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Archive for September, 2008

Religulous: mean-spirited or a champion of truth?

Posted by Andy Welfle on September 30, 2008

I just heard Bill Maher interviewed on Fresh Air on NPR today. He, along with director Larry Charles, talked about Religulous, the controversial documentary lampooning religionists and their beliefs. (Check out the trailer here.)

What I want to know is, as a social group trying to be good community members while communicating our message, does this documentary help or hinder our cause?

Personally, I think Bill Maher is an ass. Having occasionally watched Politically Incorrect, I never cared for his permanent sneering face and pseudo-intellectual speech. He’s a smart guy, yes, but he has a holier-than-thou attitude (ironic!) which just rubs me the wrong way.

I’m glad that he has taken on the mission to expose religion as the ultimate “hustle” as the website’s language puts it, but does he really need to do it by directly ridiculing people and their beliefs?

I realize that many freethinkers would answer “yes” to this question. But doesn’t this just add fuel to Christians’ fire? They would have an easier time dismissing the atheist cause by just pointing out that this film is pointing fingers and laughing, a la six-year-old humor.

Now, granted, I haven’t seen this movie yet. There may be some intelligent debate, and some discourse with the theist community. But I think it is safe to say that the majority of the film kinda does a Jay Leno-style “man on the street” interview, where they get people to say ridiculous things. At least that’s what the trailer says about the film, and what Terry Gross talked about.

I think the best way to further our cause is to have an open, friendly, line of communication with the theist community. Let them initiate debate, and then methodically counter their arguments, point by point. That’s how my deconversion happened (Well, that, and a natural distrust of what I was being taught).

Nevertheless, I do plan to see the film, and would like to know what others might thing about this. Please feel free to use the comments of this post as a forum.

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Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , | 15 Comments »

FW:

Posted by dystressed on September 29, 2008

The most dreaded two letters for my e-mail inbox are FW. The dreaded letters in the subject line indicate that what follows is most likely a totally lame joke, a prayer/luck chain e-mail, or a bad rumor about a public figure.

The last item in my list is what irritates me the most. I am a writer and news junkie. I enjoy reading blogs and almost all aspects of new media. The problem is that people are not thinking when they are reading e-mail. There is a certain implicit trust that someone you know or are related to believes this to be true. The text of these forwards sometimes creeps into blogs and gives legitimacy to things that wouldn’t ever make it onto the AP wire, let alone past any editor of a traditional newsroom.

I was happy to see that today the Journal Gazette posted a story about the good people over at Snopes.com. During this election cycle, they have been overrun with ridiculous memes about every single politician. One of the most interesting things I found out was that Snopes is a husband/wife duo that runs the entire site out of their living room.  Amazing.

If I have a point to this post, it’s that we all have to do our parts to be good citizens and reply to the friend or family FWs. Make sure that they know the facts, not some cockamamie version of the truth.

Posted in Humor, Politics, Skepticism | 7 Comments »

“Born Again” The documentary

Posted by Andy D. on September 23, 2008

This is an inside look at religion and how it divided a family. My family is no where near as intense but those interviews towards the end mirror conversations I have had with my own family. (minus the homosexual rights and big R republican ties).  Prepare yourself for a good story.  (Snagfilms is  a cool documentary film website).

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Posted in Video | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Placebo Effect

Posted by Skeptigator on September 23, 2008

I’ve just finished listening to Dr. Ben Goldacre’s 2 part series on The Placebo Effect that originally aired on BBC Radio 4. (Part I, Part II) You can subscribe to Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science podcast through iTunes as well.

There are 2 things that I enjoyed about these episodes and it was not that many alternative medicines get their curative effects primarily due to the Placebo Effect. This is a well established fact, with reams of evidence to support (see below for additional citations).

It is that many of our “traditional” medicines (particularly painkillers and anti-depressants) also get a significant boost from the Placebo Effect. In fact, many anti-depressants have nearly the same effect as a placebo for those with mild depression.

The other thing is that it is often the context in which the placebo is given that informs how pronounced it’s effect will be. Simply being administered “sham” acupuncture with no interaction between the acupuncturist and the patient produces a greater response than nothing but performing “sham” acupuncture with an optimal “doctor-patient” interaction has a profound effect on the efficacy of the “sham” acupuncture.

If you’ve got the time (each episode is about 30 minutes long) they are well worth the listen. For further reading I would suggest the following articles:

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Posted in Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The score is now… Flying Spaghetti Monster:1 Fred Phelps:0

Posted by neuralgourmet on September 22, 2008

Brian Chilson.

Central Arkansas Pastafarians confront members of Fred Phelps anti-homosexual church in Little Rock, AR on International Talk Like A Pirate Day 2008. Photo credit: Brian Chilson.

Via the Arkansas Times blog we learn that Fred Phelps and his band of homophobic bigots from Westboro Baptist Church were recently driven out of Little Rock by a merry marauding band of Central Arkansas Pastafarians. The Pastafarians dressed as pirates in honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day,  waved swords and signs bearing slogans such as “God hates shrimp — Leviticus” and “God hates cotton-polyester blends” confronted Phelps’ group. Passing cars honked and waved at the pleased Pastafarians while a nearby TV crew captured their antics, ignoring the group from Westboro Baptist. Eventually Phelps and the other anti-homosexual protesters were forced to pack up their “Fags Doom Nations” and “You’re Going To Hell” signs and leave town. Priceless!

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 121 Comments »

Why Ranting Matters

Posted by mikebftw on September 21, 2008

I like a good rant occasionally.

I mean, nobody likes a blowhard, but it is possible to engage in a lucid, rational, well-constructed argument that, due to its length or forcefulness, can only be categorized as a rant.  Actually, when the two combine perfectly, a rant can become an absolute masterpiece – a thing of beauty.

In fact, I find there are very few conversational sins worse than when one party composes such an argument, and a troglodyte within earshot feels the need to respond with something profound like, “Gee, tell us how you REALLY feel!”  No counter argument, no follow up questions.  Just pure kindergarten reaction.

For a long time, I had trouble accurately describing the contempt these people provoked in me.  Now, I simply borrow a line from comedian Jim Norton – It makes me want to bite their f***ing faces.  It’s such a visceral level of disgust that I can think of no better reaction than to want to bite them across the bridge of their nose. Disturbing, I know, but it’s the best description I can come up with.

There is a point to my post, besides uncovering my apparently antisocial tendencies.  You see, Sam Harris recently constructed an argument against Sarah Palin for Newsweek magazine.  It is a clear assessment of the anti-intellectualism that dominates our political landscape – forceful and relatively lengthy (for a web article), to be sure, but still fair and well constructed.

So, what did a genius editor at Newsweek decide to call this piece?

“When Atheists Attack.”

I guess “Gee, Sam Harris, Tell Us How You REALLY Feel!” wasn’t available.

(Note – Having read a great deal of Sam Harris’ published work, I am forced to assume that there is no way he came up with this title.  In the rare event that he did, you can pretty much ignore this entire post.)

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

A Message from the Center For Inquiry

Posted by mikebftw on September 19, 2008

We’ve been getting a lot of traffic these past few days, thanks in large part to hosting the Humanist Symposium and Andy Welfle’s excellent “coming out” post.  For those of you just learning about FreeThought Fort Wayne, this video, produced by Center For Inquiry, explains many of our shared beliefs.  We are affiliated with Center For Inquiry, Indiana.

Posted in FreeThought | 3 Comments »

Bart Ehrman about his book “God’s Problem”

Posted by Andy D. on September 18, 2008

The Problem of Suffering.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Science and the future of the free World

Posted by dystressed on September 17, 2008

BBC had an opinion piece regarding the importance of science in politics.

Posted in Science | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Encounters with a Nutcase

Posted by Andy Welfle on September 16, 2008

My friend Dave is an outspoken atheist and lived in Indy. He out this hilarious email last night to a bunch of friends, and gave me permission to share it with you:

About 2am last night I heard two guys arguing vehemently outside one of the buildings of my apartment complex.

Obviously I walked outside and became belligerent with them.

I ridiculed one for wearing a snow cap and asked them why they couldn’t have their big discussion inside. One said it was about God, and his girlfriend will get upset. So instead of getting angry I offered to join in. If I wasn’t going to be sleeping I might as well be arguing. Ten minutes later my neighbor comes outside and asks us to keep it down—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The guy with the snow cap left pretty quick after my opening shots, and I was left with a nut. It started out simple enough; he claimed the Big Bang Theory was too new to be believed, I said I don’t know or care at the moment whether it’s true, and asked for a positive reason to believe in his god. He gave me the ole’ deer-in-headlights, obviously expecting to get me tangled up as only two drunks who know nothing about science can get when trying to talk about science.

We moved on and he brought out the tired “but you can’t refute God” and I shot back “can you refute unicorns?” He paused for a second, understandably since I did just bring unicorns into the argument and I don’t think he’s taken a philosophy class or ever heard of William of Ockham.

Eventually we made it to evolution, and I did my best with what I know. Of course, it wasn’t too difficult; all I had to explain to him was that exhibiting two dead pieces of bark, which were laying conveniently at his side, and yelling to me that they couldn’t reproduce did not actually refute the theory of evolution.

He then claimed “they” found pyramids in Bosnia, made well before the Egyptian pyramids, and that that somehow disproved evolution as well. This was a couple of breaths after he laughed at carbon dating.

We treaded back a bit when I asked him why I should believe in his god over anyone else’s, and he said polytheism was silly—well, once I explained to him what it was and brought up Greek mythology—and he said it was stupid to believe in a god like Zeus and a 2,000 year-old myth. I recoiled and waited for him to correct himself. He said nothing and I waited another few beats (deer, headlights, go!) and said “wasn’t 2,000 years ago the birth of your savior?”

He changed it to 5,000 and moved on.

We visited materialism next and I told him desire for a higher being, no matter how much it made your life complete or kept your grandmother smiling and in the kitchen and she makes really good pie—it meant nothing in relation to what was or wasn’t the truth, and I brought up the 9/11 conspiracy almost by accident; a casual throw-up to an example of crazy people who disregard truth because they want a certain outcome…

FAIL. He was a 9/11 truther. I spent the next few minutes defending Bush (lemme tell you I loved that) and the government against conspiracy theory. I really don’t know the temperature at which steel bends or breaks, ergo I failed. But not so much as I finally got him off his do-it-yourself-home-course-in-structural-engineering for a bit to get him to admit that he cares more about what makes people happy—which Jesus does—than he cares about the truth.

I said: “So you’re accusing Americans of plotting and executing the worst terrorist attack our generation has seen more because it makes you happy rather than it’s the truth?”

Yeah, I admit that one wasn’t too fair. And anyway that’s when the belligerence came. He accused me of science and I accused him of being willfully ignorant, and as I was walking away, doing that thing where you’re trying to get the last, petty little remark off before your commence the angry storming, and he said this, which caused me pause:

“I hope you’re happy with your new body in seven years, because that’s what science says you’ll have!”

“Huh? What…What the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] are you talking about?” I said.

“Your new body. Seven years. I hope you’re happy with it!”
“Is it thin and sexy?”
He rolled his head and guffawed a little—like how dare I make fun of his final blow that should’ve surely set my reality to crumble—and he said:

“Yeah…I hope you’re happy because you’ll…science says you’ll have a new body so explain that!”

I walked away, finally. Just kidding, we exchanged obscenities for a few minutes before I did make it back to my stoop. I found a friend sitting and smoking a cigarette. The new-body-creationist did come over at one point to say “hey, man, we should talk when we’re sober. I really think we should have a conversation when we’re sober” and I said sure, fine, call me. He left and I recounted much of the story to my friend, who is a biology major and pre-med. I got to the 9/11 truth stuff and he stopped me:

“Yeah, that guy’s an idiot, but do you know the temperature at which steel melts? It just didn’t add up when…”

I sighed.

There was more conversation but apparently I’m the only person up at 2 AM in my apartment complex who doesn’t believe the government was behind 9/11. Fail lined the streets tonight, gentlemen, in places both expected and unexpected.

Posted in Humor, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »