The turning point

A new Pew poll was released showing that 51% of young people (under 30) now believe that man evolved due to natural processes, independent of a deity. And that number is up from 40% in 2009. You can look at all the data here. Ultimately, I’m not surprised by this, and I’m very optimistic about what this means for American culture and politics.

The current political model

I believe that over the next 20 years we’re really going to reach a turning point in our society, both culturally and politically, as the older generation dies off and the younger generation supplants it as the primary base of voters and workers.

Because when you look at them, young people aren’t only more likely to embrace evolution. They’re also more likely to accept climate change. They’re much less likely to be religious. The folks who remain skeptical of or deny science altogether are increasingly being relegated to a pocket of older Americans. In the next 20 years or so, that pocket will dwindle as those folks die. I realize that that might sound harsh, but everyone dies.

Can you imagine a political population making decisions based on evidence and not faith? Can you imagine a congress where the majority of the people elected grew up believing in evolution? Where a majority of the folks making policy and law in this country don’t believe that a magical man in the sky blinked everything into existence a la I Dream of Jeannie and who don’t create policy based on archaic rules and stories in a book written by scientifically illiterate desert dwellers? I think we’re right on the cusp of that, frankly.

I think we’re on the cusp of a society where the majority of employers no longer openly discriminate against gay people or female employees who choose to use birth control because they don’t derive their morality from a God who hates those people and demands their castigation. Wouldn’t it be great if businesses didn’t have to legally be told to treat their customers fairly and independent of their sexual orientation, but did so because it simply doesn’t make sense to do otherwise?

I, for one, cannot wait to see the impact of these shifts and values as we head into the future.



Conservatism to a liberal


I don’t really think it’s a secret that I have viewpoints that many people would classify as liberal in the political sense. I don’t really shy away from that. Indeed, I wholly embrace it. But I’m not ashamed to say that in local elections I’ve voted for conservatives. Because when it comes down to it, I’ll vote for whoever has the best idea, and despite the fact that I overwhelmingly disagree with most of the conservative agenda or platform, they are capable of putting forth good ideas.

And that’s the thing, there are certain conservative principles that most people, even staunch liberal democrats, could probably get behind. The problem for many voters is the way in which the GOP approaches those issues. So, since we’re in the middle of election season, I thought I would take the time to enumerate the things that do and don’t make sense about the republican party from the point of view of someone outside of it.

So let’s take a look at some issues and areas where there is a lot of overlap between parties and where conservatives lose a lot of moderate and independent voters–and perhaps even voters on the other side of the aisle.

1. The size of government and government spending.

Where we could agree: Can the government get too big? Sure, absolutely. Is it too big now? It probably is in some places. I don’t think there’s an American of voting age who would argue that there aren’t programs that could be combined, reduced, or cut somewhere in the federal government. If something could produce a similar result using less resources, I’m all for that. And I would argue that spending money that doesn’t produce results is indeed wasteful. There is probably a lot of spending in government that is unnecessary or ineffective/inefficient. I would not be against a cost/benefit analysis of each dollar spent by the federal government to ensure that we were getting the biggest bang out of buck, so to speak.

Where they lose people: Where they propose shrinking the government. As long as conservatives continue to write blank checks for the military without oversight on how the money is spent, they’ve completely and utterly lost any chance they had of getting me to listen. It’s incomprehensible to me that many conservatives want to gut the EPA, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Education because they’re “unnecessary and wasteful” yet can’t wait to just fork their tax dollars over to the military for planes and tanks and boats we’ll never even use. Cut the defense budget in half and then maybe I’ll give you enough credit to listen to ideas you have about reforming entitlements. And speaking of the military…

2. War. 

Where we could agree: I don’t think anyone wants to see America attacked again. I think we could all agree that national defense is an important issue, because there certainly are real threats out there, people who do really want to harm us.

Where they lose people: But the way to keep us safe isn’t by fighting endless wars in the middle east. It isn’t by “standing up to Putin” with tanks and missiles and troops. It absolutely blew my mind during last night’s GOP debate when Carly Fiorina went on and on about how we need a heavier military presence in Europe to keep Putin in check. No thanks, because I remember reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis in history class.

