Category Archives: Atheism

Thoughts on Dual Perspectives and the Hoarders TV Show

I watched a couple episodes of Hoarders the other day, the documentary show about those people who refuse to throw things away and find themselves buried in trash, and found myself rather shocked. I didn’t know this psychological issue was so common. If I remember correctly, they claim that it affects 3 million people. That’s more than what the experts claim is the number of people in America addicted to cocaine. It’s strange that hoarding isn’t a criminal act, even though, judging from the show, it can destroy people’s lives and be a detriment to everyone around them, just like cocaine… well, okay, I guess it is a criminal act once it becomes ridiculous, but why do we not have a Partnership for a Hoarding Free America?

Anyway, the concept I was getting to relates to this one individual on the show: a 21 year old guy who lived with his alcoholic dad, both refusing to throw anything away. This kid had two interesting psychological hangups. The first was that he felt that every little thing was a memory that represented something spiritual. If someone bought him a soda, for example, he would feel like he was insulting that person if he threw away the can when he was done with it.

The other hangup was that he believed that his dog’s life was relying on the doghair that was accumulating on his floor. He truly believed that if he vacuumed up all that hair, his dog would die.

Normally when people have wacky spiritual perspectives, they tend to make excuses for them, come up with arguments to try and justify their logic or come up with distractions. This kid, however, seemed totally aware and willing to admit that he was crazy. He knew logically that there was no conceivable way vacuuming dog hair could be killing his dog, yet he truly believed it. It was like his emotional and logical brains were totally separate, yet still aware of each other. The normal logical cause and effect of the world held no sway over his beliefs, yet he clearly still had an understanding of that logic.

Dual perspectives. He truly believed that cleaning up was necessary and beneficial, and at the same time, truly believed the exact opposite.

Now, my belief is that this type of dual perspective is not nearly as uncommon or crazy as most people believe. The unique thing about this case is that the person recognized it.

But you can see the same kind of dual perspective in most religious individuals who say things like ‘only God can heal’ and ‘all things are possible with God’, but the moment they get sick they run to the doctor, searching for someone of science instead of faith.

It’s interesting, however, that the whole idea of dual perspectives is rarely used consciously. It seems like the idea could be used for balancing motivation with failure preparedness. If you have a difficult task, you want to be able to prepare for failure, but at the same time you want the confidence that comes from believing you can never fail. Why can’t you just believe both? One part of your brain prepares for failure while the other remains separated and totally confident of success. It’s an interesting idea that I’ve used over the years with varying success, but still it seems strange that it’s so difficult and rare to implement this consciously, when our subconscious minds seem riddled with it.

Religion vs. Drunk Driving

I was thinking, why can’t drunk drivers use the same excuses for their actions as religious people do for their beliefs? For example, when someone like Isaac Zamora or Ted Bundy have extensive religious backgrounds, and even when the criminal actually says point blank that they did it for God, many people still become offended if you try to blame religion for their crimes. You can point out the fact that statistically religious people are significantly more likely to commit crime (some stats show more than %99 of violent criminals coming from religious households), but they still insist these stats are meaningless. On the other hand, MADD classifies any accident where anyone involved had been drinking alcohol, (such as someone in the back seat) as an “alcohol related accident”, yet those accidents still amount to significantly less than %99. By the same logic, any crime committed by someone who has a history of religion should be called a “religion related crime”. This would be going too far even for me, but I don’t understand why we can’t as a society, apply statistics in a fair and consistent manner.

There is one important difference between alcohol and religion. Religion openly claims to prevent crime. Alcohol companies, as far as I know, have never claimed that alcohol prevents car accidents.

