Friday, November 08, 2013

Coming Soon, But Not Quite Yet...

I am working on a post about an element of the Dutch 'Sinterklaas' holiday called 'Zwarte Piet', or 'Black Pete'. So far calling it 'Black Pete and the national denial of racism'. It has become so much of a task, however, that I decided that it should take a backseat in things I am actually more interested in at the moment, like the Kalām cosmological argument (which is probably what the next post is going to be about). I promise to not abandon the Black Pete post entirely however, and will probably post that by the end of the month. Or maybe I'll post it on the 5th of December, as that is when the actual Sinterklaas holiday takes place. 

-The Human Crayon.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Atheist Answers

Magx01 has put up a list of questions for Atheists to answer, calling it 'the Atheist Project'. I think I have a thing or two to say about this subject and thus decided to answer the questions as faithfully (pun intended) as possible. Most of the time when there is a reference  to 'God' specifically, it refers to the Abrahamic god, but it can be applied to any religion. Please keep in mind that this is not meant to be any kind of aggressive attack on believers, just an explanation of what Atheism entails and why I am an Atheist. I do understand what makes a person believe, as I was once a Christian myself. I'll do my best in answering the questions as well as I can, but I, of course, can't speak for all Atheists. Now, on with the questions:

1) What is an atheist?/What do atheists believe?/Don't atheists worship Satan?/Can you prove that god does not exist?

These are actually four questions, so let's go through them one by one.

What is an Atheist?

An Atheist is someone who doesn't believe in any god. That's it.

The simplest way to get into this mindset is to look at gods other than your own. The way you feel about Zeus, that's exactly the same an Atheist thinks about the Christian god. There is a quote that has almost become something of a popular saying amongst Atheists, it goes something like this:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” —Stephen F Roberts

What do Atheists believe?

An Atheist doesn't say that there is no god, just that there is no evidence for one and thus that it is illogical to assume there is one. Usually, someone becomes an Atheist when they realize that mere faith is not enough to believe something. Tangible evidence is going to be needed. So I guess you can say that we “believe” in what we know. And I don't mean that as in “I know it in my heart”. Sorry, but that's not knowledge, that's a hunch. We don't do that.

Don't Atheists worship Satan?

Well, no. Obviously not. We don't believe in him, remember? So worshiping him would be a colossal waste of time.

Can you prove that God does not exist?

Nope. We can't, and we'll never be able to. Just as you can't prove any negative. And that doesn't matter because the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. If that would not be the case, why not believe in literally everything you can make up? After all, can you prove those things don't actually exist? No, you can't.

Make up a creature in your mind, right now. Now try to prove it doesn't exist. You can't. But do you believe in that creature now? Of course not, you just made it up. It is technically possible for the creature to exist somewhere 'out there' and that you just happen to describe something real by accident, so even though you should technically be agnostic about the creature you just made up, it's not unreasonable to assume that, no, this creature probably does not exist.

On top of that, if you based your creature on animals you already know, I'd say that this creature has a much higher change of existing than any god, since there is nothing godlike that we have ever observed (while the animals you based your creature on do already exist). It's kind of the same with Russel's Teapot and the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sense that since teapots and spaghetti already exist, these examples have a better chance of existing than God, in my opinion.

2) Aren't there some things that science can't explain? Also, how can you trust science since it's always changing?

Again, these are actually separate questions. One by one:

Aren't there some things that science can't explain?

Sure there are, lots of things even! “God did it” is not a viable alternative however. That's what we call the 'God of the Gaps', when everything unexplained is attributed to God. This god shrinks with every discovery. Having no explanation for something (yet) is better than claiming you have an explanation, but then proceed to give no actual facts whatsoever to support your claim. There is no shame in simply admitting we don't know. Really, it's fine. Instead of shrugging, saying “God did it” and walking away, why not attack the problem? Let's find out how to define 'nothing', what dark matter is, if we are alone in the universe, all of those things! That's what drives science, after all: curiosity! Let's find out!

How can you trust science since it's always changing?.

The ever changing nature of science is exactly what makes it so trustworthy in the first place! It keeps getting updated as new facts are being uncovered. Science is all about going where these facts take you, regardless of agendas. Nothing is written in stone, that's the beauty of science. It isn't stubborn, it doesn't rely on old rituals, it's simply our knowledge of the world we live in and the means by which we obtained that knowledge.

3) What evidence would convince you that God exists?

Imagine that God Himself, let's say the Abrahamic one, would appear to anyone on Earth simultaneously, explains where he has been and why, for example, evolution looks like it makes so much sense and then proceeds to do a clear prophecy for the next day, which, of course, comes true, and all the stars in the sky would realign themselves to spell out something in Hebrew while the same, beautiful, music sounds around the world... something like that would be pretty damn impressive. But heck, even a simple test like the one executed by the prophet Elijah would be enough to at least make me reconsider. In it he held a contest of sorts between gods. There were two altars, one by the priests of the non-Abrahamic god, and one by the prophet. They both had to pray for fire, for the altars to light up. The priests tried and tried, but did not succeed. Then it was Elijah's turn and he actually poured water over the altar first. Then he prayed and a pillar of fire shot down from heaven and set the thing ablaze. That's one cool story. If that were to actually happen now, I can guarantee that a whole lot of Atheist would convert on that day. But instead, the almighty God who created the entire universe supposedly grills the face of Mary in pieces of toast. Not exactly as inciting.

4) Why is there something rather than nothing?

Interesting question and I, quite frankly, cannot give a bite size answer to this. Lawrence Krauss, however, wrote an entire book called 'A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing'. So I guess that's required reading now. If you want your answer, that is.

What I, as a complete amateur, can say is this:
-Certain sub-atomic particles pop in and out of existence constantly, so the tiny point of singularity that expanded into the universe could have simply started to exist without breaking any of the laws of physics.
-The notion we have regarding the meaning of 'nothing' is a philosophical one, not a physical one. We have no example of 'nothing'. Take for example a vacuum, devoid of any physical objects. It still wouldn't be 'nothing' since all of the laws of nature would still apply in there. Maybe 'nothingness', like 'perfection', doesn't exist outside of philosophy.
-Time, at least as we know it, comes from the Big Bang. So to talk about 'before the Big Bang' is a bit paradoxical. Sure, there might have been another form of 'time' outside the Big Bang, but there doesn't have to be. Meaning that the notion that the universe was 'always there' is kind of right (kind of).

5) Where do atheists think the universe came from?

Since there is no qualification for being an Atheist other than not believing in any god, I can't say there is one shared believe on this per sé. However, I think it's fair to assume that most Atheist go by the Big Bang theory. But how did the Big Bang come to be? After all, something cannot come from nothing, right? Well, actually, the Big Bang theory doesn't state that there once was nothing and then an explosion. Rather, the idea is that there was something of a singularity, which then expanded into being the universe. And even that's paraphrasing.

The thing is, if you maintain that a supreme being must have ignited the Big Bang because every reaction logically must have had an action, then why not go one step further and ask where God came from?

6) If you met God, what would you say to Him?

-Why did You go through such great lengths to make it appear as if You didn't exist, only to punish those who fell for Your elaborate scam?
-Why did You allow the writers of Your holy book to make such grave errors?
-What is the answer to Epicurus' question regarding the nature of God ('whence cometh evil')?
-Have you eternally existed, or did you come to be also? And if the latter is true, how?

7) Everyone believes in God, why don't Atheists believe too?

The idea of God has come to be in different ways. One theory, for example, is that the idea of an invisible watchful eye came to be in order to further the power of morals among the early men. Another way the idea of a god or gods come to be is in an effort to explain the world around us with very limited knowledge (the first attempt at science, essentially). A volcano erupts, so an underground being must be mad. A city disappears underneath the waves, Neptune must be pissed. You can see what I'm getting at here. This is why deities get pushed away further and further as we progress in scientific areas. Gods used to live on the mountains, but then we conquered those. Then the gods lived in the sky above us, until we invented aeroplanes. Gods got moved into space, where Hubble then proceeded to take zero pictures of them. Now, Heaven and Hell are generally believed to reside in some sort of alternative dimensions. Maybe it's time to skip ahead already and admit that there probably is no god. We're at least not going to assume there is a god, anyway. Show us the proof first.

8) Where do morals come from, if not from God?

How does anyone know what is 'right' or 'wrong'? I can see how that question seems to invoke a need for a supreme being planting these truths into our being. Yet, this is not the case, the existence of morality is perfectly explainable. I think there are two kinds of morality; one we learn by growing up in a certain environment and one that we inherently own. The latter, of course, is the one that poses the supposed problem. But when you think of it, there certainly is such a thing as objective morality.
One school of thought is simply that the humanoid creatures that weren't so big on morality died out, whereas the Homo Sapiens lived because they essentially understood the golden rule (don't do unto others as you would not wish others to do unto you). They got much further because they could collaborate much better because of this.

