Recent Posts

Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Atheist Afterlife

Religions tell us that an afterlife awaits us after death - an afterlife which we will enter as individuals, as the people we currently are. From the standpoint of continuation versus ending, many religious people look at atheists with pity: it must be terrible, or so they think, to believe that you just... end.

Of course many atheists believe nothing of the sort. Far from despairing over the end of their individual beings that comes with death, many atheists derive joy from the simple scientifically based knowledge that, as their individual being disintegrates with the dead brain tissue, they remain vibrantly present as part of the boundless living world, not the dead world of heaven, hell and the afterlife.

Our brains die and disintegrate - but our minds and spirits live on, quite independently from our individual entities. Each time we meet another person, each time we speak or write or smile at a passer-by or give a bank teller a dirty look, we contribute to the body of human consciousness. Famous people are the most obvious examples of immortality of the human mind - but one doesn't have to be famous. We are all products of our history, as individuals and as a society on the whole; and our history is comprised of all the people who have ever lived. Through us, their consciousness, the product of their now dead brains, is as alive as it ever was in their lifetimes.

This immortality of mind goes not only beyond famous people, but beyond recorded history. The thoughts and beliefs of people living during recorded history were based on the thoughts and beliefs of their ancestors; the fact that they were never written down makes them no less a part of our shared body of consciousness in the 21st century.

The bottom line is, whether we publish books and make discoveries that revolutionize our descendants' world, or whether we simply interact with people in our daily lives, the bits and pieces of what we think and feel, by way of influencing the people around us, will live on in them, their children, their grandchildren, and so forth - even if none of them ever learn our name. The very act of our being makes us forever part of the body of human consciousness.

As with our minds, so with our bodies. As the structural integrity of our bodies falls apart in the grave, our bodies don't disappear - on the contrary, they spread across the world, becoming an integral part of more places than we could ever hope to visit while alive. As our individual being rots in the earth, it feeds the bugs who feed the birds; it feeds the flowers that feed the bees, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The bees and birds carry bits and pieces of our bodies, dropping seeds and pollinating flowers - and next thing, our bodies are feeding humans halfway across the world, becoming parts of their bodies just like our ancestors fed us and became parts of our bodies. Humans who were alive millennia ago are still around today, giving us life as part of the neverending food chain; and we will be around millennia from now, becoming flowers and bees and fruits and people and earth over and over and over again.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Racism of Cultural Relativism: Germany Cites Koran in Rejecting Divorce - New York Times

Throughout the Western world, cases of domestic violence against white women are met with vigilance. But thanks to cultural relativism that expects tolerance of intolerant customs, this might no longer be the case for non-white women.

In Germany, cultural relativism was once again exposed as the appallingly racist ideology that it is, when a white female judge refused to grant divorce to a battered woman whose husband threatened to kill her, on the basis that the woman is from Morocco.

Mark Landler writes in his New York Times article:
In a remarkable ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which she said it was common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse.

[...]the greatest damage done by this episode is to other Muslim women suffering from domestic abuse. Many are already afraid of going to court against their spouses.
Western feminists have shown an appalling disregard for their third-world sisters. The fact that a female judge in Germany, a country with some of the most progressive laws in the world, has decided to withhold these rights from another woman on the basis of her country of birth, is only the most obvious example of apartheid to which too many Muslim women are subjected in the West.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When Ideologies Clash: It’s a Numbers Game - But What Are We Counting?

As the birth rates of many Western countries plummet, with those countries’ orthodox religious communities picking up the slack, the “numbers game” concept is gathering steam. Where even a couple of decades ago, this xenophobic demographics-based concept was the nearly exclusive domain of right-wing nationalists, more and more liberals seem to be jumping on the “numbers game” bandwagon.

The panic is certainly understandable: as Muslim communities expand throughout Europe and North America, their members are seen as carriers of an ideology that threatens the hard won progressive secular values of their host countries. Like a menacing clawed hand of the enemy army crawling across the map of Europe in old World War II movies, Islam can be seen as leeching into the Western culture, carrying with it the threat of misogyny, homophobia and intolerance, and pushing Christianity (which can be - and has been throughout history - no less virulent given half a chance) back into a dangerous position of relevance along the way. But does the “numbers game” attitude help to stave off the threat to secular values like women’s self-determination, sexual freedom and gay rights?

On the contrary: I suspect that it only compounds the problem.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Air Show Porn - NOW Magazine

This Labour Day weekend was marked (or rather marred) by fighter jets ripping holes in the beautiful Toronto sky. Every time one of them passed overhead, making the city shake and leaving a trail of poison, I would flash back to the weeks after 9/11, when every New Yorker would stop and look nervously at the sky each time a plane appeared.

Mike Smith talks about the effects of the Labour Day Air Show on Toronto's refugee population (not to mention its environment) in his insightful article in NOW Toronto Magazine.
Sure, the whole thing’s over in days, but what if you came here to escape that ghastly circus? Over 60 per cent of refuge-seekers in Canada settle in the GTA. For them, Air Show memories may quietly take up residence with pre-existing trauma.
The term "post-traumatic stress disorder" has certainly been overused to the point of losing most of its impact; but I can't deny that witnessing the events of 9/11 first hand has left me with emotional scars that are unlikely to heal completely. And tragic and soul-crushing as it was, this was just one event, just one attack. Watching the fighter jets pollute our world with fumes and noise, I couldn't help but wonder how thousands of refugees who've found a safe haven in this peaceful city, many of whom had escaped lives full of death and explosions, felt about this rude and insensitive invasion.