This week another friend of mine from High School passed away. As one gets older, this makes sense but it’s nonetheless hard to deal with since with every passing I feel my own mortality pulling in ever closer.
Being a former Evangelical Christian (a mix of Nazarene and Southern Baptist upbringings) and now an ardent skeptic and freethinker, I have struggles with mortality and the thought of non-being pretty frequently. While I am utterly unconvinced that there is any such thing as a consciousness without a mind, nor that there is any kind of afterlife for followers of any particular faith based ideology (see the Podcast episode with Matthew O’Neil where we discuss his book on the subject), I do still have a sort of general worry about death.
When I was a believer, I was constantly assured that when people left ‘their worldly body’ that they were being magically whisked away to the promised land with streets of gold and mansions for everyone. Through the eyes of a child, it never dawned on me to ask why God would so suddenly, violently and often horrifically rip people away from those they love only to move them into a better neighborhood. Nor to ask why a non-corporeal being would need mansions or streets paved with ridiculously impractical surfaces like gold. Or why winged version of my former family members would need streets at all.
Now days when I have someone pass from my life, I have to take stock of that person. I have to take on that loss and recognize they are gone. I will never get a chance to say “hello”, “goodbye”, or “I love you”. There will be no new memories made with them, and old memories will soon be distorted and forgotten. I have to deal with the guilt I carry about how I did or didn’t treat them. I have to figure out how to deal with a finality to life that I simply wasn’t brought up to be able to process.
People will sometimes ask “Why are you so MAD at God?”.
I’m not mad at god. I’m no more mad at the Christian God than I am Zeus, Harry Potter or any other mythical character of lore. I AM however mad at some religions, mad at some traditions, and absolutely furious at some people. I’m furious at those who so thoughtlessly retarded my understanding of the real world. That they would so easily put aside what’s real and true for what’s wanted and hoped for, leaving me to be completely unprepared for the day it all stopped making sense. The same people who told me the stove was hot and would burn me are the same people who told me god is vengeful and will also burn me only a billion times worse, forever.
The same people told me that my grandmother was only sleeping, and I would get to see her again.
Here is where I predict a divide in my readers responses. One group is wondering why I’m making such a big deal, and the other is sitting with their jaws either gaping in shock or clinched in anger.
Because of my traditional Christian upbringing, I never got to really tell anyone I lost goodbye. I never, while standing with them that last time, understood what I was losing and what I needed to do to properly mourn the loss and process the change. Instead I now have this strange cognitive dissonance around death. Part of me is unconvinced in the afterlife, and part of me still has the notion that I’m on a path to see my family and friends again when I die. I know they can’t both be true, and yet….
Then there is the problem of “What’s going to happen to ME?!?!” This thought process for me usually goes something like ‘Well… it will probably be a lot like before I was born and as far as I can remember, that wasn’t too bad… or good… or… anything.’ But therein lies the problem, we don’t know anything OTHER than being. Literally we have no memory of nonexistence. We simply can’t properly make our mind think of a world without that mind in it. Sure, you can picture the future without you, but you are still envisioning that world through a disembodied mind within that imagined future.
So, what are we to do?
First off, simply stop propagating fairy tales to children and ignoring the reality of death. Death is, as far as ANY observational research has shown, final and we need to raise people in a way that comports with reality.
Secondly, we simply can not continue to live in two worlds, one of science and one of faith and fantasy and expect people to be able to deal with reality or each other in any reasonable manner.
A story as old as humans themselves unfolded recently in Jerusalem. Star crossed lovers from incompatible family/religious backgrounds overcome every obstacle to be together until one day the girls Dad has had enough and, obviously, murders his daughter.
What? That’s not how it goes? It may not be Romeo and Juliette, but this is what you can get when religious ideologies trump rational thought.
“When she returned home, Henriette told a family member she was ready to convert to Islam. The family member told Henriette’s father. Upon hearing the news, according to the indictment, Karra went home, picked up a knife, and stabbed his daughter three times, killing her.”
And before you go doing the ‘this isn’t a real christian’ dance, yes, yes he is. Deal with it.
This is a reminder of why unfounded and irrational faith based beliefs are not something to take pride in, but rather to actively work against.
This isnt, by the way, a ‘christian problem’ or an ‘islamic problem’ or an ‘extremeist issue’.
This is an issue of not being able to tell reality from fiction.
This is an issue of people valuing the love and acceptance an imaginary friend over that of their own flesh and blood.
This is an issue of not using critical thinking, skepticism, logic and rationality.
This isn’t the only instance of faith based beliefs bringing harm, or even death. Remember the Mitchells? They are members of a Christian sect called the Followers of Christ Church, which has a history of infant deaths. Adherents reject traditional medical care in favor of prayer, and believe that if a person dies, the death was God’s will. An Oregonian investigation in the late 1990s found that 21 of the 78 children in the church’s graveyard could have been saved by medical intervention. To keep this in some sort of scale Ted Bundy, one of the most prolific mass murders in US history is only responsible for 36 killings.
