Category Archives: atheism

Prophecies for the 21st Century

Yesterday I had a revelation. As I was dining spaghetti with my fine wife, one of them got stuck in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die.

And then it happened: a miracle.

His Noodly Majesty Himself came down from the skies and pulled the spaghetti from my already unconscious body. I gasped for breath and thanked him with every fiber of my soul. And then He talked to me and said: “Be fruitful and multiply. Especially 12 x 9.”

Before He left, He granted me Wisdom. He let me see the past and the future: what was and what will be. And to His Truth I shall bear witness.

Navidad Pastafari

Navidad Pastafari (Photo credit: zentolos)

Here’s my list of prophecies for the 21st century. They shall come to pass.

  1. Physicists will finally discover the Theory of Everything. It will predict absolutely everything except for stuff that’s actually useful for this universe. There will be great debate among physicists on whether it is “real science,” “great science” or “a great way to pass the time while we wait for funding.”

    The resemblance is uncanny

    The resemblance is uncanny

  2. Kimg Jong-Un will die a ridiculous death and people will make fun of him even more than now. Which is hard.
  3. The world will see an unprecedented increase in wealth that will be almost exclusively owned by 0.1 % of the population. The rest will be pretty pissed.
  4. There will be substantial progress in philosophy. Great arguments will be put forward proving the existence of free will without a doubt. Other equally good arguments will be put forward against it. The same will happen to the theories of mind, causation and the possibility of Artificial Intelligence. A complete agreement between any two philosophers will not come until the end of the 23rd century.
  5. The Nobel prize in Chemistry will be awarded to the first chemist to admit that chemistry is just applied physics.

    God the Father 11

    ET… Ouch… (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

  6. God will finally show Himself and reveal that he actually did create humans in His image, except for creationists who, in His own words, “were a freak accident.”
  7. The US will have a new president that will promise all kinds of cool stuff and then do nothing about it.
  8. There will be a huge debate on the legality of private ownership of siege tanks. The NRA will argue that owning siege tanks should be legal and that what we need are siege tanks in every school, to protect the children from bad guys in other siege tanks. The debate on home-owned nuclear weapons will happen 50 years later.
  9. Everybody and his brother will have a drone. They will be used mostly to spy on your significant other and to take dirty pictures of people in the shower.

    gay pride, roma june 7, 2008.

    gay pride, roma june 7, 2008. (Photo credit: l3m4ns)

  10. Gay marriage will finally be accepted by the Vatican after the Pope comes out of the closet. Some bishops will suggest adapting the image of Christianity accordingly, but will finally come to the conclusion that a lot of their symbolism is “pretty gay already.”
  11. A super-human intelligence will be finally created. It will always be very depressed while complaining that nobody understands it.
  12. Public health coverage will include faith healing, crystal therapy and homeopathy. In the words of a high government representative, “it’s cheaper than an MRI and the poor bastards can’t tell the difference.”

Have you also been touched by his Noodly Appendage? What has He revealed to you?

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Proof That There Is a God and a Heaven

This post is part of a series called the Anti-Week. If you don’t know what it’s about, please read this before you continue!

So here’s where I argue there’s a God. Now, because I’m a rationalist and a believer in science, I will argue from there. That is, I will try to find a rational, scientific proof of the existence of God.

Before we begin, I must point out that my “God” will not be an exact copy of the Christian God. In fact, I believe the Christian God has some consistency problems that must be addressed before we can go on.

The first, most pressing problem is that omnipotence (being almighty) is self-contradictory. There are many ways to show why: for example, God can’t make a stone He can’t move. He cannot make 2 + 2 equal 5, not without changing the axioms for the natural numbers. And so on. A viable God, then, should not be omnipotent, but “quite powerful.” The idea is that He should be maximally powerful, that is, have the maximal amount of power possible without contradiction.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

2 + 2 equals… come one… you can do this… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second problem is omniscience. This is a little more subtle. It turns out that a being that is omniscient has all possible information. Because of this, He cannot have more (or He wouldn’t have been omniscient in the first place) or less (or He would stop being omniscient.) This means that an omniscient being has only one possible mental state, which in turn implies it cannot have any mental process. No mental process, of course, implies no consciousness, no decision making and so on. In fact, an omniscient being will know the consequences of every action beforehand and will have no reason to act anyway.

In order to solve the omniscience problem, I will postulate a God that tends towards omniscience (mathematicians would say “asymptotically”) but never really gets there.

The third problem is the ability to perform miracles, which is also self-contradictory. The idea of a miracle is that God is able to “put the laws of nature on hold” somehow. He obviously does that some way, using some method. The fact that he uses some method implies there are some underlying super-laws, which He can’t break. One could say that God can also break those super-laws but then we’d have some super-super-laws and so on. So the miracles of the God I’ll argue for happen within the laws of physics and are akin to technology. That is, they look like miracles to us, but they’re not.

