December 26, 2007

An Atheist Jew On Christmas

Yom Kippur is supposed to be the date of intensive reflection for Jews. But the real time for that, at least for secular Jews, is Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

It really is the time of the year that Jews don't feel part of Western culture. It doesn't last long tough. I remember as a kid feeling like an outcast of sorts during Christmas. The majority of kids seemed to have something on me. It caused an empty feeling, though I had the same feelings after summer holidays when my Jewish friends came back from Jew camp (I never went to Jew camp. I never got to experience a Jewish campfire where Kosher marshmallows were roasted and eaten, and then washed down with the blood of gentile babies).

As I grew older, company Christmas parties at first made me feel like I was some sort of alien observer, but after a couple of drinks, the thought disappeared. I've since rationalized that Christmas parties are all about a free buffet and getting hammered, something that can be enjoyed by all faiths and the faithless.

But even today, going to my Christmas celebrating neighbour's homes for a Christmas visit, makes me feel like Mork from Ork. I just don't belong. And I have a paranoid feeling that my hosts don't feel I belong either.

This year was really good for reflections because my wife volunteered to work on Christmas day, leaving me in solitary confinement.

Now for my 2007 Christmas Day reflections:

1. Do most people who celebrate Christmas realize that even if the Jesus myth was even close to being accurate, Christmas could not have possibly be Jesus' birthday? Not that Jesus ever existed anyway.

2. I keep hearing about a War on Christmas, but I don't see any casualties. Christmas came and went like it does every year. Everyone who wanted to celebrate it, did so.

3. Why in the hell did I get married? What was I thinking? (Actually this reflection occurs a few times a day, not just at Christmas)

4. I spent some time on the Liberty Forums. Not only is the Forum filled with Islamic sympathizers, it also has many Jew haters, as well as moon landing deniers, 9/11 conspiracy theorists and creationists. Why can't most creationists who "debate" evolution on the internet just be honest? Why can't they admit that they have no science that backs up what they believe, and the best they can do is poke holes in real science? Why can't they say that they just don't accept evolution because it doesn't fit in with their literal interpretation of their little book of myths? Do they realize that they are being as dishonest as they really are?

5. Will my voice ever come back? It has been 9 months since my vocal cords apparently got abused to the point that they won't touch much anymore. I really don't want an operation to repair them where they have to go in through the neck. I'll wait until they perfect laser surgery in this field, or until my voice comes back to normal on its own.

6. Since this is all there is, why am I not having a multitude of extramarital affairs going on endlessly? What horrible innate genetic defect is giving me such high ethics and strong moral compass?

7. I'm running out of time to be really famous. I'll be 47 in a month.

8. Despite the emptiness and alienation Christmas brings to me, I think it is a fair trade off for not having to be compelled to shop and act like a phony. I'm sure Christmas is a stressful time of year for many.

9. Of course, I watched some TV. One type of commercial really bugs me. That is the one where they try to sell a TV screen that is supposed to be of higher quality (I know they are of higher quality), but they show you their screen as if I'm supposed to say "Wow, look at the quality of that picture I'm looking at right now (on my inferior TV), I'm going to get one, the quality of that picture was amazing."
I just find that commercial to be a complete insult to my intelligence.

10. Why do I feel compelled to finish this with a number 10? Forget it, not going to happen.

Thanks to my Communist blog buddy Renegade Eye for alerting me to this video (How can anyone be a Communist? Really?):

December 21, 2007

Thoughts On The Destructive Black Hole Galaxy

I'm not an astrophysicist, I'm just a layman. Astronomy theory makes my head hurt, so pardon my simplistic interpretation of the news that a bully black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy.

I tend to accept all real evidence. From there, I usually compose, in my mind, the simplest theory to explain the evidence, as long as it has nothing to do with accepting something supernatural happened. This is how my mind rationalizes things. I'll also note that I've yet to run across any event or piece of evidence that needed a supernatural explanation since becoming a full fledged atheist. My simplistic understanding of science covers all the bases.
Now this Islamic Jihad-like black hole which is wreaking havoc on an innocent neighbour, for no real valid ethical or moral reason, has opened the door to my imagination.

