Tuesday, March 8

A Moment of Sunshine

I sat in the cafe, eating my jacket potato out of it's polystyrene bowl with a Plastic knife and fork. it was a normal March day, dull, grey, uninspiring. I sat by the window looking out at the people as they walked up and down the high street. They walked slowly in groups, dragging children behind them, chatting to each other. Never looking where they were going. At times someone would storm past them, walking as if there lives depended on it. Two speeds of life fighting each other, all of it happening under the shadow of the clouds. The clouds that had been with us for what felt like 6 long months, with out a break.

And then, as the clouds parted, and just for a second, a ray of sunlight shot through the window, and shined upon my face. It was warm, hot even, and under its glare the world seemed to fill with colour, as if freshly painted. I saw the light, I felt the warmth. And I felt that little bit happier.

TreesWithout any pre-ample a part of my mind began to wonder at the miracle of what had just happened. The sun is ridiculously far away from us. And I mean ridiculously far away. If I was to start walking straight up to the sky, and never stop, to sleep, eat, or contemplate the impossibility of what I was doing, it would be 3,500 years before I arrived at the sun. It is so far away that it takes even light 8 whole minutes to travel from the surface to us. And before that light takes thousands of years to work it's way from the centre of the sun to it's edge.

After that it travels through a vacuum of 93 million miles. before a tiny fraction of it, around 0.00000005% hits the earth. Of that only 47% actually makes it the surface, the rest being scattered by the clouds, gas and atmosphere.

How amazing then that after this journey that lasted thousands of years and crossed millions of miles, the light should finally fall on me and make me feel that little bit happier. What were the odds!

And then my mind ran even further. The Potato I eaten existed due to the sun. Without the sun it could never have grown. It was cooked thanks to energy provided by the sun, millions of years ago when it helped the plants and trees grow that would become our oil and gas.

And that same oil was also the father of the polystyrene bowl I was eating out off and the cutlery I was using. And before our sun, Millions of other suns had to die to create the basic elements that make up oil, or that made up me!

In short, that moment, sitting in the cafe, eating my lunch, and feeling the sun warm me, only came about because of 13.7 billion years of the universe. A massive chain of cause and effect, that led, slowly, one step after the other, to a moment when, against all the odds, I could experience a simple moment of pleasure.

And then a moment later the clouds covered the sun again. The world went back to black and white. And I went back to eating my lunch.

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Tuesday, March 1

Climbing Mount Snowdon - A Moment of Spirituality

Now where the snow had been was a tangle of grey ethereal clouds as if she had remembered her long forgotten volcanic origins, and awoken once again.

We rarely managed to look up though. The melting snow birthed streams in every direction, even down the path we climbed. Our every step sent shivers running through the water, our own personal earthquake. The rocks fought, and slipped against us. And so we looked at the path ahead of us, and we made our way slowly up her side.

As we climbed the horizon grew, as if the world were stretching to show off to us. Where before there had been nothing trees, now there was fields and lakes, forests and hills. Even the sea showed itself, a sliver glint on the furthest horizon. A taste of forever just beyond our sight. And still we climbed. Our legs began to burn, the path got steeper. Eventually we left it behind us, scaling the rocks, stumbling, then leaping up, bruised, tired, but still carrying on.

A few steps more, our feet on fire, our clothes damp from the hail and rain, we climbed to the top of a ridge. And we looked over into the edge of the world. The mountain disappeared beneath us. We looked down at a lake, hundreds of feet below us, a mirror laid on the ground to reflect the sky. There were people there, so small they were nothing but specks, as the earth is a speck in our solar system, and the galaxy a speck in the universe. And we looked down upon it all, just specks in a speck, in a speck.

And yet standing there, the earth opened up beneath us, sharing her treasures with us, we felt like the most important people in the universe. To be allowed to spend just a moment there was an astounding privilege, an honor the earth had bestowed on us.

I pondered the age of the rocks beneath my feet, that had waited so many millions of years for me to climb them. I gazed at the landscape unrolled before me, a masterpiece of nature, that seemed to have been waiting for me to see it. This was a moment in time that I would never forget, that would stay with me forever, as a beautiful dreams clings to the thoughts when you wake up in the morning.

We looked. And we listened. There was nothing to hear, except the sound of waterfalls. There were no worries, no complaints, no panic. Just the rush of water as it scattered down the mountain. The sound of a river being born.

Mount Snowdon

And, slowly even my thoughts faded away.There was nothing left to think about. There was nothing but now, with the majesty of the earth shining below me and the water singing as it headed to the valleys below.

Eventually, as the cold started to bite, we turned and began the journey back. Back down the path, back down the rocks that slipped beneath us, back to the car, and the worries, and the life that waited at the base of the mountain.

But as we drove away the mountain looked down upon us. It’s peak seemed to follow us, to linger with us, as the country disappeared and the real world unfolded. We gazed at her peak until the last moment, until she had disappeared beyond the horizon, each of us sharing a silent memory of a moment that would stay with us forever. A moment when we had stood upon the stairs of heaven, floating over the world below us, and looking down, and marveling at the tiny specks, of our tiny little lives.

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Friday, February 25

Atheists are Arseholes!

Why do atheist[s] only tend to have Christianity removed from Public places?

When I was in 9th grade they could teach evolution (atheist god) and Greek god mythology and but not the bible. Plus atheists never seem to complain about Greek statues dedicated to Greek gods removed from public places like court houses.

This question was posted on Hatheist by a user called Gorillawits. Fair enough, to an Atheist it might seem like a dumb question, but to an outsider it makes sense to ask. It was a fair question. And it deserved a fair answer.

Here are some of the answers it got.

  • At our weekly Athiest meeting, Satan said that the Greek Gods were OK and we shouldn’t complain if they were displayed in public.
  • You actually made it to the 9th grade? Maybe miracles DO exist…

  • Ummmm, I am guessing the 9th grade was the last year you were in High School?
  • Do you ever read what you say back to yourself before you post it?
    1) No science class in 9th grade teaches evolution. You are making that up
    2) Greek and Roman and Norse gods are taught in mythology class. There are no mythology classes in the 9th grade. Those don’t start until college. You are making that up, too.
    3) What would be the problem with teaching mythology? Do you know what mythology means? It means IT’S NOT TRUE!
    4) Greek statues? You mean like the Scales of Justice? So what…do you have so much free time that you have to look for things like this to get pissy about?
  • Huh. Oddly enough, I’ve never had any Christian stuff removed from anywhere. Your name suits you, btw.
Ok, I'm cherry Picking. There were many good, or at least polite answers on the site. But the highest rated answer was a clever and sarcastic response: 'I have no problem at all with Christianity being taught in mythology lessons.'

Ha ha! Aren't we atheists smart! Ho ho ho!

It's that kind of attitude that first inspired me to start this blog. Everywhere I look this kind of thing is happening. Atheist blogs laugh and mock believers. Believers questions are ridiculed. On twitter, a believer makes an argument and before long a whole pack of Atheists turn's against them, not with reasonable debate, but with insults, or slurs, or 'clever' put downs.

On our blogs we gloat when a believer slips up reproducing the stories like handbills that we can spread all over the internet. We smear a whole of a religion with one person's mistake. We keep our eyes peeled, and our claws sharpened, looking for the weakest prey. We take endless pleasure in mocking the believers and belittling their already little beliefs.<

What are we trying to achieve here?

Yes, religion causes harm. Yes, believers may be deluded. Yes, we are fighting a battle of ignorance. But are we going to fix any of that by being arseholes? Atheism is already a dirty word. We are seen as arrogant, evil or void of feeling. Atheists are the most distrusted minority in America, and even here in the UK public opinion can turn against us. How are we helping ourselves by being argumentative? How are we helping by putting people down, or by mocking them? How are we changing public opinion?

How much more effective would it be to open a discussion with believers, to find some common ground? What happened to the well mannered debate? What happened to etiquette? What happened to respect for your common man? Just because this the internet doesn't mean that people don't have feelings.

Maybe you'll argue that they believers do it too. But isn't it our duty to be better than that. Imagine a world where the atheists are seen as friendlier than the Christians! We can do this. This is within our power. But we have to stop being arseholes!

I'm no better than anyone on this, I've mocked, and I've belittled, and I've felt bad afterwards. Believers may have it wrong, but they have a right to be wrong. And they have a right for us to respect them even if they are wrong. Their beliefs may be stupid, but that doesn't make them any less human. If we want them to respect us, maybe we should respect them first.

Let's try it. Let's try answering their questions. Let's try being friendly, maybe even being humble, and let's just see what happens!

Don't be an Arsehole Atheist! There are enough arseholes in the world without you joining in.

