Saturday, July 1, 2017

Drive By Blogging: Atheism Grows, Church/State Violations, 10 Commandments Destroyed, & A New Public Debate


As I've mentioned in previous posts, lately I've been much busier than usual. To make things worse I'll also be travelling in Europe for the second half of July. I'm going to London, Paris, and Amsterdam. In addition to that I'm still working on several side projects, like our upcoming atheist conference, and so I really haven't been able to blog at the frequency I used to.

That being said let me do a rapid "drive by" blog post on several issues I could have been writing about but haven't had the time to.

First, there was some recent big news that the number of atheists might be much higher than previously reported, which usually was down near the 3-5% range, even though PEW has recorded the number of people who do not believe in god at 9%. A new study claims that the real number of atheists in the US may be as high as 26%. The trick, it seems, is all about the questioning. Asking someone directly on a questionnaire if they're an atheist will lead significant numbers of those who are atheists to say that they aren't out of the stigma surrounding the term. So instead, two groups were shown a bunch of innocuous statements like "I own a dog," "I enjoy modern art," and were instructed to answer if they were true. But the test group had an additional statement: "I don't believe in God." When comparing the test group with the control group that didn't have the atheist question, the researchers conclude that about 26% of Americans do not believe in god.

This number seems closer to me to the real number. I meet so many atheists that the 3-5% range seems awfully low. It's well known that many atheists are in the closet. Atheists continue to be among the most disliked group of people in the US. That's why we have to fight the stigma, so that atheists aren't ashamed to openly express who they are. The study's results, although encouraging, has its critics. Even if the real number is less than 26%, if it's only 20%, I'd still be happy with the results. The trend is headed in the right direction after all.

In other atheist news, the Czech Republic continues to be one of the most atheist countries in Europe, if not the world, with only 29% believing in god according to a recent PEW Research survey. 66% of Czechs do not believe in god. The country is however, an outlier among Eastern Europe, where large majorities profess belief in god.

I plan on updating a rebuttal to the kalam cosmological argument with new refutations....eventually.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Gotta Have Faith!


I'm still super busy and have little time to write good detailed blog posts, so here's a quickie. Many theists love to point to god-believing scientists as a way to validate their faith. "Look, here's a super smart scientist who believes in god, this proves religion is compatible with science."

Um, no it doesn't. Case in point: Aron Wall. He's a physicist that many theists have cited before because he is critical of some cosmological models that do not have an absolute beginning. But if you look into the guy, you can see that his belief is really grounded not good science or evidence—but in faith. Read it from his own blog:

Our belief that God is the Creator does not depend on the vicissitudes of scientific progress, the swinging back and forth of the tire swing (or is it accelerating?) It doesn't matter, because in this case we have a more certain source of knowledge than Science.

By faith!

He goes onto define faith as "confidence about what we hope for, but do not see."

That's usually what it comes down to. William Lane Craig comes to the same ultimate conclusion. All this talk of evidence is really just to reinforce his faith, that is to say what he hopes is true. And in case you want to test your faith in the decency of humanity, watch Limp Bizkit cover the George Michael original:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's Been A While...


So, it's been a while since I've written any blog posts. It's been nearly a month actually. That's the longest amount of time I think I've ever had in between posts. So what's been going on? Well, I've been really fucking busy.

First, last month I had a public debate on whether political correctness has gone too far and I finally managed to actually film this one. I just finished editing the video and it will be up online soon. I also participated in two panel discussions at the annual Left Forum where I spoke about combating the Far Right, and how we need to have honest conversations about Islam. Both of those events were filmed and I am currently editing them, with the hopes that they will be uploaded online by the end of the month.

I'm also going to be travelling through Europe this summer for a week and a half. I will be in the UK, France, and then Holland. I had wanted to do this trip for years with friends but every year plans kept falling through. So this year I was like fuck it, I'm doing this without anyone. So I will be travelling solo for most of the trip and then I will meet my sister in Holland for a "spiritual retreat," before flying back to New York.

I really want to assess the political climate in Europe and see the people and experience the culture. I keep hearing that Islamism is so much more widespread and pernicious there when compared to the US, and I'm curious if this is really true. So I'll be spending a few days in London, Paris, and Amsterdam to explore the situation. I really want to go to several local atheist meetings to see what's going on. And I'd love to attend a taping of the UK show The Big Questions where they debate moral, ethical, and religious issues facing the country.

