Just when I was beginning to think my sense of humour was getting to be a wee bit too morbid, I came across other, like minded, individuals who see death as a way to get the last laugh.
I’m going to start with my three favourite celebrity epitaphs.
Billy Wilder, who directed Some Like it Hot, a movie with, arguably the best last line ever.
TV Icon Merv Griffin
The voice of Warner Brothers animation, Mel Blanc
Then there are some regular folks with a not so regular sense of funny.
For those that love to say I told you so.
For the realist.
For the Scrabble lover.
For the philandering husband.
I just love the fact that his wife outlived him… ah poetic justice.
For the man who loves women.
For the man who loved too many women
For the glass half full type
For the beloved family pet.
Even one for the atheist.
Pretty sure this one isn’t real… but it’s real funny.
That last grave marker is one I would seriously consider getting if I was going to be buried. But, as I am an atheist, I’m donating as much of my body as science will take, then the rest of me (if there is anything left over) is going into the ocean to become part of the food chain.
I will leave you with one of my favourite moments from the TV show Absolutely Fabulous with Patsy and Edina talking about their grave markers.
Recently I was asked if I am a positive or a negative person. I replied, a little of both, as all humans are. Then I was asked but which are you more of the time? To which I had no reply. As a logical thinker, I decided to try an experiment. For 24 hours (okay, actually only about 16 hours, I do need my sleep) I decided to try not to say anything negative. It’s harder than it sounds. It means cleaning house on your vocabulary. Words like no, not, can’t, don’t, won’t, shouldn’t and but are verboten. Something as simple as I don’t like broccoli is a negative statement. I didn’t last very long. Less than an hour. What tripped me up? I felt it necessary to say, “I can’t stand these smug Christians who go around whining about how ‘persecuted’ they are” **Note to self, try this again when I am not in the throes of PMS.
In the interest of equal time, the following day, I spent the day trying not to say anything positive. This proved much easier. I lasted the better part of 6 hours before stating that I love Sheldon Cooper (yes I am a Big Bang Theory geek).
So I guess I skew more toward negativity. I do have positive leanings, but it would be ridiculous to be positive all of the time in the world we live in. You would have to be in serious denial… or at least on some really strong medication (or religious indoctrination).
This experiment in human nature was a fun for me. I challenge any of you who would like to know themselves a little better to try it.
Yesterday’s post brought with it some very interesting comments. One, in particular from a lovely Christian lady who said “The idea that people can take my religion and decide that “Thou shalt not kill” is negotiable makes my heart sick.”
This got me thinking quite a bit about the commandment, Thou shalt not kill, perhaps the most impossible commandment to abide.
Every one of us commits mass murder on a daily basis. Yes, PETA members, even you. When we are walking outside, we kill countless number of insects. Every time we scratch or wash ourselves, we kill thousands upon thousands of bacteria. We kill without thinking about it all day every day. We kill to feed ourselves. Even the most vegan of vegan people are killing plants in order to sustain their own lives. When a lion kills a limpy gazelle we say it’s thinning the herd or it’s natural selection at work. If all life is sacred, then what makes insects so expendable?
We, as human beings are members of the animal kingdom. We are hard-wired to kill, just as all other parts of the food chain are instinctual killers. It seems that only us humans have put in place a set of rules regarding when it is okay to kill and when it isn’t. For instance it’s okay to kill another person in self-defense, or in defense of others.
Then there’s the fact that humans are the only species that kills for sport. How do religious hunters reconcile their breaking of the number one commandment?
As an atheist, I can’t help but look at sweeping statements like thou shalt not kill and question its meaning. If it is taken literally, we are all going to burn in hell for simply stepping on a spider. If taken as thou shalt not kill other humans, then why are we inventing exceptions to the rule, like self-defense, or killing in the name of God? (which makes no sense if he told you not to kill in the first place)
A little religion is a dangerous thing because it teaches us to deny and ignore who we are at our most basic core. We pretend to be better than animals when it comes to killing, when in fact we are far, far worse. Animals don’t kill just for sport. Animals don’t keep souvenirs of their kills hanging on the walls of their dens. When a lion looks at a herd of gazelles, he purposefully picks the lamest, weakest or oldest one to take down so that the herd will continue to replenish itself. When a hunter looks at the same herd, he wants to bag the biggest, strongest, most magnificent specimen for bragging rights. When are we going to drop the pious, holier than thou crap and admit to being the self-serving hypocrites that we actually are? It’s great to strive to be more than that. I think we should be striving to back up our own lofty opinions of ourselves. But until we admit to what we really are, we cannot know how far we have to go.
Each day on Twitter, I post my quote of the day tweet. The other day, the quote I posted was, “Gods don’t kill people. People with Gods kill people.” – David Viaene. One of the responses I got to this quote was, “people without Gods hold it down in the killing dept just as well. It’s a human problem.”