One of the children that died because “Thoughts and Prayers” doesn’t fucking work was left in the WOMB for several days. Only after the mother passed the fetus were authorities alerted.
It’s far beyond time that we as human beings stop giving a free pass to faith based idiocy.
Hello again everyone! I’m so sorry for my hiatus from writing here, but my work in pod-casting and public speaking has had me on the ropes for a bit.
In case you don’t follow my twitter @freeligionsays or the facebook page, I have recently connected with David Smalley with the Dogma Debate podcast. David approached me to audition as the “News for the Fourth Listener” voice. After a few test runs, he gave me the gig! So, be sure to pop over to the Dogma Debate page and have a listen!
Also, I will be doing a co-host spot on Dogma Debate the week of August 23rd!
If you love a wonderful blues guitarist mixed with a stomp-clap rhythm singer, then Jonny Miller is going to blow your socks off. Today we had Jonny in the studio as our very FIRST live guest in the building.
Tonight we have a two part series for you.
In the first section, Jonny sits down with me for a candid interview about his history of how he came into the religious world as well as how he found hit way out, all while using music to both promote his faith, and renounce it later.
In Part Two of our Episode, Jonny plays a few tunes for us in the studio, you get to sit back and have a one on one session with Jonny and me.
This episode of the Freeligion podcast is a little special. This episode we are moving hosting services to Spreaker.com. So, please sign up at the RSS feed here: http://www.spreaker.com/show/2222465/episodes/feed
Or! Since Spreaker allows us to easily post to itunes, you can search iTunes or your podcatcher of choice for The Freeligion Podcast, and subscribe there as well.
This Episode we dive into Conmen. How people fool us and why we let them. Click, listen, and please share!!
All you have to do in this modern age of genetic sciences all you have to do is open a browser and type “GMO” or “CRISPR” to find a litany of amazing breakthroughs, advances and forward thinking ideas to help humanity for the long run. What you will also find is an abundance of people armed with keyboards and a gross misunderstanding of the science behind what they are so heavily opinionated about.
GMO ‘controversy’ aside (that would be an entire article to itself, short version is, they are safe, and there is currently no research that shows otherwise), the most commonly mentioned genetic technology mentioned today is the breakthrough of CRISPR.
CRISPR is short for Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats which in plain english turns out to just be a very early version of an immune system in bacteria. In short, the ‘technology’ was identified in archaea, and later in bacteria, consisting of repeating sequences of genetic code, interrupted by “spacer” sequences – remnants of genetic code from past invaders. The system serves as a genetic memory that helps the cell detect and destroy invaders (called “bacteriophage”) when they return.
If you would like a full technical breakdown on the processes involved in the CRISPR/Cas9 process: pop on over here, and I’m sure you will get far more than you bargained for. At least have a look at this if the other is TL;DR.
What brought me to the point of feeling the need to write this article was THIS article at the ‘interesting’ site, Liberty News Now.
Anytime an article on genetics starts with this loaded mess, you know you are in for a ride, and your skeptic bells should be jangling your brains loose. So, article starts with this image and the text “is the baby ready”.
Between 1935 and 1945 some 19,000 children were born as the beginnings of Hitler’s master race. Good SS boys were encouraged to “hook up” with blue eyed blond haired Nordic girls. The children born of such unions were placed in foster care or raised in special orphanages for raising good little Nazi children. If any of the infants were less than “perfect” they were killed or sent to concentration camps.
Fast forward to today. New Science reported, “A team in China has corrected genetic mutations in at least some of the cells in three normal human embryos using the CRISPR genome editing technique.”
No, you read that correctly, ‘author’ Jay Flickinger (emails should be sent to Info@LibertyNewsNow.com as it seems they don’t feel you should be able to contact Jay directly) starts out comparing the absolute life saving and world changing technology of CRISPR to mating experiments performed by Nazis. Okay, may be the ’50s era alien in a jar and Nazi comparison are just attention grabbers. I say this because Jay then cuts in to what CRISPR is and how it works. Well, sort of. He cuts a tiny segment of an article out and attempts to use that as an explanation of the tech. I would dare say you learned more at the beginning of this article.
But lets give Jay a chance to redeem himself, shall we?
Before CRISPR, Brazilian scientists desired a more productive honeybee. So, in 1956 they imported African honeybees to South America to breed this new strain. Some of the bees escaped and bred with different honeybees. Now the world has “killer bees.”
Okay, so again Jay is conflating cross breeding experiments with genetic research and precision gene editing. Strike two.
Presently scientists have no idea of the possible negative consequences that may be caused by CRISPR. There can be up to 150 unknown side effects.
