Archive for October, 2012


Among many other global catastrophes, religion does cause climate change. It also causes war, illiteracy and the spread of disease.

How does religion cause climate change? The answer is manifold. Firstly, with the example of Abrahamic religions, the eschatological worldview presents a serious problem. The sad irony of having a belief that the world will end (and many believe that this will happen within their lifetime), is that it acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Why should we care if we are polluting the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere? The end is coming when we will all be judged anyway, so there is no purpose preserving this planet. It’s God’s will. The result is that there is no strong environmentalist movement stemming from churches, synagogues or mosques. The focus is on the present and the end times. The idea of sacrificing for the future of our planet is not a hot topic amongst the religious. Yet, something that would seem to be a parallel, the idea of sacrificing for the future in heaven, is a hot topic.

Secondly, we have seen that historically, religion typically has not aligned itself with science – especially recent science. Science that is very old, such as the heliocentric conception of the solar system, is accepted; science that is new, such as climatology, is scoffed at. Yet, turn the clock back a few hundred years, and the heliocentric view of the solar system was also scoffed at. As a result, many religious people do not believe in climate change, or at least that humans are causing climate change. Many of these religious folks have found their way into political positions: these are the policy makers for the rest of us. If a policy maker does not believe in climate change, of course they will vote for and press for policies that may harm the environment – God will take care of us, there’s no need to worry about the planet.

As for war, it is simply a fact for any historian that religion causes war. The problem with religion is that it is nonnegotiable. One religious group will never make concessions on behalf of their religion. Therefore, whenever two religions live within close proximity – that is, either multiple religions within one country, or two countries with different dominant religions adjacent to one another – there will always be unnecessary political and social tension. The topic of holy wars is one which has been discussed in great detail by many others, so I will not delve deeply into this topic since few will deny this corollary of religion.

Malala yousafzai paints the best contemporary picture of the repression of literacy by religion. If religion is not controlled by secular powers, the result has always been a repression of knowledge. Christianity also went through a period like this in Europe. There is a very specific reason why the Bible wasn’t translated from Latin for a long time: to suppress questioning of the Bible. Although modern theists like to claim that questioning their religion is important; this is only the case because religious authorities cannot control knowledge of the Bible, or suppress opinions, as they once did. So what is the best alternative? Let people ask questions and hope they don’t convert. Why are people able to read the Bible? Because a heretic known as Martin Luther dared to translate the Bible into German so that the common people could understand it. You may say, “But Luther was a Christian!” Well, not according to the Church. As I stated above, he was considered a heretic – he was excommunicated by the Pope. Further, his desire to spread the word of the Bible to the masses was not received from the church, but from his own desire to interpret the Bible in his own way and let others know about this interpretation. In other words, the secular concept of freedom of speech. This is the point: religion has always repressed literacy and the only antidote to this repression has been secular values.

These same secular values have also lifted the human understanding of morality. It is not enough that we treat the people who we know around us well; we should also strive to help the whole of humanity.  The fate of smallpox demonstrates this virtue. The persistence of polio and the spread of AIDS across Africa demonstrate the opposite: religion works very hard sometimes to prevent the eradication of disease.

In the case of polio, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, have been dedicating their lives to the honorable goal of eradicating polio. There have been some roadblocks, however. Some are geographical, but most are religious. In Nigeria, the conspiracy theory that the polio vaccine creates infertility in young Muslim girls, in an effort to prevent Islam from spreading, was the reason why in 2003 the polio vaccine was halted by local government. Of course, this stoppage led to an outbreak of polio shortly thereafter.

On another continent, in Pakistan’s remote region of Northern Waziristan, the Taliban used the potential of a polio outbreak among their own people as a threat against the United States. The Taliban told the U.S. that they would not allow the polio vaccine to be administered until drone strikes abated. Their statement that polio is bad but drone strikes are worse is a clear example of how the dogma of the Taliban has distorted their view of the world and allowed for the proliferation of polio.

