Meet ICREACH: The NSA's Own Secret "Google"

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Ryan Gallagher, originally posted at The Intercept,

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. Planning documents for ICREACH, as the search engine is called, cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration as key participants.

ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Earlier revelations sourced to the Snowden documents have exposed a multitude of NSA programs for collecting large volumes of communications. The NSA has acknowledged that it shares some of its collected data with domestic agencies like the FBI, but details about the method and scope of its sharing have remained shrouded in secrecy.


ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work, according to a 2010 memo. A planning document from 2007 lists the DEA, FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency as core members. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.

The creation of ICREACH represented a landmark moment in the history of classified U.S. government surveillance, according to the NSA documents.

“The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the U.S. Intelligence Community,” noted a top-secret memo dated December 2007. “This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC’s increasing need for communications metadata and NSA’s ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets.”

The search tool was designed to be the largest system for internally sharing secret surveillance records in the United States, capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, including more than 30 different kinds of metadata on emails, phone calls, faxes, internet chats, and text messages, as well as location information collected from cellphones. Metadata reveals information about a communication—such as the “to” and “from” parts of an email, and the time and date it was sent, or the phone numbers someone called and when they called—but not the content of the message or audio of the call.

ICREACH does not appear to have a direct relationship to the large NSA database, previously reported by The Guardian, that stores information on millions of ordinary Americans’ phone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Unlike the 215 database, which is accessible to a small number of NSA employees and can be searched only in terrorism-related investigations, ICREACH grants access to a vast pool of data that can be mined by analysts from across the intelligence community for “foreign intelligence”—a vague term that is far broader than counterterrorism.


Data available through ICREACH appears to be primarily derived from surveillance of foreigners’ communications, and planning documents show that it draws on a variety of different sources of data maintained by the NSA. Though one 2010 internal paper clearly calls it “the ICREACH database,” a U.S. official familiar with the system disputed that, telling The Intercept that while “it enables the sharing of certain foreign intelligence metadata,” ICREACH is “not a repository [and] does not store events or records.” Instead, it appears to provide analysts with the ability to perform a one-stop search of information from a wide variety of separate databases.

In a statement to The Intercept, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed that the system shares data that is swept up by programs authorized under Executive Order 12333, a controversial Reagan-era presidential directive that underpins several NSA bulk surveillance operations that monitor communications overseas. The 12333 surveillance takes place with no court oversight and has received minimal Congressional scrutiny because it is targeted at foreign, not domestic, communication networks. But the broad scale of 12333 surveillance means that some Americans’ communications get caught in the dragnet as they transit international cables or satellites—and documents contained in the Snowden archive indicate that ICREACH taps into some of that data.

Legal experts told The Intercept they were shocked to learn about the scale of the ICREACH system and are concerned that law enforcement authorities might use it for domestic investigations that are not related to terrorism.

“To me, this is extremely troublesome,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “The myth that metadata is just a bunch of numbers and is not as revealing as actual communications content was exploded long ago—this is a trove of incredibly sensitive information.”

Brian Owsley, a federal magistrate judge between 2005 and 2013, said he was alarmed that traditional law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the DEA were among those with access to the NSA’s surveillance troves.

“This is not something that I think the government should be doing,” said Owsley, an assistant professor of law at Indiana Tech Law School. “Perhaps if information is useful in a specific case, they can get judicial authority to provide it to another agency. But there shouldn’t be this buddy-buddy system back-and-forth.”

Jeffrey Anchukaitis, an ODNI spokesman, declined to comment on a series of questions from The Intercept about the size and scope of ICREACH, but said that sharing information had become “a pillar of the post-9/11 intelligence community” as part of an effort to prevent valuable intelligence from being “stove-piped in any single office or agency.”

Using ICREACH to query the surveillance data, “analysts can develop vital intelligence leads without requiring access to raw intelligence collected by other IC [Intelligence Community] agencies,” Anchukaitis said. “In the case of NSA, access to raw signals intelligence is strictly limited to those with the training and authority to handle it appropriately. The highest priority of the intelligence community is to work within the constraints of law to collect, analyze and understand information related to potential threats to our national security.”

One-Stop Shopping

The mastermind behind ICREACH was recently retired NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, who outlined his vision for the system in a classified 2006 letter to the then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. The search tool, Alexander wrote, would “allow unprecedented volumes of communications metadata to be shared and analyzed,” opening up a “vast, rich source of information” for other agencies to exploit. By late 2007 the NSA reported to its employees that the system had gone live as a pilot program.

The NSA described ICREACH as a “one-stop shopping tool” for analyzing communications. The system would enable at least a 12-fold increase in the volume of metadata being shared between intelligence community agencies, the documents stated. Using ICREACH, the NSA planned to boost the amount of communications “events” it shared with other U.S. government agencies from 50 billion to more than 850 billion, bolstering an older top-secret data sharing system named CRISSCROSS/PROTON, which was launched in the 1990s and managed by the CIA.

To allow government agents to sift through the masses of records on ICREACH, engineers designed a simple “Google-like” search interface. This enabled analysts to run searches against particular “selectors” associated with a person of interest—such as an email address or phone number—and receive a page of results displaying, for instance, a list of phone calls made and received by a suspect over a month-long period. The documents suggest these results can be used reveal the “social network” of the person of interest—in other words, those that they communicate with, such as friends, family, and other associates.


The purpose of ICREACH, projected initially to cost between $2.5 million and $4.5 million per year, was to allow government agents to comb through the NSA’s metadata troves to identify new leads for investigations, to predict potential future threats against the U.S., and to keep tabs on what the NSA calls “worldwide intelligence targets.”

However, the documents make clear that it is not only data about foreigners’ communications that are available on the system. Alexander’s memo states that “many millions of…minimized communications metadata records” would be available through ICREACH, a reference to the process of “minimization,” whereby identifying information—such as part of a phone number or email address—is removed so it is not visible to the analyst. NSA documents define minimization as “specific procedures to minimize the acquisition and retention [of] information concerning unconsenting U.S. persons”—making it a near certainty that ICREACH gives analysts access to millions of records about Americans. The “minimized” information can still be retained under NSA rules for up to five years and “unmasked” at any point during that period if it is ever deemed necessary for an investigation.

The Brennan Center’s Goitein said it appeared that with ICREACH, the government “drove a truck” through loopholes that allowed it to circumvent restrictions on retaining data about Americans. This raises a variety of legal and constitutional issues, according to Goitein, particularly if the data can be easily searched on a large scale by agencies like the FBI and DEA for their domestic investigations.

“The idea with minimization is that the government is basically supposed to pretend this information doesn’t exist, unless it falls under certain narrow categories,” Goitein said. “But functionally speaking, what we’re seeing here is that minimization means, ‘we’ll hold on to the data as long as we want to, and if we see anything that interests us then we can use it.’”

A key question, according to several experts consulted by The Intercept, is whether the FBI, DEA or other domestic agencies have used their access to ICREACH to secretly trigger investigations of Americans through a controversial process known as “parallel construction.”

Parallel construction involves law enforcement agents using information gleaned from covert surveillance, but later covering up their use of that data by creating a new evidence trail that excludes it. This hides the true origin of the investigation from defense lawyers and, on occasion, prosecutors and judges—which means the legality of the evidence that triggered the investigation cannot be challenged in court.

In practice, this could mean that a DEA agent identifies an individual he believes is involved in drug trafficking in the United States on the basis of information stored on ICREACH. The agent begins an investigation but pretends, in his records of the investigation, that the original tip did not come from the secret trove. Last year, Reuters first reported details of parallel construction based on NSA data, linking the practice to a unit known as the Special Operations Division, which Reuters said distributes tips from NSA intercepts and a DEA database known as DICE.

Tampa attorney James Felman, chair of the American Bar Association’s criminal justice section, told The Intercept that parallel construction is a “tremendously problematic” tactic because law enforcement agencies “must be honest with courts about where they are getting their information.” The ICREACH revelations, he said, “raise the question of whether parallel construction is present in more cases than we had thought. And if that’s true, it is deeply disturbing and disappointing.”

Anchukaitis, the ODNI spokesman, declined to say whether ICREACH has been used to aid domestic investigations, and he would not name all of the agencies with access to the data. “Access to information-sharing tools is restricted to users conducting foreign intelligence analysis who have the appropriate training to handle the data,” he said.

CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, 2001.

CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, 2001.


The roots of ICREACH can be traced back more than two decades.

In the early 1990s, the CIA and the DEA embarked on a secret initiative called Project CRISSCROSS. The agencies built a database system to analyze phone billing records and phone directories, in order to identify links between intelligence targets and other persons of interest. At first, CRISSCROSS was used in Latin America and was “extremely successful” at identifying narcotics-related suspects. It stored only five kinds of metadata on phone calls: date, time, duration, called number, and calling number, according to an NSA memo.

The program rapidly grew in size and scope. By 1999, the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the FBI had gained access to CRISSCROSS and were contributing information to it. As CRISSCROSS continued to expand, it was supplemented with a system called PROTON that enabled analysts to store and examine additional types of data. These included unique codes used to identify individual cellphones, location data, text messages, passport and flight records, visa application information, as well as excerpts culled from CIA intelligence reports.

An NSA memo noted that PROTON could identify people based on whether they behaved in a “similar manner to a specific target.” The memo also said the system “identifies correspondents in common with two or more targets, identifies potential new phone numbers when a target switches phones, and identifies networks of organizations based on communications within the group.” In July 2006, the NSA estimated that it was storing 149 billion phone records on PROTON.

According to the NSA documents, PROTON was used to track down “High Value Individuals” in the United States and Iraq, investigate front companies, and discover information about foreign government operatives. CRISSCROSS enabled major narcotics arrests and was integral to the CIA’s rendition program during the Bush Administration, which involved abducting terror suspects and flying them to secret “black site” prisons where they were brutally interrogated and sometimes tortured. One NSA document on the system, dated from July 2005, noted that the use of communications metadata “has been a contribution to virtually every successful rendition of suspects and often, the deciding factor.”

However, the NSA came to view CRISSCROSS/PROTON as insufficient, in part due to the aging standard of its technology. The intelligence community was sensitive to criticism that it had failed to share information that could potentially have helped prevent the 9/11 attacks, and it had been strongly criticized for intelligence failures before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. For the NSA, it was time to build a new and more advanced system to radically increase metadata sharing.



A New Standard

In 2006, NSA director Alexander drafted his secret proposal to then-Director of National Intelligence Negroponte.

Alexander laid out his vision for what he described as a “communications metadata coalition” that would be led by the NSA. His idea was to build a sophisticated new tool that would grant other federal agencies access to “more than 50 existing NSA/CSS metadata fields contained in trillions of records” and handle “many millions” of new minimized records every day—indicating that a large number of Americans’ communications would be included.

The NSA’s contributions to the ICREACH system, Alexander wrote, “would dwarf the volume of NSA’s present contributions to PROTON, as well as the input of all other [intelligence community] contributors.”

Alexander explained in the memo that NSA was already collecting “vast amounts of communications metadata” and was preparing to share some of it on a system called GLOBALREACH with its counterparts in the so-called Five Eyes surveillance alliance: the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

ICREACH, he proposed, could be designed like GLOBALREACH and accessible only to U.S. agencies in the intelligence community, or IC.

A top-secret PowerPoint presentation from May 2007 illustrated how ICREACH would work—revealing its “Google-like” search interface and showing how the NSA planned to link it to the DEA, DIA, CIA, and the FBI. Each agency would access and input data through a secret data “broker”—a sort of digital letterbox—linked to the central NSA system. ICREACH, according to the presentation, would also receive metadata from the Five Eyes allies.

The aim was not necessarily for ICREACH to completely replace CRISSCROSS/PROTON, but rather to complement it. The NSA planned to use the new system to perform more advanced kinds of surveillance—such as “pattern of life analysis,” which involves monitoring who individuals communicate with and the places they visit over a period of several months, in order to observe their habits and predict future behavior.

The NSA agreed to train other U.S. government agencies to use ICREACH. Intelligence analysts could be “certified” for access to the massive database if they required access in support of a given mission, worked as an analyst within the U.S. intelligence community, and had top-secret security clearance. (According to the latest government figures, there are more than 1.2 million government employees and contractors with top-secret clearance.)

In November 2006, according to the documents, the Director of National Intelligence approved the proposal. ICREACH was rolled out as a test program by late 2007. It’s not clear when it became fully operational, but a September 2010 NSA memo referred to it as the primary tool for sharing data in the intelligence community. “ICREACH has been identified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as the U.S. Intelligence Community’s standard architecture for sharing communications metadata,” the memo states, adding that it provides “telephony metadata events” from the NSA and its Five Eyes partners “to over 1000 analysts across 23 U.S. Intelligence Community agencies.” It does not name all of the 23 agencies, however.

The limitations placed on analysts authorized to sift through the vast data troves are not outlined in the Snowden files, with only scant references to oversight mechanisms. According to the documents, searches performed by analysts are subject to auditing by the agencies for which they work. The documents also say the NSA would conduct random audits of the system to check for any government agents abusing their access to the data. The Intercept asked the NSA and the ODNI whether any analysts had been found to have conducted improper searches, but the agencies declined to comment.

While the NSA initially estimated making upwards of 850 billion records available on ICREACH, the documents indicate that target could have been surpassed, and that the number of personnel accessing the system may have increased since the 2010 reference to more than 1,000 analysts. The intelligence community’s top-secret “Black Budget” for 2013, also obtained by Snowden, shows that the NSA recently sought new funding to upgrade ICREACH to “provide IC analysts with access to a wider set of shareable data.”

In December last year, a surveillance review group appointed by President Obama recommended that as a general rule “the government should not be permitted to collect and store all mass, undigested, non-public personal information about individuals to enable future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes.” It also recommended that any information about United States persons should be “purged upon detection unless it either has foreign intelligence value or is necessary to prevent serious harm to others.”

Peter Swire, one of the five members of the review panel, told The Intercept he could not comment on whether the group was briefed on specific programs such as ICREACH, but noted that the review group raised concerns that “the need to share had gone too far among multiple agencies.”

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Newsboy's picture

"Ask Jeeves" for Total Information Awareness, uber-spylords?

r00t61's picture

"The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

hedgeless_horseman's picture



ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks
of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal
religious affiliations or political beliefs.


Ohhh!  Scary!!!!!

I am my computer at home in Texas.

I bum around with my foxy wife, other horse people, colleagues from work, parents of my kids' friends, etc.

I am going to bed soon, will wake up around 5:00am, God willing, and go to work around 8:00am. 

I am a Christian and a Libertarian.


God I haven't spent my entire life circumventing the Fourth Amendment of
the Constitution
, which I swore to protect.  That kind of hypocricy might
wear on a person.

JuliaS's picture

A Christian and a Libertarian? How does that work?

JuliaS's picture

I belive in common sense being self-evident and do not think a figure like Jesus has to explain me the difference betwen right and wrong. Plus, I can't find his stance on abortion. I asked him, but he declined to comment.

SoberOne's picture

Three drink minimum.  Two words; FUCK YOU!

Drunk In Church's picture

Many Americans are feckless criminals.  Perhaps the government should spy on them.  The world would be safer with Big Brother.  Feel free to step on my neighbor's head.

AldousHuxley's picture


submit your own ideas on how to improve big brother to help CIA today:

CH1's picture

Go ahead and complain, but don't actually protect yourself... and keep using free shit.

Thank you, The NSA

TruthHunter's picture



Many American(government employee)s are feckless criminals

That's always been the problem with Big Brother


Ginsengbull's picture

You should ask His Mother.

JuliaS's picture

Being the sarcastic atheist that I am, I'd rather ask Mary what she had to do to convince her husband that babies being born without his involvement is nothing to worry about.

No wonder they wrote books about it, as it was probably the only time in 2000 years when a man actually bought it!

AssFire's picture

I guess I need to start posing when I take a shit.

mkkby's picture

So these assholes ADMIT that they manufacture evidence to get easier convictions.  Nice.  Does anybody really want this USSA gov any more?  I wish we could all secede.

AsaMatterOfFact's picture

That's rhetorical. But Ok I'll play. My Book says " You Will NEVER know how I put the baby in the womb". So Answer mine and I will answer yours?

AsaMatterOfFact's picture

That's rhetorical. But Ok I'll play. My Book says " You Will NEVER know how I put the baby in the womb". So Answer mine and I will answer yours?


unrulian's picture

well, it's Joseph's fidelity this time, I guess variety is the spice of thread jacking.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

"I belive in common sense being self-evident and do not think a figure like Jesus has to explain me the difference betwen right and wrong. Plus, I can't find his stance on abortion. I asked him, but he declined to comment."

Jesus doesn't have to explain to you the difference between right and wrong; God built the knowledge into you. But He also gave us free will, and that combined with our rebellious nature, causes us to sin despite that knowledge. Jesus came to reinforce that knowledge AND to redeem our sins in order to reconcile us back to God.

Jesus told you in no uncertain terms what his stance on abortion was. He instructed us to love God; how is aborting one of His children "loving" God? He instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves; how is killing one of your future neighbors in the womb "loving" that neighbor?

AldousHuxley's picture

bringing children into this world when you can't afford to provide them a good quality of life is just irresponsible.


ponzi scammers (church, government, land owners) love to tell the poor to have more kids.


drdolittle's picture

It's the quickest and surest way to increase your numbers of followers. If I were Pope I'd do the same thing. So, I guess in that respect at least, I'm no better than the Pope.

And, Buckaroo, I'd guess using that line of logic you would be against the death penalty.

tarsubil's picture

Promoting more children and murdering a child are two different things. If you are so worried about the population, why don't you do what you can about it? The answer is God gave you a will to live that is within defenseless children also.

tarsubil's picture

So half of the people here are as blood thirsty as any bankster? Again, the hate of the banksters for half of the people here is out of envy not anything worthy.

tarsubil's picture

Oh, I see. Brilliant work IC troll. Truly doing the work of the lord of darkness and hate. How does the growing stone on your heart feel?

JuliaS's picture

Luckily, the libertarian portion allows us to disagree, as long as we don't use our beliefs to justify stealing eachother's stuff.

Agstacker's picture

Where do you get the idea that stealing eachother's stuff is wrong?

JuliaS's picture

If you're a christian, thou shalt not steal might ring a bell. If you are a Libertarian and not familiar with the Bill of Rights, Thomas Jefferson would like to have a quick word with you by the tree of liberty.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Look HH, I like you and think highly of you, but we're gonna have to have a "Parting of the Reed Sea" on this one.

At the risk of causing CD (Cognitive Dissonance), that JR episode has nothing to do with libertarianism, and everything with "Be a happy little sheep, while you're getting milked, shagged, herded, sheared or fleeced".

Oh, and then there are these JR gems: "Follow me and I shall make you a fisherman of men", and "Simon, you're now re - branded and renamed as "Rock" (Petrus in Latin). Rock, lead my sheep"

Oh, and... "God will wipe away ever tear... The Lion will lie down with the sheep...". Central Planning part excellence and Communism, if I ever heard of it.

Sorry, no, whatever 'Christianity' may have been like in 35 AD, it became very much a Roman version by 350 AD (or whenever the Bible came out after the Council of Nicaea), when it's sponsor (Emperor Constantine) realized that Christianity was a "growing concern" and "useful".

Sorry, friend, but ever since then, Western Christianity became mostly a religion of the Ruled, NOT the religion of Rulers. History clearly demonstrates this dichotomy.

JuliaS's picture

I see Christianity as a personified set of Pagan traditions that were originally designed to track natural events such as the movement of stars, turning of seasons and chane of tides. Then Romans took over and gave every natural phenomenon a face. Christianity without a man at the helm was like Al Qaeda threat without Bin Laden. There had to be a man! Yet the change had to be reminiscent of the old belief structure.

Almost like in Greek mythology, personal stories were invented practically out a calendar, turning constellations, sunrises and moon phases into events and figures. Even the brightest star in the Ursa Minor constellation recevied its prominent place!

Christianity, I find, is easy to buy in isolation. I'm after all, a born Christian and remained as such before reaching the age of reason (as Carlin kindly puts it). Now a reformed atheist.

When you study other religions, as well as history preceeding Christianity, your beliefs vanish into the thin air they originated from.

I make jokes about Bible, but I do think there was actual benefit to it. Like math formulast teach those who don't actually understand math, how to get useful results by substituting numbers for "x" and "y", Christianity helps people with no common sense, to do the right things. Well, at least some of the time.

It helps illiterate people follow rules that they might not otherwise follow. That's why for much of history there were more Christians then there were literate people. To believe - you don't have to know how to write or read and that in itself speaks volumes.

Once again, I'm an atheist and I can explain my progression from A to B in great detail. That's what I love about no longer being a Christian - being able to explain things without quoting a book.

JuliaS's picture

Oh, man! How did it morph into this from an NSA related discussion?

Perfecthedge's picture

There is NSA and then there is the big eye in the sky watching you masturbate!  (from a fellow Atheist). 

James_Cole's picture

It helps illiterate people follow rules that they might not otherwise follow. That's why for much of history there were more Christians then there were literate people. To believe - you don't have to know how to write or read and that in itself speaks volumes.

Gawd this is smug. The trinity is probably one of the most interesting concepts in literature, the bible was almost unparalleled with regard to abstract thought. Philosophically it's immensely interesting. Christian or not, the Bible is a great work. 

What have atheists given us? The flying spaghetti monster? A bunch of seriously ignorant bullshit out of batshit crazy self-appointed spokespeople like Dawkins? The great irony of those morons is that they are completely unable to recognize that claiming that there isn't a god exactly equals claiming that there is a god. When Dawkins tries to define the difference he throws smoke and mirrors. "What? logically we saying the same thing as the people we hate?? Er... um... oh look! Taliban!!! They so evil!!!! And fuck them agnostics!!! they ain't hardcore like us!!"

Interesting that a lot of the best agnostic / atheist philosophers have used various religious concepts as their starting place / source of invention. Maybe not just for dem dum illiterate folks!!

JuliaS's picture

What have atheists given us? The smartest ones observed the illiterate and invented religion.

JuliaS's picture

Evasion is hiding behind quotes and hyperlinks. I offer you straight up answers using a thing called "brain". It's capable of reason all by itself, you know.

Also, what's with your unhealthy obsession with Dawkins? I haven't mentioned his name once or ever. I heard of him, and that's where my familiarity ends. I haven't read any of his work. Is he like a Christian cryptonite or something? I honestly don't understand his significance in all this. You mention him almost as much as quoting out of the bible.

If you have a case of mistaken identity, I must assure you I'm clearly not the person you're thinking of.

James_Cole's picture

Also, what's with your unhealthy obsession with Dawkins? I haven't mentioned his name once or ever. I heard of him, and that's where my familiarity ends. I haven't read any of his work. Is he like a Christian cryptonite or something?

Dawkins is one of the leaders of this new (and extremely irritating) militant atheism. People who talk down religion / spirituality tend to be the mirror image of the worst people they are targeting. 

I am not a religious person, I should make that clear. Depending on who I'm talking to I may refer to myself as an atheist to make things simpler (atheism is a nonsensical concept though) but am agnostic.

Agnostic can be a bit vague so I have to either explain it or just say atheist. Atheist shouldn't be a dirty word, but lunatics like Dawkins ensure that it is. 

JuliaS's picture

Well, I'll surely look into him, because the name does come up here and there quite frequently. A am familiar with Agnostic alignment. Though conversation you don't come off as one.

When I am having a conversation, I like throwing jokes around. That typically puts Christians into a proverbial straight jacket. They get all hostile. Trying to reason with them is impossible, so I don't even pretend to try. I simply remember my old limited view and question how I'd respond to my old self who might've been saying and thinking those same things.

I've read Bibles - not just the Old and New Testament. Other bibles as well. I've had many aggressively religious friends that tried getting me into their churches. I've encountered catholics, baptists, mormons, evangelists, muslims, buddhists. I've examined parallels and differences in context of their national histories. To me they made sense.

Again, if you are to view religion as a rule-guided organism and throw them into the rink - you'll witness an evolutionary battle. You have hostile religions come out victorious in harsh environments and you'll get pacified brands where people don't kill eachother as often. If you are dealing with colonization - you'll have inquisitino and crusades. If you move to America, you'll have a tolerant version, that only discriminates if your skin color, gender or sexual orientation happens to be wrong. Your Christianity will likely split in ethnically represented varieties.

Some religions allow murder on the ground of dehumanization though the concept of soul. Some, supposedly possess that invisible thing. Other don't. A priest will typically help you differentiate which one's which.

You'll have tribal religions. You'll even have cannibalistic tribes devoted to the idea of an immortal soul with a slight twist: "If you devour another person, his soul will merge and yours will get bigger". It's all a question of convenience. Religion always firts the landscape. It's an afterthought. A justification following the act. First you have a desire to do something, and then you invent a rule that says it's a good thing and perhaps should be practiced more often. Such act may be a selfless gift to a neighbor, or an ear neatly chewed off. Depending on where you live, how hungry you are and which neighbors are eyeing your turf, you'll eventually come up with a bible. Requires for at least one person in your tribe to be somewhat literate. The rest don't have to be. That's why religion works as a control structure. Illiteracy - being one of its founding pillars. The more people learn to read and write the more become detached from its rigid set of rules... unless you live in the Middle East where the life doesn't offer you enough quiet time to sit down and contemplate things.

Back to Middle East wtih Islam, Judaism and everything in between - when you live in a land constantly torn apart by war, when lands change hands from generation to generaiton, then your beliefs are likely to replace "respect thy neighbor" with "an eye for an eye" equivalent.

American Christians are told to fear false idols. Radical Islamism will tell you to murder you brother if he spells a diety's name wrong. His version of Islam may be corrupted (and other religious nonsense).

Red Dwarf - one of my favorite series of science fiction stories with a hefty atheist flavor make fun of religious conviction. One story talkes about holy wars waged practically over the color of the hat the believed the god was wearing.

I like calling myself an atheist - because I can accept the world for what it is. I don't have to see something else in it to crack a joke. I think it's funny how religious people stiffen around me, how their manenr changes the posture stiffens. I enjoy talking religion because I get a good kick out of it.

I could quote bible. I know it well. In a room full of hardcore atheists, I'm actually more likely to play a Christian, because it is simply a fun thing to do. New truths are some times born in an argument and I love learning new things form believers and atheists alike.

... and this thread is getting stale. Nice talking to you. I'm moving on.

Agstacker's picture

Religion and Spirituality are 2 very, very different things.

JuliaS's picture

Sure! Then you'll no trouble pointing me to one them that's imaginary.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



What in our experiences is not imaginary?

JuliaS's picture

I get an uneasy feeling, next you're going to tell me something horrible about Santa and the Easter Bunny.

Speaking of Santa - you know who else has 12 apostoles? Russian "Father Christmas". Their brand of Christianity is closer to paganism, so fairy tale characters end up sharing similarities with religious figures. Santa's bunch represents the 12 months of the year over which they preside, taking turns.

Meanwhile Jesus is pretending his posse is all about walking through deserts looking classy and having suppers sitting the same side of elongated tables... like actors in a stage production.

In bolshevik Russia they tried weeding out religion by force in order to speed up conversion of peasants into industrial proletariat, but it got stuck half way. They wanted to take the power away from the church, so they jently pushed it away without ever fully succeeding. That's why today, Russia celebrates New Year with Father Christmas on the 31st, while the rest of Christian world does Christmas with Santa few days prior. Santa has no apostoles, because the western Jesus got to keep'em all to himself.

Oh yeah, to answer your actual question - the first Matrix was a great movie. The other 2 sucked pretty bad.

Leraconteur's picture

The trinity is probably one of the most interesting concepts in literature


It is based upon pagan notions of the same object being inhabited by many spirits, or being possessed by a spirit, or similiar. That is any pagan belief system, it's Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, and so on.

God is the Sky, Earth and Sea, and the Sea, Earth and Sky are God also.

James_Cole's picture

It is based upon pagan notions of the same object being inhabited by many spirits, or being possessed by a spirit, or similiar. 

It has a lot of origins but is pretty different from what you describe, trinity was an abstract concept developed over a long period of philosophical debate. Being 'possessed by' is very different than existing simultaneously as. 

I'm not saying just Christianity, religious thought in general. I singled out the bible because people were talking about christianity, but lots of religious works are great, including paganism. Now i'm starting to sound like a hippie..

Leraconteur's picture

 Being 'possessed by' is very different than existing simultaneously as. 


I am not referring to being possessed, I am referrring to multiple spirits being within one item, and multiple items representing one spirit. This idea is extremely common amongst pre-Abrahamic religions.

This is visible all over China where a folk hero, a real person, is merged with Taoist beliefs and then assigned enlightened status via Buddhism. Buddhism. Ancestor Worship. Daoism. All in one person.

Christianity isn't new, or very original.

The Romans had to put a man at the figurehead to give the religion government-level authority, and that innovation is the main of Christianity.

Fiscal.Enema's picture

What have atheists given us?    E = mc2

JuliaS's picture

You've fallen into the trap - you're trying to reason with Christians by using scientific formulas. I'll take it a step back even. You're trying to reason with Christians. Never play chess with pigeons.