Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Atheism as Religion

I know, another post about religion. Sorry about that, but I've had a thought.

There is an item in Salon about an atheist gathering in London. It's sparked further conversation about whether or not Atheism is a religion.
I've heard and engaged in many different arguments for and against the idea of atheism as religion, but I'm going to skip all that for now, and go straight to my thought.

Let's assume that the belief that there is no god constitutes enough of a belief structure to call it a religion. (We're also going to skip arguments about strong vs weak atheism and the distinctions between the presence of a belief and the lack of one.)

There are many more things that we can lack belief in, or flat out have the belief that they don't exist, as well. An infinite number of things, actually, many of them involving gods or god-like beings. Skipping straight to the absurd...

Leprechauns are godlike. The ability to grant wishes is powerful enough to qualify them as at least demi-gods. Piss them off, and they might slip over the line into Deity, and you've got an eternity with their shilelagh bouncing on your noggin to look forward to. At the risk of being heretical to my Celtic ancestry however, I have to state for the record that I do not believe the little buggers exist.

If the belief that a thing does not exist constitutes a religion, I suppose that statement just made me a member of the Aleprechaunist Church. I will now take up the collection. And as long as we get to declare who belongs to what religions for them, most of the world also belongs to this religion. The tithing would make me rich, except everyone also belongs to a few other religions taking their fair share as well.

Ninja Elves do not live in my closet. There. I've said it. I have finally given in to the inevitable and joined the rest of the human race in belonging to the Aninjaists. Of course, my closet is just one sect of this religion. Ninja Elves do not live in your closet either. I belong to both sects, and I'm pretty sure you do too. There's about seven billion sects of this religion, and we all belong to them all.

Pink Ninja Elves do not live in my closet. There. I've said that too. That's roughly fourteen billion religions I now belong to, and we haven't even gotten past Leprechauns and Ninja Elves of Various Colors.

If disbelief is belief enough to create a religion, then we are all beholden to an infinite number of them. If you're a Christian, I'm pretty sure Jesus and your pastor aren't going to like that. You can discuss it with them at the next gathering of Reformed Azeusists. They're members too.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Eternity and Hell

I'm not sure people get the idea of eternity.
To borrow from a Buddhist metaphor: Think of an extraordinarily tall mountain. I think Mt. Rainier, primarily because I just like Mt. Rainier. Now, imagine a small bird that can fly to the top. It lands on a rock, cleans its beak by drawing it twice across the rock, and flies away. One bird does this every century.
Think of the time it would take to wear the mountain down to a flat plain, just by having a once a century visit from a small bird sharpening its beak... and you haven't even begun to make a dent in eternity. Grind down an entire mountain range this way, and it hasn't even registered against Forever.
There was once a method of torturous execution called a Brazen Bull. The victim would be locked into the belly of a metal bull, and a fire lit underneath. The screams of the dying went through a series of tubes that made it sound like the bull was bellowing.
Now then.
Imagine a prisoner who can't die, and can never become accustomed to pain. Every moment is as torturous as the one before. The whole time the century bird is wearing down the mountain, this person is in a Brazen Bull, screaming. No rest, no relief, no end. The mountain slowly wears away, the bird moves to another. And another. And it will never run out of mountains, and the victim will never stop screaming.
Is there anyone, seriously, that we could justify doing that to? Emotionally, a series of names comes to mind: Hitler, James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Jack the Ripper.
How many mountains would the bird's beak chew through before we said enough is enough, though?
Let's punish Hitler! Let's put him in the Bull for a lifetime for every life he was responsible for snuffing out. Six million Jews, a million gypsies, who knows how many mental patients, all the soldiers who died in the war... let's make it an even 20 million lives, and 80 years per life. That's 1.6 billion years.
It would take the bird longer than that for the first mountain.
I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, I'm sure everyone got the point a long time ago, but the question remains: Would a billion years of excruciating pain be enough for Hitler? Keep in mind, that if there's a Hell, then there is also a Heaven. Every one of those 20 million lives are either in Hell with Hitler, or in Heaven watching the whole thing.
At what point would even the most jaded and bloodthirsty of Hitler's victims say, "holy cow, even we didn't have to suffer that much, let him out."
Let him out, before we become worse than him, before the amount of torture we are comfortable with inflicting exceeds the amount that he inflicted.
But we can't. The bird isn't finished. The bird will never be finished.
I don't get Hell. I don't understand why the concept is acceptable to anyone who isn't an inhuman monster.
Unless people just don't understand eternity. I hope that's it. I would hate to think I live among inhuman monsters who know exactly what they are wishing to happen to someone when they say, "I hope you rot in hell!" That it's usually self-proclaimed Christians saying it, is an irony for another discussion. But let's hope we aren't surrounded by monsters.
Let's just hope that people don't understand Eternity.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reversing the Constitution

     Many of the debates I watch or engage in end up at some point with someone saying, "Show me where you have the right to _______." It doesn't matter what the topic is, this is a common refrain.

     "Show me where you have the right to | get married | buy ammo | drive a car | live where you want | ride a motorcycle | chew gum | have a dog.

     Where would these rights be listed? Contrary to what seems to be the generally held belief, the U.S. Constitution does not grant rights to U.S. citizens. What it does is limit the government, and (attempts to) guarantee the government won't violate rights. It does not try to enumerate all the rights we have. It shows some of them in specifically forbidding the government from making laws that would violate them.
     The Constitution is a severely restrictive document on purpose; it was not written for the citizens. The citizens are sovereigns. No leaders; representatives. No kings; sovereigns unto themselves. The ability to do anything at all, provided it wasn't against the law. So what of the law-making body? That's where the American experiment shines.
     Instead of having a government ruling the citizens, it was reversed. The citizens ruling the government. And an extraordinarily limited government at that, able to only do what the Constitution allowed it to do. But it seems too many are eager to reverse it yet again.

...I began writing this a while back. I was actually going somewhere with it, but I also noticed I've never published anything on this blog. So I will let this stand as is for now, just to stir up some thoughts.

I don't intend this blog to be just political in nature. I'm not sure what my intentions are, to be honest. Some things just stick with me in a way that I have to think deeper about them. I'm sure a vision will arise in time.