Tag: Atheism

100 Years of Fringe Religion: Thelema, Discordianism, Wicca, Satanism and…Atheism?

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I was putting together a time-line for another essay when something occurred to me. Various religions that started as fringe have grown and expanded over the years, many becoming legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream (or at least, approaching legitimacy), but somewhere along the line we seem to have run out of steam.Early into the twentieth century Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis or The Book of the Law, the central text of Thelema, a new religion or spiritual technology (I'll leave it to those more invested to argue which description suits it best). Crowley joined the OTO and shortly afterwards assumed the role of the OHO, subsequently reworking its rites and rituals to integrate the principles of Thelema, effectively setting it up as a Thelemic organization, which it remains today.In the late 1950s Malaclypse the Younger and Omar K. Ravenhurst received a divine revelation from a chimpanzee in a bowling alley. There they learned of Our Lady of Chaos, Eris. The Goddess of Discord was alive and well and continues to merrily wreak havoc on mortals, who don't always seem to get the joke. Indeed, Kerry Thornley (Omar K. Ravenhurst) described it as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion... Even so, Discordianism's still around and stronger than ever, even if it's not always taken as seriously as some of its more greyfaced adherents would like.  Read More

On Evolution

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Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker, first published in 1986, was written to counter arguments made in favour of creationism by the eighteenth century theology William Paley's Natural Theology, published in 1902.Paley is perhaps best remembered today for his watchmaker analogy, intended as an argument in favour of the existence of an intelligent designer, or god. This was first seriously challenged by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection (the consequence of, or process by which "favourable" traits become prevalent and "unfavourable" traits become rarer), made well known in his The Origin Of Species first published in 1859. Dawkins further decimates Paley's theory, arguing instead for a "blind" watchmaker, as highly complex systems can be produced by a series of small, cumulative – yet naturally selected – steps, rather than relying on a supernatural designer.
If you walk up and down a pebbly beach, you will notice that the pebbles are not arranged at random. The smaller pebbles typically tend to be found in segregated zones running along the length of the beach, the larger ones in different zones or stripes. The pebbles have been sorted, arranged, selected. A tribe living near the shore might wonder at this evidence of sorting or arrangement in the world, and might develop a myth to account for it, perhaps attributing it to a Great Spirit in the sky with a tidy mind and a sense of order. We might give a superior smile at such a superstitious notion, and explain that the arranging was really done by the blind forces of physics, in this case the action of the waves. The waves have no purposes and no intentions, no tidy mind, no mind at all. They just energetically throw pebbles around, and big pebbles and small pebbles respond differently to this treatment so they end up at different levels of the beach. A small amount of order has come out of disorder, and no mind planned it.
Dawkins explains that, of course Read More

The Nature of Spirits

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Whenever we read the great tales of ghosts and goblins, of gods and their helpers, of priests, lore, and magic, we are always struck with the idea that these spirits have emotions, that they are suffering from human frailties, and that they have a will power. The origin of the idea of the soul, of the spirits and the gods, all comes from the most human desire: immortality, freedom from fear of death. As it so happens to be natural, humans desire to avoid pain, suffering, misery, and death. The idea that death or the end of life is not really the end of life, and that a misery-less future awaits those who die, this idea is a relatively attractive one. With an afterlife, there is no death, so it is easy to see why one might enjoy such a theory, regardless of the lack of any evidence whatsoever. Since this idea in an afterlife flourishes considerably, there is are other popular ideas about spirits, souls, and other items that exist in this afterlife theory.

Our memories, our experiences, our thoughts, ideas, notions, character, attitude, and feelings are all stored within the mind. Science, or at least all honest investigative studies, would tell us that our mind is located within the physical brain of the body. So far, no other theory has come up with any verifiable evidence to the contrary. Another theory, with much less evidence, does exist. It is the idea that the mind is a part of the soul — that when the body dies, the mind leaves the body with the soul. Some individuals have offered evidence on behalf of such a trite idea. They have argued that since it is a part of the spiritual realm, one which tools and devices and technology cannot reach nor see, that it is out of their jurisdiction of judgment. An interesting idea, I admit. One might as well claim that they have invented, discovered, or uncovered something that is wonderful and beautiful, but that is completely unsensible by human senses. (i.e. we might have a tourist trap with the holy grail, only to find a plaque “If you have sinned, you cannot see or feel it, but you must believe it is there.”)

One might be so educated and thoughtful enough to feel that the theory of a soul is so discredited, that it needs no further examination; it becomes a moot point. However, there are some things in this field that might want to be considered, just in a hypothetical point of view at most. So it indeed happens that every folk story and every old religion regards spirits as vibrant and powerful beings. In Greek mythology, the gods often came down from their clouds, to mate with earthlings, or kill them, or have dealings with them. In the stories of these gods, they all seem to have the exact same characteristics of any human being. They have desires, wants, fears, hopes, beliefs. They react to their environment. When they are informed that their plans have failed, they react with disappointment, and maybe rage or violence. When they are informed that their plans have succeeded, they react with happiness, and maybe feasting or gloating. The gods are essentially the most human of any theoretical being, and this is no surprise when we think of their creator.

I cannot, for the life of me, suppose any idea or theory as to why any of the gods are endowed with desires or wants anyway. When I think of the origin of such psychological phenomena in humans, or any other organism, my question is immediately answered. Humans are endowed with a complex brain because it is necessary towards survival. The same can be argued for any other living creature. Desire motivates, it creates movement. When a predator, either a crocodile or a lion or any other for that matter, is hungry, it hunts to satisfy its desire. In this situation, the component of the brain that creates desire and want, especially for satisfying hunger, this component is essential. Those predators that were born without this capability could not hunt or eat as effectively, and could not fight for breeding rights very well either, since they could not want them. And, so, it would die, leaving no offspring, leaving no other organisms on this planet with their DNA — DNA which contains a lack of desire. We can apply this to other organisms, too. Prey that is born without a desire to flee its natural predator, for example, will not live long enough to reproduce. The same can be said of prey that does not want to eat to satisfy its hunger, either. It will waste away to weakness and then be taken by its predator.

Desire definitely plays a strong and important role in the psyche of all consciousness-endowed organisms. However, it is not the only important part of consciousness. For example, there is also pain, the physical affliction, or misery, the mental affliction. An animal can suffer, and it is this suffering that they will forever be afraid of. Their fear and their suffering gives them something to desire: happiness and security. Without pain, an organism will not react negatively to another trying to kill it — at least, if instincts were gone as well. Without happiness, an animal would not know whether it was doing something right or wrong. The social instinct, to be in a collective of like organisms, is natural to almost every mammal. When wolves hunt in packs, they are more effective killers. When humans band together to form societies and civilizations, the fruit of their labor increases. When zebras feed and mate in packs, all of their stripes form a natural defense, by disallowing predators from knowing where one zebra starts and another ends. The social instinct has given each organism a strong advantage in survival. And, when organisms survive, they can reproduce, and more organisms like themselves, with the same emotions and mental faculties, will be produced.

Let us not forget the importance of the mating instinct. The sexual arrousal caused by flirting or foreplay plays a significant role in the mating act. The orgasm itself and the sexual drive to achieve are important to every creature. It seems that in every group of thoughtful organisms, there is not competition for the right to reproduce, some how or some way. Often, it is the male competing for the female, but this is not the only case. In some cases, there is polygamy, and in others, there is polyandry. Every rule of behavior that we can think of for other organisms will always have exceptions to it. The underlying fact that sex plays an important role in the mental faculties of conscious organisms is important to my thesis. The mind is full of complexities and faculties that make it conscious. All of these emotions, these feelings, play a strong sense in the conscious organism.

Now that I have covered a great deal on the complexities of conscious organisms, one might be curious as to why I brought up this subject in the discussion of spirits. First of all, all of the components of the mind that I mentioned above — desire, fear, social instinct, sex — all of these components have a reason for existence. By this, I mean that they all exist because of the natural and perpetual struggle that goes on in the natural world. Without desire or fear or sexual impulses, an organism would not reproduce, and therefore, no other organisms with that mentality would be created, except by chance of reversion, which is very unlikely. My question is this: why is it that spirits and souls are endowed with these psychological aspects?

In all of the stories I have read of the gods, I have uncovered all of these impulses. I have encountered the sexual urge of the gods of Greece and Rome. I have discovered the ability to desire and feel accomplishment or disappointment in the gods and spirits of Animist cultures. It seems that there is no god, excepting the god of Deism, that has no interest in being involved with the people who believe in him. The Christians believe their god will save them. The Hindus believe their god will reincarnate them. The Jews believe that their god has smashed societies and cultures for the tiniest of reasons. Every religion remains identical in this fact.

Okay, so, we have spirits, souls, and gods, many of them endowed with human mentality. I am quite curious, though. Why is it that no playwright in ancient Greece ever described one of the gods as rubbing his belly and hungry? Why have I seen no spirits that get hungry? Some cultures feed their spirits, but that’s even more absurd. They leave only enough food for a few days or a weeks. And why leave any food at all? Will the spirits decompose and go to the state of the after-afterlife? The sexual urge that seems so prevalent in so many religions, from the god of Christianity violating a virgin meant to be married to the Greek gods that committed such fornication on a regular basis — just why does the sexual urge prevail? Of what use is it? Are the gods going to mate and then produce spiritual offspring?

What seems a thousand times more odd is that the gods are lacking those parts that make sexual activity useful, for procreation or recreation. The penis and the vagina, these two parts that are responsible for producing the pleasure of sex, are non-existent on ghosts. If a human loses such a part, it is impossible to engage in sexual activity. And, it seems that these ghosts have lost all their bodies. Yet, the urge to have sex is prevalent, while their sex organs are not prevalent. One may argue with me, “But the gods and ghosts have physical bodies that they can use!” If this is true, then it shouldn’t be even slightly difficult to get evidence of god. Whenever pressed for evidence, the religionist usually claims, “But they are noncorporal entities — they are not physical, they are spiritual.” No thoughtful spiritualist will claim their god is actually physical, because in doing so, they have opened the doors to dispelling their beliefs in a heartbeat.

The need to eat is as absurd as the desire to have sex for the gods. Other things, such as the social instinct and any desire at all, seem to also be quite absurd. Why animals and other conscious organisms are equipped with desires and the social instinct is easy to understand. With regard to the social instinct, it has helped organisms to survive against the natural elements, or predators, or aided in obtaining their prey. When organisms had a social instinct, they were more effective at survival, and that means they were more effective at reproducing. When organisms had no social instinct, they died rather quickly — not able to reproduce something like themselves, leaving the world destitute of such types of species. (And while there may be exceptions to this rule of the social instinct, the previous description is how Evolution works: those unfit, do not survive.) Why would the gods ever be needing of the social instinct? Why ever should the gods band together with other gods? In all honesty, I m bankrupt of any answer. The gods cannot die, they cannot suffer afflictions caused by natural disasters, they cannot be wounded. Everything that makes the social instinct desirable and useful is nonexistent with the gods. Banding together does nothing for them. One might argue “It cures loneliness,” but loneliness may in fact just be that instinct to band together unsatisfied.

Then there is the idea of desire. In all my studying of literature, I must say that the mythology of Greece, Egypt, and the entire Fertile Crescent is full of gods with more desires and wants than any sane man. Since it seems very easy to believe that the gods are simply an image of mankind, exaggerrated in many aspects, so it seems that these gods are endowed with many supernatural wants, needs, impulses, desires. Sometimes the drowning of an entire civilization in blood is not enough to quell the heart of the least dominant deity. I am also curious here… Why is it that the gods have been endowed with this ability of desiring? To what use is it really, when one is a god? It has no use. For, if god, or the gods, are capable of doing anything, then they would not desire, but simply have. I can see the use of the desire ability in organisms and animals on our own planet. When there is hunger, or sexual lust, or gaining security in society, all of these desires push and motivate the organism to do what is necessary to live and to reproduce. And, once reproduction has occured, the cycle can happen all over again. When an animal is not fit enough to reproduce, or cannot live to that stage, then the genes that cursed it to a sexless life will not be found again, exception in the rare instances of reversion perhaps.

Many of the Freethinkers and philosophes of earlier years, and even our own day, have attacked the idea of religion. God created man in his own image was a questioned idea, and we reversed it: man created god in his own image. This would seem to be the more credulous case of the matter. We find gods in each civilization, taking the race and species of its people. This has varied in some cases, where gods take on the forms of reptiles, mammals, and birds. However, there is one thing in the nature of gods, spirits, and souls that seems to be consistent in every religion we investigate: they have wants, desires, lust, hunger, and needs. Where every human being — no, where every living creature is the same, in having a consciousness, we find that same consciousness in a rather inplausible place: in a god, or a soul, or a spirit. It is clearly understood, then, that these gods and spirits are based on human ideas, that they come from the minds of men, that they spread by our mouths. And, it must also be clearly understood, that the gods are nothing more than an imperfect creation by the hands of man.


The Taxation of Religion

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“Why should an atheist pay more taxes so that a church which he despises should pay no taxes? That’s a fair question. How can the apologists for the church exemption answer it?”

— E. Haldeman-Julius, The Church Is A Burden, Not A Benefit, In Social Life

It has been a historically valid argument that churches never contributed to society, but have had the habit of leaching off of it. For all the morals they purport to have given us, whether it was the infamous and treacherous silence during the Jewish Holocaust, or the embers they supplied to the millions of human burnings, the church has done nothing but suck at the sweetness that honest humans have labored to created. The thoughtfulness of our nation’s creators gave us the freedom from having to support these churches. Unfortunately, some framers of the states decided to form state constitutions that authorized one religion over another. It cannot be expected that all humans shall follow the road to freedom all at the same time.

While it happens to be true that the church cannot receive tax money, the are allowed the exemption of paying taxes — which one might accurately say is the same thing. If the collective running of the society of money requires so much tax money, exempting one or two parties only means that the others are required to pay more, are required to work more to maintain the same degree of luxury, while the exempt parties are allowed more luxury with the same amount of work, or the same amount of luxury with less work.

This dissertation is not about the deceit and villany that the church has provided humanity with. It is not an attack on the ideals that preachers claim that they are guardians of. It is not an assault on the principles which are part of Christian doctrine, or any religious doctrine for that matter. The bitter irony that religion is a source of spirituality as much as it is of hate and violence, the thousands of books which have been sacrificed to flames by the heads of the church, the cloak pastors have placed over the eyes of their churchgoers in order to turn them in to sheep — all of this I have elsewhere written at length. This essay is not about the past crimes of a heartless regime. It is about the present policy that our civilization has enacted: that is to say, the tax-exempt status that churches and other religious organizations currently are allowed.

The first argument that must be considered is this: what church proceeds are going to be used for. The church apologists argue that the funds the church receives by donation are used for charitable purposes, that these churches improve their communities and help people better their lives. I cannot say that this is always wrong, but no honest person can say that it is always true. Yes, the churches do use their funding to create some community things. In most cases, before one can use these community activities, one must be a member of the faith, not using alcohol or drugs, and must be Heterosexual. The home of the scripture that reads: “Love thy enemy” is inhabited by a priest, a pastor, and a preacher whose words speak: “Jew, Muslim, and Hindu, begone. Those who intoxicate and indulge, whether to make their lives easier or to discover sublime and revered truths, begone. Men who lust after men and women who pine after women, these satanic abominations, begone.”

