Critical Thinking – Time for a Comprehensive National Curriculum

“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence. If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?”
— Sam Harris

It seems there is no shortage of existential crises facing us here in the United States.  Some of these are global in scope and require a global response much in the same way the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons, gases which were used in aerosol cans, were destroying the Ozone layer required a global response.  Climate change, ocean acidification, wanton destruction of forests and other habitats, pollution of the air, ground, and water for short term economic gains are just some of the issues that modern civilization has to deal with.  Each one, if allowed to proceed unchecked, is more than capable of destroying most of humanity’s habitat, if not all of it. All of these issues, in spite of the gravity and pressing nature each one holds, have been stubbornly resistant in gaining the global consensus that will be needed to successfully solve the problems they each present.

When we look into the situation a bit further, it becomes even more depressing to those of us who want the human race to exist and flourish rather than become extinct in a handful of generations. When I talk about a consensus I do not mean solving disagreements among groups as to the most effective way to mitigate the effects or which technologies would be the best to embrace in the short and long term.  No, the consensus I am talking about is way more basic than that:  It is gaining a consensus that these issues even exist.  But wait, there’s more!  The inability of our society to agree on what is real and not real is not limited to facing existential crises.  This intellectual paralysis has infected just about every aspect of our lives and, as with all paralysis, the effects couldn’t be more damaging.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

― Issac Asimov

Since Issac spoke those words the cult has become a full-blown religion with mega-churches and celebrity pastors. The ideas they preach to their millions of followers are a full-throated defense of anti-intellectualism and the moral duty of each congregant to advance this Zeitgeist into the culture at large.   In a particularly bizarre example of this celebrity grifter Franklin Graham engaged in a bizarre attack on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the county’s leading epidemiologist. The issue for Graham?  What is truth and who has the monopoly on it.  Graham posted this to his Twitter feed during the brush-up:

Truth

So let’s stop and take a look at the claims being made.  One one hand we have Dr. Fauci and the science of epidemiology.  This science has eradicated diseases that have plagued the human race for thousands of years. On the other hand, we have Franklin Graham who offers us, “Pestilence is caused by sin.” Now, while others may justifiably go after the utter moral bankruptcy of Graham, the fact we really need to consider is that millions of people unquestioningly accept Graham’s claim and actively reject the evidence of Dr. Fauci and science. Why this is so and, most importantly, what can be done to change this and get the nation as a whole back on the road to sanity is where we should be directing all our efforts.

A brief look at why this is so will allow us to put everything in focus. We’ll be able to see that the primary battleground is not in the political, scientific, or religious arenas. These are all secondary skirmishes.  The real fight is for the contents of our children’s education. This is not a recent battle; it has been going on for decades.  Anti-intellectual interests have been trying to get their narrative into the school system with such ploys as Intelligent Design buttressed by a well-coordinated political campaign against Boards of Education exhorting them to “teach the controversy”.  The defense against this effort has failed miserably and the result can be seen all around us from anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, homeopathic medicine, just to name a few.  While there was a robust defense in the courts with rulings all in favor of the science, there was no response to the attack by the educational system to the ideas that were introduced while the controversies raged. If, at the time, the educational system would have responded by instituting a mandatory national curriculum of Critical Thinking skills we may never have had to endure things such as the anti-vaxxers and the subsequent reappearance of childhood diseases in epidemic proportions that were virtually non-existent, for example. Certainly, the correctly predicted re-appearance of said diseases should have resigned the anti-vaxxer narrative or fable, as I like to call it, to the intellectual septic tank where it belongs.  Yet, they persisted as preventable disease after preventable disease made their reappearances.  They know the science; they wield all sorts of technical jargon in their vacuous arguments.  It is a lack of critical thinking that is the culprit.  Those educated in critical thinking could see right through their nonsense arguments and could have dispensed with it and their attempts to hijack actual medicine long before any child needlessly contracted a preventable disease.

