Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Issue of School Sanctioned Prayers

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, also known as the FFRF, is an organization that stands up for the rights of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, whenever they are encroached by religion. One of their pending lawsuits involves a South Carolina high school that violated a rule against sanctioning prayers. Let me take a look at this case within the view of the larger issue of religion in public schools.

I went to public school my whole life (except in pre-K) and I cannot ever once remember being forced to observe a religious prayer or activity during those 12 years. Inner city New York City public schools are a pretty secular environment. I did have a few teachers mention god when talking about their personal life, not in any proselytizing way, and when a junior high school science teacher died, I remember we did observe a moment of silence, which there is nothing inherently religious about. But all in all, it was very secular. It appears that public schools in the south and other rural areas of the U.S. apparently have a different story. I am aware of many incidences of teachers and school administrators leading prayers, and this is the issue taken up by the FFRF.

The problem I have, is that public school teachers and personnel are government employees, and they are figures of authority over the students. This I feel should make them ineligible to lead prayers while on school campuses, and while on the job.

Let's look at this issue in context with the first amendment. What people who oppose this lawsuit are saying, is that when a teacher leads students in prayer, no one is forced. Any student who wishes not to participate in the prayer does not have to. This they claim, is the first amendment's freedom from religion in action. Now while students may opt out of the school-sanctioned prayer, the problem is when it is a government employee, in a position of authority, leading a prayer that is going to outcast the students who don't want to participate, and in some cases, pressure them to observe the prayer or ceremony. This "officializes" the prayer as if it had government's stamp of approval.

It is not the role of government employees to be leading prayers while they are on the job. Just as I wouldn't want the clerks behind the counter at the DMV to suddenly drop to their knees and begin worshiping allah, or to encourage me to observe religious fasting, I wouldn't want similar acts taking place by public school teachers. When I need to use a government service, which is often when I have no choice, I do not want to be asked or encouraged to experience any religious activity. The bottom line is: government employees on the job should not be encouraging religious activity.

Now I have no problem with people observing their religious traditions in their private lives. The first amendment protects this right and religious freedom is one of our greatest achievements in the U.S. If students want to pray in a public high school, that is their right to do so too. Just because they are in a public building does not mean they should have to check their religion at the door. The issue is when public administration leads or sanctions prayers because then it is government respecting the establishment of a religion. I'm sure that most Christian parents of children in public schools would not be comfortable if their children's teacher was a very vocal, devout Muslim, who quite often spoke positively about Islam and lead daily prayers in the classroom in the Islamic tradition. That would be proselytizing in the classroom by a government employee onto young impressionable minds who by law are required to be there.

This very scenario is exactly why some religious people want creationism taught in the classroom and to allow school sanctioned prayers. They want god back in the classroom so that future generations of kids will be brainwashed into becoming religious. That is a parent's role, not government's role. In most parts of the U.S. the non-religious are the minority. The rights of those who wish not to observe must be protected, and the government in our public school system is the last place we need this right being violated.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Romney or Obama?

This election year the choice for me is pretty clear. I'm voting for Obama as I did in 2008. Mitt Romney represents almost everything I hate in a single person. It's hard to pin him down on particular issues because he's flip-flopped so much over his career in politics. But just to name a few, he says he's against abortion and would pass bills limiting access to it; when it comes to the economy he plans on continuing down the destructive path of trickle down economics, which hasn't worked in the past. To me, he represents the greedy business man, who will smile in your face as he fires you and sends your job to China.

Someone like him, who seems to be so one dimensional on the surface, whose life revolves around getting rich through some not so moral business practices, has a character that I would not trust in the White House. I personally think that his true desire to become president is really only to make it easier for rich people like him to get even more rich through the passage of favorable legislation, and that he doesn't care if this ultimately will send the U.S. on a downward spiral, as long as he and his cronies profit off of this madness.

Mitt Romney was born rich. As the son of a CEO, growing up privileged allowed him to never really experience any economic hardship. He never had to struggle to make ends meat. And because of this, he is hopelessly out of line with the average person anywhere. He should not be running a country when he doesn't have a clue what it is like being an average person living in it.

So I hope that Obama wins reelection. President Obama isn't perfect, but he sure is a lot better than Mitt Romney on social issues, foreign policy, and even economics.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teenage Identity Crisis: A Painful Reminiscence

Now for a momentary digression away from religion, to a painful reminiscence of my adolescence.

I was just watching a show recently about the evolution of grunge and its affect on heavy metal and it brought back some rather painful memories. I came of age in what is known as the "post-grunge" era of the late 90s and early 2000s. Back when I was a teenager at this time, I had sort of an identity crisis. I didn't quite know who I was, and I didn't quite fit in anywhere. At that time there were mainstream super bands like Creed and alternative rock/punk acts like Blink 182, and I hated those bands so much. You still had heavy metal, thrash metal and death metal that were popular, and I hung out with a lot of kids who were metal heads, but I didn't quite fit in with them. I liked some heavy metal, but I never really got into the music as hard core as some of my friends did and I never was a total head banging metal head. There was industrial metal like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson that I kind of gravitated more towards but I never fully embraced these genres by dressing goth or putting make up on. About as far as I could go was to dress all in black. Then of course there was rap music that was evolving out of that classic, golden era sound that I liked years before and so my interest in rap was waning.

So I was struggling to fit in. I was in a total identity crisis. I wasn't a metal head, I hated the mainstream alternative acts; I wasn't a thug into hip hop anymore, and my interest in industrial metal was never strong enough to make me part of the industrial scene. To be honest with you, I hated the culture of the late 90s. I hated the hairstyles, with their stupid gelled spikes and the lame ass scruffy goatees. I hated the big baggy clothing, the baggy rave pants, and wearing all black because you had to be dark because colors were too gay. I am so glad that era is over and I never want it to come back.

I honestly like the times we are living in now much more. I like the fashion much more and the music. What happened during the late 90s for me is that I started to get into the old school bands. I got into The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and then The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Iggy & The Stooges. I got into the roots bands that all the genres of the day had evolved from. I felt like I should have been born 30 years earlier. Then when the garage rock revival happened, around when The Strokes came out, in 2001, suddenly retro was in. A whole generation, fed up with the music they were being force-fed by the music industry rediscovered the bands of yesteryear and suddenly the culture around me became fused with the bands that I was already listening to. The indie/hipster culture emerged, and I suddenly found my calling. I found out that there were many other people out there like me, fascinated by music that predated our births. And although this new sub-culture was comparatively small compared to the mainstream alternative scene, my identity crisis began to subside. By the time this happened however, I was already out of high school, and perhaps it was a little to late, but it is always better late than never.