The churches are private organizations. If it is their will to exclude the teaching of Evolution from their sunday school, it is allowed. If they also wish to teach children that women are inferior to men, that the Bible is a good book and must be obeyed when it reads: “Women are to be silent,” then it is taught. As a private organization, they are allowed these liberties and freedoms. If a church be so bold and daring as to refuse admittance of black people to their ceremonies, they are allowed this right. Universities of our era, or so-called “institutions of learning,” have passed rules that disallow blacks and whites from courtship — a ruling that predates at least three decades of progressive and humanizing reform. If churches wanted to donate some of their excess income to these universities, there would be no way to stop them. If they wanted to focus and centralize the income, by preaching against secular schools and supporting racism in the classroom, and by donating only to those places which promise to oppress blacks, then that is their right, as a private organization.

The church knows no end to cruelty, and this is not an indictment against the church. It is a fact that has been recognized, year after year, person by person. However, it must be accepted and understood that when it comes to the funding of the church, we will find some of the most merciless and brutal acts that arrise out of our own human frailties. Perhaps we will find a church that refuses the rights of blacks to even enter or use their charity money. Churches were once the divine guardians of the institution of slavery. Today, they do nothing to stop the slave traffic that continues to flourish, the wretched one by the name of Capitalism. Today, the churches have done little to nothing to foster the ideals of acceptance, tolerance, understanding, open-mindedness, for the sole sake that to preach these ideals is to deny the divinity of the Bible — to admit that the cruelty inherent in those pages came from the heart of man, not the mouth of god.

As history has shown us, the church may potentially do anything. They may make charity, but deny Homosexuals. They may give service, but deny African Americans. To other religions, they preach intolerance and bitterness, encouraging an aura of misunderstanding — the embers to violence, cruelty, and brutality. Then, I ask the question again: why are the churches exempt from taxation? The taxes of the people that are collected to ensure a smooth-running society are used in a variety of ways: they build schools and teach children, they help run social programs such as welfare and food stamps, and they lend foreign aid to countries in dire poverty. When the church has gains, it may build schools, but they might teach children racism, or intolerance, or sexism, or the idea that Evolution is an evil, underground conspiracy, or a number of ridiculous and heartless things. The church might run a charity, but they might just refuse admittance by Homosexuals, members of certain races or religions, or people who dress differently. And, the church might donate some of its income to other charities, but they might refuse charity to any hospital that performs abortions. Yes, we have seen the churches do all of these things. There is no doubt to these questions. There is no conjecture in my theory. The church has burdened the society of men with bigotry and prejudice, making us fight each other when we could have been learning new ways of love, affection, and happiness.

When churches are exempt from taxes, an apologist will often say: “It is because the money of the churches goes to the same causes as taxes: to help the general order of society, with charities, schools, and the like.” But, by understanding our current social situation, and the one of the past millenium, it is not difficult to see how wrong such an apology is. Churches must be taxed, so that their income can be fairly used and not employed to create racism and poverty. The same must apply to any religious organization. I am not arguing that churches cannot do the incredible things that they already do, at least legally. Ethics is another question. I am only arguing that, as private organizations that are allowed to such activity, they must be legitimately required to pay taxes. The churches have their own interests, just as businesses have their interests of maintaining a profit and cutting back on cost. Just as a business is required to pay taxes, so should a church. The difference is non-existent.

Men and women who profess to believe in a god, a goddess, or a multiple of them, are exercising their rights as living creatures. I can never argue against a person’s right to believe what they will, to share what they believe, to practice their religion or philosophy in an attempt to satisfy the burnings of their heart. So long as a person’s actions do not offend the sweetness of justice, the only argument I can offer him might be one on the logical errors of what he believes. And even then, I will not say a word about what he has the right to believe or practice. Ultimately, what is real or not real is something for each of us to decide. As a person who highly values Freethought and the independence of spirit, I will always find myself combating religion, not unlike any other revolutionary who fights ignorance or superstition. Among the great contradictions of religion, there is the question on the thoughts of god. When a religious follower tells you their ideas of what god believes, you will be hearing a speech about what this religious follower believes — so it follows a person who believes in god and “knows” what god thinks will rarely disagree with god. And, so we have it today, with millions of religions, each thinking that god thinks something different. In actuality, what god believes is just what their religious followers believe. After all, if god believed in something different than the religious follower, why would they continue believing something false? Even with this logic, there remains a slew of religions out there. They have their right to exist and preach, as much as I have my right to criticize and think.

For Life,


Author’s Note: Written on Monday, November 8, 2004, with the Salt Shaker of Doom (TM) — a salt shaker full of Codeine, Valium, Klonopin, Xanax, and sugar. Completion made on Friday, December 3-5, 2004, while high and drunk.

Atheism: The Basics

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At its simplest theism can be defined as the belief in the existence of at least one god, and atheism as the absence of belief in the existence of any gods. The word comes from the Greek, the prefix a- meaning ‘without’ and theos meaning ‘god’.

An atheist’s absence of belief may come from a deliberate choice not to believe, or from an inherent inability to believe religious or spiritual doctrine as literally credible. Atheists are not ‘in denial’ and are not wilfully ignoring evidence of gods. It is possible that someone may be atheist by default, having never been exposed to the concept of gods, but I’ve never encountered this outside of speculation alone.

In discussing the absence of a belief in god or gods the definition of what is meant by ‘god’ or ‘gods’ cannot be immediately assumed, as belief systems vary greatly in various religions, philosophies, and personal beliefs. Therefore, before ruffling any feathers, it might be a good idea to discuss what might be implied, as each response is going to be different with each person involved.

Beyond the Judeo-Christian understanding of gods for example, it may be argued that gods exist in a metaphorical sense. For example, that gods dwell within each individual in the mind, in the conscience, or in consciousness itself. An atheist will not likely dispute that gods can exist metaphorically in an individual’s mind; the disagreement lies in whether or not these gods can exist or not independently of the mind and outside of human belief.

Another form of theism, called animism, describes natural objects such as stones, trees, rivers or even the universe itself as being spiritual beings, even gods. Atheists don’t deny their existence as physical objects, but rather dispute whether or not such objects can be rightly classified as ‘gods’.

The absence of a thing cannot be proven by definition, therefore demanding an atheist prove the non-existence of gods is self defeating (so please don’t do it, it’s very dumb). The burden of proof here lies with the theist. If the theist cannot demonstrate that their belief is reasonable and justified, then atheism immediately seems a perfectly reasonable and creditable stance.

Mere disbelief in the truth of a proposition (in this case, the disbelief in the existence of gods) cannot be treated as equivalent to the belief that the proposition is false and that the opposite is true; neither the world nor most individual belief systems work in such strict duality. If one makes a claim and another disbelieves it, it is not necessarily the same as saying that the claim is false. It may be that the preposition was not understood well enough to determine one way or another, or one may lack the means or information to test a claim, or one may simply not care enough to think about it either way. Atheism may be a chosen by default from lack of knowledge, or it can be well reasoned doubt, or otherwise.

There is a purveying assumption that atheism is a non-religious religion, or an anti-religion, when this simply isn’t the case. If we take ‘religion’ to mean ‘a set of beliefs, values and practices, or a cause principle or activity pursued with contentious devotion’ even omitting reference to gods or a ‘higher power’, atheism still does not qualify as a religion.

Atheists vary greatly in their beliefs and attitudes and it the misconception that atheism means more than what it does is common, and very false. Using our above simplistic definition, atheism is the absence of belief of the existence of any gods. There are no unified beliefs among atheists tying them all together beyond the fact that no atheist believes in a god or gods. No further beliefs about politics, philosophy, society, social conditions, science, religion, etc. are implied. When you know someone is an atheist, all you know is that they do not profess belief in any gods.

Essentially, the difference between atheism and theism has no implicit moral or intellectual significance. The difference lies in the methodological difference between the application of skepticism, reason, and observable physical reality (science) and fantasy, intuition, and tradition in theological matters.