9) What's the point of living if you don't believe in God?

I've never really understood this question. Without an afterlife, this is all you've got. Make the best of it, make sure you spent your time here well. But if you do believe in God, however, why not kill yourself and go to heaven right now?

10) If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys alive today?

No one claims that we came from one of the contemporary apes or monkeys. The evolutionary tree shows us that gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos are our nephews, as it were. It shows that we have a common ancestor, that tree branches out about 13 million years ago. That's where the Orangutan ultimately comes from. Our closest relatives are the Chimpanzee and the Bonobo (two different species, both from the Chimpanzee genus (Pan)). Evidence for all this is found not only in the fossil record, but also in our very DNA. For a creator god to be true, He must have deliberately made it look like evolution happened.

11) Don't you Atheists wish there was a Heaven?

Personally, I really don't. An eternity of anything would be the absolute worst. Heaven would turn into Hell pretty quickly. But that's besides the point right now. Even if I did wish there was a Heaven, that doesn't make it true. I could wish for Carrie Anne Moss to be my girlfriend, but that doesn't make it so.

12) Why blog, debate on forums, make videos, etc?

I was a young-Earth Creationist, Evangelical Pentecostal Christian once.
Luckily, I had a lot of discussions with friends about these subjects. They challenged me to think objectively, outside of the parameters of my particular religion. Someone lent me a copy of Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion', which I absolutely loved. I started watching Richard Dawkins documentaries on YouTube, and from there on I watched a ton of videos on Evolution, Creationism, Religion, Atheism, you name it. I became familiar with some basic principles of science and some really awesome people like Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Shermer, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss, James Randi and many more. It became pretty clear to me that everything I thought to be evidence for my beliefs actually wasn't. Not by a long shot. And when I finally became an Atheist, it was as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I felt a clear sensation of blinds being removed. Suddenly, everything became very clear. When I look at the stars now, I am much more in awe than I ever was before. So, why share on forums, blogs and YouTube? Why debate? Because I want to help those that seek the path of reason, just like I did just a very few years ago.

13) Pascal's Wager basically states that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose, whereas living as an atheist can possibly cost you everything but you gain nothing. Essentially, why don't you just believe, what do you have to lose? 

There are a lot of things wrong with Pascal's Wager (after Blaise Pascal, who first proposed this). It's biggest fallacy is that it assumes only two options: either one specific god is true, or there is no god at all. However, there are roughly 4200 religions around the world. If we go by pure 'roll of the dice' kind of chance, then it's most likely that we are both wrong. If the right religion then happens to have a Hell, we would both go there, but whereas the Atheist would only have not believed in this god, the Theist would actually have worshipped another god. In other words, going by Blaise Pascal's logic, but with about 4200 added variables, Atheism is the safest bet. 

But of course, all that is still ignoring that what drives Pascal here is the fear of Hell, not reason. If you were to 'believe' just in case, would an omnipotent god not not be able to see trough that?  

These were the questions as posted by Magx01. Let's throw in some more for good measure.

Why do you hate God?

I don't. I don't believe in him, so hating God would be hating a fictional character. I don't get all up on Hades all day, so why would the Abramic god anger me any more? I get this all the time, people just assume that I hate God. I don't. I do hate ignorance though. I hate it when children are being lied to in between school walls. I hate it when Christians think it's fine to discriminate based on their holy texts. I hate it when some oblivious jock has a tattoo on his muscled arm that quotes the homophobic line from Leviticus, even though the same fucking book forbids tattoos on the next page. Seriously, you're cherry-picking, yet you still pick out these hateful, inhumane things? I hate that the United States, the supposed Land of the Free, is basically a theocracy. I hate it when old friends abandon their former friend when they find out he is an Atheist. I hate that simply stating that there probably is no God will warrant a death threat sooner or later. I hate that so many people actually believe that Atheists secretly do believe in God, but want to live in sin, so we deny him. I hate that the Vatican is effectively killing thousands by claiming that condoms are no good, and yet is still being seen as a force for good in the world. I hate that when stories of paedophilia in the Catholic Church pop up, their first thought is with the image of the church, not the children's well being  I hate that churches will gladly clad themselves in gold while others starve. I hate that Christians don't know what's in their own bible. I hate it when a woman gets stoned for not obeying her abusive husband. I hate that a woman can become a shame to her family once she gets raped. I hate it when people think it's a good idea to blow themselves up in the middle of a busy market. I hate it when people make children recite holy texts. I hate it when children are being told that people they know and love will burn forever. I hate it when any reason threatens to seep trough in your mind, that that gets labelled as Satan trying to take you away from God. I hate it that even 'being with God' is supposed to be a positive thing, even though the biblical God is clearly a homicidal dictator. My point is that there are a lot of religion based things to hate here, but some guy that didn't exist in the first place isn't one of them.

And hey, that's just me. A lot of Atheists I know don't give a shit about religion altogether. How we feel about those things is not a mutual thing. Remember, there is no dogma in Atheism. But the idea that we secretly believe in your specific god but that we hate him so much that we decided to claim his non existence is downright silly.

Why can't you just let people believe what they want to believe?

It's not that people can't have their own beliefs, the point many Atheists make in regard to, for example, creationism, is that your personal beliefs shouldn't be taught in schools. Nor should it be displayed at museums and presented as fact. You can do that once you've got actual evidence. But then, of course, it wouldn't be faith anymore, it would be science. That's why Atheists can sometimes seem aggressive about this; we don't care what you do in your own house, but keep it out of education and out of the government. By doing so we aren't looking for any kind of Atheist governing, by the way, just Secular.

But don't you want to outlaw all religion?

No, forbidding someone to practice a certain religion is just as ridiculous and abominable as forcing someone to practice it. Not in the last place because nobody can actually choose what they believe. Believe is, or should be, a result of waged evidence. You believe what you believe. Evidence to the contrary may change this, law cannot possibly do so. 

Evolution VS Creationism, why not teach the controversy?

Because there is no controversy to begin with. By that I mean that no biologist is going to be against Evolution. That would be, as Bill Nye has elegantly put it, like a geologist who doesn't believe in tectonic plates. It doesn't work. The idea of 'teaching the controversy' also seems to contain the thought that every single idea is equally valid regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof. So why not teach that the world actually rests on a giant turtle shell, like the Iroquois creation myth describes and let the children decide. Teach the controversy, right?

But isn't evolution just a theory?

This is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding of semantics. In everyday life the word 'theory' often means something along the lines of 'a hunch' or 'this idea I've got'. The scientific definition of a theory, however, is much more solid. In fact, you can't even call something a theory unless you've got evidence to support it. In other words, unless it's true. So why call it a 'theory' and not a 'fact'? Because a fact is one single truth, one single piece of evidence. A theory is a whole bundle of facts. Some of these facts might be challenged, but the theory remains. Gravity, for example, is also a theory.

Aren't you afraid of Hell?

No. I'm as afraid of Hell as you are of Hades, Tartarus, Helheim, Irkalla, The House of Lies, Avici, Narak, Kasyrgan or Mictlan.

This goes back to one of the first points made in this post: show me why you aren't afraid of any of the other Hell-like places, and you'll see why I'm not afraid of yours.

Why are you hiding from God? / Why are you shielding yourself? / Why won't you open your heart?

Christians seem to think it is obvious that God exist, and that Atheists are just actively ignoring him (in order to sin, I guess. Not that that makes a whole lot of sense, but that's the trail of thought). The thing is that, no, there is actually nothing obvious about God's supposed existence and most Atheist actually got there by being open. That's usually what we do. Tell us your claim and we will look at it as subjectively as we can. If you can actually proof God, we are certainly open to hear about that. It's just that nobody thus far has actually proven the existence of any god. Which is why we don't just assume that there is a God which is why we're Atheist. If your religion makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, good for you, but that doesn't make it true.

I have had a personal experience with God. How do you explain that?

In my last years as a Christian I have repeatedly said that Atheists are the voice of reason and certainly seem to be right. They couldn't have been, however, because of my personal experiences. There were multiple things, but the most compelling was the fact that Jesus Christ himself appeared by my bedside when I was a child. After that, how could I not believe? I had seen with my own two eyes! But then you learn about things like Sleep Paralysis. The human mind is surprisingly subjectable to suggestion. I believed in demons because I have heard them, not realizing that this is a well known and documented mental condition. I have hallucinated a lot throughout my life and I still do. I'm glad that I can now see them as just that, hallucinations. If someone had told me the voices aren't real when I was a child, that would have been nice.

