The Golden Rule

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

A very famous quote from Luke in the bible, but also stated by a ton of philosophers throughout history. This is the Ethic of Reciprocity, but is more commonly referred to as “The Golden Rule.”

While I don’t have a problem with this idea, I do feel it is too universal of a statement. I would tend to agree more with:

“Do unto strangers as you would have them do unto you, but do unto friends as they would want done unto them.”

What is missing from the original is the acknowledgment of the “other’s” personal feelings and preferences. If you’re dealing with someone you know nothing about, it is a good universal principal to treat them how you would want to be treated.

However, if you know something about the person, you should take that into account before doing anything unto them.

For example, your friend doesn’t like anyone to touch them when they’re upset. Even though you might feel better when someone gives you a hug when you’re upset, you wouldn’t give them a hug because you know it’s not what they want.

It’s very important to take someone else’s personal preferences and feelings into account before applying the golden rule because not everyone wants the same things in every situation.

Nothing complicated here, just an examination and specification of a very old principle.

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Religion is Proof of Evolution

There’s a terrible rumor going around amongst religious people which states that evolution is “just a theory”. Well gravity is a theory also and you don’t see people floating away, do you? The truth is that evolution is the most natural occurrence in the world. It is everywhere you look, and the most ironic place to look is religion itself.

The basic principle of evolution is natural selection, survival of the fittest. The world has seen a countless number of religions and gods, but at this point in time, there are very few commonly practiced religions left. It is very uncommon to meet someone who worships Zeus, but very common to meet someone who worships Jesus or Allah. That is because these religions were the “fittest” religions and were able to survive through many different times in many different places and cultures.

I often hear people discussing how these “big three” religions are designed to control people, but I have a major issue with that statement. Just as humans were not designed, neither were these religions. They have changed throughout the years, and by adapting so well, they have survived. This is why it is so hard to argue with a religious person. Their religion has survived for thousands of years because it has been tested relentlessly and come out in one piece.

I see no reason to get too technical with examples because I think this is a very simple concept, as long as you understand how evolution works. Try telling a creationist that their religion is proof of evolution, their head might explode.

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The Unattainable Abilities of Time and Space Travel

There are two very unique concepts that have been debated over by scientists, philosophers, and common people for quite some time. I’m referring to the possibility of time travel and the existence of intelligent life on other planets. Although very different, they each have a common argument against them that is hard to dispute:

“If there is such thing as either, why have we not been visited by people from the future or extraterrestrials?”

As far as time travel goes, the question is very simple. If time travel is possible, at least one person would eventually travel back to our time, or some point in the past. We would not have to wait around for them because they are not restricted by time as we are. If at any point in the future, any species figures out how to travel through time, we should have theoretically seen them already.

A very similar argument is raised with the question of extraterrestrials. If there is intelligent life on other planets, there has to be at least one life form that began advancing in space technology long before us. If this is the case, they should have figured out how to reach us by now. Even if not by physically coming to Earth, then at least with some sort of signal that we can receive. But, just as we haven’t been contacted by people from the future, so haven’t we been contacted by extraterrestrials.

So again, we find ourselves asking “why not?” Well, the simpler of the two explanations is that of time travel, and so that is where I will begin.

In order to create a “time machine” (I put that idea in quotes because time travel might not require a machine at all), technology needs to be extremely advanced. At the very least, it needs to be more advanced than anything any of us have ever seen. To achieve such technology, a few things are necessary: First, there needs to be a species that is capable of reasoning. Second, there needs to be enough time for that species to evolve to a point of understanding such a concept. Finally, third, there needs to be enough of the correct resources to create the technology.

No one knows for sure how life began on Earth, but we do know how humans became such intelligent creatures, and that is by means of evolution. Evolution is a wonderful process in that it creates some incredible species, but it has its share of side-effects. Natural selection allows the “fittest” organisms to survive and pass on their genes. By fit, I only mean fit to survive long enough to reproduce though. Because of this, people have some primitive qualities to ensure survival. Since survival is so important, war is inevitable because there aren’t enough resources for everyone; competition is only natural.

Another side-effect of evolution is religion. Proof that religion is a natural first explanation for our world is that completely isolated civilizations from all different points in time, all around the world, have come to this same conclusion. That does not mean it is the correction explanation, only that it is the most primitive explanation. Once this idea has entered a civilization, it is extremely hard to get rid of it. Through evolution, children are very malleable and gullible. They need to be in order to survive, since a child who does not believe their parents who warn them of cliffs will just walk off one and find out. At this point, is already too late to pass on their genes. At a young age, parents teach their children the ideas of their religions and naturally, the children believe them. This cycle is a very difficult one to break.

As people get more and more intelligent, we discover and create new technology. Much of this technology is very beneficial to the species, but others are only beneficial to individuals and not the species as a whole. I’m talking about weapons of war. As technology increases, so does the effectiveness of weapons. This probably would not happen if there were no wars, but because of our survival instincts, war is inevitable. Now add religion into the equation and war is not only inevitable, but also perpetual and extraordinarily dangerous. Certain religions tell their followers that dying in the name of your religion will promise an eternity of bliss in the after-life. This goes against evolution by eliminating the fear of death and need for survival.

In the past, these by-products of evolution were not detrimental to the world as a whole because the fighting was more localized. If there was a war or any type of conflict, it did not affect people halfway around the world. However, as technology improves, the weapons it creates are no longer compatible with our natural survival instincts. The best example is the invention of nuclear weapons. In 1938, Albert Einstein figured out how to split an atom, which was a process that could be used to generate power. Instead, it was immediately implemented in the invention of the atom bomb. By 1945, the first atom bomb was dropped, and the world would never be the same. Einstein later admitted that his greatest mistake was urging President Roosevelt to begin the construction of such a weapon.

Keep in mind, this devastating weapon was invented in the age of radios. We now live in the age of iPods, and our weapons can easily destroy the world if ever used. What kind of weapons would exist in the age of “time machines”?

Here’s my theory:

The reason we have never been visited by people from the future is not because time travel is impossible, but rather because no species ever survives to the point where their technology is great enough to attain it. This is definitely the case for humans, but humans are only a product of evolution. There is no way for a species to advance to the point where they can create a “time machine” without first evolving. By the very definition of evolution, this species will have a survival instinct, war, and religious motivation. Couple this with modern weapons and we have a recipe for disaster. It is actually somewhat of a paradox.

As far as space travel goes, extraterrestrials would have to evolve by these same standards to get to the point where their technology is advanced enough to contact us by ship or any other means. They haven’t contacted us for the same reason we have not contacted them, and for the same reason we will never travel through time: we will destroy ourselves before we ever get the chance.

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A Simple Argument Against The Supernatural

I’m going to make this very brief. Things such as God and the soul are argued to not exist because they cannot be detected by our senses (even with the aid of instruments.) However, the counter-argument is that just because something is undetectable by the senses, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. But what do you call something that can’t be detected by the senses? Nonsense. How fitting.

Note: If you really believe that I’m stating this as a well thought out argument, you need to loosen up and find a sense of humor.

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An Introduction to the Religion of Holideism

Every holiday, people always say something to the effect of “happy holidays, or whatever you celebrate.” Although I do celebrate certain holidays such as Christmas and Easter, I in no way believe in the reasons which the holidays are celebrated. To me, the only reason I enjoy holidays is because there’s usually some sort of dinner, party, or family gathering.

I think a lot of people feel this way too. So what do we call people like us?

Theism is the belief in a god or gods. Deism is the belief in natural religion without a personal god. Neither of these apply to me. What I really believe in is Holideism.

As a Holideist, I celebrate whatever holiday it happens to be at the time. Whichever religion is celebrating a holiday is my religion for the day. Whichever god is throwing the party is my god for the day. Some may call it opportunism, but I call it Holideism.

