Observations of a blown mind

Atheism

This started out as a status update


But as I poured out my thoughts quite by accident it became much more. I wanted to share my reflections with you here, so excuse this indulgence.

Rather happier now I have had the opportunity to say goodbye, as it were, to Nan.

As an Atheist graveyards are strange places for me. I know once we are gone, we are gone. I know there is nothing after, we return to dust and our memory is carried on by our family. Eventually we will return to the stars and become at one at an atomic level with the universe – quite beautiful really.

Life is like energy really, it never really stops it just changes.

When the matriarch of any family passes away a huge whole is left and families can fall in to disarray. I hope my children and grandchildren realise how important family is and make the effort to stay close.To me family has always been important. You realise that when yours is gone and take pains to ensure that your own family treasures their relationship with each other.

I am thankful for my Wife for her loving support, and grateful I have the opportunity to educate my children without the confines, constraints and nonsense that any organized religion imposes. My children question everything, are encouraged to research everything for themselves and are richer for it!

Critical thinking is so lacking in this modern world it is becoming a rarity. Perhaps this is the next form of mental evolution for mankind? Those that have knowledge through research and mental dexterity, and those that choose not to trouble themselves with it and therefore embrace ignorance by blindly believing everything they are told, either from the pulpit or the many forms of filtered media.

It saddens me, which is why I speak out. After a lifetime of controlled blind obedience I feel obligated! I know it is unpleasant for some to hear and see, which is why 5 years ago I had over 600 friends on Facebook and today I have 133!!

For whatever reason, I have very few real friends, but those that I do call close friends I view as my family. They know who they are and know I value their companionship greatly. I confess I am a very lonely person and have a huge whole in my life, not because I have removed ‘God’ from it but because a religion chosen by my family requires them to be totally removed from mine. So all of the friends I ever had and all of the family I was so closely attached to are gone. Their choice killed off a part of me, and left a gaping hole.

Can you even imagine how hard it is to rebuild that?

Can you imagine how hard it is to socialise when you are disabled and wheelchair bound, unable to work any more?

Add in to the equation you have two autistic children who have three siblings. All polite and well behaved children – but looking after 5 kids is daunting.

You also only have a loving and willing father-in-law as the only person you can rely on to look after the children to enable you and your Wife the opportunity to go out and perhaps you begin to see the struggle we have.

BUT, I am not moaning, I don’t think people realise how much Emmajay and I have been through in the relatively short time we have been together, and what we go through on a daily basis.

We almost lost Jacob at 6 weeks. Micah is a very poorly boy with dysfunctional kidneys, he will also face a lifetime of awkwardness from his vitiligo. Autism is an incredibly difficult mental illness and we regularly face meltdowns from both Jacob and Reuben. Imagine a child throwing themselves in to the road or smacking their head on a brick wall because they face a change in routine, a strong smell, a new flavour they haven’t tried etc.

If we were advertising this as a job it would have to come with one hell of a salary and benefits package!

I doubt even then many would cope,

Which makes Emmajay even more amazing.

She does all this AND has to cope with a husband not coping with a recent and permanent disability.

My life is nothing like I envisioned at 18 when I was fed up and bored.

I’d love to have my youth back, and equally I am grateful for the journeys I have taken since then that have shaped me to become the man, husband and father I am today.

There is truth in the saying that life is a journey, just make sure you’re not sat on the bus looking out and watching it pass by! I did that for too long and when I got off at a stop, I found out it was fucking amazing.

Much love.

Chris


The pain of social exclusion


‘Social’ pain hurts physically, even when we see it in others

We would like to do without pain and yet without it we wouldn’t be able to survive. Pain signals dangerous stimuli (internal or external) and guides our behaviour. Its ultimate goal is to prioritize escape, recovery and healing. That’s why we feel it and why we’re also good at detecting it in others. Pain in fact protects not only the individual but also his social bonds. The brain contains circuits related to the more physical aspects of pain and others related to affective aspects. As observed in a study just published by Giorgia Silani, Giovanni Novembre and Marco Zanon of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, social pain activates some brain circuits of physical pain whether we feel it personally or when we experience it vicariously as an empathic response to other people’s pain.

