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Friday, March 23, 2012

  Okay, so I'm totally bummed that I can't go to the Reason Rally and I figured that lots of other people are too so I decided to add a Reason Rally 2012 page to my website.  I'm going to grab every bit of media I can find about tomorrow's rally and post it to that page.  Hope you come check it out!

I created a petition to add to the voices of the Reason Rally.  You can add your name here.

Noodles be with you!  R'Amen!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Female Atheism

  Before I start here, let me say that I know this sounds a bit insensitive to the LGBTQ community, but it is not intended as such.  I am in no way attempting to diminish the contributions to our species by homosexuals in our branch of the Tree of Life, but for simplicity's sake, I'm sticking with the very basic, primitive idea of a family unit here.  Please forgive me if it offends...

  It is statistically proven that there are far fewer female atheists than male. After reading about that, I also came across a statistic regarding prayer, which says that the women polled prayed more often than the men polled.  There's a very simple explanation for this and thank you, Dusty, for your post about Atheism needing more women because you got me thinking about it and about how true your conclusion really is.  I think you're 100% right.  Humans are still evolving, though the changes are very subtle these days.  Women have begun to turn away from using their prefrontal cortices to chose mates and, in some cases, have started looking for an intellectual connection, or, to put it more plainly, the smart guys.  Times have changed and the primitive needs of a male's family don't really exist anymore.  They don't need to hunt, nor do they need to be the protectors of the family anymore.  We have grocery stores and houses with locks and alarm systems...you see where I'm going with this.  It's the innovative guys we're looking for now.  The guys we need are the ones who can fix a problem or help solve a puzzle (not a literal one, of course, but maybe those too). There's something more, however, and it goes much deeper than guys trolling girls and scaring them off.


  I've blogged before about empathy and morality and how it is encoded into us.  Now let's take that just a bit farther.  Let's pretend for a moment.  Let's imagine a family of early hominids: There's an adult male and an adult female and they have a baby.  Now we're pretty sure that these families lived in groups, but let's just use one family in this scenario.  The male, being the larger and stronger of the two, would be the one to protect the family and bring home the bacon, literally.  The female is responsible for making sure the offspring have what they need to grow and thrive in order to eventually pass on the genes to the next generation, which is the ultimate goal for all living things.


  Because of those divided roles being passed on in our genes, it only makes sense, to me, that there be a discrepancy in the male to female ratio in Atheism.  Ours is a brand of survival that has worked incredibly well for a large portion of species for a long time.  As Sir David Attenborough put it, in essence: a species encountering no change sees no cause for change.  That brand of survival has led to more emotional females and more dominant males. Before I get bashed for that, I don't think that men are more primitive, they just evolved slightly differently for the good of the species.


  When a female reacts (I'm talking about primitive reactions here) to an offspring that expresses a need for something, they react, first, by getting a worried kind of feeling, just plain empathy perhaps, that doesn't go away until the problem is fixed.  A female's secondary reaction would be defensive if the need exists to be so.  Males, again, in a primitive sense, react first by getting agitated, ready to defend his family and the secondary reaction is an empathetic one if no danger is present to defend against.


Women have an encoded need to be emotional and Atheism, having a marketing campaign of being "logical and reasonable" doesn't, in the mind of a LOT of people, leave any room for a spiritual side.  That's one of the main arguments I've been battling lately.  smh  I have, thankfully, been able to find an incredibly spiritual side in Atheism and, no, it doesn't have anything to do with me having a soul.  That's something I'll address in a little more detail later on.  Since there is that mindset, however stereotypical it may be, it makes it difficult for women to get behind Atheism in some aspects.  If that deep, emotional feeling I used to get when I went to sing with the congregation at church, for example, doesn't exist in Atheism, then that's one mark against it without even taking into account any doubts concerning "conversion" that may exist already.  When I went to church, I got that feeling of connectedness, that warm feeling in my chest, the tears streaming down my face and the feeling of amazement.  I am in no way saying that men don't get that feeling, nor am I saying they don't need it, however, it's a more deep seeded need for women, in my opinion.  If more women are to come to an atheist viewpoint, we'll have to work with that, I think.


  Men, having the strong defense reaction, automatically get "pumped up" by an attack, be it a physical attack or an intellectual one.  I've watched enough male Atheists vlogs and blogs to know that's true.  I think that maybe Atheism, being dominated by males, has gotten the "angry" label because of this.  Again, but on the opposite side, I'm not saying women don't get angry for the cause of Atheism.  One listen to Madalyn Murray O'Hair or Greta Christina will affirm that women are very capable of expressing their anger. Again, the ratio of men to women is what makes it seem like an unfeeling way of thinking. Yes, I know how oxymoronic that sounds, but it's true, I think.