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Thursday, February 24

Why Atheist? Why not Agnostic?

One of most common questions Atheist's get goes something like this:

How can you be Atheist? Surely the only logical response is to be agnostic. After all you can't be 100% sure that there isn't a god can you? You'd need to have absolute knowledge of the universe for that!

Almost all the Open Letters to Atheists on the internet start this way. We are making an impossible claim they say. We are asserting a negative! How dare we assume to know so much.

Firstly, I'm not asserting anything. Nor is any atheist I know no matter how militant they may seem. I don't claim to know undeniably that their is no such thing as God. Indeed I am willing to admit there may be one. I am also willing to admit that people may have been abducted by aliens. I just don't find the evidence very persuading.

But wait! People see Aliens all the time. There have been hundreds of sightings of UFO's!

Most of these sightings turn out to passing planes, weather balloons, planets, or even the moon!


What about all the photographs, and the Crop circles?

Find me a good photo! They are either to blurry to analyse, or can be shown to be a fake. At best they show a light in the sky, which doesn't prove anything at all. (see above)

As for Crop Circles we know that they can and have been created by man. We have the written confession of the people who started the hoax. It makes much more sense to assume that all crop circles are made by man than to assume some are made by man, and some are made by aliens.

And the witness testimony?

Find me a good witness. Stories never hold up to the evidence, and the general themes in abduction stories seem to depend strongly on current popular culture. Way before the Alien craze people believed there were being sat on by witches, or possessed by demons.

Furthermore people also claim that they've seen dead people, or been to other universes, or travelled through time. Ancedote is just not reliable evidence. If it stands up to testing then we can consider it. But time and time again the stories fall down when they are examined

In short, the evidence for UFO's visiting earth doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Certainly there may be UFO's but as yet there is no actual evidence for them. And as such why believe in them?

So how does this relate to God?

The evidence for God is even weaker than the evidence for UFO's. As far as I can see there is no reason to suspect that God's exists whatsoever.

But people feel God's presence all the time!

When I listen to music I feel the it's presence in the room with me. I feel the shiver it sends down my spine. It stirs me, makes changes my mood, makes me feel things. But it is not really there. I can't really feel it. All of this is in my imagination, an illusion created by my brain. How do you know that the feeling of God's Presence isn't the same thing?

But what about the beauty of creation?

What about the beauty of evolution? There is nothing more beautiful in science than evolution, a intricate story of who we are that stretches billion of years behind us. And it's backed up by massive amounts of evidence, can stand up to testing, makes predictions and can be recreated in the lab, albeit it on a small scale.

Intelligent Design, or Creation, does not have any supporting evidence for it. It can not be tested, or falsified. It makes no predictions, It can not be re-created. As a theory it is useless, and redundant. The world would look just the same way if a creator had not existed.

And the witness testimony?

Again witness testimony is unreliable. People imagine things, they make things up, they forget things,and change their stories, and their stories fall apart on closer inspection. I can say anything I want to, but that doesn't mean it true. Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe I remember it incorrectly. Maybe I am simply saying what I want to be true. Maybe I am trying to sell you something and so deliberately misleading you. Which of these is more likely, that my story is wrong, or that God exists?

So why do you not believe in God?

Again it is a question of the evidence, and the evidence is not on God's side. Every single argument for God, from miracles, to presonal testimony, to historical stories, can be shown to be doubtful when looked into. There is no argument that has ever stood up to the test of time. Apply logic to God and he simply ceases to exist.

There is no need for a God to be real, and there is no evidence for him either. The most likely explanation is that there is no God.

And so I don't state that God defiintly doesn't exist, but until I see otherwise I will assume he does not. Prove to me that UFO's are real and I will change my mind. Show me that a god exists. And I will worship him.

But until you can do that, don't expect me to live my life as if I'm going to be abducted by aliens tomorrow. And don't expect me to bow to a God, just on the off chance he might be watching.

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Wednesday, February 23

Why Is Glass Transparent?

Before I saw this question, I had never even wondered why glass was transparent. It just was.

But as soon as I saw the question, I was amazed that I had never asked it. I knew I had to know the answer.

And now I do!

Bam! Thank you Science!


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Tuesday, February 22

My First Attempt at Mindfulness Meditation

taking a bath in the morning

On Saturday afternoon, I had my first attempt at mindful meditation. I was in the bath, relaxing after going for a run, and decided to pull back and watch my thoughts for a while.

I had the house to myself and it seemed a good a time as any, after all, and at least I wouldn't be wasting time!

This, is how the experience went:

"Ok, I should close my eyes. Should I close my eyes? Does it matter? Yes, I'll close my eyes. Less distractions that way. Close my eyes, and focus on my breathing.

Wait, I should set a timer, or I something. In fact I wonder If I can get an android app to help? Where's my phone. Oh look, there is a meditation app! How helpful! Ok install. Man, what's with the slowness. I'm trying to relax here! Install already! Oh it's done. Right.

Now how long should I do this for. 30 Minutes? Man that seems long. Maybe I should start with 5. But then that's kind of like rushing through meditation! Ok 15 minutes then. That should be fine. Wow look at all these other settings! And there's a widget too. I wonder what that does!

Alight fine, lets go. 15 minutes with a 30 second warm up. Start. Close my eyes. Relax.

Why hasn't the start bell gone off yet? It must have been more than 30 seconds by now... Is the app not working? Do I have the volume turned right down? What's going on? Is my phone broken. I only just got this damn thi... Oh! Oh there's the bell. Ok close eyes, lie back... Wait. What was that? Was that water spilling? My Kindle's down there! Is it wet? No! No, it's fine, but I should move it, or it will get wet. Let's put it over there. Oh I touched it with wet hands. Idiot! Need a towel! There. Ok. It looks dry. Does it still work? Yeah. Ok. Alright. Close eyes, lie down, slowly this time. Breath. Focus on my breath. In, and out. In, and out.

I wonder what my thoughts will be! I need to write about this so I should try to remember them. But if n I'm thinking about my thoughts, then I'm thinking, and I'm not meant to think about my thoughts and... Stop! Breathing! In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In.

I wonder what I'm meant to be doing here. I mean I'm supposed to watch my thoughts, but I'm not thinking anything. I'm just breathing. Should I try to think? Ok, let's see. I'm tried. I'm wet. My legs ache...

Urgh, there's water running down my face. Probably shouldn't have got my hair wet before trying this. Why'd I decide to do it in the bath anyway! I mean sure I'm relaxed, but those water drops are so annoying. Gotta wipe it away. Am I allowed to do that? It's not really relaxing. Gotta get rid of it though. Ok, that's better.

Breathing. Brea-thing. Why isn't this bath so small? Kinda hurts to have to have my head like this. Maybe I should get one of those bath cushions. Has that extractor fan always been so loud? Why is my hair itching? How am I supposed to concentrate on my breathing with all these distractions!

BREATHING! That's right. I'm meant to be focusing on my breathing. You are meant to be focusing on your breath. Ok? In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Hmm this is nice. This is kind of restful. I could get used to this. In fact I think I could do this a lot more often... Yes... and...

What? Crap! Nearly fell asleep there! Concentrate Simon! Focus on your breath. But so many distractions! That damn fan. I'll put my ears under the water. There that's better, like being in one of those isolation chambers. Cool.

Ok. Breathing. Wow my breath sounds really loud like this. In. Out. In. Out. In. Wait, I won't hear the finish Bell under here. In fact, it must have been more than 15 minutes by now right? What's that thumping? Is someone downstairs. What the heck is that? Is that... that's my pulse. Man my heart is going fast. Should it be going that fast? I'm meant to be relaxing here. I should get my ears out from the water. I really don't want to miss the timer. There. Ah but that fan! No! Ignore the fan. Focus on your breathing. On your breathing damn it!

In. And out. And in. And out. And In. And out. And in... And out...

Hey... I'm getting pretty good at this..."

And that was when the finish bell sounded.

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Monday, February 21

No First generation Atheist is possible

"All of the first generation atheists without an exception have residual nagging believes – Freudian remnants of the psychological rapes their poor minds suffered when they were, as infants & teenagers, at the mercy of their brain-washed parents, society and the church! When in doubt, when in fear, and when in need of self preservation - they resort back to religious believes, incantations, and to mother church, synagogue, mosque or temple." [Whole paragraph sic]


As a first generation Atheist I find this intriguing.

There are habits hard wired into me. For example, I still tend to think out loud, as if praying, I still love old fashioned christian Hymns, and I still tend to beg the universe, call it God if you like, when things go wrong. It's a reflex almost, the desire to shout out to some unseen force "Please help me!"