As you get older "fitting in" becomes less and less of a concern. I now pride myself on being unique in my own way and don't feel like I fit into any particular subculture. But as an awkward, zit-faced teenager, I didn't have the social skills and confidence to pull of such attitude effectively. If I could describe myself now, it would be a world travelling, cosmopolitan, intellectual, with style. I dress a little retro like some of my rock star heroes, I also spiffy it up with some class. But I'm basically a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy, with the occasional flannel button down. I don't go crazy with the super skinny jeans, but I like my jeans kind of tight.  I'm growing my hair out a bit longer now because I feel that I might as well get the most out of it before I go bald. I pretty much always have a beard or some kind of facial hair, as long as it is not in the stupid 90s style of mustache-less goatees.

There are certain kinds of people who never change their style. The way they were during their formative adolescent years leaves such an impression of them, that they are forever cast in that mold, and unable to change. I have a metal head friend like that. He dresses in the same old metal head t-shirts that he wore back in 1997, and he's got the same old long-haired heavy metal do that he more or less had back then too. Some people never change. Me personally, I evolve constantly. My hair, my style, my interests, are always changing. I'm never the same person for more than a few years and I like that. Now that I'm more confident and more sure of who I am, the identity crisis is over. Long live the '10s!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

How To Talk To A Muslim: Debating Homosexuality

In debating conservative Muslim Gareth Bryant, I get to see how the mind of the devoutly religious behaves. When he wrote a blog post concerning the origin of sodomy and homosexuality, I once again had to call him out on his bullshit. Not only does he think homosexuality is wrong, he thinks it's a choice and that it originated from the fabled towns of Sodom and Gomorrah!

In this short exchange, I try to talk some sense into him by arguing that homosexuality is perfectly natural using a common sense argument that he never refutes. All he can do is use a trick of wordplay by insisting that the term "sexual preference" itself shows that it is a choice.

Some Brief Islamic-History (the origin of Sodomy & Homosexuality):


Homosexuality is natural, it always was, and it is no more a choice than being left-handed is a choice. Now I used to think like you about homosexuality when I was a teenager, which is to say – ignorant, but then I grew up and got educated on the matter. Homosexuality predates all the people in biblical lands in towns whose existence is even disputed by modern archaeology, because it existed in the animal kingdom long before humans evolved.
At any given time, at any given location, you are going to have a certain percentage of people that are gay – that’s just the way it is OK. To deny gay people their equal civil rights today, is tantamount to the denial of black people their equal civil rights generations ago. Why can’t we live in a society, where consenting adults can do what they want, sexually? If you don’t like sodomy, or gay sex, DON’T DO IT! Don’t watch porn, or the trash perpetrated by the movie industry. I’m an atheist and I don’t watch that crap. But don’t deny other people the right to do so.
If you don’t eat pork, fine. I respect your right not to eat it. Respect the civil rights of people in a free secular society like ours or go move to an oppressive Muslim majority country like Sudan.
Homosexuality is a choice: Allowing a man to insert his penis, or any other foreign, non-medically required item, into one’s rectum, voluntarily, is a choice; likewise, allowing one’s self to insert one’s own penis, or any other foreign, non-medically required item, into another man’s rectum, voluntarily, is a choice. Why do you think that Homosexuality is still classified as a “sexual-preference”? The word “preference” in and of itself, directly denotes the manifestation of the power of choice.
A homosexual act might be a choice, just as a left handed person can physically write with their right hand. But homosexual desire is innate as is being left handed. You and I are both men, right? You know and I know that we cannot force an erection at will, it has to just happen. How could a heterosexual man who gets aroused by women, suddenly make his penis only get aroused when he is with other men? Gay men cannot get sexually aroused to have sex with women so how can they pretend to be straight. You cannot just change your sexual “preference” like you can change your politics. And why would heterosexual men choose to be gay anyway if they are straight? So they can get their asses kicked more? It makes no sense. Why do animals like Bonobos engage in homosexuality, when they are not conscious of god or any silly divine commandments?
One thing I hate about religion is that is misrepresents human sexuality through the scope of man kind when we knew nothing of real science. That is why all religions are full of nonsense on matters of science, history, and human sexuality. And to those like me who aren’t brainwashed, it is painfully obvious.
The term “sexual preference” does not accurately describe sexual orientation and I don’t like the term myself. As does the term “sexual persuasion”. These terms was made by people ignorant of the truth. I didn't invent these terms so don’t hold me accountable to their ignorance.

I also make the comment here on the "sexually-deviant" nature of homosexuality comparing it to other Islamic morality:

What is normal in Islam? Marrying pre-pubescent girls? Slavery? Let’s make homosexuality illegal and bring back slavery the way it was in the 7th century to restore “morality” the way it should be. See why the West and the Islamic world will never get along?


Conservative Muslims today do not want to concede an inch on homosexuality, but they're willing to renounce slavery and forcing underage girls into arranged marriages with older men (at least some in the West are). These are both things condoned in the Qur'an but many Muslims are against them today. It is obvious that Muslims, just like Christians, pick and choose their morality from their "holy" books. 

Finally, we have science on our side concerning sexuality, and they don't. And that is why we will win this debate in the long run. So it is comforting to know that uneducated, conservative minded religious fanatics like Gareth are becoming more and more rare everyday. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How To Talk To A Muslim: Debating The Existence Of Allah, The Validity Of The Qur'an, & Evolution

Further seizing upon the opportunity to debate with a conservative Muslim, who stands for just about everything I am against, I challenge him on some of the Qur'an's known contradictions using a section from The "Infidel's" Guide to Islam. It all started when Gareth linked his post titled "There is a god, and His name is Allah (My personal gift to Atheists & Anti-Theists)" on the Non Believer Nation Facebook page. I read it and took it upon myself to inject some more intellectual critique, rather than just the usual hyperbole. In his post the argument is made that in the Qur'an, Mohammad gives information about things that were not scientifically known at that time, and could only have been known if this information had been revealed to him by Allah. The "revelation" in question here is a vague line in the Qur'an mentioning that iron was given from above and descended to Earth.

“We have descended Iron, within it contains great durability, as well as benefits for Humans.” Surah 57:25

This is offered as the "proof" that Allah is the one true god and that Islam is the one true faith. As you can easily imagine, I call out this naivety for what it is: bullshit. There were many other comments on the post, some congratulating, some critical, and so I decided to weigh my two cents in so that the anti-theist perspective could be heard. What ensued was a very heated exchange between me and Gareth where I pointed out the contradictions in the Qur'an to make the argument that it is far from revealed wisdom. His only rebuttal when cornered with these apparent facts, is to say that all of my English translations are incorrect, even through I have several of the most popular English-translated Qur'ans.

I ask him for the correct translation directly from Arabic and to include references, but he doesn't reply. About halfway through we get into debating the validity of evolution, which he denies, insisting that the Qur'anic retelling of the Adam and Eve creation myth is how it all happened because "Allah says that it happened, period." So I introduce him to some of the evidence in favor of evolution and he seems to concede, although not admitting it, and retracts back into his talking points, insisting that Allah is all powerful and that I only disbelieve in him because I want to worship my "ego & desires". I close by trying to make amends, in a way, to see how best people like him and me can coexist in the long term. Our debate and the link to his blog are below. His words are in bold.