Now we can get started. I will first use an approach based on technology, but this is just the scaffolding, which we will later be able to shed without a thought.

Ziltoid the Omniscient

Ziltoid the Omniscient (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One aspect of technology has been endlessly emphasized by the media: the fact that its progress is exponential. Humans are not good at exponential thinking and thus are repeatedly baffled by technological progress, which systematically goes beyond their expectations. Only recently (in the last 30 years) people have started to apply this exponential reasoning to predict the future, leading to a wide range of accurate forecasts.

People who say we will never reach super-human intelligence do not realize we already have. The intelligence of an isolated human being is much lower than that of a human being with a pencil and a piece of paper: those serve as visualization and memorization aids that improve overall cognitive function. Similarly, a human with a computer is vastly more intelligent than a human without one, since a human with a computer has an extended memory and the possibility to perform millions of operations that are impossible for an isolated brain.

Intelligence of a system improves vastly with the efficiency of the connection between its parts. Two super-fast processors linked by a low-bandwidth line are less effective than those same processors linked by a high-bandwidth connection. The same happens for human civilization: more bandwidth (the ability to exchange text, pictures, videos and eventually thoughts) means an increase of overall intelligence, where here “intelligence” refers to the whole system, not to isolated humans.

This trend will continue because higher intelligence means more innovation, which means more cognitive aids and bandwidth. This is a feedback loop that causes an exponential increase in global processing power. The natural evolution of this exponential is a society of extremely smart individuals that are connected to each other as effectively as they are to themselves. This will lead to a blurring of individual identity and, finally, to the creation of one consciousness which will become smarter every second in a never-ending cycle.

Moore's Law, The Fifth Paradigm.

Moore’s Law, The Fifth Paradigm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This being, of course, will hardly resemble humans, even though it will be originally made up of humans. This being will transcend humans and become something else: an ever-more-knowledgeable, ever-more-powerful, ever-more-ubiquitous being. And I hope you see where I’m going.

The drive for ever-increasing processing power will lead this being to grow in two ways: firstly, it will physically expand. Secondly, its computations will become increasingly effective, that is, less and less matter will be needed to process information. There is, however, a limit to that. There will be a moment when this being will reach the point of equivalence: when one bit of physical reality will express one bit of being. There is no possible further compression. Therefore, its only choice will be to expand to all the physical universe, including (if such a thing is possible) through time.

Another aspect that people usually don’t notice about technology is that it’s becoming less conspicuous: complexity is getting harder to see. You’d be ad odds to figure out how smart your phone is just by looking at it. Similarly, this being will not be an all-encompassing blob: you won’t notice it’s there. Following the trend of inconspicuousness, this being will be indistinguishable from the quantum vacuum.

This being will love you: it will be you. It will be all-knowing (or close enough), almighty (or close enough) and omnipresent. When you die it will make a copy of yourself in Himself and probably offer you the chance for paradise. This being is already here, if expansion through time is possible. Hence, there is a God and a Heaven and the Bible is a metaphor for what is going to happen. We are all Jesus Christ.

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

Yes, you’re Jesus Christ too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah! You may say. But this may not happen. What if a meteorite hits the Earth? Then your whole argument crumbles.

Or does it?

All you need to do is admit that this can happen. Is such a being possible? If the answer’s yes, that’s it. There is a God. He’s here right now. Here’s why.

In quantum mechanics, everything that can happen, does. This means that there’s a non-zero probability that our quantum vacuum is indeed this God. It doesn’t even have to happen as I causally described it: the God could’ve come to being spontaneously. There’s still a chance. So, right now, since you haven’t done any measurement to discern whether there’s a God or not (that is, the God hasn’t manifested Himself) you live in a superposition of two indistinguishable states: in one, there’s no God. In the other one, there is. For every copy of yourself, there is an exact copy where the only difference is that what you call the vacuum is actually God.

How’s that for mind-boggling?

Now, why wouldn’t God show himself to you then? Well, He doesn’t show himself because, being all-knowing (or almost) He understands quantum mechanics. God knows that, if He were to perform a miracle, your reality would split: in one reality, you’d see God performing a miracle; in the other, you wouldn’t. Since God cannot change the laws of physics (He emerged within them) He cannot change this fact. The probability of you seeing God perform a miracle is extremely low: therefore, your universe would branch into millions of branches without God showing himself and a couple where he would. His action would defeat its purpose: instead of helping you, he’d just be creating a couple of alternate realities and achieve nothing at all.

