experts in getting women and getting laid. Overtime he learns how to get girl after girl, but what he also learns about through that process, is how important social dynamics take place in every social situation. First example, the idea of having such a social effect on people, that your reality becomes their reality. Such as walking into a group of people and now you’re putting on such a display, and you have such charisma that all of the people are now almost like actors in your life going according to exactly how you want them to act.

It’s like you are staring on your own movie, all about you and the people around you have no idea and have become unwitting supporting actors. Such an act, would be a vulgar display of narcissism and narcissism is something we all hate in others. Some people have that natural ability to be narcissistic, and you might have become an unwitting actor in the movie of their life. Sometimes it is OK, other times it is not depending on the situation.

It’s something I have studied closely in my interaction with other people. Sometimes, for example you have a certain skill which is in such high demand, that others wishing this knowledge are willing to act in your life like eager bulgy-eyed pupils in the front row of a classroom. It's the teacher/student relationship.

Mastering the art of social dynamics, and interpersonal relationships I think is one of the most beneficial skills one can have and capable of rewarding some of the highest dividends for years to come.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Summer is Over

Summer is over once again. I always get very depressed this time of the year. It's getting cool already and I'm already having dreams of hot weather once again. It will now be about sweaters and jackets. It does give me the opportunity for fall weather clothes. Not looking forward to a long cold winter at all. But if I done it before, I can do it again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years After Septermber 11th

The ten year anniversary of September 11th is upon us. I knew I had to write a blog about my past reflections on the event. I was deeply touched by the events of that day and it had a huge effect on my viewpoints. The following is description on what I did that day and my life ....

At the end of the summer of 2001, I had enrolled in classes at LaGuardia Community college not far from where I live. I was 19 years old and was in search for some direction. I was also unemployed, virtually broke, and of course living with my mother. At LaGuardia, I was going to pursue a liberal arts curriculum, in hopes that somewhere along the line I would find a subject that I could make into my career.

My first day of college was September 10th. I remember I had grown my hair out long to look like the old school rock stars that I admired. I get to class and see that there is a friend from high school sitting in the back, and I sit next to him and we talk. We are shocked to hear from the professor, that the curriculum will be about hip hop music. After class we take a subway to forest hills to buy the textbook for the class, The Vibe History of Hip Hop, and talk about our lives since graduating high school the year before.

The next day of class is September 11th. I walk to the 52nd street train stop of the number 7 line. The station is angled just so that the World Trade Center is directly down the tracks. I can see that the north tower is up in smoke and I assume it is a fire. I remember seeing an old Asian lady point at the towers saying "oh my god". I didn't really even think about it that much and assumed that it was probably a fire. I take the train and get to class. I remember hearing from the professor say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but class continued as normal.

I can't remember if class dismissed early, but shortly thereafter, I remember my friend and I going to get our college ID cards in the basement. While on line, I remember hearing a woman who worked at the college screaming and running down the hall. We get a glimpse of the TV in one of the offices and it says that both World Trade Center Towers have collapsed. I am completely shocked at this moment and everyone is now talking about it. I get my ID card and my picture is taken at a moment just after the towers collapsed. I still have this ID card.

After we get our IDs the college is full of people talking about the news. The subways and buses are all not running and so we are forced to walk home. Gazing towards the location of the World Trade Center, we can see the wall of dust that are the remnants of the towers, being pushed towards the south east towards Brooklyn.

I get home and I turn on the TV and watch it for the rest of the day. My mom who has just woken up is shockingly unimpressed by the terrorist attacked and by the end of the day she is actually tired of all the new coverage. That's my mom for you.

The news did its job of dramatizing the events of that day. America was forever changed, but New York City was changed even more. It was here that the most dramatic and deadliest outcome of that day unfolded. My fellow classmates and I had developed a sort of bond because of the tragic events.

Now 10 years later I can reflect back on that day. The rebuilding is underway, after a long delay. I have to say that I am quite impressed with the new World Trade Center design. I hate to say it but, I actually like the new design better than the twin towers. I felt the twin towers were actually simplistically bland. They were icons of the boxy international style that was so popular after World War II. The new towers are sleek, glass emeralds. Post modern complexions, yet relatively simple at the same time. I am particularly excited about Tower 2, with its 4 diamonds slicing the building diagonally. I cannot wait until it's all finished.