"There is a god, and His name is Allah (My personal gift to Atheists & Anti-Theists):

Look man, as an atheist and anti-theist, I do respect your right to have your own opinion and to be vocal about it. After all, I hope that you, as I do, respect freedom of speech going both ways. I just can’t wait until the Muslim majority countries practice this.
Over the years I’ve had a few Muslims try to point to some vague references in the Qur’an that when twisted, accurately describe science. But you must be aware, that for skeptics like us, such vague references will never be enough, because all religious books have some truth to them, and they can’t all be correct in their entirety.
On top of that, all religious books are full of scientific and historic inaccuracies, which would of course defeat your objective since your holy book must be perfect. There is no religious text, that accurately describes the universe as science does, because of course no one writing them knew anything about science. You must be aware that the Qur’an contradicts itself many times. How do you reconcile this when the Qur’an is supposed to be absolutely perfect in every way?
If you don’t know what I mean check for yourself in these verses below, in this small sample I have:
Have some passages in the Qur’an been changed?
Yes – 2:106; 16:101
No – 6:34; 6:115; 10:64; 18:27
How many angels spoke to Mary? One – 19:16-19
More than one – 3:42; 3:45
How long is Allah’s day? 1000 years – 22;47; 32:5
50,000 years – 70:4
Who chooses the devil to be friends with unbelievers? Allah chooses – 7:27
The disbelievers choose – 7:30
Was the Pharaoh drowned or saved? Drowned – 17:102-103; 28:40; 43:55
Saved – 10:90-92
Will all Jews and Christians go to hell? Yes – 3:85; 5:72
No – 2:62; 5:69
Did Mohammad ask for a fee? Yes – 2:195; 8:41; 9:103; 9:111; 47:38; 57:10
No – 12:104; 36:21; 42:23; 52;40; 68:46
How should Jews and Christians be treated? With tolerance – 2:109
With war – 9:29
Which came first heaven or Earth? Heaven – 79:27-30
Earth – 2:29; 41:9-12
Will Allah forgive anything? Yes, anyone and anything – 4:110; 39:153
No some people and things will never be – 4:48; 4:116; 4:137; 4;168; 9:80; 47;34; 63:3-6
How many angels fought Mohammad? 3000 – 3:124-126
1000 – 8:9-10
Is each person free to believe as he or she wishes? Yes – 2:256; 18:29; 109:6
No – 3:32; 30:45; 18:29; 3:85; 3:28; 4:89; 4:144; 5:51; 60:1
How long did it take to create the heavens and the Earth? 6 days – 7:54; 10:3; 11;7; 50:38; 57:4
8 days – 41:9-12
What was man created from? Water – 25:54; 24:45
A clot of blood – 96:1-2
Clay – 15:26; 32:7; 38:71
Dust – 30:20; 35:11
Is Allah merciful? Yes – 1:1-3; 1:163; 2:37; 2:54; 2:128; 2:143; 2:160; 2:173; 2:182; 2:192; 2:218
No – 2:7; 2:17; 4;56; 4:168-9; 5:33; 7:50
Does Allah make distinctions between his messengers? Yes – 2:253
No – 2:285
Who was the first Muslim? Abraham/Jacob – 2:132
Moses – 7:143
Mohammad – 39:12
Did one of Noah’s sons die in the flood? Yes – 11:42-43
No -21: 76; 37:75-77
Does everything on heaven and Earth obey Allah? Yes – 30:26
No- 2:34
Each & every single verse of that you’ve mentioned from the Qur’an is mistranslated and/or taken completely out of context.
For example:
1. There have in fact been verses of the Qur’an have been abrogated either by other verses in the Qur’an itself, abrogated in terms of the text itself (replaced with other verses) or abrogations of either ordinances & prohibitions in particular verses by other verses, or even by actions of Muhammad (Peace be upon him)…so what?!!! Allah specifically tells us, “Whatever the Messenger gives you, you accept it, and whatever he forbids, refrain from it.”.(Noble Qur’an: Chpt.59, V.7)
2. You’ve mentioned about the amount of Angels who came to Mary (Peace be upon her). Well, there was more than one instance that she was visited by Angels, which is evident in the very verses that you’ve mentioned; so, there ya go.
3. Referring to the divine position of time, the way that Allah measures time cannot be estimated by anyone or anything created. And, Allah has just chosen to use examples of that, in the verses that you’ve mentioned.
4. When you’ve mentioned about the Devil being the friends of the Disbelievers, it’s referring to what Allah decrees & also the decisions which Humans themselves make. So, yeah, in reference to the Devil, Allah does decree people to follow & befriend him, and also, these people make choices, based upon volition, to follow & befriend him, which is mentioned in the verses which you’ve mentioned.
5. Referring to the verses from Chpt. 10, V.90-92, when it comes to verse 92, it’s exclusively referring to the preservation of the body of the Pharaoh, who pursued the Children of Israel, with his army & was drowned.
6. When it comes to the Jews & Christians going to Hell, then, yes…if the Jews & Christians who associate false qualities to Allah, and don’t follow the true teachings of their books, and who don’t accept the guidance that Allah has given to Muhammad (Peace be upon him), yes…they will go to Hell, forever…this is what Allah says, in the Qur’an…so what?!!!
7. The verses that you’ve mentioned when it comes to a “fee”, Muhammad never requested or demanded a “fee”. These verse are explicitly referring to the allowances of the spoils of war…so what?!!!
8. Referring to how the Jews & Christians should be treated are very relative to how they interact with the Muslims. In times of peace or weakness, we’re required to treat Jews & Christians a certain way; however, in times of military-conflict or when the Muslims have authority, we’re required to treat Jews & Christians a certain way…so what?!!!
9. The Heavens definitely came before the Earth, and just the Earth is mentioned in some verses first, as opposed to the Heavens, doesn’t mean that Allah is in error.
10. As far as the forgiveness of Allah, He does say that He forgives all. But, His forgiveness has to be earned. And, if someone dies upon associating false qualities to Allah and/or worshipping other than Him, or is carelessly, shamelessly, rebelliously, disobedient to Him, then, that person doesn’t deserve the forgiveness of Allah.
11. Referring to the groups of Angels who fought with Muhammad (Peace be upon him) & the Muslims, during the battles, against the enemies of Islam, there’s two different instances, where the Angels of Allah has helped the armies of the Muslims…so what?!!!
12. As far as the power of choice goes, yes people definitely have the choice to obey or disobey Allah. But, they don’t have the right to do so, there’s a distinct difference between a choice & a right: Choices are just biased, personal decisions, while rights are things which are divinely sanctioned & justified.
13. As far as the number of days that Allah says that it took to create the Universe, who cares which days He says, the pint is that He says that He did it.
14. Allah never says that He created Humans from water nor (blood) clots…total mistranslation of the text of the Qur’an. And, I know this personally, for a fact, because I’ve studied the Qur’an via the Arabic-Language & I’ve studied the Arabic-Language for over a decade now; Allah does mention how He perpetually creates Humans (as well as living-creatures, such as Avians, Reptiles, Amphibians, Mammals, etc.) from sexual, seminal, fluids (Sperm), and from Fallopian-Eggs/Ovum. And, referring to the other substances that Allah speaks about (such as dust, soil, clay, dirt, etc.), He’s exclusively referring to the initial creation of Adam (Peace be upon him).
15. Allah’s mercy is just like He is: Eternal, unlimited, etc. However, just like His forgiveness, His mercy has conditions, the same conditions which are necessary to receive Allah’s forgiveness are the same conditions required to receive Allah’s mercy.
16. When Allah says that He doesn’t make distinctions & commands us to not make distinctions between His Messengers (those whom were chosen to be recipients of textual-revelation from Allah, as scriptures, books, etc.), He’s making the point that created things (Humans particularly) don’t posses the entitlement to say which of the Messengers (Peace be upon them all-together) are better than the others. However, Allah is divinely entitled to determine that, and He does, really simple.