Now, the stakes couldn’t be higher.  We are decades into this anti-intellectual mess and the halls of power in this country are filled with people who pride themselves on how little they know.  Worse yet, conspiracy theories and the people who push them, are now gaining political power if the recent primary elections here in the United States are any indication. We need to equip our children with the tools to stop and reverse this and we need to start now.  The most effective way of doing this is by making Critical Thinking Skills a required core curriculum nation-wide, K-12. A majority of the educators, the teachers, in this country would sign onto this effort wholeheartedly.  Many are already advocating for it. If we graduate a generation of children equipped with the robust education available to them augmented by the ability to reason correctly the intractable problems we now face will disappear and we will be able to find the needed consensus to tackle any problems we face. Finding a cure for Polio and putting a man on the moon are the results that critical thinking has given us. It can give us so much more if we put the effort into teaching it to all our children starting now.

A country with no defense.

As the pandemic rages across America, social media is filled with memes and personal declarations about the ‘right’ to choose to wear a mask when out in public.  Earlier this week, President Trump ordered that hospital data regarding COVID19 will no longer be sent to the CDC.  Instead, it will be sent to the White House.  A little further digging showed that the data will actually go to two private companies both owned by friends of the President. There is a coordinated campaign by the White House to undermine the credibility of Dr. Anthony Fauci as his statements regarding COVID19 are “undermining the President’s message.” The White House views this pandemic as a PR battle, not as a battle against a pathogen that is killing Americans and threatening to overwhelm our healthcare system to the point where it may very well collapse completely from both the number of cases and the attrition of healthcare workers from the virus.

I could provide example after example of the dysfunction in our political leadership and in our citizens in failing to deal with this pandemic. What is clear is that the American response to COVID19 has been a failure by any objective standard one wishes to use. The end result is that we must resign ourselves to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the crippling of thousands who are lucky to survive a bout with the virus, and the damage to the economy that has yet to be fully grasped. We may very well feel the effects of this for generations.

The response by the foreign press and my friends who live outside of the United States is quite sobering.  The most common sentiment I see is pity and confusion.  How could the United States, the world leader in science, be crippled by this virus? How much needless suffering is being imposed on Americans?  Why does the United States refuse to follow the practices of all the other countries that have beaten this virus and now report zero cases at their hospitals for days and, in some cases, for weeks? There are attempts by many political pundits to understand why this has happened but there is one fact that they all agree on: The United States was wide open to both the introduction and spread of this virus.  It has neither the infrastructure nor the will to fight this virus. The infrastructure has been dismantled by the Trump administration and various media outlets have convinced a significant number of Americans that science is only one opinion among many. The eyes of our friends and allies are filled with tears as they watch us suffer through this.

There are other eyes watching the goings-on here that are not filled with tears. They are watching intently at our catastrophic failure to deal with a pathogen that has a five to ten percent mortality rate at best. They see the rest of the world walling us off; a US passport is essentially useless at this point.  These eyes are also in possession of military-grade pathogens that have been engineered to be incredibly effective at killing their hosts. We are talking about mortality rates of 50% or better. At this point, it is even questionable if we could identify the pathogen before it killed millions of Americans.   Were we to uncover intelligence that something like this was about to happen, our intelligence communities would not be believed by a significant number of Americans and politicians. Our once great laboratories have been shut down and defunded and hundreds of scientists who specialized in the field of pathogens have been given their walking papers. The scientific capability to identify and fight something like this is gone. Our pathetic response to COVID19 shows every bad actor in the world we are completely defenseless against a concerted biological attack against this country.

We live in a culture that has become detached from reality.  We have people here in America that believe the earth is flat and is only six thousand years old.  Some of these people hold positions of immense political power.  The Vice President comes to mind as does the Secretary of State. They have deluded themselves to the point where they have left this country completely defenseless. Let us hope that none of the existential threats that are out there decide to take advantage of this situation we find ourselves in.

 

 

Sic Semper Tyrannis|The cry of cowards.

Where were the Sic Semper Tyrannis patriots coming to the aid of the protesters to defend their Constitutional right to be there protesting? No where to be found. 

Sic Semper Tyrannis, which means “thus always to tyrants”, is a shortened version of Sic Semper evello mortem Tyrannis.  This Latin phrase, which means “Thus always I bring death to tyrants” has been attributed to Marcus Iunius Brutus ( et tu, Brute!), one of the people who participated in the murder of Julius Caesar.

