Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

What It Takes To Convert An Atheist

jesus

Caucasian Jesus

How Jesus probably looked like, sans Kefiyeh

A picture of a Palestinian middle-aged man. How Jesus probably looked like, sans Kefiyeh. Acknowledging this would make wingnuts turn into pagans, since only pagans at the time of Jesus were Anglo-Saxon.

Over at the atheist mecca of Pharyngula, yet another broiling comment section ensues due to the latest conversion of former atheist blogger, The Raving Atheist (who apparently will be “The Raving Theist” from now on).

Many considered the possibility that it’s a hoax (still possible in my book, but I really can’t say one way or another), or that TRA was somehow goaded or wooed into his conversion. A few thought that a spade is actually just a spade and that TRA reached a decision in his life to follow his heart, and that no “violence” of any kind was inflicted, nor trickery used, on TRA.

I for one am not going to predict or ruminate on the matter of TRA’s particular conversion story. I would, however, say that I know what kind of events lead people to completely change their worldview, and Jeremiaically call the atheists’ bluff of certainty in their lack of faith (says I, a die-hard atheist).

See, I believe based on the books I’ve read about human nature, biology, and the cognitive dissonance we so often employ, and my personal experience, as well, that humans think and feel very differently. Manyย  times during my life, I feel certain things which I know for a factย  are patently false. I admonish myself, banging my head on the wall with accurate rationalizations to try and alleviate the damage my intuition and emotions cause. Sometimes it works.

The point I wish to make is that atheists make the decision to become heathens based on what they think (at least, atheists like me, who simply spent a few weeks with Dawkins and talkorigins and did the math). When I “became an atheist”, it wasn’t as though I needed any special encouragement from Dawkins or from any other atheist spokesman. Atheism was merely a result of a long string of computations I conducted faced with the evidence and non-evidence available.

What I feel, though, sometimes has nothing to do with evidence, but merely with the way my brain functions.

I say all of this because TRA didn’t say jack zilch about what made him think that Christ is his savior and why he knows that God exists and that he watches over him. Nope. TRA believes, and “knows God” in the “other ways” necessary to know him that Dawkins alluded to when he wrote :”There are many ways of knowing besides the scientific, and it is one of those ways that are needed for us to know God”.

There’s a point to this besides telling my “fellow atheists”ย  that they shouldn’t be so snarky at the bible-thumper formerly known as TRA. I wish to give an explanation as to why TRA converted in the first place, while trying to base it on the modicum of evidence available.

When mom died, I still remained an atheist. I was lonely, crazed, inflicted with mental illness and growingly paranoid. I didn’t find God, even though in these parts, God is almost everywhere (metaphorically speaking). I did, however, drastically departed from the person I was. I became, in many respects, my former exact opposite. This is the result of emotional trauma, not of rational thought, and everyone, atheist or not, can and often will turn against his beliefs and convictions when pressed hard against the wall with the hot-poker of reality.

I say then to anyone comfortable in his intellectually-based atheism: your atheism is a result of your personal worldview, and like all humans, your worldview is malleable, and mostly so when reality throws a hot cauldron full of shit into your life.

Addendum

I wouldn’t write this post the way I did if TRA’s post about his conversion contained anything besides appeals to emotion, evidence-wise. With all due respect to what I wrote vis. the way emotional turmoil can change a person, when I use my head to think and not my heart, I take every input cum grano salis, and in the case of amazing conversion stories like this, cum multis granis salis.

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Who’s The Culprit?

It is often said (mainly by apologetics, and in a way, that’s how they’re defined) that religion is not to blame for religious bigotry or for religiously-motivated violence. The garden variety argument is that even though evil people can be religious, it is not religion itself that is responsible for their crimes and evil deeds.

An interesting discussion has sprouted at Sisyphus Fragment, and most interestingly so, the line of defense was held not by religious apologetics, but simply by everyday rational, coherent, intelligent people. The crux of their argument is that religious people would be ignorant to simply use religion (or brainwashed, and the difference is tricky) as a means to do evil, and that religion is not the only thing that’s being used to promote evil causes. This is very much true, and since no one said that religion is the only cause for evil, quite irrelevant in the defense of religion as a culprit.

An interesting argument defending religion arose when someone said that religion itself is not evil, but can be manipulated by evil men, and those attacking religion is not only pointless, but can be counter-productive. I’m not going to say anything about it being counter-productive not because I can’t imagine it being productive, but because I much rather base such a claim on credible sources and not just scatter historical examples and thought experiments.

