My genocide is better than your genocide.

One argument trotted out by theists, ad nauseam, is the old “Stalin was an atheist who killed more people than ,insert genocidal theist here>”. It’s a paltering justification of theist crimes against humanity, as if pointing out that Stalin was a genocidal lunatic somehow negates the blood soaked lunacy of religions.

It’s plainly silly, because not only are such theists treating atheism as if it’s a belief system, but they are also admitting that the activities of the various theistic murderers are criminal and immoral acts.

Stalin exploited a populace already well used to bending the knee to a theistic overseer, by setting himself up as something only slightly short of a god on Earth. His every word was law, he decided what was canon and what was heresy, he declared miracles and he ended up condemning over 26 million Russian people to death.

In effect, Stalin made communism into a religion.

The other boring claim is made regarding the religious convictions, or lack thereof, of Adolf Hitler, another quasi-religious dictator, who, whether he remained a Catholic or not, was more than happy to set himself up as an ultimate authority on Earth, and to exploit the servility of a predominantly Christian population.

As the late, great, Christopher Hitchens said in his later years, fascism and Roman Catholicism were largely indistinguishable from one another across Europe in the 20th century.

So, both Hitler and Stalin were religious figures, whether or not they were atheists, they acted like theistic dictators, I suspect that atheism for them was simply born of a desire not to have any competition for the affection and loyalty of their people.

Small wonder, then, that theists, particularly Christians, are swift to try to distance their belief systems from such monstrous men, and why Christians will often insist that Catholics are not Christians, which makes me crack a smile every time, they worship the same deity, same prophet, have a holy book that’s pretty much the same damn thing, and both spring from the same toxic root, the Old Testament.

Judaism is no more true or just than any other mythology, and I strongly object to the mutilation of the genitals of children.

I am in agreement with Hitchens on this point too, indeed, it was a video where he criticises circumcision for religious reasons that snapped me out of my theism, adults can have their foreskin cut off any time they like, they have the right to have their wedding tackle sawn away with the blunt end of a toothbrush for all I care, but to surgically remove a baby’s foreskin, for no good reason, is a disgusting act and should be stopped.

This is not the point where I begin denying the holocaust, or the various pogroms and anti-Semitic massacres inflicted upon the Jewish people, it’s a justifiable criticism of what I regard as child abuse in the name of religion.

That digression aside, back to genocide.

The point of using Stalin, or Hitler, as an example, is to insinuate that atheism is not only a belief system, which it clearly is not, but one which is no better than a religious belief. As if this somehow illustrates that theism makes you a better person.

If this were the case, then we would not have seen the Hutu of Rwanda massacre their Tutsi neighbours in one of the most Christian countries on the African continent, or the extermination of Serbs, or Saddam Hussein’s attacks on Kurds and Marsh Arabs.

In every case, theist forces have acted no better than the most bloodthirsty atheist dictator, so that the best you can say for theism is, that it doesn’t make you any worse, except that it can.

Delving just a little way into history will reveal theistic depravity, violence and prejudice, perpetrated by otherwise decent people, at the behest of vile religious leaders, many Germans were horrified at what their nation had done to Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled after WWII, but they had been swept along with the crowd, it’s what religion does.

It is also why atheist dictators get away with what they do, not by rejecting theism, but by learning from it, and exploiting its techniques to achieve their depraved goals.

With or without a supernatural deity, theism is a diseased meme, one which can be used by priest or unbeliever alike to garner power, control, wealth and to plumb the depths of depravity.

No gods required.

Why don’t theists understand what atheism is?

I used to visit Quora, a question and answer website, I spent many hours a week interacting with other users, I say used to, because the site has a “be nice, be respectful” policy that is either not enforced at all, or enforced excessively in defence of an individuals personal beliefs.

In almost all of the interactions I had with convinced theists (or trolls posing as convinced theists), they try to tell me what I think, usually using the same words too: “Atheists believe that god does not exist”. They capitalise the “g” in “god”, as if it’s a name, and because they seem to think that only one god has ever been proposed, despite the fact that the planets in our solar system, and thus the days of the week, are named after pre-Christian, perhaps even pre-Abrahamic, gods. For this reason, I refuse to capitalise the “g”, and use some of the Abrahamic gods names (El, Yahweh or Jehovah) to drive the point home.

It has a name, and it bloody well isn’t “god”.

I digress.

For those who are confused, the “a” tacked onto the beginning of theism, to make atheism, indicates a lack of something. In this instance, theism. In the same way that asymmetry is the absence of symmetry.

So, if theism is the belief in a god or gods, atheism is not the opposite of theism, it is not a belief that gods do not exist, that would be antitheism, it is the absence of belief in a god or gods.

Try as I did, not one of the theists I dealt with had any intention of accepting that atheism is not a rival religion to their own, they want it to be a belief system. It’s always “You can’t prove that god does not exist, so how do you know that atheism is true?”. The obvious counter to this is to point out that atheism isn’t a belief system, it’s the absence of a belief in a theistic belief system. Without exception it falls on deaf ears.

I have a theory as to why. Right up until the 19th century, religious claims were pretty much the best explanation humankind had, all a religion had to do in order to take over from an earlier belief system, was lay claim to portents and omens more convincingly, or appeal to the self interest of the locals more effectively, with shinier shrines or grander afterlives.

Religions simply aren’t prepared for unbelief, they’ve always been able to silence, or exterminate, their critics. but since Darwin and Wallace first hit upon evolution by natural selection, the power of religion in most parts of the world has been eroded to the point where only the most backward or totalitarian regimes can execute unbelievers or heretics.

So, in civilised countries, theists have nothing else to fall back on but the arguments they once used to terrify the local peasantry into adopting a new mythology. and when this technique fails, they fall back on attempted logic and flawed philosophy, always based upon a false premise, faulty assumption or outright non sequitur.

And when that fails, they get angry, ALL CAPS words, sentences even, demands to research “the” bible (as if there’s only one version) or Quran, threats of post mortem retribution. Only once have I ever been threatened with actual violence, but then, I do live in a country in which being an atheist is no big deal.

I’ve made the point so many times via the Quora Android app, that my ‘phone can predict what I’m about to say, I only have to type “atheism is” and the ‘phone suggests the rest of the sentence, “not a belief in the absence of gods…..”.

I always use the plural when referring to gods, to remind monotheists that their claim is not the only one, and to try to get through to fellow unbelievers that referring to the Abrahamic god in the singular, is playing into the hands of the theists who would have us all believe that their god, alone in a veritable sea of purported deities, is the only one that’s actually really real, unlike all those fake gods.

They do love to suggest that I am ignorant of the truth, like they have a handle on the deepest secrets of the cosmos because of their belief, despite frequently misunderstanding some basic conventions of the English language, like confusing “your” and “you’re” or “our” and “are”, they will occasionally apologise on behalf of some of the religious bullies and nutters who have helped to shake my former faith, as if that’s what the problem is, my anger at some of the utter arseholes I’ve tolerated in my life.

But in reality, my unbelief is based upon one thing, the fact that I cannot show that gods are even remotely plausible.

I first realised that Christianity was implausible at the age of eleven, but after only a few years at a Catholic school, I could see the cognitive dissonance at work, as people who preached love, peace and charity practiced nothing of the sort as they tried to scare their mythology into us.

So, for a long time, I was an agnostic theist, I didn’t have a specific deity in mind, but I thought, because so many people believed in gods, that there had to be something “out there”. Which is how I discovered Neo-Paganism, a rag-tag collection of revivalist theism, based upon religions long since supplanted by later mythologies.

Being a Pagan was fantastic fun, there are no prohibitions against sex, sexuality, boozing or clothing, just a well meaning bent towards ecological responsibility and not being a dick to others. I loved it, and still have many Pagan friends. But, in the end, I still had to come clean and admit it, I could no more prove Pagan deities were real, than I could disprove the existence of later gods, like El, the early name of the Abrahamic god.

The case for gods has not just been made poorly, it’s not been made at all, it requires more pig headed stubbornness now more than ever it did, because now we have proper scientific explanations for the things our ancestors could only shrug at and ascribe to magic, which drives theists bananas, in the case of Ray Comfort, literally, he tried to suggest that the banana, specifically the Cavendish type, had been created by his god, going to some length to demonstrate that it was convenient to eat, coming as it does in a convenient wrapper, in a hand portable form, curved towards the mouth, full of goodness and energy. The claim was that the banana was designed to fit the human mouth, some wags pointed out that this was also true for the human rectum, but the truth is, the wild form of the banana is nowhere near as edible, isn’t particularly curved, or suited to humans at all, the Cavendish is a human creation, not a god given treat, and comfort is either an idiot, or a fast talking shyster preying on idiots.

Time and again, claims made by religions are overthrown with actual evidence, at which point theists will desperately search their favourite scriptures for something that vaguely fits real facts, just so that they can claim that their religion got there first, but it’s a particularly weal argument, given that this revelation is only apparent after the facts have been uncovered.

I’m still open to being convinced that a god or gods exist, I would happily accept evidence of them, but it needs to be actual evidence, and that’s something that nobody I know of has ever managed to do, that’s why over 4,000 gods are being worshipped right now, and why there are so many schisms and sects within the various world religions. Actual evidence would eliminate doubt and the necessity of faith, it would leave only one religion, rather than thousands of, frequently warring, factions, who all have no more or less evidence than any of the others.

It’s so obvious, I can’t believe it took me so long to realise that religions are fake, all of them. There’s no reason at all to take them seriously, except when they’re threatening your life, eroding your civil liberties, or harming your children, and even then, they’re simply a threat, not a credible claim.

What do I have to be thankful for?

I think I’d like to take some time off from complaining about the tragedies in my life, because I actually have quite a lot to be thankful for.

Ok, so my school career left me with anxiety and a deep resentment for certain things, section 28 was a bugbear for me, it was legislation which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality, in other words, a licence for homophobic bullying. I have never understood the appeal of sport, and in those days, a dislike of sport was seen as a sure sign of being gay. So, despite never having found my own gender even remotely attractive, I was bullied for the imagined crime of being gay, probably by some closet homosexuals, desperate to avoid the same treatment. the teachers weren’t much better either, physical force and violence were not yet out of vogue.

But I did at least get to go to school, something too few children have managed throughout history, and too many still do not right now. Education in the UK, despite successive Tory and wannabe Tory governments, is excellent, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and plenty more to learn, but violence and homophobia are actively avoided, and staff do their level best to maintain standards, even when the Department of Education has its head up its arse.

This leads on to something else I have to be thankful for, I was born into a reasonably affluent family, and grew up in a wealthy country, outside of school I had a pretty good life, a large home, camping trips, holidays abroad, heaps of toys, pocket money, all of which I took for granted because I assumed that my life was average and ordinary, that this was how everyone lived, apart from people who wanted to drop out and live in other ways, the thought that many people lived in poverty (and of course, still do) passed me by. I’ve always been a bit short sighted like that.

I was born Caucasian, or “white” to use the colloquial shorthand, without any kind of disability (although I’m pretty certain that I would qualify to be classified as a person with a special educational need or SEN), have never suffered from serious illness or any allergies, and I’m male. Now, I’m not the sort of person who thinks that women are necessarily being victimised, but being male is definitely an advantage in some circumstances, paternity leave, for instance, and the fact that women’s health does seem to be a bit more complicated than men’s, the menopause is one thing I am pretty glad I will never have to go through.

I have a nice house, and beautiful wife and great kids, who are all as weird as I am, loads of things to be getting on with, although I tend to ignore them in favour of buggering about on the PC.

And to top it all, since I started writing this blog, I not only discovered a new (to me) technique, I call it “overwriting”, because it involves going back to the place a trauma was experienced, to overwrite memories of horror and fear, with the mundanity of reality. In my case, revisiting the station where I witnessed a suicide.

Not only that, but a kind man from the British Transport Police called to give me further details, the victim’s name, and the circumstances that led up to his decision to jump in front of a speeding train.

The result is, I now feel brighter, more positive, less prone to twitching and making odd noises, and best of all, I can now share my coping strategies with others, or recommend them to professional counsellors, which is the idea route, but not always a desirable one for some folk.

Things are looking up again, I’m ready for the next challenge, whatever that may be.

Bring it on.RoboThug 001

Neil, Trevor, Peg, and Steve.

Another instalment from my ongoing struggle with anxiety resulting from the crap life has sent my way in the last few years. The aim is to break all these events down into their constituent parts, to help my brain overcome the irrational idea that the universe has got it in for me.

I first met Neil at school, people, including myself, would take the piss because he had a larger than average nose, it’s not something I’m proud of, I just think it was a relief not to be the object of the mockery of bastards. We weren’t close then, or ever particularly.

Later on, we drank at the same pub, listened to similar genres of music, went up onto the Downs to play live roleplaying games (basically, cosplay Dungeons & Dragons and dodge the dog turds) and when he separated from his girlfriend, Kathy, she and I became an item. I get the feeling that Neil regretted splitting up with Kathy, but that’s life. She’s now my one and only ex-girlfriend.

Trevor was someone I met via the pub and live roleplaying, he was a nice enough bloke, we shared musical interest and friends, but were never close.

Nevertheless, when I posted a Facebook RIP for my close friend Damien, it was the ex-girlfriend of both Trevor and Neil who informed me of their deaths by suicide, which despite the fact that we weren’t exactly bosom buddies, served to deepen the gloom I felt.

Soon after, my Great Aunt Peg passed away, it was sad, but not unexpected. The worst thing for me was that she lived so far away, so visiting her was extremely impractical, even if the centre of the city in which she lived wasn’t a forbidding prospect in itself.

All three deaths occurred in 2013, but they were all deaths of people I had not seen for some years, whose passing was relatively remote from me, which is why I have included Steve on the list.

I met Steve back in my Pagan days, along with his wife Carmen, she was larger than life, bubbly and friendly, an absolute riot, but she died outside of the timeframe I am referencing, and in a year that escapes my memory, leaving behind her Steve and her son. Perhaps someone will remind me, and I can do her some justice, she deserves that much at least.

Steve had scars up and down his arms, his face was often grim and menacing, he made me nervous at first, until I realised that the face was a mask, he was another one of those people whose every joke was pure gold, who loved to see people happy and laughing. I never knew exactly what it was that caused him to self harm, or experiment with intoxicating substances, I heard vague stories, nothing concrete, but it was clear that he was traumatised by his past, one of life’s punch bags.

He died late in 2015, and like Damien, in obscure circumstances (see my post “From the rubble…”), it could have been self destruction, or health issues brought about by any number of issues, whatever it was, it’s none of my business, he’s still a friend in my eyes, even if he’s no longer with us.

 

A monster lies in wait…….

One of my favourite artists is Patrick Woodroffe, as an enthusiastic collector of books published by the (now defunct) publishing company, Paper Tiger, I have scoured his work for inspiration for more than twenty years now, but the one piece that I find speaks to me about my issues, is a small, black and white ink drawing I will post a picture of below.

It’s called “The Headscratcher”, and it is a drawing, Woodroffe explains, of a creature that haunted his nightmares until it was “nailed to paper”.

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The Headscratcher, from the excellent book “Mythopoeikon”, by Patrick Woodroffe, published by Paper Tiger.

Now, as anyone who knows me will no doubt be well aware of, I’m a bit odd, I have a bewildering array of foibles and phobias, and I really do enjoy doodling, so seeing this in such a splendid book, gave me an idea, what if I could overcome my phobia of hypodermic syringes?

So, in 1992, whilst working in some godforsaken dump of a petrol station, where I spent most of my day bored or pissed off, working for an arrogant berk, who paid peanuts, but expected premium employees, I drew my fear.

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It has sharp teeth (I was bitten as an infant by the family dog, I don’t remember the incident, but I am very apprehensive around things with teeth.), dirty scalpels for wing vanes, a stinger (we walked into a wasp nest on a family outing once), a thumb made of some kind of unidentifiable medical instrument I saw once, and of course, syringe fingers. *Shudder*

The foetus in the glass enclosure is a representation of how trapped I felt by my fear.

I’m quite proud of the way I managed to get those tiny string like attachments looking so delicate and string like.DSC_1023

So, did it work? Did my demons leap out of my head and onto the paper? Well, no, they didn’t, but in hindsight, it was unreasonable of me to expect miracles.

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But what I did manage to do was handle them, to beat them into submission.

 

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I can manage my phobia of needles, I can steel my nerves when a bee or wasp drops in for a visit, in fact, I have become quite enamoured of bees, they’re beautiful and very unlikely to sting someone who isn’t bothering them.

Wasps still give me the heebie jeebies, because they’re aggressive little bastards, they are still fascinating, but remaining composed around them is quite tricky.

Hopefully, since I have stopped wasting my life on Quora, I will once again have time to draw, but that’s not quite the problem, it’s more that I no longer have time for boredom, which is an essential part of the process, in my experience. I need time to daydream and read, and to seek out the inspiration of greater artists.

One little thing I would like to mention, is Woodroffes’ nudes, he does paint and draw some girls who are uncomfortably prepubescent for my liking. I find the habit many women have of excising every hair from their neck down creepy and weird, I don’t even like painted on eyebrows, so please don’t mistake my love for Mr Woodroffe’s work in general, as a tacit admission of attraction to children, it isn’t.

From the rubble…..

This is a follow on from my original post “No bed of roses…”, on the advice of a counsellor, I am going to write a series of blogs about the traumatic events of the last few years, starting with the death of my good friend, Damien, to separate out these events, to stop this pile of stuff holding me down by breaking it into more manageable chunks.

You know in action movies, when a building has been blown up or knocked over with the hero inside?

The dust is swirling around, chaos and noise reigns, you think our hero has had his chips, but then, a broken door gives a little, grit and rubble rolls away, and the man himself drags his aching body, covered in dust and blood and bruises, painfully from what’s left of a once viable structure.

Well, that’s sort of how I feel, I’m not saying that I’m a hero, bloody hell no! What kind of an arrogant dick would I be to claim that, when people elsewhere in the world are actually struggling from the wreckage of buildings, losing family, home and hope. What kind of a first world wanker would I be to claim heroism, just because I’m traumatised by my losses and the horrors I’ve witnessed?

But after a traumatic few years, I feel like I’m heaving off roof beams and plaster, finally fighting my way free of events that have weighed me down for too long.

The first unexpected death I experienced was Damien’s passing.

He’d had a shit time, born without one thumb and with only one kidney, adopted by people he didn’t necessarily see eye to eye with, various relationship issues, bipolar disorder, a variety on unethical landlords, underfunded mental health departments, an unstable and alcoholic partner, who disappeared one day from their shared home, and who then became abusive whenever he saw her in the street. He ended up sectioned at one point after all this, at that was before his unique anatomy caused his arms to start failing.

Nevertheless, he was a kind, gently spoken, and frankly, hilarious bloke, who had a way with words I would love to possess so much as a scrap of, after his first suicide attempt, and to keep him out of a psychiatric ward, I put him up in my home for about a week, and would happily have done so again.

Which was why, in 2013, around May time, when I learned that Damien had died, I assumed that he’d committed suicide. I assumed that he’d fallen on low times again, and rather than trouble anyone else with his problems, chose to end his life.

But I don’t actually know.

Damien’s health may have finally got the better of him, he might have had a bad reaction to medicine, caught a fatal disease, suffered anaphylactic shock, anything else could have carried him away. I just assumed that he did away with himself. And for that I feel guilty.

Just over a month before the news reached me, Damien sent me a bawdy joke, namely “Would getting a hand job from a clown count as comic relief?”, I wish I’d had a joke to text back, had I done so, there’s a part of my mind that also feels guilty for not having done so, perhaps, if he had killed himself, my response might have dissuaded him, it might have shone a ray of sunshine into his life.

Perhaps, it would have done, or I’m just being arrogant, in thinking that I alone stood between life and oblivion for my friend.

I still have that text, saved along with what was his mobile number, which surely must have been reassigned by now. But there’s still a part of me that expects Damien to send another joke, offer another anecdote, or ask a small favour.

I know he’s gone, but I don’t want to believe it.

Don’t I moan a lot?

I know I’ve done a lot of whinging on Wordpress, so here’s a more upbeat post!

Looking at my other posts, they’re all doom and gloom, mainly because I have some crap I need to get out of my system.

But in the real world, I love to laugh! If I look at my top twenty favourite celebrities, they’re either stand up comedians, John Cleese (you’re not properly educated, in my opinion, if you have never seen the Life of Brian or Holy Grail), Russell Howard, Andy Parson, Ed Byrne, Dara O’Briain, or funny, engaging, science folks, like Brian Cox (seriously, check out the Infinite monkey Cage on BBC podcasts!), Neil Degrasse Tyson, Sam Harris, or sceptics, like the late, great Christopher Hitchens or James Randi.

My kids, they make me laugh every day, it might be that my daughter will achieve my dream of performing stand up comedy, maybe, I’m not going to push her into it, but if I could just be half as funny, and avoid falling over my own words all the time, I’d give it a go myself!

Get me going on the subject of fish or dinosaurs, and you’ll have a hard time suppressing my enthusiasm, Star Wars is brilliant, no argument, it is, and I’ll cheerfully sit through Lord of the Rings, my history of playing roleplaying games (still waiting to be possessed by demons, by the way, I even got piercings and tattoos to hurry it along a bit), has stood me in good stead for watching LotR, I never needed to read the books, I know I probably should, but my reading list is pretty daunting at the moment!

Another daunting task will be searching through all my old drawing books. All through my, frankly Poe faced, teens and twenties, I always had a pen and drawing pad, I would sit in the pub, doodling away as all my friends danced. They used to joke that I would stop mid-coitus to have a sketch. As a result, I have a large box stuffed with Daler Rowney A6 sketch pads, full inside and out of biro drawings and awful, awful “poems”, or song lyrics I liked from people who can actually write that sort of thing.

I copied the basic outline for this character from a Deaths Head comic in 1992, and used the style of a creature I saw in a 2000AD annual, I’ll add the artists name and the annual if I happen across it:

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I was working in a petrol station, and spent most of my shift bored out of my skull, if only I had time to be bored these days!!

I need to get my camera batteries charged too, spring is upon us, soon Dragonflies and Damselflies will me flitting around our pond, and at a nearby nature reserve, and I really do love to photograph pretty insects!

Get a load of this Beautiful Demoiselle (Demoiselle agrion, I think), I took about seven years ago:

Beautiful Demoiselle Male- Woods Mill July 2010

It was with my old Fujifilm bridge camera, 10 megapixels, full zoom, in macro mode and full sunshine, I was lying on a bridge that had wire mesh nailed to it for over ten minutes, waiting for the Damsefly to return to his perch long enough for me to get a shot, and it’s still my favourite animal photograph ever, you can zoom right in on the wings to see their exquisite details, and I love the way the background is out of focus, giving the main subject more definition.

See? I’m not all doom and gloom, and there’s more to come, much more!