Category: Music


Happy Song Sunday! Today we have a song from VNV Nation titled “Testament.”

A few lines from this song bring up what seems to be a recurring theme in religion, that humans are inherently sinful, wicked, or evil. (Not all religions, mind you. Buddhism, for example, says that we are perfect at birth but the world around us makes us wicked.) Even science tells us that, as we have parts of our brains that are remnants of our reptilian ancestry, we have the capacity for aggression.

“We conquer paradise just to burn it to the ground”

This reminds me of another quote: “I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they’d never expect it.” (From Jack Handey.) Or think of the movie Avatar, or Pocahontas (both movies having the same storyline). The sad thing is, I could also picture this situation.

“We bring destruction, we bring war without an end”

While animals have been slaughtering one another since time immemorial, humans might be the first species that has the ability to destroy the planet, too. Elephants might be able to trample small trees, but they do not seem to have the desire or inclination to.

Why are we like this? Why do we have to continuously fight one another?

It is difficult to tell whether we are all inclined to be violent, or if it is power that corrupts. It is difficult to tell whether what drives us to commit bad acts is desperation, or a thirst for (more) power.

Looking at countries like Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway, it appears that if you have what you need there is not a drive to acquire more. But are these countries free of desperation, or lacking the power necessary to acquire more? The United States, arguably, has what it needs. All it has to do is trade, and that does not require war. Why then are we at war? Are we a global “peacekeeper” because we want to make the world a better place, or because we want to increase our influence? North Korea does not have what it needs. (Although perhaps it might if it didn’t spend all its money on its nuclear program.) Is this why North Korea is militant? Or does it have just enough, when resources are focused in certain areas, to practically increase its power?

And then we come into the realm of nature vs. nurture. Though it is very likely that it is a combination of the two that dictates who we are, is one more dominant? And if so, do those who are desperate steal or kill because they are biologically wired to, or because they have been brought up to think doing so is okay? Is it in our genes to abuse power, or do phrases like “what do all men with power want? more power” (The Oracle from The Matrix) become self-fulfilling prophecies?

Lots of questions, and no answers from me. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer these questions, lol. But I am interested in what you guys think. If you have opinions on any of these questions, leave a comment!

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

Advertisements

Another odd argument for the existence of God is what I like to call “objective beauty,” though the actual argument might be called the “argument from beauty.” Not sure.

While not normally phrased in the form of a logical argument like it is in the Wikipedia article I linked above, you do get the sense from religious people that this is a reason they believe. How you normally hear it phrased is something like “Works of art like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Bach’s music could not have been done without faith in God. Not only are these works a testament to the greatness (and existence) of God, but if we take God away we will lose this part of us and regret it.”

Right away you can see that there is a major assumption that is not necessarily granted. If you argue this, you are assuming that these works are not only recognized as beautiful, but are actually thought of as beautiful by anyone who sees them. (To deny this is to deny that every person has a “God shaped hole to fill” and opens up a whole mess of problems.)

Next, it just simply asserts that these works could not have been created without faith in God. First, which God? Could a Muslim or Hindu do similar things? Second, why? Did they take so much time that only a very devoted person could do them? Or is there some physical impossibility that requires a miracle from God to overcome to create these works? Needless to say I am very skeptical that these could not have been done by heathens.

I think it is possible to refute this argument simply by invoking this quote from Christopher Hitchens: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” If they actually try to use the aforementioned works as evidence, you need only say “but I don’t find those works incredibly appealing,” provide a work that is better that was made by a nonbeliever, or do as I am about to do and provide an explanation for why we might think these are beautiful. An explanation that does not invoke God, to be more specific.

Say we grant the assumption I mentioned earlier, that all people find those works of art appealing. What could be the cause of this? Since it is Song Sunday today, I’d like to introduce “Exhibit A” as part of the evidence I will use in my argument:

So fun to watch 🙂 That was the Axis of Awesome, by the way.

Now, what do we know about those songs? Well, they were all popular at some point in time. They are also all composed of the same four chords, as the band demonstrated. Might I go so far as to also say that while the songs are “good,” they did not require as much talent in composing as their popularity would have you believe?

How can we explain this? Is this, like Dante’s Divine Comedy an example of divinely inspired beauty? Is that combination of chords a bridge between us and God?

Here’s another example. Call it “Exhibit B.” Apparently if a picture is composed of mostly teal and orange, it looks more vibrant and the colors really “pop.” This fact, from “color theory,” is apparently being taken advantage of in movies nowadays. Here’s a shot from Transformers 2:

Now, let’s go back to our “objective beauty.” Is this color combination divine in some way? You might say no, that’s bullshit, that’s just something they started doing recently.

Oh? What about all these images from that beautiful Sistine Chapel?

There's a little bit of teal/orange going on here.

Eh, quite a lot of teal and orange here.

They even made things more orange-y and teal-y during the restoration!

Good fucking game. Is there anything *but* teal and orange in this painting?

Now, before you run off and tell all your friends that teal and orange are God’s favorite colors, let’s try and find another solution to this problem.