Conservatives are right in that the nation needs to be defended, but they’re wrong about how to do it. The next war isn’t going to be won with battleships and tanks. It’s going to be won with computers. Cyber security is the next big frontier, and America is woefully unprepared because a lot of our politicians are still trying to fight Gorbachev in the 80’s. China and Russia could cause much more damage to the US by compromising our electronic infrastructure: water, power, communications–they could even hack into our cars. That’s much more devastating and quite frankly a lot more cost effective than spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year building war machines.

And enough about America “leading.” That was also a resounding theme last night. America “doesn’t lead” when it comes to military issues around the globe. I don’t care. We don’t have to. Other nations have just as much military capability to respond to issues as we do. I never thought I would agree with Donald Trump, but he said something last night I thought rang true: European and Middle Eastern countries (like Jordan) are probably laughing all the way to the bank because we’re fighting the wars in their own backyard. Let them clean it up for once. The German, French, and British governments are more than able to respond to ISIS and other threats in the region.

3. Tax cuts. 

Where we could agree: Conservatives could probably find common ground with the average voter when it comes to taxes, at least when it comes to small businesses. I could very easily see how tax cuts and credits would help a small business out tremendously. So I could probably get on board with something like that. I could also see the argument that letting middle class folks keep more of their money means more money for them to pump back into the economy.

Where they lose people: The problem is that the conservatives running for office think those cuts should also extend to wealthy individuals, which is where they lose me. Giving breaks to a small business is very different than giving breaks to the CEO of a huge conglomerate. Giving a tax break to a small business could mean that more people are hired by it; giving a CEO a tax break means he or she is probably just going to invest that money and effectively take it out of economic circulation. Wealthy people aren’t wealthy because they spend all their money, they’re wealthy precisely because they invest it rather than spend it. And that’s within their purview, but giving them a break on taxes isn’t going to magically filter down to the rest of us, because Tim Cook doesn’t pay Apple employees out of his own personal checking account. So, to recap: conservatives could make huge gains for reforming the system for small business if they just stopped trying to lump wealthy individuals into that plan as well. 

4. Government is always the problem.

Where we could agree: I’ve said on this blog numerous times that a government is only as effective as the people elected to office. So if we put incompetent people in the government, it shouldn’t be shocking that we then end up with an incompetent government. Could an incompetent government “get in the way” of growth and progress. Yes, absolutely. Conservatives are fond of saying that government never generates solutions; solutions are the domain of the private sector.

Where they lose people: Conservatives are mostly correct when they say that the job of government is not to be a solution machine. But that doesn’t mean that government doesn’t have a role in creating solutions. It’s the government’s job to be a partner and an ally to the private sector. A competent government would use taxpayer money to invest in and support programs that help the private sector create those solutions. But simply getting rid of all government or all government regulation is not the way to accomplish that. Government support of medical and scientific research taking place in the private sector is an excellent example of what such a partnership should look like. Perhaps we don’t see those benefits anymore because, when it comes to spending, investment in “general science, space, and technology”  is only about 1% of the federal budget:


It should be clearly obvious that the government doesn’t do innovative and supportive things anymore because we’ve stopped funding those things. The government created the Interstate Highway System and helped put a man on the moon. It could do those things and things like it again.

5. Social Programs. 

Where we could agree: Look, I would love to see fewer people on welfare. I would love it if people made enough money to care for themselves and their families without government assistance. And I think that even the most hardcore conservatives would agree, if pressed, that some kind of a social safety net is necessary.

Where they lose people: There’s no effort on the conservative front to make education more affordable, to implement job-retraining programs, or to address student debt. There’s nothing addressing the fact that parents who try to go back to school to make a better life for themselves and their families need affordable childcare to do so.

The conservative answer is to just lower taxes and privatize everything. And that just doesn’t work. Lowering taxes for everybody might give the average Joe a little more money in his or her pocket, but that won’t make a dent in any tuition. It probably wouldn’t even make a dent in childcare costs.

