an atheist’s grace

One of my pet peeves is when people are rescued from a horrible death, and babble about miracles and thank their god instead of thanking the brave passers-by or first responders who actually pulled their sorry ass out of whatever it was trapped in, or when they dismiss their rescuer’s involvement with “god must have sent him.”  And now that I think of it, this applies to the saying of grace as well – a lot of giving credit where none is due, while making dismissive mention at best of the actual people who provided and prepared the meal.  Which is why I love this story very, very much:

Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington College, was presented with a dilemma when he hosted a debate between Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, and Charles Moore, who proposed the motion “Atheism is the new fundamentalism”, against Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling. Once the atheists had won by a generous margin of 1,070 to 363, the question of whether to start the dinner that followed with prayer arose.

In the event, Seldon asked both sides to kick off the meal in their chosen fashion. Lord Harries’s grace finished, in conventional manner, with a “thanks be to God”.

“I then asked the atheists to say a grace,” says Seldon, “and Richard Dawkins took up the challenge. ‘For what we are about to receive,’ he said, ‘thanks be to the cook’.” – source

rAmen.

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probing genesis for science

The introduction to this opinion piece (it’s not in the opinion section, per se, but it’s certainly not journalism) in the Washington Post states: “Andrew Parker is a respected evolutionary biologist, a professor at the Natural History Museum in London and a honorary fellow at Oxford University.” Sounds promising, right?

Although science is sound, does it have its limits beyond which we enter a realm that does not conform to mathematical formulae? Science cannot tell us whether something inexplicable — God — exists or not. Atheists’ claims cannot be substantiated — indeed, they are unscientific because atheism becomes as much a faith (in no God) as religion is itself. It carries a bias, and science does not.

*ahem* ATHEISM IS NOT A FAITH IN NO GOD. IT IS AN ABSENCE OF FAITH IN A GOD OR GODS.

Glad we could clear this up.

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an odd reaction to tragedy

Sue Lani Madsen, a reader-blogger on SeattlePI.com, learned of the tragic and brutal killings of four local police officers as she arrived at church for Sunday services, when she reached down to turn off her phone and saw an email. And what, you might wonder, was the first thing this lovely Christian blogger thought?

It’s horrible news. I pictured the atheists who commented on my last blog ready to jump on this, delighted to ask how a loving God can allow such evil. They’d be asking the wrong question.

Yes of course. I immediately think of how I’m going to argue with people who disagree with me about religion when I hear four police officers have been murdered their killer is on the loose somewhere in the greater metropolitan area. Absolutely my first reaction. Yep.

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the dangers of subscribing to a google search for “atheists or atheism”

I knew when I started this atheism-themed blog I’d need good sources of current commentary to respond to, knowing full well that opening up my feed reader to things that would make me all splodey-headed. I’m comforted that this is just a random opinion-having guy posting to a local news site whose visitors also like to shop at Big Lots and play the lottery, and also disturbed by that same set of circumstances.

Mr. Tony L. Woods opens with this observation about “his atheist friends” (whom i suspect are of the imaginary variety):

I find it incredibly interesting that my atheist friends’ billboard along Memorial Boulevard has a background of beautiful blue skies and soft white clouds.

The Bible says in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

The very skies that they use for their backdrop give acknowledgment to the existence of a God they say don’t believe in.

So Mr. Woods feels that atheists have no business using the sky. Hopefully he is not too offended about his “atheist friends” having the temerity to exist under the very sky that is supposed to glorify his god. Astronomers probably drive him batshit though. (more…)

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is atheism fulfilling?

“Is atheism fulfilling,” asked the original poster, continuing, “Curious to hear explanations of it being fulfilling.” What follows is an interesting (and relatively uncontentious) discussion, still going on over in the Amazon.com forums. In the first few pages of this (so far) 247-response thread, it should be noted that all of the original author’s posts were marked “Customers don’t think this post adds to the discussion.” while the posts from happy, content, fulfilled atheists were almost unanimously voted helpful. It was like wandering into a world where rational thought prevailed and snarky questions from theists were tolerated and responded to, even though they had no particular intellectual merits. It was kinda wonderful, actually. My favorite comment was this one:

Consider religion/philosophy as a food source, food for the mind, if you will.

A religious person exists on a specialized diet, utilizing a primary food source almost exclusively. While an atheist need not follow a specific diet, and can forrage for a wider range of foods to eat. But there is a trade off, an atheist has to work at this, they have to search for answers, where as a religious person can accept the answers handed to them by their doctrine.

A religious person most often practices the religion that is practiced by their families or in their community, however each person is different, and a particular religion may not sufficiently meet your needs. But as long as you stick to it, you have limited options. Again, an atheist is not limited in this way, and can pick and choose from a variety of sources, adopting some while abandoning others.

I argue that it is the atheists access to a wider range of resources that promotes fulfillment. It is not that atheism offers fulfillment, but that it creates increased opportunities to find it. If you are a Christian, the struggle is for the world to make sense from a christian point of view. If you are an atheist, the struggle is to make sense of the world.

A wider range of possible answers increases the probability of finding the ones that offer a person fulfillment. It is often noted that the only thing all atheists have in common is that we don’t believe in god. This is becuase we have each found personally fulfillment in different ways. It is this freedom that I think answers your question, “why.” –source

Feed your head.

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moderate vs. militant

Amazing post on Hurtling Through Space, addressing the “all Christians are…” fallacy and arguing for moderation in the way atheists approach conflicts between religion and rationalism. It’s an amazing post and you should go read the entire thing, but the conclusion struck me as particularly relevant and important:

Yes, it’s awful that in the 21st century billions of the world’s population are still slaves to Bronze Age superstitions. But no, screeching like a banshee at your neighbour isn’t going to make them suddenly say, “You know what… you’ve been insulting everything I’ve ever valued for years now, but I see it now: you’re right!” Just because something may be provably wrong, it doesn’t mean that an otherwise intelligent person will see it that way — you’re staring in the face of cognitive dissonance .

So am I advocating appeasement? Certainly not. But a large number of worldwide scientific community do not consider themselves atheists. Are they to be excluded from scientific endeavour? Again, certainly not. The same is true of the average member of the public. Religions and superstitions may be laughable and ridiculous, but they kill thousands of people every day and are not to be underestimated in terms of their importance to the people that hold them. And some of those people may love you and be hurt deeply whenever, by inference, you call them imbeciles.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the solution is — or even if there is one, at least that doesn’t involve totalitarianism — but I am certain that the lumping of people like my great-uncle in the same basket as a religious terrorist is wrong. And yet I see it every day in the atheist blogs I read, and in the other atheistic and even new media I consume: the deliberate misrepresentation of members of a faith as if they’re all as bad as the worst public figure in that faith. It’s wrong and it has to stop.

And, in the same general way I both agreed and disagreed with Michael Shermer in my first real post on this blog, I both agree and disagree with this article as well. (more…)

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atheism & identity

In the Friendly Atheist’s latest post, Atheism Inherently Offends, he disagrees with Herb Silverman’s observation:

Saying you don’t believe in God is no more anti-Christian or anti-religious than saying you are black is anti-white, saying you are female is anti-male, or saying you are gay is anti-straight. In the words of that great philosopher, Popeye the Sailor Man: “I yam what I yam.”

Friendly Atheist’s response:

There is a fundamental difference between saying you are an atheist and saying you are black, white, female, male, gay, or straight. Those are all personal statements and don’t reflect on others.  Identity is pluralistic – there are as many identities as there are people, and none of them are “incorrect”.

Declaring myself an atheist states what I think is true in the world.  Unlike the other examples, the assertion is not simply a personal statement about identity.  It is a truth-claim about the objective facts of reality – and I am saying I think religious individuals are wrong about those facts.  That is anti-religious.

There is one reality and some of us are correct while others are incorrect.  It’s no longer merely a statement about myself – in essence I’m saying, “I don’t believe God exists and neither should you.”

I appreciate Friendly Atheist’s approach, but I see it a bit differently. First of all, while I may wish that everyone shared my skepticism, their beliefs are really none of my business, as long as they grant my atheism the same courtesy. When I tell someone I am an atheist, I tend to follow right up (perhaps a little defensively) by saying I respect the beliefs of others, as long as they’re not involved in trying to deny the rights of others or in any way force their way of thinking on people who disagree with them.

I agree that identifying as an atheist is different from identifying by race, gender, or orientation — atheism is a choice, the others aren’t. But atheism is still an important facet of one’s identity, in fact it is one of the primary identification questions asked on, for instance, medical forms. Views on the afterlife are taken into consideration in any situation in which a person might die, so that the appropriate provisions can be made. (more…)

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frighetning statistics

In Michael Shermer‘s opinion piece on CNN, he makes the case that evolution and religion can coexist peacefully. I’d love to agree with this, since it agrees with my general philosophy to avoid taking a militant stance whenever possible, and you just don’t see many eventual meetings-of-minds during a militant action — it becomes win/lose, and while winning does mean prevailing, it does nothing to stop the conflicts that existed in the first place. I’m idealistic that way, I want to convince people, not just get my way. And I do agree with this, Shermer’s point about the Warfare Model of Science and Religion,  that “The belief that there is a war between science and religion where one is right and the other wrong, and that one must choose one over the other” is the cause of these disturbing statistics:

A 2001 Gallup Poll found that 45 percent of Americans agree with the statement “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so,” while 37 percent preferred a blended belief that “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process,” and a paltry 12 percent accepted the standard scientific theory that “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.”

(more…)

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hello, world

It wasn’t just that I wanted to separate or hide my anti-theistic tendencies from my regular blog, but the thought of being nervous about showing my blog to potential clients did play a part in it – I won’t hide this site, but it would take someone being curious enough to search and explore to find it, and I refuse to conceal this aspect of my self any more than keeping it just slightly out-of-the-way.

Except, wait. I display that scarlet A over there, so really, what’s the deal here? I suppose mostly I was unreasonably excited to discover that both godlizard.com and lizardgod.com were available, and I had to do something about that – namely, buy them, bringing my current total of owned domains to an even 30. And having bought them, it seemed prudent to do something with them. And so here we are.

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