What we’ve seen so far is that you can have popular songs that are incredibly difficult to compose, or somewhat easy to compose. You can have pictures that are vibrant and attractive simply because of the colors chosen, while others are masterpieces having taken years of work.

One thing we can establish right now is that you do not need faith in God to take advantage of the techniques used by Michelangelo or the songwriters who wrote those pop hits. This destroys the second part of the argument right there, but let’s keep going.

We still have to touch on the first assumption made, that everyone finds those masterpieces to be, well… masterpieces. Have you ever noticed how many people hate the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard? In my opinion what we’re dealing with is a similar case of evolved preferences.

Most people like sugary and fatty foods, because that is what our brain craves. Most men like women with big breasts. Most women like men who are fit. Most people hate fingernails on chalkboards. Most people think rape, stealing, and betrayal are bad and loyalty, courage, and love are good. Is it really so surprising that most people like the chord progression in the video I posted? That most people think a combination of teal and orange looks vibrant?

It all has to do with how our bodies are wired. Things like beauty, taste, and annoyances are very subjective (you cannot really argue that vanilla is actually better than chocolate), yet in many cases these subjective desires are manifest in a large majority of people. This doesn’t mean they are objectively beautiful or tasty. It doesn’t mean that there exists a divine composer who implanted a love of harmony and contrasting colors into us when he created us. It probably just means that we all have a lot more in common than we realize.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

God, faith, and love

Happy Song Sunday! Today we have a song from the hilarious Tim Minchin titled “If I Didn’t Have You.”

Alright, now that we’ve had our chuckle, I need to vent.

I CANNOT STAND IT WHEN PEOPLE EQUATE FAITH IN GOD WITH LOVE.

You may have heard the argument before. It goes something like this: “It’s not so crazy to believe in God, you make the same leap when you decide to enter a serious relationship with someone. In each case you have to just trust in them and take a leap of faith.”

*cough*Bullshit*cough*

I’m sorry, but I cannot believe that I actually still hear this argument being made. I know it couldn’t get past any nonbeliever, so the people who use it must be folks who have never had their beliefs challenged in the slightest, who have never even talked to an atheist. These people must think they have a secret weapon — I mean hey, who can argue against love?

Luckily, we don’t have to. It may be difficult to argue against at first because it is so mind-numbing of a claim, but after thinking for a few seconds the flaws in the argument become abundantly clear.

Let us compare faith in God with “faith” in a loved one. When you meet someone, you are initially attracted or you aren’t. If you are, you might want to get to know the person better. You can talk to the person, see if your interests line up. Perhaps you’ll go out on a date or two, and see how your “chemistry” is together. If all goes well, perhaps things will eventually get more serious. By the time you tie the knot, you know so much about the person, whether you’re a good fit for each other, and if you can trust them. To quote from the song:

“And if I may conjecture a further objection love is nothing to do with destined perfection. The connection is strengthened the affection simply grows over time. … And love is made more powerful by the ongoing drama of shared experience and synergy and symbiotic empathy or something…”

There’s no leap of faith that has to be taken. Sure, when we’re in the heat of the moment, we don’t take out a pencil and paper and write down the pros and cons of entering a relationship with the person, but we aren’t just randomly choosing a person from a crowd to let into our homes and raid our fridge, either.

Compare this with faith in God. Can we see God? No. Can we ask God questions? No. Is there some evidence that makes it very clear that God even exists? Sorry, no.

This is so very unlike love. It is almost ludicrous to claim that believing that something you will not be sure of until “after you’re dead” is anything like furthering a relationship with a living, breathing, real person.

Inanity aside, it is understandable that they would want to make this argument, and continue to use it even though it sucks so bad. Think about how embarrassing faith must be. To know that you have no evidence, no reason behind your beliefs, and that you just believe because you want to, because it makes you feel better.

What they want to do, knowing they could never win an actual argument, is change the rules. They want to make everyone out to be crazy. They want to lower us to their level. Then faith becomes okay. It becomes normal. If everyone has faith in something then they are perfectly justified in their beliefs, no matter how crazy and unsupported.

That’s what they want. Too bad they’ll never get it.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

Yes, I know Carl Sagan Day was yesterday, but I figured I’d keep the good times rolling by dedicating this Song Sunday to Carl Sagan 🙂

Carl Sagan was probably the greatest popularizer of science we’ve ever had. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is doing what he can to fill Carl’s shoes, but will we ever have someone who could capture the imaginations of the public like Sagan could? Let’s hope so.

On the other hand, some might say that people like Richard Dawkins, while doing a good job promoting atheist and humanist thought, might be taking acceptance of science backward due to his provocative style.

Sagan was much less confrontational in his approach, at least in the earlier part of his career as a spokesperson for science. (Later, he wasn’t so reserved in his criticism.) Sagan probably thought fostering critical thinking and skepticism more productive than ridiculing people’s deeply-cherished beliefs.

“My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.” — Carl Sagan

Unfortunately, the anti-science forces are mobilizing against us. As the public becomes more knowledgeable, they will become ever more doubtful of the claims made by the Religious Right. They’re very worried that their current (unconstitutional) privileges will go away, and that their beliefs will be made fun of like the woo that they are, and eventually die out. Rather than compete in a war of ideas, though, they’d rather spread lies about atheists and humanists and attempt to confuse people about what the science actually says.

Let’s not let that happen 🙂

Happy (belated) Carl Sagan Day! We miss you Carl. We could really use you right now, but your legacy will live on in modern-day “Carl Sagans” and in the inquisitive minds of tomorrow’s children.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

Can you laugh at yourself?

Happy Song Sunday, everyone! Today I have a song from the hilarious Roy Zimmerman. I’ll put the vid at the end of the post.

In relation to this song, I ask you: can you laugh at yourself? I feel way too many people are way too uptight. Especially many Christians. You make a funny joke about Jesus or Christianity and they get all offended, saying “ohhh, take that picture off of your website, that’s offensive!” No, it’s funny. Lighten up.

Do you know one of the major reasons people fight? Because people take things way too seriously. I’m not talking about reactions to taking land or murder, I’m talking about root causes here. Think how much enmity is bred by people who are very similar, but can’t live with the minuscule differences of their neighbors? That enmity causing the problems we see every day.

Yoda said that “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” I’m not going to disagree with Yoda, but I’m going to put it another way: taking yourself too seriously leads to hate. Hate leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to suffering.

I think one of the keys to peaceful coexistence with others, as well as keys to happiness and having a well-rounded sense of humor, is being able to laugh at yourself. If people would take themselves less seriously, I think there would be much less bickering and much more cooperation towards shared goals.

Anyway, to test if you can laugh at yourself, see if you find this video funny (I assume most if not all of you reading this are liberal, so it is a good test):

I lol’d.

~peace, RR

P.S. Happy Halloween! >:D

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

I really like this song and wanted to share it with you. But, to make it more of a blog post, I decided to analyze it, too. I guess I’ll just tell you what I take the meaning to be.

Here’s the song, which you can listen to and follow along with the lyrics below:

The song begins:

God thinks all blacks are obsolete farm equipment
God thinks the Jews killed his son and must be punished
God thinks the white man is Satan
God, they know what God thinks

At this point Voltaire establishes that “God thinks” really means “I think.” When a religious person says they know what God thinks or wants, they are just expressing their own opinions. The “God” at the beginning of the last line is obviously a sign of frustration.

God thinks we should all convert to Judaism
God thinks we must all be Christians and
God thinks we should all embrace Islam
God thinks the only true religion is Hinduism

We move into the contradictory nature of religious opinion. Everyone thinks they have the answer, but the answers are not in agreement. They can’t all be right, and in this case they are most likely all wrong.

And I
I know what God thinks
God thinks you’re a waste of flesh
God prefers an Atheist

Voltaire now gives us his opinion. Using the language of the religious, he says “I know what God thinks” (i.e. “it is my opinion that”). It’s his opinion (and I agree) that it’s quite obvious that God doesn’t care about us. The suffering in the world could so easily be stopped by the omnipotent deities of the aforementioned religions, and yet the suffering continues. In addition, if a god did exist, it would probably appreciate the skeptical, knowledge-gathering atheists over the dogmatic believers.

God God
God thinks all people like you are hateful
God thinks all people like you are an embarrassment to creation
self-righteous, judgmental, first to throw a stone
and using His name for your own protection

Voltaire continues by calling out religious people for their hypocrisy.

God thinks the sun revolves around the Earth
God thinks there was something very wrong with Copernicus
God thinks abortion is murder and
God thinks everything that science gave us is wrong
God thinks women deserve it
God thinks AIDS is a form of punishment

Here Voltaire points out the inanity that comes out of religious circles. Things disproven by science and ethically questionable positions that would never come from an all-knowing deity.

I hate people who blame the Devil for their own shortcomings and
I hate people who thank God when things go right

Not being able to keep the charade of speaking like a religious person, Voltaire lapses and goes right out and says what he thinks. A great quote, too 🙂

And I
I know what God thinks
God thinks you’re an idiot
God prefers a heretic

God God
God thinks all people like you are hateful
God thinks all people like you are an embarrassment to creation
self-righteous, judgmental, first to throw the stone
and using His name for your own agenda

God is a liberal
God is a democrat
God wants you to vote republican
never trust a man who puts his words in the mouth of god
and says it’s absolute truth
its lies and it smells like death
its all in a day’s work taking money from the poor
Why do you think that God would need your dirty money
if He wants to start a holy war?

After the chorus, Voltaire now decries the practice of mixing religion and politics, especially of using “God’s will” as an excuse for war. (This sadly reminds me of when Bush claimed the Iraq war was a mandate from God.)

self-righteous, judgmental, first to throw a stone
and using His name for your own protection

God thinks puppies need to die and
God thinks babies need to drown
’cause God is neither good nor bad
God is you and me
God is Everything

And finally, Voltaire tells the believers where they go wrong. Their holy books were written by men. Religions are pushed by people with agendas to control and gain power. All this talk about God is an illusion.

Hope you enjoyed! If you like his stuff there is plenty more on YouTube.

~peace, RR

P.S. I’m thinking of copying PZ Myers and having a themed day like the Monday Metazoan. I shall deem this “Song Sunday” 🙂

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