Back in Africa, the example of the spread of AIDS is a very sad story. The Catholic Church’s stance on AIDS and condoms echoes the absurdity of the aforementioned Taliban statement: AIDS is bad, but condoms are worse. The Catholic faithful in Africa, as a result, refuse to use condoms because this is decreed by their religious leaders. The Catholic Church has even proclaimed that a husband who knows he has AIDS is not allowed to use a condom to have intercourse with his wife! The choice he has is either don’t have sex ever again, or have unprotected sex with your wife and risk the transmission of AIDS. As any rational and informed person knows, the best hope we have in the fight against the proliferation of AIDS is condoms. Any person who encourages unprotected intercourse in a continent plagued by AIDS has given up their morality in place of their religion.

Yet, morality is rarely connected with religion, as the principle of eschatology – the judgment of some humans to be forever punished in hell (an unbelievably unfair punishment for a crime) – demonstrates. Still, eschatology is a driving force for many believers around the world. In a strange twist of fate, it is this fatalism itself that will quite possibly bring about the end of the world for many of the aforementioned reasons, provided that the forces of secularism stand by and do nothing.


Well, of course the answer is, “No.” But, time and time again, the belief that “Atheism is a religion too” is reasserted. Let’s break this down, shall we?

First of all, the etymology of the word. The word is composed of two parts: “a-” and “theism”. “A-” meaning “not” or “against” or “without” (all of which would work in this circumstance), and “theism” meaning a belief in a God or gods. Therefore, atheism means without a belief in God or gods.

However, this is generally not enough for people who seriously believe that atheism is a religion, just as Christianity or Islam is a religion. Fair enough. I’ll provide more evidence.

Not all religions have holy books, this is true; however, it tends to be the religious people associated with the Abrahamic religions (all of which have holy books), who make the claim that atheism is a religion. Needless to say, there is no dogma of atheism. There is no holy book, or even a book that atheists should follow. There are many kinds of atheists, some who believe in some forms of spirituality, some who believe in some superstitions, some who believe in conspiracy theories, and the some who believe only in things based on scientific evidence (I align myself in the last category). Christians, on the contrary, are not allowed to follow many superstitions because their holy book prohibits these beliefs. There are many kinds of Christians, but they all must base their beliefs on the Bible, otherwise, they are no longer a Christian. There is no “Bible” or “Koran” for atheists to follow.

Further, there are no rituals or gestures or duties of an atheist. With the example of Christianity, rituals include going to church or spreading the gospel. Gestures include making the cross for good luck. Duties include reading the bible, defending Christianity, and aligning your life in accordance with the Bible. Now, just because you don’t do any of these aforementioned examples, does not prove your point. These are merely examples. You will probably have your own rituals, gestures or duties in your interpretation of Christianity. If you have none of these, I question whether you are actually a true Christian. In other words, if there’s nothing you need to do to be a Christian, then I could easily call myself a Christian too. This is a very weak form of Christianity, if this is your position.

Not enough evidence? Fine. Let’s use logic.

I claim that I don’t believe in any religious belief. A believer may say, “But you BELIEVE in atheism.” Well, let me blow your minds right now. Get ready. Here it comes. I can respond that, “Whatever you think is ‘atheism as a religious belief,’ well, I don’t believe in that either. I believe in NO religious belief.” You may try to come back with, “Your unbelief is a kind of belief!” which is an incredibly contradictory statement. Ok, if you are allowed to make statements of this sort, then so am I. I can respond that, “I don’t believe in the unbelief of belief and I don’t believe in any belief.” We are starting to see a pattern here. A nonsensical verbal repartee that will go on ad infinitum. This is not the way to win an argument. This mode of reasoning can never prove atheism to be a religion. Generally, atheists are unwilling to respond to nonsense with nonsense; however, I feel it is useful here to demonstrate what believers are doing when they state that unbelief is a form of belief.

