Tuesday, December 26, 2006

10 Myths - And truths about atheism (1-5)

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived. Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.

People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

3) Atheism is dogmatic.

Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity's needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn't have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.

No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the "beginning" or "creation" of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself.

The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, "The God Delusion," this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don't know precisely how the Earth's early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase "natural selection" by analogy to the "artificial selection" performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.

Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.

The above was taken from an article written by Sam Harris. He is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."

10 Myths - and truths about atheism (6-10)

6) Atheists are arrogant.

When scientists don't know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn't know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion. One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn't arrogance; it is intellectual honesty.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.

There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don't tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences.

There is, in fact, not a Christian on this Earth who can be certain that Jesus even wore a beard, much less that he was born of a virgin or rose from the dead. These are just not the sort of claims that spiritual experience can authenticate.

8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.

Atheists are free to admit the limits of human understanding in a way that religious people are not. It is obvious that we do not fully understand the universe; but it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it. We do not know whether there is complex life elsewhere in the cosmos, but there might be. If there is, such beings could have developed an understanding of nature's laws that vastly exceeds our own. Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. They also can admit that if brilliant extraterrestrials exist, the contents of the Bible and the Koran will be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists.

From the atheist point of view, the world's religions utterly trivialize the real beauty and immensity of the universe. One doesn't have to accept anything on insufficient evidence to make such an observation.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.

Those who emphasize the good effects of religion never seem to realize that such effects fail to demonstrate the truth of any religious doctrine. This is why we have terms such as "wishful thinking" and "self-deception." There is a profound distinction between a consoling delusion and the truth.

In any case, the good effects of religion can surely be disputed. In most cases, it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons are actually available. Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.

If a person doesn't already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won't discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran — as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine. We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.

We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn't make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe.

The above was taken from an article written by Sam Harris. He is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."


Some friends and I went to the Night Safari on Saturday in celebration of Christmas. It was good fun, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I'm not sure if everyone experienced the same level of entertainment as I, but I sure hope they did.

I picked up a couple gifts for my girlfriend and my older sister. Specifically, I bought them DS Lites. Now I have opponents for Bomberman!

Some friend came over on Christmas Eve to play some games, which is an excellent way to spend Christmas. We played one boardgame (Arkham Horror) and then played Marvel Ultimate Alliance on the Xbox360 til about 6am. An absolute blast.

Audrea came over to my aunt's house to have Christmas dinner with my family. This was her first time engaging my extended family, and I guess we both were a little nervous. But my family are awesome people, and I think it all went well. My cousins and her got along well, and we even had a couple rounds of multiplayer Mario Kart on the DS Lite between them (one of my cousins also had a DS Lite).

It was a pretty decent Christmas, I must say. Time with friends and family, and presents, are always important.

Did I mentioned how much stuff I bought myself over the past week?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Secret Santa & My First Christmas Gift

You may have read over at Mark's blog about him joining the Secret Santa program running at Boardgamegeek.com. Well, I signed up to that too.

What happens is that we would each get assigned a 'target', to whom we would anonymously send a gift, which would preferrably be in the form of a boardgame. The end effect is that everyone would recieve a gift from a mysterious Secret Santa.

And I just recieved my very first christmas present of the season from my Secret Santa. My mom called me at the office yesterday to let me know that there was a package waiting for me, and I knew that my gift had come. I got home as soon as I could (let's not talk about the hour long jam I was caught in yesterday), and first thing I did was to crack open the package to see what I got.

And it was The Downfall of Pompeii! My Secret Santa obviously took a look at my wishlist on BGG and got me a game that I was really interested in. It was great!

I tried to call Mark to see if he got his game, but he didn't pick up. I guess he must still be running around in a forest yesterday.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another Personality Test

My Personality

Openness To Experience

Test Yourself Compare Yourself View Full Report
Find your soulmate / pysch twin

Ugg Boots, MySpace Surveys and uggs by Pulseware Survey Software

Well, I did another personality test that I found at Mich's blog. I enjoy doing such tests, just to see how much I feel it accurately represents me. Take a look at the full report. The only one part I really find accurate is under the Agreeableness section. The rest is fairly accurate, if you take it with a pinch of salt.

Back in the office

There has been a relative lack of activity on this blog in the past couple weeks. Mostly cos I've been out of the office (I do most of my blogging at work), and also because there haven't been any real things I wanted to talk about.

The past week has been pretty busy, but it was fun as I got to run around Singapore and be away from my cubicle. My project last week essentially turned me into a tourguide for a group of Americans, but they were a good bunch of people and I did enjoy myself. I got to see many aspects of Singapore that people usually don't get access to, and I saw many things in a new light. I also realised how little I know about Singapore. And to be honest, I'm more than a little embarassed. My guests constantly asked me questions about certain landmarks, cultural practices, history, and current government policies. And these are things that any one ought to be able to answer.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Here's 20 lame jokes.

1) What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk.
2) Why was the Tomato blushing? Because he saw the salad dressing.
3) A mom, dad and baby tomato are walking down the street and the baby starts to lag behind so the dad goes back and smashes the baby and says "ketchup".
4) How do you catch a squirrel? Climb into a tree and act like a nut.
5) Why are there so many Johnsons in the phone book? They all have phones.
6) What lies at the bottom of the ocean and twitches? A nervous wreck!
7)Why don't cannibals eat comedians? Because they taste funny.
8) What's brown and sticky? A stick.
9) Two sausages are in a pan. One looks at the other and says "god it's hot in here", and the other sausage says "OH MY GOD IT'S A TALKING SAUSAGE!"
10) Did you hear about the cannibal who came home late for dinner and his wife gave him a cold shoulder?
11) Did you hear about the new Barbie doll; it's called Divorce Barbie. She comes with all of Ken's stuff.
12) What's the worst part about eating vegetables? Those damn wheelchairs.
13) How do you top a car? Tep on the brake tupid.
14) What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in the water? Bob.
15) What do you get when you cross an alligator and a railroad track? Three pieces of alligator.
16) Have you ever seen an elephant hiding behind a flower? That means he hides well.
17) What do you do if you see a spaceman? Park your car in it man.
18) How do you catch a rabbitt? Hide behind a tree and make carrot noises.
19) How does it change many dyslexics to take a lightbulb?
20) What did Batman say to Robin before they got in the car? Robin, get in the car.

Always take a photo with Flash...