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Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

If You’re Going to Seattle…

Posted by dystressed on January 6, 2009

…visit the Discovery Institute!  (if you can)

Skepticality had a fantastic interview with Kate Holden and Tiana Dietz, the skeptic activists who conned their way into the Discovery Institute.  You can download the MP3 of the podcast here.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the visit was the fact that the two have engaged in a lengthy blog discourse with the Discovery Institute, which claims to welcome all people with open arms.

While lying is hardly ever called for, Holden and Dietz maintain that they only did what the producers of Expelled did when they conned their own ways into interviews with Michael Shermer and PZ Myers. They kind of have a point.

The question of morality aside, the chutzpah of Kate and Tiana is admirable. They also urge fellow skeptic activists to go to the Discovery Institute and take the tour… that is, if the Discovery people will let you in.

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

More like “guidelines”, really.

Posted by Eye4Cards on November 30, 2008

I found myself rereading a part of Richard Dawkins’ rather succinct book The God Delusion today; specifically, the chapter entitled The ‘Good’ Book and the Moral Zeitgeist, pages 263 and 264.  Dawkins briefly mentions a common list of “New Ten Commandments” he searched for on the internet.  He then goes on to add some personal recommendations for what he would consider an acceptable, revised edition.

I know there have been many sites that have done this before.  Most of them have made some really good lists too.  That is entirely Dawkins’ point in this section.  Your average person is capable of what would be considered ethics and morality whether they are religious or not.  Moreover, they are capable of vastly improving one of the cornerstones of Christianity to bring it up to current ethical standards.

I’ll save you the pain, boredom and irrelevance of the original “Ten Commandments” by just linking to the most popular list here (with the shortened second version later in Exodus 34:14, 17 and 21), and the second set here with another partial version (also with a few that didn’t make the cut) sprinkled in Leviticus 19:1, 3-4, 11-13, and the ‘didn’t quite make the list’ commandments such as Mark12:28-29.  Yes folks, not only do most of your Christians not know all of the commandments, they are unaware there is more than one list and more than ten, depending on what you consider qualifies as a commandment.  It’s a messy affair that ought to be airtight considering the importance Christians give them, but alas, ’tis one example of one-thousand, and yet another reason why religion is more of a sick joke nowadays than a serious belief.

My point here is not to point out the already absurd.  I think I’ll save that specifically for my next post about the Ten Commandments.  I just want to bring to light the obvious:  We all are capable of good and bad.  We all are capable of learning and modifying our own personal codes of conduct. It is evident in the following lists that I found just casually surfing the web.  The only people not capable of learning and maintaining a generally acceptable personal code of conduct are sociopaths and psychopaths; and this is because of different psychological disorders, not lack of morality or god.

This first set is from Dawkins’ book example, the popular ebonmusings.  They did a great job of elaborating on the list on their site as well:

1.  Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

2.  In all things, strive to cause no harm.

3.  Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

4.  Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

5.  Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.

6.  Always seek to be learning something new.

7.  Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

8.  Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

9.  Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

10.  Question everything.

Here’s Dawkins’ “own amended Ten Commandments…[he] would also try to find room for”:

  • Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.
  • Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.
  • Do not indoctrinate your children.  Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.
  • Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

Here’s a decent Ten Commandments from the Ethical Atheist.  I thought atheists weren’t supposed to be ethical, but for some reason many of them keep espousing morality anyways.  Go figure.

Here’s a list from a site calling itself positive atheism.  It is no longer ironic when a stereotype is not only wrong, but the opposite of the truth.  This is in reference to the idea that atheists cannot be moral without god (who had He existed, still knowingly created atheists this way anyway).  Ah, the stuff preachers will put in atheists’ mouths and congregations’ heads.

Indeed, I see no reason why we should be limited to just ten.  In fact, it is obvious that as complicated as we are psychologically and emotionally, we need as many general guidelines as necessary to help keep our societies healthy and happy.  And that’s what they are- guidelines.  There are no hard and fast rules to existence, let alone how to exist.

