Showing posts from August, 2011

Belief not Indicative of Truth

"The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive."  —  Sam Harris  (On George W. Bush,  Letter to a Christian Nation ) One thing that aggravates me, and which I hear a lot from religious people, is that I shouldn't criticize other people's beliefs.  What they are really stating is I shouldn't criticize their beliefs. Or more specifically, I should just let them have their beliefs just because, and calling their beliefs delusional or stupid (i.e., challenging their beliefs) won't change the fact that they believe in whatever it is they believe. Consider a recent comment I received from my dear Christian mother who posted it on my Facebook under public (as such it went out to all my family and friends and

Cosmology News: Black hole & Diamond Planet

There has been some interesting cosmology news recently. A Japanese team of the Kiboo experimental module on the ISS and SWIFT captured the first photographs of a massive black hole swallowing a star in the Draco constellation. You can read the full article over at SpaceRef.   Meanwhile, there is news of a diamond planet bigger than Earth orbiting a pulsar within our own galaxy (via The Daily Galaxy ).  In the words of Mr. Spock, "Fascinating."

How to Make a Christian Cry

A Christian friend of mine once asked me, and I'm paraphrasing, "As an atheist, what is the most knock down drag out argument against God you can think of?" I initially answered, "Theological noncognitivism."

Billboard Wars = Hilarity

This one is just too funny, so I had to blog about it. It appears that McElroy Road Church of Christ , in Ohio, was fed up with all the atheist billboard campaigns being put up, and they decided to combat the "godless" messages with one of their own. Wait... what? No kidding, this is what the sign actually says. Now if your religious, you might not find the bald faced irony which is on display here, but apparently a lot of people did, because the Mid Ohio Atheist group had to make a statement that they were not responsible for the advertisement in any way. According to their official comment:  While we certainly do agree with the sentiment expressed on the billboard- that there is no god, and that people should not believe everything they hear, we want to clarify that this is not our billboard.  It was not paid for by us in part or in the whole.  Nether were we involved in the design of the billboard. Being the good sports they are, the Mid Ohio Atheists didn't fo

Is Atheism a Belief System?

I usually say that Atheism is not a  belief system . That is, there is no positive claim within atheism which could lend to any particular system of belief. However, atheists need to be careful, especially those who say atheism is not a *belief (singular). In the past I too made the mistake of claiming atheism is not a "belief" in an of itself, but I have come to see that this reasoning is wrong. Atheism is, in fact, the belief that there are no gods. Before you jump down my throat and try to explain Strong (Positive) atheism and Weak (Negative) atheism to me, let me inform you that I am not arguing about the definition of atheism, but rather, testing whether or not it fits the definition of what a Formal belief is.  If we find that atheism does fit the definition of a Formal belief, then we must be willing to admit that it has the properties of a belief. As such, it is important to make the distinction based on what analytic philosophers have defined as a Formal be

Missouri: Newspeak Central!

Usually I avoid talking politics like the plague, but I am afraid I was so outraged by a recent law  passed in the State of Missouri, that I have no choice but to voice my disdain and protest. Last month, Missouri officials signed into law SB54 , which makes it illegal for teachers to be "friends" with students on any social networking site that allows for private communication  (cf. section 162.069). That means teachers and students (including past students according to the law) can't be friends on Facebook or can't follow each other on Twitter for example. SB54  is intended to crack down on sexual predators and stalkers--which would be fine if that's all the bill did--but the bill oversteps its boundaries and trespasses on the very rights of the students and teachers it seeks to protect. I object to SB54 for the following reasons: 1. It suggests (implicitly) all teachers are sexual predators, pedophiles, and child rapists who will manipulate and abuse

Atheist Heroes Part 2

Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, a Civil War veteran, and Free Thought advocate, was often refereed to as the Great Agnostic, and is one of my favorite thinkers. Like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson (two other men I admire greatly ), Ingersoll made it a point to sponsor the enlightenment values of critical thinking, rationality, and the freedom of speech and free inquiry. Ingersoll was an orator, a speaker, a political leader, and a man of words. Many of his speeches involved a devastatingly eloquent attack on religion, and most of what he said still rings true today. If you ever read Ingersoll, be sure to review his "Lecture on gods" as it is one of the best criticisms of the god concept you'll find past or present.  In fact, my favorite Ingersoll quote comes from this lecture, in which he states: "Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of

