Monthly Archives: June 2015

Brief Pause from Writing Prompts.

I had a great prompt all ready for you. It was sublime. It had sex and that’s about it. It was brilliant. But, to be honest, my mind is elsewhere. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to be honest for a second. I’m a black man. I’m 37-years-old. It is important that you know and understand this. I am a black man living in America and I’m afraid for my life.

I could be walking down the street, visiting a friend, on my way to work, or just relaxing in my home and I could die at the hands of police, or lunatic white supremacists. The beautiful and repulsive aspect of our current times is that we are living in the Information Age. Knowledge is at our finger tips. With the click of a mouse button, we can learn Beethoven’s Fifth, with the swipe of a touchscreen, we can see open heart surgery, or learn a new language.

But with everything in life, one must take the good with the bad. Police brutality in the black community is a centuries-old problem. I want you to read that again, please. It is a CENTURIES-OLD PROBLEM. We’re seeing so many instances of what has been an unknown shame on our country’s social tapestry because of the Information Age. Police brutality in the black community is hardly new. It is a stretched and warped broken record on an infernal repeat, singing the same tiresome refrain: “Nigger, die!”

Did it bother you to read that word? Did you wince at the sight of it, or recoil in some stomach-twisting nausea? Good. You’re supposed to. Now imagine living in a world where virtually every institution in human society–religion, war, sex, crime, education, entertainment, economics, politics, employment, environment, etc is constantly screaming, through its effective use of suppression and subjugation, “Nigger, die!”

What happened in Charleston, South Carolina is not a new phenomenon. 2014 saw many examples of reported and unreported instances of hate crimes and brutality. But what makes all this so insufferable and infuriating isn’t just the blatant and toxic racism, it’s the white denial of our experiences.

White denial. Yeah, it’s a thing.

See, when you hear people speak of the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri who took part in the riots and protests over Freddie Gray’s demise, you’ll most likely hear people call them animals or thugs–that’s white denial. See, it’s denying the systemic and structural injustices which the people of Ferguson, Missouri were fighting and are still fighting against. There is a reason for the riots, but if all you see are riots, you’re not seeing the big picture.

The worse part of white denial is the defensiveness.

When people of color talk about our experiences, we’re usually hushed up by our white counterparts. You tell us that everyone suffers and it isn’t just about us, as if we ever said it was. You never fail to remind us that all lives matter, as if somehow the #blacklivesmatter hashtag is exclusionary–it’s not. When we cry out against white supremacy and white privilege, you tell us neither exist. In short, you deny our reality.

It’s infuriating, heart-wrenching and exhausting.

I’m tired, y’all. I’m tired of feeling institutionalized and I’ve never spent a nanosecond in a jail cell. I’m sick of being immediately judged and treated as a threat in virtually EVERY SETTING before my character is ever assessed. More than that, I’m sick of having to explain it and justify it to people who intentionally won’t listen.

This is my rant. I wanted to say more, but I’m tired. It’s going to take more than removing the Rebel (traitor) flag before racism sings its swan song. There are countless white supremacists in this country, countless Dylann Roofs (I am so loath to utter this cretin’s and genuine waste of flesh’s name, but what are you gonna do?) just stewing in their own contempt for people of color. We’ve seen the mass shootings. We’ve seen the evidence and yet we do nothing.

Do something, please. Race is killing us.

Writing Prompts #1

I know there are tons of blogs and websites with writing prompts scattered all across the interwebs, In fact, if you’re a creative writer you can’t help tripping over the occasional prompt. I used to loathe them, despise them. If they could’ve somehow coalesced into human form, complete with an ass, I would’ve kicked them there. I felt as though prompts boxed me in, tried to guide my imagination that I was/am perfectly content to let wander. Now, I know better. I’ve grown up a little since then and now I see writing prompts as gold mines. My friend and colleague, Colette Sartor gives writing prompts in her short story classes at UCLA, speaking of which you should sign up for her class which is starting soon. Yes, I am plugging my friend and I apologize for nothing (you can’t see it, but I’m sticking my chest out with a smug, shit-eating, Captain-Morgan’s-Rum [which is excellent with as a pork marinade, by the way] grin on my face).

She taught me that writing prompts were just launching points, if the prompt available isn’t to your liking, you’re within your rights to tweak it a bit. So, in an effort to foster more writing I’m going to post a few prompts every week to keep myself motivated. So without anymore time wasted, here’s the prompt:

Your heart is racing, you can feel your grip loosening. You look down, it’s such a far drop. If you tuck and roll, you might walk away with a sprained ankle. Just as your hands give out and your fingers slip away from the edge, you fall off of your . . .

