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Location: Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
Fast Cars (Subaru STI), Big Motorcycles (Suzuki B-King and Honda Valkyrie), Fast Computers (Home Built), Photography (Canon 1D), Really Big Guns, Anime, Vampires, Gaming (You name it), Fractals, Movies, Music (3 iPods and 35,000 itunes tracks, holy crap!) Travel, Reading & Audiobooks (Emule and Pirate Bay are my friends), Ice Cream (Raspberry!), Sushi, -REAL- Dim-Sum, Curry (Vindaloo), Satay (*drool*), Beer (Fullers), Absinthe, Vodka (Stoli), Tequila, Bourbon (Maker's Mark) and I love Cooking.
Expertise: Win2k, WinXP, OSX, Adobe Photoshop, All kindsa computer crap. I was a pro photographer for a short while and still love to snap away. My driving isn't the best. The car's waay too good for me, but I'm not too bad behind the bars of a motorcycle.
Occupation: Computer related
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Christians have a saying. "Love the sinner, hate the sin". It's a nice idea in theory, even though sin doesn't exist. But if the less strident of our superstitious brethren can try to compromise, why is it more difficult for rational people to adopt the same attitude? "Like the believer but ridicule superstition". Well there's a problem or two with that.
The genuinely superstitious identify strongly with their beliefs. Attack the belief and you attack the person. That’s why many discussions on the supernatural become so heated so quickly. -You- know you're speaking academically, but they hear personal attacks. "Believing that you speak to the dead in séances is just delusional superstition, the idea has no basis in reality" they may hear as "you believe this stuff; therefore you are delusional and superstitious". Well... in a way they are right to hear that. If you believe you can talk to the dead, tell the future, commune with a creator of the universe, then frankly you ARE nuts. Your delusion may be commonplace and mainstream, but that does not make it any less ridiculous. That doesn't mean I don't like you. But as a friend, I feel pity that you are snared in an imaginary web that you could walk away from at any time.
Why do I refer to superstition rather than religion? Because I'm not just talking about religions. I'm referring to -all- superstitions. Scientology, Christianity, Voodoo,Islam, Satanism, and all the rest are there of course, but the depressingly long list also includes, Astrology, Feng-shui, Tea-leaf reading, Phrenology, Spiritualism,Tarot card reading, and a host of other examples of our early attempts to make sense of the universe.
So it's an inescapable fact. Believe any of that stuff andby definition you are superstitious. And if you are superstitious, you are bydefinition laboring under a delusion, and hence delusional.
So what does that make me? Some would call me atheist, and that would be true, but that's not the end of it. Atheism is just one facet of my freedom from superstition. In fact while I don't have a problem with the label in the context of religious discussion, in general I find it far too limiting. I just think of myself as "rational". But even that is problematic. I tend to side with Sam Harris, in that he thinks there is no need for a label to identify people like me. Ours is the default position, and those who deviate from it are the ones who need the labeling. What do you call someone who doesn't collect stamps? What is the label for someone who doesn't like rhubarb? What is the collective noun for those who don't watch the BBC on television? Why is it that someone who doesn't believe that there are deities,a so called "lack of belief" (a phrase I dislike intensely as we lack nothing) has a label, but someone who does not believe there are fairies at the bottom of the garden does not?
So call me "atheist", "bright","unsaved", or "damned" if you wish. The label makes no difference to what I am, only to how others perceive me.
This of course, leaves us with a seeming paradox. It is quite possible to be a superstitious atheist. So you don't believe in gods, your eject religions, and consider those that do not to be "wanting"intellectually. But at the same time, you hold other views that, while maybe not directly concerned with the supernatural, are equally superstitious by their very nature. Do you subscribe to the Gaia (Sentient Earth) theory of life?Do you believe we've been visited by extra-terrestrials? Do you believe that homeopathic remedies actually work in a non-placebo way? Then you, my friend,are superstitious. Even that bastion of rationality, Bill Maher, has fallen prey to this. A few years back on his show he made himself look just like the fundies he reviles, during a conversation about medicine and vaccines. While the conversation was not about the supernatural, Bill's reaction to a part of medicine he disagreed with was depressingly familiar.
As was amply demonstrated at the 2012 Reason Rally, some sections of the superstitious community are only too happy to vociferously inform the unbeliever of their grisly fate, should they continue to deny their great truths. Of course, the prospect of spending an eternity without parole in god's own turkey fryer holds little terror for anyone with half a clue, but incredibly in the 21st century, there are still those that believe in such things.
