Friday, April 30, 2010

Leesen to da Reethum Don be Scaret; Atheism

I am posting this blog in response to a question raised by Lysis at

Most of the arguments about God follow this pattern:

If God does not exist than religion is absurd.

If God exists than religion is the most essential avenue for investigation truth.

If a man claims to be the Son of God, or have talked with God then he is insane. Unless, of course, he is the Son of God or a real prophet.

If God does not exist than millions of people do mumble to themselves every night before they go to bed.

If God does exist than prayer is a holly communion with the divine.

The arguments don’t work because they are based on the issue being debated.

Instead of an argument I would like to present the following illustrations, not to convince atheists of my position but to help them understand how we religious types think. Hopefully it will help free up the dialog.

Scenario #1

Imagine you are a musician whose best friend is deaf. Because of his deafness he does not believe in music. You try for years to convince him that music exists, and that it is beautiful, but you get nowhere. You take him to the symphony. He sits respectfully but afterward claims he heard nothing. Furthermore he claims that you didn’t hear anything either.

Just telling him you can hear the music does no good. He doesn’t really believe in hearing at all. You can’t explain it to him. Hearing is a little bit like seeing, and a little bit like feeling, but it’s really something completely different from seeing or feeling. He can’t understand.

But what about the hundreds of thousands of people throughout time and across societies that claim to hear music? This doesn’t prove anything. In fact it casts doubt on the existence of music. So many people claim to hear it but they have so many different ideas about what music should sound like. Why are there so many genres? How can you claim that the music you hear is beautiful when there are so many different music groups? Your friend has even talked to two people who listened to the same symphony and each described the experience differently.

He suspects that some biological or social disorder accounts for the widespread belief in music. Perhaps a music gene.

And what about the negative or destructive forms of music? You have to admit that there are many ancient and contemporary types that are abhorrent.

“But somehow you have found the truly beautiful music right?” He asks sarcastically.

He points out that music groups insight violence and promote drug use. People waste their money and their lives chasing after this unseen, undetected “sound.”

Your friend is firm. Music does not exist. If it does then you must prove it to him. There can be no appeal to popular belief or personal testimony. Show him something concrete.

The fact that you can produce waves in a pool with sound waves does not convince him. He admits that you can produce waves in the air but he denies that this is sound, and certainly not beautiful music.

If you cannot prove it conclusively then we must remove musical instruction from the schools and certainly stop wasting any government money on musical institutions or celebrations.

Scenario #2

In addition to being a musician you are a scientist. One of your colleagues, very well educated and intelligent, is blind and therefore does not believe in the sun.

You point to the evidence. What about the heat from the sun? Surely he can feel that. He can, and so admits the existence of heat. But he cannot believe that some enormous body somewhere in unreachable space is the source of all heat.

He has felt heat from other people, he has felt fire, therefore he admits that there are bodies that create heat. But your idea of a sun is ridiculous. You claim that there is a body so large that it can provide heat for every living thing on earth and everything that has ever lived.

Not only this you go on to make the absurd claim that all heat, weather from a fire or a human body comes indirectly from the sun. That in fact the sun is the catalyst for all life on earth.

You also claim that this unseen sun holds the entire solar system in balance. He admits that there is gravity and that gravity holds the entire earth system (he dislikes the term solar system) in place. But he cannot believe in a source of all gravity.

He can’t explain exactly where heat or gravity originate, but he is confident science will one day explain it. He quotes several brilliant blind men who are very close to disproving the solar delusion through science.

What is to be done with our friends? We are making the claims, therefore the burden of proof is on us.

I understand that my examples are not exact; picking them apart would be a good exercise so please comment..

If you'll indulge me, would now like to take the images a step further. I believe the following addition will draw the analogies closer to reality but also make them more controversial.

I believe that the real situation is more hopeful and more cynical.

I suspect that our deaf friend is not really deaf but has stopped his ears up with cotton. Our blind friend is not blind but holds his eyes tightly shut.

More than this or deaf friend can still hear the music faintly through his ear plugs. Our blind friend can still sense, vaguely, the light beyond his eyelids.

I suspect that the atheists I know, who happen to be some of my favorite people in the world, are in this state of willing denial.

They certainly work hard to maintain their disbelief, much harder than many of my religious friends work at maintaining their faith. They study their atheist texts much more ardently than many religious folks study their scriptures.

