Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Penn Jillette There is no God

Penn Jillette is the speaking half of Penn & Teller. They perform their irreverent magic act regularly in Las Vegas. Both are very outspoken about being atheists and skeptics and use it as part of the act.

Penn Jillette wrote a now famous piece entitled "There is no God" in which he explained his position in taking atheism a step further and actually believing in no god. The original was first published with NPR and is available here. NPR's Morning Edition featured Penn in an ongoing series titled "This I believe" based on a similar series from the 1950s. The rules required that the essayist state their position in the affirmative. Jillette did so cleverly by saying "I believe there is no God."

Here are some excerpts:

Morning Edition, November 21, 2005 · I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sex and Masturbation Part 1

Sex & Masturbation in the Top Three Religions
Sex and sexual desires plays such a powerful role in our lives that it’s no wonder why the major religions attempt to control it and place such stringent rules on what you may and may not do. Putting these rules and regulations on sexuality is another attempt to rope you into their grasps and tell you that you have sinned. It is another whip for them to use to make you jump through their hoops. Since the desire of sex is probably only topped by the desire to continue to live, regulating it is a very powerful instrument and that is why all the main religions have it packed in their arsenals. The top three religions prohibit you from having sex before marriage; they even demand that you are not to partake in masturbation. While most all faiths have different views on the topic, I will cover the top three, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

“Religions are maintained by people. People who can't get laid, because sex is the first great earthly pleasure. But if you can't get that, power is a pretty good second one. And that's what religion gives to people, power. Power is sex for people who can't get or don't want or aren't any good at sex itself.” –Bill Maher


In what I consider a very perplexing decision, the Catholic Church forbids its leaders from having sex (a vow of chastity or more commonly known as celibacy) and then these sexless people decide how the rest of us must have sex. Like I said, it seems quite odd if you think about it, but most all religions are quite odd just most people don’t think about them. The entire idea of celibacy is strange on its face, and for the Catholic Church to adopt it and condemn it upon their holly priests and other clergy members, was a poor move indeed. It has led to, or at least aided in, some of the most horrific atrocities that can be committed, the rape of young children. But I’ll get into that in a bit; first I want to give you a bit of background on how this great idea of celibate priests came to be.


The brief background of why priests take a vow of celibacy come from the imitation of Jesus and his apostle Paul, granted it’s not directly from them as very little actually is; but the idea of being alone in the desert or on an island, mixed with poverty and the feeling of righteousness was imitated by monks and other religious leader over the first thousand years A.D. Then in the year 1079 the Catholic Church, under Pope Gregory VII made it a law that priests were required to be celibate. I assume that one of the reasons for this was to limit some of the corruption that was so prevalent in the Church at this time. It took hundreds of more years to be taken seriously and evolve to what it is today.

That brings us back to horrible rape of children that the Church covered up for god knows how long. As a side note, President George W. Bush granted the current Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, immunity for his parts in the cover-up of what was so tamely labelled “The Child Molestation Scandal.” Since I doubt there is anyone reading this who does not already know about this, I will pass over the result of celibacy and get back to my main point for this article after this quote on the whole ordeal from Christopher Hitchens.

