Tag Archives: Atheism

Thirteen Black


I’ve been watching these two guys fight each other for as long as I can remember.

You recognize them, right?

Let me introduce you.

On the left is Monotheism.

And on the right is Atheism.


…is it the other way around?

It’s pretty hard to tell sometimes, because these fellows are simultaneously identical twins and complete opposites.  Both inhabit a universe which they understand to be entirely monochromatic, a space where very fabric of existence is composed of either “is” or “not without proof it’s not.”

I peek in on them from time to time.  It’s a strange little world they live in but sometimes it can be fun to watch them bicker.

Most of the time, it is simply aggravating.

And if you try to step in, if you take one aside for a moment and explain how he is using the same arguments, based upon the same faulty assumptions as his counterpart…, oh the look he will give you!

It is the perfect synthesis of confusion and contempt.

Then, after a brief mental reboot, he or she will typically ply you with one of the standard arguments from their rhetorical arsenal, the assumption being that since your words made no logical sense, you must therefore play for the other team.

I’m fairly certain that I’ve heard all of these arguments over the years.

Most recently it was an old number from the 1600’s called Pascal’s Wager.

It goes something like this…,

There is God, or there isn’t God.

If there isn’t God and you worship him anyway, you are silly but otherwise unharmed.

If there is God and you don’t worship him you will suffer eternal torments in a lake of fire.

The safe bet, therefore, is to worship God.

And if the universe is truly expressed as a simple heads versus tales coin flip, Pascal’s Wager does make a pretty compelling argument.

But there are problems, and not just the “if gambling is a sin why are Christians encouraging non-believers to “play lots” with their immortal souls?” kind of problems.

Pascal’s Wager may sound like a valid argument to a Monotheist or an Atheist, but the Polytheists in the crowd know a chump bet when we see one.

If a game is being played, does it seem likely, given the vast and wonderful complexity of the universe in which we bide our time, that everything comes down to some lousy coin toss?

Not very likely.

No, if a game is being played, isn’t it more likely to be something a bit more like Roulette?

Imagine that we each walk up to the table with but a single chip in hand.

The Atheist isn’t going to play at all, and that’s okay.  He’ll pocket that chip and maybe keep it as a souvenir.

The Christian, on the other hand, is convinced that there’s only one number on the table upon which to place his bet.

And do you see again, how each takes the most extreme position possible?

Thirteen Black


He slaps that chip down on thirteen-black, acting on faith that when the wheel stops spinning the little ball is going to land safely upon his number.

(Yeah, I know, a good Christian would probably pick just about any other number on the table, but this is my metaphor and I’ll do as I please.)

So there we are, one God, one Truth, and just one Number to choose from.

And you’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty bold play for someone with just a single chip in his hands!

The payout is huge: 35 to 1.  Let’s call that the numerical equivalent of eternal life.

But the odds of hitting that number, or any single number on a roulette wheel is less than 3%.

There are smarter bets.  There are LOTS of them.

Roulette Table

You could split your bet between two numbers, or three, or four.  And each time you’d see your probability of a winning spin increase.  It’s a big board folks, and you don’t have to be EXACTLY right to come out a winner.

With a single chip in the game, I myself might like to play one set of twelve numbers.

Sure, the payout is only 2 to 1 (the numerical equivalent of reincarnation, maybe?) but my odds are nearly one in three, which is WAY better than a paltry 3%.

The point is, that Blaise Pascal, the 17th century mathematician and philosopher who gave us the Wager, may have been one of the fathers of modern probability theory, but I seriously doubt the guy ever spent any quality time in an actual gambling den.

If he had, he might have hedged his bets.

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, Proselytizing, Religion

Small Problems

They bring me their problems.

There is a glitch in this program.  My screen looks funny.  Why is it so slow?  I can’t find the essay I was working on.  It’s never made that sound before.  Where are all of my pictures?

They bring me their problems and it’s my job to help them.

Often they are frantic, or disgusted.  They might be angry on occasion, even belligerent.

And when we are done, if I have solved their problem, some of them are genuinely thankful.  More often, however, they seem somewhat detached from the experience, almost dismissive.

I think it has to do with the fact that they believe this thing that happened to them, shouldn’t have happened.  They should not have had to come to me at all, and I am, whatever my efforts on their behalf, tainted as a result.

It’s not a big deal, people don’t like going to the doctor either.  I understand, and for the most part, I don’t even notice.  Because I’m already moving on to the next customer, and the one after that.

And then you meet someone different, like the little old lady who came to me last week.

She was smiling and pleasant, and far more patient than she had any right to be.

“Hello,” she said, with a warm light in her eyes, “My name is —–, I have a terminal brain tumor and only a few weeks left to live.  This is my computer and I’d like you to erase all of my information from it, so that my husband can use it after I’m gone.”

I spent about forty minutes with her, trying to squeeze a little more life into a computer that was, itself, not in the best of health.  As I worked, she spoke in snippets about her own life, things she thought I might be interested in, like her adventures as a young woman in the workplace, using the sort of computers which most of us have only seen in old movies, the kind that would fill an entire room.

Here I was, fighting to take up as little of her precious time as I was able, and she, in turn, was doing what she could to make those moments count, by sharing her own experiences, by forging a connection with a complete stranger.

I did what I could for her, which, I am afraid, wasn’t much, and then she was gone.

And with the passage of a few more weeks, I suppose she really will be.

Gone and gone, except for the memories she left behind, of which I am now privileged to carry a few — her knowing smile, her laugh, and a handful of nostalgic remembrances of a technology which was as remarkable in those days as moon landings and the polio vaccine.

In the days that have passed, it has been difficult to care as much about all the little technical issues which people bring me.  Their all too frequent indignation seems misplaced and misspent.  And I wonder, if they knew how much time they really had, if they would still choose to squander it the way they do, with so much energy focused on such small problems.

I mean, it’s not as if every one of them isn’t dying as well.


We live in a society which, for the most part, sees life, the actual business of living, as a means to an end.  For several hundred years now, the dominant belief has been that we are born, live and die as prelude to an eternal afterlife.  The shape in which we find that ever-after, is determined, or so we are taught, by our actions in this life.

If you are a bad person, you will spend eternity suffering for your misdeeds.

If you are a good person, you may look forward to a euphoric hereafter.

And we can set aside here, the question of what happens to good people who don’t believe the right way.  Because, it is the basic premise that is important here: life as proving ground for afterlife.  That idea which has come to shape the very structure of our lives.

We work throughout the day with the expectation that once the clock hits that magical hour, we head home, or out on the town, or wherever it is we think of as our due reward for the last few hours of toil.

The days run together and everybody’s working for the weekend.

Or that next spot of vacation.

Or retirement.

Work now and play later.

Suffering = Reward.

All based on a promise that no one has ever been able to actually verify.

There are, of course, competing philosophies.

Atheism, for example, does not believe in any ultimate reward, but neither does it aspire to truly reshape society in any particular way.  The atheistic world view is pretty much just the monotheistic one, subtracting the God and all of its trappings.

You’re still working for the weekend, only, without church.  So, you’ll have a little more time to relax.  The world is still the world and you’d better be willing to work and conform to everyone else’s expectations of what that looks like, if you want to get along.

I suppose, without the dogma attached, the average Atheist might be a little less tolerant toward actual suffering.  There is no greater purpose to be found in the bad things that happen.  No deity tossing Jobian hardships your way as a test of your faith.

In the other extreme, there are those Eastern philosophies which have gained a certain momentum in the West over the last century or so.  Almost the exact opposite of the Atheistic world view, the Eastern thinker, sees the material world as an illusion, cluttering our minds and blocking our way to spiritual Nirvana.

All the day to day bullshit we go through, is exactly that, bullshit.  And meaningless.

Just close your eyes and let it all go.

Which is all very cool, but I don’t really see a philosophy based on ignoring the material world, making any huge impact upon it.  Even if we were counting the nationwide rise in the volume of yoga classes, we’re still talking less about a path to enlightenment, than we are, mom’s little reward to herself that she can fit in during the afternoon, while the kids are at soccer practice.

Atheism and Eastern Philosophy are just tiny eddies in the torrent which has formed at the conflux of the rivers Monotheism and Capitalism, and most who try to swim against that current are doomed to drown.


So here’s another philosophy for you to consider, another way of looking at the world, just a single drop of water in the deluge.

What if there is no everlasting reward or punishment, and no good and evil vying for our souls?  What if this life is neither a proving ground nor a distraction?

Imagine for a moment, that there is no distinction between the wholly physical world of the Atheist and the wholly spiritual world of the Buddhist, because those worlds are one and the same.  No closing our eyes and ears against the mathematical without blocking out the mystical, and vice versa.

What if we were beings of flesh and spirit in equal measure, and our actions, how we treat ourselves and each other, have the power to shape our experience of this world and all those worlds which exist just beyond the borders of our sight?

In such a world, there would be no distinction between those actions which are holy, and those which are, in our culture, seen as mundane.

Once, there were many who understood the world in this way.  For a time, they ruled the world from the British Isles, through what was once Gaul, and a patchwork of shifting boundaries that stretched eastward across Europe as far as Asia Minor.

That way of thinking, for the most part, died out long ago.  Put to the sword, first by the Legions of Rome, and later, by a new hybrid religion which took root in the death throes of the old empire, and then spread far beyond its borders.

Some would say that if the Celtic way of seeing the world had been correct, it wouldn’t have been so easily forgotten.

That may be so.  But I’ve never been one to equate popularity with truth.

Life is not a test.  Life is a quest.  Everything we do, every kindness and misdeed is but a step upon a path that we can never see, except when we occasionally turn and look behind us.  There is no heaven or hell, no final reward or judgement, and no true finality, as death is simply a passage over the horizon to a realm which is just beyond our sight.  And if our ancestors spoke true, there may be more worlds beyond that.  Or perhaps the path doubles back from time to time, and we find ourselves here again.

But whatever lies beyond those horizons, we are hear now, and the time we have is precious.

There is no sin in this world, unless it is the sin of missed opportunities.  I look around and see a world of people who are just milling about, waiting for the curtain to rise on some final act that is never going to come.  The inertia is tangible, I can feel it holding me in place like some ancient insect caught in amber, and by all the gods I am terrified that I will never escape.


I’ve never really spoken about my job in these pages because I don’t see it as part of my spiritual life.  Maybe that is my fault.  Maybe I’ve fallen into the same trap as everyone else, and I’ve come to understand the world as a polarity that does not actually exist.  I’ve got the mortgage and the car payment, I’ve got all the little creature comforts and tribulations that are supposed to distract me from the fact that I’m being pushed downstream along with everyone else.

And it’s so hard to swim against that current, when the small problems weigh me down.

But I want more for myself, than life on a river to nowhere.

I’m that guy who makes your technology work again, who pays his bills, and votes in the elections, and donates to charities, and comes over to help you build some shelves, and writes a blog, and who can never find the time to complete his remodeling projects, and wonders what it would have been like to have had children, and wishes that he’d sacrificed more for his art, and, and, and…,

Life is a quest, and I’ve come late to that knowledge.

But how late is too late?

And how will I find my path?

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Culture, Death, Interfaith, Modern Life, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey

Enemy Thine

The sun has not yet breached the mist shrouded horizon when, in the distance, the trumpets blare.  As the echoes fade, there is a last moment of silence before the steady throb of marching feet rises, trembling from the Earth below.

The troops are massing beneath their tattered flags; the stink of war is in the air, and with the light of dawn, the battlefield is revealed before us.

Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism

This map, modeled after one I found at Slate.com, represents only one of the many battlegrounds on which the looming Culture-War may be won, or lost.  Click the image for the full article.

So the Culture-Wars are before us.

Or perhaps we are already fighting them.

Some people certainly seem to think we are.

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” debates Ken “Young Earth Creation” Ham, and the media explodes with commentary about who won in the desperate struggle of Science against Religion.

The Kansas House of Representatives decides to dust off some old Jim Crow laws and use them against the homosexual population while a Texas Judge presides over the unions of two transgendered couples (did Rick Perry’s head explode, I wonder).

And every day it seems like the opinions on social media become more and more extreme and polarized.

Maybe we really are at war.

If it is a war, I find myself wondering, like many soldiers before me, “is it the right one?”

