A question of label

I was raised sort-of passive Catholic. At 10 years old, I became a Non-believer. 10 years later, I thought of myself as an Agnostic. Another 20 years passed and I was an Atheist.

I now think the label Atheist is too restrictive as it only says I don’t believe in a god. There are many things I don’t believe in, like homeopathy, psychics, angels, magical healing, the power of crystals, voodoo, trolls, ghosts, and a lot more.

Skeptic is not bad, but does have a connotation of permanent ambivalence. The right label, if I need one, might be Rationalist or Evidentialist.

NOT the same thing

  1. Miracles and magic are NOT the same thing
  2. The resurrected Jesus was NOT a zombie
  3. Speaking to God is NOT the same thing as hearing voices
  4. Prayer is NOT the same as telepathy
  5. Believing in angels is NOT the same as believing in gnomes and unicorns
  6. Faith Financing is NOT as good as Faith Healing
  7. Eating the body of Christ in a wafer is NOT cannibalism
  8. Drinking the blood of Christ in blessed wine is NOT vampirism

The Christian Afterlife

Finding ways to cope with the loss of someone you love is a self-preservation mechanism. You can never blame someone who lost their children or their spouse to believe they are in a good place and that they will see them again soon.

The afterlife is a touchy subject. For that comforting belief to work, you have to believe that:

  1. you keep your individuality and are not merged with all other people after they die
  2. you will have a physical body, capable of hugging, kissing, seeing, hearing and talking
  3. people will look like you remember them and not change age, gender, or physical appearance
  4. you will not look like they did at the time of death, which would be horrifying in some cases
  5. you stop aging and stop being sick
  6. you and your loved ones will recognize each other, both physically and mentally when you get reunited
  7. you will be able to find each other in the billions of people that populates the afterlife
  8. you will still feel the same about each other as you felt on Earth
  9. you will have kept all your memories
  10. the afterlife will include pets, but not mean or dangerous ones
  11. you get reunited at the moment you die and not 20 million years after
  12. family members and friends will all find each other and get along
  13. there will be no conflicts to spoil heavenly relationships
  14. you will not get bored of seeing the same people for 137 trillion years
  15. every good persons will be together
  16. you will not miss people who are not there

Another way to look at the afterlife idea is that reality doesn’t matter as the afterlife concept is for the living and not the the dead. It doesn’t matter if the popular afterlife belief or the biblical version is true or not, since its main goal is to provide comfort for people who lost loved ones.

You can choose to believe in something without evidence for personal comfort or to make sense of something so horrible you would not be able to live otherwise. But there is a difference between something you choose to believe and something being true or real. I think the afterlife is a personal belief and not something you can convince people of with arguments.

In this case, you would be better off believing in a totally made up version of the afterlife and surely not the one proposed by the Bible.

The popular version of the afterlife is a warm place full of people you love, without conflict, sickness or death, forever.

the biblical version is a large floating cube with streets made of gold, presided by creatures full of eyes and mercenary angels. There is also an idea of a New Earth with a New Jerusalem, without war, sickness or natural disaster. You get access to that version only at the end of times, which is a timeframe not defined. People you love who were not Christian or messed up on one important thing Jesus allegedly said in one of the parable that was edited, mistranslated or mis-reported in the chosen and published books that made the final version of the Bible.

Which version will make you feel better when a love one dies?

Mental Games I Play

Selective Awareness
When walking outside, I sometimes focus mostly on all the sounds around me and try to differentiate them all, building a 3D auditory map of my surroundings.

Passive Thought Observation
Before going to sleep, I close my eyes and observe my thoughts. I can see them appearing, morphing and vanishing like ever-changing clouds on a cinema screen.

Controlled Fly-through Mental Exploration
I create a mental 3D scene and imagine flying around a room, going under tables, raising close the ceiling, as the scene angles and details are changing. Another scene I like is to imagine slowly taking-off with a jet pack and feeling my body lifting from the ground and looking at the changing perspective of the landscape as I go higher. I also imagine flying above a wheat field, twisting and flipping in the air, then flying over a cliff — all with images so vivid it looks like a camera on a plane.

Natural Complexity Awareness
I look at the fractal structure of branches, the multiple layers of moving clouds at different altitudes, etc. I also imagine how the landscape where I stand would of there were no roads, no buildings and nothing built by people.

Scale Awareness
I sometimes mentally zoom out from me and see my street, my town, my country, my continent, the Earth and keep zooming out to the solar system and galaxy level. At that moment, I have the very clear feeling of being on the surface of a planet, in space, way off the center of our galaxy. I also do the opposite and imagine the atomic structure of the floor or my body, being made mostly of empty space between the nucleus of the atoms and their orbiting electrons.

What mental games do you play?

Where do you draw the line?

If you are Christian, you have to believe in magic, as the Bible is filled with it.
If you believe in New Age therapies, you probably believe in magic as well, as they routinely invoke untested or untestable magical ideas.

But where do you draw the line?

If you must believe in angels & demons, giants, wizards, talking donkeys & snakes (all mentioned in the Bible), do you also believe in unicorns, mermaids, leprechauns, gnomes, trolls, fairies, vampires, ghosts, elves, dragons, and werewolves?

If you believe in exorcisms (as clearly depicted in the Bible), do you also believe in voodoo power, magic potions, magical charms and talismans, rain dance, psychics, astrologers, and curses?

Would you believe in a creature I made up 5 minutes ago called the Hexegan Beast? What if I write a book about it and add some Photoshopped pictures of it as proof? What if 50 people told you they also heard about it. What if someone creates a TV show about it on the History Channel? Does it makes that beast more real?

What if I tell you I heard from my psychic that you can cure cancer using purple crystals blessed by a blind albino Shaman? Will you stop your medical treatment to follow it?

What if I tell you the angel Gabriel told me to leave my family, change my name to O’rok and go to a cave for 20 years? Will you think I’m crazy? If you’re Christian , Jewish or Muslim, you must believe in angels as it’s part of your Scripture — so why would you not believe me?

If you believe in magic, how to you tell if something is possible or not?
How do you evaluate a source of information?
How do you access if something is unreal or a hoax?
Do evidence count for something in that world view?

Studying the Biblical Arguments

What does the study of the Bible, the existence of God and the creationists (or intelligent design) arguments entail?

  • History, based on evidence of archeology and external historical records
  • Cosmology to compare with the biblical cosmological views
  • Textual criticism to reveal authorship, editing, the role of scribes, and contradictions in the Bible
  • Knowledge of other scripture and ancient stories to put the biblical ideas and stories in context
  • Physical geography, plate tectonics, geology, geomorphology and climatology to compare with the flood story
  • Biology, anatomy, biogeography, genetics and phylogeny (classification) to understand the Theory of Evolution
  • Argumentation to detect logical fallacies and dishonest tactics
  • Creationism and Intelligent Design to understand their framework, history and techniques

Invisible?

What do you mean when you think is something or someone being invisible?

True invisibility means to not be detectable by visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, radar, and the or any of the other wavelengths.
It also means to not have visible or measurable effects on your environment that would tell people you are there. You can’t leave footprints, ripples, vapor trails, weight changes, or any other physical signs.

Starting from scratch

Did you ever imagine how you would manage to create something large or complex from scratch?

Starting your own bank
You’d have to rent at least a few commercial spaces, decorate the offices, hire people, buy computers and banking equipment, install the ATM, deal with employee issues, advertise, design and print all your brochures and posters, get tons of money to start loaning it, learn how the money market works, establish branches, make money by investing the borrowed money wisely, get the political ties to get a huge bailout of you mess up badly…

Creating your own army
You’d have to find a lot of people, dress, feed, house & train them, buy them weapons, equipment & vehicles, find them something to do like some peace keeping or third-world country dictator toppling…

Starting your own car company
You’d have to learn about how cars work, rent a big factory, buy all the specialized equipment, buy and install tons of computers and phone lines, hire tons of people including engineers and janitors, design a car that actually works and is safe enough not to get sued on your first day, get all the patents, build a testing facility, establish a distribution chain, spend tons of money in advertise, transport your cars to the distributors and compete with all the existing car manufacturers.

Setting up your own space exploration company
You’d have to buy computers, CAD software, learn how to use it, design your spacecraft, rent a large warehouse, buy all the material to build them, produce at least a few of them, buy the fuel, find a market willing to pay, hire pilots, train them on your spacecraft, transport your spacecraft to the launching site, hire lots of lawyer for when your spacecraft plummet into a residential area and make an enormous mess…

Starting a terraforming company
Once you have your bank to fund your projects, and your own space exploration company, you can create your own terraforming company. First, you have to learn what terraforming is, then you have to learn about astronomy, chemistry, physics, geology, climatology, oceanography, and long distance space travel. You must then find a planet to transform into an hospitable New Earth. You have to build the enormous pieces of equipment to create water, filter the toxic atmosphere, transform the soil from rock to organic soil and make sure the changes are permanent and self-sustaining.

Bad Cross-Promotions

  1. Baby Muppet Executive Briefcases
  2. African-style Elvis Collectible Plates
  3. Salvador Dali Pasta
  4. John Wayne Gacy clown outfit
  5. Barbie Pregnancy test
  6. Fisher-Price Anthrax
  7. Pokémon Personal Land Mine
  8. Javex Sulfuric Avid Mouth Wash
  9. Playboy Heart Surgery Clamps
  10. Gerber Baby Vodka

I know nothing

  1. I know nothing about people whose life is not mentioned in books, while I only have superficial knowledge of people whose life has been recorded in literature.
  2. I have only superficial knowledge of astronomy, with no knowledge at all of trillions of other planets and stars.
  3. I have no idea of how it would be to be able to perceive the full electromagnetic spectrum with all the all wavelengths (visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, radio waves, X-rays, microwaves, gamma rays and cosmic rays) at the same time. I don’t know how I would not be lost with all that information.
  4. I don’t know how to build a combustion engine, a computer or even a TV set from scratch.
  5. I know nothing about the exact way my own body use DNA in conjunction with my cells to keep me alive and functioning.
  6. I know nothing of the millions of species that became extinct without leaving a fossil and have only very superficial knowledge of the ones who left a fossilized presence.
  7. I have no idea how elementary particles such as lepton, muons and bosons can be so amazingly small and far apart, yet create the building blocks of atoms, which in turn create our physical environment.
  8. I have no idea how memories and data are stored in my own brain or how my neurons use chemical reactions to access and organize data to form a coherent pattern that is the article I’m writing.

