And God Shook Japan!

Last year, a horribly tragic earthquake tore apart Haiti. The people there, who didn’t exactly have the most healthy or comfortable living conditions to start with, are still recovering from the disaster. The Haiti earthquake left over 316,000 people dead and approximately 1,600,000 people without homes. Try to wrap your head around those numbers, if you can. This is a monstrously huge population that was killed, and a nearly unfathomably larger population left to suffer in the wake of it all. Every single 1 of those is (or was) just as much a person as your own self. They take each day just as fully as you do, feel every bit or joy or pain just as severely as you possibly could. Each of these people is more alike with you than different. Take a moment to let this register in you mind.

Last Friday, March 11, a gigantic earthquake hit northern Japan, which was followed by an absolutely devastating tidal wave and at least two explosions at nuclear reactors. Death, destruction and despair are all these people have to look forward to for what will no doubt be a very long time. It pains me to say it, but this is the sad truth of the situation.

Want to see a bit of the extent of this damage? The New York Times has constructed an interactive set of images that illustrate what has happened. [link]

This shit is scary. Imagine what it must be like to live there, where over the course of one night your world is underwater, many of your friends and family are dead, and you are constantly struggling to stay alive yourself. This is reality for a great many people right now.

Here is some footage of the tragedy:

This all, of course, makes me terribly sad for those effected, but today I saw something that absolutely enraged me to no end. I mentioned the Haiti earthquake earlier partly to illustrate the extraordinary tragedy of it all, but partly also to call attention to the fact that immediately after it happened, celebrity televangelist Pat Robertson declared that the earthquake was a result of Haitians making a deal with the devil. ‘True story’, he called it. I have yet to hear of any such asinine remarks made by him in regards to this tragedy, but from other religious leaders I have. However, in today’s internet-driven world, pretty much any moron can post nearly anything they like, and they typically do. Earlier today, a friend of mine stumbled over this little gem:

Is it really fair to use the word ‘gem’ here? Would it be more fair to use the term ‘polished turd’ for this?

In all seriousness, this bitch needs to be slapped. Praying for the atheists to wake up? ‘Japan is a great place to start.’? She actually, honestly seems glad that so many people are dying, citing that it was God responding to prayers.

To the YouTube user who created this video, tamtampamela: Fuck you and the imaginary god you rode in on.

UPDATE: 3/15/2011

This video garnered quite a lot of attention. Too much for this little girl to handle, it seems. Within the past 12 hours she has closed her YouTube account. The video is no longer available.

How serious was she? Was she just trolling? Does it even matter anymore? I say it does not. Bitch is gone along with her hateful message, and as for myself I can be content with that.

UPDATE #2: 3/15/2011

Turns out she really was just a troll after all. I just don’t get how people could take such pleasure and enjoyment in deliberately pissing people off simply for the sake of doing so. Bitch still needs to be smacked.

Here’s another good article on this whole fiasco, which also happens to contain a mirror of the original video: [link]

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Defining Atheism

It seems to me that a great many people have a somewhat inaccurate understanding of the term ‘atheist’, even many who themselves identify as atheists. In the discussions I’ve had with people, the popular definition of ‘atheist’ seems to be a person who adamantly refuses to acknowledge the existence of god. There is, of course, the gentler alternative to ‘atheist’, and that is ‘agnostic’. An agnostic, as it is commonly understood, is someone who does not accept the existence of god but is open to the possibility. These definitions are partially true, and I would like to take this opportunity to clear up the matter if I may.

The dictionary definition of ‘atheist’ is ‘one who denies the existence of God‘. Specifically, that’s from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. ‘Agnostic’ is defined as ‘a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and prob. unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or nonexistence of God or a god‘, in case you were wondering. These are a little bit closer, but I still think we could do better. First, let’s look at atheism. If you dissect the word, it is very simply the prefix ‘a’ meaning ‘not’ followed by ‘theist’. Therefore, I will argue that the term ‘atheist’ simply means someone who does not subscribe to any particular religious doctrine. It just means ‘non-theist’, nothing more and nothing less. When most people hear the word ‘atheist’, they typically do not think of the term as it actually is, but rather they conjure thoughts of an ‘anti-theist’. An anti-theist is a person who actively opposes religions and the notion of the existence of god or gods. This is a common mistake. People also misuse the term ‘antisocial’ in the same way. In this case, people really mean to say ‘asocial’, as an asocial person is simply one who is detached from society in the way that the speaker means, while an antisocial person is someone who is actively trying to disrupt society, an extreme example being a sociopath.

‘Agnostic’, in the same way, simply means ‘not knowing’. As it is traditionally applied to the question of the existence of deities or the supernatural, an agnostic is simply a person who recognizes that the human mind, magnificent as it may be, is still limited. I once heard a Christian apologist ask the question, ‘Have you ever tried to explain physics to a dog?’ This is the same idea. He was trying to justify God by saying that since the human brain is limited, and so that which exists beyond our understanding must be God. This is, of course, a logical fallacy, but the principle of agnosticism is still the same. There may very well be concepts which are beyond human comprehension. Would we be foolish to ignore this? I think so.

Atheism is a blanket term that encompasses agnosticism, anti-theism, and every other word used to describe people who do not identify with religions. Agnosticism is a form of atheism. So is anti-theism. Freethinkers, secular humanists, they all fall under the parent category of atheists. This may be an unfamiliar or uncomfortable concept to people, but I will argue that it is truth.

That said, I will declare that I consider myself to be all of the adjectives listed above. I am atheist in that I am not religious in any way (atheism, by the way, is not a religion and requires no faith as some people might have you believe, but that is another topic for another day). I am agnostic in that I recognize our species’ intellectual limitations, even among the most brilliant of us, but that this does not justify resorting to the notion of god simply by default. I am anti-theist in that I believe religious belief to be harmful and dangerous, as well as the single greatest hindrance to human progress. I am a freethinker in that I am not afraid to ask questions and approach any topic with a sense of honest criticism. I am a secular humanist in that I strive to better humanity’s prosperity and well being, as well as to help us better understand who we are in this world and what role we play in nature. I am generally not one to carry such personal labels, as I feel that this type of thing typically only serves to hinder one’s personal potential, but these are exceptions. These I wear with great pride.