What I will say, however, is that it is an interesting reduction of human evil to say that no doctrine of its own is culprable, including religious doctrine, but that only human beings are. In that respect, Nazis aren’t culprable by their adherence to the party, but only by the fact that they gassed prisoners to death (well, it’s more complicated than that, but the example is clear enough).

Anyway, I can’t completely disagree with that, and in many respects, I sometimes get the feeling that religious people get too much heat merely by entitling themselves religious. Religious people, like everyone else, pick and choose what they think is right or wrong (and many of them will agree, even elusively, that their morals are not dictated by the bible. No surprise there). So, this definitely flies in the face of every graffitti that goes “Christians are shit”, and even though a lot of well-intending atheists might sympathize (especially former Christians) with that sentence, I don’t.

But is Christianity, itself, a culprit? Obviously, Judaism will share the same cell should Christianity gets thrown to the tanty, but is it guilty of the crimes people commit in its name?

My answer to that is “not exactly”. Evil people will find some other way of grinding their axes at other people’s expense even if the Abarahamic religions never existed. The flip-side of that is that good men or women, or good-intending ones, might wrong their fellow mortals simply because the bible tells them so. They might even feel a horrible pain while doing so, and will even hate themselves for not being committed enough. They will feel a two-layered guilt: sympathy to the oppressed and servile guilt to their Master, the one who decreed that they should do things they really don’t want to, and really think they shouldn’t.

So addressing religion as “guilty” is meaningful only in the respect of specific laws and decrees that plainly, in a non-open-to-interpretation-way (see Deuteronomy), state that evil should be done. This is not an indictment of all religious people and not even of all religious laws or canonized books. This is an indictment of very specific laws that were barbaric when they were written (by whoever) and they’re still barbaric today, and religious people and athiests who aren’t, well, insane, will agree on that.

Jeff, a charming soul who also happens to be a Christian, would probably never even dream of committing any crimes in the name of Christianity or Jesus Christ, and he would agree that killing homosexuals is an evil decree (he won’t agree that that’s what the bible says, but if he did, he would agree it’s an evil religious decree).

So the real culprit is between the lines, not on the cover of the bible. Religion does not go to prison, only the written text in its holy books that sends good men to do the work for evil ones.

Yes, We Can (rob you)!

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For all you non-Israelis (erm, there’s about 6 people who read this blog and I suppose 5 of them aren’t ๐Ÿ™‚ ), let me just point out that Shas is a Hebrew acronym for “Shomrei-Torah Sfaradim”, this means, literally, “Sefardic observers of the Torah”, or in short, the ultra-orthodox Jewish party.
I’m not a political expert, but my experience with Shas is that they are a sectarian party. They work almost entirely for the benefit of their electorate, which is, well, not a big issue unless you’re in Israel, where there’s about a dozen or so types of electorate, and if you unite a certain parasitic electorate (I’ll get to that right away), you basically give a foothold to a bunch of lazy, sanctimonious thieves in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament).
Now, now. I’m not saying that Shas doesn’t do charitable things, like try to help the poor (religious poor, anyway) and promote socialist agendas (maybe as a side-effect to, say, their insistence on using tax-payer money to sustain the multitudes of the huge families that the ultra-orthodox are mandatory to found as per the Torah),

but –

well, Shas seems to really dislike the idea of personal freedom (an fundamentalist political party with an anti-liberal agenda? Say it ain’t so!).

In many respect, they are an anti-freedom party. If Shas was the sole party in Israel, then Israeli law was indistinguishable from Senhadrin law, and that means literally a Jewish theocracy.

So far, what Shas mainly does is try to ban pornography (fuck that!), censor internet material (guess who they want in charge of reviewing the “inappropriate material”?) and ban public transportation on Saturday (something that’s actually quite widespread in Israel already).

What I found mind-numbingly ironic is that Shas’ current campaign slogan is “Yes, we can!”, just like, yep, you said it, Barack Obama’s successful slogan. It’s so cute. They think that if it got the American people to vote for a guy who isn’t an obvious hack, then the Israeli population is going to be duped into voting for the most self-serving, anti-democratic, fundamentalist party in the Jewish political spectrum, (well, maybe there’s worse, this IS Israel, after all)

Anyhow, it’s made extremely ironic due to the fact that the ultra-orthodox refuse to serve in the IDF because they must practice the Torah (oh yeah? I REALLY wanted to start this biology degree here at 18 and not at 23, you bearded sacks of shit!). These assholes pay about 4 times (!) less than I do to social security, as Yeshiva boys, to be precise. (A student, of any kind, who works, immediately has to pay social security as per the type of work he’s in, say, self-employed people like me have to pay 9.82% of our income to social security, they have to pay about a quarter of that).
Every time Shas reveals its intentions to the public, every political move, every bill proposed, every statement given, it’s always anti-democratic, anti-civil-rights, religiously bigoted and ultimately, anti-humanity. This party is actively trying to promote a world that has no freedom, and endless power to a caste of corrupt avaricious acolytes.