Mythology or Scripture?

After talking to Christians and being immersed in Christian-based culture for years, I’m always surprised by how different the popular Christian view is from their own scripture.

For example, they believe that:

  • Angels are kind and helpful
  • Jesus created Christianity as it is now
  • When you die after accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you go straight to Heaven to meet your loved ones.
  • Heaven is a nice place.

If you don’t know already, none of these things are in the Bible — only the opposite.

In the actual Bible:

  • Angels are armed mercenaries destroying cities
  • Jesus insisted that people should obey the Law (Torah or Old Testament) in full, but like the newer way introduced by Paul.
  • You go to Heaven (in fact, a new Earth) only at the end of times.
  • Heaven is a large floating cube, presided by creatures full of eyes, not a quiet cloudy place.

I can think of 4 reasons why people would have those ideas, that are not based on the book they believe was at least inspired by their god.

  • False Assumptions without Specific Knowledge: They just didn’t read the book themselves — they heard parts read here and there at church and at school but never bothered to read the whole Bible by themselves. They rely on misconceptions heavily influenced by art by the means of paintings, books, movies and TV series, but not the original text.
  • Selective acceptance: The disconnect can be caused by people skipping over the uncomfortable passages and remembering only the “good parts”.
  • Merging of different accounts: Instead of taking the Gospels individually, they merge the events written in the four existing Gospels to create a new fifth one not based on the actual text.
  • Wishful reinterpretation: People can’t accept the actual meaning of what they read so they make up a new meaning based on what they wish for.

Protecting the message

There are a lot of people who believe the Bible is at least the inspired word of God — others believe it’s the actual word of God.

If an all powerful deity wrote or inspired people to write something, you would think the message is important.
Do you think a deity powerful enough to create the entire universe has the power to preserve the knowledge it passed to human beings?

Protecting the message means:

  • To have unambiguous content. The 30,000+ Christian denominations are a testament to the ambiguous nature of that content.
  • To reproduce it without any errors so that all book (mostly before the invention of the printing press only about 500 years ago) are exactly the same. The 100,000s textual differences between the manuscripts can safely rule that one out.
  • To translate it perfectly to all languages and dialects. This means to get exactly the same message, regardless of cultural context, words available in that language, emotional content, or double meanings of words or idiomatic expressions in that language. It also mean to change the text to adapt to the new meaning of words and new cultural settings. This is very hard to nearly impossible for humans to do, but a breeze for an all-powerful creator of the universe.
  • To have only one version of the text. The multiple versions containing some different books shows us the message is quite loose.
  • To make it available to every human beings, no matter where or when they are on Earth. If the Bible is The Only Guide to Salvation, it should have been available to people before year 390 A.D when the last book (Book of Revelations) was included. It should have been made available to everybody before that time starting with the first humans.
  • To make sure every human beings understand it, despite their education, literacy, cultural biases, mental deficiencies, age, or their intelligence level.

Can but won’t

Your 7 kids are playing in the living room. Your oldest is bullying everybody. The second oldest is sexually abusing the 3 youngest right in front of you.

You hide behind the curtains and watch, without stopping them or even asking them to stop.

By the end of the day, 4 of them are dead because they found the gun cabinet.

What kind of parent would let that happen without interfering?
Would that parent be a good person?
Would that parent be thrust worthy when he or she talks about morals and how people should treat their kids?

Of course not.

But most people believe God is everywhere and all powerful, yet does nothing to stop wars, child abuse, genocide, decease and natural disasters that kill millions. That all powerful being is supposed to see everything but does not stop any of it.

Theogeography

Theogeography is the emerging science of analyzing the distribution of factors such as natural disasters, socio-economic status, IQ, award recipients, divorce rate, crime rate, longevity, health, relative happiness, etc, based on the ratio of specific beliefs.

Since we know for a fact that Christians can ask anything they want and they will get it (Luke 11:9-10). Since Jesus was the Son of God and God himself as well (according to the Trinity, all 3 are the same), he did not lie and had the power to make such claim. You can them safely expect that areas with a high concentration of Christian would show extremely low crime rate, divorce rate, and unemployment rate. They would show very few hospital as they would not need them (they can simply asked to be healed). They would also very little pollution as they would not need cars or buses — they can ask to fly or be teleported instead, which does not pollute.

The HCDA (high Christian density areas) would show no natural disasters such as earthquakes, flood, tornadoes, hurricanes or volcanoes. They would show a abnormally high rate of favorable chance-based winnings (lottery, casino, bingo, etc) and very high concentration of Noble laureates, Grammy, Oscar and other prizes.

You can also expect areas that are not less populated by Christian believers such a Norway, Sweden, China and Japan to have very low IQ, economic success, literacy rate and very high mortality rate, divorce rate, crime rates,  be hit daily by natural disasters and rarely win anything.

What’s wrong with 72 virgins?

