Archive for April, 2012

Happy Birthday Hitch!

by on Apr.13, 2012, under Atheism


Today would have been Christopher Eric Hitchens 63rd birthday, had he not succumbed to cancer last December. And the sad fact is had he not succumbed I may probably have never  heard of him to be honest. I had been living in the US for just over a year – a country which to be honest was a great catalyst to my own Atheism – when he sadly left this mortal coil. The tributes from the BBC and others ignited a spark of curiosity in this man and upon discovering alone just that he had written a book entitled ‘God is not great’ got me excited. Upon purchasing said book I immediately found a genius whose mastery of the English language,  amazing debating ability and just his outright sense and reason made this man a hero to me, albeit sadly whilst his body lay cold.

I dearly would have loved to have seen the man debate live as he so often and passionately did usually with great success. His utter despise of religion and venomous tongue in denouncing it and all it made him to me a modern day messiah as it were – Christians talk of Jesus being the saviour yet I truly believe this man, though I am sure of his probable hatred of the terminology I use, was I think in this day and age a messiah from the nonsensical, supernatural hogwash which seems to govern so many peoples – many of whom seek office to govern our lives. His writing, his television appearances and his activism all live on thanks to the internet and modern media and whilst my life might be a little bit emptier having not come across this great man during his existance, I am sure he has inspired many – myself absolutely included – to spread the word of Atheism, reason and just the ideals of questioning everything.

Hitch, you were a great man and very much missed – but I will celebrate you today, not mourn -this life as you so well and so often said, is the only one we have. Cheers!
And in case you really want to know just what we are all missing today, here is 15 minutes of the great man doing what he did best – enjoy!

The Best of Hitchslap






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Atheist Parenting

by on Apr.02, 2012, under Atheism, Life

Being a father is absolutely life changing in so many ways – I’ve had to become incredibly responsible very quickly and this is something that I must remain for as long as I live (quite an undertaking as many who know me will vouch). I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching not just about how I should bring him up but also about myself and how I must appear to him – after all I am responsible for moulding this little chap into what I hope will be a respected and respectful human being. There are traits of myself I want him to have and others I do not – we after all are not perfect yet we strive to make our children as perfect as they can be.

I realize that as he grows he will have a plethora of questions and I imagine one day he will ask me about ‘god’ – I will of course be ensuring he gets a completely secular education but no doubt he will hear it from others – perhaps his mother who retains a sense of spirituality – but I will not as an atheist be inflicting any dogma on him of course and will fight to protect him from religious influence. As a child it would be callous to shield him from Christmas and Easter and the consumerist delights they bring (I’m already formulating these as celebrations for family, perhaps the coming of spring and so on) – but also simply as I do not want him ostracized from his peers in the playground – I’m fairly sure some atheists still do presents for each other at this time of year, especially for their kids for this very reason.

But there will come a time when I hope he comes to me and asks me about God, Allah, Yahweh or whoever and I have to treat this subject rather delicately – for one thing I will not do is deny him religion should he chose to find that, but at the same time I want him to be the most reasonable human I can make him. This throws up so many difficulties, especially when they are at a young age as you do your best to protect them. Take the example of death – heaven in this context is a nice comforter (without the religious malarkey) yet I do not want him to get  his hopes up that there is an afterlife of any sort – I want him to live the life he has now and do something positive with it and not rely on a happier place afterwards. Yet at the same time we are brought up to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny which for a child of a young age are exciting and appealing icons and again I would not like to deny him these encouragements, even if they have religious undertones.

I remember myself as a child – and something recently I read on another atheists blog that reminded me – that when I was a boy I was fascinated by radios, televisions, motor cars and so on but I had to understand how they worked – this inevitably lead me to pulling things apart which I could then not get back together again, but this did later fuel a career in electronics and nearly an apprenticeship in the Navy as an aircraft engineer. It was this early fascination with the way things were constructed which later lead to my enlightenment as an atheist as although I cannot comprehend half of how the universe works, I know what facts are known are based on science and testing and no theory about some creator really stuck with me, even as a child. I didn’t understand all the fuss about god and remember very little about the one year we went to church on a Sunday. I also wasn’t really able to comprehend why we sang about this god feller and hymns to me were more about replacing lines for something that made them ridiculous or got a giggle (onward christian soldiers I always liked but only because it for me held relevance more to my action man* or Warlord comic that I read, and that we replaced the line ‘with the cross of Jesus’ to ‘with a sterling machine gun’ – I was quite army barmy as a child and still am to be honest…)

