Dawkins a Dick around Ahmed’s Clock

Late last week a young boy by the name of Ahmed Mohammed brought a clock/suitcase hybrid into his school to show off to his teacher at his Texas school. He was arrested and interrogated by police for over an hour without the presence of a lawyer or his parents because his teacher felt “intimidated” as the clock resembled that of a suitcase bomb in her eyes – not considering the fact that a 14 year old has no frame of reference for such a thing, nor the very apparent lack of C4.

That’s the old news.

Richard Dawkins, living up to his name and reputation of late, along with a few bloggers over at Skepchick (who I won’t bother to name or link to) have a beef with Mohammed:

The 14 year old child used the word “invention” for his contraption while being placed in front of national TV cameras, and it’s got them in an uproar.

What Ahmed did and didn’t do

A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16, 2015. Mohamed was taken away from school in handcuffs after he brought the clock to his Dallas-area school this week and the staff mistook it for a bomb, police said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters

Irving Texas Police Department

A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16, 2015. Mohamed was taken away from school in handcuffs after he brought the clock to his Dallas-area school this week and the staff mistook it for a bomb, police said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters 

Ahmed Mohammed didn’t invent a damn thing. Clearly. He took two things that already existed – took one of them apart – and stuck it inside the other. Ahmed’s clock is a clock + a suitcase.

What he did requires no special brilliance or insight into electronics and fails to make him special. It is not indicative of genius and wouldn’t win the science fair even if EVERYONE else in the school made those lame volcanoes.

Ahmed misspoke, and perhaps he’s not mature enough to know the difference between inventing and …er…Frankenstein-ing things together and a Professor Emeritus at Oxford with a PhD in biology took the time to correct him on twitter so that his name could be part of the media frenzy taking place over this, even going so far as to suggest a conspiracy on Ahmed’s part:

“…Ahmed didn’t build a clock. He simply took one out of its casing. Did he deliberately want to be suspected of making a bomb? Did he want to be arrested, to be seen as a victim of ‘Islamophobia’?”

““He disassembled & reassembled a clock (which is fine) & then claimed it was his ‘invention’ (which is fraud)” and asserted, “True, Johnny Smith would not have been arrested & Ahmed should NOT have been. But his motives remain questionable.”

Well, I don’t have  a PhD, and here I am stating the clearly obvious as well minus any insanity. Can I have a brownie now? Where’s my book deal?  Oh, there’s more to the story?
You mean we’re focusing on the wrong thing?

Ahmed Mohammed and Me

Here I am a 29 year old IT professional writing about a young man that took apart a clock, who – like me – started taking things apart at a young age out of a sense of curiosity for how they work.  I started disassembling things as soon as I could hold a screwdriver and growing up there probably wasn’t a piece of electronic equipment or complex mechanics that I hadn’t taken apart and put back together hoping it worked by the time mom got home from work.

That’s the beautiful spark of curiosity that got kids like me interested in a lifelong passion, and like Ahmed there were things that I slammed together and called inventions – one – an alarm clock with speakers that I replaced with bigger, louder speakers.  Is that anything special?  Nope.  But it was cool to me, and when I was 14 it was something I did that no one else had done, not to mention that I had the loudest alarm clock for miles.

This is the birth of the tinkerer, and that’s really cool to see from my perspective. I love seeing kids tear crap apart and put it back together. I don’t expect every kid to know how to use a breadboard and soldering iron at 14, because we all start somewhere – and THIS is where we start, and sometimes we call the crap we do an invention because we aren’t adults and because we haven’t been tainted by the trouble of filing a patent yet.

My curiosity and love for tinkering never got me arrested though.

That’s the point, that’s why media attention to this is OK, not because he called his traveling clock an invention or because the President had an invite to the White House for him. That’s also why it’s OK for tech companies to jump on the bandwagon of free advertising and send the kid all kinds of free stuff that may foster this interest, because a kid did something he thought was cool and because of his skin color and last name he was arrested for it – detained without warrant – and questioned, at 14, without the presence of his parents or a lawyer. Ahmed’s clock is supposed to be his introduction to my world, instead it was a crash course in Islamophobia and racial profiling.

Dawkins – aka white privilege personified, is meanwhile convinced that Ahmed Mohammed was an inside job.

Can we stop taking him seriously now, once and for all?

Introducing Southern Discomfort

The past couple of months I’ve been working with my friend Jordy on a new Podcast project called Southern Discomfort and after quite a lot of work we have our first episode up.  This, of course, is a growing process – but I’m pretty damn proud of it and I think that if you like what I do here you’ll appreciate the podcast.  You can subscribe via RSS here.

 

So, check it out please!

 

Welcome to Episode 1 of the Southern Discomfort Show – in this show we introduce the show, ourselves and our religious and political backgrounds, plus we prove how nerdy we are. In addition to all that we get into a long talk about same sex relationships, how your grandpappy’s idea of “race mixing” was probably wrong and why Christians aren’t actually being persecuted here in the USA.

PLUS  we talk about Black Lives Matter and whether or not that means that police are all terrible people.

 

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Is Christianity Dying?

Why this generation is really leaving Christianity

Christians on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been sharing a deluge of recent articles from “hip pastors” about how young people are leaving the church and leaving Christianity. Each of these articles posit a number of reasons why they think this diaspora is occurring, and I’m sure there’s a nugget of truth in each of them – but the one thing I’ve noticed among the articles I’ve read is that they lack any real experience in the matter, and none of them seem to be asking the people who are leaving Christianity why it is that they are doing so.

I’m a real life apostate who left the church and eventually the faith and some might say I know more about why people actually do leave as opposed to some pastor who’s trying to sell a book, but no one is knocking on my door to ask me or any of my apostate cohorts – and nearly every time I try to inject some experience into the conversation these believers are having about us I’m met with negative remarks and accusations about the likelihood that I’m possibly attempting to quell some hidden belief in god with a rage against him.

So, I’ll do what others on the inside have failed to do – I’ll give the outsiders view of why we are becoming outsiders of the church and Christianity, I’ll try to give my own reasons for leaving the church and leaving the faith (two separate things), and I’ll try to do my best not to pigeonhole those that have left by assuming the reasons I’m listing here are theirs – but I’m hoping I’m going to be in the ball park for a lot of you based on my own experiences and my interactions with the ex-christian community.

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The Three Great Dangers of Religion

I’m the type of person that can sit across the table from a person of any religious background, no matter how fundamentalist they may be, and find a common humanity to build a relationship from – that’s a personal trait I’ve worked hard to hone and that I’m actually quite proud of. Often in doing so I’m asked the question, “so what if it’s not true, what’s the harm in believing?” While the answer to this question can’t be summarily truncated into a single list, I thought it might be a good idea to present the 3 greatest dangers of religion in the more generic sense for the purpose of quick reference and in a way that can be applied to most situations and conversations – so that if you are asked this question in your conversations with the religious you’ll have something to refer back to.  These three examples of the dangers of religion aren’t examples of fundamentalism in and of themselves – but they are fundamental tenets of every major religion alive in the world today, and so they are a constant part of the way the world is viewed by the religious.

1. Religion teaches us to be satisfied with easy answers

How often have you been told that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” in your life?

Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno – Burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for proposing a heliocentric model of the universe and claiming that stars were actually distant “suns” in 1600 .

Giordano Bruno – Burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for proposing a heliocentric model of the universe and claiming that stars were actually distant “suns” in 1600 – Source

 

This principle is fairly common among most of the major religions in the world in that they all, generally, require us to have faith rather than to seek out evidence for that which we believe.  This is dangerous to humanity on a number of levels, in the largest part because it generates a complacency for our curiosity and our yearning to know more.  The religious often confuse their faith with knowledge and believe that their faith satisfies the human need for real understanding of the world and universe around us – but without curious minds, unhindered by this complacency, asking the questions of “what, when, where, and why” modern science wouldn’t exist as we know it today and we’d still be plagued by diseases that have long been cured, we’d still believe that Earth was the center of The Universe, and we’d have never made it to the Moon.

While some of the most brilliant scientific minds of the last 500 years may have indeed been people with faith, they didn’t allow their faith to keep them from asking uncomfortable questions – and letting the answers speak for themselves when the answers were contrary to their faith. They were, ultimately, not satisfied with easy answers.

2. Religion teaches us that we are evil

The fulcrum of nearly every religion that has survived to this day has been that humanity is irrevocably flawed (evil, fallen, or

Albrecht Durer's Fall of Man

Fall of Man by Albrecht Durer, Engraving 1504. Shared among a number of ancient mythologies, man fell after eating a forbidden fruit – the female is depicted giving the fruit to the male figure. This has long solidified the woman’s place in religion as the lesser.

sinful ) and that religion X, Y, or Z has the cure.

A modern equivalent to this is having a vacuum cleaner salesman come to your door, show you how dirty your carpet is, and then explain to you how their vacuum (and only their vacuum) can clean it properly with a demonstration of it’s amazing sucking power!  Had you never met this salesman you would have kept using your old vacuum cleaner, never knowing that it was inadequate or that your carpet was a breeding ground for dust mites – and so you would have been happy, but ignorant.  While this technique of identifying a problem you didn’t know you had and selling you the solution works great for vacuums and other demonstrable devices – it’s absolutely terrible for religion, wherein there are no adequate demonstrations as to the veracity of the claims being made.

The sales aspect aside, how terrible is it that we allow men from stages to tell us that we are vile creatures – destined for one form of punishment or another if we don’t abide by a given set of principles? What terror could this perform on our individual and collective psyche as we, generation after generation, continue to believe that we have something wrong with us that needs to be fixed by god?

“If all this isn’t true, what harm is there?” – well, you should be overjoyed if it isn’t true and you aren’t the scum of the Earth!

3. Religion promises us eternity

Scarcity increases value – we all remember that from our high school economics class right? If you don’t, it’s one of the driving factors behind capitalism and it’s the basic premise that the less of something you have the more valuable that something is. Markets  and commodity prices are driven on the premise of scarcity and demand.

The one thing we all know is that we have a limited number of is days to live, however, nearly every religion in the world promises some extension of life into eternity.  When life is no longer 70-100 years long and is instead infinity long days are no longer scarce – this translates into a lack of value for your own life, the lives of others, and the future of the planet.

Those convinced that they are going to live for eternity or that a great apocalypse is soon to come are far less likely to believe that it’s important to preserve the planet, seek out cures for disease, or spend their limited time on earth doing good for people that don’t believe like they do – instead, they’ll spend their time trying to convince others that they must believe like they do, or else.

 

The Dangers of Religion – Fundamentalism

When we take these three things and combine them into a single person – a person who believes he’s been given all the answers to life’s difficult questions , who believes that although he may be a sinner he’s been saved and sanctified – maybe even chosen by god, and who believes that he’s been promised eternity in exchange for a life devoted to his religion’s message – we get a person who is more than likely to be detached from reality.  The mere existence of religion and the fact that these fundamental elements are necessary in order for religion to exist and to spread make fundamentalism a trait that is frighteningly common in our modern world.

While many good, reasonable, intelligent, and loving Christians and Muslims may exist who are moderates in our society, and while they may even be in the majority of their respective faiths – their respect of these basic fundamentals gives credence to them, which paves the way for more dangerous and more viral forms.

A better society, a truly secular society, must be compelled by evidence to believe, must embrace it’s goodness, and must act today to save tomorrow.

The dangers of religion are many and I’ve only scratched the surface here – what would you say are the most poignant dangers of religion as you’ve experienced them?

Debating God In The Bible Belt

Some months ago I was contacted via email by the organizers of the God or No God Debate and issued a challenge to debate the topic of God in the town of Waycross, GA – about 2 hours from my home town. Public forum debate is not a common occurrence around here, this is the buckle of the Bible Belt and that most people believe in God is a foregone conclusion – in fact, the most common question I got for years after coming out as an atheist in my town was whether or not I worshiped Satan (we don’t, by the way).

To say this invitation/challenge came as a surprise was an understatement, but if anyone knows me you know that I’m always up for a discussion or a debate – and so I immediately said yes, and we began settling on a time and a topic.

On Wednesday, September 17th my wife and I traveled to Waycross to meet the organizers at the middle school’s auditorium (It’s a very nice auditorium for plays and school events) and Pastor Rip Snow to debate the topic we decided earlier:  God or No God: Which Explains Reality?

There was a fairly standard format of two 15 minute opening statements, two 10 minute counters, a 15 minute cross-examination period, and two 10 minute closing statements followed by 35 minutes of audience Q & A, all of which is available below. (A few parts had to be removed from the Q & A due to one disruptive participant.)

(Please note:  The audio and video gets better at the 10 minute mark, my apologies)

I’ll probably post my own critique later, both of my own arguments and presentation – and a further critique of things I didn’t have time to deal with of Rip’s arguments. For now, I submit this for your approval, commentary, and for you to critique as much as you like – so long as you do so with as much respect as possible.

Four Refutations for Pascal’s Wager

Pascal's Wager Word CloudOne of the most common and over used defenses for the Christian faith, and any faith really, is that of Pacal’s Wager – It’s so common and so overused that I was recently on the receiving end of it at a live formal debate (GodornoGodDebate.com). A lot of people, despite hearing it all the time and despite the obvious logical fallacies employed – still have a difficult time answering it, and so I present to you four refutations for Pascal’s Wager.

Defining Pascal’s Wager

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French child prodigy, mathemetician, and physicist – who invented one of the first mechanical calculators. Toward the end of his short life he turned to Christian philosophy and his most famous contribution is  known today as Pascal’s Wager. I’ll not bother to go into the deeper background of the wager – as no one ever presents it the way Pascal actually did, but I’m going to present the Wager in the same way it’s always been posited to me:

“What if you are wrong?”

or

“If I’m right I go to heaven and you go to hell. If you are right we are both worm food – why wouldn’t you just believe what I believe to be on the safe side?”

These are generally the basic premises presented, with little deviation. Now, what are my refutations for Pascal’s Wager?

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What You Lose when Losing Your Religion

losing-my-religon-vibe

Neil Carter, over at Godless In Dixie recently wrote a great piece on what he gained when he left his religion which inspired me to consider all that I’ve lost in losing my religion. There are, inherently, a lot of built in benefits to holding to religion and maintaining a religious belief – especially if that belief is the predominant one in your community, country, or family but I find this idea largely unexplored by atheist and ex-christian writers. Losing your religion has lots of pro’s and con’s considering your particular station in life – so, what might you lose?

1: An immediate and supportive community.

Within most religions and Christianity especially there are strong communities built around churches. Stepping away from the faith meant that I was a leper in my former community, where I could call someone for help anytime I needed it and had built in job references from people that had known me for many years. I had people that, so long as what I had to say was approved, would stand behind me and support me.

There are supportive atheist communities  out there, that’s important to note, but they are small and struggling to grow in small towns like mine. It’s just not the same as having hundreds of people in support of one another (again, so long as the message isn’t deviated from) the minute you join a church and become an active member. The effort required to have huge amounts of built in friends is incredibly low – as an atheist in a small town, especially as the type of atheist that is active in the community, it takes a great deal of work and networking to build any sort of clout with people.  (As a small business owner, this is incredibly important.)

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Mailbag – Why Did You Leave the Church?

mailbag

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, that’s largely because I’ve been preparing for a live debate coming up on September 17th between myself and Rip Snow in Waycross, GA. Go to www.GodorNoGoddebate.com for more information on that.

 

I thought I should probably try to push out a little bit of interesting content none-the-less since all of the stuff I’m currently working on is into the 3000+ word area and nowhere near complete (Running a growing business and having a full-time job leaves me with very little time for writing). That said, I thought I’d open up a new section called The Mailbag – where you can submit questions or comments and I’ll respond.

 

To submit something to the mailbag either tweet me @Revoxley using the hashtag #mailbag or submit it through the Contact Me form.


 

Today’s mailbag comes from a Facebook message from Clint W.

Clint W. writes:

 

My question was why did you leave the church, because of who Jesus is or because of who the church is? I can see someone being disillusioned with the church because of people in the church but I have never seen anything Jesus does in scripture to make me even considering leaving the faith. Matter of fact with the words of Christ I have such an understanding of how much we as the church miss the mark. But it also makes me strive to be able to serve him the best I can.

 

Thanks for writing Clint. I get that more often than you might think – and the honest answer to the question is that I left the faith because of who Jesus wasn’t. Or, better yet – because I simply couldn’t believe in who the Bible claimed he was. Don’t get me wrong, I had suffered a great deal of disappointment at the hands of Christians – but I always tried my best not to judge the faith by the faithful. I still do. As I studied and got deeper into an understanding of the Bible I realized that so many of the claims around Jesus were simply unsubstantiated, and I was unable to maintain any faith in him or in God at all.

 
I simply don’t believe that there are any credible accounts for Jesus’ life. So, none of the written accounts are credible enough to believe – and because of that I find it impossible to hold Jesus in the position that I once did. Whether or not the authors of the synoptic gospels believed that Jesus was Lord is irrelevant, because their accounts aren’t trustworthy since they weren’t written down until at least 30 years after his alleged death, so I don’t have a reason to believe the story they tell.

 

Whether or not Jesus was even a real person is a better starting point than whether or not the accepted Christology of Jesus is true today, but we are expected to take the word of scribes who probably never met the man and who had their own agendas to push about who he was.  I also find that the Jesus that Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about is generally different than the Jesus talked about in John and that Paul believed in – the latter being the focal point of Catholic Christology at the Nicene Council and still largely accepted to this day.

 

The fact of the matter is that I truly wanted to believe in Christ more than anything on the planet, most notably while I was losing my faith, but after enough time I just couldn’t and nothing I did – no amount of prayer or study could fix it. I had to eventually become OK with that fact, and I am.

Thanks again, and remember that you can submit something to the mailbag either tweet me @Revoxley using the hashtag #mailbag or submit it through the Contact Me form.  While you’re at it subscribe to my new YouTube channel – I’m working on lots of new content right now.

Defending God and Genocide

I don’t spend the time on Facebook and Twitter making trouble (read: attempting to dialogue with Christians) that I once did . I do, on occasion, find reason enough to interject my opinions into discussions with believers and one such instance occurred rather recently.

Morality is a subject many Christians feel they have the upper hand over the atheist on, it would seem that having a single and all powerful moral lawgiver gives one the ability to diminish the moral grounds upon which others stand – especially those whom don’t claim to abide by the rules given them by a supreme being.

Below is a screenshot of a conversation I got involved with that turned into a morality debate – as I expected.  I often feel the need to discuss morality when it comes up because I’ve seen morality expressed in what I would call a more superior form thru atheists and Humanists than thru Christians since leaving the faith – not as an overlapping general statement about Christians, but as an observation about mature atheists and humanists. All communities, of course, contain within them examples of abhorrent behavior and so it is never my prerogative to hold those things against the members of their respective communities, unfortunately the same cannot always be said about my faithful counterparts.

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Fred Phelps: In Memoriam

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014)

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014)

On March 19, 2014 Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church – owners of domains like godhatesfags.com, godhatesamerica.com, and godkillssoldiers.com and infamous for their protests at over 54,000 funerals of soldiers, gay activists, and child victims of massacres – died.

Phelps has long represented to me and many others just how dangerous unbridled religious fervor, manifested in hateful words on neon signs directed at societies outcasts, could be. His words hurt, and they infected people deep down – especially those sitting directly under his thundering voice, evidenced by his legacy in the continuation of Westboro.

Fred Phelps proved to us that words hurt; especially when sung loud enough, long enough, and with enough conviction behind them.

Phelps also proved that, when confronted with long and loud and convinced words of hate – it must be met by an equal or greater force. Fred showed us how to love the disenfranchised in ways that he couldn’t by forcing us to examine ourselves through his eyes and the eyes of his god.

I think Fred Phelps and his church and his family, for the fact that they have shown us how ugly we can be and in turn drive our desire to be better, are an invaluable part of the last two decades – despite the pain they’ve caused, the words they’ve used, and the passion with which their angered hatred burns.

Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church haven’t been successful in spreading their message. They’ve been successful in ensuring that it’s the most hated message in the country – they’ve been able to bring people together from all walks of life to shout louder, longer, and with deeper conviction a better message in opposition to that of Westboro:  Love.

That’s the real legacy of Fred Phelps – he’s unified a great portion of the country against his message, and the results of that unity have been beautiful.

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I’m not sure that the LGBT community would have the support it does without Phelps and Westboro. That’s a legacy Phelps may not have been proud of, but it is his – and I’m thankful for his life because of it.

In closing, I’m not going to give you platitudes about how you should react to Phelps death. I will remind you that, as the old saying goes, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and that perhaps during the Phelp’s families time of grief the rest of us ought to show the grace they haven’t.