Like I said these illustrations are not arguments but explanations. I hope they help any atheist to gain a better perspective of our position.

As I stated in the opening I am perfectly aware that my analogies are ridiculous unless of course they are correct.

He that hath ears let him hear.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Notes From Sociology 3540
Contemporary Issues in Third World Education

Painted ocean, scents distilled
in glassware bottles, summer faked.

Florescent sun, nylon grass
carpets the floor, lighted caves

Travel by book, school children
in East Burma, must behave

We learn for them, how to force
of ancient jungles, classrooms make.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Summer at Seventeen

Okay I'm going to post some of my old poems. I'm not really into poetry but I think these ones turned out okay.

This is not the staff the poem was originally about but it was a good one.

Summer at Seventeen

Seven Strong Soldiers on a

Blue Battle Field

Sun so Strong it Sears Spirit

Burns Bodies Bronze

Shines on Sails

Sparks on Spray

So Much Summer


For One Brief Moment,


Brothers Burned Brown

Sea is a Sister

Brimming Beauty

Bare feet, Built Bodies

Barely Boys


For one Endless Summer,


Sweet sugar in the air

Citrus, Light, Intense endless skies

Tangible leisure

Invigorating purpose

A long blue water, a Weathered dock

Call of wild birds, Birds call to wild

Wild answers

Tamed by the wild

We need the Sovereignty

This is also a different staff but a good one.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Feeding Time

This vignette I wrote for a class

Feeding Time
I collapse back against the tree trunk. I fight to harness my raging breath and pounding heart. How could I have been so stupid? The old man told me the tiger, a man-eater, had been stalking the camp for days. I curse my youth and arrogance.
The air stands still. The wet heat shimmers green. He must be close, the birds hold their chirping, the saar beetles fall silent. No breeze. Perhaps he won’t smell me. I must control my breathing.
A moment passes. Where is he? Run! No! Stay. I clutch the revolver, pressing its cool barrel against my lips. Why didn’t I bring my rifle? A crack, a rustle, birds screech fleeing the treetops.
He’s right behind the tree. I must run. Right or left? One chance. Crack. I whirl left. Wrong choice. The striped demon crouches low in the grass. Paralyzed in the amber fire of his eyes, I can’t even scream.
I raise the gun. He springs, slashes. My hand! The gun! They disappear into burning pain. An eviscerating swipe tears my torso. I’m flung to the ground, the beast crushing my chest with an iron paw. Golden eyes pierce through the black pain closing in around me. He throws his head back. The roar crashes against the pain and crushing pressure. His fangs flash to my throat.
He whips his head around. His ears perk up.
“Time for lunch.”
My nephew rolls off my chest. I sit up.
“Uncle Shaun?”
“After lunch could we be cowboys?”


These are some vignettes I wrote about Brazil.

I sit on a hard thin bench, in a tall thin church, on a strangely cold morning in Sao Paulo. Light from the stain glass windows cuts through the darkness of the chapel and lands on the cold marble at her feet. She stands before the altar, her head bowed, her hands folded lightly. Slowly her head rises, her dark hair framing her pale olive face. She lifts her hands, palms turned upward. She begins with a single note as thin and delicate as her own tiny frame. Her song floats about the room like a mist. The saints in their niches and the stone carved angels lean in to listen. She worships God with gentle praise and delicate passion. The roar and crash of the metropolis outside fades into a silent reverence. Her eyes close, dark wet lashes. Tears on her soft cheeks, sparkle in the sunlight, like crystals.

The stench hangs on the man like a cloak. His breath rots with alcohol. He throws his arm around me and sits us down heavily on the curb. “I tell you one thing,” he slurs, smiling a broken yellow smile. “You guy’s got it right, you Americans, yeah. You need to take me back with ya, ya know, I’m a good worker, I’m a God’s man. I’m a God’s man, but I drink.”
He laughs, then sighs and rests his head on my shoulder, his eyes close.
Overhead a firework explodes. He jerks upright. “what was…who…oh…you know you Americans got it right, none of this crime, eh… but you guys got war yeah…in the states you guys got war… and… and Bush…and yeah. Well I’m going there one day…I’m a good man…I’m a God’s man, but I drink.”
He shakes his head and squints up at the sky. “I drink cuz I…well I drink…” His voice cracks. “I drink.” He shakes his head, “I drink”. His head falls into my chest, his body quivers and sobs. He wails like a child. I wrap my arms around him. He sniffles and wipes his face against my shirt. After a time his wailing dies down to a whimper, then he is quiet, his body still shivers slightly. I hold him and look up at the sky. More fireworks explode but he doesn’t t stir. He sleeps quietly in my arms.

A silent scorching day, a tiny farmhouse, miles down a dirt road, somewhere in the vastness of the Brazilian countryside. I sit at a hard wooden table. The windows and doors all stand open but not a hint of a breeze enters the house. Marriana, a small awkward eight year old, hands me a glass of warm tap water. It has the sweet taste of earth. She sits across from me. She rests her head on her hand. Her small face is smudged, her hair tangled wildly on her head.
“Was that your Dad outside?” I ask.
“My brother,” she answers and then adds idly, “I haven’t seen them in years, Dad left before I can remember. My brother watches me and my sister. My mother left last spring.” She sounds almost bored. I say nothing.
Suddenly she looks sharply up at me. “Do you love your mom? More than anything else I mean. More than…well…more than anything else?”
“Well yes…” I start but she goes on.
“She was going to give me a dress, for my birthday, it’s in December, at almost Christmas, so she said she’d get me a dress, it would count for my birthday and Christmas, but it would have flowers like the one on the lady in the magazine, but yellow, and smaller a’course, but she was going to buy it, not make it, she was going to buy it at the store in town for me.” Her eyes fill with tears but her voice is unchanged.
“She left on a Saturday. The next day was Sunday and she sometimes takes us to church on Sunday, my brother never goes but my mom takes me and my sister, even though we don’t have dresses, mom has one, and she was going to get me one for my birthday, and Christmas, but she left on Saturday and on Sunday she didn’t come back, so we didn’t go to church again… I love my mom… more than anything else”
She stares right at me. Her dark eyes are overflowing but not at all like a child’s. Her voice never cracks, there is no sobbing or gasping, her tiny lips don’t even quiver, her tiny voice is light and even. Tears roll down her cheeks but she doesn’t wipe them off. She just looks at me, her eyes dark pools. I stare down at my glass. Outside the heat rises in waves off the baked earth.

Music fills the hot, humid darkness of the night. The Favella is dancing. Bombs explode. I let myself in through the crooked gate, and pick my way over the rubble. I cross the sprawling garden and go down the crumbling steps. AnaSilvia’s form, dancing and swaying, is silhouetted against the light from the house.
“Irmã como vai?” I call from the darkness.
“Tudo bem!” Riselia calls from her chair at the doorway. “Come and dance!”
“Not tonight sister, but I could use a glass of water.”
“Of course.”
I sit on the dirt beside her. She reaches out her hand, wrinkled, brown and strong. She pats me on the head like she would a child. She sends a little one to get the water. I sit with my back against the house, sip the water slowly, and together we watch the dancing. Her grandson, Jaime, dances with AnaSilvia. Their bodies seem to float on the thick night air. They dance close, his hands on her waist, her head back, eyes half closed
“Your grandson’s girlfriend is beautiful.” I say, setting down my glass
“Yes, Yes” she answers after a moment. “you know, they’ve known each other since they were children.”
“She lived next door, it was hard for him after his parents died and he came to live here. She took care of him.”
“Will they be married?”
“He loves her very much. They’ll be married when he finds work. Now that they’re older he wants to take care of her. Buy her a house maybe. You can’t get married living with your grandma, can you?”
“He’s a good boy.”
She reaches out a hand and places it on my shoulder. Her other hand, she presses to her lips. Tears fill the creases on her worn face. She nods, “Yes, he’s a very good boy.”

I cried only once in Brazil. The day they burned the Favella. The military police came at sunset. I was on the hill across the train tracks, in the neighborhood, above the slums. We saw their trucks. We saw the flames spread through the huts. Ash filled the hot air like devil’s snow.
When the police were gone, the land cleared for its owner, we met the people at the church. We sang. They cried, then they thanked God, then they smiled and sang and laughed. I walk home at sunset. I cry at the sky as it burns intense and focused. I’ve never seen such a sky.