Faith and Foolishness – Scientific American

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=faith-and-foolishness

This is an interesting article about the state of science and faith in the United States, and how there are fewer people in the United States who believe in evolution than in most other developed nations. It also addresses the unfairness involved when people criticize religion. We’re called intolerant if we make logical connections between religion and wrongdoing or mistakes. Religions often make statements, then present them as facts for people to believe in and act on. One interesting example in the article was the opinion of many religious individuals during the early 90’s that HIV was God’s punishment against gay people. As a result of this attitude, no one cared about the epidemic until it was too late, but for some reason it’s not socially acceptable to address this and we’re accused of being haters if we do.

But at the same time, if someone of science makes an honest mistake and states something as truth when it isn’t, nobody hesitates to hold them accountable. Look at how many doctors have been sued for malpractice, when they were doing the best job they could based on the information available.

If a church, however, gives someone bad advice no one is held accountable. The one example that gets to me is when my childhood friend, Isaac Zamora, went on a killing spree in the name of Jesus, the church that taught him those values was the first place to hold a memorial for the victims. However, nobody attacked Isaac’s childhood church or their theology. Instead, people attacked the state’s mental health system for failing to counteract what was ultimately the effects of his religion.

True Story About Isaac Zamora: Middle Finger Vengeance

I just put up one of the most important true stories that I’ve posted so far, about the guy I knew growing up who murdered a bunch of people in 2008.

Some of my writings I have been very hesitant to post because I’m afraid that they will seriously offend people, and specifically with my true stories I’m worried about people either claiming that I remembered the incident incorrectly or that I shouldn’t be writing about people without their permission. My newest story, Middle Finger Justice, is definately one of those stories.

This one involves Isaac Zamora, the guy who lived next door to me as a child then murdered a bunch of people in the name of Jesus. It also involves a few of Isaac’s family members. I changed their names, though obviously anyone could figure out who they are by reading a couple of the news stories about Isaac. I didn’t want to have the story tie back to them at all because they’ve been tortured enough by what happened and the last thing I want to do is cause them any more grief, but I also felt I needed to give Isaac’s full real name so that people could confirm that at least the part about him killing a bunch of people in the name of God is completely true. I must apologize to the people in this story, but I feel strongly that these kind of experiences need to be talked about so that we have a better chance of understanding why people do things like go on killing sprees.

In this story I address a bit about religion, of course, but more importantly this concept that swearing and middle fingers are somehow evil and wrong as opposed to being simply avenues of communication. Every time I hear a bleeped word on the radio or hear someone carefully tiptoeing around certain words while in the presence of children, I think about this event, and about how these types of moral issues can overshadow, much more important things.

One person in this story felt completely justified in breaking someone’s legs over a middle finger, and from her perspective it made perfect sense. She believed the middle finger was a curse, and that curses were real. This is a belief that I was told as a child that I needed to respect, even if I knew it was far removed from reality. This is why we don’t allow swearing on TV and why even very liberal individuals will avoid swearing around children. We are showing respect toward the feelings of those who believe that demons will come and swallow them up and drag them down to hell if they hear too many curse words. But by doing this, we are giving credit to those beliefs, making them socially acceptable and helping fool people into thinking they’re reasonable.

Over the years as I was growing up I would occasionally have the desire to go over to the Zamora’s house and try to convince them to see some other ways of thinking. One reason I chose not to was because I didn’t want to seem like the intolerant atheist. Now I must admit that if as a kid I hadn’t had so much respect for their belief system, perhaps I could have set a few thoughts moving in Isaac’s head that, while certainly wouldn’t have convinced him to reject his religion, may have given him enough of an alternative perspective that those six people wouldn’t have had to die.

20 Logical Fallacies

I just found this page listing 20 logical fallacies examples at http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx and thought I should share. It basically lists off all the different specific ways, that human beings–myself included–are morons. Reading through this list I can see numerous examples of flawed logic in just about any argument I’ve been in, and more frighteningly in a large number of arguments used by legislators. This kind of human fallacy is one of the main reasons I’m an anarchist; because these psychological processes can distort our large-scale social perspectives as easily as they can on the small scale, but when we have these fallacies, the damage that can be done by a large organized group with laws and police is far greater than the damage that can be done by a few individuals.

