Playing to win: Debating lessons from competitive gaming

I’m working on a 15 minute segment of my talk for the Freethought Alliance Convention in Orange County in a couple of weeks. I’ve talked about this topic before, but I’ve never tried to sum it up so quickly, so I figured I’d help get the writing going by putting it in blog format. If you’re in Southern California and would like to attend, you may not want to read this as it will constitute a spoiler. :) Hope to see you there!

If someone demands extraordinary evidence for my nerd credentials, I should only have to mention that I was in my high school chess club. Got a couple of very minor trophies. My dad taught me to play at a very young age, and I taught my son to play in turn. I’ve also taught several other people to play, including my childhood friend Gil, who later went on to coach his local middle school chess team.

When we were kids, Gil had this annoying habit of always trying for a Scholar’s Mate. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this tactic, a Scholar’s Mate looks like this:

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Freedom of Speech: A Christian, Jewish, Atheist, and Muslim Perspective

I’ll be speaking on behalf of atheism this Thursday evening. If you’re in Austin, feel free to come by. If not, I’m told it will be live streamed and will try to put up the link when I can.

Freedom of Speech panel at UT

Facebook event page

April 16, 6:30PM, Welch Hall Room 2.122

Tiff’s treats and samosas will be served as refreshment.

Update: Here’s the video.

The video starts while people are still arriving. To skip the small talk, an invocation begins at about 6:00, and the actual talk starts at 9:40.

Dear Phil Robertson: Let me explain why rape is wrong

“Wait, where are you going? I’m just getting to the funny part.”

…Since you obviously don’t understand it.

I am writing this in response to a request from Miri Mogilevsky of the Brute Reason blog here on FTB. As has been widely reported, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson went off on a rant in which he fantasized about a male atheist (men presumably being the only people Robertson’s audience can identify with) being tied up and forced to watch strangers rape his wife and daughters. “And they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?'”

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Time to help out Camp Quest Texas!

Camp Quest Texas keeps growing each year. This year, The Atheist Community of Austin has just o sponsor four campers at a cost of $2500. If you would like to help support the ACA in this effort, please visit http://www.atheist-community.org/donate/ and send us a memo with your donation indicating you’d like the money to be earmarked for Camp Quest. Anything we raise in excess of the original $2500 will also go to support additional campers.

If you’re not familiar with Camp Quest, they run a summer camp for secular kids every year. As the camp has been running for a number of years, more and more of the original camps are growing up to become qualified campers and future leaders. They’re a great organization and we hope you’ll do what you can for them.

Off-topic thoughts about Fifty Shades of Grey

CONTENT WARNING: I am about to discuss Fifty Shades of Grey, which is not only a bad movie but also has a lot of sex. This is not typical content for The Atheist Experience blog, but hey, I have a soapbox, so why not. If you do not like hearing about sex or bad movies, please don’t read it. Thanks!

Ok, so… my wife Lynnea and I had a date last night, and we agreed that we were both curious enough about Fifty Shades of Grey that it was worth seeing. Ideally we would have wanted to see it with the comforting support of Rifftrax or Master Pancake, because we were not planning to like it. But it’s too new, so we thought we’d see the movie on its own terms. We’d both read plenty of material leading us to expect a thoroughly bad movie.

And it was bad, make no mistake. But the thing is, I was prepared for much worse, and with the benefit of low expectations, I was able to enjoy some of it. Some of the discussion that follows emerged from our animated conversation immediately after the movie, so a lot of this material is as much hers as mine.

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Statement on the Chapel Hill shootings

On February 10 a man named Craig Stephen Hicks turned himself in to the police after fatally shooting three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, NC. According to news reports, Hicks was a fan of The Atheist Experience, and had been critical of religion on his Facebook page. The precise motivations of Hicks are not currently known.

The Atheist Community of Austin strongly opposes violence in all forms, whether it is motivated by hatred of someone else’s religious convictions, or a parking dispute. Acts of unprovoked violence may be inspired by a complex combination of factors that include ideology, mental disposition, and the social acceptability of various attitudes. It is overly simplistic to reduce the cause to any one factor. It is vital for believers and non-believers alike to draw a sharp distinction between criticism of someone’s philosophical positions, and the use or threat of deadly force.

We condemn this senseless act of murder, and extend our condolences to the families of the victims.