Tower 2:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Are There Universal Morals?

It's true. I haven't wrote a decent blog in months. Too much has been on my plate to even sit down for an hour or so and write on a topic I am passionate for. I work way too many hours, and I am forced to spend a lot of time concentrating on work related issues that I have no real passion for. That being said, it doesn't mean that I haven't been engaging in intellectual discussions of which my true passion lies.

I have a saying that an intellectual conversation is the only conversation worth having. I often steer the going topic at hand towards one of my many passions in social situations. That is of course, religion, politics, philosophy, science, history, and a few other noteworthy side passions I have like architecture, music and art.

Lately, I have found that the morality debate is one of the most interesting debates to be engaged in. I recently watched a panel of philosophers speak about morality without god, at an event hosted by the Center for Free Inquiry, of which I am a part of. All four of the panelists agreed for the most part that there is no such thing as a universal morality, or moral truth. I have been struggling internally with the notion that there is no universal moral. I believe that there has to be some, at least one, although I am not completely committed to the idea.

A universal moral is one in which there are no exceptions, that is true regardless of the culture, location or time in which it takes place. Take for example of the idea of human rights, quite radical for its time. Is it a universal moral that all human beings are entitled to a basic set of rights that cannot be abridged by any other human beings or acting authority, and if so violated, would be wrong regardless of the time, culture or circumstances? Or is the concept of human rights, along with every other moral position, simply just relative to whomever says it?

We all know that total moral relativity results in some problems. A society can for example, develop a moral code in which to live by, dependent on their collective circumstance, and turn it into their culture. It will then be wrong to do "A" in this society, but right to do "B". And children growing up in this society will be inculcated accordingly on what is right and what is wrong. Now, when someone from another society, where they learned that doing A is right enters this culture, the newcomer will have to learn to adjust their behavior or face consequences. They may still believe that doing A is morally right, but their new society had deemed this wrong and set up rules to prevent it.

This is usually where religious folks come in and say that if there is a god who has the ultimate decision on whether A is right or wrong, and that this transcends and one particular society. Psychologist Steven Pinker eloquently said that if god were to believe that a particular moral is wrong, then he (or she) must have sufficient reasons for believing it. Even if god suddenly changed his mind on the moral, the moral's original truth would then still hold to be true. And if you were to believe that god would never change his moral position, we can then appeal to the reason and skip the middleman (god) altogether. This effectively eliminates god as the moral authority giver. Dr. Pinker was actually reiterating an argument from Plato given over 2 thousand years ago, that he and I consider a knock down argument against divine command theory.

So, with god out of the way, we are left with conscious forms of life, namely human beings, but not only. It is because we consider ourselves capable of the having the most conscious awareness of ourselves and our surroundings, that we mainly consider moral implications dealing with human beings to be the most important. Morality then, must depend on its effects on conscious creatures. Two rocks smashing into each other cannot, by itself be morally right or wrong. Neither rock is aware that it is being pulverized or that it is even a rock to begin with. If a rock were to be thrown by a person and hit a woman in the stomach, now we can begin to consider possible moral implications. We can begin a discussion over whether it was morally wrong or right. Would we consider the moral implications even greater if that woman happened to be 9 months pregnant at the time?

I recently read Sam Harris' book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. In it he makes the argument that science can indeed be used to determine morality. He imagines a landscape with peaks and valleys that pertain to moral highs and depths. In his book, what is morally good is what maximizes the well being of conscious creatures. So cooperation is morally greater than fighting, and sharing or morally greater than selfishness because they will result in greater conditions.

Dr. Harris appeals to a basic moral code, that is innate in human beings that I as well as many others recognize. I do believe that there is a basic innate moral code that our species carries. Yes, I believe it is the product of socio-biological evolution. And I also think had a different course of biological evolution taken place, perhaps a very different set of innate morals were to have developed. This does not, in my opinion, cancel out any idea there there cannot be moral truths. It does say that perhaps those moral truths could be different, given an alternative operation of conscious life. For example, if we were a species that normally gave birth to a dozen off spring, but we were not designed biologically to ensure that all offspring would survive to adulthood, then maybe it would be moral to allow some or even the majority of the offspring to die while investing in a few of the most healthy ones. This is common in many species of birds. The moral implications here would follow a very different set of criterion then if we were a species that normally gave birth to a single offspring. We may now cringe at the idea of allowing human babies to wantonly die off, given our current moral considerations of human life. But if it was normal for women to give birth to more babies than they could ever realistically raise to adulthood, we may consider this different.

