Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Sign from Athe?

The little counter at the bottom of this page just clicked over from 2008 to 2009, on today of all days. I take this as a sign from Athe that she is pleased with the blog.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Westboro Baptist Church: Incredibly Biblical

I don't know what possessed me to take a look through the Westboro Baptist Church's picketing schedule, and I don't really feel like rationalizing, but I looked over it and, as I expected, they plan to picket the inauguration of President-Elect Obama.

Frankly, I think most people get the message: God hates everything! Fags are bad, dead soldiers are good, and blah, blah, blah.

Still, there is something that makes me curious about their message, because the more I read into it, the more I realize that the notions that they are talking about are incredibly Biblical. I mean, they take care of all of their source citations and, when I do the references, everything is in context (though absurd and undesirable, and ignorant of some important passages).

It seems that while having the positions of the WBC is not the only result of a Biblical interpretation, the position is a rational one if the literalist worldview is espoused.

At least most Christians are self conscious and aware of the inanity of their beliefs.

Joshua Stein

From Josh's blog.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Quote of the Week

Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.

Chapman Cohen

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grow up. Or die.

The final minutes of the documentary Religulous:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quote of the Week

The first clergyman was the first rascal who met the first fool.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

How Can An Atheist Enjoy Christmas?

Apparently most Christmas traditions are borrowed from earlier pagan religions. This makes sense, since early humans must have watched anxiously as the winter sun slipped lower and lower toward the horizon. What if it just kept going and never came back? I'm fairly certain the first human inhabitants of, say, Sweden, during their first frigid winter, were certain that was precisely what was happening. Bye-bye sun. Bye-bye life. Looks like we blew it by heading north.

So the joy that resulted from the sun's gradual ascent, after such a worrying dark period, must have been close to ecstasy! (Accompanied, perhaps, by a bit of resentment toward the sun for pulling such a cruel stunt every year!) It also follows then that a celebration would definitely be called for. We're talking party time! Evergreen trees, berries, anything that did not seem to "die" every winter, would be an integral part of any such celebration. Evergreens represent, in a way, everlasting life. So decorate them, dance around them, sing, and party hearty! Enter Christmas.

The overlapping, nearly identical symbolism shared by the rebirth of the sun, and the birth of the "Son," scream out for recognition. Add to that the date of the winter solstice, usually around December 22, and the fact that the most influential god around the Mediterranean when Jesus was supposedly born, Mithra, had his Holy Day on December 25, and "Christmas" is defined. If there was a historical Jesus, no one has a clue when he was born. But it most assuredly was not on December 25.

Moving on then, what's wrong with non-theists co-opting Christmas, just as Christianity co-opted Mithra's birthday? I, for one, am always delighted to see the sun begin its climb in the sky every December. I hate those short, gloomy days when it's already dark long before dinnertime. And while my childhood was unmistakably saturated by my Christian faith, I was also a normal kid. To an eight-year-old looking at a Christmas tree poised over a cornucopia of beautifully wrapped presents, Jesus could come or go—who cared? There was so much fun to be had at Christmas!

Judith Hayes

Taken from the article An Atheist Christmas by Judith Hayes, a.k.a. The Happy Heretic.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dawkins on CBS

Dawkins is on form here, though the interviewer hardly poses any difficult challenges:

Via atheist media blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

God: Christmas Trees are for Heathens

Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

Jeremiah 10:2-4

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quote of the Week

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quote of the Week

An organization that requires the suppression of facts and the discouragement of knowledge in order to maintain its supremacy, is the relic of a tyranny which our free age and our free thought are in duty bound to remove from the earth.

Lemuel K Washburn

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crisis of Faith?

I've been talking to a lot of my religious friends who think that I am going through a "crisis of faith", even though I've been an atheist for years now, and I'm getting more than a little annoyed by it.

A crisis of faith implies that I am struggling, that I am depressed, that I, in some way, anguish to be wrong over the issue.

There are plenty of atheists who see their disbelief as problematic, and wish that they might be proven wrong. I am not one of those disappointed atheists, not because I think that religion is a terrible, viral infection (though I think that).

I am happy that I don't believe, because I think the world is beautiful in its simplicity, in its independence, and in the processes that drive it. Evolution epitomizes elegance, just as physics and mathematics lay a foundation for understanding the universe.

The continuity of the learning process, the ability to expand my consciousness through observation, through research and through reading is fascinating to me, and it opens up a philosophy of living that cannot exist in a world where god is recognized as sovereign, and ignorance is a blessing.

Atheism is the enlightened notion that it is possible for me to live for myself.

A theist may claim to see the face of god in a flower. I do not.

I see petals and stem and stamen and pistol, but what's more I see the work of an incredible process, and the simplicity, the elegance, of the processes that govern my universe. I see the beauty of particles forged in the center of stars in the dew on its leaf, in the flesh of its petal and the weight of my palm.

It is my disbelief that allows me to see, clearly, that I am in solidarity with the universe.

Joshua Stein

Joshua posted this recently on his blog. Great stuff.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The God of the Gaps

Not everything has been explained, nor will it ever be. The important thing is that we have not observed anything that seems to require supernatural intervention for its explanation. There are some today who cling to the remaining gaps in our understanding (such as our ignorance about the origin of life) as evidence for God. But as time passes and more and more of these gaps are filled in, their position gives an impression of people desperately holding on to outmoded opinions.

The problem for religious belief is not just that science has explained a lot of odds and ends about the world. There is a second source of tension: that these explanations have cast increasing doubt on the special role of man, as an actor created by God to play a starring part in a great cosmic drama of sin and salvation. We have had to accept that our home, the earth, is just another planet circling the sun; our sun is just one of a hundred billion stars in a galaxy that is just one of billions of visible galaxies; and it may be that the whole expanding cloud of galaxies is just a small part of a much larger multiverse, most of whose parts are utterly inhospitable to life. As Richard Feynman has said, "The theory that it's all arranged as a stage for God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate."

Most important so far has been the discovery by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace that humans arose from earlier animals through natural selection acting on random heritable variations, with no need for a divine plan to explain the advent of humanity. This discovery led some, including Darwin, to lose their faith. It's not surprising that of all the discoveries of science, this is the one that continues most to disturb religious conservatives. I can imagine how disturbed they will feel in the future, when at last scientists learn how to understand human behavior in terms of the chemistry and physics of the brain, and nothing is left that needs to be explained by our having an immaterial soul.

Steven Weinberg

Taken from his article Without God.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Atheist Communities

I just posted about a small victory for reason in the evolution vs. creationism war on my other blog, and it got me thinking. You've probably heard the quote "organizing atheists is like herding cats". Richard Dawkins has a good response to this:

Even if they can't be herded, cats in sufficient numbers can make a lot of noise and they cannot be ignored.

Cincinnati Zoo's change of heart about hopping into bed with the Creation Museum after a number of complaints, many from readers of PZ Myer's Pharyngula, is proof that Dawkins is really onto something, and is an excellent example of what can be achieved with a little organization. Many others have realized this, and atheist communities are starting to spring up and grow (several of them are linked on the right). I'm a member of two at the moment, The Brights (a "constituency of individuals who share a naturalistic worldview"), and Atheist Nexus (an atheist myspace/facebook). Joining these communities is a quick and simple way to make a lot of noise. They are a good way of meeting like-minded people, keeping up to date on relevant issues, raising money for worthwhile causes and just generally helping to give atheists more of a presence in the world. Have a think about joining one today.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quote of the Week

Maybe a President that didn't believe our soldiers were going to heaven would be less willing to get them killed.

Bill Maher