  As to the things I get emotional about, you can read my "Poetry of Reality" blog here for a longer list.  Since it's not the intended purpose of this blog, I'll just share one of my favorites.  I said it once before and I'll say it again: Neil DeGrasse Tyson says it best with this quote:


“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”

  Right behind that is the amazing, lottery-winner feeling I get when I think about the fact that, in evolutionary terms, we are the 1%.  About 99% of the species that ever lived are now extinct, but we were lucky enough to be part of a branch of the family tree that flourished.  I find that pretty fucking amazing.

Thanks for joining me!  Noodles be with you!  R'Amen!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Poetry of Reality


    In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin said: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."  That, to me, is such an apt view of what reality is. Lots of people feel it is a way of thinking that is illogical. All of these events just happened to occur that lead to the creation of everything and it's ridiculous to think that it would be possible for all of the mistakes needed to create life in the scientific model of the universe could actually occur.  It is much more rational, in their opinion, to maintain traditional beliefs consistent with their geographic location.  It's comfortable, which makes it right in some way.

    There are lots of unlikely circumstances that have to occur in the scientific model in order to create and sustain life, however, given what we know about probabilities, it was bound to happen.   No matter how small of a chance there might be for something to occur, given enough time, it WILL happen.   It seems that religious people, set on disproving evolution and the Big Bang, look at science the same way they look at their own religion and beliefs.  They pick and choose what suits them and don't think about anything beyond what they believe proves their point(s). The Miller–Urey experiment in 1952, the first, and probably most simple, proved, within a week, that creating organic material  the way it was thought to have occurred in the scientific model, was indeed possible, yet being able to create living material from pretty much nothing obviously wasn't good enough.  They created slime, but even 100 years after Darwin's proposal, people didn't feel they had enough proof to agree with evolution, nor did they bother to imagine the connection between the two, so they continued to believe in something else there's no proof of instead.  Something like 99% of all species that ever existed have become extinct.  That's "God's" perfection at work?  I think not.  I see it as evidence against a supreme being as well as making me feel extremely fortunate to be a part of the evolutionary 1%.

    
    Richard Dawkins said:  "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”  The fact that we know, understand, and have the ability to manipulate so many things in our universe is one of the amazing things science has to offer.  Taking the Bible's word for it just doesn't make any sense to me anymore and I find more excitement and awe for things in the universe than I ever did with the mythology of any religion.  The fact that our brains have evolved enough not only to use the scientific method to discover new things, but also that we create better tools everyday to improve our powers of observation is amazing to me.  We have an incredible ability to solve problems as well as an unquenchable desire to do so.  What's even more amazing to me is that the scientific process was invented and used millions of years ago.  Our ancestors made observations, tested their theories about those observations and put them into practice.  When they were wrong, they modified their findings.  The fact that we're here and evolved so far, so fast is proof of that, I think.  

    I recently had a "scientific" experience, if you will. There are some videos made by MelodySheep (I'm sure you've heard of the Symphony of Science series on YouTube) that I thoroughly enjoy. The feeling I get when I watch them in conjunction with contemplation of our blip of an existence is exactly the same feeling I used to get in church contemplating god and singing with the congregation. I had the tears and the feeling of awe and, without anyone else being there, a feeling of deep connection that I never felt as a christian.  Without realizing it, I was conducting my own experiment.  I proved, to myself at least, that it is a reaction in the brain and a release of chemicals in the body that give us that feeling of "the Holy Spirit" and music, I suspect, is the catalyst.

    
    You can find the same thing at a concert, for example.  Look at Woodstock in '69.  That would be a prime example of music creating solidarity among the participants.  Music, another of the things I feel amazement toward, has awesome power with humans because it is another base need for us.  Music evolved, many theorize, as the earth became more and more populated and establishing a territory became more and more important.  In order to avoid unnecessary confrontation, it became important to advertise where a particular animal had declared its home.  Territorial sounds evolved into shows of strength, health and solidarity long before the first ape stood upright on a regular basis.  Siamang gibbons are a great example of that fact.  They have a rhythm, parts for specific members of their family group, solos; basically a stripped down version of human music, and strong evidence supporting the early evolution of music definitely exists.  I think it's amazing that music is so deeply rooted in our genes and that it has had, and continues to have a great effect on us in many ways everyday, sometimes without us even knowing it.  Reacting to music is, indeed, one of our animal instincts.


