The God Helmet: Your Brain On Religion

What if we could recreate a religious experience by simply flipping a switch in the brain? What if we could produce the feeling that someone or something is watching over us on demand? According to neuroscientific research conducted with The God Helmet, this may be possible.

The God Helmet, invented by Stanley Koren and used primarily by Dr. Michael Persinger, has forced us to reconsider the neurological basis of religion in the brain. The headgear is controversial because when electromagnetic waves are sent through a subject’s temporal lobe, it can create the feeling of a religious experience, or a sense of belonging. “We basically imitate what happens within the brain itself during a mystical experience,” says Dr. Persinger.

In this engaging lecture with guest speakers Trevor Carniello and Dr. Michael Persinger, learn about how The God Helmet works and discover the origin of religious experiences in the brain. Join us in this exclusive opportunity to be able to ask Dr. Persinger questions and find answers to your curiousities about God, the brain and religion.
The lecture takes place on Friday, March 9th at York University.This event is brought to you by Free[SAY]: Freethinkers, Skeptics and Atheists at York in collaboration with the Center For Inquiry.

When: Friday, March 9th 2012 7:00pm

Where: York University, Accolade West Room 109

Tickets: http://www.cficanada.ca/ontario/events/the_god_helmet/

How Much: $5 York Students

$7 General Admission

Tickets will also be available at the door

To encourage and promote involvement in both Free[SAY] and the Centre For Inquiry we’re offering FREE ADMISSION to “Faithless: Better without God”  (details here:http://www.cficanada.ca/ontario/events/how_dan_barker_lost_his_faith_in_faith) AND “The God Helmet: Your Brain On Religion” with the purchase of a Student Membership for one year to the Centre for Inquiry.

For more information about the event and to purchase tickets please visit: http://www.cficanada.ca/ontario/events/the_god_helmet/

Faithless: Better without God

Atheists have now been found to be the fastest growing minority group. We are no longer being silent and closeted about our beliefs. The question is, how does one transition from being devoutly religious to being an active atheist? In this compelling presentation brought to you by Free[SAY] and the Centre for Inquiry we will hear the deconversion story of a man who lost his faith in faith.

Dan Barker is the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is now the largest organization of freethinkers. He is also an accomplished musician and songwriter. However, what makes his story fascinating is that he began his career as an evangelical preacher.

At the age of 15, Dan accepted Christ as his savior and a few months later accepted what he felt was a calling to join the ministry. Dan received a degree in Religion at Azusa Pacific University and was ordained into the ministry by the Standard Community Church, California, in 1975. Barker also co-pastored in three different churches, and for eight years he was a cross-country evangelist. He preached for a total of nineteen years and has over two hundred published and recorded Christian songs that he has composed.

So what made Dan Barker lose his faith in religion? Free[SAY]: Freethinkers, Skeptics and Atheists at York in collaboration with the Centre for Inquiry, will be bringing you Dan Barker to tell his deconversion story at York University on March 1st, 2012. The presentation will be taking place from 7-9 PM at Accolade West, room 109.

When: Thursday, March 1st 2012 at 7:00 pm

Where: York University, Accolade West Room 109

Tickets: http://www.cficanada.ca/ontario/events/how_dan_barker_lost_his_faith_in_faith/

How Much: $5 York Students

$7 General Admission

Tickets will also be available at the door

To encourage and promote involvement in both Free[SAY] and the Centre For Inquiry we’re offering FREE ADMISSION to “Faithless: Better without God” AND “The God Helmet: Your Brain On Religion” (details here:http://www.cficanada.ca/ontario/events/the_god_helmet) with the purchase of a Student Membership for one year to the Centre for Inquiry.

Atheists Care: Help Support FreeSAY’s Food Drive!

A recent study titled “Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice,” done by the University of British Columbia discovered that atheists are one of the most distrusted groups of people. According to the survey, atheists were as distrusted as rapists. This prejudice is based on the misguided notion that atheists are immoral.

FreeSAY has taken up the challenge of dispelling this negative stereotype placed upon atheists. We are holding a food drive in order to show that atheists can and do have a positive role in society. All proceeds from this event will be going to support the North York Harvest Food Bank which supplies a variety of food banks and kitchens across North York, including York University’s own food bank.