Why then, do people persist in claiming that atheism is a religion? My guess is because they know, deep-down, that having beliefs founded on faith is a weak foundation. As a result, these people want to believe that everyone has a weak foundation for their beliefs. If this is true, it is a lot of wasted energy on behalf of the people making the “atheism is a religion” claim. They should be more humble and admit that other people might have a stronger foundation for their beliefs, and spend their energy in more productive ways.

Why not blame the victim?


I have heard the same catch phrase from feminists many times now: “You can’t blame the victim!”

It seems that whenever this statement is uttered, everyone just sheepishly drops their gaze and apologizes for fear of being considered offensive or sexist.

But why can we never blame the victim?

Before I get into this, let me say that, although I am a man, I do consider myself a feminist — if a feminist is someone who believes in equal treatment and opportunity for men and women.

Before getting into rape, let’s cool off a little, as I know many people might be fuming so far, and try to apply the “you can’t blame the victim” theory to another situation.

Let’s same I see a group of gang members hanging out on a street corner. I then decide to go up to them and say, “You guys should be in school right now.” As a result, I am beaten up. Is my foolish judgement really blameless? Of course not: I should most definitely be blamed for my lapse in common sense. Now, is the crime any less serious? Of course not.

The fact is that the “you can’t blame the victim” mentality conflates two concepts. If you agree that you can’t blame the victim, you are saying both, the victim did nothing to provoke this crime and the perpetrators are less guilty for this crime.

Of course, I am not saying both of these. I am not saying the perpetrators are less guilty for this crime. I am saying that the victim did something to provoke the crime.

Now, the common issue with rapes is, if a woman wears provocative clothing and walks down a street alone, she is not to be blamed because you can’t blame the victim. Nonsense. Any woman with any common sense knows that she is being wholly naive to think that she can behave in this way and not expect negative consequences. Again, if she is raped, is the crime any less severe? No. However, the woman can still be blamed for not being responsible with her own safety.

If the world were a happy, joyful, peaceful place where crimes never happened, then this hypothetical woman’s behavior wouldn’t need to be judged. However, we have to face facts. There are bad people in this world. If you behave in certain ways, you will provoke an attack by them.

In any case other than rape, it seems logical that we can blame the victim. Let’s have some uniformity in our convictions.


On the advice of another blogger, musingsaudi, I looked into the beliefs of a Muslim scholar named Hamza Yusuf. I found one of his concepts interesting, which is mentioned in this video.

He describes the reactions of conquered peoples as divided into two groups: Herodianism and Zealotism.

Herodianism is the attempt to mimic the dominant civilization, as happened in Japan (he says post-world war situation — I’m not sure if he means World War I or II. I would argue that before America defeated Japan in WWII, Japan had already been copying the American style for some time, which in turn, lead to its ascendancy). I recently read “The West and the Rest” which delves deeply into this concept and it also uses Japan as the best modern example.

It seems to be Hamza Yusuf’s belief that this would be a bad thing for Islam. However, I suggest people read “The West and the Rest” because it outlines how every country which has taken on Western values has seen a steady rise in their GDPs, standards of living, rights of all its individuals, and so on. So, is Islam a peculiar case? I fail to see why this would be true.

Yusuf states that the problem with Herodianism is that the mimicry is never as good as the original and that it is always destined to failure (that’s a very close paraphrase… YouTube started buffering when I wanted to get a perfect paraphrase). I would ask, is it really fair to state that Japan failed? A relatively small island nation growing from the ashes of war — modern nuclear war — into a global power in less than a century is a failure? Regardless of Japan’s current slow economy, considering the fact that such a small country can out-compete larger countries such as China, Russia, and America in so many ways seems quite remarkable to me, not a failure. The same argument could be made for the so-called “Asian Tigers”.

I find it hard to believe when people come back at me with the argument that, “Economic prosperity and equal rights and things like this are only Western values.” Really? Tell that to a beggar in Karachi or a sweatshop worker in China or a farmer in Siberia or a slave laborer in a North Korean Gulag. The fact is, the term “Western values” is ridiculous. These are human values. They are valuable across cultures, religions and nations.

On the other hand, Hamza Yusuf’s view of Zealotism is positive because it preserves the original teaching of the Koran and the Hadith. In other words, Islamic Reform is something which is to be avoided. I will admit, my interpretation of Yusuf’s perspective in this paragraph may not be precise, and I welcome correction. If this is an accurate portrayal of his opinion, however, I believe that this kind of thinking will keep the Arab world in an economic and intellectual stagnation in comparison to the rest of the world.

In the end, the main question remains: Should Islam become more like the West? For the future of Arabic people, I vote with a strong, “Yes!”


The picture above represents a relatively old concept that in no way represents evolution. In case you don’t know it, it goes like this: given an infinite amount of time, a monkey randomly plunking away at a typewriter, will eventually write the entire works of Shakespeare from cover to cover. This, in my opinion, is an example of where probability and reality diverge. I have no idea what the odds of this happening is, but I have read that the required time for this to happen probabilistically is much more time than has ever existed. Further, if you consider the fact that every failure of the monkey to achieve the entire works brings the probability back to its original percentage (thinking that more failures means that the success is “due” is known as the gambler’s fallacy), it seems impossible that this unbelievable rare event would ever happen.

This is not how evolution works.

It seems that many people do not actually understand the basics of evolution – even those who claim that they believe in evolution.

I have a very pathetic example of this. I was visiting a friend’s house with a couple other friends. When I entered the house, I saw that the owner’s cat was enormous. I’ve never seen such an obese cat since then. The owner then said, “Yah, I known, and even stranger are his toes!” I looked, and I saw a somewhat grotesque sight. The cat had a serious case of polydactylism – too many toes on each paw. I’ve seen cats with six toes, but this cat had basically two paws on each leg. So, I said, “Ah, I guess that’s why he’s so fat, it must be a little painful to walk,” which I thought was a good guess. But then, another friend chimed in and said, “No, no , no. That’s evolution!” I stood there confused for a moment, trying to think of why this was an example of evolution. Not able to come up with an answer, I asked why it was evolution. “Because he has DNA to be fat, so his DNA developed extra fingers to compensate.” Actually, this friend was pretty dumb, so I doubt he said the word “compensate,” but you get the picture.

I recently had discussion with another blogger, DesertWarrior, on his blog post, The Chicken or the Egg, which triggered my desire to write a straightforward explanation of evolution.

I feel obliged to explain the basics of evolution so that ignorant believers of evolution and skeptics of evolution alike can at least know what they’re talking about.

Note: I will just say “mutation” for any beneficial change in DNA because there are a few ways the DNA can change across generations, but it will be too annoying to reiterate all of them each time. (The main way, by the way, is recombination of the genes in a novel way).

1) Probability

Very simply, evolution works by the concept of probability. If you take a game of Texas Hold’em Poker, for example, there are different probabilities for getting different hands preflop (this means, the first two card you get – don’t worry, you don’t need to know all the details of Hold’em if you aren’t familiar with this). The odds of getting the best hand (pocket aces) is 220 to 1, or 0.45%. It is very improbable to get this hand; however, if you play 220 hands, probability says that you should get this hand once. Of course, sometimes you will get this hand 10 times in 220 hands, and sometimes you won’t get this hand in 500 hands. But the average is 220 to 1.

Now, apply this same logic to the probability of a specific gene mutating in a way that is beneficial to the organism. Let’s say the chances are the same as pocket aces, 220 to 1. Then, if there are 220 offspring born in one year, this mutation is expected to happen once. Suddenly, something that is improbable, because expected. In this way, there is no luck or chance involved in evolution.

Add to this the fact that every part of your body can be modified in a beneficial way by a mutation. This means that each organism is not just taking a gamble once with one particular mutation, but with every single part of their DNA that can mutate.

Now, you must realize that most mutations are bad or neutral, so good mutations are not common. However, as we can already see, each organism has many chances to have one good mutation, and these chances are compounded by the number of offspring within the species. As a result, the probability will always be in favor of adaptation.

2) Environmental Adaptation

Next, is the concept that determines which mutations will survive. The one fact that confuses most people about evolution is that there is no such thing as a good gene or a good mutation. It’s all relative to the environment. Being a tall person may be beneficial in our current society, and the trend is that humans are getting taller; however, this is only because we enjoy an abundance of food. In an environment lacking food, being smaller is a benefit because you need fewer calories to survive. It all depends on the environment surrounding the organism.

Of course, mutations have no consciousness. Unlike as my stupid friend noted above thinks, evolution has no ability to compensate or consider the environment. It is all due to the fact that many probabilities are occurring simultaneously. Some organisms are born with serious deficiencies, and die. These organisms never procreate and never pass on their DNA. Some organisms appear more sexually attractive and they will procreate more and pass on their DNA more successfully. Some organisms will have a better ability to survive, and they too will have a greater ability to pass on their DNA.

Over deep time, these beneficial mutations add up in the descendants of a particular organism, and the descendants look very different than their ancestors. This is a slow process. It is not a sudden jump from a fish to a dinosaur – that would be the equivalent of the monkey writing the works of Shakespeare on a typewriter scenario (in a word, impossible).

That’s it. That’s the basics. There is no need for a guiding hand in this process. If you think it’s too unlikely to be successful, then you can simply check out the various computer simulations that have been done with these simple parameters. Every time, the computer organisms rather quickly (on an evolutionary scale) adapt to their environment. It works mathematically, and it works in the real world.

Now, there are people who will raise questions about specific aspects of evolution (such as speciation, or “why are there homosexuals?”, and so on); but what I have said above is what anyone who wants to talk about evolution MUST know without sounding ignorant.

Your comments are welcome. I have studied evolution quite a bit more than the average person; however, I am not an expert. I will try to answer your questions if I can; however, I will not go into extremely precise examples (these are generally the kind of gotcha questions. For example, I heard once, “If the Earth is so old, why is there so little dust on the moon?”) These kind of questions just try to obfuscate the discussion. If you stay on topic, I’ll be happy to answer your questions. 🙂

Fewer horses and bayonets

Romney: Our navy has fewer ships now than it did in 1916.

Obama: Yes, the military has changed. Our military also has fewer horses and bayonets, too.

Of course, this raises the question: how will we defend against suicide-horses? 🙂

So, obviously that was a pretty funny zinger by Obama, but I’m curious, what else does the American military lack, in comparison to 1916?

There must be many, but I can think of a couple:

– fewer cases of trench foot and dysentery

– fewer trench shovels and latrines

Any other ideas?

Recently I had a discussion with another blogger, Sacredstruggler, about her article, Islam: A Cult of Violence?

You can read the article, but in short, her thesis was that we, I guess either America or Westerners, are the terrorists now because we responded to 9/11 and in fact the numbers of deaths in the Afghan and Iraq wars outnumber 9/11 so, we may in fact be worse than the terrorists.

If you’ve read my other articles, you’ll know that this is the kind of nonsense that I’m absolutely against.

Ironically, I’ve had a discussion with a devout Muslim, Musingsaudi, which was informative and friendly, on this same issue! She never got angry at me for my opinions, and I was never angry about her opinions. I am especially impressed because I was arguing that Islam is not a religion of peace. You can see how amicable the conversation was with that link.

However, my discussion with Sacredstruggler was not the same 🙂

She threatened to censor my comment, so I copied everything that was said and I’ll paste it below 🙂


3 thoughts on “Islam: a Cult of Violence?