I am no fan of those who would encode Christian dogma into the law of the land.  Any attempt to so corrupt the ‘separation of church and state’ must, I believe, be opposed on every available front: Judicial, Political, and Educational.

As a devotee of a minority religious belief, it would be suicidal for me to act otherwise.

Yet, I must confess, that I am unsure of our traditional allies in this supposed conflict.

With only a few soldiers willing to muster beneath our own tattered flags, we Pagans have, for many long years now, thrown in our lot with the atheists and the secular humanists (is there a difference, I’ve been told there was but have never observed it).  We have done so because these groups are able to field the troops and secure the resources necessary for a protracted battle against the religious majority.

And while we have managed to advance our cause, the reality is that this relationship has been a marriage of convenience at best, and at it’s worst, just another case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

But are they our friends?

Do they act like it?

Over the years I have joined more debates between Monotheists and Atheists than I could safely count.  The pattern of these conversations has almost always been the same.  I begin by supporting the viewpoints of my humanists friends against the unyielding dogma of their Christian opponents.  Eventually, as the debate proceeds, I attempt to open the discussion somewhat, to introduce the very basic idea that religion and spirituality are not defined by the Abrahamic faiths and that there is room for blended, less hard and fast, viewpoints.  And just that quickly, I have joined the ranks of the ignorant and the deluded, suffering the ridicule of the superior humanists.

The first few times it happened I was surprised and disappointed.

Now, I’ve come to expect it.

And coming at these discussions, from a perspective outside both groups, I have come to a particular realization: there are no sides in this war.

In the beginning, I thought of these discussions, as their participants do, as existing on a single axis.  Imagine a grand tug-of-war between two opposing viewpoints, each trying to pull the rope of opinion further and further in their preferred direction.


But the reality is something far different.

These days, when I happen upon a debate between atheists and monotheists, what I see when I close my eyes, is a single person arguing with their own image in a mirror.

They are the same.  They are exactly the same.

They use the same arguments, exhibit the same blind arrogance and disdain for their rivals, and get equally pissed when you point this out to them.

Enemy Thine

The simple truth is, both groups have chosen a filter through which they prefer to observe the universe.

For the Christian, that filter is the Bible.

For the Atheist, it is the Scientific Method.

They are both filters, just sets of specially treated lenses that provide a false color image of the world around us.

The Monotheist sees a world that shows her only that which supports her particular view of the universe.  She may be aware that there are other things there, hidden in the artificially induced shadows, but her faith compels her to keep her filters firmly in place.

The Atheist, on the other hand, sees only that which is testable or may be modeled and extrapolated through the analysis of various data.  Anything that falls outside that particular spectra of experience, is eliminated as unworthy of consideration.

Both filters have their usefulness, I suppose, but neither represents truth.

Truth, I believe, may only be observed by eyes open and unfiltered.  When you strip away all the artificial filters, the full spectrum of reality, the colors of faith, science, intuition, emotion, imagination, spirit and many more besides, become visible in all their glory.  If you want to understand the universe you have to look at not only the primary colors, but at the subtle shades which are created where they blend.

No, my friends, I grow tired of your Culture-War and your endless, one-sided arguments.

I shall continue to fight for my own rights and beliefs, and for all those who find themselves in the spiritual and social minority, but I will not call another man blind while shading my own eyes to the world around me.  I will ally myself with those who I feel I can trust, those who will have no cause to turn on me when I express a belief that differs from their own.

I suspect it will be a lonely fight, and yet I believe that we few polytheists have a distinct advantage.  Polytheism, at its very core, is a belief-system rooted in our understanding of ‘truth’ as expressed in a dynamic multiplicity of forms.

In a world where the primary options (if they can even be called such) appear to be either stolid reasoning or intractable dogma, I can only believe that our numbers will continue to grow.  I envision a world where both ‘sides’ of the Culture-War lose through attrition as the disillusioned cast off their blinders in favor of a shared reality.

One can hope, yes?

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Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Modern Life, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science

The Devil May Care…,

…but I don’t.

My head hurts too much to give it much thought.

My sinuses feel like they’ve been filled with molten slag, the burden of which weighs my head down.  My neck bends forward to its utmost.  My chin rests uncomfortably against my chest and it feels as if my eyelids droop and bulge from the pressure behind them.

I have no strength today for banging my head against the walls of religious privilege.

I try to rest, to catch a moment of sleep, but I can hear them bleating still.

Oklahoma Baphomet Story

Why do I feel like I have a better chance of reasoning with the Weeping Angels?

Ahhh, crap!

And in the last few days my Facebook feed has filled with reactions ranging from light-hearted references to the Weeping Angels of Dr. Who fame to the far more frightening pseudo-militant “call-to-arms”…,

Okay, so let’s break it down as quickly as possible…,

• Christians erect a monument to the 10 Commandments at the Oklahoma State Capital.

• Humanists and people from other religious groups cry foul, citing (quite correctly) the non-endorsement clause of the U.S. Constitution.

• Oklahoma responds to the accusations of religious favoritism by saying “nuh-uh!” and then claiming that any religious group may petition for a monument on state grounds.

And the floodgates, they were opened!

It seems that a Hindu group has applied for representation.  And also, an atheist group calling themselves the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (I love those guys).  And not to be left out, the Satanic Temple of New York.

I’m really surprised that there have not been more.

Funny how no one seems to be making much of a fuss about the Hindu or Pastafarian efforts.

No, the big outcry has been all about The Devil.

Except, it’s not.

The Devil, I mean.

The proposed statue is actually a representation of the god Baphomet.

And Baphomet is…,


wait for it…,



The name Baphomet was acquired, under torture, from Knights Templar, who were accused of worshipping “pagan” idols.  The word is almost universally understood to have been a mispronunciation of Mohammed, the inference being that the good knights picked up some nasty habits from their Saracen enemies.  Aside from that there is no mention of the name found anywhere in antiquity prior to the 11th century.

Baphomet was never a god and was certainly not the Christian Satan.

Levi BaphometHe – is – not – real.

Even the image upon which the proposed statue is modeled is nothing more than a fabrication, drawn from the mind of occultist Eliphas Levi, in the 19th Century.  It’s a fictional rendering of a god-that-never-was.  It’s not ‘The Devil’.  It’s not even ‘a’ devil.

It’s a thousand year old case of mistaken identity.

Your Devil, my Christian friends, does not exist, except that you make it so.

You give your Devil life when you twist the laws of the land to give yourselves special favors – like allowing only words from your holy text to be depicted in stone on public soil (covetousness).

You give your Devil life when you sneer at the shrines of the gods while pretending that giant marble reproductions of the 10 Commandments, or statues of our war dead and presidents, do not count as idolatry (bearing false witness).

The Satanic Temple of New York may be trying to goad you into doing the right thing (taking down the Commandments memorial) by proposing that ridiculous statue, but they’re not the ones who are truly honoring Satan.

It’s not the Humanists either, or the Pagans, or the Hindus.

No my friends, it’s you.

It always has been.

Your greed.

Your fear.

And it makes my head hurt.


Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Modern Life, Proselytizing, Religion

The Greatest Trick

He looks uncomfortable, sitting in the chair across from me; and that’s the only description I can really apply to him.

Is it a him? Her, perhaps?

I can’t say for sure. His features are flowing and indistinct, the hair color and length seems to shift from moment to moment. Even the clothes…,

“Can you stop that?” I ask, a little more sharply than I intend. I’m wondering now, if I’m not the one who is ill at ease and projecting my own discomfort onto him.

—heh, right you are. and that’s the point innit?

“Excuse me?”

—‘projecting’ you thought. that’s me then, a projection.

“I thought you were supposed to be the Devil.”

—ain’t we all? (said with a smile)

A pause then.

—ahhh, i see it now, you’re not a believer. strange that, no atheist ever gave me so much as the time of day…,

“Oh, I’m a believer,” I reply, “just not in you.”

—oh what then, you buddhist or something? one of them ‘new-agey’ types, maybe?

“Let’s just say I follow the gods of my ancestors.”

—oh them, (waves one hand dismissively) we don’t really walk in the same circles. (another pause) don’t get me wrong, they had it pretty good, the ‘old ones’ did, but then they let it all slip through their fingers. they never really capitalized on their influence, see? never made you lot need them.

“And we need you?”

—like you wouldn’t believe.

“Do explain, please.”

—so the world’s a shit-hole, right? pollution and wars, murder and slavery, but who made it that way? not me, brother. i’m just a name in a book you barely remember how to read.

—oh, but you can’t blame yourselves, ‘cause then you might have to take some responsibility. you might have to actually try to make things better, put a little effort into it for once. heh, easier to blame me for your troubles. ‘the devil made us do it’, yeah?

—so for a couple thousand years you put all that blame on me. you imagine me corrupting you and whispering into your ears with every nasty thought that comes into your minds. maybe you want to fight, or catch a quick fuck, or just help yourself to whatever’s lying around? well there i am, taking the blame for tempting you. because maybe you could have resisted your own impulses but how can you ever hope to resist the bloody prince of darkness?

“So,” I ask, “you’re acting as some kind of scapegoat for humanity?”

—no, no, (laughing) you’ve got it all wrong. that old bit went out of fashion in the long ago. the old hebrew priests liked to chase their ‘scapegoat’ out into the desert. they didn’t want the mangy thing hanging around, not after they loaded it up with all their wrongs, their ‘sin’. no, they drove it out into the wastes, to die, alone. thought it was important to clean their slates, so they’d have room to ‘sin’ again, and again. another year, another goat.

—but do you see the faithful trying to drive me anywhere? no sir, if anything they’re calling to me! they hold me close and give me a warmth and a life i never would have had without ‘em. just look at the words they use to describe themselves. the most devout among them believe in nothing more than that they are all, every one of them, tainted with ‘sin’.

—‘fallen’ is the word they like to use, and every time they say it, when they think it, when they believe it about themselves, they give themselves to me. the more righteous they are, the more deeply they feel their imagined transgressions, the more they puff me up, make me important, give me power and make me REAL!

And for a moment, he seems very real indeed, sitting there in front of me, gaze lifted slightly upward, an expression, almost of rapture, suddenly solidified on his face.

And then the moment passes.

He fades until he is no more than an insubstantial bogeyman, fidgeting in his chair, unaccustomed perhaps, to such direct observation.

—yeah, i do better when i keep to the shadows. (sly smirk) if you see a thing for what it is, you can name it, control it, even banish it – if you had the will.

“And you don’t want to be seen, controlled, banished.”

He sits upright, suddenly serious.

—no, i don’t, and neither do they.

“Who are ‘they’?”

—the ones who made me, feed me and frighten their children with me, who blame me for every stubbed toe and tidal-wave. without me the lot of ‘em would have to fend for themselves. without me they would have to take responsibility for their actions on the one hand, and accept that the earth doesn’t revolve around ‘em on the other.

He begins to fade from my sight then, and I get the sense that our brief interview is over.

“Wait,” I say, “before you go, tell me about the ‘other’.”

—what ‘other’?

“You know who I mean,” I reply in exasperation, “the ‘One God’ of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. The all-mighty creator of heaven and earth…,”

—heh, ever meet him?


—and you won’t, but damned if he’s not useful.

“So, are you saying that he exists, or that he doesn’t.”

—i love that question, ask it again! go on, then! (huge cheshire grin) no? eh, don’t matter, really. if you’re not gonna ask, someone else will. someone always does. and be sure someone else has an answer. and there will be disagreement and bloodshed and war that covers the land. you just watch, yeah? them as believe one way will point at the others and say that ‘i’ deceived them, that theirs is the true and only way. an’ they keep doing their thing, in ‘his’ name, and i grow more powerful still. i’m just an empty mask, a projection of their fears, but fear is the one thing they truly share among themselves. try and take that away from them and i promise, they’ll tie you to the nearest bit ‘o kindling.

—listen friend, as for your gods, that lot never did much for me, but that other one, the ‘one’ that came with me out of the desert, the one in whom they place their faith, with his son and his prophets, and his holy texts, so vague and contradictory and…, and bloodthirsty…,

The chair is empty now (wasn’t it always) and there is only the voice, fading, as if from a great distance…,

—you know that i’m not real, except through the will of those who believe in me, who fear me and mark me as the enemy of all; but let me tell you a secret: the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that god exists.

An Empty Mask


Filed under Modern Life, Philosophy, Religion