The Bible fails on many fronts, but this is a big one.  The Ten Commandments are one of the few pillars of Christianity left that haven’t crumbled under the weight of scrutiny of any kind, be it scientific or just plain common sense.  The Ten Commandments still stand because of sheer dedication to a hollow tradition of equating morals with God in an attempt to keep an archaic concept viable in a modern world free of the necessity and burdon of an almighty, vengeful and somehow simultaneously all-loving and merciful god.

Because, really, what else is there to adhere to in Christianity once the jealous, loving Yahweh’s rules are found to be entirely lacking for His creations, let alone His perfection?

Posted in FreeThought, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“No God” slogan to run on UK buses

Posted by Andy Welfle on October 23, 2008

London buses will soon be running an ad on the side that says “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

This is probably the best advice anyone can get, ever. See the article, here.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is sponsoring the campaign, which was only intending to raised £5,500, with another £5,500 to be donated by Richard Dawkins. But through their own efforts, they’ve raised over £36,000 by themselves!

Sez Professor Dawkins:

“Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride — Automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children. Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think — and thinking is anathema to religion.”

Do you ever think we could get away with this here across the pond?  I bet there isn’t a bus company out there that would accept this sort of contract.

Posted in FreeThought, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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.

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

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 »

Humanist Symposium #25

Posted by Skeptigator on September 14, 2008

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Welcome to the Humanist Symposium News Channel brought to you by FreeThought Fort Wayne, I’m your host Skeptigator and I want to know, “How are you today?”.

Our top story tonight is the recent announcement that Matter is better than spiritualism coming out of Chromium Oxide Green. Maria Silva asks why the “supposed spiritual world is deeper, and extraordinarily more profound than this mundane world around us, that is composed of matter?”

But first in Technology news Michael Wheeler explores Utopian Neuroscience. He asks, “How happy do you want to be?”

In Education news, we have the recent editorial, Should Social-Emotional Learning Be Part of Academic Curriculum?, from Alvaro Fernandez of Brain Fitness an institute dedicated to creating sharp brains.

On the political front, Canadian talking head, Ian Bushfield of Terahertz, presents Toward Secular Humanistic Politics.

In legal news, the lobbying firm of This humanist is working to expand upon Humanism and Polyamory. Clare, the spokesperson for the group is quoted as saying, “Under law in the UK, polygamy is illegal, but so was homosexual marriage! If we can accept that marriage law concerning homosexuality is outdated and inappropriate, maybe it’s worth taking a second look at the issue of monogamy.”

After the break, we’ll find out what’s happening in Sports and Entertainment news.

Today’s broadcast is brought to you by the word Compassion a service offered by Elliptica, please call Lynet for more information.

Over at the Sports desk, Brian Jay Stanley reports on the latest Olympic news, We Were Gold Medalists in the Sperm Olympics.

Thanks Brian, I feel like a winner already. And now for Entertainment news, PhillyChief brings us the heartwarming story on the positive impact of the movie industry, “Buzz Lightyear got us through”.

Our resident DIY guy, Glowing Face Man, is doing some remodeling, let’s check in and see how he’s doing with A Modernized Version of the Lord’s Prayer.

In Charity news, our broadcast partner, Zach Alexander of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard tells us about, Humanist Relief Work: Children of the Border. And vjack of Atheist Revolution talks about A Different Kind of Atheist Outreach.

Sorry folks, we have to take another break to pay some bills around here. When we return, how to cut back on the Carbs and another edition of our continuing series called Biography.

For one night only, Dereck of I Will Not Die fame and Aaron Ross Powell are joining together for their blockbuster seminar entitled “Purpose and Growth”. Make sure to get your tickets early, Dereck will be giving his award-winning An Essay on Human Growth and Aaron Powell has been packing theaters from coast-to-coast with his What Atheism Offers: A Sense of Purpose Series. One Night Only, this Sat-Sat-Saturday!!! Two speakers, One low price.