17. Allah makes it very clear, in the Qur’an, who the first (Human) Muslim is, and he is none other than the Father of Humanity, Adam (Peace be upon him). And, this is based upon two things: 1. The definition of Islam is: Submission to Allah via Tawhid (Islamic-Monotheism), to humble one’s self via obedience, and to free one’s self from Shirk (Association of false-qualities to Allah), as well as those who do so, 2. By virtue of the fact that Allah had commissioned the Human being to be Khulafa’ (custodians) over the Earth, it’s only natural that the first from among Human beings would obey Allah & worship Him properly. So, ergo, Adam (Peace be upon him) was in fact the first Muslim.(Noble Qur’an: Chpt.2, V.30-33)
18. regards to your claim that one of Noah’s sons died in the flood, the verses that you’ve mentioned doesn’t at all refute the fact that one of Noah’s sons did in fact perish in the flood. In fact, they’re referring to the other three sons of Noah, who had survived with Noah, as a result of obeying Allah, then, obeying their father a Prophet & Messenger, by accompanying him upon the ark.
19. When Allah mentions that everything upon the Earth obeys Him, He’s exclusively referring to created things which do not have free-will, the choice to either obey or disobey, freely, based exclusively upon volition. And, when Allah mentions created things which do not obey Him, He’s exclusively referring to created things (like Human beings, etc.) which have free-will.
So, basically, you’ve proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don’t know a damned thing about Islam.
There are too many contradictions that I pointed out for me to reference all here so let me just focus on a few. In number 1, I’m well aware of the abrogations in the Qur’an whereby old commandments are cancelled by newer ones. But what I get from this is that Mohammad was simply just making it up on the fly, or he was probably an epileptic who simply forgot what he previously had said. Even if I am wrong, the notion that major ideas of morality can simply be overwritten by newer commandments shows you that in Islam, in particular, morality is completely dependent on divine will, and could change at any moment. Divine command theory on morality is really sad way to base your ideas of right and wrong.
Now, surah 6:115 says “none can change his words: for He is the one who hears and knows all”. If Mohammad abrogated previous commandments, that would technically qualify as changing words. Either that or your god seems to make up morality of the fly.
For number 17, the Qur’an mentions Adam, but modern history, human archeology and genetics shows there was no original “Adam”. Humans evolved about 100,000 to 250,000 years ago in East Africa. And if you don’t know this you don’t know anything about science. So the Qur’an is wrong there too.
For number 13, you say who cares how many days the Qur’an says it took Allah to allegedly create the Earth? Excuse me? I care. Muslims claim that they have a book that is absolutely in every possible singe way 100 percent completely accurate because it is the verbatim word of god. If ONE THING is wrong in it, that cancels the whole book, because a perfect god can’t make mistakes. Whether it is 6 or 8 days it matters. But what really matters is that the Qur’an fails to mention that that the universe is actually 13.72 billion years old and that our Sun and Earth took waaaay more that mere days to create. The Qur’an merely plagiarizes the old Jewish and Christian myths and so if Judaism and Christianity falls, Islam partly does too. God doesn’t hate fags, he hates facts.
For number 14, I have 3 different English translations of the Qur’an and in verses 25:54; 24:45, they all confirm that Allah makes every animal from water. 24:45 – “And Allah has created every animal from water: of them there are some that creep on their bellies, some that walk on two legs: and some that walk on four…Allah has power over all things [except consistency]”
25:54 – “It is He Who has created man from water”
Are you telling me all the English translations are wrong? Including the the very popular Yusuf Ali version? So tell me what substitute for water is in your Arabic versions?
Now for number 9, about which came first heaven or Earth, surah 41:9-12 clearly states that Allah created Earth first, then turned to the sky and turned smoke into what becomes the heavens. So please tell me what the exact Arabic versions say in verses 41:9-12. And if you are telling me that the English translations are misguided, or that English cannot accurately communicate Allah’s message, then what does it say about a “universal” religion that is only perfect in one language?
And finally that brings me to number 18 about Noah and the flood story, which I can’t believe you actually believe, but anyway. 21:76 clearly states that Allah “delivered him [Noah] and his family from great distress” and 11:42-4 clearly states that one of Noah’s sons who thought he could seek refuge from the flood waters on a mountain was eventually murdered by Allah (since the flood according to the story was an intentional act) as it states “and the son was among those who were drowned.”
The main problem is that Noah’s flood never happened. It is an old Jewish myth that is not corroborated by any credible scientist anywhere. You seem like an intelligent guy, and I have to seriously ask you, if you honestly believe that one man put two of every animal and insect on a boat while a world-wide flood took place? I mean, seriously. That’s right up there with what crazy fundamentalist Christians believe.
To believe the flood literally took place, as did Adam and Eve and the whole garden of Eden myth, opens the Qur’an and Islam up to some intense scientific and historical scrutiny that makes it far less likely to be taken seriously. It’s silly nonsense like this that prevents skeptics like me from taking your faith with a straight face.
But I applaud you for your response, thanks.
1. Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was an illiterate Prophet & received no form of religious or secular education, which was well-known about him, during his lifetime, among his people, before he even became a Prophet & he never learned how to read or write; and, this is the main actual proof that there’s no way that he could’ve possibly made anything up from the Qur’an, from his own mind.(Noble Qur’an: Chpt.7, V.157 & 158)
9. There are many instances where Allah purposely mentions things which were created after other things which existed before them, just to make points, or to elaborate the importance of certain things. For example, Allah created a man before a woman; but there is a verse in the Qur’an that the word woman is mentioned the word man. So, what you’re ststing is actually rather baseless.
13. Again, what I’ve already mentioned before, divine-time is different from finite or infinite time. When Allah says 6-days, or 8-days, we really have no idea as to how long it could’ve really taken Allah to creat the Heavens & Earth. And, again, it doesn’t matter, the point is that Allah is the reason why the Universe exists; so, however long Allah chose to create the Universe, then, that’s just what it is.
14. Yes, I’m definitively saying that those translations are wrong, based exclusively upon my studies of the Qur’an, based upon knowledge of the classic commentaries of the Qur’an & the Arabic-Language.
17. Just because modern-science, which is automatically based exclusively upon biased Evolutionary/Darwinian concepts, doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the existence of Adam, the Father of Humanity (Peace be upon him), doesn’t mean that he never existed. It just simply means that if you’re not willing to recognize & accept the existence of a divine creator, then, of course, you won’t recognize & accept the fact that the ancestor of alll Humans is another Human, Adam (Peace be upon him), and not primates. Also, by the way, you should know this well: There’s only one reason why Evolutionists/Darwinists claim that Human-life began in Africa, because it’s the Evolutionist/Darwinist belief that Evolutionists/Darwinists believe that peoples of African-descent evolved from Primates to Humans first (i.e. that peoples of African-descent are the lowest on the evolutionary-scale, making them inferior to peoples of Asian & European-descent).
