Tag Archives: isaac zamora

Why I Need to be Outspoken About Atheism

Someone posted this on my Genesis Bible Commentary page and since I don’t get too many comments around here, I thought it warranted its own post.

I must confess that I have not read you commentary, just seen some of your pages while looking for something else.
But  I was just wondering why someone who clearly does not believe in God go to such extreme lengths to proof it. Like someone building a plane to proof that a plane can not fly.
Just let go! If you carry on reading and studying like this you run the risk of becoming a believer! Enjoy your carefree life, I mean, if you are dead you are dead, why worry.

Hi Josua, thanks so much for stopping by and inquiring. It’s a fair question, but it would also be fair to ask a MADD member why they want to stop people from drunk driving or why an interventionist keeps trying to get people to go to treatment or why social workers are always trying to convince people to end their abusive relationships. Because we care about people other than ourselves.

You must understand, I’ve seen some pretty awful things happen in the name of religion, and I had some very intense, insane, and in retrospect, terrifying experiences during the couple years I was a believer. I also had a friend who put a knife to a woman’s throat over a religious disagreement. I had another who jumped off a bridge because Jesus told him he could fly. I’ve had two close friends (two that confided in me about this, anyway) who were depressed and borderline suicidal because they were convinced that God hated them and wanted them to suffer. I have seen enough effects from religion to know these are not just isolated incidents.

And finally, I had a next-door neighbor, whose family actually introduced me to God when I was a kid, who murdered six people in the name of Jesus in 2008.

It’s hard to see all this needless suffering and not want to speak up to try to make a difference. I feel sometimes like I could have saved those six people if I had just wandered to the end of the road and given my neighbors grief for what they believed. I was too respectful, or too shy or young, or just didn’t care. Maybe I never could have made a difference, but I’ll never know. I don’t ever want to feel like that again, so I decided that I wasn’t going to hold back in my fight against the insanity.

I totally respect and care about all the religious folks out there who are being victimized and don’t realize it, but I don’t feel obligated to respect a religion that promises to “draw people toward goodness” and pretends like it’s bringing communities together, then turns around and directly causes this much suffering in my friends and neighbors. I do, however, feel an obligation to speak the truth and help others avoid that suffering.

Atheism vs. Theism email debate part 2

In yesterday’s post, Atheism vs. Theism email debate part 1 I posted this email I got from someone commenting on my story, Middle Finger Justice and I’d like to respond to it now.

Question #1:

I’m basing my “theory” (more like my thoughts) on the fact that that lady (your childhood friend’s mom) absolutely does not have an accurate knowledge of “Christ-ian” teaching (both in theology and practice) and probably should be admitted to the psych ward. For her to say crap like “if someone is giving my kid the middle finger, they’re cursing them to hell”, she’s seriously deluded.

I agree with you, you certainly do know some “interesting people”.

All Christians are different and all take a different perspective on what they think Christianity should be about. Just because they don’t have the same perspective as you, doesn’t mean I can’t count them as Christians. Yes, you and many other Christians probably disagree with how they see things, but they still got their ideals from the same core beliefs that drive the whole Christian religion. In their hearts, they believe they are Christian. They read the bible as much as anyone. I remember riding in their car listening to bible stories instead of music. A friend told me a story about going to a birthday party at their house where they all dressed up as bible characters and learned about Christianity. They attempted to invite all the neighbors over for an anti-Halloween party on a couple occasions. I mean, as far as I could tell, they had every bit as much knowledge about Christianity and the bible as any other Christian I’ve ever met. I’ve heard from many sources that simply reading the bible and believing in and praying to God will “draw you toward goodness”. This is what they did, but it did not have that effect, and yet religious individuals continue to repeat that phrase, “God will draw you toward goodness.”

The other issue is that they have no real way to know that other Christians think they have taken things too far. You very rarely see religious folk calling out members of their own religion, so they assume that the entire Christian population is standing behind them and their beliefs. Yes, most Christians are good people who don’t want to do any harm, but they are all building the foundation of beliefs that leads to religious extremism.

I like how you said, “probably should be admitted to the psych ward”, since a psych ward is a science based entity. Unfortunately, this was much of the problem with Isaac Zamora, is that there was not nearly enough money for the state’s mental health system to deal with him. This is why we need more devotion toward science than religion.

Now I’d disagree that they should be admitted to a psych ward, as, I should clarify, that I knew these folks for a lot of years and this was the only real time I saw a hint of violence. They definitely needed some science-based psychological help, but I wouldn’t go that far. There was no way to know that Isaac would become a murderer. I mean, people threaten to break people’s legs all the time, and make jokes about killing. There’s no reliable way to discern which is real and which is just a joke.

Lastly with this paragraph is your idea that it’s crazy to think that flipping off  another person is adding to their potential of going to hell. I can’t be certain that she actually said this in the story (I was very young and working from memory) or if this was an explanation my mind added later, but it makes perfect sense to me. They’re called curse words for a reason. Some people actually believe they are cursed, and many others kind of have subconscious sense that swear words have supernatural powers. If God can magically change a catholic wafer into the literal body of Christ, right as the person takes it into their mouth, and if atheists will burn in hell for all eternity, even if they live their lives doing nothing but good deeds, simply because they don’t understand Jesus, then why is it so crazy to think that a few cursed words can put a supernatural mark on a person? There’s a reason why swear words are banned from television while we have no problem showing people getting safes dropped on their heads to our children. Some children’s cartoons are extremely violent, but the only thing people generally find offensive is a few specific syllables. What rational explanation is there for that if nobody believes they have supernatural powers?

Question #2:

Her motivation sounds like extremist, quasi-Christain militia BS. I would say she came from either an ultra abusive or ultra conservative (probably no less abusive mentally, emotionally or physically) background. SO, most of her motivation would come from the anger/abuse that she’s been “discipled in”. Her view of God/spirituality/life has all been misconstrued/twisted by the lack of love (or even sanity) that she’s experienced in her life. I’d guess that’d most likely be her (and his) motivation. And obviously!… they (or at least he) needed to go to the psych ward because of the “voices in his head” telling them to do evil things.

I don’t know about any abuse they suffered. You could be right. I never had any real reason to believe that Isaac was being abused or that his mom had been abused, though I didn’t know them well enough to be sure. However, the abuse explanation sounds like science to me, which I much prefer over the old “He’s just evil. The devil made him do it.” explanation. It shows that you’re a bit more of a scientific thinker than a lot of religious individuals, which I support, but you need to realize that many religious individuals reject even very basic psychological concepts like the idea that childhood abuse leads to adult violence.

Question #3:Have you read any historical books, the newspaper or watched tv? There’s tons of people motivated to do evil things that aren’t “religious”. Take Stalin for example (or any other atheistic/communistic dictator), he was motivated by his atheism (even Darwinism) to view people as mere animals (no intrinsic worth), and ensure systematic genocide of millions people. Atheism/nihilism asserts that there are no moral absolutes, no meaning to life, the universe is just one big mistake (and we’re extremely insignificant mistakes within it), and thus, we’re ultimately just clumps of cells/matter. No more, no less. What’s the difference between killing one million ants as I step on an ant hill or one million people – in the end they’re both just bunches of matter (that we subjectively value differently). And this universe is just going to fizzle out into nothingness, so what’s the big deal if people die a little early, in the end it won’t matter anyways. Stalin (and anyone who takes atheism/nihilism seriously) knew this and I think it can motivate people to do evil things.

Now, that’s one (probably poorly argued) example of how a dogmatic atheism can bring about tremendous evil. I think there’s tons of irreligious people that do evil things everyday as well.

So, my answer is: yes. Charles Manson. Joseph Stalin. (people either “irreligious” or outright atheist) ect…

Well, reading newspapers, seeing things on the news, looking over prison statistics and about ten years ago, searching for death-row pen pals is one reason why I believe that religion greatly increases a person’s chances of committing a crime. If you look at the history of just about any major violent criminal you can see they were either raised religious or had a deep belief in God. Charles Manson was a Scientologist who believed he was Jesus, so he’s not a good example.

Stalin, of course, is a very good example of an atheist doing horrible things, and he is definitely a black mark on atheism, something I fear we try to avoid talking about. I could say that he’s not a true atheist (he was ignorant of science and rejected Darwinism according to this page and that he disagreed with freedom of speech and freedom of religion which is kind of fundamental to most modern atheists. I also read that he was raised to be a catholic priest–or protestant-there seems to be some confusion there) but that would be unfair to the argument, because I’m arguing for atheism as a whole, not just my particular brand of atheism. As an anarchist it should be obvious that I disagree with his policies on a fundamental level, but that as well is a separate issue. All I can say is that he’s an exception to the generalization I’ve made. Atheism does not guarantee goodness. All it does is leave a person’s mind open to reason, logic, and other concepts of right and wrong that are usually better than a religiously dictated, highly outdated, sense of right and wrong. It does not guarantee that someone will accept a purely rational view on things.

Now, you mention people are motivated by atheism or Darwinism to see humans as mere animals without any intrinsic worth. But this is not how we feel. Statistically atheists are more likely to oppose war and the death penalty because we do see humans as having intrinsic worth. I don’t know the views of other atheists, but it seems to me that this intrinsic worth is built-in to our psyche. We need each other to survive and progress as a species and evolution has built in a system of caring for each other. I believe it’s religion (and government – lets not forget I’m also an anarchist) that gives people excuses to see others as less than human.

Though I obviously don’t agree with everything (or a lot of stuff) on this site, here’s a graph to sort of get perspective on “religiously” motivated violence vs. “non-religiously” motivated violence:

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/atrocities.html

Yes, I’m under no delusions about the fact that most people think my opinions are crazy, and I’ll be lucky if even a small percentage agree with my logic, but that’s exactly why I need to keep this site going. If I had the same opinions as everyone else I could just spend my time going to the bars and watching football instead of worrying about trying to change the world.

———–

So your link was rather interesting. I must admit it has lead me to some different ways of thinking about atheism. However, much of it was misleading. It attributes the slavery of Africans to atheism, and claims the Mongols were atheist when they were actually very religious, and the numbers seem bloated as compared to other statistics I’ve looked at. Unfortunately I’m no historian, so I can’t get too in-depth into these issues. However, I must admit there does seem to be more cruel atheist dictators in history than I was aware of. I still was not able to find any that were raised atheist, which I believe is the most important aspect to a person’s development. Pol Pot was raised Buddhist. Stalin was raised to be a Christian/Catholic priest for crying out loud. I couldn’t find much about Mao, but his mother was a devout Buddhist. However, they were still atheists later in life, which I must admit kind of throws a wrench into my argument. As far as I can tell, these dictators did what they did for money and power, and their lack of belief in God supposedly had little influence, as opposed to something like the Iraq war which clearly had religious motivations (albeit not as strong as the oil motivation). This is all half-assed Google research on my part, so I must take it all with a grain of salt.

So in light of these new facts (I’d never even heard of Pol Pot before), I think I need to re-evaluate the way I view atheism. Now, all of these brutal atheist dictators disagreed with my personal viewpoints on a fundamental level, because they did not do things based on pure logic and reason, and did not believe the public should be thinking for themselves. They replaced God with a state-based worship where they were the supreme leaders. I obviously disagree with this idea on a fundamental level but the problem is that I haven’t been specifically clarifying that when I give my atheist arguments. I had this belief that atheism would naturally lead people toward positive behavior, because good behavior just makes rational sense. I realize now that was stupid of me and it was actually rather hypocritical to my other philosophies. Being a good person is most definitely rational and logical, especially if you agree with my belief that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but there are other things in this world like money, power and sometimes sex, that can motivate people toward evil more efficiently than God. Atheists are not immune to these corruptions any more than religious individuals. The only difference is that everyone recognizes money, power and sex as being dangerous, while most ignore the dangers of the concept of God.

So I am going to try to do a better job of clarifying that atheism to me means more than just not believing in God. It also means thinking for yourself, embracing reason, logic, real-world facts and science (like using the scientific process for decision making but not blindly trusting scientists or statistics), and it means that the human race, our community and making the world a better place should be our primary focus in life as opposed to a God or supernatural based life.

God asked me to Write my Last Novel

So this is embarrassing to talk about as an atheist, which is why I’ve never mentioned this to anyone, but it’s true. In 2008, God spoke to me and gave me a character and plot outline for my third novel, Against A Rock. I know logically that it was just my mind playing tricks on me (or subconsciously guiding me), but in every emotional and spiritual way, it was real.

I won’t get into how I got into writing when I was 15, which is a whole other spiritual experience, or what was going through my mind when I wrote my first novel. Suffice it to say that writing, especially fiction writing, is a deeply spiritual experience for me, even if I don’t believe in physical spirits. I’ve had a lot of different experiences in life, but nothing I’ve found can compare with writing a novel and living in that alternate world for months at a time… assuming, of course, you can find “the zone”, that passion and connection with those “fictional” characters, you know logically exist only as bits of text on your hard drive, but deep down inside you know are as real as you and me.

But in 2003, I became enthralled with programming Flash ActionScript, and web development in general, and couldn’t get enough code in my life. It was like a giant puzzle, but a puzzle I could build myself, a piece of functional art. It couldn’t quite rival fiction writing in emotional intensity, but what programming had was consistency. I could almost rely on writing code to sort of carry my mind away and relax me, and bring me that thrill and sense of magic (with a few simple conditions about the organization and purpose behind the code. I couldn’t get excited about pointless code, but other than that, as they say at WordPress.org, code is poetry). Fiction writing can bring me the same spiritual benefits with much greater intensity, but it’s hit or miss depending on how much I care about the characters or the theme of the story.

So… anyway, I sort of quit writing for almost five years, with the exception of a story called In The Name of Justice, which came to me in a dream in 2006, all fully plotted, with characters fully developed and everything.

Shortly after this dream/story I started thinking that I had built up enough of a career as a programmer that my job was mostly safe, so I didn’t need to spend all my free time programming, so I figured I should start writing again.

I had also been introduced to a game called EVE Online, a big spaceship online role playing game. In this game, I was what’s known as an Amarrian, a member of a highly religiously devoted society. I came up with a short story idea that would serve as a back-story for my game character, where a turret commander named Floreina had grown up under the Amarrian religion, but recently had started rejecting religion and even sometimes God. However, she had to keep it secret for there’s even more fundamentalists in Amarrian society than there is in modern religious society. She then has some token experiences that show that her captain is the bad guy and she goes on a secret mutiny. In the end, she succeeds and becomes my character in the game, (which explained why she had actually been doing missions for the enemy of the Amarrian Empire), and she finally comes to accept that her religion was lies, that it’s not necessary to believe in God, and from that freedom she feels the relief and independence, self-confidence, blah blah blah…

But somehow I couldn’t make the story work. I wrote almost 20,000 words, which is half of a short novel, and I just couldn’t believe in the characters like I did back when I wrote my first two novels from 1999-2002.

So I put the story away. I moved to Seattle and started working for a company that was building a DVD ordering system. My job was to build a functional demo of the entire application so that prospective clients could play with the system before it was actually built. One thing they could do was browse through a set of DVD images. They gave me a set of about 15 DVD images to put in as the graphics, so every day for a couple months I would look at these same fifteen movie covers, making them slide in and out and animate based on user input. Movies such as 3:10 to Yuma, Crash, and the one that caught my eye: Resident Evil 3, with the gorgeous Mila Jovovich and her confident strut, and the machine pistols she held in each hand.

This got me back into the idea of my mutiny story, and I kept telling myself to get back to it, just force your way through it. Sure the plot is just kinda atheist propaganda, but maybe you can turn it into something good. You can go back through and tone it down a bit. Maybe you can turn it into a simple action story, and if it gets too preachy, just cut out the preachy and make it all about the action and the mutiny.

I sat down a few times to write, but I still just couldn’t find that passion.

Then one day I was riding the bus home from work, just trying to force myself to brainstorm as hard as I could about the story. Normally the buses are packed, but today it was nearly empty. I sat by myself near the back, listening to Tool’s Vicarious, and suddenly, like magic, I stopped being an atheist. An overwhelming presence seemed to come down from everywhere and consumed me. My mind cringed, and I couldn’t open my eyes against this strange brightness that somehow wasn’t there. Then suddenly I saw my story, but one that was so twisted as to be nearly unrecognizable as the original story. And this commanding voice told me, or essentially ordered me to do a complete overhaul on Floreina. It was not in words, per say, but it was a linear series of concepts and thoughts that loosely translate to the following: “She will be an absolute believer. She will not be an atheist. In fact, she will hate people like you, and she will never question that belief, and you will use your writing to do everything you can to justify her hatred and help people understand her. You will embrace her religion with everything you have… and you will embrace her hatred. Don’t think about promoting atheism. Instead, embrace the opposite. Allow me to guide every keystroke in this novel. Listen to my voice. Embrace the violence; embrace the hatred…”

And I heard the lines in the song,

“Cause I need to watch things die…from a distance
Vicariously I live while the whole world dies
You all need it too, don’t lie”

blasting in my ears as God spoke to me. “Because I love violence, Kalin.” God told me. “I’m no different than any other author of a fictional universe. I want drama in my realm. I want action and screaming and crying and passion. That’s why I want you to commit such horrible, unspeakable violence through this novel. Naturally, I want this violence contained only to the realm of fiction. When you’re in the physical world, making real world decisions, you continue being an atheist, you continue logically recognizing that I am simply a trick of your mind, but when you’re in front of the computer, your fingers running over the keyboard, creating whole other worlds, and you’re lost in that alternate reality, I want you to give yourself over to me, and let me guide you. If you do this, I promise, this novel will be the best you’ve ever written and you will turn a new leaf as a writer.”

Shortly after arriving home, I sat down to start writing and was amazed at how quickly the magic arrived, and I became a believer. It took me six months to write Against A Rock. It was all I thought about for that time. My daily emotions revolved around the story. Things that happened in real life became irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was the story, but it never seemed to require work. It came like magic, the words flowing one after another.

Then one day I read some random story about police brutality and became distracted with thoughts of my anarchism for a few days. Then, as I was driving to Costco one day, I received the same kind of message from above, though this one much more mild, probably because I was driving. Something told me, or actually ordered me to write an article called 12 Reasons Why Criminal Justice is Counter-Productive to Peace On Earth, inspired by my article, 22 Ways Religion Promotes Crime, which I had written a few years earlier but never showed anyone. I went home and started writing, and rapidly surpassed the goal of 12. I got up to about 20 reasons, and found my mind cleansed and was able to get back into writing Against A Rock. Over the next couple weeks, I added to that article, and finally ended on the title, 35 Reasons Why Criminal Justice is Counter-Productive to Peace on Earth. I now consider this to be the most important thing I’ve ever written, and I’m waiting for just the right time to release it. It’s been over two years and I’ve returned to reexamine it a number of times, so it’s getting close.

Within two weeks of writing the 35th point in this list, my childhood friend, Isaac Zamora, whose family introduced me to Christianity and God, went on a killing spree. “I kill for God. I listen to God.” Isaac said at his hearing.

At this point in my novel-writing, Floreina was floating in space, her suit running out of oxygen, alone with her thoughts, and she starts thinking about the horrible murders she’s just committed.

After Isaac’s murders I almost completely lost the passion for the religiously-motivated murders in my story. Everything I was writing just seemed sick and disturbed, and that connection with God was nearly gone. The parallels between Floreina, Isaac and myself were simply terrifying. For almost a month I couldn’t write more than a few paragraphs.

Then something changed. My sorrow for the victims was replaced with anger at the religion that had done this to them, that does this to countless people all over the world. I consciously channeled that anger into Floreina and pressed on, and somehow, that passion for violence came back, and that feeling of being touched and guided by God rapidly returned. He went back to guiding my keystrokes and I lost myself in the story, but as I finished off the last twenty percent of the novel, pushing the violence and intensity up another few notches, I kept seeing myself as a kid, living next door to Isaac for so many years, and receiving similar subconscious tricks of the mind, voices, telling me to go over there and try to show them a different way of thinking. And from deep in the back of my mind, as I typed out the last of my story, I could hear God telling me that I could have saved those people. Isaac had been so open-minded, peaceful, caring and ready to listen when we were kids, and I felt this was a lesson. It’s wrong for me to worry about offending the religious.

So yes, I have had a few profound experiences with God (this is only one example). Recognizing it as being a trick of the mind does absolutely nothing to reduce the emotional, intellectual and spiritual power of the experience. God can do some amazing things, bringing confidence and inner peace, but only when He is recognized consciously as fiction or an abstract concept. When God is applied as though he actually exists in the real world, we don’t get wild fantasy sci-fi novels, we get people like Isaac Zamora.

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.