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Post-Partisan Invocation

Posted by dystressed on December 29, 2008

Much has been made of Rick Warren being invited by Obama to give the invocation at the innauguration. I didn’t much care until I ran across the news that Rick Warren calls his critics “Christophobes.”

I take exception to that. I am not phobic of Christ, but of his followers. I am in fact, a Rickophobe. I am wary of people who wield tremendous power over the hearts and minds of Americans, regardless of their political leanings, but I am especially wary of the religious ones. Religious tyrranny is something the founders of this nation are known for escaping, but it is also something that we have inadvertantly perpetuated. Though we have enshrined religion with freedom and kept it marginally separate from government, we have given it de facto establishment, giving it freedom to abuse its non-profit-tax-exempt status as a billy club against dissenters and non-believers.

The rise of the Christian Right has raised the visibility of the Evangelical Agenda: Make Everyone Believe in Jesus.

If the Rick Warrens of this country have their way, there would be no religious freedom, and indeed no dissent. There would be one country ruled by those who claim to know the will of God. A quick glance back to high school literature class and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible can give you chills when you think about the end result of a theocracy. When there is no freedom of ideas, there is no freedom.

While it pains me to admit this, I believe that Rick Warren should be heard. But let him be heard for what he is, a religious fascist. There are few evangelicals who do not pray for a totalitarian Christian state that would be devoid of freedom of thought.

What Obama has done for the FreeThought community is actually a backhanded favor. By inadvertantly stirring up the embers of a long smoldering fire, he has ensured that religious moderates and liberals can be reminded how dangerous the Evangelical Agenda truly is.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Couldn’t have said it better myself

Posted by JD on December 28, 2008

I was reading some Bertrand Russell on Christmas (doesn’t everybody?).  What can I say, it was a slow day and religion is on everyone’s mind that day.

I found his short essay on The Essence of Religion.  It struck a chord with me.  Many people have said most of what he wrote, but Russell managed to say so much in such a concise manner.  In case you are interested, I got this out of The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1961, Touchstone.  I’m sure you can hunt down nearly all of his work online though, if you google him.  He might as well be required reading for everyone because he touched on so many facets of human thought, not just religion.  It is striking how little his works have aged:


The decay of traditional religious beliefs, bitterly bewailed by upholders of the Churches, welcomed with joy by those who regard the old creeds as mere superstition, is an undeniable fact.  Yet when the dogmas have been rejected, the question of the place of religion in life is by no means decided.  The dogmas have been valued, not so much on their own account, as because they were believed to facilitate a certain attitude towards the world, an habitual direction of our thoughts, a life in the whole, free from the finiteness of self and providing an escape from the tyranny of desire and daily cares.  Such a life in the whole is possible without dogma, and ought not to perish through the indifference of those to whom the beliefs of former ages are no longer credible.  Acts inspired by religion have some quality of infinity in them :  they seem done in obedience to a command, and though they may achieve great ends, yet it is no clear knowledge of these ends that makes them seem imperative.  The beliefs which underlie such acts are often so deep and so instinctive as to remain unknown to those whose lives are built upon them.  Indeed, it may be not belief but feeling that makes religion :  a feeling which, when brought into the sphere of belief, may involve the conviction that this or that is good, but may, if it remains untouched by intellect, be only a feeling and yet be dominant in action…

The animal part of man, being filled with the importance of its own desires, finds it intolerable to suppose that the universe is less aware of this importance;  a blank indifference to its hopes and fears is too painful to contemplate, and is therefore not regarded as admissable.  The divine part of man does not demand that the world shall conform to a pattern :  it accepts the world, and finds in wisdom a union which demands nothing of the world.  Its energy is not checked by what seems hostile, but interpenetrates it and becomes one with it.  It is not the strength of our ideals, but their weakness, that makes us dread the admission that they are ours, not the world’s.  We with our ideals must stand alone, and conquer, inwardly, the world’s indifference.  It is instinct, not wisdom, that finds this difficult and shivers at the solitude it seems to entail.  Wisdom does not feel this solitude, because it can achieve union even with what seems most alien.  The insistent demand that our ideals shall be already realized in the world is the last prison from which wisdom must be freed.  Every demand is a prison, and wisdom is only free when it asks nothing.

(The Hibbert Journal, Vol. II, October 1912.)

Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy, Religion | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Facts, Values and a Place for the Profound: A conversation with Sam Harris

Posted by Andy D. on December 16, 2008

This is from The Science Network (TSN) and was a prelude before the Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark conference.  I am glad they added economics and  psychology sections to the usual science and religion topics.  Bookmark the site and take your time with the lectures.  Enjoy.

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Artifacts from Millions of Years in the Future

Posted by dystressed on December 9, 2008

Relics by the Glue Society

'Relics' by the Glue Society


On a lighter note, Creativity Online, a subsidiary of published this story on the pulse fair.

A contemporary art installation has been produced by the Glue Society. They have taken artificial eyelashes and fossillized them in pieces of fabricated amber.

Gary Freedman of the Glue Society views it as an indictment of how artificial our culture has become. It’s funny, beautiful and thought provoking.

“Symbolic of that slightly fake culture we’re around—those man-made things will be the things that endure and could be interpreted differently in millions of years to come.” 

Posted in Events, Humor, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What’s the harm?

Posted by JD on November 13, 2008

There have been many questions posed to me over the years by believers; some good, some bad.  There are also many of the same old chestnuts that make their regular appearance in my conversations.  Today I’d like to kill four of those birds with one answer.  And they are:

  • Why not believe in God?
  • What’s the harm in believing in God?
  • Aren’t outspoken atheists just as dogmatic and absolute as the outspoken religious?
  • How can you be so arrogant as to believe we are all there is in this universe and that we don’t need God?

Because of the close relationship of these questions, they often come up together in the same conversation in one form or another, often in a similar progression.  It usually goes something like this:

IE [Internet Evangelist]:  “You must be the only idiot alive to not know of God’s existence!  Why wouldn’t you believe?  What do you have against God?”

Me:  “All of the evidence we currently have overwhelmingly points to a lack of creator god in our universe.  All organized religions contradict each other and contain numerous inaccuracies.  We can also see how all of the different religions have evolved over the centuries.  We also know much about the psychological benefits and hindrances religions can cause.”

IE:  “Yeah, you might think you are smart, but what if you’re wrong?  Is it worth the risk?  How can you be so certain there is no God?”

Me:  “I’m certain no god of any organized religion exists.  Which god are you referring to anyways?  Yahweh?  Allah?  Zeus?  Anubis?  You are talking about Pascal’s wager.  The problem is you don’t know which god to bet the farm on, and if you’re wrong you’ve spent all of your time, effort and money on the wrong pursuit.  It’s a moot point anyway, because all organized religions are fallible and imperfect; hence, man-made.  Just because we don’t know everything about the universe, it doesn’t mean god is hiding behind everything we are ignorant of.  Although our ignorance is always the first thing labeled God.”

IE:  “Well, you can’t PROVE there is no God.  So you are just as bad as evangelicals preaching the gospel.  You preach there is no God when you can’t even prove He doesn’t exist!”

Me:  “The burden of proof is on the person who makes a positive claim of the existence of anything natural or supernatural.  There has yet to be a single piece of solid evidence to even come close to proving the existence of any God.  I can claim to have seen Santa Clause, but without the flying reindeer and elf factories I have no proof.  I talk about atheism and everything relating to it because I know there are many, many negative and horrible things that religions not only encourage, but thrive on.”

IE:  “Why would you take away what little comfort in life many people have left?  The only thing that gives many people hope is religion.  Why would you want to destroy that?”

Me:  “If we all sought education through reason, truth and enlightenment as the foundation of our societies, much of our suffering would be eliminated, and there would be more comforts and happiness to give people not just hope, but dignity, pride and reason to live.  No one wants to add to the misery and suffering of the human condition.  We all want to improve our lot in life.  False religions give false hope and security.  They make us live for a fictitious god and the fantasy of living forever in happiness after we are dead.  We can do much better than this on our own.  Religion feeds off of our fears, desires and suffering.  It is a parasite whose only real purpose is the illusion of peace and bliss for profit.”

IE: “What makes you think we can just cast God away and live for ourselves?  That’s just plain selfish and hedonistic.  It’s humbling to know that there is someone who created me and I have a special purpose in this vast universe of my very own.”

Me:  “It is the height of arrogance to believe we are the center of the universe created especially for us as a test before we live for all eternity bathing in god’s glory.  It is the irony of ironies that the most egocentric concept conceivable is considered humble and pious while the thoughtful realist is painted as a self-absorbed, sociopathic egomaniac.  I guess thinking this way makes swallowing the bitter pill of guilt and sin that is religion much easier to bear.”

I hope to cover more specific reasons for why religion is generally harmful in later posts.  There are many, and I couldn’t hope to list them all in one spot, let alone remember much of them off the top of my head.  Leave a comment if you think of some good examples of why religion is harmful, and I’ll try to include them in the next post on this topic.


Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , | 6 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 »

How are you today?

Posted by Skeptigator on September 8, 2008

The following was written by my wife, you may see her from time to time on here as firstofall556:

I didn’t know when I was calling into my credit card company that I would make someone else’s day better by asking, “How are you today?”

I was checking up on my purchases for the month when I noticed a gas purchase that neither I nor my husband remembered making. So what do you do? You have to call the dreaded credit card company. I wasn’t at all looking forward to it. The long automated account center listing of all the possible numbers you can transfer to (that is supposed to make your life easier) and the never ending hold music. No wait that’s not right another automated voice cuts in to let you know that you are important to that company and to continue to hold. So you get through all of that and a real person gets on the other end……and you can’t understand them!!

The man was very cordial “Thank you for calling; how are you and how can I help you today?” I respond “I’m fine and how are you?”

This man had about 20-30 calls before me and I’m sure at least that many after my call had ended. I know this because he told me so. He said “Thank you ma’am. You are the first person to ask me how I was.”
I still have a hard time believing that I was the first person to ask a very simple question but a question that meant a lot to a man who lives in India who was working 3rd shift in customer service. If you have ever worked with the public you understand what that means.

He thanked me several times for my simple inquiry while he was helping me figure out why I was incorrectly charged. He was very helpful and very professional. Yes I had a little trouble understanding what he was saying sometimes but in the end I was very pleased with my service.

I doubt that the next time I ask that question the next person will be so impressed but I will ask again and try to make sure that I do every time even if it’s not a great situation for me because after all there is another person on the other end of that phone. Besides isn’t that who we want to talk to anyway?

So try to ask someone “How are you today?” to someone and see what a difference it can make.

Posted in Philosophy | 7 Comments »

Interesting Interview with Randall Balmer

Posted by dystressed on August 25, 2008

I found this on NPR from religious professor and historian Randall Balmer. He had another interview recently on Fresh Air.

According to Balmer, the religious right movement began in the late 70s. The impetus being a legal battle between Bob Jones University and the IRS. The IRS contended that because BJU did not admit African Americans, it was discriminatory in the eyes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and thus not a charitable organization. In 1975, the IRS revoked the t.e. status and BJU sued. This was the beginning of the religious right. There was no great push for the pro-life movement, no mention of the gay agenda, just pure racism. Such an interesting fact. I thought I should share it.

There’s more on Balmer on his web site. He’s written several books on religion and teaches at Barnard College at Columbia University.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Skepticism | 1 Comment »

Getting People to Ask Questions

Posted by dystressed on August 17, 2008

I found this video in which everyone’s favorite atheist (at least mine) Richard Dawkins introduces a group of kids to evolution by showing them fossils on a beach. It goes beyond that to demonstrate contemporary evolution with genetics, specifically, how certain prostitutes in Nairobi have natural resistance to HIV.

This video is such a great, uncomplicated way of explaining evolution. There are some times I wish I were in the UK so that I could get these episodes online.

At the beginning of the video, however, students in a class are ardently opposed to learning about evolution on religious grounds. This is something I just don’t understand. I was always eager to learn about something new, even if it theoretically contradicted my faith, when I had it.

I think the reason people don’t want to learn about something not involved with religion is because they really don’t have a strong faith. At the end, they ask the kids again. All the kids say they will still say their prayers. Of course, they may have been lying, but Dawkins strongly hopes that they will continue to ask questions. I hope so too.

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science, Skepticism, Video | Leave a Comment »

Secular Humanist Utopia… For Kids

Posted by dystressed on August 10, 2008

NPR ran this story last night and when I heard it, I almost ran my car off the road.

There IS a place to send kids to give them a good foundation in freethought and reason.

Growing up, I went to a private school and a church. I had a firm grasp on religion, but somewhere along the line, I went a little awry. I never went to summer camp, but I had plenty of church outings over the summer, so I think that counts for something.

I am actually wishing I were a kid again. Demographically, I’m the tail end of Generation X because I was over 20 in the year 2000. I think it’s amazing how parents in my generation are embracing freethought and reason. I hope that these and other children will feel comfortable growing up without all of the religiosity and hocus pocus.

Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy, Skepticism | 1 Comment »