Karl_Theodor_von_Piloty_Murder_of_Caesar_1865

Let’s fast forward approximately 1900 years to the Ford Theatre where John Wilkes Booth has just shot Abraham Lincoln.  Before jumping on his horse he shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! The South is avenged!”

lives-of-the-presidents-of-the-united-states-of-america-from-washington-to-the-present-time-sic-semper-tyrannis-1-rushed-across-it-inthe-terrible-confusion-which-ensued-mounted-a-fleet-horse-at-thedoor-and-esca

Today we see Sic Semper Tyrannis being sported by various right-wing militias, white supremists, 2nd Amendment advocates, and various other ‘anti-government’ organizations.  Their existence, they claim, is to prevent a tyrannical government from taking over the United States and taking away our constitutional rights.  For this, it is argued, they need guns and not just any guns.  These guns need to be military-grade weapons in order to stand a fighting chance against the fascist soldiers and secret police who will certainly be armed with the same. This is and has been the claim. Recently, the clarion call to defend first amendment rights has been issued.  It is interesting to see what has happened. Before we look at that, a little background information on your’s truly, the author.

I’ve had some first-hand experience with fascist and totalitarian governments.  I was a Russian linguist in the United States Air Force and was stationed in West Berlin from 1979 to 1982.  Berlin, both East and West, was a geopolitical hot spot, with the Berlin Wall being an ever present reminder of the state of the world: fiercely divided

Berlin_Wall

Looking across that no-man’s land full of “vicious dogs and ominous weapons” was the Soviet-controlled East.  The East Germans were subjected to not one but two Secret Police organizations, the East German Stasi and the Soviet KGB.  These are the people who would come for you in the middle of the night if you were a dissident or a reporter who was not following the party line and writing “subversive” articles.  On that side of the Wall, there were none of the freedoms we have. The desire to live in a world where those freedoms existed motivated many to try and get across that wall.  Many made it, others did not. We were told that the government in the East was a fascist and totalitarian one and rightly so.  They were. A brief study of history is enough to show that repression, fear, and control of information are the tools of the trade of any fascist regime no matter what flag they fly.

Fast forward to the present day.  The streets of America are filled with protesters exercising their Constitutional First Amendment right to “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The press are also out in the streets documenting the happenings and the goings-on.  This is the same press that has been under attack by the current administration for the last three years. At night, the protests turned violent as clashes between the police and protesters escalated.  The President and the Attorney General both issued statements that elements from Antifa, a far left organization, were responsible for the violence and took no questions from the press regarding that claim. Soon enough, the President wanted to designate them a ‘terrorist organization’ as are groups such as the Taliban and ISIS.   But as the FBI gathered intelligence and arrests were made a different picture began to emerge.  Right wing groups were the ones responsible for the violence.  A number of specific right-wing groups, according to an ex-FBI agent interviewed on TV. These right-wing groups were using social media to tell their members to go down and cause havoc. Their job, as they saw it, was to turn peaceful protests violent.  As the violence escalated, the police turned their weapons on the press.  One officer, when asked why he was shooting at a press crew filming, apologized and said, “he was just following orders.” Freedom of the press was being trampled on by barrages of rubber bullets. Where were the Sic Semper Tyrannis patriots defending the press? No where to be found.

Lafayette Square, where peaceful protesters were fired upon with rubber bullets, tear-gassed, and attacked by riot police so the President could get a photo op holding a bible in front of a church, has been renamed Black Lives Matter Square. While history is still being written, BLM Square will be remembered as the spot Freedom to assemble was trampled on.  Where were the Sic Semper Tyrannis patriots coming to the aid of the protesters to defend their Constitutional right to be there protesting? No where to be found.

As it turns out, these “patriots”, as they often describe themselves, had the opportunity they have supposedly been waiting for.  An authoritarian government was and is trampling on our Constitutional rights.  Here they were, aiding the government, by trying to cause havoc to validate the government’s narrative. Riot troops, with no insignia or identifying patches, began roaming the streets.  Who they were and what government organization they came from was a secret, in other words, they were secret police. If you haven’t felt the urge to fly the American flag upside down, now is the time to start thinking about it.  Where are the Sic Semper Tyrannis chaps fighting this no-name army of secret police patroling our streets?  No where to be found.

 

 

 

COVID 19 and Science Denialism

“Isn’t it sad that you can tell people that the ozone layer is being depleted, the forests are being cut down, the deserts are advancing steadily, that the greenhouse effect will raise the sea level 200 feet, that overpopulation is choking us, that pollution is killing us, that nuclear war may destroy us – and they yawn and settle back for a comfortable nap. But tell them that the Martians are landing, and they scream and run.” Isaac Asimov, The Secret of the Universe

As of today, May 20th, 2020, COVID 19 has killed 324,962 worldwide.  Almost a third of those deaths, 93,533, have occurred in the United States.  We are currently conducting what I call the Grand Experiment here in the States.  In spite of the unanimous opinion of scientists and doctors, we are opening the United States back up, giving the virus back vectors that allowed it to spread and quickly threaten to overcome both the healthcare system here in the states as well as other healthcare systems around the world.  In the interest of higher stock prices, we are willing to risk both American lives and the sure destruction of the economy if the virus gets out of control.

Donald Trump has called this effort a “war”.  His critics claim he is simply using hyperbole so as to cement his legacy as a “war-time” President. In this instance, however, I agree with him.  Invaders can take all forms and come at us in many different ways. It doesn’t necessarily have to be rival gangs of mammals equipped with guns, aircraft, and explosives.  It could be an invasive species of insect that preys on insects beneficial to our agriculture or, as with the Zika virus, the insects can transmit a virus directly. In the case of the Coronavirus which causes COVID 19, we are the carriers as the virus spreads throughout our environment. So this is a war in every sense of the word; our opponent uses stealth so it is invisible.  Science, until it develops a vaccine or a treatment, such as Tamiflu for the influenza virus, has given us clear instructions on how to slow down the spread and, when followed to the letter as the South Koreans did, even stop it in its tracks.

Most countries have recognized the seriousness of this Pandemic and followed the science.  Three countries, the United States, Russia, and Brazil have not.  We are about to experience the full force of the virus while Brazil and Russia are at the very cusp. While the United States still leads the world in the number of new daily cases, 20,289, Brazil is second with 16,517, and Russia is third with 9,263.  Brazil is poised to start passing the United States in many of the categories, the most sobering being new deaths each day.  It is interesting that all three countries are led by a self-proclaimed Strong Man who is quite willing to ignore the scientists and other experts and instead follow his ‘instincts’.

While I could write volumes on Putin or Bolsonaro, living here in the United States I am way more concerned with the consequences here.  Each day the internet is filled with right-wing websites, blogs, and social media pages vilifying the science and the scientists who are tasked with fighting this war against COVID 19.  Their recommendations are viewed as liberal assaults on ‘freedoms’.  The issue of wearing a protective mask illustrates this anti-science/anti-expert sentiment like nothing else.  It is as if there were Londoners during the blitz who refused to turn their lights off to help stymie the German bombing runs in the name of ‘freedom’. No one could be that stupid, you say?  Hold to that claim and I can guarantee the right-wing in this country will make a fool out of you. Even if a vaccine is developed, it is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans would refuse it.  Why you ask?  Because the anti-vax community has convinced them that this is a surreptitious way of introducing a microchip into people in order to track their every move.  This they tweet, post, and IM from their cell phones that they willingly carry around with them everywhere they go.  Mad, isn’t it?

