December 31, 2006

Diamonds in the Rough: The Year-End Post

I want to do something a little different for my obligatory year-end post. Rather than attempting to do the traditional year-in-review type of post, I'll simply refer anyone seeking that sort of information to this post on the top religion stories of 2006 at ReligionNewsBlog. With that out of the way, I've decided to focus on a few bright spots in what has been an otherwise dismal year.

While the biggest story of 2006 will undoubtedly be Iraq, I think that it was more of a symptom of what happens when a government throws reason out the window and relies instead on faith. Whether we look to stem cell research, violence over cartoons, ongoing denials of global warming, "intelligent" design, or even the unapologetic denial of the actual origins of the Grand Canyon (hat tips to NoGodBlog, Deep Thoughts, and for this one), we see a suspension of reason.

I've selected 3 diamonds in this rough for no particular reason other than they put a smile on my face. First up, we have a story with which you are all already quite familiar. 2006 was a great year for atheist organizations, as nearly all experienced significant membership growth. Following this trend, the American media finally woke up and has suddenly started talking about "the New Atheism." I'll confess that I think this is hilarious because the only thing that is new about this "movement," allegedly headed by Dawkins and Harris, is that the media is paying attention to it. Still, the fact that we are finally getting some attention and stimulating some national discussion is certainly welcome. While much of this coverage continues to perpetuate misconceptions and inaccuracies, it is a start, and some of it has been fairly effective.

The second diamond was none other than the Democratic takeover of Congress. I know that this will make all the year-end lists, so I'll give you something new at the end. That the Democratic victory suggests to me is that increasing numbers of people are fed up with Republican corruption. I realize that the newly elected Democrats are going overboard to appear kind to religion. However, I sincerely hope that they will restore efforts toward social justice and restore much of the scientific integrity that we've lost under Bush.

Finally, this story just out in the Contra Costa Times describes a group of seniors living in a gated senior community who banded together to form the Rossmoor Atheist and Agnostic Club.
"Many of our members are perfectly happy living their lives, but there are many closet atheists who are lonely and pretend to believe in something to make their families comfortable," said founder Richard Golden, 81. "In this retirement community, many people do not realize that next door may be someone just like them."
I add this as a small-scale example of what can be accomplished on the local level. The story also reminds me that the passion of youth is undoubtedly an asset, but there is something to be said for the wisdom of age.

Before I leave you to your own year-end reflections, I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year and encourage you to keep Sagan's candle of science and reason burning brightly in the darkness of superstition throughout 2007. Here's hoping we find even more diamonds.

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