Short Stack #10

Wise Old Saying I Just Made Up:

We get a first life, which is Life. And we get this second life, which is the memory of us that remains in the minds of those who knew us. There is no other.

So do everything you can to really LIVE in your lifetime, and to leave behind the memory of intelligence and optimism, of strength and persistence, and especially of warmth and caring.

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People who trade religions have the sense that there’s something wrong with the one they have, but not sense enough to realize they’ll find the same flaws in all the others. It’s like thinking, “Hitting myself in the right knee is too painful. I think I’ll hit myself in the left knee for a while.”

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Theory (colloquial definition): A conjecture. A guess. A crazy notion. An off-the-cuff supposition. A hunch. An idea that pops into your head after drinking four or more beers. “A wild idea I just pulled out of my ass.”

Theory (technical definition): A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially a set that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted, and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. In various sciences, a theory is a systematic and formalized expression of all previous observations made that is predictive, logical, testable, and has never been falsified.

The Theory of Evolution is not some wild-ass guess that just popped up during halftime. It’s the rock-solid mortar that binds all living things together.

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Just an idea for all us atheists: The high school you graduated from — does it have a secular student group? What can you do to see that one gets started?

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The difference between PREscriptive and DEscriptive language.

Some people, in PREscriptive mode, say “I’m a Christian, and Christians only do good. Therefore I have to try to do good all the time.” They’re prescribing a role, a set of actions, for themselves.

Others, in DEscriptive mode, will instead say something like “I’m a Christian, and Christians are good, therefore I’m good … no matter what I do.”

The descriptive mode also allows you to believe that anybody who does bad things is automatically not a Christian. If a priest is a devout man of God one day, but is suddenly caught diddling little boys, he’s suddenly not a REAL Christian.

It’s the No True Scotsman fallacy, but it serves as a sort of self-reinforcing protective filter that blocks out all the bad done by religious people, or in the name of religion. If you have this in your head, you never have to suffer a disconnect between your beliefs and the real world — never have to face the fact that Christians can do evil.

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Wonders if one of the many alphabets out there has keyboard symbols that lend themselves more ably to smileys. Are the Arabs, or the Chinese, able to make smileys right-side-up, instead of sideways, like we have to do? Are those goddam foreigners winning the Smiley War? I say it’s time we English speakers looked into it.

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I don’t think I’ve ever met an atheist who was really much interested in controlling other people’s lives. I don’t think I’ve ever met a really devout Christian who wasn’t.

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Wise Old Saying I Just Made Up:

Some of us are role models and paragons of virtue. Others are here to serve as bad examples and to give other people practice in forgiveness.

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If Adam and Eve were scourged from the Garden of Eden, the god of their story is like a daddy who booby-traps a cookie jar with a flame thrower.

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Scientists stand on the shoulders of giants. Religious thinkers stand on the shoulders of superstitious ignoramuses.

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I’m continuing to enjoy the refreshing silence from that world-class bundle of stupidity, falsehood, cruelty and cowardice which is George W. Bush.

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After growing up in my little home sub-culture, I was amazed (when I finally left there and moved out among other cultures) at how much of it was provincial and skewed.

When you’re a kid, you assume your people do the things they do because they’re the right things to do and are done in the best way they could possibly be done. But when you leave, you find they only do those things that way because they don’t know any different.

Getting out of Christianity, and finally religion itself, hit me the same way. Looking back on it, I’m amazed at how weird it all is, how much of it is just wrong.

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Wise Old Saying I Just Made Up:

If you are VERY lucky, you’ll have someone in your life who is occasionally different, odd, difficult. The thing you’ll realize, years later, is that the people who are quiet and easy to get along with, the ones who are common and unremarkable and SAFE, aren’t the ones who make the greatest impression on you, or on the world. It’s the different, odd, difficult friends who are LEGENDARY.

… Or it could be I’m only saying that as an excuse to occasionally be a complete ass.

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The reason people with advanced degrees are more and more likely to be unbelievers is that they gain an increased feeling of power over their lives as they progress in their education. Religion snares weak people. Those with more advanced education are less and less weak, and thus less susceptible to being ensnared.

It’s why fundamentalists of both West and East can never be comfortable with free and unfettered schools and libraries.

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A triumph of unchained capitalism: Candy cigarettes! Man, they should give these out in kindergarten!

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If you’ve never let your dog gnaw on the carcass of a long-dead deer found next to the trail, you haven’t been a top-class doggie daddy.

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About Hank Fox
  • machintelligence

    “If I have not seen as far as others, it is because of the giants standing on my shoulders.”
    Hal Ableson

  • davidct

    “The reason people with advanced degrees are more and more likely to be unbelievers is that they gain an increased feeling of power over their lives as they progress in their education. Religion snares weak people. Those with more advanced education are less and less weak, and thus less susceptible to being ensnared.”

    It makes on wonder just how cynical religious leaders and politicians are about their followers. Those successful in these fields are hardly powerless. One might thus suspect that it is unlikely they believe what they say they do.

  • Nick

    Hank, we’ve lost the emoticon war so badly that, sometimes, it makes me want to flip a table.

    (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emoticons#Eastern

  • Randomfactor

    You just weren’t hitting yourself HARD ENOUGH in the right knee.

  • F

    I’m continuing to enjoy the refreshing silence from that world-class bundle of stupidity, falsehood, cruelty and cowardice which is George W. Bush.

    Thanks for reminding me so I can continue to actively enjoy that.

  • CC

    I rank among the over-educated and under-employed. I think the reason you gave for educated people being more likely to reject religion is true, but an even better reason is that grad students are constantly expanding their ability to think rationally. Some people seem to be born with that ability, but most of us need to be taught. I certainly did. But when my family asks me why I’m a atheist, I don’t bring up my grad school training in critical thinking. People don’t like it when you imply that they’re not good thinkers. :)

    • CC

      *an* atheist

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Here’s a bit of doggerel I learned in the Navy:

    When in danger or in doubt,
    Run in circles, scream and shout!

    Following this advice has ensured people never ask me to take charge in a crisis. :-)

  • NancyNew

    “People who trade religions have the sense that there’s something wrong with the one they have, but not sense enough to realize they’ll find the same flaws in all the others. …”

    Robert Heinlein (in an essay somewhere…I’d look it up but I’m at work and my library is at home) defined a cult as a religion someone joins as an adult, not from societal reasons, but from belief.

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

    “Just an idea for all us atheists: The high school you graduated from — does it have a secular student group? What can you do to see that one gets started?”

    I went to St Xavier HS… run by Jesuits. Highly unlikely, but I’ll check.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mchughdj danielmchugh

    “A triumph of unchained capitalism: Candy cigarettes! Man, they should give these out in kindergarten!”

    Two years before I went through the DARE program in grade school (Princeton Regional Schools, Mercer Co. NJ), candy cigarettes were handed out to kids on the last day of the program. The students all thought it was hilarious. Local parents were less than pleased when all of their kids came home from school that day with very realistic looking faux-cigarettes sticking out of their mouths.

    The following week there was a special assembly to remind everyone that cigarettes weren’t, in fact, candy. Every following year lollipops and tootsie rolls were handed out instead.

  • Robert B.

    *u*

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