I'm a very strong believer that life exists on countless other planets and were most likely formed the way life was formed on earth. Of course, there has to be many earth like planets, and it is highly probable that life evolved on them much like it evolved here. Given the laws of science that make our universe work (I do believe in other universes, most failed universes, that have physical laws the same or similar to ours), and looking at the intelligent life forms on our planet, I'm pretty confident that most intelligent life forms have anything from four to eight limbs, a head, eyes, and ears, as well as a respiratory system, and yes, a brain.
That being said, I doubt very much we are alone in our own Milky Way Galaxy, and the Galaxy being attacked, most probably has, or until this recent attack that started 1 million years ago or so, had intelligent, self aware life.

One thing that I haven't quite figured out is light year stuff. I've read that this homicidal black hole is located over 1 billion light years away from us. Does this mean that the devastation is happening now, or did it happen 1 billion years ago? That makes a difference because it might limit how much life evolved in the attacked galaxy. I'm going to assume we are talking real time for the rest of this post.
Think about it. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of earth like planets in that attacked galaxy. What are they thinking? Many of the planets probably have life forms intelligent enough to realize what is happening (their scientific communities), but what about their general populations?

I have to add, I'm also a strong advocate in the belief that susceptibility to believe in a higher power, or the supernatural, evolved in any self aware intelligent beings ancestral past. There is a point when the being has evolved to become self aware and understands the idea of mortality, but doesn't have the scientific understanding to explain many every day things. For our ancestors, I like using the example of lightning. In order to stay sane and live to procreate, these unscientific self aware beings need to invent a reason for unexplainable events, of course, this goes hand in hand with the evolution of our imagination, something that is evident when it comes to man and the strides we made when it came to invention and innovation. Note: I got a lot of these ideas reading the God Part Of The Brain. I recommend the book strongly, though I don't agree with the author when it comes to his over emphasis on the specialness of humans.

Back to the galaxy that is being clobbered with death rays. I have a strong feeling that most of the intelligent beings on an earth like planet are freaking out right now if they are still alive, or they at least freaked out for as long as they could breathe once they found out what was happening. It must have terrible. Kind of like what would happen here on earth if something doesn't get us before the Sun burns out. How will those doomed humans handle things? By then, the idea of God will be deader than dead despite our evolutionary susceptibilities. Most likely a large Exodus would abandon Earth by then.

The earth-like planets in Galaxy 3C321 are probably full of Fundamentalists, who are blaming the destruction on God's vengeance. Maybe they have too many gays, or too many atheists. God is very angry. Lets say they have TV's and newspapers. Debates are going on with the Fundies pleading to everyone to come to God so he might stop his wrath, or more probably stating "The End Is Near," while the Secularists are telling them to "shut up already, if you didn't waste the resources of so many beings who bought into your crap (the possibly smarter ones who were brainwashed to deny science), we might have figured out a way to get the hell out of this galaxy by now."
I still can't get away from another analogy. If this was happening to us right now, the Palestinians would still be lobbing bombs into Israel from Gaza.

December 17, 2007

Man Is Evolving Faster Than Ever, But Ron Paul Doesn't Buy It

Cool article: Are humans evolving faster? Findings suggest we are becoming more different, not alike

Researchers discovered genetic evidence that human evolution is speeding up – and has not halted or proceeded at a constant rate, as had been thought – indicating that humans on different continents are becoming increasingly different.

The idea that change happens in different environments is the basis for evolutionary mechanisms to go wild. It makes sense that since man share common ancestry in Africa 60,000 or so years ago, that many have diverged a lot since then from those who even remain indigenous to Africa today. Of course, even more dramatic environmental changes have occurred since the end of the last ice age over 10,000 years ago which led to the agricultural revolution (leading to many changes in our diet and evolutionary changes in the way some populations digested foods).

7% of our genes are undergoing rapid evolution today.

Will the fact that the world is getting smaller (with respect to immigration, mixed marriages and globalization), begin to homogenize our species going forward? That is a good question. We still have all sorts of very different environments on the globe today, and they are going to go a lot more unstable as time goes on. It will probably lead to even quicker evolution and more diversity.

And yes, I realize we aren't talking man turning into a new species (YET) Fundy lurkers. But I will ask you, since most of you believe in microevolution, where does evolution stop?

