February 27, 2015

Mere Atheism is Sufficient For Some

Anatomy of a Murder 2
By D. Wiberg at en.wikipedia
Following the murders of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, NC, and the arrest of a suspect who appears to be an atheist, Neil Carter (Godless in Dixie) wrote a post in which he made a couple of interesting points which are sure to be controversial in some circles. First, Neil suggests that religious ideology should not be blamed for murders committed by religious zealots. Second, he says that atheists should "have an ongoing discussion about prejudice and bigotry within our ranks..." and should be part of groups that reinforce humanist values.

I think these points are worth some discussion. I recognize that people will hold different opinions on both of them. I think it would be great if we could acknowledge that differences of opinions - even of such important subjects - can be held without needing to condemn those who might hold different ones from our own.

Religious Ideology and Murder

Should religious ideology be blamed for murders committed by religious extremists, and if so, how much blame seems appropriate? Referring to the 1994 murder of a physician by Christian extremist Paul Hill, Neil writes:
You can argue that his ideology didn’t provide sufficient condemnation for retributive murder, and perhaps there’s some room for that discussion. But it’s simply not fair to lay the blame for his actions at the feet of his theology. Anyone who understands that ideology well knows that even for theonomists Jesus’s censure of retributive violence in the New Testament trumps that element within the Mosaic law. Hill should have understood that, but he didn’t. Was that the fault of his theological system? No, it was the result of a dysfunctional personality.

February 24, 2015

Popularity and the Truth of a Belief

Logic probe
Logic probe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a recent post about belief, I mentioned that reality is not a popularity contest in the sense that a false belief does not somehow become less false because large numbers of people hold it. This is something with which I expect most atheists will be very familiar. If you are an atheist living in a country with a vast religious majority, the odds are good that you have been on the receiving end of this argumentum ad populum (appeal to the people) many times. "Of course Christianity is true! Just look how at how many Christians there are."

The notion that "this many people can't be wrong" is quite bizarre. History is replete with examples of a great many people being wrong about many important things for long periods of time. Most of us have little difficulty recognizing that denying women the vote was wrong and that the rationale used to do it was serious flawed. Most of us recognize that sexism, racism, anti-LGBT bigotry have led countless people to do awful things, but few of us hesitate to discard the justifications they offered as false. Almost everyone living today can spot many of the problems with slavery, and yet, there was a long period of time where this was a common practice justified with several false beliefs. The vast majority of people used to hold false beliefs about the nature of illness and how it should be treated. This did not make their beliefs any less false. You get the idea.

February 22, 2015

We Lost a Couple of Good Atheist Blogs

Atheist blogs come and go. Many emerge on the scene, generate great buzz in their promise to offer something different, and then disappear before we know what happened. Some stick around for quite awhile, lasting several years and building a considerable audience before winding down. Of course, this is not surprising. Priorities change, life happens, and people burn out.

As the 10 year anniversary of Atheist Revolution approached, I couldn't help noticing that we lost a couple of good blogs this month:
This caught my attention because I had been reading both of these blogs for some time. I was sorry to see them go. At the same time, I certainly cannot fault their authors for deciding to move on with other things. Neither seemed to make the decision impulsively, and both had what I would consider good reasons for moving on.

The only sure bet seems to be that the atheist blogosphere will continue to welcome new voices and say goodbye to some old friends. With that in mind, I'd just like to say thanks to The A-Unicornist and Dead Logic for their contributions.

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February 20, 2015

10 Years of Atheist Revolution

Fireworks on the 75th. Golden Gate anniversary
By Mireia Garcia Bermejo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 Today is the 10 year anniversary of Atheist Revolution! I started Atheist Revolution on February 20, 2005, and it is almost impossible to wrap my head around the fact that I've been at it for 10 years now. I certainly did not expect it to last anywhere near that long when I started.

As I sit here trying to write this post, I am struck by the realization that I have absolutely no idea how to summarize the last 10 years. I'm not even convinced that I want to try to do so. Perhaps this is because I've been in a bit of a funk lately where I've found it difficult to find the inspiration to write. I have been extremely busy at work, and my desire to write usually dips when that happens. Or perhaps it has more to do with the fact that it does not feel like it has been anywhere close to 10 years. In any case, I can't help thinking that I am not the same person I was 10 years ago. Maybe it makes sense to focus on that and see what comes.

Roots of the Revolution

Prior to 2005, I was aware of only a handful of active atheist blogs. After reading them for awhile and realizing how much I enjoyed them, I found myself thinking about adding my voice to the mix. The problem was, I had no idea how to start a blog and even less of an idea about what sort of voice I wanted to have. The bloggers I read at the time seemed to be so sure of themselves. They had strong opinions and expressed them with consistent voices. I wasn't always sure how I felt about some of the topics they addressed, and I was ambivalent about pretending otherwise. I decided that I wasn't ready to start a blog and set the idea aside for awhile.

February 19, 2015

Mob Justice Should Make Atheists Nervous

Zola sortie
By Henry de Groux (http://expositions.bnf.fr/zola/grand/z264.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Every individual has a right to express his or her opinion. I would assume that we can all agree with this statement. It seems rather uncontroversial, doesn't it? We can recognize one's right to express an opinion without having to like the opinion he or she expresses. In fact, most of us probably recognize that the point of having a right to free expression is to protect the expression of unpopular ideas.

Those of us who are atheists living in thoroughly religious cultures generally seem to recognize that if any group of people would be denied the right to express unpopular opinions, we would be among the first to be denied this right. If anybody is going to have their right to free expression limited, it is likely to be us. Thus, it makes sense that those of us who identify as atheists, humanists, secularists, and/or freethinkers might be a bit more sensitive to the importance of free expression than some others. One could even argue, as I have, that we are in a good position to take the lead on defending free expression.

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