We will be accepting donations from Monday January 30th till Friday February 3rd in Vari Hall from 10:00am – 4:00pm everyday, with the exception of Thursday February 2nd where we will be in the Vari Hall Link.

Our goal is collect 500 pounds of donations! Come out and show your care by helping us reach our goal and supporting your local community.

Good without God

For some time there has been the misconception that morality is established through religion. This belief has subsequently inferred that those who are without religion are not capable of mortality and thus are deplorable beings. While the average individual, in our modern Western Society, might believe this outdated label no longer holds any clout, this is not the case. The Secular community themselves would like to believe that such a negative stigmatization would not be attached to a group that is heavily composed of  and highly progressive and educated community, but a recent study by University of British Columbia suggests the contrary.

Will Gervais of UBC recently published the study Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice postulating that Atheists are the most distrusted group. The other groups that were represented in this study were Christians, Muslims, gay men, feminists and Jewish people. The only group that received a similar rating of Distrust were rapists. Yes, you heard correctly. Atheists are distrusted as much as rapists?

I myself as an Atheist find this study to be deplorable and highly misguided. This stereotype has been perpetuated by organized religion for far too long and it needs to stop immediately. From Albert Einstein to Noam Chomsky to Freud, secularists have for centuries helped contribute and change society.  Fortunately The Centre for Inquiry (CFI) has just launched a campaign to help change this perception. Through their Think Again! TV campaign they plan on collecting videos from the secular community showing/telling what they do and what charitable or generous acts they have done to benefit society.

Are you interested? 

As mentioned, CFI is collecting videos from local, national and international voices to defend our stance within the community and demonstrate how we are Good without God. If you are interested in helping with this project, They would be glad to feature you on our video.

Please keep the videos short (less than 1 minute) and keep the format as the following:

1. State your name and where you are from

2. State your occupation

3. What you do for charities, non-profits or society?

4. End with the statement “that is why I am good without god”

You can submit by either uploading the video to YouTube and sending the link to multimedia@cficanada.ca or you can put the video file into CFI’s Drop Box folder linked to socialmedia@cficanada.ca.

For more information about the this campaign visit CFI’s website at http://www.cficanada.ca/ontario/news/are_you_good_without_god_then_we_want_you/

To read more about this study visit CTV’s article here: http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20111201/bc_atheist_research_ubc_rapists_111201/20111201?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

Was God created in man’s image?

         At first glance this illustration may appear to be just another rendering of the Sistine Chapel’s The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. However with closer inspection one sees that Adam is actually illustrating an unfinished god. This beautiful charcoal drawing was created by Cristian David Garcia.

The original artwork by Michelangelo was meant to be a Biblical depiction of the moment when God first breathes life into Adam. Creatively, Garcia breathes life into this idea and flips it upside down to demonstrate an atheist perspective. The Creation depicts the moment when a human created god.

Wait. Read that again. Humans created god? What a preposterous idea!

         No, you read it correctly. As an atheist, I believe this idea to be true. The claim that an elderly man created the universe speaks volumes of how we are limited by our lack of knowledge. Because of the fact that we cannot perceive what is beyond the information given to us, it makes sense that humans conjure up the idea that someone must have made us. After all, we create children who are in our image, so who created us in their image? It somewhat makes sense if using simplistic and egotistical logic.

The problem is when there is evidence that the organisms on our earth exist due to an extraordinary and complex process called evolution. How do we explain the age of our earth? How do we understand our galaxy and beyond? The model of a god creating everything is no longer enough to make sense of our existence.

While we do have amazing imaginative and creative abilities, we do not yet have the technological abilities to perceive and understand the entire universe and how it works. We know facts about our earth, solar system and our galaxy, and we can estimate and theorize about what is beyond that. We can even take images and use the knowledge we do have to try and comprehend what is out there. But the fact is, we are so small, and new to this universe. What we do think we know in science may be disproved tomorrow, as scientific knowledge is constantly in flux.