I wanted to point out a few examples of the fallacies on this list and how they have been used against me and some of my political positions. (I’m not going to list any religious arguments because that would be too easy.) (I’m also going to conveniently neglect to point out the times where I can’t help but revert to these fallacies.)

The most common one for me as an anarchist is the Straw Man, or “Arguing against a position which you create specifically to be easy to argue against, rather than the position actually held by those who oppose your point of view.” This one happens to me whenever I say that I don’t support police, criminal justice or putting people in jail. Most people will immediately start arguing about how horrible some folks are and how much suffering certain kinds of crime can cause. Their ultimate goal seems to be to convince me that crime is bad, as though I just announced that we should all start killing and raping each other because it’s fun. I think deep down they know what I really mean: police, prisons and criminal justice are counter-productive to our commonly held goal of crime prevention. However, they have no facts, figures or examples that support the idea that police are preventing crime (this isn’t their fault of course, because this is such a commonly held belief that no one bothers to collect facts and figures), so they have no choice but to go to logical fallacies to make their arguments.

Another interesting one is the Slippery Slope, or believing that to hold a position, you must hold the extreme of that position. Now, I have another very unpopular opinion that’s very important to me that I might not have blogged about yet, and that is my belief that it is morally wrong to create children until we  have solved the world hunger issue, the overpopulation issue, and when there are no more orphans on the streets. In the past, people have argued that my opinion would cause the destruction of humanity because everyone would forever believe that making babies is wrong, regardless of the situation.

My personal favorite, Tu quoque, “an attempt to justify wrong action because someone else also does it.” This is the core psychological motivation for police and military. Whenever I argue that these things destroy people’s lives and cause misery to everyone, including innocent bystanders, one of the most common arguments I get is “Well, yeah, but those other people did horrible things too.”

Why Most Americans Support Terrorism

I went to a restaurant the other day where about half the employees were wearing shirts that said, “God is good, all the time”. I immediately thought, well gee, what about the 9-11 terrorist attacks–that was certainly done in the name of God, so was that good? Are they saying they support that kind of thing?

(I also thought, well, what about Isaac Zamora, who murdered a woman in the name of Jesus on the front lawn of the house where I grew up; what about that lady who drowned her four children in the bathtub to save them from going to hell about ten years ago; what about the religious cults that hold themselves up with their stock of guns; what about my friend who jumped off a bridge because Jesus told him he could fly; what about Ted Bundy’s father, who taught him the ways of violence and caused his family to regularly fear for their lives and happened to be the deacon of their church and a highly respected religious figure? I thought about all these things and more, but for the convenience of this entry, I’ll just talk about 9-11.)

So was 9-11 a good thing, according to the people who believe that “God is good, all the time?

I think, deep down inside, the answer is yes. Sure if I were to ask one of these people directly they would make up excuses and say things like “that’s not really God” or “that’s the devil who does stuff like that”, but it doesn’t change the fact that the people who crashed those planes on 9-11 truly and deeply believed in God and were truly doing it for Him. Ultimately, most people who truly believe in God and think religion is a positive thing would rather live in a world of terrorists than one filled with atheists. Even after all these horrible things that happen in the name of God, atheists are still seen as the bad guys.

The reason for that, I think, is simple. Atheists are freaking boring.

Think about watching the movie Saw, where the bad guy was raised in a good home and taught love and respect and never grew up to kidnap and torture people. That would have been one boring movie. Think about all the times you’ve seen an accident on the side of the road and slowed down to gawk and gotten that little rush inside, that sense that something truly interesting and exciting had just happened? Those things make us… I’d say happy, but it’s not happiness exactly. It’s a sense of excitement, a sense of being alive.

