July 31, 2013

A Skeptic is Open Minded

Skeptic (U.S. magazine)
Skeptic (U.S. magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This post is another in the ongoing series on skepticism. You can find the introductory post here and the previous post in the series, A Skeptic Embraces the Inevitability of Being Wrong, here.

A Skeptic is Open Minded

Skeptics are often depicted as being close minded, incredibly stubborn, and even somewhat hostile to novel information. This may be accurate for some individual skeptics (e.g., those who are extremely cynical), but it does not appear to be accurate for most. In fact, skeptics tend to be open minded.

The depiction of skeptics as close minded is based, at least in part, on a lack of understanding of skepticism among the general public. Some people seem to think that there is nothing to skepticism besides shooting down others' claims. It is also likely that this negative picture of skeptics is fueled by those who benefit from a lack of skepticism. Unfortunately, there are plenty who do in fact benefit from human gullibility, bias, and the lack of critical thinking.

Why does the depiction of skeptics as close minded fall apart on examination? A close minded approach would be difficult to reconcile with skepticism because it would mean that the skeptic was dooming himself or herself to incomplete data. The skeptic seeks evidence for the purpose of critically evaluating claims. By adopting a close minded stance, the skeptic would be depriving himself or herself of evidence.

July 30, 2013

The Catholic-Protestant Alliance and the Future of Christian Extremism

Äbtissin Adelheid II. von Büren
Äbtissin Adelheid II. von Büren (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was not that long ago that one could find a fair bit of animosity between Catholics and some Protestant denominations, especially the Southern Baptists. I still see some evidence of this divide here in the South, but this is rapidly changing, according to Fredrick Clarkson (Political Research Associates), as Christian extremists are coming together to fight their common enemy (i.e., secularism).

Clarkson notes that the Christian Right is rallying around opposition to reproductive rights for women, opposition to marriage equality, and a defense of what they describe as "religious liberty." Evidently these common points of agreement have been enough to pull many Catholics and Protestants together.

Clarkson points out that while the Christian Right has experienced many setbacks lately, it would be a mistake to count them out or underestimate their continued influence.
Given the Christian Right’s recent defeats in the realm of marriage equality, it might seem that its power is diminishing and that the so-called culture wars are receding. But “We Stand in Solidarity” is one of many indications that its resolve has deepened rather than dissipated in the face of recent political setbacks. This dynamic, multifaceted movement—one of the most powerful in U.S. history—aims to become a renewed, vigorous force in American public life, and it continues to evolve even while maintaining its views on core issues.

July 29, 2013

Citations Please!

citation needed
citation needed (Photo credit: Dan4th)
You run across someone on Twitter or Facebook who is making claims you know to be false or misleading. While you are aware that these claims are false, it is unlikely that this is common knowledge. That is, there will almost certainly be people who come across these claims and accept them as valid without giving it any thought. But you know better, and so you calmly and respectfully expose the inaccuracy in a gentle and non-confrontational manner. The party making the claims argues with you, revealing himself or herself to be even more poorly informed than you initially thought. And out of nowhere, he or she hits you with the commonly heard demand: "Citations please!"

If you are anything like me, you pause for a moment upon hearing this. Something like the following runs through your mind:
Does this individual truly expect me to provide them with a list of scholarly references to show them that they are mistaken? With some effort, I could do so. But how much time and effort do I really want to expend attempting to show this person that he or she is wrong? For all I know, this is not even a serious request and would be nothing more than a waste of my time.
I have fallen for this on a couple of occasions, taking the time to do research and provide the requested citations, only to have the person refuse to even acknowledge that I've done so. I am not terribly inclined to do so now unless I truly believe that the party in question genuinely wants to learn something rather than just argue. And I must say, this genuine desire to learn is not something I see very often from others I encounter on social media. There are certainly exceptions, but most of the time continued argument appears to be the goal. And that seems like a waste of time.

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

July 28, 2013

How Religious Indoctrination Enables Clergy Abuse

Monseigneur Rauber, Cardinal Danneels, Monseig...
Monseigneur Rauber, Cardinal Danneels, Monseigneur Vangheluwe and his sucessor Monseigneur Jozef De Kesel, both bishop of Bruges. Mgr. Vangheluwe is old-Bishop of Bruges, and was succeeded by Mgr. De Kesel after a case of child-abuse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This will be a short post because I really just want to highlight something I read at Bitchspot, which I think is important. Cephus (Bitchspot) has been writing a weekly series of "Horror Show Sunday" posts in which he focuses on some of the worst religion has to offer. In today's installment, Horror Show Sunday: Take Those Little Girls Home, he tells us about Nigerian pastor Fidelis Eze and how he has admitted taking two 11 year-old girls home and having sex with them. Pastor Eze first claimed that the 11 year-olds consented to sex. When police did not buy that, he claimed he was possessed by evil spirits.