So, the question is still at large: Are there universal morals? Do they exist? Or is all morality subjective on at least some terms? I like to believe that there are at least two universal morals. One, that it is wrong to kill for no reason, and two, that slavery is wrong. It is hard to defend a universal moral with out an objective truth to it. God as I mentioned does not suffice, since he would be just another opinion on the matter. And the reasons for god saying that it is wrong or right must be grounded in some truth beyond even him, (if you decided that if god changed his mind and made a different decision on the moral, it would not change whether it is morally right or wrong.

A moral absolute must then be addressed scientifically, and philosophically. We must consider its practical biological effects, scientific affects and its affects in principle. Perhaps no human generation will ever solve this dilemma and it will always plague us. I am in no way claiming to have solved one of society's greatest questions. I am merely asking questions to which there are no easy answers. I wouldn't be closed off to the idea that there are no universal morals, and I do not think that it would necessarily weaken the position of morality in absence of god. It is a topic that needs more discussion and research.

Perhaps, one of man-kind's greatest endeavors was to ask in the first place.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Truth About Mohammad



Things that I already knew for the most part, but maybe you didn't. An insightful look into the "prophet" Mohammad, the man considered by Muslims to be the best example of the perfect human being. See why an analysis of Mohammad's life can so easily dismiss this disingenuous claim.

Noam Chomsky on the falacy of free-markets

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back From D.C.

Summer 2011 is almost over. Where did it go? I just got back from a vacation to Washington D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. I was suppose to fly out to the west coast but hurricane Irene ruined that. So as for my trip to D.C., I can say that for sure, I'd rather live in New York. D.C. is the political capitol of the U.S. of course, and with that comes a bit more of a straight laced, button down culture.

Now I didn't explore the whole city, and stuck mainly to the downtown touristy areas. I saw the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House. I also took a walk downtown during the middle of the day. It's nice to see all the historic monuments that I've seen so many times on T.V. in person.

It is amazing how geographically close NYC is from "the South". The Mason-Dixon line is actually the southern border of Pennsylvania and is considered the cultural boundary of the north and southern U.S. and was also the line that divided the slave states and the non slave states for much of the 1800s. It lies a mere 120 miles southeast of Midtown Manhattan.

South of the Mason-Dixon line, exists the southern culture of which many northerners know from stereotypes. While I was in rural Virginia, and West Virginia I saw the southern country lifestyle up close in person. I went to a Casino in Charles Town West Virginia, where you can drink, smoke, gamble and maybe even meet a prostitute in the same room. I actually won 30 dollars gambling on the slot machines, the only time I think I ever gambled in a casino. In Virginia, I got cursed at by a redneck for hitting his car when I opened the car door in an IHOP parking lot. I got many stares at various places whenever we went out to many places. I never felt uncomfortable to the point of feeling unsafe, but did not feel like rural Virginia could be home to me. My friend says he feels at home down south and he's an ex-New Yorker. Go figure.

I did learn that in the south, different towns have very different feelings and cultures towards race. Where one town might frown upon an inter-racial couple, another town miles away would have no problem. In other words, communities must be judged on an individual basis. That is something I failed to consider.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer 2011

We are in the midst of a sweltering typically New York City heat wave. Temperatures are in the high 90s and the humidity is not much lower. So far summer has been nothing but work. Last weekend I slept in and didn't even go out. I was just too damn tired. I realize now what a stupid decision that was. Summer will be over before I know it, and I should spend every free day I have out enjoying life and the outdoors even if it is by myself.

Work is still sucking my life and time away. I have money now so I can't complain, but it seems that I have no time to spend it. It's such a catch 22: last summer I was unemployed and had little money, but I had all the time in the world to hang out and enjoy my life. This summer I have plenty of spending money but I'm working like a dog, and it seems like I have no time to spend it, let alone enjoy it.

Weekends seem to disappear over night. Before I know it, it's Monday morning and time to go to work. I even have to work on the weekend sometimes. It is such a horrible wager to make. Be broke, or be busy all the time.

I'm going to Washington D.C. in the end of August, I'll take a flight over to Oregon after that. Something to look forward to but not much. I need to get out more, but my job pretty much ruins the possibility of doing anything on the weekday. I remember back when I used to be a security guard and I worked 40 hours a week. This was the summer of 2005. I remember that summer as been a particularly fun summer mostly because I discovered this bar called Lit in the East Village and it was a particularly good spot for easy hook ups. But I can't remember what I did on work nights. I assume I mostly went home, I think a few nights I went out or hung out in friend's houses. I smoked a lot of pot back then so memory is a bit hazy.

It's mid-summer and so far the fun has yet to begun.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Want My Life Back

At 6:30 AM I burst awake to the sounds of my screeching alarm clock. I silence it with a whack from from my sleeping hand. When I finally get up, I am barely able to scarf down a quick bowl of cereal. A shower gets me a little close to actually being awake. One last look in the mirror before I head out to a 12 hour work day. By the time I get home it will be dark, even for this time of the year, and I will have returned to this zombie-like state.

Now all day at work I sit in a little cubicle, with a little head set staring at a dual-monitor computer for 12 hours. Case after case, the work load never ends. A glance out the window on a beautiful May day seeing the sail boats on the harbor being guided by people having fun, makes me realize what I am missing: My Life.

What I really regret is not going out and having more fun outdoors when I was unemployed last summer. I had so much free time, but what did I do? I spent most of it on the internet, at home with the shades pulled down. Picturesque summer days passed by me, and I missed them all. Now I long for the amount of time I can have. The weekends are not enough.

I've been in this situation before. I've known what its like to work a lot. I don't like it. I don't like working period. I like to party but I don't like to be broke. What can a person do in this situation? Summer is here (almost) and that means that this is the time to make things happen.

FML

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sexual Politics

There goes that pesky sex drive again, making me do things I don't want to do. Making me bother that girl who just wants to be left alone. Making me go out and humiliate myself when I'd rather just stay in my comfort zone. I wish I could just turn it off, like a switch, so that I could concentrate on other things more productive. In truth, our sex drives have a purpose: they are what motivate us to procreate, and this is of course the driving force of the continuum of all species.

I'm always amazed at how women can be sort of asexual in a way in terms of not being motivated by sex to do almost everything, as men mostly are. Then, they can suddenly become sexual creatures when they are with the right person in the right circumstance. It is a very peculiar outcome of thousands of years of human evolution. The hunter and gatherers that we were have conditioned women to attach emotional bonds with those men who could provide the most food and resources. They didn't think with their eyes and try to sleep with the first willing participant as the hunters did. And so they attached an emotional bond with a man first, and then suddenly they become ferocious sexual beasts.

This is how things were with a girl I once dated. She had such an emotional bond with me, that I excited her sexually by almost everything I did. Had I met her on the street or perhaps in a bar, she might not have even been willing to engage in a conversation with me let alone sleep with me. The same woman who who would might not look at you twice, could suddenly become intensely sexual attracted to you if you strike the right emotional chords with her. This has frustrated men since the beginning of time, who merely wanted to spread their seed without any emotional baggage.

Meeting women in bars has its ups and downs. On the one hand you can get laid really fast and even jump-start head first into a relationship in the fast track. These usually never last longer than a month or two. One the other hand you must deal with rejection from very beautiful and highly sexualized women who just want to go out to drink and have a good time and who are not there to meet anyone. As frustrating as it is, the possibility of success far out weighs any fear of failure.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The City Part II

I've been totally addicted to Google Earth for the past year or so. It is one of the best tools for viewing 3 dimensional aerial angles of cityscapes. For New York, almost all of Manhattan is represented in 3D. This allows you to fly through the city as if you were Superman, or Batman over and through the skyscrapers. It's the coolest thing ever.

Since last summer, I have learned to make 3D building models that can be uploaded to Google Earth. It took a while to learn, but I got the hang of it. So far, I have uploaded over 200 models. My account name is "KingofQueenz". My models mostly cover the Queens area, but I have numerous models in the Bronx, and Brooklyn. I did the entire Queens West development. I've done most of the buildings in Long Island City, Forest Hills, Woodside, and Coney Island. Making 3D building models is my obsession. I'd like to have every building in the world represented on Google Earth in 3D. I know of coarse this is an arduous task for one person, but at least I can try to get as many models up in my geographic area.

My Queens West development 3D models:


My models are not the best. I usually don't put insane amounts of details in them. I'd rather make 10 decent models in one week than spend a week to make one perfect model. Some other sketchup artists have uploaded some amazing 3D models that have exquisite detail.



These two models are the Schaefer Landing North and South Towers. They are a new luxury highrise apartment complex in Williamsburg. I'm very proud of these models. There is a sense of great satisfaction when I complete a nice 3D models.

I've been spending way to much time on Google Earth and Google Sketchup, the free program used to make the 3D models.I can literally spend 8 hours straight making models, holding in my piss and not eating. This is real life addiction. But who ever heard of someone addicted to Google Earth?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The City


For some reason I am still obsessed with New York City. I have this romanticized notion of New York, similar to Woody Allen's character in Manhattan. To me, New York is Metropolis and Gotham all in one. It has been leaving its impression on millions and millions for hundreds of years.

I've dated many girls who have moved here from small towns and suburbs. I love that cliche of the small town girl who dreams of life in the big city. She finally realizes her dreams and is overwhelmed by all its audacity. In the U.S. we have this anti urban attitude. We put this emphasis on small towns and suburbs, the quintessential American dream of a house on a quiet suburban street. We've neglected our cities unlike many other countries who celebrated them. New York remained for so long seen as an eyesore in the fold of the American landscape. Americans hated it, mocked it, were afraid to go to it. They called it a cesspool or urban decay. And New York lost population for the 50 years as did virtually every other large American city. Only recently has the trend reversed.

For me growing up in New York, there was never a dream of a house in the suburbs. I liked my high rise apartment with the view of the skyline out my window. Why would I ever want to replace that with a bunch of suburban houses and trees? The city to me was a place of excitement. It has life and energy. Taking the train into Manhattan and emerging out into a "Metropolis" of sorts gave me the impression of what Clark Kent might have felt when he left Smallville, although not quite as dramatic. Suddenly you are in a giant city and you realize how small your are in this world. This allure has attracted many a small town folk, and I think I'd be one of them if I had such a past.

What does New York represent to me? It represents an American dream, American ingenuity, American diligence. Not long after New York was founded (then of coarse New Amsterdam), there was a great migration to move out west where people settled in mostly in small, sparsely situated towns. This gave birth to the rural lifestyle that is so characteristic of early American life. This rural, small town lifestyle somehow became the "real" America, that so many patriots and politicians try to use as their badge of American authenticity. The big cities back east were already becoming over populated cesspools of filth, disease and of coarse, immigrants. This can't be the "real" America. No "real" Americans live in a log cabin, in a tiny town, they know their neighbors and go to church on Sunday.

So there I be, in the big city. You might see me riding the subway, or stretching my neck to see the top of a new skyscraper. You might see me jaded and blue, or you might just be lucky enough to see me crack a smile.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Thinker


As the Sun sets over the Secular Metropolis, the thinker begins his blog, eyes glued to the screen of his laptop, fingers sweaty from their constant contact with the keyboard. What is on his mind that is so important to write about? It is his obsession with New York? His passion for Atheism? His analysis of social dynamics? His love of science? Maybe all of the above.

I love writing in the third person. It requires a bit more thinking when writing about yourself.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Manhattan Memories

Back in the 1990s when I was a fledgling teenager, my father used to live on east 15th street in Manhattan. Since my parents had divorced, I'd go and visit him sometimes on the weekends. He lived in this tiny railroad apartment in a prewar, 6 story walk up that was so old and rickety, the floors and walls were literally caved in. There was this sense that the whole building could collapse at any moment. There was never any sun light that shined through the windows because there was another building about 6 feet away. This meant you had to keep the lights on even in the middle of the day. Depressing at this may sound, what made up for it was the fact that right outside was downtown Manhattan.

