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#FTF1 Session 2: Confronting Religion

More reports from the Freethought Festival! I live-tweeted most of the sessions–strangely, gaining followers instead of losing them–so you’ll get mostly tweets with notes. (Brianne is doing her own set up summaries, starting here.)

This session was focused on leaving religion and arguing against religion. I laughed when I realized that all four speakers representing FtB were in this session. If we’d all been talking about something or another, we’d have been more spread out, but apparently we now know where to go if you need someone to talk on this topic. This is also the dangerous session to tweet about, since my network mates will let me know what I got wrong.

“Recovering from Religion”
Valerie Tarico

  • First up: Valerie Tarico, now talking about how long it took to figure out atheism. Took seeing a child hurt by cancer. Broke her.
  • Finally gave up, telling God she was done making excuses for him.
  • Many Christians need support after leaving religion, but pastors frequently have it worst, leaving their whole lives behind.
  • RT @abiodork http://exchristian.net – Support for recovering Christians. Resources from Valerie Tarico
  • Because “doubt is of the devil”, the first reaction to doubt is frequently to immerse self more in faith behaviors.
  • Anger not valued in Christianity, so new nonbelievers may struggle with how to deal with it productively. Skills need to be learned.
  • Religion claims for itself so much of human experiences that new nonbelievers struggle to reclaim them all outside religion.
  • New nonbelief must be given the space to be a journey, both for the nonbeliever and for those around them.

“Why the Arguments for God Fail”
JT Eberhard

  • @jteberhard says atheists suck.
  • We suck because we’re good at talking in complexities to each other and very bad at making the 2-sentence arguments many want.
  • Your moral obligation is to be reasonable and right when consequences are in play. That is a simple message.
  • “We’ll never convince anyone” is an abdication of our responsibility to make our communications better.
  • Respect is not the same as a condescending “whatever you believe”.
  • @jteberhard on red herrings: “We could be fucking murderers, and it wouldn’t make us wrong.” So much punchier than “ad hominem”.
  • Do not be distracted. Do not get caught up in the meta discussions.
  • “You can’t prove god doesn’t exist.” “You’re a thief.” “What? No, I’m not.” “Prove it!” “There’s no evidence that I…oh.”
  • “If you have this scientific ‘proof’ that God exists, why is it being run through a grassroots campaign?”
  • Do not let believers defer to every expert *except* those who undermine their religious beliefs.
  • Giggling too hard to tweet the trashing of prophesy. :)
  • How do you distinguish faith from gullibility? Oh, you have reasons for your faith? Then that’s what we should talk about.

“Scientists! If You’re Not an Atheist, You Aren’t Doing Science Right”
PZ Myers

  • @pzmyers is wearing the crocoduck tie!
  • Science and religion incompatible because science is godless, because “they reach incompatible conclusions”, “opposed epistemologies”.
  • ..because they can’t be done simultaneously, because have an obligation to find the best answers we can.
  • Religious scientists often profess belief in Jesus but back off into deism when pressed…then declare sectarian belief again after.
  • RT @FutureTemple Listening to @pzmyers I have a hankering for some love spread everywhere and God-penetration…
  • Religious scientists are not applying their scientific practices in coming to or justifying their beliefs.
  • “But those historical, religious scientific geniuses!” Newton = early version of Nobel laureate problem. Einstein baaad example.
  • So, there’s a little bit of scientism, but how much explanatory power does your alternative offer me?
  • “Science can’t explain love.” “Love is real, natural, observable. How can you use it to justify belief in the supernatural?”
  • “God works in undetectable ways, in the gaps of chance.” “It I can’t detect it, how do you know?”
  • If religion is such a natural part of the human mind, why do we spend so much time indoctrinating children?
  • @pzmyers says he’ll sit down and shut up when “religion” is no longer a matter of supernatural belief. He left out authority problem.
  • That science sometimes results in evil is an unfortunate consequence of the fact that it gets results. What’s religion’s excuse?
  • Religion’s claim to moral authority is only as strong as the morals championed by religion. Christianity’s track record…?
  • RT @ChrisCalvey @pzmyers on the “but religion will never go away!” argument: atheism is demonstrably on the rise.

“How Can We Help Young Atheists”
Hemant Mehta

  • Next up: @hemantmehta on young atheists (past roasting age).
  • You can tell the Christians by their bananas and atheists by their unibrows. [Kids' drawings.]
  • More importantly, you can tell the atheists by their immoral anger.
  • Jessica Ahlquist is only the latest in a long line of brave teens standing up to their schools and communities.
  • “Oh, I heard about you. You’re that dirty little troublemaking atheist.”
  • Before SSA hired @jteberhard to specifically support high school groups, <10 groups. Now nearly 50.
  • High school students have the unique challenge of living with parents who may not support their atheism.
  • These stories involve conflict, which makes them catnip to journalists, particularly teen w/legal request vs. big administration.

“The Superiority of Secular Morality”
Matt Dillahunty

Matt revised his talk at the last minute. Much of the start of it was talking about how debates with theists that were supposed to be about something else ended up being tired, old rehashes of the lame “no morality without God” argument. Dude can tell a story.

  • @Matt_Dillahunty‘s talk is pure Matt. This cannot be compressed into tweets.
  • Religious believers appear to be incapable of debating the existence of god directly. All these debates end up being about morality.
  • Religion promises us that morality is more simple and more absolute than it is. That is very appealing to some people.
  • Religion does not and cannot solve the relative morality problem. We still assess a god’s moral authority relative to our own beliefs.
  • Multiple correct answers to moral questions is a feature, not a bug.
  • “Because we (community) say so” is a much better answer than “because I said so”.
  • Religions do not lead on morality. They follow changes in secular thinking and claim it was divinely inspired.

“The Historicity of Jesus”
Richard Carrier

  • Richard Carrier talking about a newer mythicist theory.
  • Most mythicist theorizing to date pretty out there. “Basically, if you don’t hear it from me, be skeptical.” #laughline
  • There is history of deliberate story- or myth-telling ending up being sold as true.
  • Trends in Hellenization of local religions all seen in Christianity emerging from Judaism.
  • Carrier points out that Mithra(s), often claimed to be a dying-and-rising god, was not. He triumphed over his “passion” instead.
  • Philo of Alexandria tells of an archangel named Jesus, whom some Jews believed in prior to Christianity.
  • Paul’s knowledge of Jesus comes from Jesus through revelation [hallucination], explicitly not tradition.
  • Carrier recommends Hollywood go to the (forged) Infancy Gospels for blockbuster horror film material.
  • “Proving History” says current historicity scholarship based on invalid methods. Not necessarily wrong, but not valid as proof.

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