The co-host of our on-going series “Biography”, Greta Christina, brings us the little known story of Del Martin, and What Makes a Life Meaningful. Greta’s co-host, Andy Welfle, explores his tell-all auto-biography in From Altar Boy to Atheist: A coming out story.

And now, “Have you been wanting to shed a few pounds lately?”, well LSG has a new diet strategy called, No Bread for Me, Thanks.

In tonight’s editorial piece, I wonder if Jyunri Kankei might have A Better Answer than Originally Given. Also, I stumbled across this piece from Andrew Bernardin from Evolving Mind, Religion as a Replaceable Raison D’être (Reason for Being): Part II. I have a question, “What happened to Part I”, is this like Leonard Part 6, because that movie is just begging for a series of prequels.

I see our producer, Phil for Humanity is giving me the Time is Our Most Valuable Asset signal. So we’ll leave you tonight with a piece submitted by a viewer, Dale, called Awe Sans God.

Please join us on October 5th where our Canadian sister station (with an amazing broadcast strength), Terahertz, will be bringing the 26th edition of the Humanist Symposium.

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

From altar boy to atheist: a coming out story

Posted by Andy Welfle on September 13, 2008

The Author

The Author

Hello, my name is Andy Welfle, and I’m an atheist.

This is my “coming out” story — how I transformed from a good Catholic boy who had dreams of becoming a priest, to the skeptical, cautious person I am today. Sit back, because, well, I can be loquacious at times, and I have a lot to say about this.

Like so many freethinkers in my generation, I went through a full decade in Catholic school — 12 years if you include pre-school and kindergarten. I credit that for my current worldview. I wound up going to Catholic school for a number of reasons. Primarily, though my mother taught at a different Catholic school, and although I can’t speak for her, I think she was caught up in the parochial agitprop that they were the last good, safe schools. Public schools are evil, rough badlands that make kids click up and join a gang to survive. Private, secular schools were too expensive for a good Catholic family, so the diocesan schools were about it.

(Since then, my mother has left the Catholic school system, and my sisters are happy in Fort Wayne Community Schools. They’ve never been mugged, raped, or otherwise maimed.)

Most of my elementary school life was spent in oblivious, pious bliss. I announced in third grade that I wanted to be a priest, and the pastor of the church thought it was great. I was a server (altar boy), and like everyone else in my class, I went to mass twice during the week, and then with my family on Sunday. It’s a wonder we ever learned anything.

Pedophile priest jokes aside, I remember the pastor (head priest) fondly. He was an intelligent, well-spoken guy, and except for the fact he took the vows and became a priest, he’s a respectable guy — he would never do anything like those priests you hear about in Boston.

I never had a problem in school, until eighth grade, when we had a letter sent home from our teachers saying that next week, we were going to have a special 2 hour session about sexual education. The letter said if parents didn’t want their kids to participate, please sign and return. My parents, being the liberal and educated people they are, didn’t have a problem with that.

So next Tuesday, the boys in the grade went to one classroom, and the girls went to another. I don’t know who led the discussion for the girls, but our pastor talked to us boys. That’s when I realized, “What could this dude, someone who pledged in front of God and everybody never to have sex, what could he possibly teach us about our sexuality?”

Please click through to read the rest below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , | 112 Comments »

We will wear you down by our capacity to suffer

Posted by Skeptigator on August 4, 2008

As I watched from the sidelines as the whole PZ/Cracker thing played out*, I couldn’t help but be struck by how similar the whole event was to an auto accident. You know how you sit at a red light next to a recent fender bender trying to recreate the accident to figure out whose fault it was? I’ve been doing it with the PZ/Cracker farce. Is the idea of “transubstantiation” ridiculous? Yes, on soooo many levels. Was PZ justified in criticizing not only the idea but also the way over-the-top actions of the particular Catholic church? Yea, sure. Was the call to have people send in a wafer to be desecrated over-the-top and unnecessary? Over-the-top? yes. Unnecessary, hmmm… now that’s an interesting question.

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Is it necessary sometimes to do unnecessarily outrageous things to point out injustice or simply the ridiculous. If it wasn’t necessary it’s safe to say that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert’s whole shtick wouldn’t be on the air. But one has to ask what defines the “appropriate unnecessary” action.

Let’s take some actions from the U.S. Civil Rights movement of the early 1960’s as an example. Why not simply write about racist treatment instead of boycotting buses? Clearly boycotting bus systems is far more effective than simple speeches and angry editorials (that would likely go unpublished). Why boycotting? Why not disabling buses, slashing tires, molotov cocktails or physically barring bus drivers from getting on the bus? Would those not achieve the same purpose? (Do me a favor and bare with the comparison. I don’t want to draw too many parallels with the Civil Rights Movement and the “oppression of atheists”. Certainly they are of the same kind but certainly not nearly the same degree, if you catch my drift.)

The question-at-hand/purpose of the boycotts was that some “more than necessary” action was required to truly raise awareness to an injustice. A speech or letter to the editor would have been all that was necessary. But that was not what was required since it would not contribute to an actual solution any time soon, at least. So the question remains, “When faced with an injustice and the “all that’s necessary” action won’t be enough, what should the form of the “unnecessary” action be?”.

In the 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s answer to this question was Non-Violence.

Nonviolence is a philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of physical violence. As such, nonviolence is an alternative to passive acceptance of oppression and armed struggle against it. Practitioners of nonviolence may use diverse methods in their campaigns for social change, including critical forms of education and persuasion, civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action, and targeted communication via mass media.

And with that definition in hand we can see the practical results of this policy. Fire-bombing a bus, no doubt effective as an “awarness-raiser”, would not probably qualify as a non-violent. Therefore when looking at the activities of the 1960’s you will see, lunch counter sit-ins, boycotts and peaceful protests. All consistent with a non-violent philosophy.

Of course, looking back is 20/20, we can say that this is a very effective form of protest. At the time there were serious doubts as to it’s effectiveness. Without that doubt the Black Panthers would never have had the appeal they did.

“We will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why is the philosophy, if it can be called such, of non-violence effective? The key to it’s effectiveness lies in some of the very criticism that the strategy received, this from Black Panther George Jackson,

“The concept of nonviolence is a false ideal. It presupposes the existence of compassion and a sense of justice on the part of one’s adversary.”

Isn’t it interesting to ask the question, whose philosophy/strategy/tactics survived today? Sorry George but you painted the entire U.S. population with the statements and actions of it’s most vocal members. And most importantly you grossly underestimated American (and human) compassion.

It took years but the American conscience couldn’t bare the sight of firehoses being aimed at peaceful protesters, armed guardsmen being necessary so that children could get an education, they couldn’t take the virulent, hateful rhetoric of so many politicians, they couldn’t take the images of bloodied men and women with bitemarks from police dogs, seemingly daily footage of riot gear-wearing police and guardsmen attacking men and women in the streets. Those protesters wore down the just-as-human xenophobia, ignorance and hate by showing the capacity of a fellow human being’s ability to suffer. America as a whole had to admit, “These are just ordinary folks trying to do and have ordinary things.”

The genius, if you can call it that, of the non-violent method is that it provides a third-way. What happens with violence (and violent reactions) is that it too often leads to further escalation and more insidiously creates a clear division, a line in the sand, if you will. Us vs. Them. Therefore, the question of justification can not be a valid one in this context. Is Israel justified in defending itself against mortar shell attacks from Palestine? Were the Negroes of the Civil Rights era justified in resisting oppression by violent means? Are half the bar fights around the world justified? Justification is a component but something else needs to temper that justification otherwise we won’t get anywhere as a society.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ok, I know, how are the two related? I’ll answer with a question. Is PZ Myers justified in his response to the admitted ridiculousness of this particular episode and “transubstantiation” in general? Ok, fine, how about these questions, “Is it effective?” or even better “Does it serve the intended purpose?” And the big question, “Is this “awareness raising” akin to a lunch counter sit-in or slashing the tires of a bus?”