It is a widespread notion that the Muslim reward for violent death is 72 virgins. This sounds good if it’s your thing, but is based on several key assumptions. This requires some thought:

  1. Will they have a physical body or will they be immaterial? Good luck trying to get some fun out of a virgin ghost.
  2. If they do have a physical body, will it be “structurally functional”? A virgin without hands, breast, mouth, or any opening of any kinds is generally less pleasurable.
  3. Will they be human? A virgin slug or a virgin cobra take some time to get used to it.
  4. Will they be the right scale? A 200 foot or 2 inch virgin is slightly inconvenient.
  5. Will they be complete or will they be missing limbs or be horribly disfigured? A blown up virgin in a jar is probably not what you had in mind.
  6. Will they be of the gender you prefer?
  7. Will they wear an un-removable suit of armor?
  8. Will they be age appropriate or will they be fetuses or 122 years old women?
  9. Will they be covered in boils, pustules or be constantly leaking pus?
  10. Will they be so hairy you can barely feel them under that jungle of fur?
  11. Will they be nice or will they never shut up with a flow of disgusting insults?
  12. Will they be in the same general location as you or will you have to travel for 2,000 years to meet each one?
  13. Will they easily submit to you or will you have to fight off immortal 300 foot tall guards to get to them?
  14. Will they have a nauseating smell, an extremely loud male voice or any other highly repellent qualities?
  15. Will they be radioactive or make you extremely ill on contact?
  16. Will they all look like your mom?
  17. Once you “know” they them, will they still be virgins? If not, you could be done with your reward in 2 days and be stuck for an eternity with pesky “non-virgins”…

10 Bad Things about Zombies

It is pretty clear by now that zombies have an overall lack of decorum and good manners:

Not the most polite
A simple “thank you” after munching on your brain goes a long way.

Awful postures
Would they kill them to stand straight?

Dangerously outdated sense of fashion
Lot’s be honest here: they look awful — unless they were bitten during a fashion show, of course. In that case, you have can have some fabulous looking zombies.

Poor personal hygiene
Would it be too much to ask for them to shower once in a while?

Atrocious table manners
Ever seen one use a fork and knife when eating? What about as napkin?

Lack in communications skills
I’m sorry, but when did “grrr” and “arrrhhgg” become an acceptable form of communicating?

Total disregard for private property
They break windows, enter private properties willy-nilly, and certainly never respected the “Keep off the grass” sign.

Don’t play well with others
Eh zombies, ever heard of sharing? When you catch someone, leave some for your buddies — They are starving too you know!

Anger prone
You never see a mellow zombie — they always seem angry for some reason.I wonder if Arctic Zombies are more peaceful?

Alarmingly wasteful
They seem to never care about wasting perfectly good body parts. They will your brain but will leave your perfectly good arms arms intact. Shameful.

 

Thanks to my deliciously quirky wife for her help on this one.

Those darn bots

As our lives are becoming more and more virtual, bots will become increasingly disruptive.

I’m not talking about the humanoid robots we see in movies or the working robots we see in factories. I’m talking about digital bot — entities made entirely of code.

The old bots were visiting billions of sites to gather information to help search engines on the web. They were talking to us on phone systems and in novelty website guides.

A new kind of bot is appearing and is interfacing with our digital lives. They can send customized emails addressed to our name, from someone we know by tapping into our contact list and leave comments on blogs from a database of generic comments and compose a new name, domain name and email address for each comment.

Very soon, bots will become more sophisticated, making it very hard to tell them apart from other online entities, like our friends, our banks, or e-commerce sites we purchase from. Bots are becoming an integral part of phishing and scamming operations. They will fool us with an array of stolen real information and a composite of believable information modeled after our stolen profiles and communications patterns from different social networking sites.

The future is friendly… if you’re a bot.

Which is worst?

I ask you to think hard about those questions. Which one is worse and why?
Taking your steak rare in a restaurant.
OR
Taking a bite out of a cow that just died in the field.

Killing someone yourself.
OR
Allowing people to invade a country and kill families.

Believing that gnomes listen to your thoughts and have the power to help your life.
OR
Believing that angels listen to your thoughts and have the power to help your life.

Not giving money to help starving people in Africa because you think money will not get there
OR
Not giving money to the homeless guy down the street because you think he’ll drink it anyway

Believing that when you die, you’ll go to on a cloud to see your loved ones for eternity (which is the description given in movies and painting).
OR
Believing that when you die, you’ll go in a giant cube with streets paved in gold, guarded by giant creatures full of eyes, for eternity (which is the version of heaven actually described in the Bible).

The relevance of tools in a Christian world

Jesus tells: “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” without terms, conditions or any limitations” (Matthew 21:21-22). Since Jesus is God, we can safely assume it is the Truth.

Why would Christians need:

  • cars, trains or planes? (they can ask to be teleported)
  • hospital, pills, casts, doctors or health insurance? (they can ask to be healed)
  • plastic surgery? (they ask ask to have any appearance they like)
  • money? (can can just ask form something and it will appear)
  • bridges? (they can ask to levitate)
  • weapons? (they can ask for their enemies to be destroyed by their god, like in the Old testament)
  • dating services, bars or other place to meet a mate? (they can ask for the perfect mate right away)
  • stoves, fridges or restaurants? (they can ask for the food and it will appear in front of them)
  • cooling or heating systems? (they can ask God to change the climate for them)
  • any science at all? (they can ask God to tell them directly how it works)

Which is worst?

