Atheists I admire


The common thread in all of my choices here is intellectual bravery. All of these people are not afraid to speak their mind, come what may. All of these people are highly intelligent and witty in their own right.

JULIA SWEENEY

Ms. Sweeney is an American actress and comedian, best known for her work on Saturday Night Live. She is also a very brave woman, as a cancer survivor and outspoken atheist. She is one of those atheists who has read the bible, cover to cover. The way she is able to relate her experiences with humour and humanity is inspiring. Below is a clip from her must see special, Letting go of God where she talks about her reaction to the Bible chapter, Revelations.

EDDIE IZZARD

A British actor and comedian, Mr. Izzard is also famous for being a transvestite (an action transvestite), which, in my book makes him even more courageous. Another outspoken atheist, his comedy, or the best history lesson ever, as I like to call it, often touches on the nonsensical parts of religion, as illustrated in the clip below.

RICKY GERVAIS

Yet, another actor and comedian from Britain, Mr. Gervais is not afraid to defend his lack of belief in any forum. As one of his Twitter followers, I’ve seen him seemingly revel in putting religious fanatics in their place. His comedy is not only hilarious, but manages to make you look at things in a way you never would have without his perspective. Here he talks about Noah’s Ark.

Before you think this is all about comedians, here come the scientists…

SAM HARRIS

American author, neuroscientist, and founder/CEO of Project Reason, Sam Harris is and incredibly well spoken atheist. Logic is his art form and he is a master. It may be seen by some as less courageous for a scientist to openly proclaim his disbelief in religion. In Mr. Harris’s case, he lives in the United States, home of Christian zealotry and death threats and fearlessly speaks on morally controversial topics like this one in the clip below.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Mr. Tyson is also a very outspoken atheist. He is brilliant at explaining otherwise mind boggling scientific  theories so even the layperson can instantly grasp them. Here he talks about what he calls Stupid Design.

RICHARD DAWKINS

A British author and evolutionary biologist. Arguably his most famous book is The God Delusion, which contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion. An extraordinary mind, Mr. Dawkins is quite possibly the world’s most famous atheist. Here he eloquently talks about creationism, evolution and religion.

These are all living human beings who have much to teach us, whether it’s through laughter or science. For those of you thinking that I missed George Carlin or Charles Darwin, I didn’t. I just wanted to include people who are currently contributing to the conversation. I acknowledge that these people are standing on the shoulders of the atheists who came before them, just as future atheists will stand on the shoulders of these people and so on until we reach heaven ;)

Are you the next or the first?


For the past two days the lead story on Yahoo Canada’s home page has been ‘Angelina Jolie lookalike stuns’. It’s about, as one would assume an aspiring actress who bears a resemblance to Angelina Jolie. I pity this girl. She will never do anything without being compared to a much more famous and established actress. And how insulting to Angelina Jolie, who isn’t finished being the first Angelina Jolie.

I don’t understand this fascination the media has with saying she’s the next, or he’s the next. It’s not just the entertainment industry either, politics does this as well. Someone is always the next Reagan or JFK. Does the big spin machine really think that the general public is so daft that we need to see a similarity to an iconic figure of the past in a rising star in order to accept them?

Keira Knightley and Audrey Tautou were being billed as the next Audrey Hepburn. Nicole Kidman, Lindsay Lohan, Pam Anderson, Madonna and Kim Kardashian (really?) were all said to be the next Marilyn Monroe. Tom Hanks was being touted as the next Jimmy Stewart and already they’re asking who will be the next Tom Hanks.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean this is coming from an industry that remakes a movie that is only two years old (the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo) because apparently American audiences are too lazy to read subtitles. Director Gus Van Sant’s creative tank was so empty that he actually made a shot for shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic movie Psycho. Even though the experiment failed miserably, as most remakes do, Hollywood just won’t give up on the idea… and then they wonder why nobody goes to the movies anymore. Audiences are clamouring for something original, which is why a black and white, silent film is one of the most talked about movies of 2011. You’d think Hollywood would get the message, but instead they have this in the works. I pity the actor charged with recreating a career defining role like Patrick Bateman. I can’t imagine any of the new crop of Twilight or Disney stars doing the role anywhere near the same justice as Christian Bale did it only a scant 12 years ago.

For those of you looking to make your mark on the world, please ask yourself one question. Why would you want to be the next someone else, when you can be the first you?

Funny or Insulting, the Stephen Hawking interview


This week, perhaps the most brilliant mind of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking gave a short interview to New Scientist magazine. See the interview here  In it he talks about String Theory (or M Theory), the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), quantum gravity and his thoughts on black holes. The last question of the interview was “What do you think most about during the day?” Professor Hawking’s response was, “Women. They are a complete mystery.”

Every online news outlet picked up this story and gave it headlines like, Women are a mystery to British physicist Hawking and What mystifies Dr. Hawking? Women. Now I understand that news outlets have to create the most interesting headline in order to get the most jaded of us to read the story, so I really don’t blame them for taking the answer to that last question and turning it into a headline. That being said, his response reads to me as a cute, funny reply. Likely meant as a joke. Dare I say HOPEFULLY meant as a joke.

If it wasn’t a joke, the implication here is, the smartest of men is still stymied by women, so what hope does the rest of the male population have in figuring them out. Even if it was a joke, the same implication is there. Women are a mystery so impossible that no man will ever solve them… so why bother trying?

This implication is insulting because it diminishes women as a gender. It’s akin to saying, “Don’t worry your pretty little head”  or “Shhh, men are speaking.”

Let me give you a small bit of wisdom, men. I’d ask if you were listening, but we know that not listening is the problem. If you really want to figure out and solve women, all you have to do is LISTEN TO US. Let me go one further, listen and really HEAR what we are saying. I know that this seems like a lot of effort when you could just build cities, fast cars with cool technology, explore the earth, explore space and spend your time thinking up new and clever pick up lines to impress us. Women are always saying they want a man who is a good listener, yet all men hear when we speak is their own voice, saying ‘I hope she shuts up soon so I can get some food/sex/sleep’. How many fights do you have with your partner where she says, “YOU NEVER LISTEN”? You expect women to listen so closely to you that we can read your minds and cater to your every whim and you can’t afford us the same respect? Understanding that women are PEOPLE same as you, and not a Rubik’s cube to be solved will go a long way in achieving a peaceful end to the battle of the sexes.

So until men get the message, I guess women will remain the world’s most unsolvable puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in the arrogance of men.

Marriage is for Men


 

It seems there’s been a rash of celebrity engagements this past couple of weeks. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Drew Barrymore, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Mario Lopez, John Legend and even Aretha Franklin all announced engagements. Even Sinead O’Conner is staying married, after announcing a split. With all of this attention put on marriage, I thought I’d take a look at who really benefits in a traditional marriage.

The institution of marriage predates reliable recorded history. It was the norm for all marriage to be arranged, sometimes at birth. The parents would pick a spouse based on purely economic factors. Families joining to become financially and socially stronger. Whether the groom’s family paid a bride price, or dower, or the bride’s family paid a dowry, the melding of families was very much for power and economic reasons and had nothing to do with love. It was a purely secular union put in place to help each family move up in society. Brides wed out of obligation and duty and were expected to be virtuous and faithful to their husbands, who, in turn were expected to provide financially for their wife and children. However, sexual monogamy was never expected for the husband. It was assumed that his sexual needs would be met both inside and outside the marriage bed. Great deal for him, but what about her?

These women went directly from their father’s home to their husband’s home and were expected to be obedient in both surroundings. They never enjoyed the luxury of personal freedom and exploration. Even in North America, women weren’t able of choose to be single without fear of societal backlash until the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. Women were expected to subjugate their personalities in favour of the path their husband chose… even when marrying for love. It was 2006 when the Church of England officially took the word OBEY out of the marriage vows. Yes, women were expected to OBEY their husbands. That one four letter word gave men all the justification they needed to abuse their wives for centuries.

In the 1960’s women in western civilizations seemed to have had enough. There was an uprising of women who were demanding their human rights. The right to choose what to do with their own life. It sure took us long enough, but once we started tasting freedom, it became more and more widespread. The church was still doing everything in its power to keep us barefoot and pregnant, from not allowing birth control use and abortion to shoving the institution of marriage down our throats at every opportunity.

There was a perceived danger in women choosing to be single. The erosion of the family unit. Traditionally, parents would take care of their family, then later in life, the family of their children would take care of the parents. If a woman chose to be single, how could she possibly afford to take care of her parents in their declining years? Would she even want to? If she is choosing freedom, what does obligation even mean to her? These were some of the questions at the root of society’s fear of the Women’s Movement.

Indeed marriage rates did decline and divorce rates went way up.  Men went from “Honey, I’m home. What’s for dinner?” to wondering when the delivery guy was coming. Something else of importance  happened during this time. In 1965, in the United States, medicare and medicaid became available. This took away the need for children to take care of their elder parents. This changed the economic family dynamic.

Unfortunately,  there was a backlash to the feminist movement. It seemed to create a generation of men with severe Peter Pan syndrome. These adult men, not only want their wife to be a partner, but also a mother. It seems that these liberated feminist mothers didn’t think to teach their sons how to be liberated, strong men. This, along with the media (magazines, movies etc.) telling women that they are not complete without a man, created a surge in marriages. .. marriages that didn’t last. After all, what liberated woman wants to be mean mommy to her husband? And let’s face it no man (unless it’s his fetish) wants to have sex with mean mommy.

Women who choose to be single, have reproductive freedom like never before. Now medical science has made it possible for women to have babies without benefit of marriage, or even a relationship. It’s easy to understand why there are so many heterosexual men out there who seem to genuinely hate women. They fear they are being rendered obsolete, and that is a legitimate fear. Successful women are choosing to be single mothers.

As Gloria Steinem once said, “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.”

Yes traditional marriage was great for men. They had a subservient wife who took care of hearth and home, their every need and want, with no expectation of sexual fidelity. The pendulum travelling inexorably to the other side now. Even in the non western world we are seeing another women’s revolution. Here in the west, there are women who choose marriage just to have a companion, knowing full well that it can be as permanent as they want it to be.

This attitude has spawned another type of man. I have seen it in generations Y and Z. This young man is looking to be kept. They are male gold diggers, looking for an older, successful woman to marry.

I suppose marriage hasn’t changed that much after all. After a brief flirtation with love, it’s still all about money and power.

 

 

Experiment in funny


Lately I’ve been thinking about comedy. Specifically, comedians who come from different belief systems. I have listed three comics from three different religions and one non- religion in a side by side, by side, by side comparison (that’s four sides), and will be asking for your opinion at the bottom of the post. Enjoy.

CHRISTIAN COMEDIANS

Victoria Jackson

Tim Hawkins

Chonda Pierce

JEWISH COMEDIANS

Sarah Silverman

Judy Gold

Jerry Seinfeld

MUSLIM COMEDIANS

Maz Jobrani

Ahmed Ahmed

Azhar Usman

ATHEIST COMEDIANS

David Cross

Jimmy Carr

Jim Jeffries

I purposefully kept each clip under the 3 and a half minute mark. I didn’t include the most famous comics in each category. I didn’t include clips where the comedians talked specifically about their faith (or lack thereof). Now here is where I ask your opinion.

Arrogance or ignorance?


On New Year’s Eve, in Time Square, Cee Lo Green was asked to sing a song. Sounds innocent enough, right? The song he sang was John Lennon’s Imagine. An iconic song that means a great deal to so many.

Here are the actual lyrics to Imagine, as written by John Lennon.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Cee Lo Green sang the song in a slightly different way. Watch and see if you can spot the difference.

At the very least Mr. Green is guilty of not learning the correct lyric. Like when you listen to a song and think they lyric is something different than what it really is. For example, when Phoebe, on the sitcom Friends, thought that Elton John’s Hold me closer Tiny Dancer was actually Hold me close Young Tony Danza. Although in her case she wasn’t performing the song in front of an audience of millions. If you are charged with singing someone else’s song, it is your responsibly to  learn the lyrics as they were written.

At the very worst, Mr. Green is guilty of willfully changing the lyric to further his own agenda. In this article from the Huffington post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/01/cee-lo-green-changes-imagine-lyrics_n_1178313.html#s583202&title=Austin_McCarty the author shares a slideshow of tweets between irate Lennon fans (and atheists) and Cee Lo Green. In one of those tweets, Mr. Green states that he was a guest (actually he wrote guess) of Yoko Ono. If that is the case, why would you spit on the memory of her husband to her face? His lyric change makes the first verse of the song nonsensical. Why would we imagine that there is no heaven or hell, if all religion is true? After reading the tweet exchange it becomes clear that he DID intend to change the lyric.

Now the question becomes WHY? Why sing the song at all if you disagree with it? Were you contractually obligated to sing it? Why sing this song and change this particular lyric, knowing that it will piss people off the world over? Are you so desperate for publicity that even bad publicity is appealing? Why did you feel the need to insert your own beliefs into a song about lack of belief? Are you really that arrogant? And, perhaps most significantly, why are you hanging out with Yoko Ono? That’s an image I just can’t Imagine.