Sam Harris Answers Questions

The Blog : Ask Sam Harris Anything #2 : Sam Harris To jump to an individual question, click on the links below: 1. Eternity and the meaning of life  0:42 2. Do we have free will?  4:43 3. How can we convince religious people to abandon their beliefs?  14:52 4. How can atheists live among the faithful?  19:09 5. How should we talk to children about death?  21:52 6. Does human life have intrinsic value?  26:01 7. Why should we be confident in the authority of science?  30:36 8. How can one criticize Islam after the terrorism in Norway?  35:43 9. Should atheists join with Christians against Islam?  41:50 10. What does it mean to speak about the human mind objectively?  45:17 11. How can spiritual claims be scientifically justified?  50:14 12. Why can't religion remain a private matter?  54:52 13. What do you like to speak about at public events?  58:09 Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Mora

Secular Words of Wisdom

Secular Words of Wisdom: "Fill your mind with compassion." --The Buddha "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary." --Albert Einstein "The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind." --Friedrich Nietzsche "Atheists are often charged with blasphemy, but it is a crime they cannot commit... When the Atheist examines, denounces, or satirises the gods, he is not dealing with persons but with ideas. He is incapable of insulting God, for he does not admit the existence of any such being.... We attack not a person but a belief, not a binge but an idea, not a fact but a fancy." --G.W. Foote "Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by.

Atheist Heroes Part 1

As some of you know, some atheists find the idea of esteeming other atheists something detestable, because for them it is equal to veneration--and idol worship. Perhaps these sorts of atheists are either insecure, or else, still fearful of making the same mistakes as religion, I don't know. But personally, I think there is nothing wrong with atheists esteeming other atheists--and even having atheist heroes. Richard Dawkins has described atheists as stray cats, we all tend to go our own way, and agreement among atheists is usually because of shared interests, not shared dogmas. Yet atheists are by and large still human, and thus social animals, and one of the things we as a species cannot avoid doing is interact with each other.  Needless to say, there will always be people we run into who move us and have influence over us, who inspire us, and who we admire, and at the same time, there will be those we will detest.  Even so, I don't believe that having role models, o

What Atheism is Not

What atheism is and what it is not. By Gary Clemans-Gibbon Atheism is not a thing. It is not a religion, a theory, a belief, a doctrine, a political colour, a science or anything other than a rejection of claims made by people about the existence of SPECIFIC supernatural beings, IE theistic gods as described by holy texts. It has no rituals or dogmas, no authorities, no traditions, no edicts from elders, no heros, no gurus, no handbooks or texts. It makes no claims to ethics or morality, it encourages no kinds of behaviour (it is often a consequence of lucid thinking and skepticism but makes no demands on either). Being an atheist does not encumber one with any obligations regarding sexual preference, voting patterns, eating habits, work and rest periods, clothing requirements, obedience, worship, fasting, shaving, beard-growing, reading, or ANYTHING ELSE. Atheists don't have to wear silly hats. It is not the claim that any god doesn't exist, or any other clai

Barlin’s Atheism Part 2

Intro: Many Christians have, over the course of their ministry, made it a point to bring up the fact that they were once atheists—but have now since found Jesus. Yet if you look into their life as a so-called atheist, you will often find that it was, more or less, liberal Christianity. Granted, even liberal Christianity seems pretty atheistic in dense pockets of Evangelical and Fundamentalist belief, but even the famed C.S. Lewis wasn’t a true blood atheist. He grew up in the Church of England, had a brief stint in college where he questioned his beliefs, and in this period of his life, for his own reasons, he didn’t feel he believed perhaps as much as a devoted parishioner should, and on this ground declared himself an atheist. This is what I consider to be a type of pseudo-atheism. It is when the believer is critical minded enough to recognize their own doubts, but it isn’t skeptical enough to actually renounce their spiritual beliefs altogether. Even C.S. Lewis held on to his Ch