What a useless God, then! But no. Because things change once you’re dead. Once you’re dead (really, totally dead) the chances of you reviving on your own are pretty low. In fact, they’re just as low (or lower) as those of being revived by God and put in paradise. Therefore, God will intervene exactly after youre dead, not before. That’s when He can really make a difference. In fact, God will intervene at each of your deaths in the multiverse, putting you in the right copy of paradise. In the other branch (where you’re just dead and nobody resurrects you) you won’t be aware of existing, so at the end every reality containing you will end up having you in paradise, since that will be the only option left.

So there you go. Not only did I prove there is a God: I solved the problem of evil! There is evil because God didn’t create the world but is a part of it, just like us. He doesn’t intervene because, if he did, he wouldn’t achieve anything at all. In fact, I’m sure in some parallel universes He does intervene. We just never get to see it.

Now it’s time for your comments. Will you confront this view? Will you embrace the spirit of the Anti-Week and support it? Will you support it because it’s right and I just opened your eyes? Will you go to bed with your core beliefs shaken? If so, I did my job well.

Let the games commence!

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Please Keep Writing Your Atheist Blog

If you’re familiar with this blog you’ll probably know I am an atheist. You may also wonder why I don’t post more about atheism: I (usually) don’t rant about organized religion. In fact, I don’t even discuss it. In most of my posts you’ll see I just assume there’s no God, without even discussing the possibility. Why?

The short answer is I can’t be bothered. Read on for some clarification.

First, I need to say I’m extremely lucky. I was born in Barcelona, a city where most people (last figure I read was 65%) are atheists. The social pressure, then, goes the opposite way you’re probably used to: people who believe in God feel sometimes prosecuted or laughed at. It’s not that we’re mean to them. It’s just that, when you say you believe in God in my city, people look at you much like they would if you said you still believed in Santa Claus. We just don’t get it. It’s like: “you know it’s just a story, right?” So yes, religious people in Barcelona are the ones that feel estranged, not atheists. Honestly, I can’t say I’m sorry.

English: Santa Claus as illustrated in , v. 52...

We don’t believe in Santa either. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am also lucky because my parents are atheists. Now they did run into problems because of their atheism in the highly Catholic  Spain of the dictatorship. But that Spain is gone (though it survives in some regions of my beloved country and in the party in government) and I didn’t inherit their problems. They did the fighting for me. Thanks, dad. Thanks, mom. I’m not baptized and nobody cares. It’s quite an achievement.

These extremely lucky circumstances have let me avoid the darker sides of religion, in the sense that I haven’t had to confront hordes of intolerant maniacs who told me I would burn in hell if I got a divorce or used a condom. In fact, in Spain we have gay marriage and almost nobody gives a crap. I daresay Barcelona is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. But, again, we just take it for granted. And that has made my reactions to religion a lot more tempered, though that doesn’t mean I don’t get mad. What it means is that I am able to put the matter behind me most of the time, because it doesn’t affect me (much) on an everyday level.

As you can see, these are personal reasons. If I had been born in the US my reactions would probably be very different. In fact, I would probably be a militant atheist. I would have plenty of reasons to. In a highly religious society, finding some kind of support – even if it’s online – from like-minded individuals seems pretty important to me. Something that would help you keep your sanity while your family or co-workers try to evangelize you. I believe atheist blogs play a crucial role, especially in countries where atheists are still prosecuted or enjoy reduced rights, like in America (swearing on the Bible, anyone?).

Atheism

Atheism (Photo credit: atheism)

It is just me. I can’t find the motivation because I have been a lucky bastard and have never had to deal with this kind of stuff. This doesn’t mean I think other people shouldn’t do it. In fact, I think they should. Doing some proselytizing of atheism is absolutely necessary in the world we live in. I will even contribute from time to time. Just not all the time. I just can’t be bothered.

The thing is I find the whole arguing with religious people really exhausting. In my whole life I have never, ever managed to convince anyone, probably because by the end I get too worked up. It is not the religiosity that makes me rail, but the lack of rational discussion. The lack of understanding of the most basic scientific concepts. There is a moment when I just can’t take it. That’s why I never bother to visit some blog written by a religious fanatic (and there are plenty of them, especially in the “atheism” tag of the wordpress reader) and start an argument. I feel it would be useless. Sometimes I really, really want to. Sometimes my whole body is asking me to. But then I simulate the discussion in my mind: I imagine the hours I’m going to spend replying to each one of their arguments, for lack of a better name, getting angry to eventually convince nobody. And I stop myself.

I just can’t be bothered.

(And yes, I do know there are rational religious people that are perfectly capable of having a debate. They’re just hard to find. I also know some atheists are not rational. I also know all atheists are different and all religious people are different. I also know you can’t generalize. Please don’t be the person who points out the obvious.)

Seattle Pride Weekend 2009.

