January 26, 2020

Atheism and the Meaning of Life

meaning of life

In 2010, I came across a post by Stefan at EXchristian.net in which he shared his existential pain over what he experienced as the meaninglessness of life after discarding his Christian faith. This got me thinking about how many ex-Christians have faced a similar struggle, and I applauded his willingness to share what had to be a difficult post to write. I realized that this was a subject I had been neglecting and one which deserves more attention. I suspect many of us who are ex-Christians have experienced this but in very different ways.

Many Christians report that their faith provides them with a powerful sense of meaning and purpose. Some go so far as to suggest that they would be completely lost without it. Although I am sometimes content to take them at their word, I usually suspect that they are being overly pessimistic and self-critical here. Plenty of ex-Christians manage to navigate life successfully, and some even report being fulfilled as they do so.

January 25, 2020

A Brief Review of Midsommar (2019)

Of the many horror films I watched during 2019, Hereditary (2018) ended up being one of my favorites. I recognize that it won't be for everybody and that it had some flaws, but I really liked it. I went into it knowing next to nothing about it because I had gone out of my way to avoid looking at any reviews. Still, I had high hopes based on all the buzz around it I saw on social media. The film still managed to exceed my expectations and can be found in my horror collection today.

When the director, Ari Aster released Midsommar (2019), I knew I'd have to see it eventually. Although I again made a point to avoid reading reviews, I gradually became aware that this second film was more divisive. Some people seemed to love it; others hated it. There did not appear to be much middle ground. I finally got around to seeing Midsommar last night, and I have to say it was the most disappointing horror film I have seen in several years. At the end, I found myself uncertain that it even ought to be considered a horror film at all.

January 22, 2020

Yes, We Do Need More Atheist Blogs!

typewriter

I recently saw a tweet from someone indicating that he was starting a new atheist blog and had just written his first post. Not surprisingly, we (I retweeted his tweet, and so the question was posed to both of us) were quickly asked whether we really need more atheist blogs. What else is there to say about atheism that hasn't been said countless times? I think this is a fair question but also one with an easy answer: Yes! Yes, we need more atheist blogs...and books, and podcasts, and videos, etc.

While it is true that atheist blogging has likely peaked, that does not make it any less necessary. Atheism continues to be socially unacceptable in the United States, and I believe that ignorance and misinformation are still contributing to this. People need to learn more about atheism and recognize that much of what they have been told about it is wrong. Anti-atheist bigotry is widespread, at least in the regions of the country most afflicted by evangelical fundamentalist Christianity. As a result, many atheists end up feeling isolated or even alienated from those around them. We face a variety of social pressures aimed at silencing us. But atheists are not alone, and it is often helpful be reminded of this.

January 20, 2020

Warren and Klobuchar Endorsement Not Necessarily About Gender

Elizabeth Warren

The New York Times editorial board made a bit of news yesterday by endorsing both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Two candidates for one nomination? Yep, and I think this was a wise choice given the state of the Democratic Party these days.

Predictably, social media erupted with wild claims that The Times had fallen victim to the "wokeness" epidemic and that this unusual move of endorsing two candidates was all about gender. Couldn't it be that, in the opinion of the editorial board, these just so happen to be the two best candidates?

The dual endorsement recognizes that Democrats have a choice to make between two competing models of governing advocated by these (and other) candidates running in the primary: the more centrist/establishment/moderate route (represented here by Klobuchar) and the more progressive/structural change version (represented here by Warren). It has been clear for some time that the Democratic primary would eventually boil down to a choice between these approaches.

Instead of endorsing a single candidate, which would have required them to endorse one of these two approaches as well, The Times decided to leave that up to voters.

That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

January 19, 2020

MLK's Relevance To Anti-Atheist Bigotry

Martin Luther King Jr.

Back in 2008, Nanovirus wrote an excellent post for MLK Day in which he addressed Dr. King's relevance to anti-atheist bigotry by modifying King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail to address moderate Christians on the subject of Christian extremists and how they treat atheists. At the time, it struck me as powerful stuff with considerable relevance to atheists living in the United States. All these years later, it still leaves that impression.

In commenting on Nanovirus' post in an early version of this post, I noted that racial bigotry remains an important problem in the U.S. but that few would deny that progress had been made since King's time. Sadly, I was not sure the same could be said for anti-atheist bigotry. It still seemed pretty bad in 2008, so much so that some political candidates viewed running on it as a viable campaign strategy.

Fortunately, I do believe there has been some progress since 2008. While it is true that anti-atheist bigotry is still far too socially acceptable, I think things have improved since 2008. I attribute this primarily to the well-documented decline in religiosity and to the increased availability of content by atheists made possible by the Internet. These and other factors have made it more acceptable to discuss atheism. As a result, young people today are likely to have heard of atheism and even have a basic understanding of what it is in a way that was not the case for me. I think that has made a difference.