If you maintain that these types of experiences are proof of God, ask yourself:
-Why is seeing Jesus proof of Jesus, but seeing, for example, Vishnu, not proof of Vishnu?
-What is more likely, your god of preference paying you a visit or your brain playing tricks on you? The latter is very human, by the way, while there is still no objective proof of the first.

How do you explain miracles being performed in the name of God?

Well, how do explain the miracles being performed in the name of other gods? And beyond that, have you ever noticed that the things that are being cured are the things that could have gotten better without any divine intervention? Headaches are being cured left and right, but how many times have you seen an entire limb growing out of a limbless torso? Yeah, me neither. It seems that only things that the placebo effect can take care of are of any interest to God. I'll let you work out for yourselves why that would be. Also, if God has a divine plan that encompasses everything, why pray at all? Would that not be asking God to change his infallible plan? Maybe you have seen Peter Popoff in action and that's why you believe in faith healers. After all, how did he know all those things about people in his audience if not for God telling him? Well, how about his wife telling him through an earpiece? Popoff sells miracle water trough infomercials now, by the way. This miracle water can supposedly be used for anything from curing cancer to making debts disappear. This is no different then the medieval quack selling snake oil and the likes. If a proven fraud like Popoff can be a healer, why would any other healer doing the same be prove of any God? I'm not saying that all faith healers are frauds, that's clearly not the case. I think that most of them genuinely believe that they do the Lord's work. I'd like to remind you of the placebo effect, however. Show me the healer that can make limbs appear out of thin air, then we can talk.

Have you read the Bible?

Yes. Have you?

Numbers 31:15-18
15) “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16) “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17) Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18) but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

Proverbs 20:30
Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.

Leviticus 25:44-46
44) “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45) You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46) You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

Numbers 15:32-36
32) While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33) Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, 34) and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35) Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” 36) So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Proverbs 13:24
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Exodus 21:17
Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

Exodus 21:7-8
7) If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as the male servants do. 8) If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her.

(In fact, pretty much the whole of Exodus 21 is just abominable)

Deuteronomy 22:23-24
23) If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24) you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

2 Kings 2:23-24
23) And he went up from thence unto Bethel. And as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, “Go up, thou bald head! Go up, thou bald head!”
24) And he turned back and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two shebears out of the wood and tore forty and two children of them.

And that's just a very small sample. If you want to read more of this, just pick up a Bible.

Yeah, but that's in the old testament, that stuff doesn't apply anymore.”

Oh really? That's funny, because according to Jesus...

Matthew 5:17-19
17) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18) For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19) Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Also, there's plenty of foul stuff in the new testament too:

Ephesians 6:5-6
5) Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6) Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 

1 Timothy 2:12
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Of course, the biggest problem here is that those who claim that the old testament has no relevance anymore are usually (and paradoxically) also the ones who claim that the Bible is infallible. Can't have your cake and eat it too, people. If you want to have a honest discussion regarding scripture, you must first acknowledge its fallibility. If you are not prepared to do so, you are by proxy saying that:
-Slavery is a-okay.
-Women are second class citizens who should not be able to teach or speak their minds and are the possession of their fathers until they are the possession of their husbands.
-Taking innocent citizens as prisoners of war for you to repeatedly rape is a-okay.
-Prison should have physical punishment.
-Stoning someone for doing anything on the Sabbath is justified.
-Children should be beaten
-Rebellious teenagers should be killed, preferably by stoning.
-Beating your slave to death is okay, as long as he doesn't die immediately.
-Painfully and gruesomely killing children for making fun of your bald head is justified.
-Rape victims should either be stoned if you didn't hear them yell, or marry their rapists in any case (depending on which verse you're reading).
If any of that sounds just to you, I don't think I would want to associate myself with you in any way.

[Insert vicious dictator here] was an Atheist!

So? It's not like they committed their crimes against humanity in the name of Atheism. And it also isn't the case that there are more Atheists that are dictators then there are perfectly normal Atheist. So what exactly is your point here?
Oh, and in the case of Adolf Hitler: no, he wasn't. 

What are you going to tell your children?

If I ever have children, I will probably tell them biblical tales as bedtime stories along with stories of Hercules and King Midas. I will educate them on morals as any other parent would, you don't need religion for the golden rule to take effect. I will tell them not to do 'bad' things, not because they should fear burning forever (I will, under no circumstances, tell a child such a thing!), but because their actions have consequences. I will be honest about religion, meaning that I will tell them that some people believe in these tales and that they have the right to do so. Just as I would not impose a believe on a child, I will not impose a disbelieve either. If they want to claim any religion, they may. I predict that they might have had about a dozen religions by the time they reach their teenage years, and that's fine.

I will never withhold any access to science for my child(ren), I will probably make them watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Bill Nye the Science Guy. And most importantly: I will never cease to love them or treat them any differently if they turn out to be anything other than me. If they happen to be gay, that's fine. If they choose to be religious, that's fine. If they have a different philosophy than mine, that's fine. That's a little something called unconditional love, and it should be more widespread.

Isn't Atheism a religion too?

Nope, Atheism is the 'none of the above' option under a list of religions. If Atheism, the lack of a belief, is a religion, then I must also be quite a sportsman. After all, I'm also a non-soccer player, a non-baseball player, a non-sprinter, a non-swimmer, et cetera. My hair would not only be brown, but also non-blonde and non-black. You get the idea: the lack of a belief is not a belief.

But Atheism has fundamentalists too!

Wikipedia quotes George M. Marsden in saying:

“Fundamentalism is the demand for a strict adherence to orthodox theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology, primarily to promote continuity and accuracy.”

Atheism does not have such doctrines, and therefore a fundamentalist Atheist can, by definition, not exist.
I think what people mean by 'fundamentalist Atheist' is usually simply someone who is very passionate. You wouldn't see Richard Dawkins blow up a building, though. That's kind of an important detail.

So, what happens when we die then?

Every single part of your consciousness and personality is stored in our brain. When we die, our brains die, so there is no reason to believe any of that carries on after death. Death to me is as simple, real and unfrightening as the time before I was born. I once wasn't and someday cease to be once more. It's that little window in between those times that matters.

I have an interest in Atheism and like to learn more, where do I start?

Someone that helped me out a lot was Richard Dawkins. I recommend you read 'The God Delusion', 'The Blind Watchmaker', 'Climbing Mount. Improbable' and 'Unweaving The Rainbow'. Or maybe documentaries are more your thing, in which case I recommend you watch 'The BlindWatchmaker', 'The Root of All Evil?' and 'Enemies of Reason'.

Carl Sagan hosted an outstanding television series called 'Cosmos', which I highly recommend if you're interested in a heavy dose of (understandable) science, combined with the odd philosophical thought. It's on YouTube and you will not regret watching it.

Interested in the Big Bang and how it came to be? Lawrence Krauss is your man.

James Randi is magnificent in debunking all sorts of superstitious practices.

Want to know how human beings came to be hardwired for superstition? Why we believe what we believe? Michael Shermer is your guy.

Not afraid of a sound discussion? Here, have a Christopher Hitchens.

Watched all your Sagan videos, but not done marveling at the universe yet? Like to geek out about Isaac Newton? Neil deGrasse Tyson is the guy for you (also, this. Please watch that).

Sam Harris has a lot of interesting opinions about religion, here he is talking about objective morality, a subject that has come up in question number 8 above.

There also are some very helpful people in the 'YouTube-Atheist community', such as AronRa, Thunderf00t, DarkMatter2525, NonStampCollector, FfreeThinker, TheThinkingAtheistpotholer54, Lee Lemonatheistcoffee, FactVsReligion and JaclynGlenn.

You could also watch Q&A programs such as The Atheist Experience (I especially recommend the videos with Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris. Although Matt can be a bit impatient sometimes), Ask an Atheist and Freetought Forum. These are local programs on television, but can be viewed internationally trough sites such as YouTube.

If you wish to leave a comment or question, please do so in the comment section below. If the comment section isn't showing, click on the title of the post.
In this post I have linked three TED videos. TED is not an Atheist organisation, but a science based one. The two tend to overlap more often than not.
That was it for today, thank you for reading.
-The Human Crayon.