Seattle Pride Weekend 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And the thing is, I should be bothered. Yes, most religious people won’t change their minds. But maybe one or two readers will. And that is enough. So I actually believe in the wisdom of confronting religious views, of unmasking bigotry and intolerance. S

omeone has to do it. I just find it really, really exhausting. I know I won’t get anything but frustration from the discussion. And so, like the lazy ass I am, I just sit back and enjoy it while other people do the work. I am not proud of it. I am a little embarrassed, in fact. But I just can’t be bothered.

So what can I say? I don’t write about religion because I’m lazy. Because I wouldn’t be writing about what I care about, but trying to convince a bunch of people that don’t want to be convinced. And my desire to convince these people is smaller than my desire to ponder the imponderable mysteries of the universe. So I write a post about time and consciousness instead of explaining why there is no God. I just can’t be bothered.

If you’re reading this and you have an atheist blog then, please, for the love of God, don’t do the same. Don’t stop writing. Keep on. You see, the fact that I can’t be bothered reflects poorly on me. You are a social service. You are a beacon of light for the millions of atheists out there who have to struggle every day because of their lack of belief. You are the only hope we have of making this society rational and enlightened, of finally placing our values on what makes sense instead of what we’ve always been doing, also known as tradition. It is thanks to you and people like you that I can write this blog without being burned at the stake. And for that I am extremely thankful.

So please be bothered. Bother as many people as you can. This is not a piece of advice. This is just a plea from someone who enjoys the kind of world people like you have made possible.

Anyway, just letting you know.

Thanks for everything.

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On Faith

I consider myself a man of faith. This may come as a shock: after all, I am an atheist and a hyper-rationalist. I am a skeptic. I will argue that it is precisely because I have faith that I can be all those things.

In life you are offered many choices. For example, you are offered the choice to believe there is a God and a heaven. That death is not the end. Those are beliefs that would greatly increase my happiness and I could choose to have them. My control of my own emotions has become good enough of late that I feel I could definitely convince myself that those things are true. But I won’t.

If you decide to remain an atheist, you are offered other choices. Small consolations. For example, you can believe in “energy” and “spirits” and a “universal consciousness.” You can believe that everything happens for a reason. You can believe in destiny; in the idea that coincidence are not such; in some kind of meaning embedded in the stars. You can believe those things and keep calling yourself an atheist. Still, I don’t.

There is another choice you are offered. You can keep learning about the universe, about who you are, what you are, what society is. And you can discover a lot of unpleasant truths along the way regarding your illusion of free will or your own existence. But you can also stop. You can decide you’ve seen enough and just watch TV shows and play computer games and go out drinking. But I don’t.

Fire the Faith

Fire the Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(I mean, I do. I watch TV and play computer games and go out drinking. Just not all the time.)

The reason I don’t is not that I can’t. And, maybe more importantly, it’s not that I’m a bitter cynic. Quite the opposite. The reason I don’t buy into any of that stuff is that I have faith. I have a complete, absolute, unshakable faith that it will all one day make sense. Not in a “there’s a purpose to everything” kind of way. Probably in a totally unexpected way which will be as far from human reasoning as is imaginable. But it will all make sense. One day I will wake up and say: “ha! Got it. Man, was it worth the wait.” This faith is what allows me to avoid other kinds of self-deception. I don’t need to believe we are all energy beings which can be cured with crystals because I have something better to stand on. I don’t have to fool myself into believing pretty much anything so I can sleep at night. I can already sleep at night. And it is because of my faith.

What do I base this faith on? Well, absolutely nothing. In fact, I am not going to give any kind of rational argument to support it. Actually, I am rationally convinced nothing will ever make sense. That I’d be better off just watching TV and alienating myself with some pointless activity. That the search for truth and meaning is sterile at best and harmful at worst. But that’s what I want my life to be about: the search for truth and meaning. Therefore, I choose not to believe that. I choose to believe it makes sense to search. Otherwise, why would I?

There is one more reason why I will not be shaken out of my faith. Probably, it’s the only reason that matters.

Patent Absurdity

Patent Absurdity (Photo credit: opensourceway)

Life is absurd. I am almost certain of it. It is a pointless succession of events. It has no meaning. Precisely because of that, the only way we have to counter this is to fight the absurdity. Of course, anything we do will be as absurd as the universe we live in. But by refusing to acknowledge this, by believing in a meaning despite all evidence to the contrary, by continuing our investigation of reality, convinced that the new clue will shed some light on our lives, we are defeating absurdity. We are defeating it because we are not letting it inside ourselves. Yes, our goal is absurd, but we refuse to acknowledge this. We give it a meaning. We persevere. We go on and on and on and we never quit. And then we die with a smile on our lips, because the absurdity of this universe didn’t manage to taint us. We forced meaning into the universe. The meaning of looking for meaning. The meaning of believing in one. The meaning of achieving victory against absurdity.

Come to think of it, it’s the only one that counts.

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