Tag Archives: Humor

A Conversation on Atheism and Extremism

The idea of atheism is so easy to understand, but seems to be misunderstood by most. I attribute that misunderstanding to a combination of lack of education and willful (possibly unconscious) misunderstanding due to the threat atheism poses to theistic belief systems.

I’m going to begin posting interesting conversations I have on religion, including atheism, for the potential benefit of others. This conversation began with my posting of the Oatmeal comic below.


oatmealExtremists

Commenter: Oh… I thought the atheist extremist was one killing off 25% of the population in the genocide of Cambodia in the seventies, or one causing starvation and death for millions in the Soviet Union under the collectivisations of Stalin. But ok, there are extremists of different kinds.

Me: You’re expressing a very common misconception.

As the comic points out, atheism isn’t a prescriptive worldview, like Christianity and Islam. Atheism is descriptive, not prescriptive. So atheists are free to do whatever they want. As the comic notes, atheists tend to be well educated and peaceful people who love science. The causation flows the other way, of course. People who are well educated, peaceful, and love science tend to reject religion because it doesn’t conform to their understanding of the world and doesn’t serve their needs.

Your examples depict totalitarian socialism, not atheism. Atheism was only a part of those movements because they were anti-theistic. The leaders persecuted religions for the same reason they persecuted specific cultures, intellectuals, and artists, because the leaders considered them threats to their absolute power.

Hopefully this clarifies things.

Commenter: I thought we were talking about extremists. Are you really claiming that Christians and Muslims in general are not educated and peaceful?

Me: You’re misrepresenting my points, or perhaps misunderstanding me. I’ll restate in simpler terms.

1. Atheism doesn’t tell you what to do. There is no such thing as an atheist extremist. It’s nonsensical to have someone have an extreme lack of belief.
2. There are certainly anti-theists, but those are generally people who hate one or more religions, often the middle eastern monotheistic ones. Atheism does not cause anti-theism.
3. There are totalitarians, but atheism does not cause totalitarian thinking.

Commenter: I do not think I misunderstand or misrepresent. However, I think Oatmeal gives a twist for humorous purposes, which you seem to think reflects reality.

Talking about extremists there have historically been virulent anti-religous movements, inspired by quotes like “religion is the opium of the people.” These extremists were inspired by atheism and atheists movements, and they caused the deaths of millions. This kind of atheism does tell you what to do.

I do not know what you mean by “atheism does not cause anti-theism.” Surely anti-theism and anti-religiosity would not be possible without atheism. It is a necessary (but not on its own sufficient) condition to create extreme anti-religiosity.

Likewise, religion is not a sufficient condition to cause religious extremism.

Oatmeal uses humour – I sure smiled a brief moment, but it is not by any means a representation of reality.

And stepping on the border of Godwin’s law: imagine if the atheist Russians Communists and unreligious German Nazis had been overtaken by moderate religious figures. WWII would simply not have taken place.

Likewise WWI would not have take place if people had not had the nationalist fervour they had, and if they instead had been inspired by moderate religion.

Me: Because you insist on erroneously defining atheism and interpreting history to support your faulty worldview, I don’t see an advantage to continuing this conversation. Good bye.


I wish I could say the willful misunderstanding and ignorance of history displayed by this commenter was rare, but it’s the rule rather than the exception. The above is not at all my best writing, but I think it’s clear enough that I’m presenting the conversation verbatim so you can see what actually transpired.

The original G+ post I used as the basis for this post can be found here.

National Grammar Day – Haiku Winners

Haikus can be wonderful. I’m not a purist, so if something doesn’t adhere to the classical rules of Haiku, I’m not going to complain, as long as it’s honest about its heritage.

Grammar Girl posted a short piece on the recent National Grammar Day Haiku Contest winners. I’ll share a bit of that with you, because I love Haiku and so should you.

This being Grammar Girl and Grammar Day, the contest focuses on haikus that centrally involve grammar.

This one, written by Arika Okrent in 2013, cleverly references we all know from experience.

I am an error

And I will reveal myself

After you press “send”

The first and third place winners from 2016 didn’t move me, so I won’t share them here, but you can find them here.

The second place winner, from Monica Sharman, is striking in its emotion and metaphorical truth.

“Edit” in Latin

means “He eats” or “She eats”—

We devour your words

The fourth place winner, from Larry Kunz, is brilliant in its use of grammar and mental imagery.

She said, I love you.

Her beau replied, I loved you.

Then the time passed, tense.

If you enjoyed these, there are many more a quick search away. I’ll close with a non grammar related mutt of a haiku that always cracks me up.

Take me down to Hai-

ku city where the grass is

green, and the dammit

Code Freeze

I refer to the one-to-n states before actual code freeze as code slush. Code freeze is when you can’t change the code unless a critical bug is found. This should be obvious but real life intervenes in even the best organized projects. I’m often called in to help troubled engineering projects, and in many of these projects code freeze is almost meaningless, a statement of management desire or hopefulness rather than anything concrete. This cartoon describes those projects well.

codeFreeze

How would you finish this sentence?

These are my answers to:

How would you finish this sentence?

“I loved her. She loved me. She was perfect. Unfortunately, ___________”

 

I loved her. She loved me. She was perfect. Unfortunately, my wife found out.

OR

I loved her. She loved me. She was perfect. Unfortunately, she was a vampire and I was a werewolf, and we were stuck in a movie so terrible, we perished from the absurdity of it all.

OR

I loved her. She loved me. She was perfect. Unfortunately, my hard disk crashed and I lost her.

How would you finish this sentence?

A Song of Lost Work

A Song of Lost Work

Yesterday,

All those backups seemed a waste of pay

Now my database has gone away

Oh I believe in yesterday

 

Suddenly,

There’s not half the files there used to be

And there’s a deadline

hanging over me

The system crashed so suddenly.

 

I pushed something wrong

What it was I could not say

Now all my data’s gone away

and I long for yesterday-ay-ay-ay.

 

Yesterday,

The need for back-ups seemed so far away.

I knew my data was all here to stay,

Now I believe in yesterday.

 

I adapted this from several versions on the internet, taking the best of each, and then posted it on my door and sent it to my team, with the message “Let’s all do our backups so we don’t have to sing this song. If you aren’t sure what you need to back up, where you should put your valuable files, how often to do a backup, or anything else, please ask for help.

5 Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think

I like reading Cracked magazine. Those who don’t read it probably don’t realize that Cracked has standards beyond making you laugh. Many of its articles are based on science and provide sources. Liberties are taken in the name of humor, but you can generally see where.

This is one such article, in which the author explores 5 human tendencies that weaken our ability to reason.