Friday, July 17, 2015

Ideas for an atheist billboard near the Ark Encounter

We need your inputs.

I'd like to see atheist (or maybe just rationalist) advertising near Ken Ham's monument to ignorance and genocide (A.K.A. "The Ark Encounter") but I'm not sure where to start or what the right message should be. Here are some ideas:

  • Did it rain in Antarctica?
  • How did all the marsupials get to Australia?
  • What did all the animals to to deserve death?
  • How many babies drowned in the "flood"?
    Good thing it never really happened.
There's more detailed arguments against it but they involve some math, which requires some thought that doesn't fit in the freeway-Billboard timeline.

My goal would be to plant some seeds of doubt in the minds of those attending. Other ideas are either more abrasive or more mathematical.

  • Does your God commit genocide?
  • Need to fact check this: Most Jews and Most Christians understand the Ark is a myth. (Optional: But most Muslims accept it as truth.)
  • Show a valid quote from a Pope stating that the Ark is a legend, "Even the pope admits it never happened"
  • Where did the food come from? Where did the poop go?
  • Fire code limits Ark Occupancy at X. That's only X/2 species.
Goals of such a sign:

  • Raise awareness that lots of people think this is absurd
  • Advertise an atheist / secular / skeptical event (leverage media coverage as advertising)
  • Plant a seed of doubt in the indoctrinated
  • What else could we accomplish? Not gonna convert anyone.

In any case, I think a WAG for such a billboard is about $5k. Not sure if that includes the design or not. Please share this article if you'd support the idea. And share your thoughts in the comments section below or via tweet to @AtheistEngineer.

Edits and Updates:
  • If at first you don't succeed …
    Drown everything and try again [link]
  • "Would a loving and all-powerful god REALLY annihilate all of humanity on the planet for the purpose of a do-over?" [link]
  • We don't celebrate death (images of Ark, Abraham/Isaac, Passover, and Jesus).
    Atheists are better without gods.
    Meet-up / event information.
  • Ark Encounter: Were the only evidence necessary is proof of admission. [link]
  • "Ark Encounter": Science-free zone ahead [link]
  • "Ark Encounter": Proven wrong by geology, archaeology, genetics, and common sense
  • If you think Noah and his family cared for millions of animals, you've quite obviously never kept a horse.... [link]
  • Rear view: God carrying set of golf clubs walking toward the "19th hole" caption reads: Noah's Ark: God's Mulligan [link]
  • Noah's Ark: Why would you want to spend eternity with the worst mass murderer in "history"?  [link]
  • @AtheistBigfoot: @AtheistEngineer The passage should be "Others will know this BS is crazy, but not you. You're gullible" 
  • @wildy412: @AtheistEngineer want to drop out of school, stop thinking for yourself? Visit the Ark, where stupidity welcomes you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Letter To My Loved Ones After I'm Dead

I'm sorry I couldn't be here forever for you. But that's not how life works.  If my death is recent, many people will likely tell you that I'm "in a better place now". Some smug assholes will probably say I'm in hell for my rational beliefs. Both these assertions would be upsetting to me, as I'm sure they might be for you. Try to remember that those people (even the assholes) think they're doing the right thing.

I would like to discuss life after death from my perspective. You might be surprised to learn that both my consciousness and body will live on through purely naturalistic means. Lights out at death is far too trite of a description compared to the reality of what happens in death. What's more, I can point to specific evidence to support these claims.

Immortality of the atheist mind

I used to live only in my brain, but through our friendship, You built a little copy of me in yours.
(PET Scan from Wikimedia Commons)
I have good news for you which doesn't require supernatural beliefs. I still exist in a way that's very real. As one of the people who knew me best, I live on in you. This probably seems trite at first, but I'm quite sincere. Please let me explain.

Your memories and knowledge of my personality and values are such a reliable copy of me that you can imagine interactions with me, playing out imagined conversations we've never had as though they were really happening [1]. Of course I'm not really continuing to live in some nebulous "spirit realm". The fact is that our human ability to develop a mental model of other people is a very successful evolved trait. The model we develop of close friends is such a good approximation that many people (especially theists) are prone to believe it's the real thing. Maybe that's where this "afterlife" nonsense originated.

So I'm asking you to use your mental model of me. Imagine conversations with me and don't feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. Even though I'm gone, I live on in you. I know it's not exactly me, but at this point in time, there is no closer approximation. There's no shame in summoning my "ghost" for a conversation whenever it would help you. I wouldn't be bothered, but proud. In fact, It's the closest thing I will ever get to immortality. I trust that your model of me will be faithful to my true personality, and I hope it's useful to you.

While this "virtual me" won't be able to help you solve linear algebra problems, it will be there to listen to your thoughts and fears, and even give the same kind of advice I might have given if I had been able to. I sincerely wish I could. It's not exactly my mind, but it's close. This is the immortality of the atheist mind.

But what of my body? 

With any luck, I will have lived a long and joyous life. My body was hopefully pretty worn out by age. Both the heaven and the hell camp will tell you that I'll get a new body. The former to enjoy my eternal life. The latter so I can be mercilessly tortured for eternity. Both are pretty absurd, don't you think?

One like this is just fine. Don't even splurge on poplar. It's just going to decay! Honestly, it's just a convenient way to lug my dead ass around. 
I'd like a natural burial. Make something natural and beautiful from my body.  A tree, not a cement vault. Don't waste formaldehyde or expensive coffins on me.  A pine box will do just fine (Just don't put a fucking cross on it!). You can even make it yourself. Do it as a Boy Scouts project. Shouldn't be more than $500 in lumber from the hardware store. If you want to wait to have the funeral service when more family can attend, just put my corpse on dry-ice or have me refrigerated commercially. I won't mind. I'm not using it anymore.

Once I'm back in the ground from which my molecules came, you can come visit the nature that takes hold of my nutrients and reuses them. We did this as a family with our dog, Barley in 2014. The tree we planted on his grave was a present and beautiful reminder of his life. Keep me close if you wish or put me in a natural cemetery if you prefer. You could even donate it to forensic science [2].

Don't feel like you have to obey my wishes. Simply honor my memory for your own gratification. I'm done with these molecules.  I was just borrowing them from nature for a while, and I trust you to chose a fitting method to return it to nature. At this point, my corpse is nothing more than a token of my life to help you remember me. I'm done with it. It's yours.

Regardless of your choice, I take comfort in the knowledge that the molecules that once formed my body will eventually rejoin the web of life on earth. That is the immortality of an atheist's body.

End Notes

  1. Some "religious" or "spiritual" people misattribute our capability for accurate imagined conversations to an ability to legitimately communicate with a living spirit of someone who has died. I wonder if such an attribution wasn't a contributing factor to the mythology surrounding "souls". This is the sort of unfounded model of the world that I found irritating. So I suppose like all good myths and legends, there's a kernel of truth near the bottom. 
  2. I could help detectives learn to identify the age of bodies discovered under various conditions. That'd be kinda' cool. Maybe my body could help solve a murder. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I Didn't Choose to Become Atheist

A Symbol of one of the many Christian sects: The opulent Roman Catholic Church
"Basilica di San Pietro (notte)" by Eugene Pivovarov - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Within religious circles, it's common to move between churches to find the one which best fits one's subjective personal preconceptions about the world. From this social construct, theists often ask me why I chose atheism.

To many atheists, this question is offensive.  Unlike a decision to switch among the roughly 40 thousand Christian sects, atheism is a rejection of the core assumptions central not just the Christian sects, but all religions. I didn't decide the communities were all a waste of my time. It wasn't that I couldn't find a version of Christianity that aligns well with my political and scientific beliefs.

Rather, I left Christianity because there's no convincing evidence that any gods exist.  My own sense of honesty is one of my central cherished values.  I simply couldn't maintain my personal standards for honesty and still tell people I thought there was a god. I continued to attend church for many years as I drifted away.  But participating in the Apostle's Creed became a emotionally painful exercise that left me feeling like I had sacrificed my personal honesty to fit in. Singing hymns became similarly uncomfortable.

Of course, I could just sit out from these major portions of the service,but this seemed like some sort of rebellious protest. That wasn't it at all, and I didn't want to give that false impression either. In the end, I left the church because I didn't want to be dishonest anymore.