And lastly, I've been working with my local atheist community to put together the first ever atheist conference in New York City! Amazingly, there has never been one in NYC before, and that's about to change. It's simply going to be called The Atheist Conference, and I'm going to be hosting a panel discussion on how to debate atheism, how to improve our arguments, spot our flaws, and teach atheists important tips on what to say in a debate. I'm talking with Justin Schieber of Real Atheology and Jeffrey Jay Lowder of the Secular Outpost on being on the panel with me. Both of them are seasoned debaters who know their shit and it will be a pleasure discussing our favorite atheist debating topics, and a thrill for the audience as well. I don't think anything like this has been done to my knowledge, certainly not from my perspective. The working title of my panel discussion will be, you guessed it, Make Atheism Great Again. I'm very exited about this, as you can expect.
The date for the conference will be July 6-8th, 2018, at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, a 4 star hotel that we got a great deal on where guests will be able to stay for $169 a night, a bargain in Manhattan for such a hotel. Tickets will go on sale in September. I will be posting much more about this in the future and hopefully get back to blogging at my regular schedule soon! Hopefully we'll still have a country by then!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Calculating My Student Loan Debt


I've just calculated that I've spent $49,773.45 over the past 7 years on my student loans and I still have over $7,000 to go. I've spent -$11,798.17 in interest alone. That's 23% of my total loan payments and 31% of the principle.
It's fucking unbelievable how expensive college is in the US today. I can tell you that my college was definitely not worth over 50 grand. Not even close. The quality of education I received was at best worth 15 thousand dollars.

A friend of mine moved to Germany for their free college. He's getting his MBA and no cost and he gets to take it in English! We met at the same undergraduate college, so we were both in the same situation. But he's paid off his loans and is now doing the smart thing. I would never get a master's degree in the US given our system unless I somehow got a scholarship (or won the lottery). The idea of taking on more debt is so depressing I could never even seriously contemplate it. And to make matters worse, Trump's education secretary Betsy DeVos is pealing back protections for borrowers, just as many of us suspected. 

My situation is fairly typical today. I went to a for-profit school. At the time I was somewhat naive as to what I was really getting into. But I graduated, unlike about 50% those who go to college, and in the end it worked out. Since college I have never made less than $18 an hour, and now I make nearly double that. I've always had good healthcare and benefits while employed. So if I had to do it over again, knowing that my degree did help me out, I would say that I'd probably do it over again. But I'm not fully sure on that. I definitely would've been smarter with my loans. I fucked up my loan management and ended up paying a lot more interest than I could have.

I absolutely hate the idea of being in debt to someone. With an extra 50 thousand dollars I could've put a down payment on a house. I could've bought a Tesla. I could've vacationed around the world many times over. I could have paid my rent for years. Heck, I could've bought a wife from Russia! I could have rescued a woman from poverty and gave her a new life in America. Sadly, that will never happen now. 


Student debt is crushing my generation. We're a trillion dollars in the hole. This is making the American dream of owning a home nearly impossible. It's making saving up for retirement very difficult, as young adults push back saving for a decade or more to pay down their loans during that time. 

What we need is tuition free college like other first world countries do so generations of Americans do not have to suffer under thousands of dollars of debt like I have. I proposed an idea where the cost of public college is free if you get an A in every class. If you get a B it's $50, if you get a C it's $100, if you get a D it's $150. If you fail it, you pay the full price of what it normally is in the state if it's more. Each state can set up its own cost system within federal guidelines. At the rate above, a person getting a D in every course for a bachelor's degree at 40 courses would end up paying a maximum of $6,000 in tuition. Someone getting a B in every class would pay $2,000. This is far cheaper than most students are already paying in public colleges. 

Isn't that a smart idea? Shouldn't college be cheap and affordable and incentivized to encourage students to do their best? Instead, with what we have today you can get straight As and owe a hundred thousand dollars on a bullshit degree and end up making barely $40 thousand after college. If you're lucky.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What The Democrats Need Now



I've been dreaming lately of what it would be like to be president of the United States.

I'd run as the politically incorrect liberal — the rational middle ground between the Right wing bigots and lunatics, and the bleeding heart ultra PC liberals, as that's how I see myself. I'd implement tax reform that shifts the burden onto the rich and back onto the corporations, which is what we need. I'd take no money from lobbyists or special interests or super PACs. I'd be a president that actually works for the people. There's an idea! I'd fill my cabinet with ardent populists. I'd fire anyone in any agency that wasn't down with my populist agenda that says we shouldn't have a government that works almost entirely for corporations and special interests. In other words, I'd drain the fucking swamp.