I ask you to think hard about those questions. Which one is worse and why?
Taking your steak rare in a restaurant.
OR
Taking a bite out of a cow that just died in the field.

Killing someone yourself.
OR
Allowing people to invade a country and kill families.

Believing that gnomes listen to your thoughts and have the power to help your life.
OR
Believing that angels listen to your thoughts and have the power to help your life.

Not giving money to help starving people in Africa because you think money will not get there
OR
Not giving money to the homeless guy down the street because you think he’ll drink it anyway

Believing that when you die, you’ll go to on a cloud to see your loved ones for eternity (which is the description given in movies and painting).
OR
Believing that when you die, you’ll go in a giant cube with streets paved in gold, guarded by giant creatures full of eyes, for eternity (which is the version of heaven actually described in the Bible).

The relevance of tools in a Christian world

Jesus tells: “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” without terms, conditions or any limitations” (Matthew 21:21-22). Since Jesus is God, we can safely assume it is the Truth.

Why would Christians need:

  • cars, trains or planes? (they can ask to be teleported)
  • hospital, pills, casts, doctors or health insurance? (they can ask to be healed)
  • plastic surgery? (they ask ask to have any appearance they like)
  • money? (can can just ask form something and it will appear)
  • bridges? (they can ask to levitate)
  • weapons? (they can ask for their enemies to be destroyed by their god, like in the Old testament)
  • dating services, bars or other place to meet a mate? (they can ask for the perfect mate right away)
  • stoves, fridges or restaurants? (they can ask for the food and it will appear in front of them)
  • cooling or heating systems? (they can ask God to change the climate for them)
  • any science at all? (they can ask God to tell them directly how it works)

Quiet satisfaction

Quiet satisfaction is about things you don’t brag about; about achievements you will not get a trophy or a promotion for.

Quiet satisfaction is the long term feeling of having reached what you set up to do in your life, even without having a fixed and detailed plan.

Quiet satisfaction is having no regrets about the choices you’ve made or how things turned out.

Quiet satisfaction is the the warmth you have when you know you’re better now than you were before.

Quiet satisfaction is to know that you did your best and mostly did good to people around you.

Quiet satisfaction is the feeling that people around you a little better because they know you.

Quiet satisfaction is permanent, non fluctuating and is what we call happiness.

Intricacies of the Intercessory Prayer

Since most Christians must be praying for general health, wealth and happiness of themselves and the world around them, we have to find out why it doesn’t work as planned. Since it is Jesus himself that is said to have uttered the words “ask and you shall receive” without specifying conditions, there must be something wrong with the way people are praying.

  1. Is there a time lag between a particular request and the divine answer or action? 20,000 years is nothing for an all powerful deity, but not so useful for us mere humans.
  2. What is the equation defining the power of multiple prayers aimed at the same target?
  3. Is a prayer stronger if all prayees are in the same room holding hands? If so, what is the ratio of diminishing rate per kilometer if the prayees are apart?
  4. Is a group of people is set to pray for the same thing, but some of them are praying for different things, do the effect of the group diminished or cancel itself?
  5. Are there thing you can pray for that cost more prayers, like you can pray once to get a deadline extension on a report but 20 times to cure someone from leprosy?
  6. What is the result correlation between a prayee that really really mean it, to someone who sort of means it, to someone else who doesn’t really mean it at all?
  7. What happens when 2 people pray for opposite things, like going on a trip and staying home?
  8. Is there a flash of light or a sound when 2 prayers cancel each other?
  9. Are the exact tone, number of syllables used, color of clothes wore during the prayer and background noise matter?
  10. Is you pray out loud for something, but think about something different, which one of those 2 request will be granted?
  11. Do you get better at praying if you pray often? If so, does a beginner prayee have any chance at all to see his or her wish granted?
  12. Is there a maximum number of whishes per person? If so, does the scale of the wish affect the maximum number of prayers allowed in a lifetime?
  13. Is there a way to check our prayer status, with exact numbers for pending, delayed, rejected and fulfilled prayers?
  14. Are there adverse effects when you pray in a clumsy, non-specific way (like being changed into a fish when you ask for a drink)? Is it like a legal contract, where the exact language really matters or the other party can take advantage of you?
  15. Is there a limit to what wishes can be granted? Can you get something that is physically or logically impossible? What about getting something that will alter the space-time continuum or fold space into a swan?

Intricacies of the Intercessory Prayer, part 2

Since most Christians must be praying for general health, wealth and happiness of themselves and the world around them, we have to find out why it doesn’t work as planned. Since it is Jesus himself that is said to have uttered the words “ask and you shall receive” without specifying conditions, there must be something wrong with the way people are praying.