OCTOBER 20, 2012 AT 12:04 AM REPLY

I think that you are conflating two activities that are distinct. The attack on 9/11 was a terrorist attack with the intent of spreading terror. The campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq were wars against the Taliban and the Saddam Hussein regime, respectively. Unfortunately, there is a growing and unfounded belief that people in both of these countries despise the American intervention in their countries.
This is not the case. Although many are upset about how the wars were carried out or abuses of power that occurred (which, few will deny, were atrocious at times), the ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Hussein regime in Iraq were praised by people with adequate education. The problem, most especially in Afghanistan, is that many people don’t have access to even basic education, and only learn about world affairs from their imams or mullahs. The opinions of these uneducated people do not have merit, I’m sorry to say. They are just parroting what they hear.
Talk to Malala Yousafzai about Afghanistan or the Kurds in Iraq, and see if they’d rather be living under the previous regimes. These are only two examples.
Without deeper examination of the situations in both countries, that is, just looking at the death tolls of 9/11 verses the two wars, it is easy to say that, “Now, we are the terrorists!” But, you have to look at more than just deaths; there are many things that have been positive in Iraq and Afghanistan but nothing positive has come from 9/11.

By the way, I was NOT a supporter of the Iraq war, I just like to look at things critically. I don’t just force myself into a political box and sit there.

OCTOBER 20, 2012 AT 12:23 AM REPLY

This man’s family were far from “uneduacted”. And all people’s opinions have merit. The people in this country allow the media to control their minds and opinions. Shame on you for thinking you know more than people who live it because you have media access. Empirical knowledge is the only kind that is logically defensible.

Shame on you for pushing an idea that people have only as much worth as they do their education. Shame on you for thinking it’s all honkey dorey over there. The government, wealthy, and powerful have a vested interest in maintaining war, so of course they strictly control the way we receive information about it. ie. transfer tubes.

I prefer to talk to real people, not pundits. I’ve talked to friends who have served telling me about lakes filled with dead bodies many of which were women and children, so if you bought the idea that they are kissing every American soldier’s hand. You got served.

The number of civilian deaths doesn’t go away by focusing on the “good” we’ve done. And the “good” we’ve done wouldn’t have been necessary in large part, unless we had trained, armed, installed the same people we were seeking there.

I’m a registered independent, so not sure what you’re accusing me of as far as a political box.

I want to reply to your comment, but I don’t want it on my page. So, I’ll be deleting it very soon. And this will be the first comment I’ll ever have deleted off my page. So be proud.

OCTOBER 20, 2012 AT 12:42 AM REPLY

Ok, censor me.


Well, it’s pretty hard to censor someone in the age of the Internet. 🙂

To be honest, I was writing off the cuff, so I probably made some statements that can be refuted, but the way she responded was ridiculous. So, let me analyze some of the ridiculousness.

“This man’s family were far from “uneducated.”

– Of course I don’t believe that ALL people who are educated from Iraq or Afghanistan agreed with the Iraq or Afghanistan interventions.

“And all people’s opinions have merit”

– Really? So an uneducated KKK member who says, “Jews control the world” has merit? Oh, wait I get it: it seems that you believe when ignorant people from other countries state stupid things, then it has merit. Ok, I got it.

“Shame on you for thinking you know more than people who live it because you have media access”

– I didn’t say this. You don’t actually know how I know what I know. I didn’t say my information came from the media alone. This is an assumption. BTW, shaming me? Really? Ok, I feel shame… go on.

“Empirical knowledge is the only kind that is logically defensible”

– Do I even need to respond to this? So, what about the statistics that she wrote about so confidently in her initial post? Hmmm….

“Shame on you for thinking it’s all honkey dorey [sic] over there”

– I didn’t say this. In fact, I mentioned the abuses of power “which, few will deny, were atrocious at times”. So, actually, I don’t believe it’s hunky dory “over there” (Iraq or Afghanistan?). I never disputed the numbers of deaths you stated, so unless I think death is a good thing, especially death on a large scale, then I probably wouldn’t think that things are hunky dory, would I? BTW, who says “hunky dory” ?? 🙂

“I’ve talked to friends who have served telling me about lakes filled with dead bodies many of which were women and children, so if you bought the idea that they are kissing every American soldier’s hand. You got served.”

– That’s great but you should always fact-check people’s statements. I also met a soldier who was in Iraq who told me they found nukes. I said, “How do you know that?” He said, “Look, I’m a soldier, I get access to this kind of info.” That is obviously a lie. He probably heard this from someone and just trusted it. Further, first hand accounts have been shown to not be as reliable as you would think. Look into it. It’s surprising what people think they saw or didn’t notice and so on. So, I think I just returned your “serve”. BTW, “you got served”?? Are we having a dance battle here, or what?

“The number of civilian deaths doesn’t go away by focusing on the “good” we’ve done.”

– I didn’t say that.

“I want to reply to your comment, but I don’t want it on my page. So, I’ll be deleting it very soon. And this will be the first comment I’ll ever have deleted off my page. So be proud.”

– I like my response, “Ok, censor me”. Also, I am proud. It means I forced you to think so differently it made you irrational 🙂 Enlightening someone is always something to be proud of. 🙂

There are many writers who claim to have a solid idea of what the world will look like in the near (and sometimes far) future. The standard methodology that “experts” tend to use is to consider the past and try to project that into the future. I will not go into the fact that this is actually a logical fallacy (I know this only because I had an artificial disc put in my neck, and all studies in the past 10 years have shown it to be superior in every way to the older alternative surgery, cervical fusion, but just because all of these factors demonstrate it to be superior now, this doesn’t mean that this trend will continue further into the future) but instead I will just try to get peoples’ opinions about which country or countries will be the superpower or superpowers twenty years later.

There are my top three choices. I will put some pluses and minuses that I notice for each country’s present conditions.

America – Pluses

– massive GDP

– a draw for talent from around the world due to its liberal economics and civil liberties

– high pay for technical and specialized work

– English as a global language

– soft power (culture) is unparalleled

– a large population with a high GDP per capita (i.e., mass consumption)

– technology leader in the world

– a powerful military.

America – Minuses

– economy seems to be slowing and maybe contracting

– military power declining

– continuous contention with Islam and Islamic terrorism particularly

China – Pluses

– largest population

– tech-savvy population

– nimble command economy (has shown it will do things that harm its citizens for the advancement of the country)

– not afraid to use espionage to acquire new technologies

– growing military

– very large economy

– technology quickly improving

– mass mobilization of citizens for civil or military projects

China — minuses

– unstable politically, especially on its peripheries

– slowing economy dependent on US imports

– disparity in GDP per capita

– little soft power on a global scale

– tensions with Japan and South-east Asian countries

– censorship and mistreatment of its citizens discourages immigration from citizens from developed countries

– lacks oil resources

Russia – Pluses

– largest landmass

– large population

– massive untapped resources

– some parts of the tech industry are advanced

– nimble command economy

– large economy not dependent on US imports

Russia – Minuses

– growing dissatisfaction with government

– Islamic terrorism

– insurrections at peripheries

– poor image worldwide

– large disparity in GDP per capita

In twenty years time, I’d bank on America still being the global superpower, but with a much diminished role on the global scale. My major reason for this is the instability of the hegemonic contenders.

What do you think?

Hard Questions for the Religious


There are certain questions which are quite simple to answer for non-believers that are deep and perplexing issues for religious people.

This in itself should tell us something.

I am really curious about how religious people would answer some of the following questions. When I say “really curious” this is not a lie. I am not trying to disprove peoples’ religious views by setting up trap questions. The reason I am curious is because these questions are not interesting if you ask a non-believer, but it’s hard for a non-believer to wrap their heads around how a religious person thinks about these questions.

1) Do you ever question whether your worldview is correct?

2) If you pray, why do you do this? Do you believe that God is on your side? Doesn’t all the bad things in your life give you a reason to be skeptical of praying?

3) What do you make of people who believe other religions or other sects of your same religion, often more strongly that you do (ie, enough to fly planes into buildings)?

4) Do you notice the parts of life that you do not get to enjoy because of your religion?

5) If you believe in heaven, do you really look forward to the idea of living forever? Think deeply, not superficially, about this. Of course, I don’t want to die, just like you, but living for eternity is a different can of worms altogether. After millions of years, how can anything be interesting anymore?

6) Do you like the fact that God can know everything you think? Do you feel embarrassed about some thoughts you have? (I know I do!)

I have more, but I want to keep this short enough that someone (hopefully a religious person) might want to give their thoughts on these questions.

If a religious person does answer, I’ll give my honest answers to whatever questions they have for me, as a non-believer. 🙂


I will state it upfront: I am not a pacifist; nor do I beat the drums of war.

Killing in our personal lives is almost never necessary; however, things are different on the global scale. The difference lies in the fact that most of us (that is, people likely to spend their time reading a blog, and not just trying to survive) live in democratic societies, or at least societies with the rule of law.

This is not the case for many of the 7 billion of us. What is the result when you have groups of humans, often guided by ancient texts which they cannot read, living in isolated societies lacking the rule of law? In a word: racism. Often, extreme racism. It is a sad fact that there is a vestigial quality of our human mind that wants to create an us-them dichotomy, with “us” being good and “them” being evil. I say vestigial because, of course, at one time this would have been extremely useful. Encountering a random group of humans in prehistoric times was a dangerous endeavor.

However, nowadays, the desire to segregate your in-group from others is very harmful for two reasons. First, it prevents trade and therefore stymies development of the isolated group. Second, and more importantly for this discussion, it creates racist beliefs that are continuously reinforced by the other members within the in-group. Not interacting in any way (aside from war) with an out-group will never allow the in-group members to question their beliefs, and in fact, the interaction through war will only confirm many of their beliefs.

Another vestigial aspect of the human mind is the susceptibility of children to incorrect or even immoral beliefs. It seems that there is something in our minds as children that says, “Believe older people, and keep those beliefs for the rest of your life. Further, hate people who question those beliefs.”

We are products of evolution and evolution is an imperfect process. We can always be better. Unfortunately, it seems, we are stuck with the mildly barbaric minds that we are born with. Of course, reason allows us to overcome these shortfalls. People living in the mountains of Afghanistan, unfortunately for us and them, will never have access to such an advanced education that will allow them to question their in-group beliefs. Many of them will be lucky if they learn to read.

So, considering this, we come to a sad result. Some peoples’ minds are so polluted with dangerous ideas that they need to be killed. It’s a shocking statement, but it’s true. You will never convince a Taliban foot-soldier that his beliefs are misguided and that you have a better way to live. If you think you can do this, you are deluding yourself. This is especially sad because these people did not choose to be born in the mountains of Afghanistan, but their beliefs, alas, are still dangerous to the rest of us.

Imprisoning these people is a possibility, too. I’ll admit this. However, in many areas where these people live, civilization has not effectively created safe-havens from which to launch police raids. Because of this, it would be impractical and extremely costly to catch each of these people one by one.

Therefore, the only option available is what President Obama has been using on an unprecedented scale: drone strikes.

To drone or not to drone? Definitely, drone.

Atheist Assessment

Posts about Atheism and the shortcomings of religion. Sometimes satirical and sometimes serious. #AtheistAssessment


Observations - From the sharp end

Questionable Motives

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All men are born with a nose and ten fingers, but no one was born with a knowledge of God. -Voltaire

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Lights on the Moon

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