18. Yes, I, as a Muslim, believe in the story of the flood, because Allah says that it took place. Now, in regards to how it happened, how many creatures/animals were taken on-board, upon the Ark, whether or not the flood was a world-wide vs. regional flood, it doesn’t really matter-The flood happened, simply because Allah says that it happened, period.
Response to Gareth Above:
1. “Proof”? Sorry that just doesn’t cut it. Even if Mohammad never had any religious education, the old testament myths were widely known in Arabia during his time, and some of Mohammad’s friends and relatives were Christian. If you throw a lot of mud at the wall, some of it is going to stick.
9. All your response shows that that the Qur’an is inconsistent because in the English translations, Mohammad is clearly saying Earth was created first.
13. We know divine time from the Qur’an. Allah’s day is either 1000 years (22;47; 32:5) or 50,000 years (70:4). NEITHER of which are long enough to equal 13.7 human years, which is the actual age of the universe. Science wins again.
14. So only in Arabic is the Qur’an perfect. So much for a “universal” religion. Tell me what the correct translation is and cite references please.
17. ALL people evolved from other primates in Africa, not just black people. I’ve noticed a large number of black people unwilling to except this scientific fact either because some are uneducated, or they fear the association with other primates because of racism. I’ve personally traced my genetic lineage to East Africa, which is the real “Garden of Eden” if you will, the cradle of humanity. The first humans were all African for tens of thousands of years. That should unite us all, and not be a source of anger or shame. I am proud of OUR African roots.
18. If you’re willing to believe something merely because it is in a “holy” book, you have just admitted that you’re willing to believe anything on no evidence at all. It’s just like the Christians say “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” What a way to employ critical thinking.
But the larger argument here is the fact that Islam just doesn’t stand up to modern scrutiny, and to the skeptic mind, no twisting of the words will satisfy our quench for truth. If one must cast aside what tried-and-tested modern science says is true in order to be a true Muslim, this will ultimately be the downfall of Islam and all religion, because in the long run, science will always win over faith.
1. With the exception of the Christian priest, Buhayrah, (May Allah be pleased with him), who is actually recognized as a Muslim, by virtue of the fact that he had recognized the signs of Prophethood on the person of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) & excepted him as a Prophet, before his death, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) didn’t have any contact with any Christian priests or academics, until after he received revelation, the only exception being Waraqah, who is actually recognized as a Muslim, because he recognized the signs of Prophethood on the person of Muhammad (Peace be upon him). He first began receiving revelation in Makkah, where there were very few, almost no Jews or Christians. Muhammad (Peace be upon him) didn’t have concrete contact & dealings with Jews & Christians until he came to Madinah.(ar-Rahiq-ul-Makhtum/The Sealed-Nectar)
9. There are inconsistencies in the Qur’an-Just because you don’t know Arabic doesn’t mean that the Qur’an has flaws, it just means that you’re that ignorant about the Qur’an, in the context of the classic commentaries of the Qur’an & Arabic-Language.
13. You’re just tryin’ to dance around the fact that time is regulated/controlled/determined by Allah. So, since this is the case, time (like everything else is), Allah has the exclusive, divine right to determine, regulate, define time in any capacity & order that He wants.
14. All translations have benefits & setbacks, some more than others-No translation is flawless. As far as “Universal-Religion” goes, just because Arabic is the standard religious language of Islam, relative to the revelation of the Qur’an, doesn’t mean that Islam is just for Arabs. It’s just that the Arabic-Language signifies a linguistic bond, that Muslims around the world share, because it has been chosen as the language that Allah had revealed the Qur’an in.
17. Allah makes it very clear, in numerous places how Humans were created, and guess what? The evolution fable is not one of the ways that Allah tells us that Humans came into existence. Moreover, the fact that Evolutionists/Darwinists are still looking for the “missing-link”, between Primates & Humans proves that Evolution is still a myth in and of itself. I mean, there’s a very important reason why Evolution is still classified as a “scientific-theory”, as opposed to a “scientific-law”.
18. The fact that you still can’t definitively prove, with all of our accomplishments as a Human race, via science/technology, that Humans evolved from Primates (i.e. there’s no tangible standing archaeological proof that Humans evolved from Primates), proves that not only does science not lose over faith, but that Evolution/Darwinism in and of itself is a belief, a faith. You believe in something that is not 100% proven, you’re willing to use your soul as a bargaining-chip, in a gamble, based upon a theory, a belief that still hasn’t been definitively proven.
Wow this is great, I can go back and forth forever.
1. I am aware of the Islamic tradition of retroactively making non Muslims into Muslims (as is done with Jesus and Abraham etc) but that still does not dispute the fact that Mohammad knew Christians in his time, and Jewish and Christian myths were know to some of the people in 7th century Arabia. So your argument is flawed.
9. What’s more likely: that there is a “perfect” book authored by an all powerful god, and whose only flaws are a result of its translations over the years, or, that there is a man-made book whose flaws are apparent because all humans make mistakes? I’ll go with the latter, thank you.
13. This is very ontological and has little empirical value. To just assert that Allah is in “fact” the manipulator of time, without offering not a shred of evidence, allows you to attribute any characteristic to him. And if you expect me to believe that, then sorry.
If Allah created the universe at some point in the past, then there was a moment when Allah existed alone, before he created the universe. Then there was a moment when Allah exists together with the universe, after he created it. But “before” and “after” only exist when you exist in time. Therefore it is logically impossible for Allah, or anything, to do something in the absence of time. Time is just a measurement between two moments. If Allah created the universe, he had to do it at some time. To be timeless is to be frozen unto all possibilities, because the moment you create a universe, or even will to create a universe, time exists for you.
17. Here is one main problem I have with religion. “My Bible/Qur’an/Torah says this, so I believe it on FAITH.” The “missing link” has been found for numerous transitional species. Have you not read anything about evolution? First, evolution is the absolute standard in science today and it is never going anywhere. Do you honestly think that the entire scientific community is wrong on evolution, or that there is a conspiracy to trick people into thinking it’s true? Evolution is science and science always has critics trying to break it down and no one has destroyed evolution.
How do you explain Homo Erectus, homo heidelbergensis, Homo Habilis, and Homo Neaderthalis? Where do all these species fit into your creation story? These are all transitional species of our genus “homo” all of whom we share common ancestry with.
Intelligent design was put “on trial” so to speak, in Dover Penn, in 2005 and it lost from its lack of this thing called evidence and evolution won due to its overwhelming scientific evidence in the fossil record and in the DNA. I don’t have the space here to teach you evolution but here are some links:
Human Evolution:

