After more than three and half years of posting, I've finally joined Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll. You can find it in the sidebar. Please consider checking it out.
Though it's possible for an atheist to express the sentiment that “it wasn't meant to be,” I think it's mostly something believers say since it implies that someone directs everything that happens to us and thus controls of our lives. If you think about it, it's usually nothing more than an excuse not to analyze your past conduct for mistakes to determine what you need to change to reach your goal next time. The last time I heard this said, I pointed out that the result could indeed have been quite different if the parties had followed a different course of action. This was met with blank stares and a comment equating to sour grapes.
I have similar objections to the sentiment that “it's all for the best.” No, really, it's not. Or at least, we don't know so. Life might indeed be better with fewer tragedies. It's probably not better that your family member or friend died in an accident. It's absolutely true that some good things only happened because some bad things happened before them, but we don't know whether something even better could have happened if they hadn't. Life is too unpredictable for us to know what is ultimately for the best. We just have to make the best choices we can, given our knowledge and abilities, and take responsibility for the consequences.
Posted at 4:30 PM
I understand the recent billboard campaign promoting the idea that people can be “good without God” doesn't target fundamentalists, but I want to mention why I think it won't really have any effect on them whatsoever. No amount of personal virtue or charitable activity could ever convince most of them that you can live an ethical life without their religion. Beyond the issue of belief, which the campaign attempts to address directly, conservative believers have a very specific idea of what it means to be a good person. This includes refraining for all sorts of normal sexual activity, regularly attending and financially supporting a church in the community, and subscribing to and voting according to a conservative political ideology, at least on certain social issues. For some of them, it also means never drinking, smoking or dancing. Unless you act just like them in these matters, you'll never be good in their eyes. At most, you'll be slightly more tolerable.
The problem is that we can't honestly say that we act like strong believers even though we don't believe. We instead have to convince them the way we act isn't immoral because their objections to our lives have nothing to do with actual morality. That's a difficult task but a worthy one.
Posted at 3:30 PM
Last night my wife and I watched Ricky Gervais' new film, The Invention of Lying. It's set in an alternate universe where humans haven't evolved the ability to lie, and absolutely everyone is not only completely honest but also brutally frank in every situation. Gervais' character, Mark Bellison, is the first person on the planet who can tell an untruth, and he uses it to his advantage since people apparently also lack the ability to doubt anyone's veracity and believe whatever he says immediately and unquestioningly.
Using his unique skill, while trying to do something nice for his mother, Mark inadvertently creates the first religion in this world, focused on the “invisible man in the sky.” Though Mark actively seeks out opportunities to lie to get what he wants in other areas of his life, he's very reluctant to take on the role of prophet and does his best to create a reasonably fair and peaceful religion when he's forced to at the behest of the entire world. This is when the film becomes a true religious satire. Though it wasn't quite as funny as the best in this genre, I appreciated the humor. I don't want to give much away, but there are references to Moses, Jesus and even Joseph Smith. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rates the film “O” for “morally offensive.” Its official review contains some of the following phrases: “venomous supposed comedy,” “all-out sneering assault,” “despicably belittling,” “pervasive blasphemy,” “fashionable new atheism,” “slithers,” and “calculated cinematic insult.” Those words are like music to my ears, especially considering the source!
I'd give the film a rating of 9 out 10. I enjoyed the novelty of the concept, and any film in which someone exclaims, “@#$* the invisible man in the sky!” and a large crowd cheers in agreement automatically gets an elevated rating in my book. There were, however, a few disappointments. We never really see how perfect honesty would make society radically different from our own except that there's no fiction and they don't have the words true or false. It also seemed that people couldn't even imagine that someone could simply say something mistaken. At the end, I wanted to see more of what happened to his religion, but without the ability to lie, no one else could expand his revelation, so I have no real objection. And, of course, a world without any religion whatsoever would be so different, but I don't think Gervais could have pulled that off without being boring and preachy. This film does a fine job of approaching the concept, and I recommend it to everyone.
Posted at 12:00 PM
Today is the fifth anniversary of my apostasy from the Catholic Church. It's hard to believe that it's already been half a decade since I finally stopping worrying about being damned to eternal torment and began to truly live my life. In some ways, it feels like it was only yesterday, for it was the most significant day in the story of my life. It's also hard to believe that it's been almost three and a half years since I started this blog. I know I've averaged less than one post per week, but I'm proud of what I've written. In general, I've come so far and I'm very happy about that.
Posted at 12:00 AM