Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sam's Greatest Hits

Sam Harris is an author,neuroscientist,and co-founder and CEO of Project Reason. He has a Bachelor of Arts of philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. He is a proponent of scientific skepticism and is the author of "The End of Faith"(2004),"Letter to a Christian Nation"(2006),"The Moral Landscape"(2010),and"Lying" (2011). He has written numerous articles concerning the criticism of religion for the Huffington Post,Los Angeles Times,The Washington Post,The New York Times,Newsweek,as well as scientific journals such as Nature.

Many of the blog posts that I have written are concerning my disbelief in the supernatural. More so the disbelief in religions and gods. I will admit that most of the ideas are not original or new to anyone but by all means I have made every effort to reference and quote when necessary. I have also added my personal experiences into my blogs as well as my on ideas. Sam Harris is by far my favorite influence and I love to quote him as much as possible. He,among many other free thinkers have really shifted my way of thinking in the last several years and I wanted to give an collage of quotes this week to highlight some of my favorite Sam Harris quotations. Some of which may have been used to previous blog entries but is worth re-reading. I have yet to hear a more rational,reasonable,articulate,well-mannered voice in the world of atheism. If you have the time he is well worth a youtube adventure.
Ladies and gentlemen.....Dr Sam Harris:

"All of our scriptures were written by people who, by virtue of their placement in history had less access to scientific knowledge and to what is now basic common sense than any person in this room. In fact, there's not a person in this room,who's ever MET a person,who's world view is as narrow as the world view of Abraham,Moses,Jesus or Muhammad. These people knew to nothing of the facts that are now reverent to us in the 21st century. They knew nothing about the origins of life,the relationship between the mind and brain.They didn't know that mental illness was even a category of human suffering. They knew nothing about DNA,or viruses,or computation,or electricity.None of this is in scripture.They had no idea why people got sick and died.Unless you saw someone stabbed with a had no idea why they died."

"Our situation is this:most of the people in this world believe that the Creator of the Universe has written a book.We have the misfortune of having many such books on hand,each making an exclusive claim as to its infallibility."----The End of Faith

"Science is not in principle committed to the idea that there is no afterlife or the mind is identical to the brain. Or that materialism is true. Science is completely open to whatever in fact is true. And if its true that conscienceness is being run like software on the brain and by virtue of ectoplasum or something else we don't understand can be disociated from the brain at death. That would be part of our growing scientific understanding of the world if we could discover it.There are ways we could in fact discover that if it were true.,the problem is there are very good reasons to think that it is not true. And we know this now from now 150 years of neurology where you damage areas of the brain,and faculties are lost and its not that everyone with brain damage has their soul perfectly intact...they just can't get the words out. Everything about your mind can be damaged by damaging the brain. You can cease to recognize faces,you can cease to know the names of animals but you still know the names of tools.The fragmentation in the way in which our mind is parcellated  at the level of the brain is not at all intuitive and there is a lot known about it,but what we are being asked to consider is: You damage one part of the brain and the mind and subjectivity is lost,you damage another and yet more is lost...and yet if you damage the whole thing at death! We can rise off the brain...with all our faculties intact recognizing grandma and speaking English!"---debating the afterlife

"Religion as we speak of it. Islam, Christianity,Judaism is based on the claim that God dictates certain books.  He doesn't code software,He doesn't produce films,He doesn't score symphonies...He is an author. And this claim has achieved credibility because these books are deemed so profound they could not have possibly been written by human authors. Please consider for a moment how differently we treat scientific claims,texts and discoveries."

"Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling.The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible's account of itself.There is a vast literature describing the life of Muhammad that,from the point of view of Islam,proves that he was the most recent Prophet of God. Muhammad also assured his followers that Jesus was NOT divine. (Koran 5:71-75;19:30-38) and that anyone who believes otherwise will spend eternity in Hell.Muslims are certain that Muhammad's opinion on this subject,as on all others,is infallible.
 Why don't you lose any sleep over whether to convert to Islam?Can you prove that Allah is not the one,true God? Can you prove that the archangel Gabriel did not visit Muhammad in his cave? Of course not.But you need not prove any of these things to reject the beliefs of Muslims as absurd. The burden is upon them to prove that their beliefs about God and Muhammad are valid. They have not done this.They can not do this. Muslims are simply not making claims about reality that can be corroborated. This is perfectly apparent to anyone who has not anesthetized himself with the dogma of Islam.
 The truth is,you know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with the respect of the beliefs of Muslims. Isn't it obvious that Muslims are fooling themselves? Isn't it obvious that anyone who thinks that the Koran is the perfect word of the creator of the universe has not read the book critically? Isn't it obvious that the doctrine of Islam represents a near-perfect barrier to honest inquiry? Yes, these things are obvious. Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity.And it is the way I view all religions." ---Letter to a Christian Nation

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blessings from Above??

blessing: n. 1.The act that one blesses.2.A short prayer said before or after a meal.Grace.3.Something promoting or contributing to happiness,well-being,or prosperity.

luck: n. 1.a force that brings good fortune or adversity. The events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual. 2.Favoring chance.