“I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.”
― Christopher Hitchens

There is an exception to this anti-science rhetoric by the right-wing.  One of the more common canards you hear is that modern medicine is hiding the cure for cancer and that all one needs to do is a search on Google and YouTube for both the proof of this claim and, more importantly, for the myriad of cures that are out there. One of my favorites is German New Medicine which claims, among other things, that “mainstream medicine is regarded as a conspiracy promulgated by Jews.”  You can find out about it and others here.  There is a notable exception to this narrative about cancer and the medical community. It happens when they or a loved one gets diagnosed with the disease.  Gone are the posts about the nefarious medical mafia and their schemes.  Suddenly we are all extorted to pray for the doctors so God will guide their hands and to pray for the unfortunate victims.  They sit silently in front of the cancer surgeons, oncologists, and radiologists, mouths shut, hanging on every word. “We must pay close attention and do what we are told by the experts in order to beat this terrible disease.” But what about the coffee enemas?  “Shut up, you are not a doctor!”  Sorry, I was just repeating what you told me a few months ago.

You can cut the hypocrisy with the same knife the surgeon uses to remove the cancer.

The Greatest Discovery Of All – Part 1

I’ve often posed the question to people, “What do you consider the greatest discovery in our species’ history?”  The answers are all over the board; all of them very good ones.  Many point to writing, some go even further back to the discovery of language.  Some point to our building skills, clothing, various monetary systems, and such.  Some will dive into science where there are a plethora of ideas all seeming to vie for the moniker of “Greatest Discovery”.  Darwin’s evolution, Semmelweis’s nascent discovery of antiseptic, the discoveries of anesthesia, vaccines, and the pathogen theory of disease are but a few that could be named. Astronomy would strenuously wave the flag as well, as would Physics and I could devote paragraphs delineating the many history-changing discoveries of both.

I’m sure the reader has thought of a number of things that they might offer as “the greatest”.  Let me ask the reader:  were the discoveries that came to mind discoveries about the world we live in?  Discoveries that changed how we lived, discoveries that lessened the suffering that for thousands of years seemed to be our lot?  I humbly suggest an answer that it was a discovery about ourselves, not the world external to us, that was the greatest discovery of all.

“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.”   — Christopher Hitchens

Up until this discovery, certainty was a hallmark of our understanding of the universe and our place in it.  We only needed to ask the religious leaders of whatever land we found ourselves in.  We can even do it today.  Take any religious leader that you know.  Are they absolutely certain about what they know?  This claimed knowledge and the certainty of it were beyond questioning.  In the cases of religions that were in the position of making an offer no one could refuse, questioning this certainty would cost your life.  Not giving verbal assent to those certainties would cost you your life.  There are places in the world today where this is the state of affairs and in those places where it is not, the religious continually yearn for a return to those days and are actively working on making that happen.  The discovery that I would offer rejected that certainty and in its stead claimed to be certain of nothing and to know nothing about the world operated.  It was that seminal grasp of our ignorance when looking out at the universe we found ourselves in is what I would claim to be the greatest discovery of our species.  It was that intellectual cornerstone upon which all the future great discoveries depended on.

Can we pinpoint in history when this happened?  No, I don’t think we can and even if we could point to a specific example, I would suggest that this epiphany has happened many, many times, over many centuries and in many lands. It happens today. It is the driving force behind science and the search for truth. The understanding of how little we know about the universe lights in us a quest to fill that void with knowledge. This knowledge has turned our existence from what Thomas Hobbs called, “nasty, brutish and short” into the lives that we experience today.

More to come….

Elizabeth Warren’s moment in history

The Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump is still underway as I write this.  It seems that the trial will reach its conclusion in a few days with no witnesses being called or newly, available evidence being admitted.  Of the three impeachment proceedings (Johnson, Clinton, and Trump) only Trump’s impeachment will fail to call any witnesses or allow any new evidence to be introduced.  History will judge all the actors including Elizabeth Warren, who’s question to Chief Justice Roberts might be the moment that history remembers above all else.  She asked, “At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?” You can hear Chief Justice Roberts read the question out loud here. The chagrin on his face is quite noticeable.

There are moments when History beckons a person onto its stage and this was one of those moments. Senator Warren rose to the occasion and delivered a performance in the form of a simple question that will echo down the halls of history. She took a stand for the Constitution and the gravity of these events, the Senate trial of Donald J Trump. History will remember this trial and will remember Senator Warren as a Senator who stood up against the partisanship which disgraced these proceedings. This was her moment to be Presidential and she seized the moment.  I have a newly found respect for her.

