Monday, December 20, 2010
Posted by Mark at 11:50
Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith”. I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe”, comes across as both patronizing and impolite. Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -‐ evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe”, this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me”, but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts. Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith”. If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.” This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-‐powerful all knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god”, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.) When confronted with anyone who holds my lack of religious faith in such contempt, I say, “It’s the way God made me.” But what are atheists really being accused of? The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe”. Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities. So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God”, I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869. I used to believe in God. The Christian one that is. I loved Jesus. He was my hero. More than pop stars. More than footballers. More than God. God was by definition omnipotent and perfect. Jesus was a man. He had to work at it. He had temptation but defeated sin. He had integrity and courage. But He was my hero because He was kind. And He was kind to everyone. He didn’t bow to peer pressure or tyranny or cruelty. He didn’t care who you were. He loved you. What a guy. I wanted to be just like Him. One day when I was about 8 years old, I was drawing the crucifixion as part of my Bible-‐studies homework. I loved art too. And nature. I loved how God made all the animals. They were also perfect. Unconditionally beautiful. It was an amazing world. I lived in a very poor, working-‐class estate in an urban sprawl called Reading, about 40 miles west of London. My father was a laborer and my mother was a housewife. I was never ashamed of poverty. It was almost noble. Also, everyone I knew was in the same situation, and I had everything I needed. School was free. My clothes were cheap and always clean and ironed. And mum was always cooking. She was cooking the day I was drawing on the cross. I was sitting at the kitchen table when my brother came home. He was 11 years older than me, so he would have been 19. He was as smart as anyone I knew, but he was too cheeky. He would answer back and get into trouble. I was a good boy. I went to church and believed in God – what a relief for a working-‐class mother. You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-‐fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-‐fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists. But anyway, there I was happily drawing my hero when my big brother Bob asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said. Oh … hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that. I started thinking about it and asking more questions, and within an hour, I was an atheist. Wow. No God. If mum had lied to me about God, had she also lied to me about Santa? Yes, of course, but who cares? The gifts kept coming. And so did the gifts of my new found atheism. The gifts of truth, science, nature. The real beauty of this world. I learned of evolution – a theory so simple that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals and us – with imagination, free will, love, humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer and pizza are all good enough reasons for living. But living an honest life – for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity. So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that; they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, f— you!” Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever. Again if it was just a case of spirituality this would be fine. “Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. Buts that’s exactly what it is -‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.” You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I'm An Atheist - Speakeasy - WSJ
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Was going through old folders on my computer and found a couple of things from last year that I had forgotten about.
Before you judge me I just want to say that I needed practice in photoshop and I was probably hungover.
Thirty years ago today, Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon in the back because he couldn't find anything else to read. If he hadn't been cruelly forced to read Catcher in the Rye over and over again perhaps Lennon might still be alive today, war might have been abolished and the Beatles might have reunited to record England's World Cup song in 1998.
Unfortunately the mischievous book managed to convince Chapman to bring it everywhere with him and finally, after months whispering in Chapman's ear, he got him to carry out the final stages of J.D. Salinger's evil plan: murder John Lennon and elope with Yoko Ono.
Chapman was originally on track to completing this successfully but after the shooting he realised what he had done and decided he couldn't let Salinger complete his evil plan.
However, he feared reprisal from the brutish novelist whose notorious temper was the stuff of legend, so he decided to turn himself in, and feigning instability, cited the book as the reason he did it.
The authorities misinterpreted what he meant by claiming the book was responsible, but one of the arresting officers was on Salinger's payroll so he was unable to explain himself properly.
In the end though, Chapman had done enough. Salinger's name was now permanently linked with Lennon's murder and any attempt of his to try and court Yoko would have caused a media shit storm.
"Catcher in the Rye" continues to sell consistently to this day and up until his death last year Salinger had become rich from his plot to have Lennon assassinated. However despite all his gold chalices and fur coats (which he was known to parade around the bars of New Hampshire in) he was never ever able to befriend Yoko Ono.
He struggled with the past however in his later years, and he began to feel enormous guilt for what he had done to Lennon. On his deathbed, confessed everything to his son Matthew and begged for the world to forgive him.
His estate later officially apologised to Yoko Ono. Chapman had his sentence reviewed after the apology and was released from prison. He went into acting, most notably starring in "The Killing of John Lennon". Danny DeVito was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as the book.
*It's worrying what can come out of your mind sometimes. By way of an apology for these nonsense ramblings here are some of my of favorite Lennon songs.
9 October 1940 - 8 December 1980
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
I was bored and hungry so decided some smarmy Christmas cheese was in order...
Monday seems like a good day for demotivational posters. We've all seen millions of these over the last few years but I came across some the other day that I hadn't seen before that had I been a few years younger I might have actually performed the elusive rofl. Fortunately though, I held it together and merely lol'd.