OK, now about Ron Paul. Here is why he cannot be President.
Skip forward to around the 2:45 mark. That is when some hick sounding individual asks "Dr." Paul if he believes in evolution:

"...and I um, I uh I er, I think there there it's a theory, the theory of evolution and I-I don't accept it."

From Wikipedia
Ron Paul received his doctorate at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC in 1961 and he served in the Air National Guard while completing his residency (1965–1968), having switched to ob/gyn at the University of Pittsburgh. To be fair, the science behind DNA was in its infancy in the 60's, but I find it maddening that many doctors don't believe in evolution in today's day and age (18% of doctors believe God created man in his present form) This study was done in the US where 50% of those surveyed also believe God created man as is.

To me, this means doctors don't really have to think about the biology part of their studies. They just need to memorize and pass the test. I doubt many medical researchers don't believe in evolution though. That really would be troubling.

All I can say is that you cannot give the power of Veto to someone who doesn't believe in evolution in 2007 and beyond. I don't care how much they say it isn't an election issue. If a President is that ignorant of the actual past, he can't be trusted to take America into the future.

A few more things:

Those who don't believe in evolution tend to be more intolerant on issues of homosexuality, for example (it is a choice or a curable disease, not something one can happen during fetal development or something one is genetically predisposed to). This has to cloud one's judgment and bias them on certain issues.
They also obviously deny reality, and their perception of how they deal with evidence has to be questioned in a big way (um, maybe like George Bush Jr.). There is too much information out there for anyone with an objective POV not to accept evolution.
I might accept a politician who said "I don't have enough information on the subject." But when someone states they don't buy it, that means they "thought" about it, and they are making an "informed" decision.

December 13, 2007

Richard Dawkins Admits To Being An Atheist Christian

In a recent interview, Richard Dawkins stated: "I'm not one of those who wants to stop Christian traditions.
This is historically a Christian country (Britain). I'm a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims."

His comment makes perfect sense. Even though I'm uncomfortable with calling Canada or the USA Christian countries, I could rationalize the UK being a Christian country historically. All three countries have definitely been influenced big time by the overwhelming Christian majorities over time historically.

The UK historically recognized Christianity as a state religion, but especially today, it does not require her citizens to follow the religion. This is not true of America.

Of course, in many regions of the US and Canada, the vast majority of inhabitants are Christians. It is impossible and really unnecessary to escape the Christian culture.
Could someone escape the Jewish culture in any Jewish community in any large city in the US or Canada?

But it is deeper than that. As an atheist Jew, I at least have Webster's Dictionary and the majority of the world allowing me to keep my Jew status. Dawkins doesn't have such luxury.
But just as most of my Jewish friends, cousins, and aunts and uncles celebrate Jewish holidays, go to synagogue (mostly very occasionally), and at least claim they believe in the Jewish God, Dawkins and most ex-Christian atheists or atheists who had Christian parents, have things very similar to me as far as family and friends go.
I often use the stereotypical example of an Irish Catholic who becomes atheist. From all that I know (mostly from comedies and cartoons on the subject), it is farcical to think that someone from an Irish Catholic family could possibly remove himself from the Irish Catholic culture. It wouldn't be a stretch, to me anyway, to call this person an Irish Catholic atheist.

This debate can go further, because who is to say exactly to what degree any Christian believes in Christ. What percentage of time does a Christian have to believe in the myth of Jesus to be considered a Christian? From my understanding, you can believe, have doubts, even reject, then have doubts again, etc. and still celebrate Christmas and Easter. Who knows what degree of acceptance each Christian has at Christmas time when it comes to the entire Jesus story, and the state of belief each Christian is in at the time.

Dawkins goes on: "So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I'm not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.
If there's any threat these sorts of things, I think you will find it comes from rival religions and not from atheists."

I feel the same way. I consider Christmas to be a very good time of year for friends and family to get together, and eat, drink and be merry. I view it in the same way I view Halloween. I don't want to eliminate either, and I have no problem wishing someone Merry Christmas or Happy Halloween or Happy Thanksgiving. I even sent out a few "Holidays cards" that said Merry Christmas on them.