Of course, if the holiday requires something such as fasting, that’s a holiday I choose to skip. What reason do I have to make a sacrifice for a religion I don’t believe in? Which brings up another point: I’m celebrating the holidays, but still not believing (or even claiming to believe) in the religion of that holiday. Once again, you can call it being a phony, but I call it being a Holideist.

I hope any of you who were feeling some cognitive dissonance on religious holidays will find this to be a comforting title. The next time someone says “happy holidays, or whatever it is that you celebrate”, just say “all of them! I’m a Holideist.”

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God Has Low Self-Esteem

A question that has been pondered for thousands of years is “why are we here?”. No one really knows why life exists, or even why the universe exists for that matter. There have been plenty of explanations for the “how”, but the “why” is just a mystery.

One very popular explanation for why we are here is that there is a god who put us here. This god is so not just any god, but the one and only god. For this reason, we spell his name with a capital “G” (God).

God is omniscient (all-wise), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnibenevolent (all-good). It’s safe to say that there is no being, force, or entity that is greater than God. However, if God exists, he put us here and there must be a reason… but what reason is that?

Well let’s examine what he asks of us. First, there are 10 commandments, which are rules that human beings must live by. This is a great idea, except that he didn’t give them to us at the beginning. He waited until everything got out of hand, and then decided to give them to Moses.

The first commandment states:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

  • Before mentioning anything about how people shouldn’t kill each other, or steal, he mentions that people can only have him as a god. This shows, right away, where his priorities lie. It comes off as a bit selfish and jealous. What should it matter to such a supreme being if the people he created worship him or not? It seems like an awfully petty issue for a god to be concerned with.

Since this first commandment doesn’t seem to help anyone besides God, let’s move on to the second:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

  • God is a jealous god who wants everyone to love him? That doesn’t sound like a description of the greatest being in the universe, it sounds more like an insecure teenage girl. What reason would such a being have to be jealous if that being is all-knowing, and knows there is no being greater than him? Also, notice he still hasn’t mentioned anything about killing or stealing because he just keeps talking about himself.

Let’s move on to the third, and hope that there is a something useful coming up:

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

  • Here, God is still giving instructions regarding himself, except this time sounds more like a little kid who is getting made fun of because his name sounds funny. Would it really matter to someone who had high self-esteem if someone used their name in vain? How is this arbitrary rule more important than making sure people don’t kill each other?

The fourth commandment is as follows:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

  • Now God wants us to set one day aside each week to worship him. This sounds similar to a girlfriend or wife who complains that her boyfriend or husband doesn’t compliment her enough. If this girl ruled the universe, I’m sure she would want everyone to spend 52 days each year gathering to compliment her too.

After the fourth commandment, God finally mentions that people can’t kill each other, steal from each other, and commit adultery. These things seem to be way too low on the list, but at least they eventually make the list.

Then comes a very surprising tenth commandment:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

  • Thou shalt not covet? Isn’t that the same as saying thou shalt not be jealous? It’s almost as if God thinks we might have forgotten that he just told us how jealous he is in the second commandment. There might as well be an eleventh commandment that says “Thou shalt do as I say, not as I do.”

It’s amazing how half of the commandments are there to ensure that God’s feelings are never hurt, when “Thou shalt not rape” is completely left off the list.

So if there is a God, why did he create us? According to his list of rules he’s given us, it sounds like he created us to make him feel better about himself. He’s the most powerful being imaginable, yet he created human beings in order to have them worship him.

I am nowhere near as great as God is said to be, yet still I would never need as much reassurance as he requests. If the all-mighty God exists, and his ten commandments are true, then he is absolutely the most insecure being I have ever heard of.

UPDATE: Comedian Louis C.K. touched on this very subject on his new show “Louie” – check it out!

God Bless Yourself

Whenever someone sneezes, people are typically obligated to say “God bless you”, or some form of it, to be polite. Ever wonder why? There are several reasons, and none of them really matter for the purpose of this article.

The real question is: Why do the people who happen to be nearby when someone else sneezes obligated to say anything at all? Shouldn’t the burden be placed on the person who sneezed?

