Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A call to arms

We started writing this blog some 72 posts ago. It has served as an outlet for our frustrations regarding religion, politics, and pretty much everything you see labeled over here to the right-------------->

We have always been aware that we are writing for an audience, but we never dreamed that the audience would grow as rapidly, or become as large, as it has. We have always imagined our posts as bottles thrown into the ocean, and hoped that one or two would find a home and be read by the nearest beach-combing passerby.

Well, it turns out that our hopes were fulfilled, and then some. We are being read on every continent of the world except for Antarctica. We have some weird pockets of fans in places like Latvia, and a small island nation north of England called 'Guernsey.' We love Guernsey, and we have had repeated reading from that island, even though there is only one road. Perhaps our favorite thing to say to those who ask about the blog is this: 100% retention in Guernsey!

We do not get a million hits a day, or even a thousand. We are, however, shocked on a daily basis by the realization that each one of our posts is read by more people than anything else Josh or I have ever written.
We also have a weekly live internet radio show, called REASON podcast, and are working hard on developing a website and building 'The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York.' We have our fingers in a lot of pies...and we are running out of fingers.

Don't worry, we still have plenty to say, and will continue doing so as we rail from rooftops screaming our Atheist, Gay, Communist, and all around offensive agenda. We only wish that our posts could be more frequent...If only there were more hours in the day.

Or, if we had some help.

And so, we are now accepting applications from those who want to join us as an author. We are accepting applications from those who have something to say.

I guess first and foremost...there is no money. Trust me, we wish there were. If money does come along at some point, those who have stuck with us will certainly share in the wealth. But we didn't start this for money, we started this to share our words...and now we want you to share yours, as well.

If you've been reading our blog, then you are probably familiar with the sort of style we are looking for. Take a look at our posts, come up with any sort of topic that might interest those who fall under the moniker of 'Offensive Atheists,' and send us a sample.

If you do decide to throw your hat in the ring, then we only ask that you be reliable. Let us know what kind of commitment you'd be willing to make...be that a post a month, a post every other week, whatever you think you can handle.

So, go ahead, write something up, and email it to: REASON@wnyatheist.org
We will be accepting applications until January 27th, so have your submissions in by then.  Make sure to include your contact information, and how frequently you'd be willing to participate.

One thing that I have heard or read pretty much every day since Christopher Hitchens passed away is the following phrase: Thanks, Hitch, We'll take it from here! We are building something here, and we'd love to have your participation.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
Paul Wittmeyer & Joshua Billingsley
The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York

Friday, December 16, 2011

Godspeed

As I am writing this, it's 12:21am, and I have just found out that Christopher Hitchens died tonight. I'm kinda devastated, and actually quite surprised at my reaction. He has been sick for a while, and I suppose that this is nothing more than then inevitable. I didn't know him, I've never met him...damn, I've never even been in the same building as him.

Also, on a fair number of points, I have always disagreed with him.

He was, however, always my hero. The first time I heard the name Christopher Hitchens, it was on an episode of Penn & Teller's 'Bullshit!' He was clearly drunk on what I assumed was either wine or scotch, and he was bitching about Mother Theresa...and he just didn't give a shit about what you thought.

I have since watched him debate opponent after opponent, and that same brash, condescending tone was present throughout, and I loved him for it. On points that I agreed with, I marveled at his ability to construct an argument. On points that I disagreed with...I marveled at his ability to construct an argument.

Hitchens is one of a number of people that I have tried to emulate in my life. Like him, or hate him, you have to admit that he was better than anyone in the world at doing what he did. I admire excellence in any form. William Lane Craig is a great debater, Dinesh D'sousa is a fantastic nut job, and Christopher Hitchens was the world's most correct asshole.

And I loved him for it.

I loved him for this:
          "And not scorning the three delightful children who result— who are everything to me and who are my   only chance of even a glimpse of a second life, let alone an immortal one, and I’ll tell you something: if I was told to sacrifice them to prove my devotion to God, if I was told to do what all monotheists are told to do and admire the man who said, “Yes, I’ll gut my kid to show my love of God,” I’d say, No, fuck you!"
Christopher Hitchens (April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011)

You will be missed.
-Paul Wittmeyer

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Born this way

Born this way. Like that makes it better. People throw that around to suggest that you cannot blame the gays for being gay because it is beyond their will.

I call shenanigans!

That is the stupidest argument for protection that one could proffer. Why does it matter? What if one day I decided to have the sex with men? Do I have to claim I was not in control to avoid social punishments, ostracization, or even violence? Screw that!

I don't care how you were born. I don't care if it is genetic or inherent or innate. People have rights! That is not a complicated fucking notion. Human beings have human rights.

Consenting adults doing things with consenting adults is what freedom means. If my actions do not hurt others, my actions are acceptable. This line of arguing is akin to that which is used by the drug legalization crowd. There is a difference. One can construct an argument as to how drug use is bad for society in general. Addiction, work absenteeism, theft, assault, and the like. As much as the Christian Right would like to there is no clear chain showing homosexuality damages anyone; subject, or those in the periphery. There is no damage we can gather from the homosexual act or homosexual lifestyle (whatever that is).

