March 31, 2012

Rock Beyond Belief

Rock Beyond Belief is happening today at Fort Bragg, NC. In addition to providing a strong counter-point to the Christian Rock the Fort concert, the group behind Rock Beyond Belief hopes to provide a positive message:
In the spirit of Richard Dawkins’ Out Campaign, we are embracing the fact that just by coming out and saying “we are non-theists, and also we are your firefighters, your military members, and your neighbors and friends” that we help to shed the negative connotations and debunk the myths associated with being a non-believer.
You can learn more about the purpose of the event here. It sounds like a great idea to me, and I hope we see more events like this.

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March 29, 2012

Mockery Could Be Valuable Even If It Entrenches Belief

ridiculeSuppose that ridicule and mockery could be shown to make some religious fundamentalists more entrenched in their beliefs. Would that mean that it should be avoided by those of us in the reality-based community? Not necessarily. It depends what one's goal is in ridiculing and mocking the beliefs. It might also depend on whether the religious beliefs in question are public or private.

March 28, 2012

Disagreement is Valuable, But We Can Do Without the Lying

LyingPeople are going to have differences of opinion, and there is nothing wrong with that. Whether we are talking about someone's preferred religion, political candidate, or policy question, we all recognize that others will have different opinions. Most of us are even capable of respecting well-reasoned opinions with which we disagree. What I will not respect, however, are those who support their opinions with lies and willful distortions of the facts. Maybe it is because we are in an election year in the U.S., but I am growing increasingly impatient with the scope of the lying in the political arena. I'm also seeing many alarming parallels with religious apologetics.

March 27, 2012

Doing Something New for Atheism

Atheist SymbolThe Reason Rally may be over, but I have a feeling that the "spirit" of the event is going to live on among those who were there and those of us who they inspire. Could there possibly be a better reason to hold events like this?

Greta Christina was clearly inspired by what she experienced at the Reason Rally, and she's come up with a simple but powerful suggestion for every one of us, whether we were able to attend the rally or not. To those who attended the rally, she says:
If you came to the Reason Rally, and you do just one thing for atheism that you haven’t done before? If you tell one person that you’re an atheist? If you start wearing atheist T-shirts? If you start crossing “In God We Trust” off your money? If you start hanging out with your local atheist group? If you organize one event with the local atheist group you already hang out with? If you donate money to one atheist organization? If you run for public office as an out atheist? If you start re-tweeting things about atheism?

If you do just one thing for atheism that you haven’t done before… this movement will be radically changed.

March 25, 2012

Christ Followers: Knowing Christ

Cross followIt has become increasingly popular for some Christians to refer to themselves as "Christ followers" instead of Christians. For some, this reflects displeasure with organized religion (i.e., religious hierarchy, church, clergy, etc). For others, it is about emphasizing their "personal relationship with Jesus" above all else. In this post, I'll take a look at these "Christ followers" and examine the three paths through which they claim to know this Christ figure.

March 24, 2012

Reason Rally Today

Reason Rally

Are there valid reasons not to attend the Reason Rally today? Certainly. Attending was not a realistic option for me this year, but I support the cause and I hope that those attending have a blast and come away with a renewed sense of purpose and passion for the atheist movement.

Is it reasonable to complain about some of the speakers selected and how not all of them are paragons of reasons? Sure. But when was the last time you attended a large event where you were enthusiastic about every single speaker? I've never had the experience.

Would I have preferred an atheist rally to a reason rally? Definitely. Maybe that can be the next one. And I wouldn't have been able to go this year anyway so there wouldn't be much sense in complaining about it.

None of the various complaints need to detract from the Reason Rally. Those in attendance today are participating in an important historic event. They can have a great time even if they don't care for every single speaker. Those of us who can't go or who are less than thrilled with some aspect of this event can hope for something slightly different next time (or even do something to make it happen).

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March 23, 2012

Profile of David Silverman

David SilvermanAhead of tomorrow's Reason Rally, Dan Merica has an interesting profile of American Atheists' president David Silverman on CNN's Belief Blog. It sounds to me like he's a great guy to have at the helm of American Atheists.

And speaking of the Reason Rally, I hope those of you who will be attending it have a safe trip and loads of fun in D.C. You are going to be part of something historic, so make us all look good.

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Measuring the Success of the Atheist Movement

religion is fiction

Before my brief hiatus away from blogging, I posed the following question:
How do we measure success with regard to the atheist movement (i.e., on what basis should we evaluate our progress or lack thereof when it comes to our shared goals)?
Lets take a look at how you responded.

March 22, 2012

Dawkins as 'Most Respected Figure in Atheism'

I was just looking through some articles about the Reason Rally because I was curious to see what the corporate-owned media was saying about it. Dan Merica's article at CNN's Belief Blog caught my eye because of the title, "Atheist rally billed as 'coming out' moment for nonbelievers." I was curious what you thought about the following claim from Merica's post:
[Richard] Dawkins, who is widely regarded as the most respected figure in atheism, is lending his voice to this event because he says freedom for atheists is “constantly under threat from people who would like to turn this country into some sort of a theocracy.”
In all honesty, my initial reaction was that if Dawkins is really the most respected figure in atheism, we might be in trouble. I respect him for his scholarship in biology, and I have enjoyed the few of his books I've read. And while I think it is great that he'll be at the Reason Rally, I suppose it surprised me to think of him as the most respected figure in the atheist movement. Then again, I'm not sure who would be.

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March 21, 2012

I Live in a Bubble

I live in a bubble. It is a bubble of my own making, and I find it quite comfortable. I read books on atheism, skepticism, and political perspectives with which I mostly agree. When I'm not writing about scientific matters for my job, I'm writing about atheism and related topics here. I get my news from a few different sources but none of them are blatantly biased in a conservative direction; some are certainly biased in a liberal direction. Even the few TV shows I watch purely for entertainment seem more likely to adopt a skeptical view of things than a religious view.

March 19, 2012

Santorum's Win in Mississippi

SantorumNot much happened while I was away that I feel any need to catch up on, but I did want to mention one thing. The state of Mississippi held their primary, and Republican voters went for Santorum. I can't imagine this came as a surprise to anyone (except maybe Gingrich). Santorum's brand of Christian extremism plays well here, especially his religiously-motivated bigotry. But there was one aspect of his win that I found somewhat interesting.

March 18, 2012

Has the Atheist Movement Been Chasing a Red Herring?

Religion toolAre the culture wars raging in the U.S. really about religion, or are we facing a much larger problem in which religion is simply one more tool used by the powerful to control the masses? How we answer this question is of vital importance to the atheist movement, at least the part of it based in the U.S. For the most part, I think it is fair to say that we have been operating as if it is really about religion. That is, most of our efforts seem to fit the perspective that religion is of central importance in the culture wars. But what if we're wrong?

March 11, 2012

How Should We Measure the Success of the Atheist Movement?

MeasureI need a mental health break, some time away from thinking about anything related to the bigotry and discrimination atheists face in the modern U.S. I've got some other tasks that require my full attention and cannot be postponed any longer. Thus, things may be a bit quiet around here for the next week or so.

The question I'd like to leave you with is this:
How do we measure success with regard to the atheist movement? That is, on what basis should we evaluate our progress or lack thereof when it comes to the goals most of us share?
I suppose another way to ask this question would be to imagine that we are ten years into the future and looking back on our progress. What needs to look different in order to us to consider our efforts a success?

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Ronald Reagan on Separation of Church and State

We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.
- Ronald Reagan, Speech to Temple Hillel and Community Leaders in Valley Stream (October 26, 1984)

H/T to Butterflies & Wheels

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March 10, 2012

Harold Camping Thinks His Botched Predictions Were Beneficial

harold campingRemember radio preacher, Harold Camping? He predicted the rapture would happen on May 21, 2011, and that the world would end on October 21 of the same year. Many of his followers trusted him and gave away their possessions, quit their jobs, and the like. When May 21 passed without incident, Camping went back on the air and insisted that the end of the world was coming on October 21. He simply omitted the first half of his prediction (i.e., when the rapture would begin) and doubled down on the second. When October 21 also passed without incident, Camping simply disappeared. But he's back now and finally ready to admit that he was wrong - sort of.

March 9, 2012

Pat Robertson Supports Legalizing Marijuana

pat robertsonPat Robertson is many things, and most of them are not what I'd consider positive. Not only is he a real Christian, but he's a highly influential leader among evangelical fundamentalist Christians. No matter what he has said, his followers have not deserted him. Not when he claims to receive warnings about terrorist attacks from his god, not when he compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, not when he told a Christian caller that she had to dump her atheist boyfriend, and not when he blamed the Haitian people for the earthquake that destroyed their homes. Even though Robertson received some complaints after he suggested that a man should divorce his wife because she was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, his followers stayed with him. But he may have finally gone too far.

Atheism: A Relationship With Reality

RealityI do not have a list of silly things evangelical Christians say. But if I did, I am fairly confident that the thing about having a "personal relationship" with Jesus would be near the top. I have addressed this claim before, and I will not repeat myself here except to point out that I would far rather have a relationship with reality than one with a fictional or long dead man.

No Forbidden Questions recently tackled this absurd claim, concluding:
John Hinckley, Jr. had more of a relationship with Jodie Foster than any Christian has with Jesus Christ.

March 8, 2012

Translating Republican Talk About Religion

GOP Translator
Always Question Authority posted this gem. It translates "religious freedom" to the freedom to spread Christianity and "war on religion" to the conviction that our laws and culture should be based on one's interpretation of the Christian bible. That sounds about right.

March 7, 2012

Mormons: Still Believing in Things Shown to Be False

South park mormonsWe often say that all religions are equally absurd and that the only reason some seem more absurd is that we are less familiar with them. Islam will seem strange to someone living in a thoroughly Christian culture, and Christianity will seem odd to someone raised in a thoroughly Islamic culture. But one of the things most religions have going for them is the difficulty in disproving them. That is, most of the popular religions have survived in part because they do not base themselves on concepts that are extremely easy to disprove. However, there is an important exception in the case of the Mormon religion.

March 6, 2012

When Your Neighbor's House is Destroyed, Remind Them Your God Likes You Best

Storm cloudsYou won't find the line about their god working in mysterious ways in the Christian bible, but it seems to be a favorite of many Christians. Whenever they are confronted with something they cannot explain - usually an inconsistency between their "holy" book or some aspect of their faith and reality, we hear about how their god works in mysterious ways. We also hear about how whatever happens - no matter how bad it may seem to us - is part of their god's plan.

March 5, 2012

Criticism: Dishing It Out and Taking It

CriticismYou've probably heard what is sometimes referred to as Republican's 11th commandment (i.e., a Republican should not speak ill of a fellow Republican). I've seen a similar sentiment here in the atheist movement. We should not waste valuable time and resources criticizing one another and should instead direct our criticism at the religious. I don't buy it. Criticism, especially when it is genuinely constructive, can be an extremely valuable commodity that we should welcome. We learn from it, we improve as a result of it, and we would likely make far more serious mistakes without it.

March 3, 2012

A Thousand Years

Praying HandsThere have been so many scientific and technological advances during the last 1,000 years that even listing them would be a massive undertaking. One can scarcely imagine what the life of an average human (one who hasn't been raptured) will look like 1,000 years from now, except that the peak of today's science and technology will undoubtedly appear quite primitive. And yet, our modern science and the technology it has made possible could be 1,000 years ahead of where it is now if not for the aptly named Dark Ages.

March 1, 2012

Problem With Comments

As you may have noticed, comments are down. I've notified Intense Debate's support and am just waiting for a response. I hope they can fix it soon.

I know it is frustrating, so thanks for being patient.