But I say it's rather too easy to feel superior to people who seem so irredeemably deluded. So before you get too comfortable about how demonstrably rational you are, you might want to take a look in the mirror.
"Like the believer but ridicule superstition" is fine, just make sure you're not one of the superstitious too.
Just a thought.
|I am an atheist.|
I'm often asked what that means to me, and what atheism is. Well I can tell you what it's not. It is not a "lack of belief in god" as I so often see in dictionaries. "Lack" implies that something is missing. There is nothing missing. It would be more accurate to say that being religious is encumbrance of supernatural belief.
I am not merely unencumbered by belief in a god. I am simply not a superstitious person. I regard religious belief, and a belief in anything supernatural, as a symptom of superstition. Therefore my atheism is a direct result of my rationalism.
I don't actively "reject god" or "turn away" from the idea of a god, any more than one would reject the tooth fairy, or actively deny the existence of Smurfs or deny any other kind of magical thinking. The very concepts are so unlikely as to merit no consideration until compelling evidence to the contrary is uncovered. And no, a medieval book does not constitute compelling evidence.
While religious people often clump together in groups who claim to believe the same thing, atheists tend to have very little in common except their understanding that there is no need for a creator of all things. We can be diametrically opposed politically and intellectually. Some atheists still fall prey to magical thinking despite their rejection of magic. It's all too easy to replace religious belief with scientific belief, especially if you were brought up in a religious environment. Comforting old habits like faith and blind acceptance are hard to break. So if you ever encounter a group of atheists, you'll probably find they have something other than their atheism bringing them together. Quite often it's self defense. There is safety in numbers after all, and unfortunately in the USA that can still be necessary. Often it's a sense of fun and play. We like to exchange ideas, challenge each others preconceptions, and poke fun at those unfortunate enough to be infected by superstitious belief. Nobody said we were perfect. Nobody said we had to be.
A 2009 study reported that 67% of teenagers in the UK do not believe in a god. A survey in 2008 found that 23% of Canadians said they did not believe in a god. Atheists tend to be well educated, smart, and higher earners, which bodes well for those countries! Estimates vary, but the percentage of the US population who identify as atheist (as opposed to generically non-religious) is between 2 and 4 percent, and it's rising. That may not look much compared to the UK, Canada, or the 87% who identify as Christian, but think about it. The current population of the USA is 312,343,368 (according to http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html). That could mean there are between 6,246,867 and 12,493,734 atheists in the USA at the moment. For every 50 people you know, 1 or 2 are atheist. That's a pretty significant chunk of a population and it's growing. We vote, pay taxes and more often than not end up in influential jobs. There's a pretty good chance that some of the religious right currently holding high office are in reality atheists playing the "base" for suckers. Nobody said we were perfect. Nobody said we had to be.
So what are the downsides of being an atheist in the USA? Well according to a study, we are the least trusted group in the country. The 2003 study, spearheaded by Penny Edgell, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, found that atheists rank below several other minority groups, including immigrants, gays and lesbians, conservative Christians, Jews and Muslims, as "least likely to share everyday Americans' vision of society". Another study indicated that atheists are the group most Americans least want their children to marry. My poor wife.
But if you look at the long term, it's not all gloom and doom. We are growing, and if you assume that the (also growing) 15% percent of non-religious US citizens don't find us quite so objectionable, there's a good chance there may be less need for politicians to lie about their atheism, and more secular candidates will attain high office, and shore up that crumbling wall between church and state. God knows it could do with the help. So I am uncharacteristically optimistic. The time for religion is over. Like anything that goes extinct it will take its own sweet time dying off, but die it will.
Will the world be a better place? Who can say. Humans are depressingly fond of killing themselves off in large numbers and oppressing those who fall outside their group. It will be interesting to see how many planes get flown into buildings in the name of... what exactly? How do you convince someone to kill themselves when you can't supply a generic reason like "it's god's will" and make them feel like it's worth it because "you'll get 72 virgins".
In a secular world, suicide bombers will be a dying breed.
Without gods to tell us what to do, we'll think for ourselves.
Without priests and imams, we'll no longer be able to look to authority to justify our bigotry.
I am an atheist.
I'm often asked what that means to me.
It means hope.
|Faith in science is not equivalent to faith in the supernatural.|
Faith in science is the evidentially based belief that the acquisition of knowledge will continue at the same pace as it has in the recent past, This will bring in its wake continued technological and theoretical developments that drive sociological changes, which in turn will distance us even further from the bronze age superstitions of our intellectual infancy.
Faith in the supernatural brings stagnation not change. It is the blind unquestioning belief in the unprovable and untenable. It stifles curiosity instead of nurturing it. It drives dissenting thought from the mind and replaces it with obedience to a supreme being who may not be reasoned with.
Scientific truth is jello nailed to a wall. On multiple occasions it has had to completely rewrite itself to account for things that were previously thought impossible or idiotic. No doubt it will do so again. Science pushes itself into the places that are hard to go, into realms that are dangerous to the status-quo, and there it looks for things that threaten its every preconception.
Religious truth is set in stone. On multiple occasions is has unsuccessfully resisted scientifically proven ideas despite a huge preponderance of evidence it is unable to refute. No doubt it will continue to do so. Religion hides from that which is dangerous to the status quo, and quakes with fear in the face of that which challenges its preconceptions.
If the Christiban had its way, we'd still be in the theological dark ages, believing we are sprung from Adam and Eve, living on a flat earth at the center of the universe surrounded by rotating spheres upon which the stars are affixed. Diseases would be sent by the Devil, Lightning would be a sign of the lord's displeasure. People who were in disagreement with the magesterium would be burned at the stake as heretics. Blasphemy would be a capital offense. The religious quest for truth is the quest to control what you believe, how you behave and what you consider possible. The religious live in a cage of their own making and won't be happy until we're all serving that same life sentence.
|Here's my 2 cents. A democracy only works when the voting population is engaged and informed. Otherwise the entire process is degraded to the level of betting on a horse because you like the color of the jockey's eyes.|
I tend to laugh at the ravings of political ignoramuses not because I believe I'm smarter than them, or that I may think I know more than them. Even if both those conditions were met, that would not be cause for laughter. In fact it's their inability to realize how little they know that's laughable.
What makes me laugh is that some people are deluded enough to believe watching the hacks on Fox News (sic) and listening to the ravings of that poisonous idiot Limbaugh and his ilk, give one a firm enough grasp of the political landscape to make sweeping pronouncements. A recent example that made me snort coffee out of my nose is "I would think that our current regime is bringing us to our knees and the Tea Party is trying to end that".
I rarely make actual political pronouncements, because they are a lot of effort to get right. I'm ignorant of most issues that determine an informed political standpoint. So when I decide to pontificate, it's because it's about something I feel strongly about. So strongly that I would make the considerable effort to gather facts, read appropriate documents, and do something that your average armchair pundit is incapable of. It's called research.
So I laugh. I laugh because they sound ignorant, stupid and their opinions (for want of a better description) have little or no basis in reality. I laugh because they actually believe the lies fed to them by a propaganda machine, that is derided throughout the rest of the free world. I laugh because in their parochial view, America is still #1 and they don't need to care about what the rest of the world thinks. I laugh because they believe a strongly held opinion is a valid substitute for an informed opinion.
And I weep because these people vote, but have the audacity to blame some mythical "elite" for the state the country is in.
|#ATT and #Verizon (amongst others) have decided that Unlimited Data Plans are a "Bad Thing". I suppose they're not making enough money off them any more, so it's time to turn the thumbscrews some more. They hatched a cunning plan. The top 5% bandwidth users on Unlimited Plans, will be throttled as an incentive to be more responsible with a non-infinite resource. At first glance, seems like a reasonable idea, and then...|
Here's the thing. Even if ALL the unlimited users were frugal, the top 5% would still be throttled, as they'd still be the top 5%, right? So where is the incentive to be responsible, if you know you'll be screwed even if you are not a bandwidth hog? I have an unlimited plan just for those rare times I may need it on the road. There's no point having it if the data is arbitrarily rendered unusable. Which I suppose is the point. In the workplace this would fall under the description of "Hostile Environment".
Now I may be wrong, and this throttling will only apply to people exceeding a certain volume.. say 2GB? But so far that hasn't been a part of any explanation I've heard.
My unlimited Verizon plan bandwidth usage rarely exceeds 500MB in a billing period. However I signed up for that plan because I wanted to be able to use all the bandwidth I needed during a billing period, should that become necessary, without incurring any punitive costs. How is it these entities are given free reign to move goalposts in this manner? I'm seriously pissed at the so called "free market" being overridden by special interest cartels. Whatever happened to competition?