Another Reason to Hate Judaism

I just remembered that last night, a woman from the Deaf club near campus (I had a small typing gig there after class) intervened during a legal lecture and said that the local Rabbinate refused to acknowledge her as witness for the writing of a will by one of her own family members.

The reason for said refusal: “You’re deaf, you cannot be a witness”.

Disgusting.

Boo-jeers for Local In(s)anity

Great, just great. I just tried to access my curriculum (I have no idea where my classes are, yet, and the semester’s starting on Sunday) and I got a message telling me that the information services in BIU (Bar Ilan University) are offline through the weekend. The reason being that the university servers, apparently, are observing the Shabat.

Now, I would just like to ask: is this because of the decree that servants and slaves are (a la Deuteronomy) not allowed to work on the Shabat, then today, now that slavery is abolished,ย  “servers” are considered to be “servants”? Maybe it’s a friggin’ typo.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

STUPID FUCKERS.

Post Cemetry

Today I found myself contemplating what happens to posts once they die. The most circulated blog I can think of is probably Pharyngula. PZ Myers’ words are being viewed and re-viewed about a million times every month, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets to more than that on particularly spicy seasons. But even Pharyngula has archives, and I’m betting the ancient posts (especially those on Pharyngula.org, the older blog) never get accessed again.

Blogs aren’t like books, codices of carefully constructed words, designed, should people “read Kafka” or “read Conan Doyle” to be immortalized as character witnesses for the authors who created them.

But with blogs, words are ephemeral. PZ Myers and other notable bloggers might have written amazing and popular posts in the past, and those posts are forever forgotten. It’s possible that some literary jewels were created almost on a daily basis, and they’re all gone forever. In a way, this makes blogging a middle-ground between literature and journalism. Sure, responsible bloggers proof-read and carefully pick their post’s main topics and issues, and very serious bloggers even write multiple drafts – but no post ever conceived beats the literary manuscript. The worded piece of art that its creator proudly refers to it as “my book”.

All of this made me come to the realization that even when I write a post that actually gets read (the only example I can give is the post I wrote about the Yom Kippur riots), I know that it doesn’t matter much. People click on a link, skim through your carefully crafted words, and forget all about you, or blog, and your post the next day.

So what makes the distinction between “a person who blogs” and a “blogger”? Unlike bookwriters, it’s not any particular post or even a particular category of posts, but simply the style and history of the blog. Most Pharyngula readers aren’t science afficionados, and even though I love reading PZ’s posts on science, most of the time PZ writes about activist freethought and liberal politics (or about their antagonists).

This is, of course, not a problem in the least, but still, Pharyngula is without a doubt more of an “Atheist blog” than a “Science blog”, and that’s hardly a shame. Seeing the world of science through a self-avowed atheist with the charming and captivating worldview of PZ Myers is quite rewarding on its own. However, reading a science textbook is rewarding in a totally different fashion.

This also brought me to the realization that this blog will probably never succeed in its current setting. It’s not necessarily because I’m a bad writer (I’d say “smack average” would describe me well) or because I write about boring topics (hardly, I’ve touched some interesting issues, entirely not of my own merit, while this blog’s been alive) – I think it’s because this blog doesn’t offer the possibility of a posse like other blogs do (religion related blogs are a good example to cite). I do not offer “a home for like-minded atheists” like Pharyngula does. I do not offer a breeding ground for passionate biologists or even rather interested young peers.
Obsessed With Reality, like me, is destined to always swivel and veer to whichever my convoluted mind is up to and that, since I’m no celebrity, politician, or large-breasted female human, is of no interest to almost anyone (except other reality-obsessives, which I scarcely meet or know of).

This fact, although disheartening, is never going to be a death warrant for the blog. Writing things down endows me with some sort of releasing sensation. To be obnoxiously poetic, I could say that putting my meandering thoughts and ideas in writing “sets them free”, in a way – and that is something I’ll always love and require and fortunately, this doesn’t need a large readership to achieve.

More rants about Sukkot

Okay, okay, I know this is like the third rant about Sukkot, but this has gone far enough.

I have this really, REALLY orthodox Jewish (not Hassidic, and too bad, they tend to be quieter, although more psychotic) family next door who just moved in this year. These guys have, of course, brought their huge tribe to our apartment building and of course decided to build a huge and fancy Sukkah right below our building, about 10 meters away from my bedroom window.

In short, those fucking bible-heads are having and endless, infernal racket. It’s like those damn idiots are trying to really re-live the event that never happened and actually LIVE there for 7 days, which sucks, because at least when the entire crew is in its shabby apartment, they don’t make half as much noise.

I hate this place, sometimes.

Sukkot Insanity – A Replica of a Thing That Does Not Exist

I always puzzled over what is it that Americans call “the holidays”. In Israel, it’s usually a phrase denoting the rather ghastly period at the end of September and throughout October in which an Israeli has to endure Rosh Ha’Shana, the Jewish new year, Yom Kippur, the day when you just HAVE to be sorry in, and now, last but definitely least, Sukkot.

See, it makes some sense to have a somewhat arbitrary date and base your calender on it, and commemorate in one way or another the first day in it. Of course, us Jews (speaking of those who actually buy into Jewish mythology) often sprinkle it with rituals, occult meanings and last but definitely extremely least: horrible traditional songs.

It also makes some oblique sense to have a day in which everyone in the land says “I’m sorry” and pretends to mean it simply because this day was (now definitely) arbitrarily made up by some acolyte more than 2,000 years ago.

But, as so happens in the slippery slope (read downward spiral) of the rational mind inflicted with ancient and non-amenable religion, indeed we gradually become to the most ridiculous celebration of all. Sukkot is by far a senior-ranking instance of the stupidest holidays ever to be canonized by an entire people.

The reason I’m saying all of this is because no serious archaeologist has any doubt that there was never, not even once, anything even remotely similar to the exodus event. I think the only time in history where a really large population of Jews trekked the desert areas from Palestine to Egypt was actually the other way around, when the IDF crossed the Suez canal and kicked modern, Arabian Egypt’s ass on the 6-days war.

It is, actually, far more likely that the ancient Israelites were just another bunch of desert tribesmen, and if there’s one thing that tribesmen like to do, is to make up amazing bullshit stories about their legendary past.

Sukkot is actually a still-used word in Hebrew that means “huts”. Well, not exactly huts, more like makeshift oblong yurts. Obviously, since no ancient Israelites ever built real “Sukkot” while trekking an unlikely 40-years period in the desert, no one actually ever built “the right kind of Sukkot” like the Israelites did.

This is because Exodus never really happened and it’s just a stupid, ancient myth.

As I am writing this, a Suka (singular for Sukkot) is standing erect about 15 meters away from me (I live on the first floor). I was able to witness its 30-minutes-long erection (that is the only thing I can find enviable in a Suka). It’s outlined, like most modern-Israeli-variety Sukkot, by steel or iron thin bars, nailed to each other to make a completely bare skeleton of a hut. The Suka is covered with canvas or some cheap synthetic substitute, usually adorned with Torah verses and filled with mystic artifacts with silly symbolic meanings.

A traditional, exact replica of an ancient Israeli Suka

A traditional, exact replica of an ancient Israeli Suka

The Sukkot are, as Christians and possibly even Muslims as well might know, a homage to the jerry-rigged huts the Israelites built in their non-existent flight from Egypt, making it quite staggeringly a nation-wide effort to build quasi-replicas of structures that never existed in the first place.

This past month is just one national insanity after another. I love my country, but sometimes I really wish I could just get out of this madhouse. The fact that millions of fellow countryman are happily conducting one stupid, inane ritual after another without even for an instance questioning or doubting it really, really gives me the creeps..

Silenced?

O-kay…

So, one of the truly most brain-numbing activities in Israel is the writing and, even more so, the reading of comments in Ynet, one of Israelies top news websites. Think of it as youtube commentors` st00pid, only 200 times st00pider.

Anyway, I commented on this article (again, Hebrew), regarding the riots in Acre, and my comment was held for moderation and was never approved.

See, it’s strange, since comments in Ynet are usually so rinsed in idiocy that it’s a mystery to me how could any person that’s so mind-bogglingly stupid can actually finish a sentence, let alone use a keyboard.

So, for some reason, they didn’t publish my comment. I was a bit harsh, I wrote that it’s fascist parliament members who promote the exile and transfer of Arab Israelies and it’s fascist Arabs who promote or defend the activities of thuggish attacks on Jews. What else would you call extreme nationalistic kooks with electoral power? Moreover, the most emphasized element of my comment was that the reason for the riots wasn’t Arab nor Jewish ethnicity – it’s just that naturally, idiots (a universal human category of people) exist on both sides of the so-called battlefield, and it’s those idiots who screw all of us over.

The point is important and in a way, should be comforting to anyone who isn’t a bigoted, hyper-nationalistic, religiously-motivated prick: the riots, the violence, the terrorism, the cruelty of the occupation – they’re not the result of the misdemeanor of the Jewish people or the Arab people per se, it’s the result of malign idiots on both sides. I guess this was simply too rough for Ynet. Amazing, since some of the comments contained phrases like “religion=drugs” and other such stupid inanities. Maybe if I formed the comment so it’d appear like all the other stupid headlines that Ynet uses which seem to enthrall the multitudes of semi-conscious drones that constitute mostly the idiots the like of which probably started the riots.

Ghostland

This time, I’m going to skip the usual evil atheist rants about how irrational and hypocritical Yom Kippur is and write a paragraph or two (or more) on a rather striking side effect of Yom Kippur.

Since this blog, with its 30-views-a-day-max, probably lacks any Israeli readers who probably know of this by now, I think I would probably make a few eyebrows to be raised by writing that on Yom Kippur, there is, indeed, a complete ban on driving a car or operating ANY business or shop whatsoever. Not even the workplaces/businesses/shops that are open on Saturdays are open on Yom Kippur. There’s something so powerful about this national day-of-stupid that makes everyone kowtow to it.

I spent yesterday evening (Yom Kippur begins at evening and resumes for 24 hours thereof) with my girlfriend at her place, transporting myself between my city and hers on my bicycle, since car-driving is not allowed on Yom Kippur (unless you really like being mobbed to death by angry, hungry neighbors).

Cycling “inter-state” is not new to me, I often cycled to Tel-Aviv and back and even further than that. It’s always a treat and with the pro-bike I have, it’s often a lot faster than a car in rush-hour. This time, however, it was extremely annoying. The streets last night were festered with bright-eyed prepubescent idiots and their unwary parents, apparently very much aware of a lot of inane aspirations barring keeping their tiny eyes on the road infront of them and not, as so often happens, ending sunny side up on the kerb.

Now, now. It’s not that I hate kids. I just hate it when a few thousands kids get on bikes and start cycling around without being precautious. It’s this whole inane ritual every year that, since there’s apparently insufficient supervision of this “bicycle-holiday”. Hundreds of kids all around Israel are injured and sometimes even admitted every year. It’s as though the silliness of not drinking nor eating for adults makes them envious of their children. (don’t mind not eating for a day, but not drinking? Shit, that’s stupid!). Apparently, there’s some jealous incentive to make sure kids suffer on Yom Kippur too.

But this is, really, not that striking side effect I wanted to write about. Cycling back home today (gotta get back to work, and I’m STILL procrastinating), I cycled the freeway, almost entirely by myself barring the occasional cycler (most of the cyclers congregate in urban areas. I guess their parents can’t walk so much without eating or drinking).

Cycling around the freeway, above bridges and entirely in the open, the wind finally unhindered by thousands of cars and now fully rampant and extremely resistent to my efforts to cycle through it, I actually found myself at awe of this human endeavor to completely cease all productive activity for 24 hours.

In a free society, it’s probably for the better that every person rests (and definitely atones!) on his own free time or when the time is right, but to see the roads entirely empty, whole streets deserted, ground-zeroish silence plaguing the streets and boulevards that are simply always buzzing with activity – that is simply wondrous and quite breath-taking.

If this occasion or holiday or whatever it is that Jews want to call it was a celebration of, oh, I don’t know, just our ability to walk on our legs for once without polluting the earth, or a national day of complete and utter repose, including, for some reason, not using cars – I think it’d be a great idea, or at least a nice party-game for the entire nation.

It’s just so fucked up that us Israelies have to couple almost everything pretty with some stupid and irrational conjunction.

It’s FUN to cycle, it’s good to rest every now and then, it’s simply breath-taking to be enveloped in silence in a world filled with architecture.

Ironically, it is for this reason that I love Yom Kippur more than any other Jewish holiday. This doesn’t lack the same dose of st00p1d that all the other holidays do, but at least on Yom Kippur I get to actually appreciate the country I live in in a different, more natural light.

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