Intelligent Design on Trial:

Gravity is still a “theory”, Einstein’s relativity is still a “theory”. You obviously ARE as ignorant to science as you claim I am to Islam (which I am not). In scientific terms, when you have a hypothesis, you try to find evidence that contradicts it. If the hypothesis or theory, can withstand many attempts to try to disprove it, it stays a theory, because there is no certitude that one cannot come along and do disprove it (which shows you that science isn’t dogma unlike religion). A theory in scientific terms is something widely understood to be true, because nothing has disproved it. It doesn’t mean that it is a fable. Did you even graduate high school?
From Wikipedia: A scientific theory is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.”
18. Darwin is not the god of atheists, but he is a revered figure, to the same degree that Martin Luther King Jr. is in the African American community. Darwin is not worshiped, we don’t submit to him, and he doesn’t command us to “kill the pagans wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush” and “Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them and satisfy the breasts of a believing people”.
There is no eternal torment waiting for those who disbelieve evolution, our position’s strength relies in the power of our arguments and the evidence from the natural world. We don’t need fear.
Finally I would like to ask you how old you think the universe and Earth and mankind is since you think I and science is wrong. And I don’t want to hear some silly “I don’t know” response. Creationism has so many flaws in it that you must be aware of. For one thing how did we get all the races of people around the world given a common descendence from “Adam” and then with the flood, in a few thousand years if it weren’t for the evolutionary process?
Anyway, thank you for your answers and the time it took you to make them. It is greatly appreciated.
I’m gonna sum this up really simply: Allah is the Eternal, He is the Lord of the Universe; He created (infinite & finite) time, while not being regulated by time Himself, thus Him being eternal. He created the Universe, and He created everyone & everything which exists within it. Now, you’ve said that you doubt the legitimacy of the Qur’an, while it’s a known fact that the one whom it was revealed to was illiterate & never formally educated, yet had all of this knowledge (about the Universe, Nature, etc.), which no one on Earth had at this particular time. Even if a person were to say, “Okay, I believe in the whole ‘Evolution’ thing; but, it is Allah who caused it to happen.”, you would still disbelieve what this person is saying, because your disbelief in a divine creator has absolutely nothing to do with anything scientific. It only has to do with you wanting an excuse to live your life without any sort of divine regulation, you basically want to worship your own ego & desires, and Atheism/Anti-Theism, as well as Evolution/Darwinsim are your tools, which you use to pursue & entertain this pathology.
Fine, you’re a Muslim and I’m an Atheist. We will never change our ways. My disbelief in a divine creator has a lot to do with science, as well as logic and philosophy as I mentioned above. The fact that everything supernatural lies beyond what can be confirmed through observation and experiment, forces me to take the default position on such assertions which is disbelief. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And vague passages in “holy” books that are half correct and sometimes completely false just won’t do it. Otherwise, I could just believe in anything on faith: Mormonism/Myths/Vampires/Werewolves/Monsters etc. And that would be naive.
Millions of Christians/Jews/Muslims believe the ‘evolution” thing. All one has to sacrifice to do this, is to believe that some passages are allegorical and not to be taken literal, as fundamentalists often can’t do.
Given the fact that Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists will have to coexist for a LONG time, I’m not here necessarily to fight constantly. You have the right to practice your faith and publicly speak about it without fear of penalty, but so do people of all other faiths and those without faith do too. What I stand for is freedom of conscious and of mind and a free and open society is necessary for this. When it comes to governments, I want total separation of religion and state. Religion to me is a private matter, and government should not be endorsing it. Freedom of speech is paramount as well, and nothing should be off the table for debate and critique. You know, I’m offended by a lot of shit I see and hear everyday, but I don’t burning buildings down or condone others who do it the minute my feelings are hurt. And I’m not saying that you are that kind of Muslim, but the Islamic world must grow up and learn to take a little criticism like the rest of us.
If you can agree with this, we all will be able to live better.



As you can see from debating with a narrow-minded Muslim fanatic, it seems that no amount of evidence brought to their attention will be able to change their mind when it contradicts their dogma, as long as they insist that a "holy" book saying something qualifies as "proof". Muslims like Gareth are not even willing to have a serious rational discussion, if they allow themselves to remain so blinded by dogmatic beliefs. All I can say, is that people like me are needed to hold back the tide of religious conservatives like Gareth who may come from all faiths and are actively trying to proselytize minds their way. If there was a naive non-Muslim and I got a hold of them before someone like Gareth did, they would be much less likely to believe his childish nonsense. And that right there is my life's mission.

Now as we will see from the next debate I have with him, we see the uglier side of the ignorance caused by Islamic dogmatic beliefs when we get into a debate over homosexuality.

How To Talk To A Muslim: The Nature of Allah

It is very rare that I come across an actual believing Muslim that I can debate with in my life, but recently I came across a blog made by an African American Muslim who writes about many hot button issues from the point of view of his Islamic faith. He had advertised his blog on the Non Believer Nation Facebook page, and that's what caught my interest. So I checked out a few of his blog posts, and naturally, as an atheist I had to take issue with many of them. So on several of his blogs, in the comment section, me and him went back and forth debating various topics, including his description of the nature of Allah, the atheistic position, and homosexuality as seen from his 7th century narrow-minded view. 

His name is Gareth Bryant, and he is an unapologetic conservative Muslim. He wrote a blog explaining his enduring love and respect for Allah and the anti-theist in me had to call out some of his brainwashed bullshit. Below is the transcript of our debate going back and forth. His blog post is linked below so you might want to read what he wrote before reading our debate. I start out apologizing to him for bugging him because this comment came after several heated back and forth comments we had on other posts. His words are in bold.

Reality of the Nature of Allah:


Sorry man I gotta bug you again. But you did say you want honest feedback from your readers…

So I have some issues with how you describe Allah. I have a problem with how the god of monotheism is portrayed in general, but in no particular order:

You mentioned that Allah is not created but is eternal. Doesn’t that mean Allah has an eternal past? Many monotheists believe God is timeless, but I don’t see how that is possible. Even the Qur’an says Allah’s day is a certain measurable length of time, whatever that may be. If Allah has an eternal past, wouldn’t it have taken him an eternity to get to the present?
Does Allah have free will since he knows everything he is going to think and do, forever? Isn’t that kind of like being an actor and having to go along with a script forever knowing that you could never deviate from it?

You mentioned that “Allah never plays practical-jokes upon people”. Really? Ever heard of the story of Abraham? Talk about practical joke. Whatever the lessen to be learned there, commanding someone to kill their son, and then saying it was all a test, is one hell of a joke. Can you imagine Abraham’s face when he found out it was all a test? Not to mention the look on his son’s face. This whole story is Allah’s intentional deception.

You said “It is impossible for Allah to be a tyrant”. Excuse me. Allah is the tyrant of tyrants. It’s his way or the highway. He demands to be loved, worshiped and feared. That sounds to be a lot like Stalin and Kim Jung-Il. Nearly every line in the Qur’an mentions this. All the verse you pointed out says is “And thy Lord wrongs not anyone.” But the Qur’an justifies slavery, sexual slavery, and Allah even uses the role of the slave to show their masters how much higher Allah is to them. I don’t think a “perfect” being would justify human slavery, don’t you?


1. When one is eternal, past, present, or future are irrelevant, this doesn’t affect Allah i any way. Yes, it’s true that things which we don’t know about, happened in the past, obviously. But, that has absolutely no affect upon Allah’s status as being eternal. Free-will is something that only applies to the creation, because free-will is something which is given, granted, allowed, allotted, etc. & it is Allah who gives-No one gives Allah anything-Allah owns everything. Since Allah is the one who sets the rules, guidelines, standards, etc., then, there’s no need for Him to be subjugated to a “free-will”, or lack thereof, by virtue of who He is, He is eternally free from any & all need, dependence, necessity, etc.

2. Allah doesn’t think, thinking is an aspect, quality of created things: What does the work think mean?Think- to have a conscious mind, to some extent of reasoning, remembering experiences, making rational decisions, etc. (Courtesy of doesn’t reason, because He knows everything, there’s nothing for Him to ponder about or investigate. He doesn’t remember, because He never forgets anything. Allah doesn’t rationalize, because He already possesses all knowledge & wisdom of everything which exists.

3. It’s never an issue of Allah having a “script”, that He can never “deviate” from-There’s no limitations set upon Allah, except those that He places upon Himself. He does however have a Sunnah (Allah has a divine-routine), and Allah mentions, in the Qur’an, that His Sunnah never changes, not that it can’t, but it will not. As Muslim, we are not entitled to place limitations, boundaries, conditions, standards, etc., upon Allah, which Allah has never placed upon Himself.

4. Allah doesn’t impose practical-jokes upon people. He has the sole right to test, anyone or anything that He so desires, we just have to deal with it.5. Allah has never been tyrannical, and He never will be. Allah specifically says, “Verily, Allah doesn’t oppress Humans at all. However, Humans do oppress themselves.”(Noble Qur’an: Chpt., V.) And, also, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has said, “Oh, My Property!!! Verily, I’ve made oppression prohibited upon Myself, as well as between you. So, do not oppress one another!!!”(an-Nawawi) Furthermore, Allah is the Lord of the Universe; and, as such, He definitely has the exclusive right to be respected, feared, loved, worshipped, etc. 


You know when I hear theists talk about their God, it reminds me a lot of North Koreans talking about their “Dear Leader”. To the North Korean the Dear Leader is always right, he’s always perfect, all thanks and tribute and gratitude must go to him. He can never do any wrong, ever. This is because they fear him, which is one of Allah’s qualities.

Now a North Korean might truly in their heart, be completely willing to submit to the Dear Leader, and destroy any will that they might possibly have for their own being and give all their control to him. But this submissive and very masochistic way of living in the eyes of others, is not something to be proud of. We in the West can easily see how ridiculous and sadistic the Dear Leader is. But most Muslims cannot see this with their own concept of God as non Muslims clearly can, because they live in fear of Allah’s wrath and they are brainwashed (as you clearly) are by its dogma, just like the North Koreans are in their country.In the Qur’an, Allah has nothing but hatred and contempt for those who do not submit to them. Anger and jealousy are not virtuous traits, otherwise we would teach our children these values positively. Therefore the core character of Allah is one that is sadistic, capricious, extremely jealous beyond comparison, totalitarian, tyrannical, who enjoys the torment of those in hell like a teenage boy enjoying a slasher movie, and whose love is only conditional as to whether you completely and blindly submit yourself as his slave.

Now do you see how free-thinking people like me don’t see Allah as anything but a cosmic “Dear Leader”. You might be fine submitting to him. But you know what, some people find happiness in slavery. Some people like giving up all their power to authority. It comes from the masochistic aspect of human nature, and religions capitalize on that. Others of us want to live our lives freely, while respecting others so that we can live in a civil society.

Allah has limitations, he can only do what is logically possible, which is why he cannot create a square circle, or another god better than him.

Now if free will is given, that defeats its whole purpose, because you didn’t have the free will for it to be given. The characteristics of Allah are not logically possible, but theists just assert them to be so, through theological wordplay. It is like the ontological arguments given about god. You’re just “defining” Allah as “perfect” without offering any proof. As I said before, having 1 flaw exterminates perfection. And jealousy, anger, and sadism (enjoy the torment of others) cancels this perfection. The same standards apply to everyone, including Allah.

But I’m sure that you, just like the North Koreans, will fail to recognize this in the one you worship, because you’re brainwashed and fearful. Your religion prevents you from applying a critical eye towards Allah or any Islamic dogma. You must take a step back, from the perspective outside of your faith in order to see where I’m coming from.


Everything that you’ve just mentioned has absolutely no basis at all. There are more uses of the word mercy & forgiveness, in the Qur’an itself, than torment or punishment. So, your statements against Allah, which are obvious lies, are not even worth me disproving. It’s just another lame-ass attempt, by you, to try to convince me to have a negative opinion of Allah, the Lord of the Universe, and it’s just not working & it could/would never work. If Allah were truly merciless, as you claim, you wouldn’t even be allowed to take your next breath. For all of the insidiously slanderous statements that you’ve just made against Allah, you don’t even deserve the intellect that He’s given you, let alone the life that He’s given you. But, out of His ultimate mercy, He still, in spite of your disgusting rebellious behavior, against Him, He still allows you to live.


Well you’ve proven my point exactly because if you’ve ever seen a North Korean react when someone points out to them the obvious truth that their leader is not really all that he is cracked up to be, they can’t even fathom for one second that that could be correct.

You mention Allah’s forgiveness and mercy. Sure, only for those who blindly submit to be his slave forever. His love is purely conditional as to whether you sacrifice your entire personality and free will to him. Now Allah could be humble. He could say “I need not be worshiped” and could act as an advice giver and give us true scientific and moral knowledge and let us make our own decisions, whether good or bad, like a father does. But no, he demands total submission and worship constantly or else he will enjoy your torment in hell. That is far from humble, or merciful, this is what you call megalomania, and there is no denying this at all.

I don’t need Allah’s permission to breath because he doesn’t exist. He only exists in the minds of the people who believe in him. And even so, there are so many different versions of God that exist inside people’s minds that it shows you that man created God, not the other way around. You believe him on faith and you have no real evidence to his existence and it is a good thing, because who in their right mind would want to live under such a demanding tyrant that you will have to submit to and worship forever like his little play thing, as merely a means to HIS end; who rewards you with watching the torment of others in hell to enjoy this sadism?

The Islamic mentality is a form of psychopathy if you think what I mentioned above (in paragraph 2) is perfectly alright because Allah’s power makes it right. It prevents one from thinking rational. Muslims believe “might makes right” and it is sad. That same mentality justifies brutal kings and dictators. When Muslims assert that “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammad is his prophet” they don’t realize that only the first 4 words are correct.



It is clear from his words that he is not even willing to come halfway in agreement with me. He sticks to his talking points insisting that Allah is perfect, wise, and merciful, and that I should be thankful that I am even allowed to breathe. This is what it is like talking to "one who submits" and I polemically compare this to a North Korean analogy. True believing, submitting Muslims like him, will never admit any problem with their god because they are brainwashed and fearful, much like their North Korean counterparts. They will blindly insist that perfection can be found in a "holy" book written 1,400 years ago.

Our other debates are even more exciting.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

God Given Rights?

I want to journey back towards the topic of god for a moment, since I've strayed from it in recent posts. I read an article recently in the Washington Post that was linked on the Nonbeliever Nation Facebook page, about secular and atheist organization's attempt to lobby Washington on behalf of atheists. The author, trying to be humorous, poked fun at the irony he saw where the atheists were using their "God-given rights" to petition their government for a redress of grievances to exclude mentions of god on our money, in our pledge, and while taking an oath. Now I have to take issue (naturally) as an atheist, with the whole idea that our rights are god given by pointing out some obvious issues.

If our rights, as described in the Bill of Rights, are god given, then why aren't those same rights simply written in the bible? Why would it have taken thousands of years after god originally revealed himself to us for our rights to be inscribed into law? It would've done the world some great justice over the last few thousand years if we were to have outlined in the bible the universal freedoms that we Americans enjoy. Furthermore, why do the rights outlined in our founding texts differ from the rights outlined in the bible? Did the practice of slavery, that is completely condoned in the bible, only become wrong when the 13th amendment was passed outlawing it? If the bible is the word of god, and it contains what our rights and freedoms are, then the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, would be blasphemy.

It is well known that the texts in which the U.S. is founded on, were inspired at least in part, by many of the enlightenment philosophers before and during that time, such as Thomas Paine and John Locke, and that many of our founding fathers were weary of religion and its influences, and that's precisely why they created a secular government free of institutional religion at the federal level. So this idea that our rights were "given" by god is at best, an attempt to insert the hand of god where it is certainly not needed.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Ego Driven Life

I feel the tremendous urge to show off on occasion. It's something that I don't acknowledge easily, but I cannot deny its existence. But why do I feel the need to show off and what do I think I am getting accomplished by doing so? By showing off you make others jealous of you, and you make them envy you, and this feeds the ego. And through this a great sense of satisfaction is obtained. Who hasn't had the desire to be envied or imitated by other people? It's one of the most basic aspects of selfishness probably that exists. But how does one reconcile the natural selfishness in human nature with the conscious understanding of its destructive capabilities?

According to Freud, sex was the primary motivation driving humans. It seems that in the modern capitalist world, sex has been equaled by money, along with power. So money, power and sex drive the ego, and generally, the more we have of them, the happier we are. But is this an illusion of happiness? The rich aren't really any happier than the average American is and according to numerous studies having more money can only buy temporary happiness, like the way a drug can. Happiness comes from a multitude of conditions. In the documentary Happy by director Roko Belic, it analyzes several metrics to gauge the happiness of people. First there are extrinsic goals. These would include things like, money, image and social status. These are contrasted with intrinsic goals. These would include things like personal growth, relationships, and the desire to help. Intrinsic goals are said to be in and of themselves rewarding because they relate to intrinsic psychological needs we all have and can thus more easily produce a state of happiness.

With these two types of goals pursued by many people, it's not hard to see how putting too much emphasis on extrinsic goals toward happiness can lead to problems because extrinsic goals are ego driven. For me it hasn't really been money so much, but I've spent quite a lot time obsessing over my image and social status. Getting just the right look, with just the right clothes, and making sure that my social status is high enough up in the hierarchy have all been very important concerns I've had, and I have had many periods of depression when it just doesn't seem to be working out. My last job for example drove me crazy because, I couldn't fit in with the people I worked with and sort of became the social outcast. I hated this social status and it resulted in massive depression, for which massive amounts of alcohol was prescribed.

The kind of happiness that derives from intrinsic goals, is clearly where the emphasis should be put. They can not only produce happiness, they have positive gains for society when put to practice. The pleasure obtained from helping others and bettering one's life and relationships is incredibly rewarding for good reason.

But this leads us back to square one, which is the problem of the ego driven life. How do I reconcile my unhealthy extrinsic goals towards happiness with the more beneficial intrinsic goals when the extrinsic goals are so powerful in their lure? Well for one thing I could squash my ego and pretend it doesn't exist. In Zen the ego is an illusion, it doesn't properly exist. But Zen also teaches of the "middle path". And since there is no dogmatic approach to Buddhism, I am free to interpret Buddhism how I please and where ever I see fit.

So using the middle path analogy that the Buddha is said to have made, whereby he described to some of his early followers who were adapt at extreme austerity measures of self mortification, of how when the string of a guitar is too loose, it becomes flaccid and cannot produce music, and when it is too tight, it snaps. But when it is just right, it makes beautiful music, pleasant to the ear. This middle path, avoiding the extremes at both ends is what we call moderation.

Using the middle way, perhaps a careful check of my ego driven pursuits with in the extrinsic goals is preferred rather than taking such extreme measures as abolishing it altogether. I know that keeping one's ego in check is not an easy task. It requires a constant reminder, and humility. I'm not the kind of person who worships money and materialism so I might have a head start over others wishing a more moderate path towards happiness and fulfillment. I'm not about to give away all my possessions and go meditate in a cave for the rest of my life. I want to live in the modern world, with its amenities and conveniences, and yes I want to look good and have a decent social status. But what I cannot do, is let myself obsess over these things to such a degree that they drive my life. And I must balance them out equally, if not more, with healthy pursuits of trying to be who I really am, building closer relationships with my friends and loved ones, and wanting and committing myself towards the help of others.


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