Saturday, November 27, 2010

More on Morality from an Atheistic Perspective


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

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

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

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

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

Dreams of Summer


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Generation A.D.D.


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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Same Faces Everyday


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

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

7 million riders everyday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Conversation


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

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

Then suddenly, the conversation got interesting....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Over Employment


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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Post Debate: Htchens Vs. Ramadan


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

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

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

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

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

Here's a clip from the debate:

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