A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist

A friend shared this essay with me on Facebook, and I found it pretty interesting.

As a biographical account of how he became an atheist, it sums up some of the most common arguments for disbelief.

A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist

(…)

I used to believe in God. The Christian one that is.

I loved Jesus. He was my hero. More than pop stars. More than footballers. More than God. God was by definition omnipotent and perfect. Jesus was a man. He had to work at it. He had temptation but defeated sin. He had integrity and courage. But He was my hero because He was kind. And He was kind to everyone. He didn’t bow to peer pressure or tyranny or cruelty. He didn’t care who you were. He loved you. What a guy. I wanted to be just like Him.

One day when I was about 8 years old, I was drawing the crucifixion as part of my Bible studies homework. I loved art too. And nature. I loved how God made all the animals. They were also perfect. Unconditionally beautiful. It was an amazing world.

I lived in a very poor, working-class estate in an urban sprawl called Reading, about 40 miles west of London. My father was a laborer and my mother was a housewife. I was never ashamed of poverty. It was almost noble. Also, everyone I knew was in the same situation, and I had everything I needed. School was free. My clothes were cheap and always clean and ironed. And mum was always cooking. She was cooking the day I was drawing on the cross.

I was sitting at the kitchen table when my brother came home. He was 11 years older than me, so he would have been 19. He was as smart as anyone I knew, but he was too cheeky. He would answer back and get into trouble. I was a good boy. I went to church and believed in God -– what a relief for a working-class mother. You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-­?fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-­?fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.

But anyway, there I was happily drawing my hero when my big brother Bob asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob,” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said.

Oh…hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that. I started thinking about it and asking more questions, and within an hour, I was an atheist.

(continues…)

Keep reading on The Wall Street Journal »

For the moments I feel like letting go

This morning, while I was studying for my Logic class and since I was feeling fine I thought of writing myself a list of things to keep in mind next time I start to feel overwhelmed by everything around me. It served as an excuse to avoid studying, anyway.

  • You don’t know what is going to happen. You despise pseudo-sciences so you might as well admit that you cannot tell the future. Stop pretending that you know that you’re destined to fail if you openly claim that the sole idea of ‘destiny’ is ridiculous and disgusts you.
  • Remember how good it feels when you are calm. See how differently your thoughts can flow when you find yourself in a clear-thinking oasis. Get rid of your depression and anxiety and then try and refute your own depressive claims.
  • Don’t compare yourself. The reason why successful people actually succeed is because they stay loyal to their own goals. After you get rid of whatever is clouding your thoughts set some goals and start achieving them. Don’t be afraid of revising them and change them if you consider them relevant. Try not to change them that often or you’ll be missing the point of having them.

Continue reading ‘For the moments I feel like letting go’

Video Game Quote #1

Are you sure you want to quit before finishing my story?

After I formatted my PC, installed Windows 7 (best decision I’ve ever made) and reinstalled Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (losing all my progress), I’m back on track with the game.

Although I’ve only completed 25% of the game, it’s the best game I’ve ever played.

The quote I chose is probably the most stupid one I could choose. It’s what the Prince tells you when you want to quit the game, but silly as it sounds, it made me think of tens of ways to use it in real life.
Like I could’ve told my ex girlfriend just that… “Hey… Don’t leave me… Are you sure you want to quit before finishing my story?”, although I could’ve changed “my” for “our”: after all, relationships are something you share and not something that’s exclusive to one of the parts.

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My Philosophy – by Woody Allen

woody-allenA month ago or so, my sister left on my desk some old photocopies of a text titled “My Philosophy”, with no author. Since it’s Sunday and yesterday I learned that I did very well on my Sociology exam (90/100) and therefore I can relax a bit with my studying, I decided to give this text a look. It turned out to be a text by the renowned screenwriter, film director, actor, comedian, writer and musician, Woody Allen.

Although after the first read I couldn’t catch every concept on it, I’m hoping that after a few more readings I’ll be able to wholly understand it. You can read the whole text after the jump.

Continue reading ‘My Philosophy – by Woody Allen’

With your every move

Lately I’ve been thinking that it’s while facing everyday decisions that we put who we want to be to test. You define and redefine who you are with your every move.

Just some random Facebook wisdom I put out every once in a while.

Speaking of which, you can add me on Facebook over here.

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Thank you, Sondre!

Look what my sister just brought me from NYC:
love from brooklyn, sondre

I was worried I couldn’t get my hands on this album, but luckily she went to one of the first gigs of the tour in Brooklyn and got to meet him outside the venue.

Thanks to her and Sondre for the special gift.

.-

On my Heartbeat Radio!

Heartbeat Radio

Some days ago Sondre Lerche’s new song, “Heartbeat Radio” surfaced online.

This song, as a beautiful acoustic rendition, first appeared on his “Polaroid Pool Party EP” out last year that consisted of a homemade CD attached to a unique Polaroid picture signed by himself, making each copy unique.

The EP had 6 songs, all of them previously unreleased, that delivered the special feeling of having been recorded with just a mic and a computer. Just like in the good old days around the “Two Way Monologue” era when he released a few other EPs with this sort of demo-esque songs.

Here’s a short video for the EP, from Sondre’s YouTube channel:

YouTube Preview Image

I guess now we can only wait for a new music video… Right, Sondre? ;)

Enjoy his new song, and make sure you buy the new album due this September.

Update!

06.07.09 – I uploaded two new songs thar Sondre posted to his Twitter account. Check out how big “Good Luck” gets as the song goes on and how beautifully the melody is delivered on “Easy to Persuade”, bringing a beat that makes you jump on your feet and dance.