The difference is that I don't expect an answer anymore.

I've had some pretty hard times in my life both before and after losing my faith. Before I would pray to god, I would weep before him, and I would have faith that he would make things right.

Now, I talk out loud, beg the universe for help, and then, knowing that that doesn't achieve anything, I go out and get things done. In the hard times I've had since becoming an atheist, I have neither gone back to God, back to the Bible or back to my church. I've gone to my friends, gone to my family, or simply gone to my own mind, and I've done the best I can to make things right again.

And so, from personal experience, I'd say you can be a first generation Atheist. We may do quirky things, but the difference between us and our parents is that we know our hands are for working, not just for praying that things turn out our way.

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Sunday, February 20

Darwin and Atheism; or how Darwin changed my life

darwinTrawling through the blogs on Darwin day, Michael Ruse saw someone 'flying' an atheist flag on their blog, and began to query the connection between Darwin and Atheism. After all Darwin, wasn't an atheist, at least never explicitly. He never claimed there was no God. He didn't even eat babies!

But when I think of Darwin, I think of Atheism. Darwin, and the hundreds who have continued and improved his work, made me the atheist I am today. And they showed as well that an atheist can be a spiritual person.

I was the person in high school who argued against evolution. I would fight with my friends during biology class. I probably missed most of what was being taught, and so I didn't really encounter evolution until I looked into it myself in my early 20's.

I'd already started asking questions. Things had already begun to not make sense, and I had moved away from a Judeo-Christian God, but still believed in some kind of creator. The world was too beautiful, and too connected to not have anyone behind it.

It wasn't until I understood evolution, that I let go of God completely. Evolution was so simple that I didn't have a need for a God anymore. Everything was there because it started small. It made sense, and it didn't need a deity to see it on it's way.

But evolution is more than simple. It's beautiful too. It proves that we have a connection to all of nature. The beasts of the field became my cousins. And it showed me how lucky I was! Far from being a pre-destined creation I was the result of billions of years of evolution, of breeding, of luck. Had anyone of my ancestors failed to breed, had the environment been slightly different, had a single predator chosen a different meal, I wouldn't be here today. I am the result of billions of years of luck. The fact that I am alive is a miracle, larger than any I can comprehend.

Charles DarwinThis is a far more beautiful idea than being created. I have no grand purpose. I am not special. And yet I'm here anyway! What a chance! What a joy! And what freedom! Out of millions of possibilities I showed up! I was given the chance to make the best of this thing called life! And if it wasn't for Darwin I may never have known this.

Evolution whetted my appetite for science too. It showed me my connection with the universe. It challenged my beliefs and showed me how to keep challenging them. And so I grew. I know so much more now than I ever knew as a believer. But more importantly, I know all the things I don't know! Science is an amazing thing, with so many questions, and so many things waiting to be found out. It's like a playground waiting to be explored. And I would never have known about it if it wasn't for evolution.

I owe to Darwin, and the men and women who followed him, a massive thanks. You changed my life, and I have never looked back.

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Saturday, February 19

How to try Mindfulness Meditation

Meditating man at the harbour
Yesterday I discussed Mindfulness meditation and the benefits it seems to have. Today as promised I'll tell you how it's done.

This technique of Mindfulness is based heavily on a page at About.com, as I'm as much of a newbie at this as any of you.

How to Try Mindfulness Meditation

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck and back straight but not stiff. Karen of Psychology Today says you should 'imagine your spine is a tree and you are leaning against it.' So go ahead and imagine an oak tree growing out your back.
  2. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present. For example you probably don't want to keep thinking about the image of an oak tree where your spine should be.
  3. Become aware of your breathing. Focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.
  4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don't ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor to draw you back to the present moment.
  5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens And if you do, don't be hard on yourself or being hard on yourself.
  6. As the time comes to a close, sit for a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are. Get up carefully and slowly. After all, there's an oak tree where you're spine should be.
In short, there are no real tricks to mindfulness meditation. It's just about sitting back, and watching your thoughts fly past you. Concentrate on your breathing, and notice the thoughts as they go past, but try not to get caught up in them.

I'll be trying this for 15 minutes a day for the next seven days and we'll see if it has any effect.
Why not try it too? At best, you may help calm yourself down, be able to concentrate better, and give you a greater feeling of purpose. At worst you've sat down and relaxed for 15 minutes. At absolute worst, you'll open your eyes and discover that you are suddenly spouting acorns...

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Friday, February 18

How to be a Spiritual Atheist - Mindfulness Meditation

MeditationIf you're anything like me, the word mediation probably conjures up the image of lots of orange cloaked Buddhists sitting a long room humming. That or some new age hippies sat in the lotus position with quaint smiles on their face breathing in marijuana incense. In short I see it as something mystical, quaint, and ridiculous.

That's probably because of my childhood. (What isn't?) When I was growing up, I was told that meditation was evil. An empty mind paved the way for Demons to come in and take over. And so instead, we would spend hours praying instead. Because somehow that was different. And so in my mind Meditation has strange powers. It connects with a spirit, with the occult, or with some other fictional illusion. And part of me still thinks of it that way. If meditation does require a belief in the supernatural then clearly it's not the kind of thing an Atheist would want to be involved in. But thankfully, as with most things, I've got that wrong.

Meditation is not mystical, or supernatural. At its most basic, meditation is about taking a step back, looking inside your mind, and just noticing what you find there. Mindfullness meditation, especially, is simply a technique in which one pays attention to his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations, such as breathing, without passing judgment or reacting. An individual simply releases his thoughts and “lets it go.”

I used to meditate this daily, back when I was in university and was flirting with the idea of New Age and I remember feeling better for it. Watching my thoughts for 10-20 minutes a day meant that I able to keep an eye on them all day. Often I would notice a thought running through my head and have time to think about it before reacting, as if there was a buffer between my thoughts and my mind.

To have that level of awareness can only be described as spiritual. To be able to see into your own thoughts, is to see yourself as you really are. But was that really due to the meditation? Or was that due to my belief in the New Age at the time

But that's just my experience. It doesn't count as science. However, scientific investigations into Mindfulness meditation have found that it can increase concentration, help decrease stress, increase the feeling of general control over your life and increase the feeling of life purpose.

All this just by sitting back and watching the world go by? It seems like something too good to not try!

Further experimentation is required. Therefore, for the next week, from Saturday onwards, I will spend at least 15 minutes a day in mindfulness meditation, and feedback as to what I have found. or if we just feel like we've sat around doing nothing.

I'll post an example of how to do mindfulness meditation tomorrow, and we can see how it goes?

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Thursday, February 17

A Purpose Defined

As part of my quest to became a spiritual atheist, I've realised that, for me at least, being spiritual is as much about having a meaning and purpose to your life, as it is about feeling spiritual. When you are living for a greater goal then you are automatically on some kind of spiritual quest.

But maybe I've been doing this wrong. I've been searching for a meaning that's an overarching goal, a mission with a grand goal.

I've been looking for a way to make my life special. But is this really possible? Every wants to be special, but if everyone is special then no-one is. I have no right to think I have anymore chance than anyone else out there. Maybe I will never achieve anything that can outlive me. Maybe I wont leave my footprints behind me as I walk through this life.

But today, I came across this blog post - Happily Ever After where another blogger is contemplating their aim in life. Clearly we bloggers have a lot of time on our hands.

Our new Grand Piano'If someone asked me what I wanted, they would be silly things. Silly little things. It would be having a nice place to live. Perhaps a nice house with a large living room. With laminate flooring. And a proper wood fireplace. And a large grand piano, which I can play with the fireplace roaring on an autumn night.'

There's nothing massive about this. No huge goals. No attempt to change the world. Just a simple wish to find a place in the world where they can be happy. It's a simple goal, but it's a beautiful one.

I wonder if I can lower my goals along these lines. Can a desire to be happy be a spiritual quest? Can I feed my spiritual side with a life of containment? Or by it's very nature is a spiritual destined to be a more ambitious one?

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Wednesday, February 16

Star stuff which has taken its fate into its own hands!

For one of my Christmas present's this year I asked for Carl Sagan's Cosmos on Dvd. I'm very slowly working my way through it. It is a series that needs to be appreciated slowly, as one appreciates a fine wine.

Carl Sagan was a poet, as well as a scientist, and every word he say during Cosmos deserves to be savoured, and fully appreciated, before moving onto the next one.

This is an old video I know, but it never ceases to amaze me. Carl Sagan sums up in this 8 minutes my connection to all of life, to the earth itself, and to the universe, so beautifully, that I can't hope to mimic it. And, so, instead. I will let him do it for me.
This is the famous Star Stuff Video. Take a moment to encounter it once again. Let Sagan remind, how you were formed by the stars.

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Monday, February 14

A Scientific Self-Help Guru

Secrets?The world is ablaze with self help gurus right now. For just $19.95 I can show you how to get rid of them.

This is the problem with the self help industry. It has become, by and large, a massive money making machine. Nowadays anyone can become a self help guru. With the littlest of effort, anyone can begin to make money telling other people how to live their life.

It's a system that works brilliantly for the self help gurus. But, I'm increasingly beginning to realise. It doesn't work so well for the rest of us. For example I've been a fan of Dumb Little Man and Stepcase Lifehack for sometime, but increasingly find their articles to be unreliable. They have articles urging me to drink 8 glasses of water a day, or Feng shui my office. When they have that kind of information on them how can I believe anything they say?

How do you tell the good advice from the bad? How do you know what works and what doesn't? For someone like me, struggling to start their own journey to self-improvement, the choices are overwhelming.

And so I plan set about to separate the plausible from the ridiculous, the stupid from the successful, the rich-in-quality from the morally bankrupt.

I will be looking to review all the self help techniques I can and find the hard evidence. Do they really work? Or are they just ways of distracting yourself until you feel better? I want to make this blog the place to go to find life changing techniques that really work. From now I hope to not only find the spirit in a spiritless world, but track down the self-help success stories from the Snake oil Salesmen.

And then, when I have tracked them all down, and I know they all work, maybe then I can put them in book form, and sell them to people for $19.95 a go...

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Sunday, February 13

A short History of Personal Problems - Savage Chickens

I rant for a entire blog post about this modern problem and still don't come to a conclusion.

Doug Savage, as ever, sums it up in a single post-it-note.


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Wednesday, February 9

I am Completely Different

I think a lot of my quest for spirituality stems from needing a reason, a logos, for living. This is something I've always had, a desperate need to feel I am here for a reason. Like the Apollo Astronauts I want to leave my footprints behind me, for a long, long time after I am gone.

I used to think I knew how to do that, but right now I'm having to rethink, and without knowing my logos I'm feeling, almost void, it whatever it is you would call the soul. I'm having to remind myself what it is like to feel real emotion.

And so I was pleased to pick up an old book of poetry from my shelf and find the following poem, by Kuroda Saburo, which brought tears to my eyes, even if just for a second.

I Am Completely Different

I am completely different.

Though I am wearing the same tie as yesterday,

am as poor as yesterday,

as good for nothing as yesterday,


I am completely different.

Though I am wearing the same clothes,

am as drunk as yesterday,

living as clumsily as yesterday, nevertheless


I am completely different.

Ah ...

I patiently close my eyes

on all the grins and smirks

on all the twisted smiles and horse laughs---

and glimpse then, inside me

one beautiful white butterfly

fluttering towards tomorrow.

- Kuroad Saburo

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Tuesday, February 8

"Most of us aren't special" - Finding a Purpose

WAYR: One needs PurposeI'm not sure whether it's a blessing or a curse to be part of Generation X. Certainly no other generation before us had such a good life expectancy, such excellent living conditions, and such massive amounts of opportunity. But then, on the other hand, no other generation had such high expectations as well.

We've been hit by more self help seminars, more life coaching books, and more self-made success TV shows that it could cope with. Nowadays it is no longer a choice to be sensational, it is an obligation. And any one who is unable to stand out from the crowd has failed to live a life worth living.

This never used to be the norm. Not so long ago you were happy enough to have a job to do, or a family to support. We didn't feel the need to have any purpose higher than that, because we never really knew such a purpose existed. Now, with so many of our other basic needs filled, with lives so much more generally satisfying, we have time to look towards greater goals. And most of the time, our greater goals are too great for us to hit.

I'm feeling this a lot myself recently. Due to some tragic realisations last year, my goals, or at least the way my goals were envisioned, are no longer possible, and I'm having to rethink my whole life. I'm not doing a very good job at it. Trying to find a new purpose in life is like trying to understand the Holy Trinity. People may pretend that they can do it, but ask them for the details, and suddenly they go all quiet.

Right now my mind has gone all quiet.

I remember, when I was in church, such thoughts didn't really occur to me. Back then I had a definite purpose in life, even though I didn't know what it was. The church, and my faith, guaranteed a purpose. God had something in mind for me. All I had to do was wait, and it would be revealed.

That was a long time ago, and I was still very young when I left the church. Maybe, as a christian now, I would no longer feel the same way, but in my memory at least, the Church gave me a purpose and direction for my life.

Now, thanks to last years reality check, and the simple, scary fact ,that we live in an uncaring universe, I don't know in slightest what I'm meant to be doing anymore.

I'm not trying to be all Avenue Q here. I don't believe that all of us have a grand purpose, that all of us are destined to change the world, but I would like to have some kind of aim in life, something worth achieving.

As a Generation X'er I've been told time and again that I can achieve anything I put my mind too, but time and again, from the lives around me, from history, and from my own story, I've seen that that's not true, but I still can't shake the feeling that I should be doing something worthwhile. That I should be striving towards some greater good.

So right now, I'm on a mission to find meaning to this silly little, highly unimportant spec of a thing, called my life, just 1 of 6 billion, on a tiny blue dot, in a tiny galaxy, in an infinite universe that doesn't even know I exist.

As you might be able to tell, it's not the easiest thing to get to grips with.

And so I wonder, what's your reason for living? What drives you on everyday? What is the one thing that keeps you going?

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Sunday, January 30

A Little Help From My Friends

I don't make friends all that easily. I'm fussy, and tend to put potential friends through a series of tests first. Are the capable of holding an opinion? Can they defend their stance? Do they have the ability to question things? Do they ask lots of pointless highly judgemental questions?

Mostly I just want to see if they'll willing to let me into their mind. If they are, they are rarely dull. I'm pretty sure my tests scare many people away. Apparently most people don't like being asked probing questions about their childhood within half an hour of being introduced. I've never been sure what's so wrong about it. I mean how else do you get to know someone? But whatever it is I do, not many people stick around.

But that means the few friends I do have are extra special to me. They're people who've let me explore their inner psyche. People who aren't afraid to be themselves with me, and who I can be myself around. People who are happy to share some of their darkest thoughts with me. A friend like that is fascinating. And they help me learn more about myself, about life, and about spirituality than anything else I can imagine.

For example, every Thursday I meet up with a group of friends for a 'writer's group.' We call it a writers group but it's really an excuse to spend time together, although we may briefly discuss someones last short story if we run out of other things to talk about. And it's probably the best night of my week. For a few hours I can forget about being work Simon, or husband Simon, I can forget about trying to be clever, or being the IT geek, or even about trying to be sociable. For a few hours I'm with people who accept me as just Simon. These are people who've let in the actual Simon, and not any particular version of him. It doesn't matter If I'm tired, stressed out, or halfway through a bottle of wine, they are my friends and they'd be happy to see me. And as osly true friends can, they'd also be happy to help wake me up, cheer me up, or prise the wine bottle out of my hand.

For a few hours I can be myself and be with others feeling the same. Together, in our most natural state, we achieve more in the way of spiritual development than can be found in a whole month of church services. In those few hours we become that little bit more entwined. As we share our stories, drink our wine, and, most importantly, eat our cake, we learn a little bit more about ourselves, and about the world around us.

It's hard to feel more connected to others than where you're sat around a table so enjoying each other's company that you forget the world around you. That little circle of people becomes the world for a while.

And no matter I go home Thursday night, that little bit more energised and that little bit more aware than I was before the night began.

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Friday, January 28

Can this blog be a 'personal blog'?

My Back PagesIf you've been paying attention to this blog, then you've probably noticed that I'm not very good at updating it regularly. In fact if you're being paying attention to this blog then you're already doing a better job than me. This is normal for the average new blog, I know. Most people create blogs and abandon them after only a few weeks. But it's a record for me. Normally I manage to let my blogs survive for at least a year before abandoning them.

The problem with this blog is that I've made it a little too specialised. By trying to write only about spiritual atheism experiences I have, I think it's fair to say written myself into something of a corner. Sure there are lots of things an Atheist can do to experience spirituality. The difficulty is finding something I want to write about at the moment!

And then I realised. This blog is meant to be about me, and my quest to be a spiritual atheist. So it makes sense every now and then to maybe write a little about me, or my life, or what I'm actually going through. That way I can update more regularly, keep getting my practice in, and still be able to deliver great Spiritual Atheist themed posts without worrying about letting the blog die in the interim.

I'm not talking about turning this blog into a journal, or anything like that, but it will start to become a bit more personal. Hopefully that will make it that bit more interesting.

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