As far as Dawkins contention that it is other religions that are trying purge Christmas, I think atheists in the Americas have a play in it as well (though purge isn't a good word for it):

I like Christmas songs, as long as they don't mention the mythological guy from 2000 years ago. I have no problem with Jingle Bells or Jingle Bells Rock being played in a school, but I do draw the line when it comes to Away In A Manger. I have no problem with it being sung on TV, or the streets (though I would find it annoying), or a household or a place of worship.

Back to Dawkins, I think the term atheist Christian is rejected so much because ex Christians are generally trying to disassociate themselves from the whole Christian thingy. But it really is impossible to escape the Christian culture here in Canada, or the US, and Britain. If 8 out of 9 of your immediate family members outside of your home identify themselves as Christian, and you grew up with Christian beliefs, I have no problem calling you an atheist Christian.

December 9, 2007

The Gospel Of Evolution

So it aint perfect, but Reverend Michael Dowd is AOK in my books. He lives in a van and he calls himself a Christian (a Progressive Christian Evangelist), but he really is someone who believes in theistic evolution with Jesus on the side.
From Wikipedia:
Theistic evolution, less commonly known as evolutionary creationism, is the general opinion that some or all classical religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with some or all of the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not a theory in the scientific sense, but a particular view about how the science of evolution relates to some religious interpretations. In this way, theistic evolution supporters can be seen as one of the groups who deny the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science; that is, they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not be contradictory.

Dowd has a blog. His newest blog entry promotes his book which is available for free online:
Evolutionary Christianity
December 6th, 2007

Some devout Christians initially express concern when they see the wide range of individuals (including many non-Christians) who have publicly endorsed my book, Thank God for Evolution!: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World. If its broad appeal is also a stumbling block for you, I invite you to sample first my 12-page “Evolutionary Christianity” essay. Then, as led by the Holy Spirit, prayerfully follow your heart in deciding whether to engage with the book itself.

Thank God for Evolution! is not for everyone. I wrote it with five very different audiences in mind:

1) Those who embrace evolution but don’t have joy, peace, or a deep sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

2) Mainline Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and Anabaptist believers.

3) Progressive, Emerging Church, and New Thought Christians.

4) WWJD-type evangelical “Christ followers” (i.e., those committed to following Jesus “in His steps”).

5) Anyone and everyone struggling with their ’sinful’ or addictive nature.

Thank God for Evolution! is NOT intended for those whose walk with God is solidly embedded within a strict, literalist interpretation of scripture. But those who experience twinges of doubt when the book of Genesis is used line-by-line to explain the creation of this world are likely to experience this perspective, not as a breath, but as a gust, of fresh air.

Rather than diminishing the core teachings of religious faith, the “Evolutionary Theology” introduced in TGFE! shows how undeniably real and universally true many of the central insights of religion really are, AND it does so in a way that also makes sense from non-religious (and even anti-religious!) perspectives. For more on this, again, see my Evolutionary Christianity essay.

Here is a quick video, The Gospel of Evolution, where he shows that he is far from a reality denier and he has a pretty good sense of humour as well:

Watch his other Youtube videos videos here.

To Dowd, God is at least the universe (though he thinks God is much more than that) and that FACTS are the language of God. He obviously believes in an allegorical bible, which means he could easily believe in an allegorical Christ, Adam and Eve, Noah, etc.

Christians like Dowd and Ken Miller (A Catholic) still hold faith that the bible's message was a message from God, and the Word is the important message. Though Dowd still believes God continues to speak to mankind with each and every new fact and discovery.

I've said this before, I don't have a problem with theistic evolution because it doesn't involve denying facts like evolution and an ancient earth and universe. It just adds God's hand to the equation. And those sneaky theistic evolutionist basturds know that we can't disprove the God they are throwing at us. We've evolved a susceptibility to be superstitious and believe in the supernatural to explain questions we can't readily explain and/or understand, so I understand how hard it is to go the next step and say "I don't believe."

An excellent interview of Michael Dowd can be found here, done by

I'm pretty sure many Christians don't want to call him a Christian. Mitt Romney and the rest of the Mormons have the same problem but for a different reason:) In Michael Dowd's case, a real Christian can't possibly believe in evolution, at least according to many Christians.

I always liked this analogy: Creationists twist science to fit it into the bible, while theistic evolutionists twist the bible to fit it into science.