My life is full of blessings. And for this I am very lucky. During this time of year everyone is taking personal inventory of everything in their lives that they are thankful for. I too am thankful for everyone that blesses my life. Blessings can be defined as nothing more than a smile on someone's face when you're having an off day. Someone buys you a cup of coffee,or just being thoughtful enough to hold the door open for you when entering a building. Many times over in my life people have blessed me continuously. I am truly blessed. 

The problem for me is I absolutely hate using the word(s) Bless(ed)(ing). This word comes with a lot of baggage and implications. I for one have refrained from its usage over the years. There seems to be religious implications by using this word(s) 99.6% of the time once used. The religious among us has "hi-jacked" this word for their heavenly justification that blessings come from above. I realize this is not always the case but the word(s) have become synonymous with God's goodness.  Let's pause here and reflect on the term "hi-jacking":

It seems to me that the religious crowd have adopted the word bless as a direct and divine cause. Ok...I'm cool with that. You can have it. I'm quite sure the bible mentions blessed many times over. A simple definition of the word takes on a completely different meaning once the word is "hi-jacked". Take for example the word gay. The homosexual community has completely re-defined this word to a completely different meaning than its original definition. 99.6% of everyone that uses the term gay is referring to homosexuals.

gay: adj. 1.happily excited.Keenly alive and exuberant:having or inducing high spirits. 2.homosexual;of,relating to,or used by homosexuals.

Somewhere along the way the homosexual community "hi-jacked" the word gay to re-define themselves. You rarely ever hear anyone refer to their happiness as being gay. Only on the Flintstone's cartoon do we ever hear "We'll have a gay ole timeeeee!" at the end of the theme song. Therefore the heterosexual community has discontinued the use of the word gay when describing their happiness. 

Just as I, the non-believer in deities, have discontinued the usage of the word blessed as so no one will mistake or confuse me for being religious. But this wasn't always the case.

I was living out my early to mid-twenties and still proclaiming how blessed I was from God. As my twenties came to a close I started to wonder with plenty of confusion why God would continue to bless a man that is full of skepticism,doubt,uncertainty, and disbelief. I mean....Consider this: There are people sitting in his house of worship on any given Sunday that are far more less fortunate than I am. And yet I receive more blessings than they.

Consider: The church I grew up in. The entire congregation was on the same sheet of music as far as our religious beliefs. We sang the same hymns,prayed the same prayers,heard the same sermons,etc. And yet there were families in that church (...and yours too) that were more "blessed" than others. A family on welfare...a middle class family...and an extremely rich family. The entire economic spectrum was represented in that congregation and yet God was showing favoritism when issuing out blessings. Someone explain this! Was one family out praying the other?  

Dr Sam have the floor:
  "This kind of faith,is really the perfection of narcissism....
"God loves me,don't ya know? He cured me of my eczema.He makes me feel so good while singing in church. And just when we had given up hope,He found a banker who was willing to reduce my mother's mortgage"... 
Given all that this God of yours does not accomplish in the lives of others.Given the misery that is being imposed on some helpless child at this instant...This kind of faith is obscene. To think in this way is to fail to reason honestly or to care sufficiently about the suffering of other human beings"

The message should be crystal clear. Your blessings do NOT come from above. Considering this world you live in if full of suffering and human misery at any given moment. You would think this would give Christians pause before they add fuel to the arrogant fire that drives the belief that God wants them to be completely blessed. Take a moment this Thanksgiving to realize your blessings are purely by chance. Luck. Consider yourself lucky that you have what you have. Whether its a little or a lot. And perhaps take a little time to bless others. Without human blessings...We'd have no blessings at all!

Have a gay Thanksgiving everyone! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Risky Business

"Evolution Happens whether you Like it or Not"
"Ron Paul 2012"

My ex-boyfriend Tyler had a little too much to drink last night. Somehow he made his way over to my place( I won't disclose he was drinking and driving). In his lack of judgement and impairment he decided it would be funny to slap a "Ron Paul 2012" bumper sticker on my car! Grrrrrr!
Now, his current boyfriend is a huge supporter of Ronny and my brother wants him as prez as well. I get it. I like Ron Paul, he makes more sense than the other complete idiots that are running for the GOP presidential nomination for 2012. I just think he hangs out with the wrong crowd. Drop that republican from your name Ronny and we have a deal.
This year's grab bag of GOP presidential hopefuls are a piece of work. Watch their debates and one wonders if there is any education standards represented at all. They are complete history and science deniers. I know our Constitution states that there are no religious tests to hold a public office in the good ole USA but c'mon! How about a educational test to qualify because these GOP clowns running for president act like...and sound like...they never opened a text book there entire lives. All of them do,however, sound like the graduated the top of their class in Sunday school. 
Bachmann denying the advanages of HPV vaccines,and praying the gay away. Newt Gingrich thinks that stem cells floating in a petri dish have souls and that destroying these cells is killing children.
Listen to Rick Santorum speak. You'd think he wants his country back to the days of the Old Testament.