That’s it. Have fun writing! I know I will!.

Top Ten Dumb Apologetics

There are certain arguments I often hear when debating theists that are just really fucking dumb. Now, I’m no expert debater by any means. In fact, I’m still learning, developing my style and skills as it were. Some debates I lose and others I win–whatever winning and losing a debate means in the long run is anyone’s guess. That said, the apologies I’ve heard as arguments for God’s existence do not hold up against the weight of logic. To be frank, I’m surprised people still use these arguments. I’ve decided to compile a short list of arguments that I’ve heard and why they simply don’t work.

1. The Kalam Cosmological Argument: A favorite mainstay for apologists such as William Lane Craig, the Kalam Cosmological Argument goes something like this, all that exists has a cause and since the universe exists then it stands to reason it had a cause. That’s the basic run down, but there is more. If the universe began to exists, then an uncaused cause must have caused it to exist. This uncaused cause is timeless, immaterial, all-knowing, all powerful–or God.

The argument fails because it presupposes God’s existence. To presuppose anything is to start from a conclusion and work one’s way backwards as opposed to asking a question, performing research, and basing one’s conclusion on the data. Presupposing God’s existence from the onset kinda undercuts the point of having an argument in the first place.  It is also steeped in false dichotomy, or the “I-can’t-think-of-any-other-possibility-for-the-universe’s-existence-so-I’m-just-gonna-say-God-did-it” argument. The argument also attempts to make the case for a timeless and immaterial creator or “uncaused cause.” If the creator is immaterial and timeless, two things human beings aren’t, then how could we possibly know for certain that there is a god when his existence is beyond our reach? It just stinks of wishful thinking. If God is eternal, then who’s to say the universe isn’t either? The Big Bang theory doesn’t suggest the universe exploded into existence, it suggests the universe expanded. For something to expand, it stands to reason that it must exist in a form capable of expansion beforehand. Since time is relative to matter, and time did not exist until the universe’s expansion, many people use this to mean that the entire universe had a beginning and before that beginning it was nothing. Some cosmologists use asymptotes on a cartesian coordinates system to illustrate that the universe is still eternal. Time slows down as we go further back until one second equals infinity and T equals zero. So while the universe has a beginning per se (the bang!), it is also eternal.

2. The Teological/Argument from Design Argument: The next argument is the Teological Argument or the argument for God based on the perceived design in nature and the universe. Humans have a remarkable talent for pattern recognition. Sometimes we see false patterns, such as Jesus’ face on a burnt piece of toast, or the foam in your latte taking the shape of the Virgin Mary. It’s no surprise that when our ancestors saw the complexities of life, they immediately thought that all things must have been created.

This argument fails because it does not take into consideration the long eons of evolution in the natural world to bring about this level of “design.” It’s also another false dichotomy. Just because you see a complex organism with complex parts that all serve a function in someway (though not all organs serve a function and we call them vestigial organs, like the tailbone and appendix) does not evince the existence of a creator. It could just be that whatever it is you’re looking at took a very long ass time to evolve. By “it” I mean its species of course and not the individual organism. Furthermore, in order to design anything, one must take preexisting materials and rearrange them. So, if God is the creator, what preexisting materials did he use to make the Earth? Oh right, he just said, “be” and it was. Magic by definition.

3. Argument from Personal Experience: I hate these because they’re inherently unfair and dishonest. This argument evokes God’s existence based on all perceived positive incidents which occur in one’s life. For example, I argued with someone on social media some time ago who claimed that God had saved her from bankruptcy. I maintained that it was her family, friends, or associates who helped her, but in her mind it was God.

How can I argue with that? I don’t know if she has a mental disorder, an emotional hangup or is prone to hallucinations. Personal anecdotes and experiences cannot stand as evidence of the divine, especially when there are more rational explanations for everyday occurrences.

4. Argument from Fear: This argument is usually a threat of damnation unless one believes. It amazes me how people can pray to a so-called loving God who promises such a horrible torment for not believing in him. A perfect being would not care if I believed in him or not, because my insignificant ass, a speck in the face of the universe, less than that even, would not cause the slightest irritation to a perfect being. It would stand to reason that a perfect being would be above all things petty. My refusal to worship that which cannot be proven would cause no harm or controversy to any so-called perfect deity. Since God cannot be empirically proven, then Hell cannot be empirically proven and Heaven by extension. Threats of eternal torment only make your god look insecure and malevolent.