DisfellowshippedChildLeavingJwHome

The study by Silani and colleagues is innovative since it adopted a more realistic experimental procedure than used in the past and compared behaviours and the results of functional magnetic resonance imaging in the same subjects, during tests involving both physical and social pain. “Classic experiments used a stylized procedure in which social exclusion situations were simulated by cartoons. We suspected that this simplification was excessive and likely to lead to systematic biases in data collection, so we used real people in videos”.

The subjects took part in the experimental sessions simulating a ball tossing game, where one of the players was deliberately excluded by the others (condition of social pain). The player could be the subject herself or her assigned confederate. In another series of experiments the subject or her confederate were administered a mildly painful stimulus (condition of physical pain). When the subject was not personally the target of the stimulus, she could witness the entirety of her confederate’s experience.

“Our data have shown that in conditions of social pain there is activation of an area traditionally associated with the sensory processing of physical pain, the posterior insular cortex”, explains Silani. “This occurred both when the pain was experienced in first person and when the subject experienced it vicariously”.

“Our findings lend support to the theoretical model of empathy that explains involvement in other people’s emotions by the fact that our representation is based on the representation of our own emotional experience in similar conditions” concludes Silani.


Who is Ashin Wirathu?


Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu in Mandalay, Burma on June 21, 2013. (Htoo Tay Zar/GlobalPost)

Simply put he’s the celebrated leader of the so-called ”969” movement, a group of extremist monks responsible for the murderous deaths of innocent Muslims in Burma (also known as Myanmar).

Ashin Wirathu is no stranger to activism; he was arrested in 2003 for political incitement and served seven years in prison before he was reportedly released as part of a government amnesty program. 

How does he feel about the Muslim settlers in his country?  “Muslims are like the African carp. They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind. Even though they are minorities here, we are suffering under the burden they bring us. Because the Burmese people and the Buddhists are devoured every day, the national religion needs to be protected,” he said, before announcing that he would push for a ban on interfaith marriage and vowing to continue the so-called “969” movement that calls for Buddhists to only do business with other Buddhists and exclude Muslims who have a strong tradition as merchants in Burma.”

Often compared in the press to the late terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, Wirathu’s sermons play on the fear among some Buddhists in certain parts of Burma of a rising Muslim population that some feel is threatening the majority Buddhist religion and its traditions. The movement known as “969,” which calls for Buddhists to band together to defend their faith and for Buddhists to do business only with other Buddhists, has been spurred by support from Wirathu and his monks. The numerology of the “969” movement refers to the virtues of the Buddha, the practices of the faith and the community. The distinctive “969” stickers are ubiquitous on shops, motorcycles and car windows.

Burma, comprises eight major ethnic groups, yet 90 percent of the population is Buddhist. Approximately 5 percent of the population is Muslim and the rest are a mix of Christian and Hindu.

Muslims live throughout the country, as they were merchants along the trade routes between India and China. They have settled in waves of immigration from around the world since at least the 19th century. More recently, Muslims are coming across the border from Bangladesh in search of work and opportunity in Burma’s Rakhine State, where much of the recent violence has been centered.

As mentioned earlier, Ashin Wirathu has also pushed a ban against interfaith marriage, claiming that the Buddhist majority is diluted by such marriages and reeling off one anecdote after another of forced conversions of Buddhist women to Islam. Many critics in Burma and abroad say Wirathu’s sermons are racist rants against Muslims who he has likened to “mad dogs” and “cannibals” and, in perhaps a more charitable reference, as simply “troublemakers.”

However, Wirathu’s movement is gaining a wider and wider following.

He heads the Ma Soeyein monastery attended by some 2,500 monks, has an active Facebook page [do with this what you will] and leads speaking tours that attract thousands of followers. Wirathu is also gathering signatures for a petition to introduce the interfaith marriage legislation which he has titled, “Safeguarding the National Identity.” 

The ban on interfaith marriage is not new in Burma, and it has been implemented in other countries in the region, including Singapore. It is similar to a popular idea that first emerged in the 1930s and called for a strong nationalist movement. And this is not the first time that Buddhist monks have used their authority to influence the history of Burma. They have always been part of major political movements.

You may recall that Buddhist monks were also at the head of the 2007 “Saffron Revolution,” in which monks took to the streets in large numbers to protest the rising prices of food and fuel. Images of the military cracking down on the monks with tear gas and batons were carried around the world and served to propel the pro-democracy movement.

Recently the violence sparked clashes and left more than 12,000 Muslims displaced, with the government seemingly slow to respond and according to those displaced apparently unwilling to offer assistance.

As extremists go this man is misguided at best, pure evil at worst. The world is standing by observing whilst a form of ethnic cleansing is happening in Burma.

Regular readers to the blog know I am atheist and that my assertion is that ALL religion is evil, religious leaders and their eager followers like this underline the fact. Yes there are Christian extremists, there are Muslim extremists, and conversely there are many ‘faithful’ who distance themselves from such extreme actions. But whilst religion is around innocents will be harmed. Religion retards.

Recent news concerning the attacks on Muslim settlers in Burma –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23831382


Atheists are miserable tweeters!


A computer analysis of nearly 2 million text messages (tweets) on the online social network Twitter found that Christians use more positive words, fewer negative words and engage in less analytical thinking than atheists. Christians also were more likely than atheists to tweet about their social relationships, the researchers found.

 

twitterThe findings are reported in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science.

“Whether religious people experience more or less happiness is an important question in itself,” the authors of the new analysis wrote. “But to truly understand how religion and happiness are related we must also understand why the two may be related.”

To identify Christian and atheist Twitter users, the researchers studied the tweets of more than 16,000 followers of a few prominent Christian and atheist personalities on Twitter. They analyzed the tweets for their emotional content (the use of more positive or negative words), the frequency of words (such as “friend” and “brother”) that are related to social processes, and the frequency of their use of words (such as “because” and “think”) that are associated with an analytical thinking style.

Overall, tweets by Christians had more positive and less negative content than tweets by atheists, the researchers report. A less analytical thinking style among Christians and more frequent use of social words were correlated with the use of words indicating positive emotions, the researchers also said.

“If religious people are indeed happier than nonreligious people, differences in social support and thinking style may help to explain why,” said University of Illinois graduate student Ryan Ritter, who conducted the research with U. of I. psychology professor Jesse Preston and graduate student Ivan Hernandez.

The findings are also in line with other studies linking greater levels of social connectedness to higher well-being, Ritter said.

“Religious communities are very social. Just being a member of a religious group connects people to others, and it may be this social connection that can make people happier,” Preston said. “On the other hand, atheists had a more analytical thinking style in their tweets than Christians, which at extremes can make people less happy.”

Previous research has found a positive association between religion and well-being among Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims. But most such studies rely on individuals to report how satisfied they are with their lives or their experience of positive and negative emotions at a given time.

“What’s great about Twitter is that people are reporting their experiences – good or bad – as they occur,” Preston said. “As researchers, we do not need to ask them how they feel because they are already telling us.”

Christians appear to be happier than atheists on Twitter, but the authors caution that the results are correlational and “this does not mean atheists are unhappy overall or doomed to be miserable,” Preston said. “If religion improves happiness indirectly through other factors, those benefits could also be found outside religious groups.”

Note – The John Templeton Foundation partially funded this research.


How to become a Zombie


Here's something I knocked up earlier.

Here’s something I knocked up earlier.

 

Don’t forget we’re on the facebook now!

 


Part of the United Nations for 10 years


To any and all Jehovah’s Witnesses;

You are part of a cult,

get out now.

Click to enlarge image.

Click to enlarge image.


Science and the roots of faith


Men, scientists, professors and the British are less likely to believe in God than women, children and Americans.

Many children attribute magical properties to physical objects. In one unkind experiment, infants were persuaded that a scientist had invented an apparatus that made an exact duplicate of any article placed inside it. Their favourite stuffed animal was put within, the lights flashed, and with some sleight of hand the child was given the toy back and told that it was a replica. Almost without exception, they rejected it. Somehow, the supposed copy had lost a mysterious quality present within the original. For the tearful subjects, reality involved more than the real.

In another study, nine-year-olds were asked to play a game. They had to choose which of two boxes held a reward. They were told that they were in the presence of an invisible agent, “Princess Alice”, who would make a sign if they touched the wrong one. When they did, the experimenter furtively made a light flicker. Almost all the children changed their choice: they happily accepted the reality of a higher power.