The part I want to highlight is what Cephus had to say to those who complain that it is unfair for him to pick on clergy. As someone who addressed clergy abuse, I've certainly received this same complaint. It usually goes something like this: "People in many professions abuse children, so why do you focus on clergy as if it is somehow worse when they do it?" Well, because it is worse when they do it.

July 27, 2013

A Window of Opportunity for Atheists

English: 1. Believers 2. Religion 3. Atheists ...
English: 1. Believers 2. Religion 3. Atheists 4. Science (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I see an article like this one, Why millennials are leaving the church, on CNN's Belief Blog, I find myself thinking that we atheists need to make ourselves more visible. This article, like so many others, attempts to communicate to Christian evangelical leaders why youth are leaving their churches. And like so many others, the author suggests that many evangelical leaders are not listening.

What she's asking for, as a Christian, are some significant changes to the priorities of her clergy (e.g., an end to the culture wars, the obsession with sex, the demonization of LGBT individuals). She suggests that youth are leaving, in part, because "young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

July 26, 2013

In This House, We Go to Church

Church building and fence
[Church building and fence] (Photo credit: SMU Central University Libraries)
I made it quite clear to my family beginning around the age of 13 that I was not interested in attending church. It would take a few more years before I would finally be allowed to stop going. In the meantime, I was told, "In this house, we go to church." It didn't seem to matter that I could tell my father did not enjoy it much either. The matter was not open for discussion. In fact, the subject of why I had to attend church was one of the few times I can remember receiving the classic "because I said so" response from both parents. Looking back on it, I realize that they did not have any sound reason and they likely knew it.

I believe now - much as I did then - that it is wrong for a parent to drag a child to church or subject a child to religious indoctrination against the expressed wishes of the child. That is, if the child clearly expresses to his or her family that he or she is not interested in attending church or participating in religious indoctrination, the family should not insist on it anyway.

July 25, 2013

Criticizing Prominent Christians and Atheists

Foot in Mouth Disease
Foot in Mouth Disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When a prominent Christian says something stupid, we atheists are all over it. We post YouTube clips on our blogs, we share screen captures of the Christian's Twitter feed, and we quote the Christian's words. Here's a great example of all three in one post dealing with Pastor Mark Driscoll. See what Hemant does here? He shares a video, quotes Driscoll, and provides a screen capture of a Twitter conversation. Perfect! Assuming that you agree with me that it is acceptable for Hemant to do this, here's my question for you: why is it okay for Hemant (and the rest of us) to do this?

I'd like to suggest here that the reason this is okay, and I do believe it is okay, is not simply because Pastor Driscoll is a Christian. That might make covering him more relevant for some, but it is not why we regard it as acceptable to write a post like Hemant's focusing on him. Instead, I think the reason we find this acceptable boils down to three facts about Driscoll:
  1. Driscoll is a public figure.
  2. Driscoll has elevated status within a community.
  3. Driscoll is using public media.

July 24, 2013

How to Learn More About Critical Thinking

Thinking at Hell's gate
After writing about critical thinking recently, I received an outstanding question: how exactly might an adult who never had the opportunity for any sort of formal training in critical thinking during school learn about it now? It is never too late to learn, and few things are more important to learn than critical thinking.


There are countless books on critical thinking available, and it is not always easy to find one that will be useful. Two good general ones that are often used as textbooks in introductory courses include:

July 23, 2013

Atheist Bookstores

Business (Photo credits: www.roadtrafficsigns.com)
I was listening to NPR on the way to work (or maybe it was the way home) the other day, and I heard a story about how Christian bookstores are doing very well across the U.S. What made this noteworthy was that bookstores as a whole are not doing well at all. While sales at bookstores are in decline, sales at Christian bookstores are on the rise. If I remember the number correctly, they saw something like a 9% increase in sales over the last year.

The point of the story was that Christian bookstores have done two things to set themselves apart from other bookstores. First they have done a much better and more deliberate job of diversifying. Walk into a Christian bookstore today, and you will see that books often make up a small portion of what they sell. They typically offer a wide selection of Christian greeting cards, films, and gifts for every occasion. This diversification has served them well. Second, they have reached out to their local communities in such a way that has made them more appealing destinations. They hold bible study meetings and coordinate activities with local churches. By providing a meeting place for many groups, they benefit from increased customer traffic.