This is untrue and a fear tactic that pseudosciences and conspiracy theorists use all the time. They want to make you think that the technology that is wildly unpredictable in their minds is ACTUALLY wildly unpredictable. This is faulty reasoning for two major reasons (and I’m sure a few other small ones), 1) no one has said this is a 100% safe, foolproof and understood area of research. Its not. That’s why its still being researched and why we want to understand it as best as possible before implementing it in the wild. Just like we did with Antibiotics and other healthcare methods. 2) Because something has side effects, or unintended consequences, it doesn’t negate the efficacy or need for the technology. Should we go slow? Should we closely monitor through transparent processes? Should we require high levels of ethical and moral review before implementations? Yes to all of these.
Next our buddy decides to fear tactic his readers some more with:
..Its potential for good is tremendous. That is, if we ignore the fact that we’re playing god with human embryos. Just imagine a world without cancer and birth defects. A world filled with happy, healthy people—a “master race” if you will….What if a government decides to weaponize these CRISPR perfect people? Let us return to the opening paragraph. Imagine for a moment that CRISPR technology had been available to Nazi Germany. It doesn’t seem a stretch to assume that Hitler would have employed this technology in attempting to create his master race. You know, a Captain America type soldier. On the other hand, what if one of the “off-target effects” creates a Resident Evil type monster? This is the stuff science fiction and horror movies are made of.
THIS is the bullshit that drives me up the wall. We have a technology that is capable of cutting and replacing a few, very specific, chunks of genetic code. If Jay had the slightest idea of how genetics worked, he would realize there is no small snippet of code that makes you 7 foot tall, or that gives you super strength, nor make you a 10 foot 600lb mass of tentacles. This LITERALLY, Jay, is the “stuff of science fiction and horror”. Maybe you should look up the word ‘fiction’ sometime.
While reading this article I was trying to work out the source of Jays fear, then he as if by magic, lays it out in the open.
What is meant for the good of humanity, in the wrong hands, is often twisted and used for nefarious purposes. There is no end to the evil intent of some. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5 ESV).
Bingo, a bible verse to explain everything! Men are inherently EVIL!! The bible tells me so. Not only does it tell us that we are irrevocably evil, it tells us that God MUST have intended for us to be that way. So, in this persons twisted world view, he feels that somehow his god created the entirety of the universe, then took special time out to imbue man with evil tendencies while planning to punish them eternally for a trait that he himself implanted… unintended consequences indeed…
True, people do often use things for the wrong reasons, make unethical decisions or a myriad of other things. But more often they use them for good.
On to what one would think would be the final blow of the article, ethics and morality!
Those who believe in transcendent truth, shudder at the idea of mutable humans defining morality.
Remember, we’ve seen this tactic from the religious right and others who think they have garnered some secret wisdom of the cosmos from their sky daddy many times before, usually in conjunction with any science that makes their particular god less ‘necessary’ or gives it fewer gaps to hide in.
“Transcendent truth”, the belief that knowledge can be garnered through some magical incantations performed at a particular deity. It’s funny how this ‘truth’ never results in ANYTHING useful. No one ever sits down, prays a while, and gets up as a Neurosurgeon. People cant even pray for the knowledge of how to make a rope from scratch. It simply, doesn’t actually occur in the real world.
The answer to the question of moral ability will most likely depend on an individual’s worldview. For those of us who believe in the God of the Bible, the answer is a resounding NO!
“…will depend on an individuals worldview.” No, this is exactly the WRONG way to settle this discussion. If we have a few hundred, hell a few dozen, groups that think like Jay does, that they have an untethered pipeline to the almighty (keep in mind they all are ‘connected’ to different sky daddies whose principles and morals tend to reflect those that the believer had inherently) how would the POSSIBLY every all agree on the morality of the situation? We already have precedent of the religious in the country (world) freaking out over interracial relations, vaccines, in vitro fertilization, test tube babies… Hell, we as a species have been arbitrarily selecting for traits in mates for as long as we have been mating. Let’s not even start down the path that if a god or gods created the current process of genetic spread, then he/they are solely responsible for every genetic abnormality, every cancer, every… well, everything. Nice guy.
I guess my over arching point here is. Calm down, and read the science. No one has created a ‘super human’ genome that we can swap out through CRISPR. There are no Captain Americas headed off the Nazi assembly line and we aren’t gene driving a master race. Do we need to proceed with caution keeping in mind the lessons we have learned? Absolutely. Should we allow religious neophytes to fear monger us into inaction and regression instead of progress for the sake of their ‘genuinely held fictional beliefs’? Not on your life.
This is the FIRST episode of the SECOND year of the Freeligion podcast!
This episode I let you all in on the harm that false beliefs can have on family relationships.
As you listen to this episode, you are going to want to follow along with the Chick Tract reading. You can see the entire booklet below: