September 15th, 2009

Patti Fucking Smith II

The Atheist Challenge

The Atheist Challenge

01. Where do you get your morality from? Please explain your morality.
Moral constructs begin with reason. You have to consider what would be the consequence of an action if everyone could all do the same thing in a civilized society. For instance, I don't think reasonable people would sanction violent, indiscriminate actions being performed on people like rape and murder as though this were 'normal' behavior. I personally wouldn't want to be beaten up (again) for being gay, so I apply the same logic and would not beat a person for being straight.

02. Why do you believe in evolution? Explain how you came to your conclusions
This question presupposes that the counter to evolution is creationism/intelligent design, which I don't think is fair or accurate - but more on that later. The easy answer as to why I believe in evolution is evidence - overwhelming evidence, that supports the theory as plausible. Let's start with the fossil record. Within it, we can see evolutionary transitions between beings. Whales evolved from terrestrial mammals. There is evidence in their genetics and skeletons to support this. When you have a fossil that seems to link the two, how do you know it is an intermediate form between land mammals and whales? The changes in the record, that's how. Take the middle ear for example. The hearing of land mammals in the air is very good, but not as much underwater whereas the hearing of whales underwater is excellent. When looking for an intermediate form in the record, you will need to find a difference in the middle ear structure bridging the two - and that is exactly what is found in the record, overwhelming evidence of such transitions.

Creationists love to dispute the notion that we came from monkeys, which is a complete fabrication of the actual idea. In reality, we actually do share a common ancestor with the great apes. When the genetic code of the chimpanzee was published we were able to compare our genome to theirs. The similarites were undeniable, but there was a difference in chromosomes. Humans have 46 while the great apes (chimps, gorillas, orangutans) have 48. We have 23 from each parent where they have 24. In order for us to share a common ancestor, a pair of chromosomes must have been fused, which we would see in our genome - and we do - it is in our chromosome 2 that we see the difference in our lineage and points to where the fusion occurred. Mind you, this is just in the fossil record, this doesn't even take into account the discovery of DNA, which supports evolutionary theory. You could also take into account bio-genetics, homology, embryology, observed speciation, and observed natural selection. If you ignore all of these things then you could say there is no evidence for evolution, but if making an argument for creationism, there is no evidence - only unsupportable theory and suggestion. The bible is not evidence, nor is faith.

03. What is the meaning and purpose of your life?
I'm not sold on the notion that there actually is a meaning or purpose to life. That is not to say that I don't live as though I have no meaning or purpose. I am constantly motivated by a sense of purpose and driven by meaningful things that provoke me to act.

04. What is the greatest thing you have done for others?
That is a very subjective question and I don't think I am the one to answer. I think anyone who has benefited from something I have done is the more appropriate person to ask. Let's assume you save the life of a person who unbeknownst to you is completely despondent. You may feel as though the greatest thing you ever did for that person was to save their life, however within a month they inevitably commit suicide. In that context, you may not have saved their life, you may have in fact only prolonged their agony. Consequently, you may do a random act of kindness for someone that at face value seemed insignificant to you, but a decade later is still remembered fondly by that person as a turning point in their own life. Reality is subjective. It's all about perception and perspective.

05. Would you kill for atheism?
Of course not.

06. Why are you an atheist and why do you consider your position valid?
The idea of an invisible, intelligent, omniscient, omnipotent, all powerful being controlling the universe is completely ridiculous to me. Further, the idea that he/she/it wants to be worshiped, disapproves about people working on the Saturdays and Sundays, cares if I say 'motherfucker' or 'goddamnit', is preoccupied about me having buttsex, and doesn't like me chowing down on crab legs is beyond ridiculous. There is no proof to believe in such things, and no logic either once you really start thinking about it.

07. If you died and discovered god existed, what would you say to him/her/it?
"Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." Patti Smith said it best, and you don't fuck with the best. There is a lot I could say and would want to say, but it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference in swaying my opinion of god.

08. What religion is the most dangerous both today and/or in the past?
As for the past, I think it is probably Christianity, in particular Catholicism. Today, it has to be Islam. In countries that are governed by Islamic law, there is no separation of church and state which is always dangerous.

09. Name three peaceful religions you have no issue with.
Buddhism is more philosophy than religion (as is Taoism), which I would consider, but it doesn't really fall under the category of religion. Therefore I have to say Wicca (which states as a commandment "Harm none"), Jainism, and Satanism. Jains are rooted in a path of nonviolence against all sentient beings. Satanism is one of the most vilified religions of all, and also one of the most misinterpreted and misunderstood. What is widely considered by many to be Satanism is actually ignorant propaganda, mostly from Christians, and has little or nothing to do with actual Satanism. Furthermore, in reality Christians are far more violent than Satanists.

10. What would it take for you to believe in god?
Valid proof, empirical data, actual evidence. Even with those things, I would only acknowledge his/her/its existence, I would never follow or worship.

11. Would the world be a better place without religion?
Absolutely. You don't need religion to do good in the world, but it becomes a very convenient excuse to legitimize a lot of atrocity against other humans with whom you disagree.

12. How do you feel about government and politics?
Like religion, there is power here for tremendous good and tremendous evil.

13. If you could go back in time and kill Hitler and/or Stalin as babies so they would never be able to kill millions in the future, would you do it?
I struggled for days answering this question because it merited a lot of scrutiny and introspection because it is bigger than simply Hitler or Stalin, but I'll focus on Hitler. He was guilty of the mass murder of millions and for that alone I would GLADLY kill him as a baby to prevent it. Of course, if you killed Hitler then you would have prevented the holocaust - but if the holocaust never happened as a result of Hitler, there is no guarantee it wouldn't have happened at least in some form with another ruthless madman at the helm. I reasoned that if the holocaust had never happened, as horrifying as it is to say, there might not be such an awareness of the evil of antisemitism, fascism, xenophobia, and genocide. That might be a plausible argument were it not for Pol Pot and the Cambodian genocide, as well as Srebrenica, Rwanda, and Darfur - all of which have taken place in my lifetime. I don't see any guarantee that preventing the holocaust from happening would have prevented other genocides from occurring, possibly worse and with greater numbers of victims. All of that dwells within what is possible, not what is historic fact. In conclusion, yes I would kill Hitler and/or Stalin as babies to prevent their atrocities from occurring.

14. Why is stem cell research so important?
Stem cell research proponents assert that the science behind the research opens new paths to treating difficult to treat diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, among others. The pro-life movement's argument as the chief opponents of stem cell research is in the use of embryonic stem cells, which must destroy the embryo in order to create the stem cell lines. Their argument is that the embryo is a human life and therefore entitled to protections. My personal argument is that an un-implanted (in utero) embryo is no more a viable human life than a footprint is a boot, or a wall switch is a light bulb.

15. Is abortion evil?
No, but it is necessary sometimes. I am pro-choice second and pro-responsibility first. If more people were sexually responsible and more pro-lifers advocated for education and birth control, abortion wouldn't even be an issue except for the most dire of cases where the mother's life is in danger. What is referred to as partial birth abortion is just pro-life propaganda and not the reality of what actual late term abortion is. Doctors who perform abortion services within the third trimester of pregnancy only do so in cases where there is fetal death or when the mother's life is at stake. The notion that women and their doctors engage in this practice simply because the woman decides she doesn't want to have to take care of the child is as absurd as the notion that women walk into abortion clinics with smiles on their smug faces. In my view, there really is no such thing as pro-abortion, regardless what the pro-life movement would have you believe. In fact, if you're a woman and you choose NOT to have an abortion when you concieve a child, you ARE pro-choice because you've made that decision. If you're a man and you're pro-life, that's fine - just please do yourself a favor and shut the fuck up about it until or unless you get cramps, and then I'll personally buy you the Midol.

16. What would the circumstances need to be in order for you to approve of torture, as an individual?
I don't know that I can honestly answer this question because at first glance I cannot imagine sanctioning torture. On second glance, I know full well that I am capable of inflicting unbelievably cruel methods of torture that would change the way people would feel about me on a personal level on anyone that raped or murdered someone I love. In fact, I would delight in doing it and my rage would know no limits until I was absolutely certain they were dead. That is not hyperbole, exaggeration, or me talking shit - I mean every word of what I just said as honestly as I am capably of being.

17. Should we try to save animals from going extinct?
If we as humans are the reason their numbers are dwindling to the point of extinction, absolutely - otherwise, I believe nature should take its course in the natural world.

18. Do you approve of capital punishment? If so, explain why.
Yes. I do not believe that rehabilitation is possible for those who rape, torture, and murder innocent human beings. I do not believe that their choices merit sustained living at taxpayer's expense, especially when some of those taxpayers are the loved ones of the murderer's victims. The costs to keep inmates on death row alive and taken care of are exorbitant, and in my personal view, a waste of money. Unrepentant murderers cease to be human beings as far as I'm concerned and I have no more compassion for them than I have for a cockroach under my shoe. They deserve no compassion and therefore should receive none.

19. Do you believe in aliens, ghosts, spirits, souls, or any supernatural forces?
I don't believe that aliens necessarily fit into this equation along with the others mentioned, but I do believe in the possibility of life beyond out own planet. I suppose you could say I'm an agnostic where aliens are concerned. As for ghosts, spirits, souls and other supernatural forces, no. I enjoy the stories of haunted places and creepy things like that, but I do not believe such things are real.

20. Would you sacrifice yourself for a loved one with the chance you might end up in hell for being an atheist?
Absolutely, and without reservation. Concern for the consequences of sacrifice is self defeating for the purpose.

21. Explain in detail the process of death.
The organs begin to cease working and production within the context of natural death, by age or final progression of fatal disease. Respiration slows and eventually stops altogether resulting in cardiac/pulmonary/respiratory arrest occurring. The muscles of the body go slack. The muscles controlling bowel and bladder may release and the pupils become enlarged and fixed. The eyes may remain slightly open as is the jaw, because those muscles can no longer support the mouth remaining closed. Brain death occurs from the lack of oxygen in the blood and the living cell tissue within the body essentially shuts off.