   Science seeks to connect us, whereas religion seeks to separate us. Within the Bible, there are so many instances where "God" points out all the ways that we're different and how to react to those differences, most often, in a violent way. Religion, in any form, creates and defines its bubble, and anyone outside the bubble who is not interested in seeing things their way and being brought into the bubble are seen as unclean or sinners or infidels and unworthy of the goodness of their god.  I find wonder in the fact that no matter where you look, science is trying to make connections with all things in our universe.  Unified theory, the fact that all human ancestors came from Africa, and the Tree of Life are just a few of the major focuses of science these days.  No religion will ever seek to connect humankind or, indeed, all life on Earth in this way.  It's amazing to me that all these religions claim to be loving and accepting and peaceful, yet it is science, and not religion, that tends to be truly all-inclusive.  Knowing that we are, undoubtedly, all connected, it makes it even more incomprehensible that humans should treat each other in any but the best possible way.  The connection I feel toward my fellow human became so much more pronounced when I finally let go of all of the myths.  


I'll leave you with my favorite and, in my mind, the most poetic quote on the beauty that can be found in the universe without a god:

    “Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”  ~Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Atheist Blogroll

This blog can now be seen on Atheist Blogroll!!  It's a great, central place to find like-minded individuals expressing their thoughts on Atheism and related subjects.  There are lots of blogs to read and some great ideas out there!  Check it out here!  If you have a blog that fits into the "atheism" category, you can sign up to be included too!  Mojoey maintains the list and is happy to add new blogs to it.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Seperation Could Hold Back Humankind

   We have lots of evidence that about 230,000 years ago, colonies of  Neandertals began to settle on the continent of Europe.  They were alone there, from what we know, until about 30,000 years ago at which time our own ancestors began to colonize Europe as well.  It has been a pretty widely accepted theory that Homo Sapiens came in and outwitted the Neandertals and managed to wipe them out by out-surviving them.  More recent evidence and evidence analysis has shown that theory is likely to be largely false.

    To begin with, Neandertal skeletons have been observed to have a larger brain case than that of the Homo Sapiens.  In general, the larger the brain in comparison to the body it's in, the smarter the creature it belongs to. Was this definitely the case with the Neandertals, we can never know, but it's a pretty well-evidenced idea in nature.

    Neandertals had been in Europe, a cold climate, particularly so for a species coming from the very warm climate of Africa, for about 200,000 years and had lots of time to adapt to their environment.  This gave them another advantage over the "invading" Homo Sapiens.  Their bone structure also suggests that they were more stocky and muscular than our ancestors possibly giving them an edge when hunting.

    Perhaps the Homo Sapiens had better tools.  A year-long study done by two archaeologists on the Homo Sapiens and Neandertal tools trying to understand what it was that led to the demise of the species.  They found that not only did Neandertal method for making tools not only produced a larger cutting edge than those of Homo Sapiens, but it also wasted less material allowing them to make more tools.

    So what was it that gave us an edge over our "superior" cousins?  The first evidence we can find that gives us a clue is a flute made of mammoth ivory found in Germany.  It is the earliest archaeological evidence we have of a group of humans making music.  Why is this important?  Community.  It is music that brings creatures of all species together.  Of all of the creatures that communicate with each other within their species, most of them communicate with sound.

    Imagine, if you will, Bonobos hanging out in the forest in their family group.  These are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom and they are, like most primate species, very vocal.  As we evolved, our need to communicate with each other would not have left us, but rather, became more important.  Compared to the other hunters in our early evolutionary history, we were in no way equipped to compete as individuals.  We had no claws or large teeth to bite with and our ability to run fast enough to outrun a competing species went out when we started standing more upright.  (Four-legged animals are faster that two-legged ones.)  It was necessary for our early ancestors to remain in a group, thus outnumbering their competitors and swinging the pendulum back in our favor.  As the earliest humans evolved, so did their method of communication.

    It takes imagination to invent, which our ancestors were obviously pretty good at.  If you have imagination, it stands to reason that there would be some form of artistic products as a result.  They moved from grunts and screeches and all manner of "animal" noises to perhaps imitating the sounds of the birds they heard.  And things snowballed from there.  It is, I'm pretty sure, ingrained in us to react to music.  Different music will incite different reactions, usually emotional.  I can almost imagine our early ancestors encircling a fire and stomping and "singing" as they prepared for a hunt, for example.  Our sense of community was a huge advantage for us compared to Neandertals.  This also suggests inter-colony communication among the Homo Sapiens.  If the flute isn't convincing enough, how 'bout this?