How many evolution deniers are there? They still denying global warming being a fact.
 Rick Perry wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education. That sounds about right. Everything he's ever learned and needed to know came in church. This country needs a standard of learning and educational requirements to hold its highest office. But since the GOP's base are science deniers as well, you might as well cater to their ignorance.

The Bachmann's,Palin's,Bush's,Santorum's,Cain's,Perry's of the world think that its quite possible for Jesus to return from the clouds like some damn super hero sometime within their administrations. It seems to me this would drain their motivation to improve the way of life for all Americans while we sit here waiting on Jesus to show us all his magical powers. I could never vote republican for their "Christ"-ie ways and complete disregard for science and education in this country. Investing in proper education on our children is investing in this country's future but all they seem to care about are faith based policies on pro-choice,abstinence,terrorism,and creationism. They think Jesus is republican and anyone like Bush is an honorary 13th disciple for the next 4-8 years.

But sadly for this country,as Sam Harris points out:
 "You can't possibly get elected if you don't believe in the God of Abraham.....if you openly doubt that one of our books was written by the Creator of the Universe...that's the end of your political career"

"The God that our neighbors believe in, is essentially an invisible person. He is a creator deity who created the universe to have a relationship with one species of primate. Lucky us! And he's got galaxy upon galaxy to attend to,but He is especially concerned with what we do. And he is Especially concerned about what we do while naked! He almost certainly disapproves of homosexuality......Can you believe in this god ...on bad evidence? Which is to say on faith...And if you can you will win an eternal life of happiness after you die
And its precisely this sort of god this sort of scheme that you must believe in if you're going to have any kind of future in politics in this country. No matter what your gifts, You could be an unprecedented genius.You could look like George Clooney. You could have a billion dollars.You could have the social skills of Oprah,and you are going no where in politics in this country unless you believe in that sort of god."

Given this much reason and rational thinking....I'm writing in Sam Harris for Prez!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mee Maw Ruby

My friend Tyler and I took a road trip to "the country" one afternoon. Back to my hometown in Bassett,VA. I was taking him to meet my grandma Ruby. I was interested in showing him a part of my family's history and heritage by letting him explore the house and the land that my mother grew up in and a place I used to hang out when I was younger.  My grandpa and grandma Cockram were for the most part farmers. Gardens on every side of there house growing just about any fruit or vegetable one could think of. I grew up seeing cows,chickens,and yes,even honey bees. My grandparents "made"everything from the farm.  Eggs,butter,honey,apple cider,"preserves". It was a regular Food Lion (a local grocery store chain) around there. Trips to the farmer's market every weekend was a must considering the volume of food they produced. 
 Production on the farm slowed down once my grandpa Noel died in 1994. Well, sorta....My Mee Maw Ruby was a worker. A very hard worker. It was all she ever known in her life. She belonged to a typical country family who saw it necessary to quit school at a very early age to tend to siblings and farm land. These days people like grandma simply don't exist. Work like my grandma performed her entire life is discarded and deemed too hard for the American way of we give the work to Mexicans.

My friend Tyler and I was sitting around grandma's kitchen table carrying a conversation about the old days. Grandma showed Tyler some old family photos and was talking about life when she was our age. All the sudden she asked Tyler if he wanted some apples to take home with him to Roanoke. Of course he did! At this point I'm expecting grandma to open the refrigerator door and grab some apples...or perhaps open the cupboard  to fetch some. No....She grabs a bag and instructs Tyler to follow her...walked outside her back porch and proceeded to the nearest apple tree. 
 "Hold this" grandma says. Handing Tyler the bag. She climbed that apple tree what seemed like 2 stories and proceeded to throw apples down to Tyler in that bag. It was though she went to work. She stepped into her office! Working on a Sunday. name it. It was funny to think maybe it should be Ty or I in that tree...Geesh Grandma was in her mid to late 70's! Doing what she did best and wouldn't take no for an answer. 

Grandma Ruby was a rock. Climbing rooftops to clean gutters,mowing yards,fetching fire wood and of course climbing apple or cherry trees til the last few years of her life. Once cancer came knocking at her door it forced her to slow down. 

Once she went to war on a band of Japanese hornets. Lured them in a well lit back porch in the dark of night. Her back porch was enclosed. She trapped them in...closed the door behind her and started swatting away her hornet at a time. No military fatigues required. Tough as nails Mee maw Rubes!

Cancer has a way of softening even the hardest body...the super heroes we have become mere mortals when cancer is in their path. She fought it and fought it...never wanting anyone to know she was suffering a losing battle....she had her ups..her downs...her good days...and her bad...She wore it all with a smile! A very tough smile!

Grandma would have been 85 last Monday....her one year death anniversary is Nov 8,2011 and of course its a time to reflect and think of sweet mee maw :)

R.I.P. Ruby Cockram