The latest research hints at a strong overlap between belief and adult temperament. Personality can be tested by giving people close-ups of eyes and telling them to identify whether the person is terrified, amused, regretful or flirtatious. They are also asked to respond to statements such as “I find it hard to keep a conversation going” or to spot prime numbers, or patterns in a set of letters.

Men, on average, score worse on the ability to sense emotion (but better on prime numbers, a talent that demands no insight into anyone else’s feelings) than do women; and university professors do worse again, while scientists come at the bottom of the list.

People with autism score even lower. Those severely affected live almost detached from the world around them. They lack empathy, concentrate on themselves and may be obsessed with a particular talent (such as being able to tell what day of the week any date will be), combined with loss of other mental abilities. Children with a milder version of the condition, Asperger’s syndrome, are often clumsy, shy and tongue-tied.

Others do much better, for they have “high-functioning autism”. Such individuals are successful, but have little insight into the emotions of others and often show a deep interest in things mechanical and numerical. The personality type is much more frequent among males than females and, at least in its most severe forms, has a strong genetic component.

On the emotion-sensing tests, those with autism proper do worst, then Asperger’s patients, followed by the high-functioning group, and then — in order — by scientists, professors and men. Women come top.

People with autism are mainly interested in the banal reality of what surrounds them and find it hard to consider the abstract world. They are, as a result, highly resistant to the idea of an invisible deity for whom no tangible evidence exists and whose thoughts cannot be penetrated. Teenagers with the condition are far less likely to express a belief in God than their unaffected classmates. The high-functioning group are also much more willing to class themselves as atheists than are their fellows — and, in decreasing order of scepticism, people with autism, Asperger’s patients, scientists, professors, men and women (in some studies, men are only half as likely to be believers as are their partners).

Perhaps a logical, systematic and self-centred personality is disposed to doubt, while a more responsive mind is more willing to summon up the divine. Believers are in emotional contact with their deity. They feel that He responds to their prayers, knows their thoughts and guides His subjects in their proper paths. They empathise with their angel and accept what they imagine to be his instructions. Those with autism, scientists and men are happier with their own thoughts.

About two thirds of Britons do not regard themselves as religious at all. In the US, the same proportion is sure that God exists — and in a recent poll a majority said that they would be more willing to vote for a Mormon, a Jew or a homosexual as president than an atheist.

When I was a lad, that figure was probably much the same for Wales, but now they are the biggest heathens on the British Isles. To find out why, you need not a scientist but a sociologist.


A daily diet of utter frustration


Science always gets a raw deal – 

BBC3-2008-STING-1-2

I’d like to share the following BBC programme with all of the readers of this blog. To me it does many things; it re-affirms to me that Scientists are totally disrespected by creationists, no matter how much unequivocal evidence is presented to them. It also highlights the completely blinkered fundamentalist attitude most christian’s have. Along with this you will also see the lemming christian – the one that can’t answer the questions about his faith so when someone more vocal than him expresses a viewpoint he immediately sides [or jumps over the ledge of common sense] with them. 

It is an interesting and an exasperating watch but I recommend you take the time to do so. When I saw it for the first time last year I ended up wanting to slap the christian named Phil, and then it dawned on me, he’s no different from most christian’s and for me he is the reason that eventually religion will die a death. Andrew Maxwell, you and your team did so well not to bitch slap the man!

This was originally aired in the UK on BBC Three, 08 October 2012, and the following unedited, uninterrupted full programme follows comedian Andrew Maxwell as he takes five British creationists to the west coast of America to try to convince them that evolution rather than creationism explains how we all got here.

Stuck on a bus across 2,000 miles of dustbowl roads with these passionate believers, Maxwell tackles some firmly held beliefs – could the Earth be only 6,000 years old, and did humans and T-Rex really live side by side? It’s a bumpy ride as he’s confronted with some lively debates along the way, but by the end could he possibly win over any of these believers with what he regards as hard scientific fact?

Remember sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell ….


An Unoriginal Story


an unoriginal story

 

Fact of the matter is there are many religions, and similar stories, which predate Christianity that hold remarkable similarities to the JC doctrine. A bit like many other folk stories.

 


Interesting website


Found this site authored by Dr. Steven DiMatteii a biblical scholar and historian of the early Christian period. May be of interest to fellow atheists, and theists who are unsure.