5. Equivocation and Projection: Equivocation is when theists make the ridiculous and asinine claim that atheism is a religion, or that it takes more faith to disbelieve. The projection is when you hear them scream, “you can’t prove the world is 4.5 billion years old” or “you can’t prove evolution is true.” What they are really saying is, “I cannot prove my position. Since you are causing a great deal of cognitive dissonance, I am going to defend what I perceive to be attacks by equivocating your lack of belief as a belief and then I’m going to rant about how the theory of evolution is not perfect and has holes, but I won’t actually divulge what they are because I don’t know and I have no intention of finding out, because if I do and it turns out you’re right, I will lose everything. Finally, I’m going to argue that you can’t prove anything you say because I can’t prove what I claim and I’d rather act childish than to lose face.”

6. Switching the Burden of Proof: As a skeptic, I make no positive knowledge claims on God’s existence. I have no sufficient evidence to declare with certainty that God does not exist. Here’s the trick, I’m not the one making the claim for his existence–that’s you guys. My atheism is not a definitive declaration of God’s nonexistence. It is a declaration that there is insufficient evidence to prove God’s existence; therefore I will withhold belief until such a time comes that there is evidence. I do not have the burden of proof. The burden of proving God’s existence lies on the one making the positive knowledge claim–the theist. Many theists counter this charge with declarations that they needn’t prove a thing and that belief without proof is actually more virtuous. Well, if many of you feel that you needn’t prove anything, then stop forcing your beliefs down the rest of the world’s collective throats. Stop voting for unconstitutional policies that infringe upon other people’s human rights. Stop escaping accountability for your crimes by claiming your invisible friend forgave you of your sins. We will gladly let you believe whatever the hell you want the moment you stop using those beliefs to justify your bigotry.

7. Argument for Morality: This is a non-sequitur that argues that without God, there is no morality. Many theists conveniently forget that there is a wealth of immorality in the Bible and Quran. Everything from rape, slavery, homophobia, racism and misogyny can be found in both. Obviously, these verses are often ignored, especially when proselytizing for new members. While I believe in an objective morality, I do not believe in an absolute morality. That said, morality is as much evolutionary as it is cultural. That which promotes happiness, well-being and life are often seen as moral, whereas that which is considered immoral is anything that promotes pain, sorrow or otherwise avoidable loss of life. One does not need a God to know that. Scott Clifton of YouTube’s Theoretical Bullshit has a great video on morality, which you can see by clicking the link.

8. Slippery Slope Argument: Usually used in conjunction with the Argument for Morality apologetic, this fallacy would have you believe that if we allow X to happen then it is only a matter of time before Y and Z. For example, one argument I’ve heard against marriage equality is that if it were allowed, it could lead to other ‘perversions” such as bestiality or pedophilia. These arguments are wretched because there is no evidence to support them and they reek of paranoia and fear.

9. The Straw man Fallacy: This is when someone misrepresents a claim or stance of the opposition and then defends against the misrepresentation instead of the actual argument. So, when theists argue that evolutionists (whatever that means)  claim that all humanity came from nowhere and just evolved somehow, they are engaging in a Straw man fallacy. This is stupid because no scientist has ever said that life just evolved out of nowhere and it is clear that whoever makes this particular argument does not know what evolution is. Evolution by natural selection is the theory of how life diversifies, not how it started–which would be abiogenesis (living matter arising from non living matter).

10. The “God-Works-in-Mysterious-Ways” Argument/Special Pleading: If one were to ask someone why God allows so much suffering in the world, one is usually greeted with the common retort that God moves in mysterious ways and it is not for us to know his ways. I call bullshit on that. That’s special pleading. It’s also the last defense when a theist has run out of arguments. God makes his nature known pretty well in the Bible and Quran with no compunctions or reservations. So, how can one justify a loving God who allows babies to be born with deformities, or congenital conditions for which they did not ask? How can a loving God allow women to be raped and beaten especially when so much of that is legitimized in the bible?

Well those are the most common arguments/fallacies I hear when debating theists. Honorable mentions include the circular logic of quoting the Bible/Quran as evidence of their authenticity and the always useful ad hominem attacks. Those are always fun. Well, thanks for reading and coming along with me on my journey. I promise my stuff won’t always be about atheism, but if I’m feeling that, I’m feeling it. Later everyone.

RONIN STAND UP!!