When taking these ideas into consideration throughout my life, I reached my own conclusion that it may be that humankind created god because that is all we knew when we first became conscious and thinking beings. God is our creation, s/he doesn’t own us. We own the idea of god because it manifested in our minds as an explanation for events that we simply didn’t have the understanding to explain. But now we do have more knowledge, and we are always in the process of learning more every day.

So, I commend Cristian David Garcia for his artwork. It is eye opening and refreshing to see a piece of art which is not only gorgeous to view but also inspiring for the mind.

Of course, another food for thought is the Flying Spaghetti Monster rendition of The Creation of Adam. Now, excuse me as I go to have my second helping of spaghetti.

Islamophobia real and Imagined

Before I begin I would like to state that the purpose of this article is not to enable people of competing belief systems (namely Christianity and Judaism) to assume that their convictions are somehow at a higher standing, vindicated of their destructive elements or otherwise victimized.  This piece is not meant to score one for the good guys and lay one on the brown baddies.

Islamophobia is real and it is the byproduct of the post 9/11 world in which we live in.  I recently came across this video while procrastinating on YouTube so I thought I would share with you. The clip is from the ABC show What Would You Do?

You will notice that while some of the costumers in the experiment sided with the Muslim girl the majority remained silent or even joined in the abuse.  You might feel sympathetic, you might even feel angry and you have every right to.  But should we react in a similar fashion when Islam as a religion is criticized by public intellectuals?  Should we simply label anyone who criticizes Islam a racist Islamophobe?

Islamophobia can also be imagined and it is a byproduct of the knee-jerk politically hyper-sensitive atmosphere surrounding Islam.  In this clip, famous atheist Sam Harris is speaking about the violent fundamentals of Islam.

Is Islam a religion of peace? This is not a question that should automatically result in scorn.  It is a perfectly legitimate question which every single freethinking humanist should be entitled to ask.  Is it racist for one to merely state the fact that the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death?

The point is that our reaction to Islamophobia should be more nuanced.

Clearly there exists a fine line between Islamophobia and critical analysis of Islam. But most often the critical analysis is lost in the language of hyper-sensitivity. For me this is a lazy reaction which scarifies critical thinking for the sanctimonious feeling one gets when proudly proclaiming support of multiculturalism.  “they have their ways and I have mine” “oh don’t say that!!!! That’s Racist/Islamophobic  etc.” If you fancy yourself a free and rational thinker these responses should not be convincing, you must have the courage to acknowledge the fact that much like any other religion, Islam is subject to criticism.

More importantly however there are many Muslims as well as ex-Muslim voices in the Muslim world and abroad, that wish to engage in the critique.  I once asked one of my TAs who identified herself as a feminist to give me her opinion on Ayaan Hirshi Ali. She said that while she liked her works she did not particularly appreciate the” vitriolic tone” she uses to critique Islam.  But how could a white middle aged feminist living in the west possibly understand the hatred that Ali feels?  She has certainly not lived the life of a Muslim woman and yet she felt vindicated in her claim that Ali was not using nice words in relation to Islam. Indeed the western observer that is exposed to the Islamophobia debate must understand that Islamophobia can also work as a weapon to censor descent from within and should not be so easily accepted.

I leave you with this clip of Hirshi Ali debating Avis Lewis on the nuances of Islamophobia:

Atheists are angry people!

I came across this comic about the notion that atheists are angry people. I thought it was quite clever!

The atheist in this comic is progressive and argues for peaceful societies, yet the opponent completely disregards this. The atheists arguments seem to go right through one ear and out the other of the opposing person. It’s ironic that their responses imply aggression towards the atheist, especially regarding the comment on tasers, suggesting atheists should be forcefully stopped.

I fully agree with the idea that peaceful, loving and moral societies can be accomplished through critical thinking and secularism. In fact, I think that societies which are predominantly based on religious ideals and values have more hatred and are less just because they tend to lack respect for the rights of all people, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, race, etc. How can we have a progressive society if we base our laws and values on ancient thinking? Ideals which may have served a purpose for one historical context may be completely inaccurate for our modern world.

Atheists are not angry people. I think that this stereotype comes from a lack of understanding of what it means to be a freethinker and an atheist, as is illustrated by this comic. Yes, certain issues may anger atheists, however this is true for all groups of people, regardless of their beliefs.