When someone burps, farts, yawns, or engages in any other bodily functions that disrupt the area they’re occupying, they say “excuse me”. Somehow, sneezing separated itself from the rest of these bodily functions though, and switched from being a disruption to something that deserves a blessing from God. This despite the fact that it’s really the only bodily function besides coughing that spreads illness to innocent bystanders.

Am I overreacting? Absolutely. But this is just one of those things that I think shouldn’t be passed on to the next generation. No, it doesn’t hurt anybody, but it’s inconsistent and pointless, which is enough reason for me to wish to phase it out of our etiquette.

Do You Believe in a God?

I cringe whenever I hear someone ask “Do you believe in God?”. There’s something very wrong with that question, it’s missing a simple letter – “A”.

It’s much more appropriate to ask “Do you believe in a god” or “any gods”.

Why? Asking someone if they believe in God basically assumes that God exists. You wouldn’t ask “Do you believe in Leprechaun?” or “Do you believe in Fairy?”.

There are tons of gods (Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Zeus, etc.), so why are we asking if someone believes in God? I’m even fine with “Do you believe in Jesus?” because at least it’s specifying which god the person’s talking about.

Also, this makes any atheists seem crazy because the question itself implies that there is such a being as God. It’s almost a trick question.

I don’t like to get caught up in language, or taking offense at silly words, but this is one exception I’ll make. The day someone asks me if I believe in any gods, I’ll faint, get up, tell them no and thank them for finally getting the question right.

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Wanting to Want and Liking to Believe

We’ve all wanted things, wanted to be things, wanted to have things. However, there are certain situations where some people actually “want to want” something.

The prime example of this is wanting to want the opposite sex. Many people are afraid of the possibility of being homosexual. In almost every other situation, you decide what you want by your feelings. In this situation, though, people sometimes don’t use their feelings to decide what they want. They base it instead on what they “want to want”. Even if a man is attracted to men, he may date a woman because he wants to be attracted to women.

Can you think of any other situation where this happens? It’s pretty silly actually. You wouldn’t eat chicken instead of steak because you want to be in the mood for chicken, even though you’re really in the mood for steak. Of course, this situation is unique because of the negative view on homosexuality in society. If there was no stigma attached, there would be no reason to “want to want”.

The other thing people tend to do is “like to believe”.

The example here is religion. This term is thrown around constantly with religion. If you ask a religious person what happens when they die, or if a god exists, they start their sentence with “well I like to believe” the majoirty of the time.

You’ll often hear things like “Well I like to believe that when you die, you go to heaven and you see all your family members that have passed” or “I like to believe that God watches down on all of us and listens to my prayers and has a plan for us all” or “I like to believe that everything happens for a reason”.

But when else would this line work? In every other situation, you believe the thing with the most evidence. You wouldn’t say “I like to believe my bank account has a trillion dollars in it” or “I like to believe that I have eight arms” because it’s far fetched and there’s no proof of it. If someone said any of these things to you, you would laugh at them and think they were crazy. If they said they like to believe their god has a trillion dollars and eight arms though, you would smile and nod, and “respect their belief”.

Let’s be a little bit more consistent as a society. Let’s want what we want and believe that which has the most evidence. Oh yeah, and if anyone tells you they like to believe something that’s crazy, let’s stop pretending they’re not crazy. Religion isn’t an excuse, crazy is crazy.

Faith is Polite

Most people throughout history have had a belief in some sort of god. This is true throughout most time periods and most cultures. So how is it that so many people from so many places could have such similar beliefs? I think it’s a matter of having manners.

When someone gives us something, or does something nice for us, it’s natural to say “thank you”. But who can you thank for the world we live in? If we don’t know who to thank, then we feel guilty for just accepting this gift. To ease this guilt, we thank a supreme being for giving it to us.

The flip-side to this would be blame, of course. If something goes wrong, it must have happened for a reason. Someone needs to be responsible for an untimely death. It’s too hard to accept bad things happening without a reason. So we blame the same supreme being who gave us this life for taking it away. This is a very emotionally pleasing system, but that doesn’t make it true.