“Sexual innocence, which can be charming in the young if it is not needlessly protracted, is positively corrosive and repulsive in the mature adult. Again, how shall we reckon the harm done by dirty old men and hysterical spinsters, appointed as clerical guardians to supervise the innocent in orphanages and schools? The Roman Catholic Church in particular is having to answer this question in the most painful of ways, by calculating the monetary value of child abuse in terms of compensation. Billions of dollars have already been awarded, but there is no price to be put on the generations of boys and girls who were introduced to sex in the most alarming and disgusting ways by those whom they and their parents trusted. "Child abuse" is really a silly and pathetic euphemism for what has been going on: we are talking about the systematic rape and torture of children, positively - aided and abetted by a hierarchy which knowingly moved the grossest offenders to parishes where they would be safer. Given what has come to light in modern cities in recent times, one can only shudder to think what was happening in the centuries where the church was above all criticism. But what did people expect would happen when the vulnerable were controlled by those who, misfits and inverts themselves, were required to affirm hypocritical celibacy? And who were taught to state grimly, as an article of belief, that children were "imps of" or "limbs of" Satan? Sometimes the resulting frustration expressed itself in horrible excesses of corporal punishment, which is bad enough in itself. But when the artificial inhibitions really collapse, as we have seen them do, they result in behavior which no average masturbating, fornicating sinner could even begin to contemplate without horror.
This is not the result of a few delinquents among the shepherds, but an outcome of an ideology which sought to establish clerical control by means of control of the sexual instinct and even of the sexual organs. It belongs, like the rest of religion, to the fearful childhood of our species. Alyosha's answer to Ivan's question about the sacred torture of a child was to say ("softly")—"No, I do not agree." Our reply, to the repellent original offer of the defenseless boy Isaac on the pyre, right up to the current abuses and repressions, must be the same, only not delivered so softly.” –Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great


That’s the short note about celibacy in the Catholic Church, now we get to the rules and regulations that were created by sex deprived, possible child molesters for you to follow or else it is a sin and may be responsible for you going to Hell.

The Catholic rules can be divided into three groups: sex before marriage, sex after, and masturbation. (For some reason the masturbation stays in lieu of your marital status.) We’ll start where everybody starts, masturbation. To the Church, masturbation is very bad, in fact any sexually gratifying act that’s end result does not have the possibility of creating a child is forbidden. Everybody knows why masturbation is a sin; actually let me rephrase that, because it is confusing as hell! It doesn’t seem to come from anywhere, or at least any ‘Godly’ source, but if you ask a Catholic person the answer you’re most likely to get back is, masturbation is a sin because it is enjoyable. It really seems like the Church goes out of its way to forbid anything that’s pleasurable. One may wonder how a belief like this would propagate and become so widespread? My personal theory is that people have evolved to not trust pleasurable things, or things that “seem too good to be true,” and so any belief system that has an abundance of ‘pleasurable’ features would therefore not catch on and propagate to any significant means.

Nevertheless, the preclusion of masturbation is a tenet of Catholicism and a more logical reason for it is that the people who made the rules thought of sexual gratification as a literal gift from God. A gift that God intended you to use to produce offspring (that will inevitably believe their parents belief, not that this is relevant here,) so the ‘waste’ of such an immense gift on such an inward desire was labelled a sin.

“If we gave in to our every base instinct every time, civilization would have been impossible and there would be no writing in which to continue this argument. However, there can be no question that a human being, whether standing up or lying down, finds his or her hand resting just next to the genitalia. Useful no doubt in warding off primeval aggressors once our ancestors decided to take the risk of going erect and exposing the viscera, this is both a privilege and a provocation denied to most quadrupeds (some of whom can compensate by getting their mouths to the same point that we can reach with our fingers and palms).
Now: who devised the rule that this easy apposition between the manual and the genital be forbidden, even as a thought? To put it more plainly, who ordered that you must touch (for other reasons having nothing to do with sex or reproduction) but that you also must not? There does not even seem to be any true scriptural authority here, yet almost all religions have made the prohibition a near-absolute one.” –Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great

Upcoming in Part 2:  Sex and Marriage, to finish off Christianity. Then we start all over again with Islam and then Judaism. But first, here's a teaser from the Islam part:

While, when it comes to sex, Islamic views are quite different then the Catholic ones; as an example, they don’t demand or even promote celibacy for their Imams, they do however have rules on marriage and premarital sex that, in my opinion are much more stringent than those of the Catholic Church. Having sex with someone you are not married to is so taboo that there are whore houses that have an Imam (Islamic leader, like a pastor) who actually marries you before hand and then divorce you after. Apparently God is ok with sex as long as it is done under the blessing by an Imam, in the form of a marriage, no matter how short.