Until I hit upon this analogy I have been torn, asking myself if I don’t like the whole affair simply because “it’s divisive” but then kicking myself because sometimes divisiveness can’t be avoided. Or I would say, “I sure wish that would have played out differently” but then I look at the actions of both parties realizing that there was little possibility of it happening in any different way. Literally, I said to myself, “I wish there was a third way” and that’s when the word-association triggered in my mind.

Neither the actions of the Church can be changed nor the actions of the student who absconded with wafer Jesus. However, by making the request and stating his intentions to desecrate the cracker, he was using the verbal equivalent of “violent” action or reaction. His “violent” reaction left little to no room for a third-way. It simply upped the level of rhetoric (escalation of violence) and drew a very clear line in the sand and said you are either “for” transubstantiation or you are “against” the established traditions and have to reject all forms of religion and become an atheist. The distinctions obviously were not stated in such a way but the idea remains.

“The only bad thing about burning your bridges behind you is that the world is round” – Unknown

You couldn’t gain support from the believing public who accept that the churches reaction was way over-the-top because in order to do so they would have to stand by a man who would be actively opposing everything you stood for (including some very minor things that you didn’t). The whole episode failed to build even a wafer-thin bridge** between two opposing viewpoints. Each side simply dug in a little deeper.

I bring up the whole affair not to encourage PZ Cracker trolls to visit this site but to point out that this little skirmish is indicative of poor tactics in general on the part of atheists, agnostics, secularists or whatever flavor you brand yourself. We need to build those bridges with the religious on those issues where we hold common ground. We need to where down the public consciousness to the idea that these atheists aren’t trying to tear anything down but simply trying to be treated like anyone else.

We need to continue to have stories where a member of the Armed Service, Jeremy Hall, who simply tried to opt out of a prayer and was threatened for his troubles, after all, he is just trying to serve his country in the best way he can. We need more public high school students, like Matthew LaClair,  who want to just go to class without being told they are going to hell.

So the question remains, do you throw the molotov cocktail through the bus window and feel justified? Or do you boycott the bus knowing you will be effective?


* To those who don’t follow such things, essentially a Catholic student took a Catholic communion wafer to his seat where he attempted to show a non-Catholic friend. He was subsequently assaulted (or nearly so) by Catholic laity and then he ran out of the sanctuary. This prompted the Catholic church to post guards at the next service.

PZ Myers, fairly well-known science blogger, wrote about the story and called to have someone send him a communion cracker so that he could desecrate it “properly”.

The ensuing drama, death threats and all-around juvenile behavior centered around not the churches over-reaction but actually on PZ Myers call to have someone “steal” a cracker.

** Oh no he didn’t!

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Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Do it for the kids

Posted by Skeptigator on July 29, 2008

Last week I gave my response to theo’s post on Atheist Evangelism. In it I made specific recommendations for what we as freethinkers can do today to bring about our Utopia now. My recommendations centered around starting, participating in and promoting a local freethought group however that is not the single most important thing I can do.

“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In fact, I deliberately didn’t state the single most important thing I think you can do because I myself have yet to do it. I think it would be hypocritical for me to tell you what you should do when I haven’t. So at the time I felt pretty good about my post and I still stand by it. But the post bothers me immensely because of what I did not say.

So without being coy anymore, the single biggest thing you can do is Come Out. Stop hiding the fact that you are a non-theist (atheist, agnostic, rationalist, secular humanist, whatever). I suppose I should take a moment to state why doing this is perhaps the best thing you can do,

  • It certainly removes many restrictions you may have for joining, participating or promoting a local freethought group (remember it’s the second biggest thing).
  • It adds one more member to a growing and largely silent population of non-believers (particularly in the States).
  • I believe it creates a self-regulating atmosphere that doesn’t allow the religious fanatics as much leeway in the public realm if they believe there are more non-theists who will be willing to stand up to them.
  • Personally I think you will feel better. You won’t feel so self-censored and all the anxiety that that can bring with

Now having said that, the Internet and it’s relative anonymity has helped many non-theists connect with other like-minded individuals. This has certainly created an outlet for many people including myself. Maybe someone could argue that it’s created a pressure-release that would have otherwise resulted in more outspoken non-theists (I don’t think it would be very good one).

“So… um… yea..  that’s.. obviously that’s the downside” – Mr. Deity (Episode 2)

But enough about the pros, what about the downsides. I list them because I believe each of us works through them eventually. Some of these don’t apply to everyone nor is exhaustive but it’s a decent sampling.

  • Probably the number one issue would family pressure. I’m a born and bred Fort Wayner and so is my family. To understate it, they are religious. Like Benny-Hinn-Join-a-Y2K-compound religious. Like Jesus Camp religious, you get the point*.
  • Some of us have job or career fears. Not an issue for me. Sure the company picnics/potlucks start with a prayer but half of my co-workers are staring at their shoes or smirking at the 145-year-old blue-hair who feels compelled to say grace ( When will she retire already!? ).
  • For others it may be their children. Or more importantly an obligation to protect their children from harassment. If you become a vocal proponent of athiesm, non-theism or secular humanism in this community I would have serious fear for my children.

Clearly my job doesn’t present a problem. I don’t work for religious fanatics (although I have) so this isn’t an issue. Although to be honest my personal life in this regards has no reason to bleed into work, it’s not like I’m handing out atheist chick tracts. My point is that if were to become widely known it cause me any problems.

I have recently realized that hiding the fact that I’m an atheist (or more accurately a Secular Humanist) from my family is tiresome and so I’ve stopped overtly hiding from them. Such as ignoring their friend requests on Facebook (maybe they won’t know it’s me, ha).

“Do it for the kids!” – Anonymous

So bottom line, it comes down to my kids. I fear for my kids. I’m certainly not conspiratorial or think someone will outright hurt my children (although maybe I think that a little) but at a minimum I wouldn’t like my kids to get messed with. Maybe if they were older like in their teens they would be able to handle things better but my two boys being on either side of 10 I’m not sure how they would handle it.

I’ve already had a 6-year-old friend of my 6-year-old son tell him that if they don’t believe in God then they will go to Hell where “they shoot you in the stomach forever and ever”. This is the one thing that a 6-year-old felt compelled to convey to my kids about their religion. Not Jesus love, fear of Hell. Fast-forward this kid 15 years and now we have a problem. I know that’s an oversimplification and anecdotal at best but it goes to my state of mind, your honor.

“What’s wrong, McFly. Chicken?” – Biff Tannen

I haven’t overcome this last obstacle yet. I’m just not sure. I’m at the point where it depends on the day. Today I feel compelled to just be Out! but that’s not to say tomorrow I won’t regret even posting on the topic. But then again only a year ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of Friending my family on Facebook where they will see all the heathenistic blogs, pages, groups and evil atheist friends that I congregate with.

So the greatest thing you could do is to come out. Let me know how that works out for you, I’ll just… umm… you know… sit here and watch.

* I’m not joking

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Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy | Tagged: , , | 14 Comments »

We want our Utopia now

Posted by Skeptigator on July 21, 2008

theodorsing recently posted Evangelist = Evil’s Agent?, in which he asks a number of compelling questions. So my post this week has been discarded in favor of my thoughts on the same topic.

The main theme from the post was that atheism, by definition, and often in practice is a negative assertion. It provides no foundation for a positive* belief system, it offers no method, process or framework with which to create a positive* worldview. Perhaps the most you could say is that it provides a framework within which I don’t believe in your (or all) god(s). There is simply nothing there to grab a hold of.

“Suppose we’ve chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we’re just making him madder and madder.” – Homer Simpson

theo and I spoke at a local church about a month ago that was exploring other worldviews by actually inviting people who espouse those worldviews to explain for themselves what they believe. This is an excellent idea that should be explored by other organizations as well.

What we were specifically asked to address was Atheism. However in the course of working up materials and notes on the topic I realized that Atheism as a basis of a talk would be pretty bare. The person at the church offered a standard list of topics to address and after going through the list it looked a little like this: Read the rest of this entry »

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