My father had close friend who had two sons a little younger than me. He had an Italian wife and they lived in Stuyvesant Town just a few blocks away. They were a typical Manhattan family, politically liberal and cultured, although they were not quite yuppies. This was the mid 1990s, back when a working class blue collar family could afford to live in Manhattan. We would all get together, sometimes accompanied with my dad's girlfriend, and go do things in the city. We'd go to the South Street Sea Port, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Museums. Sometimes we'd just walk around downtown and take in outdoor street festivals and shows. We'd always eat out at restaurants. They were good times. There was always an exciting cultural event that was going on. After all, this was Manahattan, and rarely ever a let down.

I have few pictures from that era; this was the days before digital cameras. I do have memories however. There were these neighborhood kids several years older than me who we knew that would hang out on the stoops of the apartments. They were Latino, new-yoricans, most likely. Downtown kids, before it became so fashionable. We went to Katz Deli over on Houston street, and my dad, always the outgoing one, would joke about the orgasm scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally that was filmed there. We'd go to Greenwich Village when it was still very bohemian and absorb the culture. I think one time we even went during the gay pride week or parade and my dad's Irish girlfriend pointed out a bald headed man in full drag. "Only in New York" she commented. We all laughed.

I was along for the ride. My dad would pick me up in Queens and drive me to the city. We did an awful lot of driving around the city back then come to think of it. My dad after all was a limousine driver. That Lincoln Town Car I remember took us so many miles.

We'd all go out to Veniero's on 11th street and indulge in the Italian pastries while making a lot of noise. We'd walk out into the hot summer night air feeling a little relieved, still cold from the air conditioning. The hustle and bustle of the city providing the ambiance around us. Summer nights in the city when you're a teenager, so many unforgettable memories.

And it was all so secular. Religion was never a part of our adventures on the town. There was never any church or inculcation into any faith. We seemed like a bunch of secular humanists/cosmopolitan New Yorkers. There was a slight Buddhist/Hindu element from my dad's side, but never anything actual meditation or chanting. It was more like the occasional wishing to an unknown energy that you'd strike it rich. It was more like the self-serving god than anything real, whether tangible or otherwise. The secular element made it that so much better. There was no religion trying to make me feel guilty or for me to rebel against. There were no forced rituals or scriptural memorization. Religion simply just wasn't there. Thank god for that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Dead of Winter

I haven't been able to write any good posts lately. Not much is going on in my life. All I've been doing is going to work and then coming home pretty much. I watch the occasional Hitchens video on YouTube, and listen to the Real Time With Bill Maher podcast on iTunes. Religion still intrigues me and my obsession with the Secular Metropolis. Other than that, work takes precedence over all things fun and endearing. I don't mind staying home on a freezing night and spending time on work related jobs, or creating 3D GoogleEarth sketchups. When the weather gets nice and warm, as it is about to do in a few weeks, I'm going to start minding.

I plan on doing more outdoor things this Summer. Bike rides, camping, bars yes, and outdoor music festivals. Oh man I can't wait for Summer. I'm planing on going down to Washington D.C. for a weekend to visit an old friend. That should be cool. I'd love to properly check out our nation's capitol.

So there is much to look forward to. I need another vacation badly, let me tell you. And all I have to do is wait.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Going to Brooklyn: A Bike Ride

One morning last Summer I got up really early and took a bike ride down to the Brooklyn promenade. It was a beautiful sunny day in August. Here are my pictures:

The industrial area on the Queens/Brooklyn border has a sense of desolate grace to it:


This is an old rickety bridge that spans Newtown Creek:




Headed to Brooklyn:


Downtown Brooklyn rising. New highrise apartments:




Downtown Brooklyn Baby:




The Oro Condominium:




DUMBO:








The East foot of the Manhattan Bridge:


The Lower East Side "Skyline" as seen from Brooklyn:


Standard Lower Manhattan Skyline Shot:


The New Beekman Tower topped out and almost ready for its close up:


The New Brooklyn Park Under Construction:


And Now for Some Brooklyn Heights, One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in New York:


One of the many hidden treasures tucked away on the quiet, shaded streets of Brooklyn Heights:






You can get a hickey on Love Lane:


Downtown Brooklyn is brownestone country:



video

On my way back I pass through South Williamsburg, the Dominican part:


McCarren Park on a beautiful August day. I stopped by to work out in the outdoor exorcise area, and even took my shirt off.


Midtown Skyline from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge;


That's all folks!

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