July 21, 2013

Moral Relativism, Religion, and the Political Left

Elusive Summer
Elusive Summer (Photo credit: CarbonNYC)
I find myself left of center on many political issues, but I cannot ignore the failings I have seen on the left. One of the big ones involves the manner in which moral relativism, political correctness, and a willingness to tolerate the intolerable under the guise of diversity and multiculturalism have combined to create a reality-free zone in which we pretend that religious belief warrants respect and we ignore many of the atrocities committed in the name of religion.

I value diversity and multiculturalism. I also share the reluctance of many on the left to impose my values on others, especially others with a very different background. There is something about one cultural group pushing its values on another that reminds me of some of missionary efforts in which European Christians set out to convert various "primitive" cultures.

And yet, I am not inclined to accept the claim that all moral values are equal. Some values really do seem to be better than others. Moreover, I believe that tolerance has limits. There are circumstances in which tolerance leads us to ignore real harm, and we pay a price for doing so. Telling ourselves that we only oppose female genital mutilation because we live in the West does not make the practice any less barbaric, and it does not ease the pain suffered by the victims. "Well, I don't want to impose my values on others" may be a noble sentiment in some cases, but it fails miserably as a general rule.

July 20, 2013

The Saturday Post

Saturnus, Caravaggio, 16th c.
Saturnus, Caravaggio, 16th c. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The atheist blogosphere always seems quiet on Saturdays. I suspect this is mostly due to Saturday being a day when many atheist bloggers are occupied elsewhere. It may also be due to the considerable drop in blog traffic that seems to happen every Saturday. Our audience also has other things to do. Like many others, I do not usually bother to post on Saturdays. Even if I already have something written, I rarely post it on a Saturday. With the drop in audience posting on Saturday seems like a waste.

I have periodically considered doing something different on Saturdays (e.g., writing a weekly series about an entirely different subject). But then I stop and remember all the crap I hear (mostly from people on Facebook) every time I write about anything other than atheism. And I have to wonder why somebody interested in whatever other subject I might address would come to an atheist blog to read about it. If I was truly interested in writing about another topic, it seems like starting a new blog to do so might make more sense.

In the meantime, I think I will continue to do what I suspect most of you do on Saturdays and spend less time online. That would be better for me anyway.

July 18, 2013

Critical Thinking

Student (Photo credit: Anarkee)
Most of the formal teaching I do these days involves graduate students or undergraduates at the junior and senior levels. But this was not always the case. I used to teach the introductory courses aimed at freshman, courses that might have over 300 students per section. There is not much about these courses that I miss, but one of the things I do miss on occasion is that I was often in the position of giving students their first exposure to critical thinking.

The introduction to critical thinking typically started with posing the question of how we know what we think we know (i.e., what are the bases for what we believe?). I would briefly explain the four primary sources of knowledge humans have used over the ages:
  1. Tradition
  2. Authority
  3. Intuition
  4. Reason and Science

July 17, 2013

Organized Religion Does Accomplish Some Good

ColumbineI try not let a summer pass by without reading at least one book for fun. I just finished Dave Cullen's Columbine, and I must say that it was one of those rare examples of a book I couldn't seem to put down. After planning to read a few pages before bed, I would find myself staying up a couple hours later than usual to keep reading. For those of you unfamiliar with the Columbine tragedy, two high school students killed 12 students and a teacher and injured another 24 students during a thoroughly planned terrorist-style assault on their school in 1999. The gap between what we were told by the media at the time and what the author uncovered through six years of research was astounding. The contrast is yet another reminder of why we should be extremely skeptical of the initial media reports on nearly any tragedy.

I may revisit the subject of everyone assuming that the attackers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, had to be atheists (or Satanists) in a future post, although this was not unique to Columbine. We see the same thing happen in almost every violent crime where the perpetrator is not Muslim. We hear the constant whines abut how "real Christians" would never do something so evil and that secularism was responsible for the tragic circumstances. We know it this is bullshit. I may also revisit how some evangelical Christians seemed to view the tragedy as an excuse to prey on the vulnerable, peddling their salvation myth and attempting to blame Satan. But these things are not what I want to address now. Instead, I want to note the valuable function that several of the big churches in the Littleton area served in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

July 16, 2013

A Skeptic Embraces the Inevitability of Being Wrong

The Wrong Version
The Wrong Version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You can find the introduction to this series on skepticism here if you missed it.