  1. Is there a time lag between a particular request and the divine answer or action? 20,000 years is nothing for an all powerful deity, but not so useful for us mere humans.
  2. What is the equation defining the power of multiple prayers aimed at the same target?
  3. Is a prayer stronger if all prayees are in the same room holding hands? If so, what is the ratio of diminishing rate per kilometer if the prayees are apart?
  4. Is a group of people is set to pray for the same thing, but some of them are praying for different things, do the effect of the group diminished or cancel itself?
  5. Are there thing you can pray for that cost more prayers, like you can pray once to get a deadline extension on a report but 20 times to cure someone from leprosy?
  6. What is the result correlation between a prayee that really really mean it, to someone who sort of means it, to someone else who doesn’t really mean it at all?
  7. What happens when 2 people pray for opposite things, like going on a trip and staying home?
  8. Is there a flash of light or a sound when 2 prayers cancel each other?
  9. Are the exact tone, number of syllables used, color of clothes wore during the prayer and background noise matter?
  10. Is you pray out loud for something, but think about something different, which one of those 2 request will be granted?
  11. Do you get better at praying if you pray often? If so, does a beginner prayee have any chance at all to see his or her wish granted?
  12. Is there a maximum number of whishes per person? If so, does the scale of the wish affect the maximum number of prayers allowed in a lifetime?
  13. Is there a way to check our prayer status, with exact numbers for pending, delayed, rejected and fulfilled prayers?
  14. Are there adverse effects when you pray in a clumsy, non-specific way (like being changed into a fish when you ask for a drink)? Is it like a legal contract, where the exact language really matters or the other party can take advantage of you?
  15. Is there a limit to what wishes can be granted? Can you get something that is physically or logically impossible? What about getting something that will alter the space-time continuum or fold space into a swan?

You’re such an angel!

What image comes to mind when you think of an angel? You probably think of a benevolent winged pure being that is there to help people.

Unfortunately, this is not how the Bible describes them.

Angels are supernatural mercenaries with swords that kill humans.

According to the Bible itself:

Description

  • There are at least 100 million angels
  • Angels don’t seem to have wings, only Cherubim do (they can carry people on their backs while flying)
  • They have feet
  • They have arms and can pull people
  • They can carry a staff in their hands
  • They can speak in a way humans understand, both in frequencies, volume and language
  • They eat food
  • They can be handsome
  • They can shout for joy
  • They can play the trumpet
  • They can create hail and fire mixed with blood
  • They carry a sword and use it to kill people
  • They can carry a sharp sickle (curved blade with a handle)
  • They can roll back stones
  • They sometimes appear as flames
  • They can call people from Heaven
  • They can measure walls
  • They sometimes speak to people in dreams
  • They can sit down under a tree
  • They can appear to people, being previously invisible
  • They have a relatively pleasing appearance, enough for a group of men to want to have sex with them

Roles

  • They are sometimes messengers
  • They are used as guards
  • They can lead armies
  • They can destroy cities, such as Jerusalem and Gomorra, as well as countries
  • They can kill people (185,000 in one night)
  • They can make dead bodies disappear
  • They can walk and guide people
  • They can attend people
  • They, along with Jesus, ignore certain things only God knows
  • They can make people blind
  • They can take sins away
  • They will come and separate the wicked from the righteous
  • They can neither marry nor be given in marriage
  • 12 legions of them can be called by Jesus
  • They have the power to increase the descendants of humans (make them fertile if they are not, or more fertile if they are)
  • They can displace entire populations
  • They know Satan and can travel with him
  • They can curse people
  • They can hold back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree

Next time think twice before you tell your kids he or she is being such an angel.

I do not believe…

I do not believe in magic, which includes: all religions, all divination techniques (astrology, psychics, tarot cards, palml reading, tea leaves, horoscope, etc), all pseudo-sciences (homeopathy, angel therapy, iridology, relexology, reiki, various types of spirit healing, etc) , all supernatural creatures (angels, demons, ghosts, leprechauns, centaurs, gnomes, Pegasus, etc), and all techniques to use the supernatural (spells, voodoo, possessions, necromancy, magical powers, etc).

What is left is reality.

God spoke to me…

When people say that God spoke to them, or that they were called by God to do something, what do they mean exactly?

  1. How did they know it was God speaking? Did God named himself? Could it be someone or something impersonating God?
  2. Was the person always alone when God spoke to them? If a loud voice came from the ceiling or the sky, surely someone else heard it too. If so, did the other person understand the same message?
  3. If the person was not alone in the room at the time but no one else heard the voice, how can the person be sure it was not a self-created voice inside their head, caused by a mental disorder?
  4. If the voice was not from inside their head, how could they tell it was from God and not from a prankster with a megaphone?
  5. Was the message always in a language the person could understand?
  6. Did they know the meaning of all the words spoken by God?
  7. How was the voice? Was it angry, detached, quiet, out of breath, menacing, or encouraging?
  8. Was the voice speaking with an accent?
  9. Was the voice male, female or something else?
  10. Was it the voice of a baby, a child, an adult, an old person, or something somehow ageless?
  11. Was it whispering, quiet, regular conversation level, loud or screaming?
  12. Was the message an order,  advice, or information?
  13. Did God speak to them more than once? If so, was it the same voice with the same characteristics?