    Artifacts of art have been found not just in one colony, but in almost all of them and they are all almost exactly, if not exactly, the same.  What archaeologists suspect to be fertility idols have been found all over Europe from the same period in the fossil records.  There are three conclusions you can come to with this information: 1. The different colonies of Homo Sapiens were perhaps trading with each other. 2. The different colonies were sharing information with each other on how to make them. 3. Each of the colonies happen to make the same art at the same time of their own imaginations.  That last one would be a pretty big coincidence.

    The fact that we were communicating with other groups of Homo Sapiens not only gives us the possibility that they were aiding each other with food or weapons, perhaps, but it also opens the door to mixing gene pools providing for greater genetic variation, thereby increasing the chances that the processes of natural selection and evolution would flourish.  The fact that there is no evidence suggesting any interbreeding between Homo Sapiens and Neandertals suggests that the Neandertals did not share this sense of community.  If Neandertals were the "traveling to look for a new mate" kind, there surely would have been some evidence of interbreeding.  I do concede, however, that this does not a fact make, but I think it's a pretty good theory.  If Neandertals did not commute to other colonies, then it stands to reason that if the colony faced a hardship, there is a low chance of survival of the colony without help.  It also makes sense that incest would have HAD to take place among them making their gene pool highly susceptible to multiplied bad genetic mutations causing all kinds of problems for them, hindering their chances of survival.

    This idea is further evidenced by a recent study I found on the BBC News website.  It suggests that the Neandertals may have lost large portions of their numbers long before our ancestors arrived, approximately 10,000-20,000 years before.  The study looked at genetic variations in both Homo Sapiens and Neandertals to draw this conclusion.  The genetic variation in Neandertals was found to be about the same as that of modern humans, which is not very much for so early a time.

    The conclusion I've come to is that it's our sense of community that we should focus on.  Genetic variation is only a small reason I say that, though.  I'm just trying to point out how important it's been in our evolutionary past.  When we separate ourselves, we have a reason to find differences between our group and "the others".  If we find differences, that gives us a stage to pick out why our group is better.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

   Morgan Freeman, when asked what he thought of Black History Month, said it was "ridiculous".  He went on to say that Black History is American History and shouldn't be thought about one month out of the year.  He says to end racism, all we have to do is stop talking about it.  I think there's a lot of truth in that.  He said to Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes:  "I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man." This is what we all need to do to make things better for everyone. Let's stop using labels and focus on our species as a species and look at what makes us the same instead of what makes us different. Without that, I don't think we'll be going anywhere.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How I Became An Atheist: The Fear of Coming Out

3/4/2012

   I was born in 1976 to a family who were members of the WGC or Worldwide Church of God, now known as Grace Communion International.  When I say my "family", I mean my entire family.  Grandparents on both my mom's and dad's side of the family on down through the generations went to this church even in different states.  I linked to the Wikipedia page so that you can read about it if you'd like.  They were in the middle of a scandal when I was born...something about malfeasance.  My memories of the "rules" of the church are similar to that of Jehovah's Witnesses.  I didn't celebrate my first Christmas until I was about 6 or 7, I think.

    I was a curious child and remember wondering about lots of things.  Thankfully, my parents did everything they could to encourage that from buying science kits to sending us to weekend science classes of our choice called Super Saturday School where we learned about all kinds of sciencey things.  One I remember in particular was on geology, which I enjoyed immensely.

   I remember most of the people from the church being very nice.  I remember living in a community where a lot of our neighbors went to the same church, so those were the people we spent social time with as well.  One of the members was my sister's and my babysitter for a very long time.  I remember my mom and dad leaving the church for good, but I don't remember why.  (I think I'll ask them about that.)  After leaving the church, I remember my mom having problems with her mom because she left.  It wasn't pretty.  My dad's side just seemed to ignore us for a while, which wasn't too nice either.

   I remember finally getting back together with the family several years later and we started having monthly picnics and getting back to normal, as it were.  My parents just kinda left religion on the back burner and still don't attend any church.  I did most of my growing up believing in a higher power, but I was reluctant to put a Christian "God" label on it for a very long time.

  At 15, my dad came out as a gay man.  Again, there was a ruckus in the family coupled with a few family friends who ended up being less than accepting.  Dad was forbidden from eating on their plates or swimming in their pool for fear of AIDS, because, you know, all gay men have AIDS.  This was the early 90s and the information was there, but, as we see everyday, people ignored it or didn't believe it.  It was a poor rendition of the "Better Safe Than Sorry" attitude.  This, believe it or not, is what has had our extended family separated to this day.  I wish I'd known then what I know now...

   When I was about 20 I became a born-again Christian.  I went to church in bare feet because I felt it brought me closer to Jesus.  I read the Bible, though, I must admit, not very much.  Maybe that's why it took me so long to put all of it aside.  I prayed.  I sang in church with my hands up, crying and feeling the holy spirit.  I went to group meetings set up within the church.  I went to Bible study groups.  I was, without a doubt, a Christian.

    I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but I started doubting.  However, I think most of my doubts started when I started watching LOTS of documentaries about the natural world, most of which were presented by the fabulous Sir David Attenborough.  Who better to teach me about the facts of the world?  He is the most well-traveled and one of the most knowledgeable men in the field of natural history.  I watched the programs lots of times over several years and absorbed as much of the information as I could...then I started thinking.  It was like taking off the "rose colored glasses" and seeing the world for the first time.  There wasn't really an "ah-ha" moment until about 3 months ago, but it took me a long time to get there.

    I had been so ingrained with the fear of hell that I couldn't bring myself to actually say "There is no god."  It took me a year to convince myself that it was okay.  For most of that year, it made me physically ill to think about it.  The fear welled up inside me every time I tried.  Thankfully, I live with an atheist and that has been a way for me to connect in a small way and talk about the things that were scaring me.  He was, in no way, pushy on the subject.  He just helped me make it okay inside myself so I could let it out and actually say "I'm an atheist." and be thoroughly convinced of it.  It still scared me, but I was able to "play through it" and get passed it.  It still makes me feel nervous talking about it.

     That's when I realized how bad religion really is.  Not only was I holding on to anger I felt toward god for a particular tragedy that occurred in my life when I was 26, I was also more scared than I had ever been in my life!  There was nothing left for me to be angry about.  The entity to whom I delivered my anger was gone and now I could be okay with saying, essentially, "Shit happens."  That's just the way the world works and the only way to do anything about something you don't like is to learn about it so maybe you can fix it and it won't happen again.  As I said before, I still get butterflies when I think about the whole thing because I can still feel that fear, but my knowledge tells me that it's a psychological problem and nothing more.  Because I know that, I can work on getting past it.

    I watched a movie called The God Who Wasn't There and I have to say that the ending scene where the filmmaker, Brian Flemming, denies the holy spirit in the middle of the church where he became born-again was one of the most powerful moments I've ever seen on film.  It almost made me cry because I was that guy.  To someone who has never been a christian, it may just seems like a cool or funny ending.  For me, that moment was what Passion of the Christ was for me as a christian.  Yes, I totally fell for Mel's crap.

     Once I finally made that monumental leap and denied the holy spirit, I got unbelievably angry.  That anger didn't really have an outlet mostly because I didn't understand it, making it impossible for me to process.  I struggled with it for a little while and while on one of my YouTube surfing trips (query - atheism), I ran into Greta Christina!  That was truly and "Ah-ha!" moment.  I could finally put a label on what made me feel so angry.  This woman put it so beautifully that I couldn't really add anything to it.  She was speaking for me.

     I found that video about a month ago and since then, I've been looking for an outlet and to connect with others like me.  I met a wonderful person living in India via my father.  We connected through a Flat Stanley project for my daughter for school.  We became Facebook friends and, through that, I found he was also and atheist.  It's cool to connect with strangers on a FB page who are in the same camp, so to say, but it feels much more like a connection when it's someone you have a deeper interaction with, even if it's just through friendly emails that have nothing to do with atheism.  Just knowing that someone who grew up in a completely different way would believe the same things I do gives me comfort.  I just think that's really cool.

    Thanks for listening to me.  It felt good to get that all out to the world.  "CLIMB OUT OF YOUR HOLES, PEOPLE!!"

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"The Real God"

     I was helping a friend move some furniture in her house today and we managed to get on the subject of the World Trade Center and 9/11 and about how I was trying to talk to my young daughter about it.  She's 8 years old.  I explained to my friend that I'd told my daughter that some people took over some planes filled with people and crashed them into buildings full of people because they believed that god wanted them to.  My friend promptly suggested that I let my daughter know that they didn't believe in "the real God".  I paused ever so briefly before turning my attention back to the work at hand and changed the subject.  Now...

    I'm usually one who will speak my mind without worrying about it, however, in this case, it was time to keep my mouth shut.  This is a woman I've known for almost 30 years and she has, for that entire time, been a devout Christian.  Secondly, she is rather close to me and is sort of a mother figure to me as she is about 20 years older.  It took a great deal of strength for me to bite my tongue and NOT say what was on my mind at that time until I realized, rather quickly, that it would turn into both of us talking to brick walls, in essence, because there was no alternative way for that conversation to go.  She is unchanging in her belief, as am I, therefore it would have been a useless argument.

    So what do I do now?  Her comment kind of fired me up, but I didn't say anything.  Was that the wrong choice?  How do you all deal with things like this when everything in you wants to speak out, but you know it'll end badly?  Have you bottled up your anger and then you get home and your alone and just want to yell?  I'm starting to rant here so I'll close it up for now.  Thoughts?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Atheist Morality



    This is a question that seems to be on the forefront of everyone's mind.  If atheists don't believe in any god, where do they get their rules for morality?  Just recently I read a post from a family member who stated, in effect, that people who don't believe feel that way because the want to live a lawless, immoral existence.  I think that statement just reflects how little people understand human nature.

    I'd like to pose a question to those who feel that atheists have no sense of morality.  Let's say that there was absolute proof that there was no god in any form.  Would believers then go out and murder, rape, and steal?  This brand of thinking, in my opinion, implies that the only reason NOT to do these things is because god says it's bad and you will go to hell if you do it and don't repent.  This is the same kind of question used on the slippery-slope idea that legalizing drugs will somehow make everyone want to use them.  It's an illogical idea that needs to be put in the "old thinking" bin.  I think there's a deeper and much more reasonable source of human morality.

    I used to believe that humans were inherently selfish at heart and, most times, do for themselves regardless of the needs of others.  I've recently come to the conclusion that the exact opposite is true and that's where we get our feelings of right and wrong.  The answer to where atheists get their morals is easy; empathy.

    What is your first reaction when you witness someone getting hurt?  You likely whince and make a face.  That's instant empathy.  We know what it's like to get hurt and we know how that makes us feel.  We know how it feels when someone close to us dies and we usually feel at least some form of that pain when someone we know loses someone close to them.  We've seen what happens to children who are abused or neglected.  We know how it feels to have something taken from us without permission and never returned.  It's our personal experience and our ability to not only feel emotions, but to also apply those feelings to the other people in our lives and, in effect, feel what they feel.  That why lots of us cry when you hear a story about a parent losing a child, for example.  It's not our child and we don't know the person, yet we can't help but feel sadened by the misfortunes of others. (We're talking average people here, of course.)

    It's nothing more than millenia of experience and the development of empathy that allows us to act in a moral way.  It's my personal opinion that morality has very little to do with religion.  I think that the idea of morality existed long before there was ever any thought of a higher being who is in control.  In the earliest days of the history of humans, there were many dangers our earliest ancestors faced.  Humans lived in groups together and interacted with each other daily, just like we do today.  They witnessed the joy and despair of the others of the group and, I suspect, joined in the rejoicing or mourning of the people experiencing it firsthand.

    Where did our empathy come from?  The main purpose in the life cycle of all living things is to pass on their genes to the next generation for the survival of the species.  For those species who care for their young past birth, it is inherent that they react to the needs of their young.  For humans, hearing an infant cry will make a parent spring into action to try to fix whatever problem the child may have.  It would, in my opinion, naturally follow with the increasing complexity of our brains, that we would extend that empathy for our children to others around us.

    I read a Christians point of view on the subject (I'd really rather not share it because of my personal feelings about his reasoning, but I'm trying to be fair here) and he proposed that our opportunistic and survivalistic (don't think that's a word, but I'm making it one) nature would override our empathy when it comes to morality.  He posed a scenario in which, essentially, anarchy was the rule of law.  He stated that a lack of belief in a god (specifically the christian god) would  make people rely their survival instincts even if it means that another person could be harmed or killed.

    On the surface, it can seem a complex question, and certainly people who pose it see it that way, but it's really very simple and it doesn't take any mention of religion to explain it in my opinion.  It's in our genes to be moral and act in a way that promotes and guarantees the survival of our species.  If not for that, we'd have died out long ago.