A Skeptic Embraces the Inevitability of Being Wrong

It is often said that nobody enjoys being wrong; however, the awareness that one may be wrong is an important part of skepticism. Humans are fallible, and we may be wrong about anything, even those notions which we hold dear. The skeptic goes out of his or her way to remember this fundamental truth: I might be wrong.

The skeptic is not only aware of the possibility of being wrong; he or she embraces the inevitability of being wrong and uses it as a way to remain grounded, humble, and vigilant. Recognizing that we will be wrong helps us remain connected to the process of critical inquiry. We test ourselves and our assumptions. We look for errors in our thinking, expect to find them, and seek to correct them. Instead of feigning knowledge, we acknowledge the gaps and uncertainties.

July 15, 2013

Some Unpopular Thoughts on the Zimmerman Case

Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford
Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford (Photo credit: werthmedia)
There have not been many times during the life of this blog that I have wanted to write something and refrained from doing so because I knew it would anger many in my audience. It has happened a few times, but I usually manage to push through my hesitation because I'd rather be true to myself than cater to what others want to hear. This is one of those posts that I have been reluctant to write.

I have steered clear of Facebook and Twitter since the Zimmerman verdict dropped because I grew tired of all the hyperbole around it. The lead up to the trial was bad enough, with many of my fellow progressives falling all over themselves to label Zimmerman as guilty (and racist). Since the verdict, I realize that many of these same progressives are extremely disappointed that he was not convicted. I have no problem with them expressing this opinion. However, those determined to paint Trayvon as some sort of civil rights martyr quickly grew tiring.

It seems almost impossible for many people to look at both sides of a case like this and to identify with both the Martin family and Zimmerman. I do not find it particularly difficult to do both, and I'd like to give you an example of what it looks like.

Be Sure Your Elected Officials Hear From You On Issues That Matter

Immigration Reform Leaders Arrested 8
Immigration Reform Leaders Arrested 8 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I heard a portion of an interview with a Republican congressman from Alabama on NPR (it might have been Mississippi Public Broadcasting instead, as I joined it in progress) that was an excellent reminder of why we need to let our elected officials hear from us on issues we find important. This particular interview focused on immigration and how adamantly opposed this member of Congress was to any sort of comprehensive immigration reform. But this is not why I am posting - this post is not about immigration.

The interviewer asked the congressman about whether Republicans were worried about losing Latino votes if the party continued to oppose immigration reform. The congressman replied that he was not at all worried about this, adding that he will oppose any sort of reform until President Obama enforces existing immigration laws and those persons who have broken the law by entering the country illegally should be punished rather than being granted any sort of amnesty. While he did not use these words, it sounded as if he would almost certainly support mass deportation of some sort. The interviewer asked whether the congressman didn't think that people wanted a path to citizenship. The congressman's reply was fascinating and brings me to the reason for writing this post.

July 14, 2013

If the Christian God is Real...

If it turns out that I am wrong and that there is a God, and it is the Judeo-Christian God more preoccupied with belief than behavior, then I’d rather not spend eternity with him and would joyfully go to the other place where I suspect most of my family, friends, and colleagues will be, since we share most of the same principled values.
- Michael Shermer, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

I feel the same way. The degree to which evangelical fundamentalist Christians are preoccupied with what one believes (e.g., has one accepted Jesus into his or her heart?) rather than how one behaves has always struck me as a strange sort of morality. If this is really what their god wants from them, it does not seem worthy of any sort of worship.

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

July 12, 2013

One of the Many Reasons Christian Evangelism Fails

Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Evangelical fundamentalist Christians want you to accept Jesus as your "savior" and have a "personal relationship" with him. Never you mind that he's been dead for over 2,000 years (if he existed at all). It is vital that you have a relationship with him. If you fail to do so, you will burn in hell forever. This is what they want you to believe, and they are not shy about telling you all about it.

Staks (Dangerous Talk) recently posted about a common question atheists hear from evangelical Christians:
Is there anything that would tempt you or convince you to believe in God?
I have always liked this question because it reminds me just how little evangelical Christians seem to know about belief. Is there anything that would tempt me to believe? Absolutely! When an evangelical Christian offers me $250,000 or more to believe, I will be extremely tempted.

The problem for the evangelist, however, is that I have no idea how to make myself believe something that I do not believe. Belief is not like a light switch that can be turned on or off at will. I can't simply take the money and suddenly start believing. I could certainly pretend to believe, but that would be about the best I could do. Atheism is not something I have chosen for myself on a whim. In fact, it is not something I have chosen for myself at all. I'm nowhere near that much of a masochist. I live in Mississippi. If there was any way I could believe this Jesus stuff like I did as a child, you better believe I would already have done so!

If the evangelist wants to ask what sort of evidence I might accept of the existence of various supernatural entities, that is one thing. But asking whether anything would tempt me to believe reflects a serious lack of understanding about how belief works. Is there anything that would tempt the evangelist to suddenly renounce his or her faith? Of course not! Belief doesn't work like that.

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

July 11, 2013

Why I Am Sometimes Viewed as Neutral on 'The Great Rift'

Hell's Half Acre rift - IdahoWhen it comes to "the great rift" currently plaguing the atheist community, I am not neutral. I do not recall ever claiming to be neutral, but this has not stopped some from criticizing me. Interestingly, I have been criticized both for actually being neutral and for feigning neutrality. I say again, I am not neutral on this subject, have not been neutral on this subject, and have no desire for anyone to think otherwise.

I believe that there are three important reasons why some have mistaken my position for one of neutrality, and I'd like to highlight them here. I hope that doing so will allow me to clarify my position and why I think it seems to be misunderstood or misrepresented so regularly.

I Recognize That There Are More Than Two Sides In "The Great Rift"

The first reason my position is misrepresented is that my understanding of "the great rift" seems to be a bit different from what I am hearing from many people. You see, I reject the perspective that this rift represents an open conflict between two well-defined sides (i.e., the Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ side vs. the Slymepit side). I understand the appeal of simplifying this by pretending that there are only two sides and that these are those sides. It is very difficult to talk about a conflict involving more than two sides, and simplification is damned tempting. Unfortunately, this is a case where simplifying things to two sides does not reflect reality.

July 10, 2013

Catholics Show Willful Blindness to Clergy Abuse

St. Peter's Basilica at Early Morning
St. Peter's Basilica at Early Morning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I find myself unable to stop thinking about what is merely the latest of a long list of Catholic scandals involving child rape and attempts by the Church to conceal it, actions which often enable the perpetrators to continue violating children. One one side of the conflict, you have an immensely powerful organization with over 1 billion adherents around the world and wealth too massive to comprehend. On the other side, you have innocent children, many of whom are vulnerable due to stature, poverty, disability, or the trust faith generates on the part of their families. I suppose it is no wonder that this is not exactly a fair fight.

Sexual assault, particularly the forcible rape and molestation of prepubescent children, is considered by many to be one of the worst offenses imaginable. Ask most people what sort of crime bothers them the most, and sexual perpetration against children inevitably rises to the top. Survey the general public about under what circumstances they might consider indefinite incarceration or even the death penalty, and child rape will be mentioned. For good reason, we consider this to be one of the most despicable things someone can do.

July 9, 2013

A Rational Skeptic's Manifesto

English: There are no symbols that represent s...
There are no symbols that represent skepticism. This is one symbol that can be used to represent skepticism, skeptical inquiry, critical thinking, critical inquiry, and truth-seeking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am writing this with the hope that it will be the first in a series of posts I'd like to write on the important subject of skepticism. What I want to do in this series is try to articulate my approach to skepticism. I will not be content merely to give a definition of skepticism or to consider it in some abstract way; I want to show how I try to apply skepticism in my life. I'd like to do this because I am recognizing that skepticism is far more important in making me who I am than atheism has ever been. It is not just that skepticism was my path to atheism; it is that even today I feel like skepticism separates me from some of the other atheists I have encountered online and in real life.

I recognize that this is going to be challenging for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I have to decide on the tone the series will take. You see, I am torn between adopting a descriptive tone (i.e., merely describing my position without advocating anything for anyone else) vs. a more prescriptive tone in which I do advocate aspects of skepticism for others to consider. You can see my ambivalence in the title where "rational" is juxtaposed with "manifesto" - two terms that one rarely expects to see together.

Since I'm not sure I can do both simultaneously and manage to produce anything readable, I'm opting to err on the side of a prescriptive tone. I think "manifesto" sounds kind of catchy, and I know I'd rather read something written with conviction instead of disclaimers. With this in mind, I will suggest that there are certain things we probably should be able to expect from someone who is operating as a skeptic.