Dignity still intact so....
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
03.12.2010 In my recent article Ward Churchill: The Lie Lives On (Pravda.Ru, 11/29/2010), I discussed the following realities about America's legal "system": it is duplicitous and corrupt; it will go to any extremes to insulate from prosecution, and in many cases civil liability, persons whose crimes facilitate this duplicity and corruption; it has abdicated its responsibility to serve as a "check-and-balance" against the other two branches of government, and has instead been transformed into a weapon exploited by the wealthy, the corporations, and the politically connected to defend their criminality, conceal their corruption and promote their economic interests; and, finally, that the oft-quoted adage "Nobody is above the law" is a lie. Some critics were quick to dismiss my article as politically motivated hyperbole. But with the recent revelations disclosed by Wikileaks, it appears that this article did not even scratch the surface, because it is now evident that Barack Obama, who entered the White House with optimistic messages of change and hope, is just as complicit in, and manipulative of, the legal "system's" duplicity and corruption as was his predecessor George W. Bush. For example, as I stated in the aforementioned article, the Obama administration has refused to prosecute former Attorney General John Ashcroft for abusing the "material witness" statute; refused to prosecute Ashcroft's successor (and suspected perjurer) Alberto Gonzales for his role in the politically motivated firing of nine federal prosecutors; refused to prosecute Justice Department authors of the now infamous "torture memos," like John Yoo and Jay Bybee; and, more recently, refused to prosecute former CIA official Jose Rodriquez Jr. for destroying tapes that purportedly showed CIA agents torturing detainees. Predictably, the official mantra supporting these refusals is that "exhaustive" investigations had been conducted. But now, thanks to Wikileaks, the world has been enlightened to the fact that the Obama administration not only refused to prosecute these individuals itself, it also exerted pressure on the governments of Germany and Spain not to prosecute, or even indict, any of the torturers or war criminals from the Bush dictatorship. This revelation invariably leads to three inescapable conclusions: these so-called "exhaustive investigations" were a sham; the Obama administration never intended to prosecute such crimes and, in fact, went to inordinate lengths to cover them up; and the American government has the proven capacity to influence the legal systems of other countries. And now, given the fact that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is facing criminal charges in Sweden, it is also evident that America even has the Swedish government and Interpol in its hip pocket. Of course, I do not know if Assange committed the crime he is accused of. I do know that to the American legal "system" the truth is irrelevant. The minute Assange revealed the extent of America's criminality and cover-ups to the world, he became a marked man. And America is going to do anything it can to silence him. Already we see the treacherous Joe Lieberman, the man who almost single-handedly killed the "public option" in the health care reform bill so insurance companies can continue to enjoy record profits, intimidate an American server into discontinuing its transmission of Wikileaks. And we see many right-wing commentators demanding that Assange be hunted down, with some even calling for his murder, on the grounds that he may have endangered lives by releasing confidential government documents. Yet, for the right-wing, this apparently was not a concern when the late columnist Robert Novak "outed" CIA agent Valerie Plame after her husband Joseph Wilson authored an OP-ED piece in The New York Times criticizing the motivations for waging war against Iraq. Even though there was evidence of involvement within the highest echelons of the Bush dictatorship, only one person, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted and convicted of "outing" Plame to Novak. And, despite the fact that this "outing" potentially endangered the lives of Plame's overseas contacts, Bush commuted Libby's thirty-month prison sentence, calling it "excessive." Why the disparity? The answer is simple: The Plame "outing" served the interests of the military-industrial complex and helped to conceal the Bush dictatorship's lies, tortures and war crimes, while Wikileaks not only exposed such evils, but also revealed how Obama's administration, and Obama himself, are little more than "snake oil" merchants pontificating about government accountability while undermining it at every turn. Of course, I realize that analogizing the Plame case to Wikileaks is imperfect, and I certainly do not support the release of documents that could endanger any lives. But it should be remembered that threats to murder Assange are just as reprehensible. In addition, they may serve to dissuade future whistleblowers from raising legitimate concerns about government corruption and criminality. And I should also note that while I avidly support the prosecution of those who lied, tortured and committed war crimes during the Bush dictatorship, I certainly do not, unlike some critics of Assange, advocate or support any violence against them, or against any human being, regardless of his or her politics. Now there is talk of charging Assange under America's so-called "espionage" statutes. But American history has shown how these statutes have been incessantly used to conceal government criminality. When the United States Constitution was being created, a conflict emerged between delegates who wanted a strong federal government (the Federalists) and those who wanted a weak federal government (the anti-Federalists). Although the Federalists won the day, one of the most distinguished anti-Federalists, George Mason, refused to sign the new Constitution, sacrificing in the process, some historians say, a revered place amongst America's founding fathers. Two of Mason's concerns were that the Constitution did not contain a Bill of Rights, and that the presidential pardon powers would allow corrupt presidents to pardon people who had committed crimes on presidential orders. Mason's concerns about the abuse of the pardon powers were eventually proven right when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, when Ronald Reagan pardoned FBI agents convicted of authorizing illegal break-ins, and when George H.W. Bush pardoned six individuals involved in the Iran-Contra Affair. Mason was also proven right after the Federalists realized that the States would not ratify the Constitution unless a Bill of Rights was added. But this was done begrudgingly, as demonstrated by America's second president, Federalist John Adams, who essentially destroyed the right to freedom of speech via the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to say, write or publish anything critical of the United States government. Years later, Adams' precedent would resurface during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, this time via the Espionage and Sedition Acts. Although these laws were designed to prohibit criticism of America's involvement in World War One, mainstream religious leaders who criticized the war were rarely prosecuted, but persons and political organizations considered to be "radical," like Socialist leader Eugene Debs and members of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union (IWW), were imprisoned and their organizations decimated. The McCarthy era of the 1950s brought forth the full power of the Smith Act, which was allegedly created to punish communists who advocated the violent overthrow of the United States government, but was ultimately used to blacklist and, in many cases, economically destroy members of the political left. During the 1960s and 70s, after the courts diluted much of the power of the Sedition laws, government tactics used to "neutralize" persons and political organizations became more covert. Some, like actress Jean Seberg, had false rumors circulated about them in an attempt to destroy their careers. (Seberg ultimately committed suicide as a result of one of these rumors). Others, like Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, were framed and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. And still others, like Chicago Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, were murdered outright. The ironic thing about these so-called "espionage" acts is that they actually invert the concepts of crime and punishment. Most criminals break laws that others have created, and people who assist in exposing or apprehending them are usually lauded as heroes. But with the "espionage" acts, the criminals themselves have actually created laws to conceal their crimes, and exploit these laws to penalize people who expose them. The problem with America's system of government is that it has become too easy, and too convenient, to simply stamp "classified" on documents that reveal acts of government corruption, cover-up, mendacity and malfeasance, or to withhold them "in the interest of national security." Given this web of secrecy, is it any wonder why so many Americans are still skeptical about the "official" versions of the John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, or the events surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001? In the past, whenever I wrote about the evils of the Bush dictatorship, I often quoted a question folk singer Phil Ochs rhetorically asked during a 1968 concert in Vancouver, Canada: "What can you do when you're a helpless soul, a helpless piece of flesh, amid all this cruel, cruel machinery and terrible, heartless men?" Ochs subsequently committed suicide in 1976, and while I am uncertain that this was the correct path to take, I can certainly understand his frustration. Although the election of Barack Obama gave rise to the "outrage" expressed by the so-called "tea party" movement, if there is any political group in America that has a right to be outraged, it is the Progressives. They bought into Obama's message of change and hope, believed that the criminals of the Bush dictatorship would have to answer for their crimes, and naively dreamed that America's respect for peace, justice and human rights would be restored. But, as Wikileaks and the antics of Obama's "Justice" Department have shown, the Progressives were deceived. Yet, as in the past, they are forced to be supportive of Obama's duplicity because the alternative is worse. I want to believe that the Wikileaks documents will change America for the better. But what undoubtedly will happen is a repetition of the past: those who expose government crimes and cover-ups will be prosecuted or branded as criminals; new laws will be passed to silence dissent; new Liebermans will arise to intimidate the corporate-controlled media; and new ways will be found to conceal the truth. What Wikileaks has done is make people understand why so many Americans are politically apathetic and content to lose themselves in one or more of the addictions American culture offers, be it drugs, alcohol, the Internet, video games, celebrity gossip, text-messaging-in essence anything that serves to divert attention from the harshness of reality. After all, the evils committed by those in power can be suffocating, and the sense of powerlessness that erupts from being aware of these evils can be paralyzing, especially when accentuated by the knowledge that government evildoers almost always get away with their crimes. The prevalence of such evils can shatter faith in goodness and sometimes even in God. They can transform virtues like honesty, compassion, and hope into vices and make those who cling to them suffer in poverty, depression and sorrow. So shame on Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and all those who spew platitudes about integrity, justice and accountability while allowing war criminals and torturers to walk freely upon the earth. And shame on Germany and Spain, and all those other guilty countries, for allowing their sense of justice to be distorted by a nation that doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word. And damn the right-wing outrage over the Wikileaks revelations. It is the American people who should be outraged that its government has transformed a nation with a reputation for freedom, justice, tolerance and respect for human rights into a backwater that revels in its criminality, cover-ups, injustices and hypocrisies. So savor the Wikileaks documents while you can, because soon they'll be gone. And for the government criminals of the world, and for those who protect them, it will again be business as usual. David R. Hoffman Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru
Posted by Mark at 12:05