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Kiva Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious

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Loan-A-Thon Dates:
January 1+2 (New Years)
April 1+2 (April Fools)
July 1+2 (near Muhammad Yunus' birthday and many national sovereignty celebrations)
October 31+November 1 (Halloween)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is Atheism A Religion?

This post is a spot for our Kiva team to chat/debate (if anyone is up for it).

My initial thoughts; it heavily depends on how religion is defined. I won't venture to define religion.

I think atheists can form a religion, such as, Humanism. Not all atheists are Humanists. Many Buddhists are atheists. Is Buddhism a religion? I think so but it is also a philosophy. The teachings of the Buddha can be useful to people in the cross cultural way that the teachings of the Ancient Greek Philosophers are.

How is atheism different from agnosticism? Is Agnosticism a religion?

Your Thoughts?

Memetic Transmission

Our human ancestors traversed the Earth searching for food, shelter and water and in doing so began to settle in groups (composed mainly of relatives and allies), in large part, for protection and security from other groups. Through language and interactions between groups of humans our ancestors created and proliferated memes or ideas that were important to follow in their time. During the time of early humans it was their five senses that enabled them to maintain their health, security, and group cooperation. In order to find nourishment and strength, our ancestors had to use all five senses in concert to determine what was edible, digestible, and of course palatable.

At that time, they were not too worried about the amount of fat, carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins in their food, but they did eat what they felt gave them more energy, stamina, and hydration since there was not always an over abundance of food available. This ensured that they could eat in moderation so that there was enough to go around and that they could heal properly and swiftly so as to not prolong their weakness. Although they did not recognize it at the time, they were finding ways to strengthen their immune systems in order to fight sickness caused by bacteria and viruses and to maintain their health.

Moreover, security was a major factor that influenced early humans to form groups and maintain cooperation in order to avenge against enemies looking for food, a place to settle, and in some cases women to join their group. So perhaps another important meme was mating outside of the group in order to add diversity to a particular group. At the time, these early humans did not know that they were, in turn, expanding their genetic diversity by mating with someone outside of the group. But, it was their senses like touch and sight that helped them to determine that there was a need to add outsiders to their packs. Their inherent sexual instincts for a non-relative helped them to diversify and grow their tribes.

The use of their five senses helped early humans to use logic in their behaviors and actions. As time passed, existing memes were strengthened and new memes were created that sometimes replaced existing memes (memetic competition). Much archaeological evidence shows that early humans crafted different tools and objects out of rocks and bones for security, hunting, and ornamental purposes. The creations can be seen to have happened all over the world at around the same time during the time of the early humans. A meme, governing these creations, had spread all over the world by humans because it was so important for protection, food, and leisure.

Leisure was important since it satisfied the senses the way food and shelter did. It allowed early humans to play with their logic skills which, in turn, improved their reasoning skills, although they did not realize this at the time. It offered a means of inventing new things from old creations. For example the creation of a sharp rock knife may have enabled the creation of a flute from carving a piece of wood. And from this could have resulted the creation of carved stone sculptures or jewelery. The use of their logic helped humans to further their knowledge of their surroundings and this gave rise to new and more complex memes, some of which had evolved from existing memes. Some of these more complex memes include livestock herding and agriculture, from the meme of food security and wealth, and wearing clothing in order to maintain hygiene to protect from harmful bacteria and viruses (from the memes of good health and longevity).

In today's modern societies there are an overwhelming number of memes that are built on older memes from the time of the earliest humans. Our logic and reasoning skills that are governed by our senses and ultimately our brains have been improved over tens of thousands of years that today we live in a world of countless creations. We thrive on new discoveries, not only based on our surroundings and lifestyles, but on the nature of the universe. These new discoveries enable today's humans all over the world to expand their knowledge of life and the universe further improving our logic and reasoning skills.

The difference today is that we are capable of being fully aware of how we impact ourselves, each other, and our future. We now have the ability to weed out such memes like the belief in God that no longer apply in this modern day. This meme, that was established in order to maintain group loyalty and cooperation long ago, is no longer necessary in a time of democratic influence and social justice. With all that we know today, we can have control of how our future will be. However, with the long-lasting meme of religion among today's societies, we have a tremendous obstacle to overcome in order to establish a safe and prosperous future for humans.

By Rajvee

Friday, November 14, 2008

God's Trash

I was recently snorkeling off an island in the Caribbean sea, Curacao, and I saw a flatfish. I was excited because I had read about this evolutionary marvel over at Pharyngula. The flatfish is extremely well camouflaged and I only saw it because it was swimming. When it stops swimming if you take your eye off of it for more than a few seconds you will lose sight of it. The flatfish is a great example of the novelty, beauty and intricacy of the evolutionary process. To see the fish body form adapt in such an interesting way is beautiful. The flatfish has both eyes on one side of the body, the top, the interesting part is the top of his body is actually one side of his body. So one eye migrates over the symmetrical center of the body to the other side during the development of the juvenile flatfish.

I shared my story of the encounter with the flatfish with a local friend of mine and he told me that in Papiamentu, the local language of the island, the term for the flatfish meant "God's Trash". I forget the actual local word but I remember the meaning.

Recently, one of my debate strategies when discussing religion is to highlight what I perceive as a major difference in world view between atheists and theists. When someone or a culture has a belief in a Creator God who can create and destroy the Earth at his will then the Earth is not precious. Something that is truly precious, if lost, cannot be replaced. However, if there is no God then the Earth is precious! If we allowed the Earth to be destroyed we will have lost the one unique place in the universe that is ideally suited for our form of life. Atheism makes me an Environmentalist! It makes me care for the Earth in a much more profound way than Creationism ever could!

My story above highlights how a culture that is heavily influenced by religion can have it's thinking altered to the point where a life form, such as the flatfish, can be viewed as God's Trash. An organism that is viewed as out of favor with God. From my perspective I don't understand why God would create trash? Moreover, if God can create trash then he can clean it up and many religious people feel that we can pollute the Earth because God will clean up the mess since God will protect us. This is the view of Evangelical Christians, many of whom believe End Days will come in their lifetime.

By Peter

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We just passed 100K in loans!!

Congratulations to everyone on the team, we have made it to $100,000+ in loans. We are 2/3 of the way to our year end goal of $150,000.

Lately there has been some really good discussions on the message board and Jim from our team setup a Facebook Group; thanks Jim! Here's the link.

We are now ranked #2 in terms of total number of loans and we have closed the margin considerably under the category of total money loaned.

Hello to all the new team members; this team is doing a great job at growing. Nobody but Team Obama can compete with our membership numbers. Who knew there were this many monkeys lurking in the Kiva bushes ;)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. A day to remember all the Canadians who fought and died in World War 1 & 2 and all the other wars Canada has fought in.

Lets also remember that we fought WW1 & 2 to protect England and not to protect Canada. Believing in Nationalism and God contributes to soldier enlistments and the war machinery. Like the great John Lennon said imagine a world with no countries and no religion, nothing to fight for and nothing to die for (I paraphrased).

One of the major generational gaps between my generation and that of my grandparent's generation (McCain's generation) is my generation's view that our loyalty should be to humanity and to peace not to god and to country.

Whenever we remember war we should think about peace. We should think; who are the real heroes of peace? I would argue that Gandhi and the Dalai Lama were last centuries heroes of peace. Gandhi used non-violence to win independence for India. The Dalai Lama choose peace and non-violence over the sovereignty of his country.

The youth of the world are ready to move beyond war. War does not benefit the common man and be careful not to make yourself a pawn in a horrible game. We need to send a message to the wealthy 1% who fabricate these wars in order to profit from the war machinery (remember 50% of the USA budget goes to the military). Maybe, in the New Year, we will see a grassroots campaign to charge George Bush, Dick Cheney and their crew with war crimes for invading Iraq. To see them answer for their crimes would be a joyous justice!

By Peter

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Loan-A-Thon Results

Awesome work everybody. We really kicked it into high gear over the last two days.

According to Chelsea's rough figures we started the Loan-A-Thon in 4th place with about 2753 loans and we ended in 2nd place with over 3000 loans. If you consider some people made their Loan-A-Thon loans early we probably made about 300 loans. Considering many who participated made multiple loans I'd guess that we had about 100 to 150 team members participate. Which is just spectacular. We are such a large team and yet a close-knit and focused team. Our passions for helping improve the world are radiating widely. I'm so proud. It really is fulfilling to be a team member with all of you. Kiva was fun before team lending and now... it's way more fun.

A week ago we were 20K behind the Christians in loan total and today we are only 11K behind. We are also, more than half way to our year-end $150,000 goal!

George, from the team, posted a PDF screenshot; documenting our moment of success. Some team members are suggesting we pick other special days. I'm in for a New Years Day Loan-A-Thon... anyone else?