 

 

The Egregious Lies of Lindsey Graham

I watched an interview today of Lindsey Graham stating the Senate trial is not blocking any witnesses; his claim was that the House never called them so it is not incumbent on the Senate to call them and by doing so “legitimizing the House choosing not to call a witness”.  Further, if the Senate decided to call them it would deal the courts out of “a judicial review of impeachment”.  You can listen to Senator Graham for yourself here.  I have not heard a more pungent instantiation of Orwell’s NewSpeak than these few seconds of Lindsay Graham speaking to reporters.  He claims the House did not call witnesses?  They sure did and in the official manner of calling witnesses:  the subpoena.  A list of those subpoenaed, including Vice President Mike Pence, can be found here.

This ‘spit in the face of all Americans’ tactic by Senator Graham should prompt every American, regardless of political affiliation, to ask cui bono. Cui bono is a Latin phrase which rendered into English means, “who benefits?”.  Graham, along with every other Senator and member of Congress were acutely aware of every subpoena issued by the House during its Impeachment investigation.  To turn around a few weeks later and to lie that ‘no witnesses were called’ does not call for outrage, although it certainly deserves that, rather, it calls for intense scrutiny into the financial dealings of every Senator and member of Congress who propagate these lies.  This is not simply partisanship.  Impeachment is a solemn Constitutional duty of every elected official when the political milieu is such that the very existence of the Republic is threatened. The process of impeachment was put into the Constitution to safeguard the Republic, not the Republican party. The Founders worst fears, that a sitting President would use the office for personal gain or that a sitting President would be beholden to a foreign power is the milieu in which the Republic finds itself in today.

What could cause people such as Lindsay Graham to turn their backs on their oath of office and the oath the swore just a few days ago to be fair and impartial jurors?  What could cause people such as Senator McConnell to announce he would work with the White House and promise an acquittal?  Here is where I believe this is just another area where we all can see the Citizens United ruling rearing its ugly head.  It is easy to abandon one’s principles while untold millions of dollars are pouring into your pockets.  This is why every American should be out in the streets demanding an accounting of how much money each and every Senator and member of congress is getting and who is the entity giving it.  Our Republic is too valuable to be sold to the highest bidder by filth like Lindsay Graham and others.  It is high time we put a stop to this before we find ourselves unwilling participants living in an Orwellian nightmare.

 

Religion’s Greatest Lie

“While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any other area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society. Religion is the one area of our discourse where it is considered noble to pretend to be certain about things no human being could possibly be certain about.” – Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

Each day we are bombarded with article after article, news report after news report of the horrors that religion inflicts on the world.  From Muslims throwing homosexuals off the tops of buildings, widespread female genital mutilation, and the censorship of ideas in the name of “religious liberty” just to name a few.  As egregious as the above examples are, and I could write a number of articles enumerating the barbaric acts of the religious, these all pale into insignificance when one considers the greatest lie of religion: the idea that death is not the end. When Christopher Hitchens talks about religion poisoning everything, the idea that death is not the end is how the poison is introduced. There is a stark contrast between how an atheist and a religious person views this life. As an atheist, I understand fully that the few years I have on this planet will come to an end and so will I.  This makes every single moment we have here precious.  Contrast that to the religious person who, when faced with an appalling situation will rationalize it and say, “When we get to heaven, all wrongs will be righted.” The most pungent example of this occurred during a discussion panel.  Christopher Hitchens had this to say:

“What about Fraulein Friesel in Austria, whose father, unwilling to get out of the way, kept her in a dungeon where she didn’t see daylight for twenty-four years and came down most nights to rape and to sodomize her, often in front of the children… I want you just to take a moment to imagine how she must have begged him. Imagine how she must have pleaded. Imagine for how long. Imagine how she must of prayed everyday, how she must have beseeched Heaven. Imagine, for twenty-four years. And no. No answer at all. Nothing! No-thing! NOTHING! Imagine how those children must have felt. Now, you say, ‘That’s all right that she went through that, because she’ll get a better deal in another life.’ I have to ask you if you can be morally or ethically serious and postulate such a question. No that had to happen, and Heaven did watch it with indifference, because it knows that that score will later on be settled. So it was well worth her going through it – she’ll have a better time next time. I don’t see how you can look anyone – ANYONE- in the face, or live with yourself and say anything so hideously, wickedly immoral as that, or even imply it.”

I hope the reader understands that the response of the religious makes sense only if they believe the lie that death is not the end; that there is a life after we die where all wrongs will be righted.  Implied in this idea is the poison that we are morally released from doing anything to alleviate the suffering of others as “god will right all wrongs in the great by and by”.  Nothing could be more corrosive to morality than this and the above example shows how effective that poison is.

 

Review |Beyond God – Why Religions are False, Outdated and Dangerous by Peter Klein

Beyond God - Why Religions are False, Outdated and DangerousBeyond God – Why Religions are False, Outdated and Dangerous by Peter Klein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great subtitle to this book would be, “An Antitheist Manifesto.” Peter Kline has written a book that is required reading for secular activists. Contained within its 266 pages is a point by point evisceration of religion and the harm it causes across the spectrum of human existence. Not just informative, this book is both inspirational and practical. Each chapter discusses how religion and its barbaric views poison just about every area of human life. Example after example is given along with the plethora of religious texts that support these backward and draconian views. This is also one of the best books to give to your religious family and friends when they ask about why you hold such stringent views towards religion.

View all my reviews

Memento Mori

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” – Seneca

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” – Marcus Aurelius

One of the epiphanies associated with adopting the secular worldview is the realization that this is the only life we have.  There is not a single shred of evidence that there is anything waiting for us on the other side of death.  Oftentimes the contemplation of this fact prevents some from adopting a secular viewpoint in spite of being convinced by the arguments and evidence.  I’m sure you’ve heard the objection, “I can’t believe we live and die and then that is it.”  This fact is so unpalatable for some that it elicits an emotional response that overrides the conclusions of reason.

For me, this realization was a very visceral epiphany.  The understanding that this is our one and only life, rather than being a strictly intellectual acquisition, resonated deep inside me and caused me to reevaluate just about every aspect of my life both in the present and what I had planned moving forward in the future. Prior to this, I felt like I had all the time in the world and if I didn’t get to it in this life well, there was always eternity (of the Catholic variety) waiting and there would certainly be time o’plenty to get to it, whatever it happened to be. All that changed with the realization that once you got that tap on the shoulder letting you know it was time to leave the party, that was that.  The party wasn’t over, it would continue on but you had to leave never, ever to return.

What goes through your mind, dear reader, when you contemplate this fact?  Is it something you push to the side, glancing at it occasionally with averted vision or is it something you embrace each day?  Some might say that to constantly focus on one’s death is a morbid view and an unhealthy thing.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

The Stoics, Greek and Roman philosophers, understood the importance of meditating daily on the idea of Memento Mori, roughly translated “One day you too will die.” They exhorted those practicing the Stoic disciplines to keep this fact in mind each and every day. In addition to being a philosophical framework, Stoicism is also a mental discipline and, like any discipline is something that is to be practiced.  Was your experience of the realization of your eventual death something that motivated you and caused you to appreciate even more this one and only life we all have?  Then the Stoic practice of being constantly cognizant of this fact each and every day will continue that even more so.  More importantly, it will motivate you to change your behavior. Speaking from personal experience the awareness of my own unavoidable death is the driving force that provides meaning to what I choose to invest my time and energy in.  I don’t have an unlimited amount of time and each and every day I am taking more and more from less and less.  Every second is precious to me and I am careful about how I spend my time and the activities I invest that precious time in.  Far from draining the value of our life as the religious would have you believe, it adds meaning to it which is the very thing the religious claim is lacking in the secular worldview.  There are other philosophies that also take somewhat the same view towards death as the Stoics but I have found that the Stoics have a special appeal to people who hold to a secular worldview.  There is other wisdom to be mined from the Stoics but nothing as transformative as Memento Mori.  If you are looking for a framework upon which to hang your secular worldview give the Stoics a good look.  Practice the different disciplines starting with Memento Mori and see how transformative it can be.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin