Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes we can


This is huge.

Bigger than that he's better on healthcare, jobs, or security

The most intelligent and honest candidate won.

A man who's first impulse is to bring us all together to solve our problems

We finally have a leader who speaks to the better angels of our nature

This is history.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thank goodness for Dennett

Prof. Daniel Dennett is a noted atheist and author.  Someone forwarded me this link, which is Dennett's reflection after having major surgery.  He spends some time talking about the people who helped him get through an often fatal emergency.  He does a lot of thanking, but he only thanks people who really exist.   

All snark aside, it's a moving tribute to everybody who makes health care possible.

And, because he's Daniel Dennett, the rest of the article is a excellent reflection on the place of science, and the issue of 'faith' in medicine.

Enough from me, go read it:

Oh, and be sure to vote!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

And Elvis didn't do no drugs...

I love Penn and Teller

Here's their take on the Bible.  Because you're on this blog, you will either enjoy it or be horribly offended

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

One note on the gentleman who thinks the 10 commandments are clearly the forebearers of our lawfulness.  Hitchens loves to point out, that this interpretation demands that one believes that all humans living before that point in history were murdering and coveting and stealing from one another.  And that they thought it was okay.  Don't we have more self respect than that.  

Friday, September 26, 2008

Religious Experiences for All!

Hi, Sorry for the lack of material lately. I've been insanely busy and my blogging has suffered. I received a comment today, I thought I'd bring the conversation to the main page.

A supreme being does not need to correct the very natural laws he has brought into existence. Religion aside, I find the very fact that a single event caused this very nature, with all its complexity, to exist to be quite fascinating.
If "sin" is to be redefined in non-religious terms then it would be taking a something such as self-consciousness for granted.
I find it amazing that the non-relgious go so adamantly about attacking faith and praising knowledge. Faith and knowledge are inseparable. One has to "believe" one's consciousness to "know" that one does exist. One has to "believe" one's senses to "know" that there is a reality external to oneself. In that sense, one's whole perception of the world is a "belief".
The religious premise is that there is yet another reality not accessible to the senses but is accessible to directly to the consciousness; the very thing that chooses to believe of the existence of self and the trustworthiness of the senses. Those who have experienced the presence of the supreme being report it as being perceived directly by their consciousness thus bypassing their senses; and they do report the perception of a reality external to themselves. One could call them crazy, one could call them delusional, one could also call them liars but I have yet to hear a reasonable proof that such experience cannot exist without proving that the very existence of any external reality can be a delusion.
If you have never had such an experience there is nothing that anybody can tell you about religion, or a supreme being that will convince you. If you had that experience, however, and chose to discount it as a delusion then I would very much like to know why you trust your perception of any other reality more than that experience. At the end, one could always choose not to believe in the existence of a supreme being. But, technically speaking, one will never be able to claim being non-religious. There is always the very primitive religion; a belief in the existence of oneself and the existence of an external reality.
And here is my Reply
Hello, thanks for posting.

Certainly the existence of our conscious minds is improbable. But does it really require faith to believe you exist? If it does, than it is not the same faith that is required to believe something which cannot be seen nor touched nor experienced by a sense of any physical sort. That is, you are equivocating in your use of the word “faith”. For example, I have, in a sense, ‘faith’ that the entity to whom I am now replying is a human being accessing the internet. Is it possible that an alien, or a cat or god himself has typed this message to me? Maybe. But my belief in your nature is based on my knowledge of the world around me. In a hundred years, if we have sentient computers and alien visitors my assumption would be invalid. When you say that I have faith in my senses, this is the sort of ‘faith’ I think you mean. But believing something for good reason isn’t faith. At least this isn’t faith in the religious sense. In Hebrews, Paul describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen”. Now Paul didn’t know about microscopes and waves and so forth so don’t get caught up on the literal ramifications of ‘unseen’. Faith, in a religious context then is belief for which no tangible evidence can be provided, for Paul the faith is the evidence in and of itself.

On a brief tangent, the reasoning in this area of can become both circular and nasty. In psychology we talk about a patient’s investment in a problem. Once you are asked to make large sacrifices or shown negative consequences, you are more likely to persist in a destructive behavior (loving your fraternity after they haze you, or staying in a failing business venture). What then can we make of the matter of faith in 1 Corinthians 15 “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”. What terror the men of Corinth must have felt when they heard these words.

So I disagree vigorously with your use of the word faith to define the everyday occurrence of taking for granted the obvious and natural state of our humanity while using it also (correctly) to define an intangible belief. To refer to the acknowledgement of one’s existence as a “primitive religion” is absurd because to lack such an acknowledgement is a sign of serious mental derangement.

Now, the most interesting thing you have said is about religious experiences. Let me make another assumption (call it ‘faith’ if you like), that you are a monotheist. You believe that there is only one god, namely yours. So then, let me surprise you by saying I have had religious experiences. I do not count myself crazy. Nor do I count other Christians as crazy for having the same experiences. What about Muslims with religious experiences? What of the archangel giving the prophet the Koran? Were all the religious people of the polytheistic cultures crazy? I don’t think so, do you? They too speak of religious experiences, of oracles and shamans. They are infidels to you and you are atheistic to their gods, but your defense of religious experience defends them too. If a religious experience is proof of the validity of faith, why don’t you worship at the altar of Zeus? Of course that would be absurd. You want to show me Christian (if that is your faith) experiences to prove Christian truth. You cannot have it both ways. I readily admit religious experiences happen and are powerful subjective occurrences. However, one of two things must follow from this. Either such experiences are open to all people, are a part of our consciousness and mean prove nothing because of their very spread across religious traditions throughout human history. Or somehow they prove the validity of faith. This is what you might wish were true but it is unlikely. People of all faiths can have such experiences but for them all to be valid is impossible.

How can the ancient pantheons be reconciled with the demands of the monotheist? How can the three monotheists reconcile amongst themselves? How can the denominations within them be reconciled? They cannot. Zeus cannot exist if Yahweh exists. Gentile Jesus and Islam’s Allah cannot both exist, they contradict each other directly! If people of any faith, of any denomination, of any number of gods can have a religious experience, then such experiences cease to be about religion. If you wish to study such phenomena I suggest you study people instead.

to anon: Feel free to contribute more in the comment section of this post.
to the rest of you: Jump in as well, if you like

Friday, August 8, 2008

Let your voice be heard

Hi there folks,
I'm just peaking my head in to drop off a survey. It concerns a topic that I wonder about when considering my Coptic brethren.

What do you think about evolution? What do you think it means and why do you feel the way you do?

Head over to and let them know what's on your mind

I signed up to receive the results of the survey and I'll discuss them here when they come out.

Have at it!


Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I've had this conversation with theists as a thought experiment. This version is way funnier.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I received a question via email, and I don't have a good answer. So I'll post it here, maybe one of you will be able to add something.

The sender wants to know if there is a group, in whatever form, of Copts turned atheist.

My gut feeling is "no" because the title of this blog came from me googling "coptic atheist" to try and find someone like me. After dealing with that for a while, I started blogging. Anyway, if you have any other ideas, post in the comments.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Christianity is unoriginal and so am I

Well I haven't been posting because I've been insanely busy. I do occasionally get to read other blogs. My admiration for The Friendly Atheist is no secret. He posted a great video, it shows the parallels between the origin of Christianity and earlier pagan faiths. It all rolls back to one of my central thesis: that the concept of religion is laughable when we look at it through the lens of human history.

So if you think that you are so very clever for worshiping the son of a virgin, born in winter, who died, was buried, and arose from the dead, there's some bad news. You are quite unoriginal.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sad news, but a silver lining

Hey there, sorry about the dearth of posting lately, I've been crazy busy. That's why they invented blackberrys. And coffee breaks. Don't tell anyone... Enjoy!

A new study demonstrated a negative correlation between spirituality and performance in law school.

Which means that people who identified as religious tended to do worse than those who didn't. And it was more predictive of a bad law student than either low LSATS or low undergrad GPA.

Not having read the actual thing I couldn't comment as to validity. That aside, it's an interesting topic. I've always wondered what kind of people (personality types, etc) "make it" in different fields. I'd like to see some studies on med students.

Another study has found that frankincense smoke "
activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression".

Wow, another whole reason religious people are so happy. It also explains the pleasant smile on that incense dude at the mall. Ok, maybe he's just stoned.

So basically all you copts inhaling the shoria (censer) every week are getting a free dose of prosac, sweet! (OK, in reality they did the study with an isolate of a chemical in the resin. And they did it on mice. Must I always let science stand in the way of a good joke?)

So in short, if you're really religious you will flunk out of law school. But at least you'll be happy

Take care

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I love cartoons, a lot

Ok, one more, this one might be my favorite,

I love cartoons

I've posted cartoons here before, atheism + cartoon = win.

"Atheist Eve" is by Tracie Harris in Austin Texas. I just discovered these and they're great. I enjoy the snarky, wordy cartoons she does. I'll post three that I really like. I'm still going through them so I won't declare favorites just yet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where do atheists come from?

I read an interesting article that I thought I'd share. Kieran Bennett looked at a repository of deconversion stories to determine common reasons Christians deconvert.

I've posted my own deconversion story here before. As I thought, my story is far from unique. I fall into a few of the categories laid out over there. It's a thought provoking read, no matter what your perspective on faith.

Oh, and I have to thank the Friendly Atheist for the link, let me do so by linking you to a great post of his from a while back, 18 Unconvincing Arguments for God

take care,
The Coptic Atheist

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hitchens at his best

Christopher Hitchens is one of my favorite speakers. He's also a very accomplished author, I just haven't gotten around to reading any of his books [I guess that makes me close minded ;)]. Here someone has taken what I assume is the opening statement to a debate and replaced the video with illustrative pictures. Pretty cool, and a good study break for this busy apostate. Enjoy.

Part One

Part Two

Monday, May 5, 2008

Still on Hiatus (kinda)

Hi there. So while I'm still away from home, I did manage duck into an hourly internet joint to reply to some comments. Check out my replies to comments on Hiatus for Heathens and A call for evidence. I'll be back up an running soon.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Hiatus for heathens

I'll be going on hiatus for a bit. I might have time to sneak in one more post, we'll see.

I just wanted to put this up so that the 3 of you (that may be stretching it :)) who read this thing don't miss me terribly.

I also wanted to invite any of you who want me to tackle a specific topic to email me. Questions (about me, atheism, whatever) are fine too. In fact I've tried to get in contact with one person who wrote me a question, I'm still waiting for a response (if this sounds like you, check your email).

I'll keep your name confidential and all that good stuff.

Take care


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Appeal to Celebrity

As I am a great lover of argument and debate (perhaps I should have been an atheist law student...) I try to keep my mind sharp enough to spot logical fallacies.

Appeal to celebrity is just such a fallacy, just because Jordon recommends a brand of underwear, it doesn't mean they're any good.

Similarly, I wouldn't advocate a world view just because a bunch of celebrities espouse it.

That said, this video, showing famous folks who are atheists is pretty cool. There were a few that surprised me (I didn't expect Lance Armstrong to be there).

There is a full list (including agnostics and ambiguous) at celebatheists.

So check it out, but of course make up your own mind.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Great Debates continue

Those of you who follow on RSS readers may be wondering where I've been lately. Well I've been engaged in a great conversation on evidence with a commenter. I just posted my latest response.

We most certainly have our differences but it's been a fun conversation.

These are narrower in topic and lengthier than the posts I usually do, check them out here if you like.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

A call for evidence

An anonymous commenter wrote something in response to one of my posts:

It seems as though you haven't tried finding any real evidence for religion, Christianity in specific. If you are up to opening your mind, read the book "What's so Great about Christianity" by Dinesh D'souza..I am sure it would stimulate your mind

To which I responded

Hi Anonymous,
I'm curious what you mean by "evidence for religion." My definition of evidence would be something like "undeniable, incontrovertible and reproducibly verifiable". And because all such statements, by definition, can only apply to natural phenomena I am puzzled as to what evidence exists for religion which is supernatural. I appreciate your book recommendation, but I have little time for reading. Perhaps you could summarize it for me. I assure you that I am quite open minded. My atheism is a call for evidence. If I can be convinced of the existence of god by evidence of the kind I described, then of course, I would be religious. I welcome you to continue comments here, or email me at the address provided on my profile.

(emphasis added)
Well I wanted to bring the issue up front, to this page. Why isn't there evidence, of the kind I described, for the existence of god? I can produce evidence for tangible things, obviously. Anyone familiar with basic physical science can demonstrate core principles of chemistry or biology which puzzled our predecessors.

I can even prove the intangible. I have perfectly valid reasons for believing in my family's love for me, for example. The amount of support and comfort that my family provides me is explainable only if they feel for me what I feel for them. Unconditional love.

So what proof would I expect for an omnipotent creator? How about a book of genesis that was filled with statements about the universe that weren't known to human beings 5000 years ago. For example, watch this video. If Genesis sounded like that, I'd gladly be a christian.

And before I end this call for evidence, let me give it some biblical backing. Undoubtedly some will claim that I am testing god, or that he is testing us by planting evidence that this planet is 4 billion years old, etc. Let me remind you of the words of Paul (Romans 1:20)
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Well we have seen and understood the world, and I see no evidence of a god in it. We have evidence of a natural progression of biological forms. Of a universe that defies the bronze age mentality of the bible. We have that evidence, and god is without excuse. If he was the Alpha of this system we would clearly see his hand. Instead we see only natural cause and effect.

So provide evidence if you can. I would gladly believe. But I will no longer believe for the sake of belief. I will no longer cling to an ancient mentality simply because it is ancient. I will no longer hold onto a book simply because some of it is moral, or inspiring.

I demand evidence. And so should you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wink wink

Today I want to talk about a very confusing phenomenon in Coptic/Egyptian society. Maybe it's common among other religious groups too, but my experience dictates my blogging. Usually, it goes like this. A young adult is having a disagreement with a parent (we Copts are tied to our family's opinions and dictates far longer than other peoples, it seems). The parent will end the conversation with something along the lines of: inshalallah we'll see (if god wills it, ie ain't gonna happen).

This is infuriating! I know it's not just my family, I've seen it in other homes too. So just like that, the conversation is ended and the inshallah-er wins by default. Another variant favored by the younger set is the "have you prayed about it" approach. It's a lot less dismissive, but often accomplishes the same thing because the person receiving said attack is meant to go home and pray about it. Thus ensuring an easy victory for the attacker (forgive the violent term).

Now, that alone is fine. We can claim that it really is faith that drives people to say things like that, not a desire to make the conversation end, feel free to draw your own conclusions. I'm more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to the "have you prayed about it" people, but again their motivations may not be totally faith based.

What's a scientist to do? Test of course! So I take it upon myself to turn the tables. I will always say I have prayed about whatever course of action is under discussion. Of course I didn't. I have news for you, I didn't always fast every day of lent either. Seeing as I am now an apostate, a fib about prayer in the name of science seems far less deceptive.

So what happens? Invariably I get called out for bullshit! Maybe the inshallah or "pray about it" folks never actually expect a response. Especially one as facile and quick as mine.

In reality I think that they feel lost. Like they have been stripped of a social tool of shame. Their tone turns from one of religion (pray pray pray) to one of worldly incredulity ("if you prayed you did it wrong because what you want to do is stupid").

So I submit that this whole exercise can be had without reference to religion, because it doesn't seem to have a religious basis. Tell people that they're being knuckle headed, or come up with something more diplomatic if you like. But don't inshallah someone when what you really mean is, "hopefully you become less pigheaded soon".

Giving someone a figurative knock to the head when they do something silly is a time-honored Egyptian tradition, I'm not saying it should stop. But perhaps we can strip off the layer of religious BS no one seems to mean.

So to recap my thesis is: when you want to be mean, say what you mean, and whatever you do don't ask me to pray about it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A little common sense among the madness

I wrote the other day about Madeline Neumann, the 11 year old who died of curable illness while her parents prayed for her to get better. There has been some more news. It seems that the authorities have seen fit to remove the other three children from the home. So that's the good news. The bad news is, the wackjob parents don't seem to be in any hot water. The police chief even says "There is no physical evidence of abuse or neglect," yeah because letting your child die in front of you instead of taking her to a doctor is great parenting.


I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write this, so I'll just leave you with a thought. What if they practiced homeopathy, instead of prayer? Would they be still be free? I doubt it, personally. Why are we so frightened by the prospect of offending someone's religion that our society will forgive this type of behavior?

Note the disconnect: they take the kids away but claim there was no neglect. Of course it was neglect. Anyone can see that plainly. But as a society we continue to fear critiquing religion. If the death of a child isn't enough to change that, maybe there is no hope at all. The DA for that area still has to decide whether to file charges. Maybe someone will speak for Madeline. Maybe we can redeem ourselves as a nation that isn't filled with backward nonsense. Certainly it would help our standing in the world. Perhaps if people were more concerned with this world, rather then with another that is not there, we would be better off.

{as a side note, The Coptic Atheist is now listed on the Out Campaign's Atheist Blogroll, so head over there and check out some of those sites}


Saturday, March 29, 2008

I've been blogrolled

So, this blog is now a part of Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll. So check out the list of other blogs on the right. Enjoy!

-Coptic Atheos

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another Fatality of Faith

I've blogged before about the fatal consequences of people who put their fate into the hands of fate, while eschewing medicine. But this is a really gut wrenching story. A young girl died recently when her family prayed for her instead of taking her for medical treatment. From what I could glean, it seems like she had type I diabetes melitus (I do not claim the ability to diagnose from a distance, least of all from a news article, I'm just making an observation). It is not a pleasant disease but it is treatable. People with DM 1 live long lives, when managed by simple medication. This girl didn't get medicine, she was kept at home and prayed for. It didn't work. Imagine my surprise.

What really gets me is how she died. Ketoacidosis is a complication that takes a long time to develop in uncontrolled cases. I have no doubt that this eleven year old child died a needless, excruciating, and drawn out death. A complication that could have been reversed by medication and proper attention.

Where were the parents? Praying over her! What is the state of education in this country, how foolish can people be to watch their child die and do nothing? Why not at least pray over her at a hospital, you lunatics! Then you could have thanked god for saving her and ignored the doctors and nurses and techs who did the heavy lifting.

Alas, reason and logic do not have fatalities. Faith does.

This is the outcome of "putting it in God's hands". For all you Egyptians out there, this is the outcome of inshaallah. True, most sane religious people would have prayed over her in a hospital, ignored the docs (and students, et al) and thanked god for the miracle.

This child, living in the richest country in the history of the world, needed help that has been available for to people in every nation decades, her parents didn't see it that way, and in doing so, they denied her her life.

They sought a modern miracle. And when their daughter died, they thought it was because they didn't have enough faith! It seems to me to be complete madness. It seems to me to be negligence, perhaps murder of this innocent child. Of course, the local authorities don't see it that way. Otherwise they wouldn't have left these two awful excuses for parents retain custody of their three other children.

I sincerely hope none of them get sick.

[Update: So, about 2 minutes after I published this post, I found a relevant article on one of my favorite blogs, Skepchick. I only mention it because Elyse actually knows the name of the young girl who died. This fatality of faith was Madeline Neumann.]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A valuable community

So I've been increasing my forays into Facebook recently when I came across a very interesting group. It's called Coptic Freethinkers. And here I thought I was the only one! I put in my 2 cents on one of the discussion groups. I chose my zone of participation wisely though, I think my take on strict theology might be somewhat unpopular among a group that seems, by and large, to still be faithful. Of course there are the standard critics who blast the group's existence entirely as sin and folly. Why do people like that join these groups (or try to reconvert me, or threaten to pray for me...). There do seem to be quite a few progressive members, so if you are so inclined, I'd urge you to check them out (you have to be a facebook member) here.


Friday, March 21, 2008

I want to help!

Hello, my name is Atheos and I am addicted to atheist blogs.
Hi atheos!

So one of my favorite new blogs is the Friendly Atheist, the author, Hemant Mehta, strikes a nice balance of snarky and serious, and that's right up my alley.

Well Hemant has started a campaign. His goal is to be more popular than Ken Ham, one of the dullards behind the Creation "museum" (here's a test, does your institution show dinosaurs with saddles on them? If so, you get quotes around museum).

Anyway, I fully support Mr Mehta in this endeavor, we must rise up against irrationality and form personality cults around bloggers we like! Okay, maybe not, but I will be his homeboy.

(De)Conversion Story

Part One - The Good old days

When I was young, church was everything. God was everything. The mind that would later be dedicated to biochemistry and anatomy, readily absorbed theology and canon. I learned every hymn, read every text in the church bookstore, and accepted it all. I used my voice to proclaim the word every week. I honestly felt contentment in my life. I don't have a horror story about evil priests or wicked congregations. I belonged to one of the well known Coptic communities in the US. I have no doubt that if I mentioned it here, people from around the country would recognize it. For a while, things were ok.

Part Two - Doubting Atheos

As I grew up, I found that I had a talent for arguing and logic. I had many "logical" explanations for various doubts and contradictions, ("They weren't 7 literal days of creation!", or my favorite "the apostles wouldn't let themselves be martyred for nothing!"). After a while, things piled up. Certainly evolution was in sharp contrast to genesis? Certainly abstinence only sex ed was a failure? What about all those other gods? Woah. See that was the one that got me. What about those other gods. I could keep evolution/creation on a doublethink see-saw, I could acknowledge that condoms were the way to go and the church was just old fashioned. But that other-god-thing stuck. Thousands of gods have been worshiped by people throughout history. What is intrinsically different about the Christian God. Nothing. Born of a virgin? So was Horus! Did my ancestors have it right?! Doubtful. Even if one conceded the existence of a god, what tremendous arrogance it would be to suppose that one had, by shear luck, been born into the faith of the right one! That is, of course, if one is right to begin with.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. These doubts nagged on me. I prayed and read but found no peace. Reason is the enemy of faith, and I had unleashed the former on the latter. So I went to church a little less, I found the word a little more out of touch, and then something happened.

Part Three - Please listen closely as our options have changed

It is quite embarrassing to note that, by this stage in my story, I didn't consider atheism. I drifted away from the church and expressions of faith which I found hollow. But for some reason atheism didn't occur to me as an option. Around this time, I read 1984. For some reason I owned the book, but had never had to read it. So I picked it up on a lark and found religion. And not in the way people on death row "find" religion. I FOUND it, in the doublethink of the Party. Slavery is Freedom, fear as a control mechanism, the bashing of dissent. Certainly this was a hyperbolic version of religion, most of us are not tortured in church basements (Scientologists?), but the oppressive dogma stood out to me. 1984 is social commentary, but I think that makes it better for this purpose. Let me demonstrate: try explaining how patently obvious evolution is to a creationist. When that fails, explain gravity, and its theory. I doubt they'll balk at that, even though it is far more complex and has changed more recently (Einstein) than the theory of evolution has (Darwin, duh). By removing religion from the conversation, the mind is free to consider fact. You cannot be an apostate by discussing gravity. So too, 1984 took dogma out of a religious context for me. It allowed me to view dogmatism, and quickly religion, objectively.

Then the doubts about those other gods (see above) weren't so scary. This objective view of religion was essential, it made atheism possible for me. All I needed was a little more encouragement. I found it when I read the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He said everything I thought, only smarter and in a British accent. I don't think I can overstate the effect it had on me, intellectually. There was very little in his book that I didn't know. I knew about comparative religion, I knew about biology, I knew the lies people told about atheists to be just that. Some of the stories and storytelling was new, but that wasn't it. It's hard to express how relieving it is to have someone else think like you. It's easy when you're in church every week. Far harder when you first leave for a would of reason. Harder still when you do it alone.

Epilogue - A tired med student wraps things up so he can get back to the books.

So that's my story in a nutshell. I'm sure I left some things out, but those three phases were very real to me. Writing about it was nearly as cathartic as living it. But it's not all sunshine on this side. Someone once said, Religion is the opiate of the masses. If he wasn't a despot, he might well have been a biologist. Religion is remarkably adaptable, evolutionarily. People of faith are said to be happier. I don't doubt it. But being happy because you have faith doesn't mean your faith is right. After all, I suspect the worshipers of Horus in the old country were happier than any atheists that were around. The point is, times have changed. We can explain the events in our world without gods in our equations. We invented religion, and for many of us, it has outlived its usefulness.

(ps. I'd like to thank some very kind email corespondents, you challenged my mind enough to make me tear myself away from my books for a bit and write this post)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Happy President's Day!

I have been an atheist for a while, but I've been a secularist for much longer. Even when I espoused religious beliefs, I had the objectivity to realize that the separation of church and state is necessary for a truly free society. The preferential treatment given to Judeochristian doctrine in this country has given us abstinence only sex education, stem cell testing bans, and the murder of doctors for doing their jobs, among other gems. So think about that when one of the candidates for the presidency says he doubts evolution, or wants to amend the Constitution to reflect a book that not everyone agrees on, certainly not me.

In that vein, I have reproduced here a portion of the Treaty of Tripoli. Ratified by Congress and signed by President John Adams in 1797.