Privatizing social security and healthcare also doesn’t mean anything if you hardly make any money. Telling people to use Health Savings Accounts is fine and dandy, but for people living paycheck to paycheck, there’s no money left at the end of the month to save; they literally need every penny of their paycheck. Privatization also doesn’t address one of the biggest reasons healthcare costs so much in this country: the government isn’t allowed to negotiate directly with drugs companies and other manufacturers. Which is why medical care is so much cheaper abroad than it is at home.

If conservatives are really serious about getting people off social programs and other “entitlements” (a loaded word) then they sure as hell better show up to the table with a plan to make things more affordable than “Just let the free market work itself out.” And speaking of free markets…

6. Government regulation.

Where we could agree: Is there such a thing as too much red tape? Or too much bureaucracy? Sure, absolutely, and I could see how that could hinder a lot of things.

Where they lose people: The problem is trying to remove regulations that we know provide a benefit to people, which is a popular thing among republican politicians and candidates. Going back to the EPA, getting rid of that agency is a dumb idea. Just ask someone who remembers LA smog. Do environmental regulations make doing business harder? Sure. I can see how they  would. But does that mean it isn’t worth it? No. If Starbucks or Dow Chemical have to pay higher fees so that I can enjoy clean air and water, I’m fine with that, because Dow and Starbucks aren’t going out of business anytime soon because of fees and regulations imposed by the EPA.

Similarly, eliminating regulations on Wall Street is a bad idea. We already know what happens when there are no regulations: economic bubbles and crashes. So why on earth would they want to get remove any regulations that prevent that from happening again?

There probably is a balancing act when it comes to regulations for small businesses and large companies/corporations, but the republican tactic of “cut and gut” all across the board does more harm than good for the average person. Again, it’s a poor strategy to try and lump big business with small business when it comes to regulation.

And while we’re on the subject, if liberals are guilty of trusting the government too much, then conservatives are too guilty of trusting people to police themselves. If people and corporations consistently acted in an altruistic manner, that would be one thing when talking about nixing regulations. But we know that they don’t and that they won’t, at least not across the board. People and companies will cheat and take advantage of others, history has proven this. Even if it’s not the majority, it only takes a few bad apples to fuck it up royally for everyone else. So yes, regulation is necessary; making sure everyone plays fair and by the rules is not a bad thing, and it isn’t antithetical to a free market system.

7. Social Issues. 

Where we could agree: People have the freedom to believe whatever they want and practice whatever religion they want. That’s about as far as I can take that.

Where they lose people: Trying to legislate certain beliefs over others is going to alienate an increasing amount of people as time goes on. Attempting to legislate what a woman does with her womb or who people are free to marry seems antithetical to the idea of “personal freedom” and “keeping the government out of you life.” I just can’t reconcile the two ideas when it comes to conservatives.

Similarly, the war on drugs didn’t work. Enough with it. Can we stop spending money trying to criminalize pot? Half the people on the stage at these GOP debates still think pot is Satan incarnate, but have no problem with alcohol, which kills way more people and ruins way more lives. Again, the delineation here is arbitrary and nonsensical. People shouldn’t be jailed and have their lives ruined for carrying or using a substance that really doesn’t harm anyone (and would stimulate the snack food economy).

I think there is plenty of common ground that liberals and conservatives could find and share. The problem is that much of the discourse in this country tends to be hyperbolic. There was a time, though, when democrats and republicans did work hand in hand in the government, and compromise wasn’t a mythical unicorn within the halls of congress. It could be that way again, but people have to try to start from a point of commonality instead of a point of difference.

On police brutality


This is a subject that has been in the news frequently lately. Seems like you can’t turn on the TV or read a news site without there being a story about a cop shooting an unarmed suspect. Or, even when they aren’t shooting someone, using a disproportionate amount of force in a relatively benign situation–like the cop who beat down a high school girl who refused to leave the classroom. But that’s not what finally inspired me to write about the subject.

No, that would be this case.

A cop in Pennsylvania killed an unarmed man after she tasered him. You can see quite clearly that he’s convulsing on the ground. She’s screaming commands at him which he attempts to follow. At some point, the officer thinks he’s reaching into his jacket–while being tasered, mind you–to go for a weapon. She shoots him twice, killing him. He ran from the officer after she pulled him over for having expired tags.