Born this way? I give two craps. People doing what they want and not hurting others is good enough for me. I hope it is good enough for you too.

-Josh 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lies and the lying liars who tell them

Lies and the lying liars who tell them

Why do we lie? We evolved to have this capacity. It may have been
beneficial or simply happenstance. Considering the tremendous
advantages it provides we would have to assume that it provided some
evolutionary benefit.

All humans lie. As children we learned that we could just say things
and people accepted them as true. After some time we also learn that
simply saying something is not sufficient to make it so. Even to the
listener. We learn that there is a time and a place to lie. We learn
that lies are hard to keep and they should be used sparingly.
Depending on skill we then tend to lie more or less often as adults.
The social stigma of being branded a liar also keeps lies in check.
In communication we use words and gestures and expressions and the
like. We also use empathy. Shaping the words, gestures and expressions
to make sure our audience gets the message. Empathy is one of the real
differences between higher and lower animals. Few non-humans have any
capacity for empathy. Basically it is predatory pack animals (like
wolves), generally smart animals (like dolphins and elephants), and,
of course, higher primates (like gorillas and chimps). None to the
extent that we humans express the trait though. Prairie dogs, for
instance, have a very advanced form of communication which has nouns
and verbs. Even with this and their very communal evolution, they have
displayed no traits showing empathy. Some would argue that only higher
primates have any capacity for empathy. Tests of this are hard and
unreliable.

Empathy is being aware of others as things like yourself and being
able to make decisions based upon that. Complex behavioral
predications and the like. I hate to call it this but it is being
aware that the other has a mind of their own.

The animal we know best can empathize (and therefore lie)is the chimp.
They deceive each other often. We have study after study to support
this. But they cannot speak. Words make lies so easy.
What makes a good liar? Well, there are physiological signs of lying
which we can detect. That is the idea of the lie detector at least.
Heart rate, perspiration, and the like. We also tend to speak
differently. Talk disproportionately too much or too little. We have
long pauses or no pauses at all. We look around a lot. Make too much
or too little eye contact. We fidget. We tend to make strange facial
expressions. It is because we are trying to act normal and never paid
enough attention to what we do when we are telling the truth. We get
it wrong. Like walking sober in front of your parents after a night of
drinking. “Act normal” is hard.

If you accept Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) you would look for
"Visual Accessing Cues". People look to the left when they lie.
Either straight left (Auditorily Constructed) or to the upper left
(Visually constructed). The idea is that you are looking to the
portion of the brain that produces constructed memories as opposed to
the right where recalled memories are drawn from. This is a load of
crap except that people do, statistically, look to the left or up and
left when they lie. The numbers are not great and no one checks this
against handedness.

A good liar is someone who does not do any of the above. Combined with
the intellect and empathy to say lies their audience would believe,
that makes a good liar.

One of the characteristics of Psychopaths (or sociopaths or Antisocial
personality disorder types or narcissistic personality disorder types
or whatever) is that they lie. They lie a lot. Problem they have is
their lies are superficial and not tailored to their audience. They
are rehearsed and not created. The Psycho fails at empathy. Their lies
are clumsy and two dimensional.
The reason many of us lie well is that we do it all the time. Every
day. There is the outright lie, the truth fudge, lie by omission,
oversimplification, declaration as fact that which we assume or think
we know without support.

Notice I did not include “white lies” in that little list. White lies
are just lies you want to avoid guilt about.
Think about the last time you told a story of any kind. You left out
information. You have to. If you did not you would take longer to tell
the story than it took for the events themselves. Words to describe
images, sounds, feelings. Lots of those were left out. You also shaped
that story for an effect. You read your audience and the circumstances
and shaped the story to fit. You lied. Sugar coat it if you like. If
it makes you feel better. You made a false representation of reality
for your own gains. Simple as that.

Now, why do people lie? I would argue that there are three reasons and
three alone. Weakness Shame and Laziness.
Lies to make yourself seem better are because you are not good enough.
That is weakness. Telling stories that put you in a good light and
avoiding those that put you in a bad light. Weakness. Avoiding
conflict by saying that the outfit does not make her look fat.
Weakness. Omitting your attraction to wearing women’s clothes. Shame.
Telling your woman that the nearly naked hottie nearby looks
scandalous and that her outfit is shocking. A little shame and a
little weakness.

Laziness I considered calling apathy. It is a social laziness which
borders on social negligence. This is the most acceptable in general.
Every time people ask you how you are doing they are lying and every
time you say fine you are lying. We all know it and have ceased to
even acknowledge the question or answer. We decided that those words
are unimportant. Don’t matter.

I have found the language of lies inherently dishonest. Little “white
lies” “stretching the truth” “shaping the story” and the like. These
are words we use to mask the fact that we are distorting reality for
our own gain.

If that is not a Lie I do not know what is.