I'd reform our drug policy by immediately removing marijuana from the schedule I classification that it is in now. My attorney general would push for legalization at all costs. I'd do everything in my power for legalizing weed, whether by executive order, or by introducing legislation. I'd also push for the decriminalizing all of drugs. The DEA would be ordered to stand down on most drug enforcement policy that doesn't involve violent offenders. With marijuana legal in all 50 states a whole new economy would arise that would reduce crime from illegal gangs and cartels, and it would generate a huge new source of tax revenue and create jobs. I'm so fucking tired of stupid policies by stupid politicians, who are unfortunately voted into office by stupid uninformed citizens. My platform would be centered on the idea that the US has to be the smart country once again.

I'd put someone really smart in charge of the Department of Energy, someone who's a really thinker and innovator and who wants to move the US towards full renewable energy sources. Someone not beholden or affiliated in any way with the oil and gas companies. I'd put someone who supports the same kind of education reform as I do in charge of the Department of Education. There'd be no religious fundamentalists, or climate change deniers, or Nixonian anti-drug crusaders in my administration at all. We'd get to finally have the smart progressive policies we should have already had.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Tax Plan


As I get more and more into politics and economics I strive to one day be a policy wonk. I've been listening to podcasts like Vox's The Weeds, where they dissect and analyze public policies like the ACA, Trump's AHCA, tax policy, and trade policy, and I've become fascinated by the intricacies of policy.

Now I'm far from a policy wonk myself, and I'm still in the process of learning. What I'd like to do here is spend a few posts exploring policy proposals I've been floating around in my (still learning) head.

There is no doubt that we need tax reform in the US. The tax laws are weighted far too heavy on labor, and in particular middle class labor, who often pay a higher percentage of their income on taxes than do he rich. I've previously floated the idea of a graduated sales tax in lieu of an income tax around, but here I want to propose the tax plan that I'd implement if I was president.

Federal tax rates for individuals:






Income amount Tax rate

0 – 2,500  0.00%

2,500 – 10,000 10.00%

10,000 – 40,000 15.00%

40,000 – 90,000 25.00%

90,000 – 150,000 28.00%

150,000 – 250,000 33.00%

250,000 – 500,000 35.00%

500,000 – 1,000,000 40.00%

1,000,000 – 10,000,000 43.00%

10,000,000 – above 45.00%





For the first $2,500 dollars of earned income there would be no taxes. This is intended to give the poor and middle class some tax relief. This plan raises the highest rates to 45% and generally lowers the rates for those at the bottom of the brackets. The current tax rates top out at 39.6% for income above $418,400. But to me there should be additional tax rates for the super wealthy, as there's a huge difference between a relatively wealthy person making 500k a year, and a super wealthy person making 20 million or more a year. The person making 20 million or more a year shouldn't be paying the same rate top rate as the person barely cracking 500k.

Monday, May 8, 2017

I Don't Live As If Death Is Final



I was recently rereading the preface of the updated edition of Hitch-22, the memoir of the late Christopher Hitchens, whose diagnosis of esophageal cancer just a few months after the book's release would kill him a little over a year later. Having just learned of his diagnosis, and not knowing whether he'd celebrate another birthday, Hitchens is writing— beautifully as always — with the prospect of death staring at him in the face, and one sentence stood out on the original read that I had to read again.

If there is anybody known to you who might benefit from a letter or a visit, do not on any account postpone the writing or making of it. 

It struck me, given his insight induced by his condition, that although my naturalistic philosophy entails death is final, and that our loved ones never return to us in any way once they're gone, I certainly don't seem to be living as if that's the case. I seem to be living as if I'm going to be reunited with all my loved ones after they die, as if the amount of time I'm going to be able to spend with them is infinite.

I was recently on the phone with my mother and she told me, as many mothers do, that I don't call her enough. And it's true. I barely call my mother. I can go months without a peep. And it's not the case that I hate her; I love my mother and we have a decent relationship, so it's not like I'm trying to avoid her. It's just, you know, when we get older and move away and our parents are not in our lives and they get a little annoying with their neurotic concerns about us, there's the tendency to avoid them.

But we're acutely aware of our own mortality, and that of the others around us. And we know that if we live long enough, we will see our parents die. And then they will be gone forever. And while I know that's true, I don't seem to be living as if that's true. I don't seem all that concerned of the prospects that I will one day lose both my parents and never see them or hear from them ever again.

I've been wondering lately what that's going to be like. I feel like I might be purposely distancing myself from my parents to be less emotionally reliant on them, as an attempt to make their eventual deaths less burdensome. But is that logical? Am I missing out on worthwhile interaction with my family that I will never have when they die? Will I strongly regret this missed interaction with them when they die? I really don't know. But Hitch's advice would prescribe a visitation. And I'm sure his motivation was very real to him when he wrote it.

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