Heartbeat Radio

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Good Luck

I wrote this song on the last day of 2007 after a complicated year that was to be followed by a slightly more complicated year. (Luckily most of the complications were of a practical nature). I’ve never felt in a position to complain but I did want to try and write a song of consolation for those who found themselves more seriously out of luck, and at the same time curse the idea that luck is related to some universal justice. Embarking on 2008 I drove my wife crazy recording the demo for this song in our old box-sized Manhattan studio apartment, repeating the same little guitar-solo part over and over for what must’ve felt like eternity. In order to get some feisty, unusual movements in the string arrangement we had jazz maestro Erik Halvorsen do all sorts of [piano] improvisations over the chorus chords, for us to cherry-pick the highlights and transcribe them to an arrangement for violin and cello that my co-producer Kato Ådland completed. — Sondre [source]

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Easy to Persuade

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[via 1 2 3 – Thanks! ]
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About the Proyecto Burbuja

Recently I was contacted by Magalie Pedrono (SEgroup, for SocialDesignSite) for an interview about the Proyecto Burbuja as a part of her research on Social Design.

It took me a couple of weeks and it was a fun interview to do. Hope you enjoy it!

QUESTIONS:

What is the most important element/factor in your project?

I don’t know how accurate it is to say that a project really makes a difference. I believe that what people do with a project (or what they can take from it) is what really makes the difference.

The Proyecto Burbuja (or Bubble Project, as originally created by Ji Lee) depends on people for it to work: they give it a meaning.

What the Bubble Project proposes is to turn a long established monologue (advertising on public spaces or in general) into an open dialogue. This is accomplished by posting stickers that look like speech bubbles from comic strips, so that any given ad can look like a frame taken from a comic book. Once the bubbles are placed on ads, they are left blank so anyone that wants to make them say anything is now able to do so.

With this said, is just a matter of time until someone grabs a marker and makes a famous movie star say what they want them to say, or maybe make a young girl model from a poster wonder about her future (i.e. “What am I gonna do when I’m 23?”)

Although the message – or the lack of one – always matters, the most important thing about the Bubble Project is to give people the chance to say something, anything, intervening ads invading our public spaces.
The passers-by are at a disadvantage against ads: they shout at them, selling them things they not always need, sometimes almost swearing that the guy in the picture is going to save the country (and why not the world), they display pictures of happy people holding cell phones that obviously are the reason of their happiness…

Continue reading ‘About the Proyecto Burbuja’

On Chaos Theory

My dad, a fan of Chaos Theory, just sent me this interesting article about it and some of its history. Some of these things I already knew, but for the most part it was greatly revealing.
When I visit my parents home this winter, there will be a greater chance of me finally reading the pile of books he left on my desk a few months ago ;)

MATHEMATICS: CATASTROPHE THEORY, STRANGE ATTRACTORS, CHAOS

The following points are made by Nigel Calder (citation below):

1) Go out of Paris on the road towards Chartres and after 25 kilometers you will come to the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques at Bures-sur-Yvette. It occupies a quite small building surrounded by trees. Founded in 1958 in candid imitation of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, it enables half a dozen lifetime professors to interact with 30 or more visitors in pondering new concepts in mathematics and theoretical physics. A former president, Marcel Boiteux, called it “a monastery where deep-sown seeds germinate and grow to maturity at their own pace.”

2) A recurring theme for the institute at Bures has been complicated behavior. In the 21st century this extends to describing how biological molecules — nucleic acids and proteins — fold themselves to perform precise functions. The mathematical monks in earlier days directed their attention towards physical and engineering systems that can often perform in complicated and unpredictable ways.

3) Catastrophe theory was invented at Bures-sur-Yvette in 1968. In the branch of mathematics concerned with flexible shapes, called topology, Rene Thom found origami-like ways of picturing abrupt changes in a system, such as the fracture of a girder or the capsizing of a ship. Changes that were technically catastrophic could be benign, for instance in the brain’s rapid switch from sleeping to waking. As the modes of sudden change became more numerous, the greater the number of factors affecting a system.

Continue reading ‘On Chaos Theory’

Why People Believe Invisible Agents Control the World

by Michael Shermer – Scientific American

I found this interesting read earlier this morning almost by chance on the RichardDawkins.net Twitter feed… I just finished reading it and although it doesn’t give the complete explanation about this so-called Agenticity it made me think different about certain ideas we have about some behaviors of beliefs.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=skeptic-agenticity

Souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers, government conspirators, and all manner of invisible agents with power and intention are believed to haunt our world and control our lives. Why?

The answer has two parts, starting with the concept of “patternicity,” which I defined in my December 2008 column as the human tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Consider the face on Mars, the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, satanic messages in rock music. Of course, some patterns are real. Finding predictive patterns
in changing weather, fruiting trees, migrating prey animals and hungry predators was central to the survival of Paleolithic hominids.

The problem is that we did not evolve a baloney-detection device in our brains to discriminate between true and false patterns. So we make two types of errors: a type I error, or false positive, is believing a pattern is real when it is not; a type II error, or false negative, is not believing a pattern is real when it is. If you believe that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is just the wind (a type I error), you are more likely to survive than if you believe that the rustle in the grass is just the wind when it is a dangerous predator (a type II error). Because the cost of making a type I error is less than the cost of making a type II error and because there is no time for careful deliberation between patternicities in the split-second world of predator-prey interactions, natural selection would have favored those animals most likely to assume that all patterns are real.

(Read on…)

[ Seen on RichardDawkins.net ]