When we watch a horror movie, we are disgusted, horrified, we think, gee whoever made that is truly sick and twisted, but we rarely say, “I wish that movie had never been made.” We’ll still say “That was a good movie; that was fun.”

The same is true for things like 9-11. People talk about how evil the terrorists are and how they deserve to go to hell and how we need to go to war with them, and all sorts of other nasty things about them, but the one thing I’ve not heard a single person say in the last ten years is, “I wish 9-11 never happened.”

The only real difference between 9-11 and a good horror movie is that we have such a hard time admitting that we enjoyed it. Admitting that would put a damper on our drive for vengeance. It would dilute our anger and take away that evil enemy that we love to hate. It would confuse our motivations and cause us to question our own actions. So instead we hide it away at the same time that we are feeling it so intensely.

The sad truth about human nature is that war and death is fun and exciting. To me this is most evident in our television advertisements for the US Military. They show us all these fancy weapons, and say “this isn’t science fiction” and make it look like you’re in this hot action flick. They don’t talk about it as being a necessary evil that must be done to keep the peace. They portray it as being fun.

I personally believe this is the root of most of our wars, military and criminal justice. People don’t go into the military or become police officers because they want to make the world a better place. That may be what they say out loud, but it’s not the true reason. Deep down, they either love their jobs, or they slowly become “bleeding heart liberals” like myself and realize what they are doing is wrong.

But that is only a percentage of the population, maybe %60, maybe more, maybe less. I think part of the problem is that many of us “bleeding heart liberals” don’t understand that lust for blood, action and excitement and never recognize it as being a driving factor in our decisions. We have this ignorant belief that everyone wants world peace because we can’t imagine wanting anything else. The fact is that a huge proportion of the population does not want peace because it’s boring.

I think God is a huge contributing factor to this blood lust. If God exists, why would He possibly want us to be peaceful? What interest could that hold for Him?

So when a person wears a t-shirt saying “God is good, all the time” they might as well be wearing a shirt that says, “I support 9-11, Ted Bundy and Isaac Zamora.” It’s not much different on an emotional level than wearing a Nightmare on Elm Street t-shirt. I just wish we could admit it.

My experience near death

The nooksack river where I had my experience near death
The Nooksack river

Yesterday I posted a new true story called The River (my near death experience). Well… I actually wrote this back in 1996 or ’97 for creative writing class, but for some reason had forgotten to include it on KalinBooks.com for the last eight years or so.

My experience near death, as I word it to test my SEO strategies was one of the most powerful seven seconds of my life, and there’s a few things I find interesting about it.

First is the fact that the thought of God never even occurred to me until ten years later when a Jehovah’s Witness told me that there’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole. I’d never heard that before so I couldn’t call him on it, but found out later that there are numerous cases of people coming face-to-face with death without God or prayer ever crossing their mind, such as the classic survival story Touching The Void. Perhaps what they mean is that atheists don’t like going to war.

This is certainly not to say that my experience near death wasn’t deeply spiritual.

Another thing I think about regarding this is the strangeness of fearing death. Before this I had always worried about death, I suppose the way normal people do. It sits in the back of your mind, reminding you it could happen at any time.

However, when I was actually there and accepting that I would never take another breath, I realized it wasn’t so awful. The world would go on. The trees would still be green, the water would still be fresh and clean, people would still live and love and have amazing adventures. I would still be a part of all that, somehow, even if just as a memory. Even in that moment I didn’t have a shred of regret about taking risks that day.

The third thing I find interesting is just how similar this experience was to a mushroom trip. Someone once told me that acid and mushrooms affect the same parts of the brain that fire when a person is in sudden, tremendous danger. I haven’t researched this, but it would make sense, explaining why in this experience and my mushroom trips, colors seem more vibrant and it feels like I can see and hear in far more detail and my thoughts seem to get far more focused on my physical surroundings. Also the uncontrollable laughter, deep spiritual connection with the universe and the sense of the moment are all similarities between shrooms and near death experiences.