While I take no issue with the fact that there have been many killings done at the hands of people without Gods, the problem I have with the above statement is with the phrase, “just as well”. I decided to do a little research on the subject and here is what I came up with.
While there is really no way to tally the amount of individual murders committed by individual atheists, there are some numbers to be found when one looks at State Atheism, for instance in Mexico, under President Plutarco Elias Calles, there were at least 40 priests killed between the years 1926 and 1934. In the Soviet Union, Marxism-Leninism ideology sought to eliminate religion from the state entirely. In the period between 1922 and 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox Bishops and more than 1200 priests were killed. In Cambodia, under the Khmer Rouge, the estimated death toll is between 740,000 and 3 million. In the Mongolian People’s Republic, the Soviets launched a full-scale attack on Buddhism in 1936 where between 30,000 and 35,000 lives were lost. In North Korea, in the late 1940’s 166 priests and religious were killed or kidnapped. Using the high estimates, the total adds up to 3,036,434 deaths. Which, is a very substantial number.
On the side of people with Gods, I am only including the tally of one mass killing. The Holocaust, which took place between 1938 and 1945. Christians like to tell you that Hitler was an atheist, but, by all accounts, Hitler was a Catholic raised, Christian who espoused his belief in Jesus Christ (albeit an Aryan Jesus Christ), which makes him a man with a God. “As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.”- Aldof Hitler There were 5.9 million Jews, between 2 and 3 million Soviet POWs, 1.8 to 2 million Poles, between 220,000 and 1.5 million Romani, 200,000 to 250,000 disabled people, 80,000 Freemasons, between 20,000 and 25,000 Slovenes, 5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals, and between 2,500 and 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses killed in the Holocaust. Even using the low estimates, the death toll is 10,227,500 or more than 3.3 times the number killed by Atheist States in 5 different instances.
The reason to only include the Holocaust on the side of men with Gods was because, all of the Atheist State examples I used were from the 20th century and I didn’t want anyone crying unfair if I used examples like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty years War or the French Wars of Religion, which all took place in different eras, when people were not as enlightened as they were in the last century.
I do agree that killing is part of human nature, and I am positive that, even without a belief in any sort of deity, people would find something to fight about on a mass scale. My point here is that belief in a god seems to be a pretty popular reason to kill people. Here’s a question to think on… is God the reason, or the excuse?
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 😉
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.
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.
Yesterday was indeed a sad day. Christopher Hitchens died and it was reported that Etta James is terminally ill. In both cases, Cancer was the culprit. For Hitchens it was a long battle with esophageal cancer, for James, the final stages of leukemia. Both are being touted by their fans and friends as iconic and legendary in their respective fields. Both have been controversial figures who liked their alcohol. Both are known for an arrogant personality. So why is it that the public response to each has been so different?
Let’s begin with Ms. James, a wonderful singer with a soulful voice, a member of no less than three Halls of Fame, who has influenced the careers of numerous artists in her wake, but has had a rocky personal life. She has had a well publicized heroin addiction since the 1970’s and has been in and out of treatment facilities for decades. She has had her run ins with the law. She has suffered ill-health due to her addictions to heroin and various pain killers. When Beyoncé Knowles sang her most famous hit song at President Obama’s inauguration, Ms. James went on a very public jealous rant against, both Ms. Knowles and the President.
When it was announced yesterday that the blues and gospel singer is terminally ill, people immediately began asking for prayers (even her live in doctor asked for her fans to pray for her), calling her great, a legend, saying how much they will miss her, how sad they are at hearing the news etc. This is exactly how one would expect people to react to the impending death of a celebrity. The pedestal is at the ready and all is forgiven.
Moving on to Mr. Hitchens, a renowned atheist, intellectual and author, known for his outspoken nature and penchant for debate. His personal life was not quite as rocky. He was a drinker and a smoker, but, by no account, did he partake of anything harder than that on a regular basis. Admittedly, his alcohol intake was enough “to kill or stun the average mule”. He is also famous for his politics, or more specifically, his seemingly opposing political views. But it is his railing against religion that he is most known for and, likely, will be most remembered for. In his book, God is Not Great, he criticized every religion on the planet as “the main source of hatred in the world”.
When the news hit, there were quite a few people calling him great, a legend, saying how much they will miss him, how sad they were at hearing the news etc, but there was another layer to it. Religious people seemed to revel in the news that a man, famous for his atheistic views was gone and likely burning in hell.
I’d like to share some twitter messages on the news of Etta James being terminally ill.
Praying for Etta James…
Hang in there Etta James… There is no one else n music like you
have Ms. Etta James in my thoughts. Sad to hear she’s terminally ill. Thankful to have seen her sing live and fill hearts & minds with love.
OH NO! DOCTORS ARE ASKING FOR PRAYERS FOR TERMINALLY ILL ETTA JAMES!
My Prayers Go Out 2 Etta James
Etta James is terminally ill with cancer. Great lady, great voice.
Etta James In Leukemia’s Final Stages: Iconic singer is in a home with her husband by her side. (End of golden era of soul)
I think I’ll put some Etta James on. I hope her last days are peaceful.
In contrast, here are a mix of twitter messages in response to the death of Christopher Hitchens.
‘Farewell great voice against can’t, hypocrisy, obscurantism, pretension, against all tyrants including god
I am 100% certain that Christopher Hitchens is no longer an atheist.
Goodbye Christopher Hitchens. Your lance-like rhetoric introduced my hungry young mind to the intellectual battlefield that surrounds us.
Christopher Hitchens is in hell, in case you’re wondering
Noted atheist Christopher Hitchens has had plenty of time to re-evaluate while burning in Hell the past couple of days.
Then there are the reactions to his book title, God is Not Great as a trending topic.
WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK? Whoever started #GodIsNotGreat needs the shit beat out of them!
whoever started that trending topic #godisnotgreat needs 2 die a slow death
WHO EVA MADE THIS A TRENDIN TOPIC.ILL PERSONALLY KILL EM MYSELF.
And it just gets worse from there.
Honestly, I was never really a fan of Etta James, yes she had a lovely voice, but I’m more of a rock fan. I was never a fan of Christopher Hitchens either. I know this is tantamount to blasphemy from an atheist, but his smug arrogance rubbed me the wrong way.In a previous blog entitled, But what if you’re an asshole? I wrote “I get the impulse to celebrate someone’s life after they die, but let’s actually celebrate the WHOLE PERSON. Warts and all. After all, the sooner we can collectively embrace our humanity the better off we will be as a society. It’s easier to change something when you stop making excuses and see it for what it really is.”
It says so much about us as a society that an alcoholic atheist is demonized and a heroin addicted gospel singer is deified.
I’d like to leave you with this last message from a twitter user and close by saying, if religious people are going to claim to be better than the rest of us, you might want to act like it.
“Remember that time when atheists threatened to kill and burn all those christians over a twitter trend? Yeah, me neither. “
Or favourite, as we spell it in the Great White North.
On twitter I spend most of my time giving out gold stars to my favourite tweets. I’d like to share some of them here. In order to get one of these coveted stars, for me, a tweet must fall into one of several categories…
As an atheist, I’m proud to say I DON’T KNOW. Heck I will even shout it from the rooftops. I don’t know how the universe came to be. The truth is no one does, no matter how concretely sure they come across, no matter how much they believe, deep down the one thing we all have in common is WE DON’T KNOW.
There are many theories as to how the universe came into existence, for instance, science gives us the Big Bang Theory (so do Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, but that’s not the Big Bang Theory I’m talking about here). Religion gives us the theory that some deity or another created the universe.
What happens after we die? Another good question with the same answer I DON’T KNOW. The truth is no one knows, but this question causes so much anger, delusion, violence, war, murder, hatred and FEAR, yes fear. The difference between theists and atheists is that atheists aren’t afraid to say I DON’T KNOW. Believers are so afraid to even entertain the concept that they don’t know the answers to these questions that they will bulldoze over those who deign to challenge their theory. Scientists relish the opportunity to challenge a theory. This difference is beautifully illustrated in the “interview” below.
O’Reilly’s smug condescension is simply a mask for his fear of the unknown and a weapon used to silence logic. Now look at what happens when Richard Dawkins is allowed to get a word in edgewise.
Another example of how theists stifle those who they see as their opponents (atheists are not the enemy, by the way, we just want to be allowed to express our own beliefs) is illustrated here, through violence.
And here, again through smug condescension.
Notice how the believers are trying to show hypocrisy on the part of the non believer by trying to prove she has faith in something… anything? What I find funny is their go to was money… something Jesus was adamantly against. It has always baffled me that religions and religious types don’t see their worship of the almighty dollar, euro, peso, yen, etc as flying directly in the face of their religious teachings, but I digress.
What theists need to understand is that atheists aren’t persecuting you. If you want to know who is really being run ram shod over, take a look at this.
In conclusion I would like to share a short back and forth I had on twitter with a self-professed Christian woman.
Her- Ain’t no such thing as an athiest . Pastor Anderson said so.
Me- Ooh, say hi to the pastor for me. Time for him to understand the difference between real and imaginary.
Her- Ignorance cannot be helped . I’ll just pray for you 🙂
Me- Why, so I can be ignorant too? Ignorance is bliss. Have a blissful day.
Her- Ignorance may indeed be bliss , but i’m not ignorant . Have fun rotting in Hell – literally .