Magical Thinking at the American Atheists Convention

It was Surly Amy who brought the news:

Oh goodie, a secular anti abortion booth near my table. Wtf.

Then provided the picture.

The “embryo” from the textbook, by the way? About 16 weeks, according to a reverse image search. That makes it technically a fetus, not an embryo. Also, women do abort fetuses at 16 weeks and beyond, but about 95% of abortions are done before this point. For some reason, groups that want to make abortion illegal don’t ever seem to post pictures of embryos around week nine, when abortions much more typically happen.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

But fetal development and the cute factor aren’t what this post is about. [Read more...]

Matching Funds for Marriage

As you probably know by now, Minnesota has a discriminatory “traditional” definition of marriage amendment on the ballot in November (along with, now, a voter ID amendment). Minnesotans United for All Families is doing the important but non-glamorous work of talking to individual voters about the amendment and the importance of voting “No.”

If you’re considering supporting Minnesotans United, today is a good day to do that. They’ve set an ambitious fundraising goal for March, which they still have a ways to go to meet, with a deadline of tonight. They also have a matching grant in effect today, which will double your contribution. So make your contribution today.

Anoka-Hennepin Parents Want to Sue for Discrimination

Last time on As the Bullies Turn, our homophobic “heroes” had suffered a major defeat when the Anoka-Hennepin school district settled with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education. The settlement produced an agreement that the district would ban not just anti-gay bullying but also bullying based on any form of gender expression.

However, the intrepid bigots didn’t rest there. They presented a list of demands to the district, suggesting that if the district failed to meet them, they would file suit based on the idea that the anti-bullying measures represented a “hostile environment” to religious students and violated their First Amendment rights to…bully?

Join us now as we tune in to watch how our champions of injustice fare in their battle against the forces of justice. What will be the answer from the school district? [Read more...]

I Could Care a Little More

You know, I know all the advice about differentiating between what a person does and who they are when criticizing them. I even generally agree with it. I don’t always, however, and it’s generally because I’ve recognized that the person I’m dealing with has no interest in being the tiniest bit thoughtful about their own behavior. Then I don’t bother to mince words. Why? Because this is what it looks like when that happens.

[Read more...]

Saturday Storytime: Nightfall in the Scent Garden

Sometimes we make strange bargains, desperate bargains, but our bargains don’t only involve us. Claire Humphrey shares this story of one such bargain.

If you read this, you’ll tell me what grew over the arbor was ivy, not wisteria. If you are in a forgiving mood, you’ll open the envelope, and you’ll remind me how your father’s van broke down and we were late back. How we sat drinking iced tea while the radiator steamed.

You might dig out that picture, the one with the two of us sitting on the willow stump, and point out how small we were, how pudgy, how like any other pair of schoolgirls. How our ill-cut hair straggled over the shoulders of our flannel shirts.

You’ll remind me of the stories we used to tell each other. We spent hours embroidering them, improving on each other’s inventions. We built palaces and peopled them with dynasties, you’ll say, and we made ourselves emperors in every one, and every one was false.

If you read this, you’ll call your mother, or mine. They’ll confirm what you recall.

By then, though, you will begin to disbelieve it yourself.

If you think on it long enough, you’ll recall the kiss. I left it there untouched, the single thread you could pull to unravel this whole tapestry.

You’ll start to understand none of these things happened the way you remember. If you read this, you’ll learn how I betrayed you.

Keep reading.

Atheists Talk: John Rawles on “The Matter with Us”

Once we have rejected the spiritual, we are left with the material. That should simplify our lives, right? Not necessarily. As John Rawles book, The Matter with Us: A Materialistic Account of the Human Predicament, notes on its title page:

The bridge of spaceship Earth is deserted; nobody is in charge. Down below, the passengers are fighting amongst themselves, damaging the craft, looting the stores, and squandering the reserves. As a fellow passenger it gives me no pleasure to report what I see. What’s the matter with us that we should behave like this? Surely, we would all prefer that many future generations should continue to enjoy the cruise of a lifetime in safety, comfort and good health; but that seems unlikely. And it was such a beautiful ship.