As the Government of the United States of America is not,
in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;
as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion,
or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never
have entered into any war or act of hostility against any
Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no
pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce
an interruption of the harmony existing between the two
(emphasis mine)

Happy President's Day Mr. Adams, I hope we make you proud in November.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bad Priorities

I've been think a lot about priorities this week. It seems to me that religious dogma tends to inform peoples' priorities far away from reason and common sense. I had a long talk this Valentines Day with my younger sister. We certainly love each other but we have some fundamental differences. Lets just say that if she had a blog, it'd be called "Coptic Devotee's Sunday School Jubilee". She took the opportunity to pick my brain on a topic dear to my fiery heart. It was an engaging talk, so I thought I'd write a bit. Enjoy

Life is sacred (So long as it's microscopic).

Life is sacred! As a med student I totally agree. As a dedicated future neurologist (wish me luck) I could rattle off more than a few diseases which we could cure if we could get areas in the brain to start making the right cells again. Parkinson's? Cured. Spinal cord defects? No problem. And it isn't just the brain! Uncounted numbers of diseases which ravage us could potentially be silenced with such a power. Why do I bring this up? Because the idea isn't magic. Stem cells can do just that. Now, it'll take a few decades and it might not work, but isn't it worth trying?

Unfortunately many people don't think so. Stem cells are isolated from embryos (also from umbilical cord blood, and more recently, skin, but let's keep it simple). And aside from promising new techniques, these procedures destroy the embryo. It is the learned opinion of our religious countrymen that these embryos have souls. Right there in the petri dish! To destroy that tiny speck of genetic material which has never felt, seen, been seen, loved or been loved would be evil. Life is sacred. What about the lives of the people with the terrible diseases? The ones who could be saved, who we all agree are actual people? Screw 'em. Foolishness! This is not a life-for-a-life. This is a speck of genetic material for a life. Actually it is more like a thousand lives per speck. Not a bad deal. Where do these embryos come from anyway? Donated to science by people who have fertility treatments, get pregnant and donate what they no longer need. And if some Yale* frat boy decides to ban Federal funding, they simply go down a sink instead when the storage fees go unpaid. Where are the marches? How come the pro-lifers who jostle for my attention near my school never show me pictures of petri dishes and industrial drains? I don't have that answer. But I do know this: life is sacred, but declaring something in a dish human life is silly. Giving that genetic material rights which it does not enjoy in any court of law or common sense is warped. Declaring that speck is as important or MORE important than people suffering in our wards and clinics is just cruel. So here I am, living in a Red state, hoping a Democrat moves to the White House this winter and gets out of science's way. Because as a nation we will never agree about souls, but we can all agree that the suffering and dying of our friends and neighbors must stop. We must help them if we can. Our only chance is to put the lives of tens of millions of patients and their families above the wellbeing of some cells in a dish. That's what it means to have your priorities straight. And if it seems patently obvious to you: congratulations, you're part of the solution.

{*I'll pretend this is why I turned down Yale, as opposed to the cost}

Sunday, January 27, 2008

About me...

So I have gotten some less-than-polite email recently about my knowledge of the coptic church. Basically accusing me of rejecting something I don't fully understand. So I thought it might be interesting to those (very few) of you who read this thing to find out a few things about your friendly neighborhood atheist. Well, I was involved in the church since I was very young. By "very young" I mean about 5. I went to every mass, vespers, tasbeha, whatever, that I could (note, if you're not actually involved in the coptic church, some of the jargon in this post might be unfamiliar, sorry!). I was ordained as a "reader" or ognostos at about the age of 14. I taught hymns to several grade levels, including other teachers. I read voraciously about the history of the church and the lives of the saints. I lamented that I didn't have the time to become a Sunday school teacher. I read the bible from cover to cover quite a few times. Coptic christianity was my life, my lifestyle, my everything. The thought of my sin brought me to tears. The sacraments were a true comfort. I was a true believer. And now I'm not. And I'm quite content.


(ps The rest of you should feel free to continue emailing me. Just be patient, I check it as often as I update this blog)

pps. Let me preempt some questions now: Yes I know this post doesn't explain why I'm an atheist. Yes I realize some people find that annoying. I'm writing that post but I'm a busy dude...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A great story


So the combination of winter break at home, a burst water pipe, a grant application that needed to be redone, and various other obligations have kept me from being able to update this blog for longer than usual. I am, however, back in business. And insofar as my responsibilities on the ward (and my drive for sleep) allow, I intend to get back in the swing of posting. So stay tuned...