-Updates, 15th of October, 2013.
Added questions about miracles, outlawing religion, fear of Hell, dictators being Atheists, what to tell children.
-Update, 16th of October, 2013.
Added Pascal's Wager (Magx01's 13th question)
-Update, 17th of October.
Deleted Bush Sr. quote for questionable authenticity. 
-Updates, 31st of January, 2014.
Paragraph added on question 4, added Atheist YouTube-channels, corrected some embarrassing spelling errors (whoops).
-Updates, 15th of September, 2014.
Added paragraph to the 'Have you read the Bible?' question, changed spelling from a mixture of American English and British English to purely 
British English.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

King Jeremy the Wicked

First of all I'd like to address my absence on this site. I promised a weekly post, yet my last post was 32 days ago. That's not being late, that's a hiatus. So, how did this situation come to be? Well, funnily enough I actually did post an article about this subject the day it was supposed to be posted, but I pulled it after I decided I wasn't at all happy with the tone of it. I deleted most of the text and started over. This time I would miss the Monday-deadline I set for myself over and over, spiraling down a vicious circle (yes, I do realize that's technically impossible, I'm trying to express myself here). But hey, I'm here now, so let's talk about Jeremy.

Jeremy Wade Delle

The backstory.
The song 'Jeremy' by Pearl Jam is about a boy who has to deal with a great deal of anxiety until he decides that it's not worth it and shoots himself in front of his classmates. It's an account of real life teenager Jeremy Wade Delle, who has shot himself in a Richardson High School at about 9:45 AM on the 8th of January, 1991.

Jeremy, fifteen or sixteen years old, was a shy boy, and was picked on because of it. He was very non-social and was described as 'real quiet' and a 'loner'. He did have one friend at school though: the sixteen year old Lisa Moore. They exchanged notes discussing general topics. Jeremy's later notes expressed curiosity after Lisa's then boyfriend and started talking about trouble he's been having with a teacher, signing all of his notes with 'Write back'. One January Monday however, he signed his note 'Later days'. The following Tuesday Jeremy was late, missing the first class. When he showed up in English class, the teacher told him to go get an admittance slip from the school office. He walked out and got a gun that he planted in advance, presumably in his locker. Upon his return, he walked directly to the front of the classroom and said “Miss, I got what I really went for” and pulled out the .357-caliber Magnum, placed it in his mouth and shot, without any hesitation. Just outside was sixteen year old Brian Jackson, trying to open his locker. He didn't think much of the bang. Could be a book slammed against a table, maybe the class was performing a play or something. But then a girl came running out of the classroom, screaming and crying, rapidly informing the small school that something had just gone horribly wrong. Frightened but curious Brian stepped inside where he saw Jeremy's body lying in his blood on the floor and the teacher standing against the wall, crying and shaking. The teacher resigned after the incident, a hole in the wall from the bullet is still visible today, being kept like that in Jeremy's honour.

Pearl Jam enters the story.
Pearl Jam was at the time still busy making their demo for what would eventually become 'Ten', but not now, as they where on tour (I'm having a hard time figuring out which one exactly. For example, the FiveHorizons Concert Chronology doesn't mention a concert around that time in that area. Nor does TwoFeetThick. The closest I could find is the 10/11/91 concert at the Vatican in Houston Texas (via FiveHorizons), but that's much too late since Pearl Jam already began recording Jeremy in March. Their famous tour opening for Alice in Chains seems to fill the right timesloth, but they didn't go anywhere near Texas). When in the area (during whatever tour), Eddie Vedder came across a copy of 'The Dallas Morning News' in which there was an article about Jeremy. In a 2009 interview with Seattle Sound Magazine, Vedder said that he felt "the need to take that small article and make something of it—to give that action, to give it reaction, to give it more importance."

Jeremy and you.
I think most people know a Jeremy. Do not approach him with clichés about how wonderful life is, he has heard them all and he is not impressed. When Marilyn Manson was asked what he would say to Klebold and Harris of the Columbine murders, he replied: “I wouldn't say a single word to them, I would listen to what they have to say. And that's what no one did.” I think Manson is right on the money here, most Jeremies out there aren't looking for a psychiatrist, just being there listening will do. The worst thing you can do is trying to push whatever idea you've got to solve this, the best thing you can do is being there. Just listening. Stephen Fry has said: “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” Like the weather, depression isn't something one could just walk off and forget about, it just there, whether you like it or not. There isn't a single solution because there isn't a single cause. And sometimes there's the need to curl up and take shelter for a while, that's okay. Invite your Jeremy to parties and be persuasive about it, but never force him to go anywhere. Sometimes he doesn't want to be around people and that should be respected too.

We unleashed a lion.
Eddie Vedder actually knew a Jeremy too, a kid named Brian committed a school shooting in his Junior High School, which is why he decided to sing the song in the perspective of one of Jeremy's classmates. He knew exactly what feelings come from knowing someone in your school did something like this, since he actually has first hand experience. In December '91 Vedder told KLOL FM: “I actually knew somebody in junior high school, in San Diego, California, that did the same thing, just about, didn't take his life but ended up shooting up an oceanography room. I remember being in the halls and hearing it and I had actually had altercations with this kid in the past. I was kind of a rebellious fifth-grader and I think we got in fights and stuff. So it's a bit about this kid named Jeremy and it's also a bit about a kid named Brian that I knew.”

This is it for now, but I will come back to revise this article since I'm still not happy with it. I will focus on something else for now, maybe clarity comes later, when I've gotten the change to clear my mind.

The actual newspaper article as read on
Marilyn Manson quote: Bowling for Columbine.
Stephen Fry quote: Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.
Eddie Vedder Quote about shooting at his school: KLOL FM
Eddie Vedder Quote 'Action, reaction, importance': Seattle Sound Magazine, March 2009.
And, of course, Wikipedia.

I've decided to drop the weekly schedule altogether and just post whenever I feel like it instead. So be sure to bookmark or subscribe!
Hakuna Matata!

-The Human Crayon

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hopes and Predictions on Man of Steel 2 (in No Particular Order)

Due to my laptop having had a bad case of the funny business, this got posted later than usual. I'd say it's all fixed now, but that might be a tad optimistic ever since that old Gypsy lady cursed my technological skills.

And now, without further ado, here's a quick rundown of things I either hope or expect to see in Man of Steel II. Fasten your seat belts.

Lex Luthor
After all the easter eggs, this would be a bit weird to omit, I'm pretty sure Luthor is going to be in MOSII. Lex Luthor is a perfect narcissist, a description he'll probably have a hard time disliking, since it contains the word 'perfect'. He fancies himself to be the perfect renaissance man, or even the perfect man altogether, actually. He has a strong build, a nicely symmetric face and a mind destined for greatness. He managed to get elected president with a clearly shady past, that's how great of a manipulator he is. In his mind, he has accomplished pure perfection in humanity. If it wasn't for that one guy, that is. Superman, the Übermensch in flesh and Locke or Epicurus in moral. This, of course, completely clashes with Luthor's self image and the only way to do away with this problem, is to literary do away with Superman. As long as he is alive, Luthor, with all his intelligence, cannot possibly truly find perfection in himself while there is a god amongst men. He must do away with him, so that he may be a god of sorts. Not in deed, but in position.
The biggest question now of course is 'who will play him? '. Well, I, as most people, have no idea. But I'm hoping Michael C. Hall. You know, the Dexter guy. He's got the two faced personality down, he looks menacing, he looks about the same age as Cavill and I think he'll be a believable businessman (I'm guessing they're going with that version, as opposed to the mad scientist version. If fact, I hope they have him running for president at one point. Maybe in the inevitable part III?). Some hardcore fans might actually be against him being in MOSII, since Luthor has already graced so many adaptations, while other kickass super villains are practical strangers to the (non comic book reading-) movie going public. But that doesn't matter because...

Either Brainiac or Doomsday has got to be in this.
To follow up on the utter destruction in the first film, they are going to bring out some goddamn epic villains. There has to be at least one villain that fans have been waiting for for years. A villains that at least matches Zod strength, the stakes must be high. So, who will it be?
Why Brainiac.
Brainiac, or at least the version I'm addressing now, is an alien android. A being in possession of artificial intelligence. Even though he's strong, the main threat of Brainiac often comes from his pure and unspoiled A.I. logic. He is essentially a living supercomputer. But there is more. He is actually responsible for shrinking and stealing Kandor, which is the Capitol of Krypton. Kandor is kept in one of those protective glass bottles (I forgot the actual name for it, will update when I remember). Fun fact: the everyday word 'brainiac', meaning very smart person, actually comes from the name of this character, not the other way around!
Why Doomsday.
'The Death of Superman' is still one of the biggest, most important, most influential, most read comic books of all time. Wanna know who killed him in it? That's right: Doomsday. And what an adversary he is. Doomsday actually collects his powers by getting killed: every time he resurrects, he is immune to the thing that killed him. He starved once, now he doesn't need to eat. He chocked once, now he doesn't need to breathe. You can see how that works out. How do you even beat a guy like that? How can he be beaten at all? Remember, this guy is stronger than Superman, yet immune to Kryptonite, so it's not like you can just lock him somewhere. Punching him into outer space doesn't help, he can live there by now. This would be a tough villain for Superman (and, let's be honest, the writers) and I totally want to see him on the big screen. Who the hell doesn't?