Now, a lot of people are outraged that the cop was acquitted of any wrongdoing. Some people even assert she and other cops who have been part of similar incidents should be charged with murder. Murder seems a little harsh–it’s not premeditated. None of these cops got into their squad cars in the morning with the intent of killing these people.

Nor do I think that this is, as is often claimed, an “institutional problem.” A lot of cops would never do something like this. It’s not like page one of the policeman’s handbook says, “Shoot first and ask questions later.”

No, what this case in PA shows is that the real problem is that stupid people are being hired as cops.

This woman is an idiot. I don’t care if she’s the nicest person on the planet, the fact of the matter is that she’s too stupid to be in law enforcement. The missing link in this case and others like it is critical thinking. At no point in this case did the officer use logic, planning, or any other element of critical thinking, and a man is dead now because of it.

The first failure to use critical thinking happened when the man fled. Fine, he ran from a police officer. But he was pulled over for having expired tags. She already had his information. There was no need to chase after him. With his personal and vehicle information, she could have looked up where he lived.

Add to that the man is clearly convulsing from the electricity running through  his body, and it becomes even more baffling that she becomes hysterical and panicked because he won’t follow her commands. I’ve never been tasered, but I’ve been given to understand by people who have that it’s a rather unpleasant experience and unless you’re strung out on PCP, the average person isn’t NOT going to be affected by getting hit with one. Her hysteria seems misplaced an unwarranted.

Let’s look at the cop who body slammed the high school student. You can make all kinds of arguments about whether the student was being a brat or not, but nobody was in physical danger in that situation. There was no weapon, no threat of force. Just a student who wouldn’t leave the room after the teacher asked her too. Why was such force used? The answer is stupidity.

A logical, rational cop in that same situation could have handled that a billion other ways, none of them involving force. He could have called the student’s parents. He could have had everyone else leave the room. Anything other than his stupid and violent response to the situation.

You see, violence is always a last resort. It’s the thing you’re supposed to when all other options have failed. If violence is always the first option you go with, that’s pretty strong proof that you’re either too stupid or too lazy to try other options first, and in either case such people shouldn’t have a badge and a gun.

The solution to this problem isn’t blaming the victims. It isn’t accusing the police of shielding their own (these people were acquitted by juries). It isn’t claiming that police forces around the country promote a culture of violence. The solution is quite simple: stop giving morons who can’t think their way out of a paper bag or are too hysterical to do their job correctly a gun.

That shouldn’t be too hard. There are ways that you can test someone’s ability to think critically.  I had to pass an adaptive test that proved a certain level of critical thinking ability to become a registered nurse. Doesn’t seem like it would too difficult to adapt that to law enforcement.

Because ultimately, what makes a good police officer is good judgment. You have to be able to objectively assess a situation, make an appropriate plan, and then follow through and evaluate that plan. That was the failing of the cop in PA, and all the other cops who have killed unarmed people: they didn’t have good plans, because they didn’t use critical thinking.

We can’t have cops who are too stupid to discern which situations are potentially deadly and which ones are not: pulling someone over for expired tags doesn’t warrant the same response as responding to a break-in or an armed robbery. Nor should we have cops who are so afraid to do their job or paranoid about being killed that they meet every situation with deadly force instead of trying to objectively look at the situation before charging in. These are the cops who kill people who should still be alive today.

Having bad judgment and poor critical thinking skills doesn’t make someone a murderer. It makes them a moron. And morons should not be put in a position of authority or power in law enforcement.


What’s in a name?


I saw this tweet the other day and had a hearty laugh. And then I started thinking (uh oh!).

There have been several highly publicized studies about how if someone named “Lakeisha Jones” changes their name to “Cindy Jones” on a resume, suddenly they get a much better response from the HR folks screening job applications. The tweet made me wonder if there will come a time in the next 10-20 years when HR people are going to say, “Oh great, another hipster-spawn yuppie” and toss out the resumes of affluent white kids based on their names.