Perhaps if I can install this curiosity in Paul he may have the same thirst for understanding that lead me to my path to reason, but I imagine that still he will want an explanation and I have a lot of research to do about how best to handle this (atheist parenting seems a good place to start). For now I think I will explain to him simply that some people who don’t have all the answers to all the questions need an anchor they can use to answer them – they are brought up to believe that the world was made by a thing called god and that they believe they must do everything to make this god happy else he will have them burn forever in a place called hell. The only thing is that no one has ever seen god, or knows what he looks like, and lots of the people who follow him argue a lot about what is right and what is wrong, even going to war over it. The things they believe are written in books that were written 2000 years ago roughly and were mostly told from ear to ear, differing every time (a quick Chinese Whisper demo here should prove a point) and each person who tells stories in these books tells it very different from the others and that lots of it we know today are not true at all, yet these people refuse to listen.

And I shall tell him that some of the people who believe in god can be evil people who think they are doing nasty things because they think it will make their god happy even though this god has never actually spoken to them. And lots of people think that without believing in this god that they would be nastier people which is not true – and that his Daddy believes if they cared more about the people around them than this magic man that they had never seen, met or spoken to then the world would be a much nicer place. And that he should go through life not trying to please someone he has nor will ever meet, but to please his parents, family and friends and make them proud through his actions and choices.And I will also say to him that like the Monster under the stairs, god does not exist.

But probably the most important thing I can say to him – to teach him – is to question everything. Question what I have said and question what others may say on the subject. Check facts where facts exist to prove theories and to accept that it is perfectly fine that we do not have all the answers now or maybe never will. And maybe if he really wants to find answers to study hard and investigate them himself – of course in this technological age the answers to most things are  a mouse click away but there are still so many unanswered questions that maybe he can help solve.

And finally I shall tell him not to worry too much about it all just now and to just enjoy being a young chap in this world and to enjoy growing up, but know that he can do this freely and without oppression from fairy stories 🙂

*Action Man is the English version of GI Joe, the popular dress up soldier doll

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An Atheist Utopia?

by on Apr.01, 2012, under Atheism

As you are probably aware the US was gripped this past weekend with lottery fever and just about everyone here – myself included – tried (mostly unsuccessfully) our luck at becoming ludicrously rich. Conversation in my local bar was of little else than what we would do with the money from the lavish expenditure to the altruistic and charitable benevolence others planned to show. Of course my James Bond Watch has and always be my primary purchase should a win occur but in conversation with a good friend (and recent closet Agnostic !) I started to relay that old classic of buying an island and making it my own country – much like the attempts made by the principality of Sealand but with slightly less underhanded tactics.

I did of course stop day dreaming about such colossal sums of money and quickly realized even with a win as big as the one on offer, after taxes and all even developing an Island to a position where it could be a sovereign state (unless it had of course its own valuable resources and a queue of hungry investors) would be probably beyond the scope of your winnings. I mean you are wanting a country with its own government, infrastructure and probably for the planned Utopia you want, enough space to invite all the right-minded people to make that Island a Utopia.

Now of course I should want an Atheist Utopia where people of like mind and reason could come together in one place and live a total secular (and religion free) existence – quite an appealing fact so you are already looking at an island of some size so everyone can happily accomodate themselves. A quick bit of research and it seems that even just 850 Acres can cost as much as 80 million US Dollars so already the plan is somewhat wobbly. You’ll need a power station, roads and sanitation. You would also need civilian protection (whilst all Atheists are generally good they’ll still need policing, as well of course as for fire/rescue and so forth), government, education, healthcare, accommodation –  and that is just scratching the surface. The cost would be astronomical and beyond a lottery win even of this magnitude.

But the silliness aside it did get me to thinking what an idea of Atheist Utopia would be like. First stop on my web travels is ‘old faithful’ or the Wikipedia entry for Utopia – without paraphrasing half the article it clearly states it’s definition of the word and varieties – Ecological, Economical, Religious, Peace/political, Feminism and Science and Technological. A further delve into these, particularly for this entry and those which are most relevant seem to be religious and scientific/technological – the former for its freedom from it, the latter as it would hope to be more conducive with our reasonable ways. However the entry is quite interesting in that the scientific entry talks only of worlds where technology assists human life to the maximum, where suffering and even death are eradicated – nice though that may seem that one is a long way off in theory.

Looking at the entry for religion I was quite miffed to find no entry for a Utopia with freedom from religion – in fact the only mention of Atheism within the entry is regarding Thomas More’s Utopia where Atheists ‘are the only despised people as they do not get rewarded for good behavior’ . Now assuming (and there is no hyperlink in the article to confirm) that Thomas More in this case is Sir Thomas More who was one of the apparent Renaissance Humanists – a movement pushing towards the teachings of science, law, natural philosophy and medicine – it seems odd that he would take such a stance – except he was a Roman Catholic and this was 1516 when he coined the very term ‘Utopia’. Anyway he was later beheaded for some of his anti-monarchy stances and also sainted apparently by the Catholics which I am sure they will still happily inform you about.

Anyway an ‘Atheist Utopia’ – well it appears to have been overlooked by certainly Wikipedia and any writers of note or hence they would have been surely mentioned. It seems that we must go to google and see if such a place has been debated or considered – it appears that in fact such a place existed – a place called Liberal in the State of Missouri. I say existed as although it is still a small town, it’s founder George Walser relapsed to spirituality (probably not helped by the missionaries who bombarded the city with their brethren to convert the godless heathens – more can be read here) and it seems nowadays this small town is just like any other American small town with about half the population adhering to some faith or another.

Whilst the town of Liberal failed because of the founder’s newly developed spirituality it at least means that it has been tried and now some 90 years on America has changed, as has the world. Would such an undertaking today be as successful? One could perhaps imagine much like areas of big cities such as New York for example where ethnic or social communities ‘adopt’ areas of the city so like people live amongst their own, could this not happen for Atheists? As a social experiment I think it would be pertinent to at least attempt. Whilst I do feel that integration and variety certainly help in conquering tensions between communities, I think also communities of like-minded and like people also bring multiculturalism and understanding through celebration and visibility. Certainly the LGBT communities which have transformed areas they have adopted have helped raise their profile and gained better understanding through this method, so I wonder if it could be the same for Atheism? Could we one day enjoy living in a neighborhood free from religion but home to reason?

It is certainly an idea – like in Liberal at first I think we would be a target to so many of the walking preachers who insist on disturbing our free time but I am sure that this would encourage debate in this day and age and hopefully after a bit of reasonable discussion and a realisation that they were at a loss – some peace. But above all I think if it were well publicized it could be a great step forward in acceptance by modern American society. It could also be a rallying point for the closet agnostics, free thinkers and skeptics looking for support. I imagine also it would be a wonderful multicultural community with people from all walks of life who chose our reasonable way of life. I’d imagine it to be a hotbed of discussion, idea and scientific discovery as like-minded people come together to share ideas and opinions free of the shadow of superstition. And through the simple ethos of morality through loving each other I’d hope it to be a safe place where people would genuinely look out for one another. And a place where people could come to escape religious persecution, to be welcomed and live a free life without fear of oppression from superstition. And a place to call home.

Sounds like a bit of a pipe dream I suppose – but it would certainly be at least an interesting social experiment. Here in New York, like many cities across the  globe religious groups often flock together to make their own communities – as have the aforementioned LGBT communities. The two are of course different in their social classification and I would like more to class us more alike  the latter, purely as the former is a religious assembly of a community, whereas the latter is more multicultural, more progressive and I think more with a point still to prove. And it is from these communities we could learn a lot – certainly they have communicated their point across by being visible, certainly colorful but also by leading by example. LGBT communities I have visited have generally been safe, clean, respectful yet not shy of their way of life. An atheistic community would have to work in the same way – our morals through our humanity would certainly go a long way to also starting safe environment, perhaps adopting a run-down community and doing our bit to clean up. One would hope our reasonable lifestyle would encourage the respect we would show to others around us and these would go towards acceptance. Be vocal about your skepticism and denial of faith but certainly respect those in the community who retain it (it still makes me cringe when the supervisor in my building, or the arabic storekeeper wishes me ‘God Bless!’ but I simply thank them as it is meant well – they know not of my Atheism). But above all it would be a great opportunity of strength through numbers.

Of course this is very much a simple idea and one that has probably been discussed before – I am new to America and new to my devout atheism, but I have found strength in community from the likes of the people at the Reason Rally. I’d hope that maybe it might at least spark a little discussion – I certainly welcome criticism. But the idea of waking up on a Sunday morning, strolling to a cafe to read the local papers and be surrounded by people who I feel comfortable and at one with -who you can look in the eye and converse with because you know you do it without fear of judgement and yet enjoy debate and ideas simply as that person – maybe that neighbor or stranger you have never met – does it with the reason and rationality, the humanity and understanding, the morality and freedom that we all hold so dear to us all.

Yeah, that to me is my Utopia



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