Of course, the situation isn’t all doom and gloom either. We got ourselves here, and at least for now, we have some choices about where we go next. Join us on Sunday as we talk to John Rawles about how we got where we are and what we can do to make sure the cruise goes on.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

What Maternal Instinct?

A repost, so I don’t completely kill myself trying to do all the things this week.

I was over at a friend’s house last night. I held her two-month-old baby for a bit because, you know, it’s polite to express some interest and it had been a while since I’d held a baby. One gets to thinking of them as fragile if one goes too long without touching them. Well, I do.

The baby was well-behaved, past the wrinkly stage, mostly healthy. Everything that is supposed to make babies so adorable was there. Tiny, wee fingernails? Check. Dimpled fingers and wrists and knees? Check. Instant grasp of proferred finger? Check. Deep dent in the upper lip? Check. Overlarge, luminous eyes? Check. Impromptu, trusting nap? Check.

Impulse to talk baby talk? [Read more...]

Justifying the Unjustifiable

Still having a ridiculously busy week. Today I go lecture a world religions class on religious skepticism. With two days notice. Luckily, I’ve done this before, but it still takes time to prep and to do. So don’t read me today. Read Crommunist.

I’ve been meaning to link to this series for a while. It ties in quite nicely with my interest in the effects of a just world belief (which I will someday write much more on). Like the just world belief, system justification theory goes a long way toward explaining why and how we accept inequalities and injustices that are fundamentally unacceptable. Crommunist, of course, does his usual excellent job at explaining it all. [Read more...]

Religious Skepticism: A Bibliography

I’m delivering a guest lecture at a local community college this morning on religious skepticism. The following is a bibliography of further reading on the main topics I’m covering for any students who want to follow up. Please feel free to add more in the comments.

I haven’t done this lecture since starting at Freethought Blogs, so it’s a bit light on some of the better resources around the network. The decision to include religious sources in many of these cases, however, is deliberate.

Modern Skepticism in Historical Context
At PhilosophyOnline, Gareth Southwell presents an introductory theory of knowledge, including a history of classic skepticism.

At the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Steven Novella and David Bloomberg differentiate scientific skepticism from other modern definitions of “skepticism” and discuss untestable religious claims.

External Evidence for God(s) and Religion
Theopedia discusses the problem of “God of the Gaps” apologetics.

Nonauthoritarian sources of ethics: Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism.

Primate Diaries discusses the existence and origin of morality in nonhuman animals:

The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness (book)

Cognitive Daily reports on a study discussing how belief in free will versus determinism affects cheating behavior.

The Frontal Cortex looks at the complicated relationship between religious identity and moral behavior.

Internal Contradictions Within Religions
One bible school points up the “dangers” of several versions of the Bible that claim to be inerrant.

Another Christian group takes on the idea of inerrancy by looking at the contradictions between biblical passages.

August Berkshire tackles common apologetics addressing the problem of evil.

Deacon Duncan writes an ongoing series of gospel “disproofs”.

Common Philosophical Stances on Religion, Defined
John Wilkins of Evolving Thoughts delves into definitions of agnosticism and what can and can’t be known of the existence of god(s).

Additional Reading
Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson (book) and an interview with author Jennifer Michael Hecht on NPR’s Speaking of Faith.

Lousy Canuck discusses types of prayer and why prayer is nonsense.

Daniel Fincke on how atheism extends beyond skepticism. Daniel also has a highly browsable set of posts on basic topics in his sidebar.

Greta Christina on atheists and anger.

Feeling Alone?
Minnesota Atheists
Humanists of MN
Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists
Minnesota Atheists Meetup
Twin Cities Atheists Meetup
Skeptic Meetups

Never That Simple

A repost, offered up while I go be productive elsewhere. Whee!

I think it is very hard to be absolutely honest with oneself, especially if words come easily. Before I write, I have to ask myself what I think, and if the answer comes too quickly, I have to stop and ask again — Now, what do I really think.

–Reeve Lindbergh in Forward From Here

Every once in a while, along comes a quote that makes me take a step back. Reading this was one of those “Hey, I’m not the only one” moments.

It’s so easy to go arguing along, laying out the evidence, and find that I’ve followed a tidy path to a conclusion I don’t believe. It’s even tempting sometimes to leave that perfect little argument in place, to let it stand as a monument to its own rhetoric. [Read more...]