And then I started thinking about how this even extends beyond multi-culturalism. I know that I’ve been been guilty of thinking, “I’ve never met a guy named ‘Blake’ who wasn’t a total douche bag,” or “I don’t think I’ve ever met a girl named ‘Kasey’ who wasn’t a total bitch.” Maybe I’m the only person who’s ever had thoughts like that, but I’d suspect that I’m not.

And then I started wondering if this extends beyond America. Do people in other countries have similar biases against names, even names from their own culture? Is there some HR guy in Japan looking at a resume and thinking, “Oh great, another ‘Toshi’; just what I needed, another asshole to add to the pile.”

What’s going on here? How could a name produce such powerful reactions before we even meet a person? It’s not like people name their children Blake thinking that they’re going to grow up to be total D-bags. Nobody names their daughter Candy because they hope that someday they wind up dancing on a pole.

So where do our reactions come from? Is it simply because people hate things that are different or outside of the norm, and this extends to names–is everything, as the tweet implies, relative? Or could it really the case that certain types of people gravitate toward certain names? All asshole parents think “Blake” is a cool name, so they wind up raising an asshole child, or that all hippies think “Daffodil Buttercup” is a pretty name, so they wind up raising a bunch of free-spirited and aimless children with the same name?

What say you, internet? What are your thoughts on names?

Throwaway culture

We live in a disposable society.

What do mean by that? Everything is designed to be thrown away. And why wouldn’t it? Our economic growth is fueled by blind and increasing consumption. In order for people to continue consuming, they must dispose of things eventually. And so things aren’t designed to be reused, and they certainly aren’t designed to last.

In fact, have you heard, dear reader, of something called “planned obsolescence” (to use the business parlance)? It’s the practice of designing and engineering things to fail after a certain period of time. Why build something that can last a lifetime if that only means that someone will ever only buy one? Businesses make way more money if they sell you a product repeatedly.

And so things are designed to fail. Cell phones, computers, clothing–you name it and it has a poor shelf life. Part of the reason is because they’re built poorly to cut cost. But the other part is that their obsolescence has been planned so that you toss out the old and buy the newer model.

That’s the economic paradigm we live in. And all for the sake of growth.

And growth for the sake of what, exactly?

That’s the question anyone hardly ever asks. We’re told economic growth is great! More growth = more wealth, and that’s a great thing! But why?

Is the quality of life in a country that generates $6 trillion dollars a year really that much better than the quality of life in a  country that “only” generates $4 trillion? Probably not. We’ve seen studies that show that happiness has a ceiling in terms of dollars; after an individual makes a certain amount of money, their amount of self-reported happiness plateaus and additional income does not raise it. You can read all about that study here and here.

If that’s true, then what’s the point of continuing to push for ever-increasing growth? It would literally be pointless.


But more to the point, this behavior of casual disposal might even be harmful to us.

We throw out food while others go hungry. We destroy entire ecosystems with our trash and cause extinctions of entire species. “Oh well,” we say, “there are plenty of other animals.” We view life as disposable! A dog bites a human (a completely natural reaction for a dog). Do we bother to re-train it? No, we just kill it. Human being commits a crime. Do we rehabilitate them? No, we just throw them away–to jail or prison.

This push for constant economic growth and accumulation and consumption of things to fuel it has created a rather cavalier or flippant attitude toward other forms of life and the planet itself that simply isn’t sustainable, and is in fact causing harm. At some point, enough is enough, literally and figuratively.

The wonderful thing about this type of problem is that it doesn’t require a miracle invention or anything of the sort. It’s completely behavior driven–change the behavior and you change the outcome. And changing the behavior is super easy–just don’t buy stupid shit you don’t need. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Don’t buy something just to own it. I don’t really know how many other ways a person can say the same thing. Don’t let other people tell you what you need to be happy, and always be skeptical of someone who tells you that giving them your money will somehow increase your happiness.


The plight of using economics to guide actions

Regular readers know that I’m not a big fan of economics. But before now, I couldn’t really put my finger on why I disliked economics so much. It was a rather squishy feeling that was hard for me to pin down, but I had an epiphany the other day that I believe I’m ready to articulate now. Basically, it boils down to this: economics has shifted from a way of dividing resources to the science of maximizing profits, which has profound and troubling implications.

This all started because I’ve been reading a book called Plastic Ocean which–spoiler alert!–is about how mankind is filling the ocean with life-choking levels of trash. The author, Charles Moore, does a pretty good job chronicling the rise of plastic in our society, which is now ubiquitous and ever increasing. What got me thinking about all of this is this passage:

Trend lists and corporation websites never fail to invoke sustainability’s buzzword twin: innovation. […] We stake the health of our economy on “innovation,” assuming that it is always good. But when innovation leads to 26,893 new packaged foods and products–often in or of plastic–in one year, 2009, it’s time to slow down and consider the Pandora’s box of cultivating innovation for it’s own sake and start thinking morally and ecologically about the innovations we embrace. (150-151)

There are many other passages in the book about how the fishing industry is a big culprit in this game because they simply just toss all their netting into the ocean once they’re done with it. The reason? Because jettisoning the nets means they could hold more fish, and since plastic makes the netting and other equipment so cheap and replaceable, they earn more money by polluting and taking in the extra bit of haul.

But hey, according to economics, that’s just good business, right? Anything to drive up profit or to cut costs. That’s all anyone can ever talk about. The problem with that, though, is that financial capital is not the only resource out there. And if economics is at its core simply a system for figuring out how to use resources, then a paradigm shift toward focusing solely on money is moving away from a system that focuses on wisely using all resources.

And that gets back to what Moore was saying, and what I was alluding to at the beginning of this post: you cannot use that lens when making moral decisions, yet this is exactly what we do. 

It’s what the fishermen in Moore’s book do. Pollution was a bigger problem before the advent of government regular because throwing industrial waste into the river is always going to be cheaper than properly disposing of it. And yes, the environment is a moral or ethical issue because we all share the same environment, and the actions of one or a handful of companies directly impact the rest of us. Does the right of a corporation to make money supersede my right to enjoy clean air or water without toxins?

That’s a perfectly legitimate question, and it gets to the crux of the issue here: economics often attempts place a price tag on things that are intrinsically invaluable. 

I don’t think there’s a person alive right now who would agree that killing the ocean is okay. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that “destroying ocean = bad idea.” The ocean is what supports all life on the planet, so killing it or damaging it is kind of a big deal. And I don’t think that anyone would want to live in that world. In other words, preventing that or fixing that is a rational idea.

And yet, if you introduce that idea, the first thing you often hear from politicians, people in businesses, and economists is, “But how many jobs will that eliminate? How much tax revenue will be lost?” As if the health of the very ecosystem we depend on for everything could somehow be measured by job loss or the employment rate. The idea is quite striking: economics makes us reject perfectly rational ideas and courses of action. As if somehow losing 10,000 jobs in the coal sector outweighs everyone breathing cleaner air.

But we don’t need to focus on solely the environment to see how using economics to guide action can be morally disastrous. Indeed, we need only look at the insurance industry.

Did you know that your life has a dollar amount affixed to it? You may think of yourself or your loved ones, spouses and children, as invaluable, but the insurance company certainly has different ideas. To them, you and your family are metrics that can be quantified in dollars and cents. Prior to recent healthcare reform, people with serious illnesses could be denied coverage or dropped unceremoniously from their plans because it was deemed, somewhere in an accounting office, that it was “too expensive” to care for them. Put another way, there was some magic dollar amount the insurance company used as a barometer of sorts: if caring for you would cost less than X, great, you get to live! But if it costs more than X…well, too bad.

Now, these decisions were not made for want of resources. There are plenty of medical resources in America. No, this was simply about the bottom line of the insurance company. Think about that: decisions that affect the health of your children are often made based on how much money the insurance company will have to dole out. I don’t really feel comfortable trying to attach a price tag to human life, and I suspect that the majority of people out there don’t.

Too often, economics makes taking the morally or ethically correct action “cost prohibitive,” to use the business parlance. In reality, the stakes of many of these issues go beyond money, beyond resource use. If the ecosystem we live in dies, so do we. In such a case, there’s no such thing as “too expensive” or “too many jobs lost” because none of that will matter if the ocean dies. Profit margins and stock markets are going to mean less than nothing when rising sea levels kill millions of people and forever alter our lives.

And perhaps, if I could use this conclusion to make one last plea, please stop thinking about life–all life–in terms of economics. It’s irrational and counterproductive, it stagnates our advancement and our health, and it doesn’t have to be that way.


The hopelessness of religion

Consider this an extension of my post from yesterday about hopelessness and atheism. I’d like to explore this idea and even be so bold as to suggest that the opposite is in fact true: the hopelessness lies in religion (at least certain interpretations of it).

Let’s start with the familiar claims. I’m sure that we atheists, at one point or another, have heard something similar to this: “If there is no God, there is no purpose, everything is meaningless, and atheism is devoid of hope and joy.” You can find this kind of statement in many places:

  • “If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.”  (David Link)
  • “If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence.” (William Craig)
  • And this slide from what I can only assume is the most fire and brimstone PowerPoint ever conceived:


Well that’s one way of looking at it, I guess. But is it accurate? No, of course not.

The true hopelessness in this argument is to be found on the religious side. You control nothing. Your actions in this life amount to nothing. You’re incapable of being anything but a wicked sinner. You cannot create solutions to any of your problems, but must rely upon god to solve them for you. With religion, you’re essentially an invalid subject to a path that God has created for you without a say in anything. That seems pretty hopeless to me.

Now contrast that with the atheist position. There is a solution to every problem (science) and YOU are capable of creating it. There are random events that occur in the universe, but YOU are capable of reacting to them. You’re in control of your life, of what happens to you. With atheism you have unlimited potential. Atheism acknowledges and highlights the good in human beings: our ability to reason, to imagine, to be curious, to explore, to cherish our limited time and by logical extension to make the most and best of it. To be an atheist is to be filled with hope: hope that we can clear any obstacle, that we have the power to make a difference, that we can be better than we are.

With religion, you’re always a wretch in need of saving. Where is the hope in that?

The hope is essentially, as the quotes from Link and Craig allude to, justice. Craig talks about “the shortcomings of finite existence” being made up for in the eternal afterlife, and Link talks about “sufferings [being] ultimately pointless” and dignity, among other things. It gets back to the age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

To hear some Christians talk, one answer to that is that there is no such thing as a good person. We were all created in sin, and therefore we’re all bad. So then wouldn’t it make sense that bad things happen to “good” people, or rather people who are trying to be good? Suffering and shortcoming are just the lot of your very existence in that case, so why lament it?

It’s the idea that everything has to be made up for, that everything has to be fair in the end. That we’re subjected to suffering and torture as a punishment, and it is to be endured in order to be rewarded later on. God is often portrayed in a paternal context, “God the heavenly father,” or “the father, son, and holy spirit.” Just imagine for a moment if a human parent behaved as God does.

Imagine if a child committed some transgression because it didn’t know any better, and so that parent inflicted some kind of suffering on that child–let’s say starved them–in order to instill character and values. And once that character and those values were instilled, they’d be free to go and eat whatever they want. That parent would be locked up faster than you can say “Adam and Eve” and the key immediately thrown away. We humans don’t tolerate such behavior toward our own children–yet we tolerate it in a supreme being that created morality, apparently.

Because that’s essentially what God’s done, isn’t it? God, the father, creates mankind in Adam and Eve. He creates them innocent and naive of evil and wrong, and then punishes them for committing a transgression that requires knowing what wrong and evil are in order to avoid committing it. And then going a step further, God decides to commit infanticide by killing everyone on the planet (except Noah and his family)–all because he’s a creator with strong morals. Or so it’s claimed. Christians love to talk about how without God there is no morality. Seems to me that God loves to straight up murder people if they don’t please him, which doesn’t exactly seem moral.

It’s the ultimate abusive relationship. God does something heinous and hideous to essentially helpless human beings, and then says, “Oh, come on baby, you know it ain’t like that. Come back and I promise I’ll make it up you and it’ll never happen again.” Such an abusive relationship seems utterly devoid of hope to me.