Why not Darkseid?
As every Superman enthusiast knows, Darkseid is an absolutely epic villain too. He definitely deserves a spot in a Superman film someday. So why didn't I include him in the paragraph above? It's mainly because he requires too much backstory for this particular film. The Man Of Steel trilogy will already have it's fair share of story arcs. I just don't see Darkseid being weaved into that. Unless there is a significant amount of build up to him in part II, then he could be kicking ass around in part III.

The warsuit.
Lex Luthor has a iconic suit in the comics that allows him to be strong as fuck. I think that this suit might be the same as Batman might use when fighting Superman. How am I so sure that they will fight? Because the announcement of the movie was made using a quote from The Dark Knight Returns, so yeah.

This one.

The warsuit could be a Kryptonian suit left behind by Zod's crew, only to be used by both Luthor and Batman. Which brings us to...

Holyfuckingshit, you guys! Batman and Superman in one movie! World's Finest is totally happening, after all those years! That is some historic shit right there. We all know who the hell Batman is. There isn't a person on earth who still needs another origin story, so I'm guessing, I'm hoping, there won't be. So, what does a Snyder Batman need? Well, I'm hoping for a worn and rugged Batman, a veteran in crime fighting who comes to show this Superman guy. I think that they will form a fine friendship by the end of the movie, or at least alluding to the beginning of the friendship. Their first meeting however, will not be as smooth.

Yeah Supes, pay attention to the fellow.

Ben Affleck as Batman.
We all know Affleck is going to play Batman by now. When I first read the news, I thought it was a joke. In fact, the thought that it might actually be real didn't even occur to me. I made a somewhat angry, but mostly confused Facebook post, and that was that. The longer the idea of Affleck as Batman lingered around in my head however, the softer the blow got. In time, I'm actually beginning the accept the idea of Batfleck. Every now and then I can see it in my head and think he'll actually be a good Batman. Not that there is any unconditional trust, but there is a definite trust that he might be rocking the part. So there's that. And I don't have to tell the Batfans reading this that it totally all happened before. When Michael Keaton was cast as Batman, the fans went apeshit. And not in a good way. “Fucking Mr. Mom is playing Batman? What the actual fuck is this shit? Is this a joke? Am I having a nightmare right now?”. Batman fans actually took to the streets and started fucking protests, hanging dolls with Michael Keaton's face on in. And then, of course, Keaton went on the become the essential Batman and everybody loved him. Seriously, he went from the most hated man in pop culture to the most beloved man in pop culture overnight. And all it took was one badass trailer. And did we learn anything from it all? Hell no! But maybe we should. Maybe we shouldn't be so fast in judging Affleck. As long as he doesn't have a Boston accent or does his signature pouty face.

Don't you look at me like that Affleck,
you know damn well what I'm talking about.

Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)
I think we've got a good idea of what at least one of her outfits will look like based on the prequel comic. I don't think, however, that they'll cast someone based on her looking like Kara from the comic, so the actress is still anyone's guess. The name AnnaLynne McCord has been thrown around in fan casting, but I don't think I've seen her in anything before, so I've got no opinions about that. But what's stopping you? I mean, I do have a comments section, you know. Who would you like to see as Supergirl? Amber Heard? Jennifer Lawrence? Yvonne Strahovski? Katia Winter? Maggie Grace? Emily Browning? Laura Vandervoort even?

Carrol Farris/Star Sapphire
If Carrie Farris actually turns out to be Carol Ferris (although I'm not sure why they would have gone with the name change then) it's not hard to imagine her story arc continuing and growing in MOSII. She might even get to be Star Sapphire at some point. I'm quite curious concerning her outfit if she does, as I don't think Warner would go with this:

In case you have a hard time telling them apart,
she's the one with the blatant fanservise.

Wonder Woman.
She's not going to be in this movie, but she'll better appear in some way or another after it. It's really about time. So what do I want to see in MOSII? Some kind of easter egg or nod hinting at least at the existence of Wonder Woman in this universe. Side note: Lucy Lawless, Gina Carano or Bridget Regan as WW please.

This lady needs a blockbuster, like, yesterday.

Lana Lang
Remember Lana Lang in MOS? She's that girl in Clark's class that later recognized him as Superman. I'd like to think that she'll take a certain stance on Superheroes in the media, similar to her antics in The Dark Knight Returns after realizing that Clark is one, only with a more DCAU appearance. Maybe she's a little on the fence at the beginning, but then the Batman stuff happens. Whatever the case, I don't think we'll see any Insect Queen anytime soon. That's a good thing by the way. There could, of course, be a Insect Queen easter egg. That would be pretty cool.

Outro stuff.
Remember, in the end I know as little about this movie as anybody else. I'm not even sure how educated my guesses are. Not very, I'm guessing (...wait). It's fun to speculate, but let's not confuse enthusiast guesses with actual information (I'm looking at you, everybody that reported on Bryan Cranston being Lex Luthor, even though that was obviously a rumour). We do have some solid information, but even that might be misleading. We just don't know how the movie is going to be, until we see it. So even discussing Ben Affleck's Batman at this point just might be, well, a bit silly.

What did I just say about faces, Affleck?

And that's that. Yup, that's really it for today. Thanks for reading and I promise, no superheroes next time. In fact, there'll be quite a change of tone, since I'll be talking about Jeremy Wade Delle, the real life subject of the song 'Jeremy' by Pearl Jam.
See you next Monday!

-The Kryptonian Crayon.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Man of Steel is Super, Man! *WITH SPOILERS*


Oh, and this post turned out to be a tad longer than the last one, but don't worry: scientists are now fairly certain that reading more than 140 characters will, in fact, not kill you. Fancy that.

(This is the apologetic part of the review where I whine about whining)
First, something of a disclaimer: I did not grow up reading the Superman comics. In fact, up until recently, I don't think I had read even a dozen Superman comics. Like, in my entire life. This however does not mean that I'm not a fan. I did not only love the shit out of the Christopher Reeve Superman (I still do), but I also watched 'Superman: the Animated Series', 'Justice League' and 'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman'. Religiously, in fact. I still glee in nostalgia whenever I hear one of those intros (or see Teri Hatcher, for that matter). So even though I may not be an authority on Superman, since I don't actually read the comics (much), I think it's pretty clear that I've got at least something to say about the character. I, like any other fan, do want to protect this hero's legacy. This does not mean, however, that I will moan and groan about every little thing that is not exactly like I remember it from my favorite incarnations of the characters attached to the mythos.

Man of Steel has proven to be controversial amongst critics, especially online. Why is that? Certainly not because this is a bad movie, because it isn't. It really isn't. There are some rightful criticisms, mostly given by people who don't regularly misspell the exclamation mark as a 'one'. But there is more going on than criticisms being based in set circles. What we are seeing here is little more than the pathetic howls of a jaded movie audience that only looks for downsides in movies because they just love to complain. Butthurt fanboys demanding that their personal pet peeves are taken care of. Some people simply don't want to see anything new of deviant. They live in fear of everything. Every single movie has minor flaws you can point too, but those flaws shouldn't matter on the grand scale. I too can nitpick about certain things in this movie, and I absolutely will, but that doesn't make it a bad movie by any means. It makes it human. Discussing these things is a fun exercise for fans, releasing our own visions upon the film. That, however, does not diminish the director's vision in any way. Just to clarify: this is not about people with actual arguments. This is aimed at those who have the balls to call a movie 'bad', based on nitpicking alone.

(This is the usually essential part of the review where I instead give a quick synopsis with commentary)
Man of Steel is not just the kind of superhero movie we all know and love, complete with all the drama done well, but it is also a surprisingly good sci-fi movie. The film opens on Krypton, and you totally believe it. The only weak point on Krypton that I can think of right now is the way the animals are animated, they definitely look like CGI and the designers seem to have forgotten that the gravitational pull is greater on Krypton, so flying animals should at least have a gigantic wingspan, or something like that. On the other hand, they were generally well designed and even more importantly, they where there! They took the trouble of showing us Krypton, complete with landscapes and wildlife. Previous incarnations seemed very studio-y. Before seeing the film I wasn't at all happy with the fact that this film was yet another origin story, but this film handles it so well, that all of my former objections about that point are completely out of the window. So yeah, I'm pretty damn enthusiastic about this movie. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't some hijinks going on every once in a while. Jor-El, for example, is a supreme kicker of ass. This is weird, since everyone on Krypton are genetically engineered for their jobs specifically. Jor-El is a scientist. So what's up with all the ass-kicking then? Where people expecting a lot of fistfights in the Kryptonian labs? He should not be able to kick even the tiniest of butts, yet he's friggin' Bruce Lee somehow. Moving on. On Earth we see an adult Clark, essentially being an anonymous Superman, becoming an urban myth wherever his deeds are done. Wanting to just be human, but refusing not to help people. He is, as his mother had foreseen, an outcast. Yet he never stops helping earthlings, no mater how bad they may tread him. A glance into Superman's famed ideals, of course. In a scene in a bar we see Clark being humiliated. To show the audience his grace, he walks away, not beating the guy to Pluto. To show the audience his humanity however, we see that he did take some revenge in the form of playing yathzee with the guy's truck. Character established. Clark and Lois discover the spaceship in ice almost simultaneously, and this is where they meet. Right off the bat, there are no secrets regarding his identity towards Lois. Inside the ship he is able to upload Jor-El's consciousness into the ship's mainframe. Jor-el then tells him about his Kryptonian decent, and how their demise came to be. Interestingly enough, the turning point for Clark in this conversation, the moment where he fully becomes Superman, at least in spirit, happens off screen. It kind of reminded me of that scene in Chaplin's The Great Dictator, where the camera pans away from the action, and instead shows an innocent bird, able to fly, but caged. Seems like a bit of a stretch, but the filmmakers might have had this in the back of their heads too, since after this, Superman learns to fly. When he returns to Smallville and tells his mother he found his ancestry, we are treated to some striking acting by Diane Lane. She is happy for him, but in the blink of an eye she has found the fear of losing the title of mother to some degree. Now that Clark knows where he came from, will he still consider himself to be her true son? The dilemma of the moment is immediately apparent in her eyes, perhaps fueled by Lane's own motherhood. She is one of my favorite characters in the film, not in the last place due to Diane Lane's acting. To the religious, she might occasionally even remind one of Mary. Yes, that one. Then they learn about Zod's arrival, when he broadcasts a warning to the entirety of Earth. Well, to everyone who owns a television set at least. So here's hoping that Jor-El's son didn't turn out to be an North African nomad, I guess. Actually, now that I think of it, Clark did live quite a nomadic life for a while, so if the broadcast happened then, me might have put the whole world in danger, just by not owning a TV. Zod tells Earth that Superman is among them and that he should be turned in, or they can all zod off, I guess. I know that was a terrible joke, but it had to be made. Anyway, in all this mess, you'd expect him to go to the nearest Kryptonian spaceship and consult his space dad. He'll know what to do. But in an enormously human act, he doesn't. He doesn't console the alien about the alien. Instead he visits a priest, a mere human. Why? Because even though he never felt truly one of the humans, he now evidently feels more human than alien, and he turns to a human, a follow human, for help. Nothing the priest says actually changes Clark's actions, which is fine, because that's not why he's there in the first place. He needed to confine to a human, before potentially sacrificing himself for the sake of the human race. After this there is a bit of a military part of the film. In it, Lois and Clark have a talk in an interrogation room. Adams and Cavill have great chemistry here. They do in the entire film, but especially here. And when Superman stands up and talks to the General trough the two-way mirror, pure awesomeness happens. It's scenes like these that remind you even more why Cavill is such a great Superman. However, I must say that from here, we are rapidly moving towards the end of the awesome part of the film. There is still a cool scene inside Zod's ship where Superman has a dream you will remember (it's that skull thing from the trailer). But as soon as they go outside and fight, things quickly start getting quite Roland Emmerich -ish. The entire third act has very little emotional content, and gives us destruction porn instead. It's like suddenly watching a completely different movie. It's a shame, really. I would love to see how the movie would have ended if the characters actually got a change to develop into a satisfying conclusion. But alas, it was not to be.

Characters and actors.

When I first heard Henry Cavill was going to be Superman, I didn't really know what to think about that. Having watched some episodes from The Tudors, I knew he could act but I also distinctly remember being disappointed by his young age and boyish looks. Luckily, I was wrong. Dead wrong. Henry Cavill plays a superb, believable, 'human', and yes, very manly Superman with all the right motivations and morals. His epic tale mirrors that of the classic heroes of Greek and Judeo/Christian -mythology while not steering away from the very human emotions that plague him as a result. So why then do so many people have such a tepid view of him? I think it is because at many times he seems to be merely a pawn in a much bigger game. He does not call the shots. In other words, nearly all of the plot changing decisions are being made for him, which is not a common place fo
r a protagonist to be in. He is a god among men, and yet he is being obedient. That of course isn't really a bad thing. Especially since it sets a nice contrast between him and Zod & co. (A fun bit of trivia: Cavill was supposed to play the titular character in Superman Returns, but was dropped when Bryan Singer was hired to direct the film. Although he was initially upset, he told Huffington Post he “could more accurately represent this incredible character” because he has more years of acting experience under his belt now. He is also the first non-American to play the character)

Lois Lane.
Amy Adams absolutely rocks as Lois. As much as I love the Richard Donner Superman, Margot Kidder's Lois would have been fired from the Daily Planet pretty quickly. This Lois however feels like a real, true reporter. She has great wit. There are only a few little things that could have been done differently. For example, even though the military is very present in this film, there isn't even a mention of her father, General Sam Lane. That's a bit odd, but not an error in any way, so we'll let that one slide. I love her role in the plot. I love that she knows that Clark is Superman. She's honest and comes to function as a confidant for Superman. Lois Lane represents heroism in everyday life, she is humanity. Amy Adams conveys this well. Her acting has been called flat, but I really don't see it. She even looks like Lois Lane, except for her hair. What exactly is up with that? I mean, I know it's shameless nitpicking to the highest degree, which must seem like great hypocrisy after what I said in the introduction, but her hair being the wrong color is the only thing keeping her from being the perfect Lois (going by looks, Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven is how I picture the essential Lois, by the way). Seriously, this one, little, easy to fix thing. But I know, it's nitpicking, so moving on.

This would've looked more like Lois, but whatever...

Jor-El is of course the 'man' who set it all in motion. Played by Russell Crowe, he comes across like a respectable man, a natural mentor. Crowe's underacting has struck many as 'flat', but I see it as nothing less than powerful. Especially when reciting Grant Morrison, I think the shoes of Marlon Brando are filled well. His voice is so compelling, that it's easy to miss when he makes decisions that might not be in everybody's best interest, because you just naturally believe everything he says. In retrospect, he does make a few decisions that need some explaining, however. For example, why didn't he make it possible for Kal-El to upload Lara's consciousness to a spaceship mainframe too?

Martha Kent.
My favorite performance is probably Diane Lane's. Her Martha Kent is by far my favorite incarnation of the character, which says a lot. She brings a lot of humanity to the role, as well as a realistic deviance. Every word Diane Lane speaks hits home.

Lara Lor-Van (I know that's actually her maiden name, so don't even think about commenting on that)
Way too short, yet memorable performance by Ayelet Zurer. Lara is an incredibly important character to the mythos, which is why I'll never understand why it took so long for an memorable live-action version to appear. Think I'm exaggerating? Imagine even one live-action Lara besides the MOS version, right now. Most readers won't be able to do it. So in a way, Lara has now finally been given a face for the general public. On the live-action front that is, the Animated Series already established an awesome Krypton storyline.

Paul Dini kicks all sorts of ass.

Jonathan Kent.
A surprisingly cold figure. He is set in his ways and morals, and will not weaver. His deviance is as strong as his Martha's. In the comics, he dies of a heart attack. Giving Clark a bitter reminder that there are still stings he cannot fight. In the film, there is a slightly different end to Jonathan's life. He gets caught in a tornado while preforming a rescue himself. Clark can save him, but Jonathan does not want him to use his powers like that out of fear that the government will take Clark away, or something of that nature. When asked by Clark “What was I supposed to do, just let them die?” about saving a schoolbus, Jonathan coldly answers “Maybe”. Now that his own life is in peril, he stands by his morals, and signs to Clark not to save him. Clark obeys and lets him die. A very powerful scene.

General Zod.
General Zod (played by Michael Shannon) is not as strong as Superman. He is stronger. Not only is he from Krypton, he has also been a military type for his entire life. Superman on the other hand had just begun his work as Superman and grew up on a farm. That's quite a difference. The only advantage Superman has is that it takes a while to get used to the earth's atmosphere. Which is useful, but of course that does die out, so there isn't a heck of a lot of time for Superman to defeat Zod, he'll be too powerful if Superman wastes too much time. So far the character. The actor, Michael Shannon, definitely has his moments, but he is constantly on the verge of overacting, sometimes even crossing that line. Not that odd maybe, when your predecessor is famous for yelling “Kneel before Zod!”, but his facial expressions get borderline silly sometimes.

Mr. Angryface McPout, ladies and gentlemen.

Perry White.
You'd be hard pressed to find any actor that would fit this role better than Laurence Fishburne. The guy's perfect, that's all I can say about it, really. I mean, what's more to say? It is very rarely that you see an actor fitting his role so perfectly. Someone give the head of casting a medal.

Jimmy Olsen.
There is no Jimmy Olsen in this movie. At first this seemed like a major flaw. After all, Jimmy is Superman's best pall! How could a Superman movie just gloss over that? But quickly I realized that he might be in the movie after all. Since this is a origin story, Superman does not yet work at the Daily Planet (except at the very end) and thus has not met Olsen yet. We however, may have. I would not be surprised if the actor that will play Jimmy Olsen in the sequel (and I'm pretty sure he'll be in that movie) can be seen as an extra in the Daily Planet. That's right, he might be under our very noses this entire time. I know what some of you are thinking right now, “Don't you know that Jimmy Olsen is now Jenny Olsen?” Well, actually, that was just a rumor. That character is actually called Jenny Jurwich (played by Rebecca Buller ).

Wait a minute, that guy, over Perry White's shoulder. Are you guys seeing that? That could definitely be Jimmy Olsen. Is he? He might be. I think he is.

No wait, maybe it's that guy. That could be him. He doesn't work at the Daily Planet here, but he still can, in the next movie. Maybe he and Lois meet and there is conflict because of the interview or something like that. Could happen, right? Sounds plausible?

[PS: Haha, you clicked play, didn't you? Don't you feel like a complete asshat now!]

Lana Lang.
She may not have a huge part in this movie, but she's in there. And that's awesome, goshdarnit. Also, she seemed to have recognized Clark as Superman, so there's some possible conflict for the sequel.

The amount of ass kicked by this Kryptonian is almost beyond comprehension. She's at least as kickass as Zod. In fact, the film might have improved if she was the main villain and Zod was her lesser. I kind of want to see her as Wonder Woman now, but that's not going to happen because I highly doubt that Warner would use the same actors for different characters in the same continuity.

Dr Hamilton.
His role in the movie may not be that big, but the implications of him being there certainly are! Being a top dog/former top dog for S.T.A.R.-labs, he has become something of a Lucius Fox to Superman. But, there is more: S.T.A.R.-labs is actually responsible for DC character Cyborg. Who was not originally a member of the Justice League, but in September 2011, was actually established as a founding member of the league as part of DC's 2011 reboot of its continuity, the New 52. I am in general not the biggest fan or New 52, so the possibility of the upcoming (if everything goes well) Justice League movie being based in the New 52 universe does slightly worry me. But of course, this string of thought is getting way out of hand, and is full of wild speculation. The presence of Dr. Hamilton however, is overall good news. I just hope that if Justice League will have Cyborg, that they won't stick to New 52 too much. But again, that's all premature speculation.

Yes, there is some shaky-cam and there is some lens-flare. More than some, in fact. It can be annoying and sometimes even out of place (when people are just standing there talking, for example. The hell, you guys), but luckily there's not too much of it and it doesn't consume or ruin the film at all. Not the first two acts, anyway. The climax often looks more like a Roland Emmerich flick than it looks like the rest of the film. The framing seems a bit off at times, like the cameraman showed up drunk and his aim was slightly off as a result, but in the majority of the film it's fine. Some scenes, indoor scenes in particular, seem way to dark to me. The only building that I can think of that was well lit inside all of the time is the Daily Planet. But that's just how movies look these days, I suppose. Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about the rest of the cinematography, because it is beautiful. Especially the flashback scenes are a feast for the eye. The Smallville scenes in particular are like Norman Rockwell paintings in an indie flick. There are close-ups of objects loosely having something to do with the scenes, giving it a bit of a high-end documentary feel at times, while not being distracting. In fact, these shots draw you deeper into the scene, as they give a greater awareness of the character's surroundings.

Cinematographer Amir Mokri is the guy on the left.

Production design, costume design.
Man, am I divided about this one. A love most of the design, yet I can't get into Superman's getup at all. But let's start with the positive. I love Krypton and I love the costumes for Kal-El and Lara. They seem to be instant iconic stuff, especially Lara's getups (Jor-El's do seem a bit wrinkly at times). The whole of Krypton is thoughtfully designed, in fact. The family crests seem natural to that world, the spaceships actually look like the works of H.R. Giger, which of course is awesome. And have you seen the history of Krypton in Art Deco, as shown by that silver thing? What a stunning sequence that was! So, where does everything go south? At Superman's supersuit, that's where. And yes, I'm calling it the supersuit now, roll with it. I think it's a shame that absolutely everything must be dark and gritty now, it's the look of our times. But while this works perfectly for Batman, Superman shouldn't have to be forced to go dark too. He's Superman, he can be a bit corny, really, it's alright. I am not exaggerating when I say that the blue in his suit is often barely noticeable and looks like a dark gray instead. What a load of bullshit that is. And like New 52 Superman, he has lost his briefs. Unlike the New 52 however, his belt is not bright red and thus does not properly break up the unitard effect of having one overall colour (okay, so the New 52 suit isn't perfect at this either, but at least they're trying!). And the texture on the suit looks cool in the wide shots, but absolutely ridiculous in the close-ups. It looks terribly plastic and reminds one of the mats swimming pools got lying around to prevent people from slipping. Was this thing made with a 3D-printer? Is that what it is? And now I'm thinking about that 3D printed Dita Von Teese dress. Which actually makes it all better, so thanks about that, production design department, I suppose.

Not what I meant by 'corny', but it's a start, I guess.

The story and modern-day mythology.
When growing up Clark displays the typical attributes of the messiah-child -archetype (Anakin/Luke Skywalker, Mathilda, Carrie, Harry Potter, Akira). Struggling with his powers, being the outcast. When ushered into manhood, we see our main character drifting in the ocean, slowly sinking low enough for sea creatures such as whales to swim above him. An allusion perhaps to Robert A. Heinlein's novel Stanger in a Strange Land? The basic similarities is the main character's backgrounds is not to be ignored in any case. The man from another planet, excelling far beyond their original selfs on Earth. Both were considered a menace on arrival, but grew into the messiah archetype. It should not be ignored however, that Valentine Michael Smith is actually born on Earth, but grew up on Mars, thus alienating himself from his original home planet. Stranger therefore follows the premise of Jungle Book more then it follows Superman. Our hero also shares similarities with Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter character. Superman Through the Ages: The Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster Interview quotes Siegel as saying: “Carter was able to leap great distances because the planet Mars was smaller that the planet Earth; and he had great strength. I visualized the planet Krypton as a huge planet, much larger than Earth”. Remember that Superman didn't always fly. That feature was only added on request of the Fleisher Brothers back when they where animating the famous cartoon shorts. Before that, Superman simply made great leaps (“Leaps tall buildings in a single bound!”). The movie may have been referring to this in the scene where he first starts to fly: before he flies, he makes great leaps.

One of the fun things about superhero tales is that they often seem like religious tales, but without the hassle of an actual religion. Which, of course, places these stories straight into the 'mythology' compartment, and don't you deny it. Mankind has always told stories of the people they'd wish to be and, more importantly, to aspire to. We have always created heroes to serve as metaphors for everyday struggle on steroids, combined with a healthy dose of wish-fulfillment, and we will always do so. Man of Steel recognizes and celebrates this fact. There is even an inspirational speech towards the end accompanied by the footage of a little boy (Kent himself) running around like a superhero, with a red towel functioning as cape. Superman's martyrdom is that of Christ, Mithras, Krishna, and the likes. His tribulations are those of Odysseus, of Hercules. He is Apollo, he is Dionysus, he is Osiris, he is Horus. And so on.

Religious allusions.
Superman is a typical messiah archetype. Being a classic hero he bares resemblance to a lot of mythological and religious figures. None as clearly as the Jesus type though. Which of course, isn't in the least bit surprising because Jesus is the go-to tragic martyr in western culture (besides Superman, I guess?). Some people take issue with the allusions to religious figures (Jesus in particular), because it's cliché, they say. And they're right. And I don't care. Robocop is Christ too, does anyone care? Didn't think so. Cool is cool. Religious allusions are as fun to me as any other easter egg or type of symbolism. And they've been there since the beginning, by the way. As you may have guessed, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were Jewish. Supes and his dad are called 'Kal-El' and 'Jor-El'. 'El' is Hebrew for 'God'. So, after all this talk about it, I guess you want some examples. Well, let's start with the most iconic: the Jesus Christ Pose (and now you've got Soundgarden stuck in your head, you're welcome). There's one in Superman Returns, I thought it looked cool then and I still think it looks cool now. In Man of Steel there is one very early on when we first see him preform a rescue at sea. When he lies in water, reminiscing his past. Later in the film we see the main one, when he leaves the spaceship and before he flies he starts falling in the pose, just as he's about to save the world, mind you. The words spoken in that moment are even “You can save them all”. A bit in your face, sure, but cool and iconic none the less. Some have mentioned the virgin birth thing, but I'm not entirely sure about that, that can be a coincidence. The twist there is that Superman is the only one that is NOT immaculately conceived. One of the most obvious allusions to me was the fact that he's 33 years old when the main events of the film, and thereby his sacrifice, take place. For those of you who aren't getting it, Jesus was also 33 years old (during crucifixion, etc.). And then there's the church/stained glass thing. In a moment of uncertainty, Superman finds himself visiting a priest (or revered or whatever, I don't know), during their entire talk, we see a stained glass right behind him, depicting Christ. His adoptive father is a tradesman, his baby cradle kept in a stable, he has a devout female follower whose fate in him seems unshakable (yes, Lois is Mary Magdalene in this comparison. What? Why are you making that face?), he gets stabbed in the side... there are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn here, is what I'm saying. They may not all be intentional, but a whole bunch of them certainly are.
Superman and religious/mythological imagery go hand in hand. The Christ allusions must not be taken to mean that Superman IS Christ, however. He is a Christ-like figure, that's a different story. Superman, like Jesus, is drawn from Jewish myth (he's totally Moses too!) and has extended into the dominant religion of the western culture, including pop culture. It does so without too much offense to those not looking for these signs, but they certainly are there for those who are.

Here's the pose in Superman Returns.

MOS has a few of these too...

Off to see Pontius Pilatus, Pontius Pilatus of Rome...


Jesus. We get it. You're Jesus.

About the action packed third act.
A common complaint about this movie is the wall to wall action. And I don't entirely disagree with it, the complaint I mean. The sheer scale of destruction reminds one of the destruction of Krypton, all the while this destruction is birthing the new Krypton. Or at least, it is attempted. So sure, there are good things to say about these sequences. Here's the thing, however: the epic action in the third act often leaves little breathing time in between scenes, creating the danger of a jaded and dulled audience at times. It's a common rule in film making: too much adrenaline = dulling, that's why there's such a thing as comic relief. It would improve the pacing of the movie if this sequence was heavily cut and the earlier parts of the movie had been given more time. Heck, trow in some more flashbacks in between scenes, make the whole movie driven by flashbacks, I don't care. Talking about flashbacks... (you are looking at the king of segues right now)

Storytelling trough flashbacks.
I've seen a lot of people on the Internet complain about the editing and continuity of the movie. Well, they must fiercely hate Batman Begins then. Also, do they not know what flashbacks are? It can actually be a great way to tell a story, as it can focus merely on the needed highlights of a character's past without feeling rushed at all. Imagine all the flashbacks back to back, right after the opening on Krypton. Not a pretty sight, is it? But put in a right narrative and kablamo, you have a powerful story, condensed by the power of flashing back. Thanks, David S. Goyer! I should also note that the flashbacks are by far the most visually beautiful parts of the movie. If the whole movie looked like that, I would not be the least bit surprised if it got nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography. And I would root for it.

Supes kills Zod.
I warned you about the spoilers. A lot of people have been taking issue with this scene. 'Superman does not kill' they say. Well, sorry, but that's a load of bullocks. Superman usually doesn't kill, but he has done it in situations where he really had to, and as you may remember, the situation in the scene was just that. It plays out like the classic moral question, only much easier: “You are Superman. A General that is at his least as powerful as you has threatened to kill the entirety of mankind, and the chances of you stopping him in the future are slim. He is also threatening to kill a family with his heatvision right now. You are holding him in a headlock, but he is able to continue regardless. The laser is closing in on the family, your choice now is to let the family die and letting the maniac that wants the wipe out humanity live, or you snap the guy's neck and save the day. Probably not only for the family, but the entire world might just be at stake. Would you snap Zod's neck?”. It is hardly the moral question or our time. Of course Superman's action here is completely justified and in character. I would not trust him with his mission if he would not have that sense of justice in him. "But his code!" you yell, not understanding how computers work, "he has a strict moral code against killing!". Well, since MOS chronicles the very beginning of Superman, maybe this is the faithful day he actually come up with and decided to live by that code in the first place. Didn't think of that, did you?

A common reaction amongst certain fanboys.

Superman the American.
In the comics, 'Truth, Justice and the American Way' have long been replaced with a much more international sentiment. Superman is undoubtedly an American icon, but where Superman used to be a perfect reflection of the ideal American man with a twist, DC now tries to make him the ideal man, without one nationality, instead. They have been doing so for quite a while now, but never as strongly as in 2011's Action Comics #900, when Superman actually renounced his US citizenship. This was a clear message that Superman is standing ready, not just for Americans, but for the entire world. Whenever someone is in peril, nationality makes no difference. All of this makes it a bit surprising just how much the movie celebrates his Americanism, creating somewhat of a contrast with contemporary comics in that respect. We see the Stars and Stripes several times, the military plays up the patriotism and when assuring the General of his good intentions, Superman actually says: “I’m from Kansas, sir. I’m about as American as it gets.” None of these things are inherently bad or anything. Hell, I laughed at the Kansas remark. But these things, when taken into the light of the comics, certainly are a tad peculiar.


Lois knows.
And all credibility would be lost if she didn't. The fact that she does makes it possible for her to be a close confidant to Superman, which elevates her above most incarnations of the character in my opinion. The treatment of her character in the past has unjustly tied her name to the tiresome Damsel in Distress trope, well, take a good look at Man of Steel. There's no 'damsel' here. Instead we see someone that honors her integrity as a reporter, but also honors her integrity as a human being well enough for Superman's secret to be safe with her. How anyone could not love this character is beyond me.

Marry me!
Shit, did I just say that out loud?

Allusions to Justice League and other superheroes.
-Supergirl! When Clark is walking trough the spaceship in the ice, we can clearly see an opened, empty, pod. Who was is for? Well, Kara Zor-El certainly comes to mind! And where is she now? Something tells me that we'll see in the sequel. She was also the focal point of the prequel comic, by the way, read it here.
-That underwater scene that I said may be alluding to Stranger in a Strange Land could also be a Aquaman thing. Heck, Aquaman could even be behind the oil rig disaster, creating conflict in the future.
-Speaking of Aquaman, the codeword in the military command was ' Trident'.
-Remember that military woman that said she though that Superman was 'kinda hot'? Well, her name is Major Carrie Farris (played by Christina Wren), which sure sounds a whole lot like Carol Ferris, a Green Lantern character. In fact, that's the character played by Blake Lively in the Green Lantern movie. Now, I realize that the name isn't exactly the same and it could all still be a meaningless easter egg, or even a massive coincidence. How big are the odds though?
-There is a close-up of a satellite of Wayne Enterprise.

And finally, the part of the review where I trow in some more observations that I couldn't really place anywhere else.
-That guy that used to bully Clark, but turned around after he got saved totally recognized him during the climatic battle. That's going to bite him in the ass in the next film, I tell ya.
-In fact, a lot of people are going to know exactly who he is. All his former classmates and their parents, for example, will be able to figure out exactly who this Superman guy is. Heck, most of Smallville won't have much trouble connecting that Superman guy with the weird guy with the supposed superpowers from the Kent's place. I kinda hope that this is going to be an issue in the next film. Disbelieve can only be suspended for so far, you know.
-There is a satellite that gets knocked out of orbit in the climatic trowdown which bears the Wayne Enterprises logo. Foreshadowing that, holy shit, Batman will be in the sequel! Okay, it may have just been a friendly nod from Snyder to Nolan at the time. But still.
-The LexCorp logo show up a couple of times too, by the way. Most notably on the side of a truck that gets thrown around.

That's all, folks!
Because I had to seriously cut down this article, there will be a few Superman related articles in the future. Some of them might be (these are working titles):

  • Hopes and predictions on Man of Steel 2 (in no particular order).
  • The literary and mythological origins of Superman and his place in modern-day storytelling.
  • Superman and Nietzsche.
  • Lois Lane and feminism in western pop-culture.
  • Superman and Dr. Manhattan.
  • Superman's guilt.
  • Superman and Judaism.

They will not come right after each other, because this is not a Superman blog. I can promise you that there will be vastly different subjects in the meantime. If fact, I'm not even sure if I will post a Superman related post next week, so I'll just have to see for yourself.

See you next week!
-The Kryptonian Crayon