What I’ve learn so far about religions

  • People have a need for the extraordinary (which includes magic and the supernatural).
  • People have a need for explanations (no matter how far fetched or unproven), of making sense of reality, for order.
  • People have a need for justice (no matter if it requires magic).
  • People have a need for simplicity (the simplest explanation is often good enough, even if self-contradictory and unproven/unprovable).
  • People have a need for being comforted (even if what is supposed to be comforting is illogical, incoherent and improbable).
  • People have a need to believe in an afterlife (even if it happens “at the end of times”).

What’s your legacy?

What kind of impact will your existence have on the history of mankind?

Will you bring anything new or better to this planet in your lifetime?

Will you make a difference in your own community? If so, what kind of difference?

Are you in peace with an existence that will only be remembered by the people you know?

If you do want to leave your mark, what will you do? Will you write a book that will influence millions of people? Will you invent something that will benefit improve the lives of many? Will you raise your children to be kind, decent people, so they in turn can create more decency?

Who I am

I am a carbon-based lifeform living on a small blue planet with a solid surface, orbited by one moon, in a small solar system somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy, far off the center of the universe I am in.

I am a member of the Homo sapiens species in the great ape family, living in a Holocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period amongst a democratic society using tools as much as information.

I am taking part in a emotional/experience-sharing long term commitment with a parental component.

I was involved twice in a natural gene transfer process, resulting in two offspring who are naturally esthetically favored.

I exchange monetary gain against the process of strategically rearranging pixels on a light window that does not lead outside.

The activities that raise the Dopamine level in my brain are:

  1. exchanging acoustic waves with like-minded humanoid lifeforms
  2. transferring graphite particles on a flat sheet of dried wood paste to simulate a rearrange version of reality
  3. capturing light waves bouncing off solid masses for later remembrance
  4. using a manufactured polymer device to experience the low friction coefficient of particulated solid-form water.

What if the Bible/Qur’an world were true?

What would you expect to see if the world described in the Bible and the Qur’an were true?

  1. First of all, you’d see magic. Lots of it.
  2. You’d hear about people with some fantastic powers, like a guy defeating a whole army using only a jawbone. You’d see also see prophets doing real magic, like transforming a stick into a snake.
  3. Once in a while, you’d hear some animals such as snakes, donkeys or ants, talking in a language you can understand and using correct grammar.
  4. You’d encounter some supernatural being on a daily basis.
  5. You’d witness people being miraculously cured or being brought back from the dead. You might also see zombies once in a while.
  6. Many people would hear a booming voice form the sky, or from a cloud, or fire.
  7. You might even see some stranger things such as fiery serpents coming from the sky or a flying chariot.

Is that fantastic and magical world part of your day to day life? Did anybody you know ever encounter any of this while NOT on drugs? Why not?

What if…

What if religious people would do their jobs using the same magical version of reality they believe in their spiritual life?

  • An accountant would put all the invoices in a magic box, say a short prayer and expect the annual report to appear on his boss’ desk by 9am.
  • All religious doctors would try to exorcise the cancer out of the patient.
  • All believers would stop taking drugs and go to hospitals because they prayed.
  • A civil engineer wouldn’t have to calculate the charges for a bridge because angels will help support the cars to cross the river.
  • A farmer would send his donkey to the vet because its not talking. (see Balaam story in Numbers 22:1-35)
  • The insurance adjuster would believe you when you tell him your house was destroyed by fiery snakes.
  • A clerk could not go to work because some customers have the evil eye.
  • The Pope would stop using a bullet-proof Popemobile and rely on divine protection only.

A different kind of love…

I never met my father. He never writes or calls me. He was not even there when I was born.

My neighbors keep saying that my father loves me, although they never met him either.

I read that if I obey what people say he wants, he will reward me by moving in with him at some point and finally meeting him.

If I don’t obey, some of his helpers will bring me in the basement of his mansion and torture me forever.

I apparently have a choice: obey or be tortured forever.

The catch is that I can never have a straight and simple answer on what it means to obey my father. The book people say was written or dictated by my father has 613 rules. Some rules forbid me to have bad thoughts to any degree; some other pertain to not mixing some types of fabrics. Some people say it has 10 main rules, which I see people break all the time.

According to my father’s book, if I break some of those rules, my neighbors have to kill me.

Those rules don’t mention that I have to be 18 to be killed. This means a baby who break some of those rules has to be killed too.

What kind of father would torture his children or order people to kill them if they break even the silliest of rules?

I must be a different kind of father because I never thought about stoning or torturing my children…

A few observations about religions…

  1. Certain cults are called mythologies (like the Greek, Roman, Celtic, Aztec, etc) while some others (Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism) are called religions. Keep in mind that they all include magic, talking creatures and magical creatures.
  2. Zombies are ficticious, unless the central character of your religion is himself a zombie.
  3. Do religious people apply the same “open mindedness” or “faith” when it comes to UFO, unicorns or astrology? If they believe a talking donkey or miracles, then surely they can believe in UFO, unicorns or astrology.
  4. When a non-evangelical Christian reads The Bible and it sounds stupid, it’s a metaphor — if it sounds sensible (in their country, time and level of knowledge), then they can take it literally. For example, the creation in 6 days is often taken metaphorically, while “love thy neighbors” is not.
  5. Did you notice that beliefs from all over the world always suspiciously include elements from their own surroundings and own time?

IF… THEN…

IF you believe there is an all wise and all powerful God, creator of the whole universe,
THEN you must listen to what he has to say.

IF you think God wrote or at least inspired a book,
THEN you must read it and accept every word of it.

IF you accept every word of it,
THEN you must obey every parts of it.

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone your children to death if they disobey you.
(Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone homosexuals to death.
(Leviticus 20:13)

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone your fiancee if she is raped.
(Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone your wife if she is not a virgin on your wedding night.
(Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone everybody who worship a different god than yours.
(Deuteronomy 17:2-5)

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone all wizards (if you can find some).
(Leviticus 20:27)

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone everybody that works on Saturday.
(Numbers 15:32-56)

IF you obey every part of it,
THEN you must stone everybody that is blaspheming.
(Leviticus 24:16)
Do you believe there is a god who created the whole universe?
Do you believe he wrote or inspired a book?
Did you read every word of it?
Do you apply every commands in it?
If not, why?

You should start piling up stones because you have a lot of work ahead of you.

So many forces…

You think your initial physical traits and your behavioral patterns come from genetics and your environments. You think you can use free will to steer your life? Wrong!

So many forces are acting on your life without your control.  You are simply a bobbing pawn in an ocean of external forces.

The following forces have an influence on your character, your level of luck, your whole structure as a human being as well as any event that happens or doesn’t happen to you:

  • the day and year you were born
  • the planets and constellations alignment at the time
  • the combined daily horoscope from all newspaper and websites
  • the chain letter email you do or don’t forward
  • any curse or blessings people give you. Those include voodoo dolls, charms, spells, incantations and potions.
  • the evil eye you receive
  • an ladder you step under, any black cats you cross, anything with the number 13, any mirrors you break, any salt you pour over your shoulder to counter an evil force
  • the will and plan of any gods past or present
  • whether you touch wood or not when you notice you are lucky
  • any good luck charm you wear
  • the energy in a particular location
  • the will of any invisible creature, such as ghost, angel, fairy, etc.
  • the telluric currents (underground low-level electrical grid) that happen to cross your house, mostly your bed
  • any actions you did or habit you had in one of your numerous past lives

Do you think that not believing in those eternal forces is enough to cut the invisible ties and make you master of your destiny?

My Life’s Little Pleasures

  • Smelling and feeling freshly bleached white bed sheets
  • Smelling freshly cut grass
  • Visiting the bookstore
  • Feeling of warm coffee in the morning
  • Giggling from a crazy idea I just had
  • Seeing my kids asleep
  • Hearing my kids’ laugh
  • Hearing my kids explain scientific processes
  • A night of boardgames with friends
  • Perfecting another Karate technique
  • Talking with my wife in the den while the kids play
  • Sharing an inside joke with my wife
  • Drawing with my kids
  • Watching a cool B-movie
  • Admiring nature: variety of clouds, fractal shapes of trees…
  • Writing

What are yours?

The good old future…

I want the old future!!! Not the current future!

I do want my jetpack, dome city, robot maid, flying car, underwater city, silver jumpsuit, ray gun, moon shuttle, sleep pod, meal in a pill and all.

I don’t want the future lead by pharmaceutical and other large corporations, sponsored and manipulated politicians, energy-saving freaks not knowing that fossil fuel companies control a large portion of politics, omnipresent and privacy-intrusive marketing monsters…

Not to be negative or anything, but in 1000 years, you’ll still have people in caves carrying old russian rocket launchers on their mules, believing in an archaic code of conduct based on a mythlogical god.

Ahhhh! The future! Which one do you like?

The art of “Bulkering”

“Bulkering” is a neologism that can be defined as “Putting together several complex ideas, oversimplifying and omitting large portion of the argument, discrediting sources for frivolous reasons, then thinking you have a good grasp on the subject”. “Bulkering” is different from aggregation, clustering, simplification, generalisation or good old “one-track mind”.

Here is how it’s played:

  1. Take a complex topic, such as geopolitics, global climate change, space exploration, or the origins of life.
  2. Absord the least amount of factual data or in-depth knowledge on the topic as possible.
  3. If you can’t avoid information, listen to arguments without weighting them or factoring in the lack of knowledge, the motives, the affiliations or the relevance of the examples presented by the source.
  4. Swiftly discredit a source if he/she presents a different point of view, if they have a typo in their book or online post, or if they ever did anything in their past that could cast any doubt in your mind, even if the action was 50 years ago and absolutely non-relevant to the topic, or if they look strange to you. If you find such a flaw, disregard them quickly by using the name of the newly discovered flaw. Example1: He might have a PDH in the relevant field and worked in that field for 50 years, but he’s gay. Example2: Don’t try to impress me with your numbers and big words, because you’re just a drugee (after uncovering that the source smoke pot 30 years ago).
  5. Discredit an argument or a theory if any part of it is found to be unproven or false.
  6. If anyone argue with you on the topic, be sure to impervious to resonning and snap back with a proverb or a clever line starting by: “my mama always told me…”
  7. Sit comfortably and relax. You have a good grip on reality.