July 7, 2013

Tired of Jesus

Jesus tattoo
Photo by Shannon Archuleta
Dear Christians,

Have you ever had the experience of getting so incredibly tired of hearing about something you weren't interested in that it made you want to scream? Maybe it is that annoying co-worker who keeps telling you how you are missing out by not watching a TV show he or she likes. As if you don't have anything better to do with your time! Maybe it is that awful song from a children's cartoon that one of your kids has stuck in his or her head and keeps repeating. It was cute at first, but now you just want it to stop. Or maybe it is one of those trivially stupid Internet memes you just wish would go away. You know, the kind of thing that was mildly funny the first 20 times you saw it but lost its appeal long ago. The point is, you have had this experience. I know you have. I think we all have.

So here's the thing…this is how many non-Christians feel about Jesus. We don't hate him or anything. Some of us aren't sure he existed at all, some of us admire certain aspects of his message without considering him worthy of worship, and some of us find him largely irrelevant to our lives.

We don't hate you for thinking he's the greatest thing ever. We understand that he is the central figure in your religion. We are just incredibly tired of hearing about him.

July 6, 2013

A Skeptic's Library

The Demon-Haunted WorldI was asked recently if I would be willing to recommend some of the books I've read on skepticism that I considered particularly helpful. In no particular order (except for the first one, which should be considered essential), here are some of the books I have enjoyed on skepticism and closely related subjects:
Pulling the list together has made me want to re-read a few of these and kick myself for giving some of them away. Too many great books and not enough time to enjoy them!

July 4, 2013

Is There a Strain of Anti-Intellectualism Among Atheists?

Tim Notari
I think there may be something brewing around the edges of the atheist community that is too subtle to be characterized as conflict, drama, rift, or anything quite so disruptive. I don't have any colorful name for it, and I'm not completely sure I am even right about its presence. I could just be imagining things. But if I am right, I think it has the potential to turn into something ugly down the road. I have skirted the subject a number of times when I addressed power, hierarchy, credibility, and expertise. I'm jumping in now.

I have seen more than a few atheists whose writing (e.g., comments left on others' blogs, Facebook, Twitter) suggests that they are harboring resentment toward persons with advanced education, rejecting skepticism, and even holding many of the same attitudes we describe as anti-intellectualism when referring to religious believers. While some of the comments I've seen are fairly explicit and require little in the way of inference, many are more subtle. Perhaps I am misinterpreting what I am seeing and it is something other than anti-intellectualism. If so, I trust my readers will help to set me straight.

Trying Bloglovin'

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

You can ignore this one. I have been encouraged to check out a new replacement for Google Reader called Bloglovin', and posting the link above is a requirement for claiming a blog there. Silly, I know. After I have had a chance to use the service for awhile, I'll share my impressions.

July 3, 2013

Using Inflammatory Words Incorrectly Can Cause Harm

Harassment City
Harassment City (Photo credit: Olivander)
Words matter. Some words are highly inflammatory, virtually guaranteeing that the person using them will receive attention for doing so. But the meanings of words matter too, and if someone uses inflammatory words incorrectly over-and-over again, a few unfortunate things tend to happen:
  • The audience has an increasingly difficult time deciphering the speaker's message,
  • Reasonable discourse becomes less likely,
  • The speaker's credibility erodes, and
  • The words may gradually begin to lose some of their impact.
To the extent that we value clear and effective communication, rational discourse, and the speaker's reputation or standing in our community, we have an interest in preventing the first three outcomes. Additionally, I'd argue that we all have an interest in preventing the fourth outcome because of the damage it can do to our shared interests.

July 2, 2013

Should Atheists Ever Support Religious Icons on Public Property?

Ten Commandments monument
Bradford County Courthouse, FL • free2think.org

This is an unsolicited guest post by BG on the important subject of the recent dedication of the first atheist monument on public property.

The answer is no.

On June 29, there was a dedication ceremony for the first atheist monument on public property. First, some background will be given on what led up to this event and then a brief discussion will be provided on American Atheists' president Dave Silverman's declaration that he would support other religious minorities should they choose to erect a religious monument.

In May of last year, it was discovered that there was a Ten Commandments (10C) monument on the Bradford County courthouse courtyard in Starke, FL. A protest was organized, and several Floridians from all over the state protested against this structure because they felt it violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. When the protest did not result in the removal of the Decalogue, American Atheists (AA) sued to have it removed. After mediation, there was a settlement that resulted in the 10C monument remaining on public property as well as the allowance of an AA display.