Skepticon 4 videos are posted…

I wasn’t able to attend this year’s Skepticon (or the 3 that preceded it), but I have a very strong suspicion that I’ll be at SK5. I do, though, enjoy seeing what I’ve missed. I’ve had the great fortune of meeting and spending time with many of the speakers at other events and I love to see friends and acquaintances-I-hope-will-be-lifelong-friends give talks that educate, entertain and inspire. [Read more...]

Details for Matt’s Debate in Georgia!

From the event host:

Wednesday, November 16th, 7PM – Meet and greet:

1381 Longview Drive, Gainesville, GA 30501

(this is debate host’s home-some food and drink will be provided but feel free to bring more to share-ALL are invited)

Thursday Nov 17 7PM EST - Debate:

FREE and Open to the public!
Donations requested to support the Kasese Humanist School in Kasese, Uganda
Academic Building IV
3rd floor
Multi Purpose Room
A live stream of the debate will be available here

Format: A moderator will ask 3 questions of each participant. Participant has 3 minutes to answer the other gets a 3 minute rebuttal time. After the set questions there will be questions from the audience. After the debate we will go out and everyone is invited, location undecided at this time but will be announced.

From Matt: I’ll do my best to remember to tweet relevant information – and I’m hoping for a Friday morning trip to the Aquarium before I leave!

Recovering from Religion has a new Executive Director!

I’ve fallen behind on e-mail, (I was busy getting married) and so I’m late to the party on this. I’ll post the press release below the jump, but let me just take a moment to talk about how important this group is.

Some of us have had an easy time freeing ourselves from religion and letting the chips fall where they may. Others have a much more difficult, even traumatic time with this transition. People not only feel alone or abandoned, they often are. Relationships have been torn apart and some individuals are left with little or no companions. Others suffer from the lingering effects of indoctrination years after rejecting their religious views.

We need organizations like this. Building communities and helping people is essential to further increasing and strengthening the broader secular community.

[Read more...]

I’m debating in Georgia – Nov. 17th

The debate will be live-streamed at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/humanist

Here’s part of the press release:

GOOD WITHOUT GOD? LIVE DEBATE.

Matt Dillahunty from The Atheist Experience
To debate
Mark Allison from Covenant Connections Church

The South is full of people who believe that to be good you must have God. The

Gainesville State College Secular Student Alliance disagrees with that statement.

The Secular Student Alliance has arranged a debate between Matt Dillahunty,

atheist, and Mark Allison, Christian, on the topic of Good Without God. There

will be 5 questions presented by the moderator then time for questions from the

audience. The debate will be held on Thursday November 17th at 7:00PM. The

debate will be held on the Gainesville State College Campus in the Academic IV

building, on the 3rd floor in the multi-purpose room.

Wedding Transcript

The Magic Sandwich Show did their very best to live-stream the show. (Thanks Aron, Judy and DPR Jones!)

Unfortunately, there were various audio problems (my fault, not Aron’s) and while there’s video posted and some people were able to watch it live, it’s virtually impossible to make out what was said – so we’re posting the transcript here. Aron wrote the opening paragraph and the rest was culled from a secular ceremony transcript we found online. We edited some of the language, added a few snippets that we liked from other secular weddings (thanks Greta!) … and so I take no credit for any of this. Apart from piecing it together and changing a word or two to suit our interests, this is all someone else’s work. We found what we liked and we ran with it. [Read more...]

Atheists as Vulcans without Machismo? An e-mail exchange…

I recently received the following e-mail query:

What do you think about the fringe criticisms against atheism that talk about the setbacks of overly concrete/logical thinking and a lack of abstract, emotional capacity commonly associated with atheists?

They criticize atheists (especially Dawkins and people like Dawkins) for being dull, unpleasant, lacking machismo and being unappealing to women. They argue that overly concrete thinking is detrimental to living the dynamic and largely abstract life outside of scientific institutions and number crunching facilities. Popular psychology even attested and perpetuated this bullshit with labels like Aspergers which describes people who are book-smart but have no people skills. I can’t cite any source that surveyed people with Aspergers and how many of them are religious or irreligious but I can guarantee a majority would be atheists.

The question is, is being 100% logical all the time really the right way to live an awesome and successful life?

You got things like music and art that you can’t build or enjoy without a level of spiritual capacity. As an example, to fully enjoy the spirit of Christmas, you gotta suspend some logic about Santa Claus and just let loose to enjoy the holiday, especially for the children whom you wouldn’t wanna ruin the fun for. Or watching cartoons and coming across many things that just don’t make sense, like the characters not falling off a cliff as long as they don’t look down and other inconsistencies in the plots of long-running anime episodes that you just don’t wanna over-analyze or be too logical about because it ruins the fun and the whole point of the show which isn’t to take it so seriously.

So essentially they are calling atheists a pack of basement-dwelling empty nerds who don’t know how to have a good time, which I gotta admit isn’t too far from the truth.

What do you think about all this?

My response was brief:

I don’t think their accusations are remotely accurate…and tell us much more about those making those accusations than the target of them.

And apparently insufficient…so the author asked for more information:

Why not? Is it not true that those prone to atheism are much more concrete thinkers than those prone to religion? You have to admit there is a correlation.

Here’s my response…

The fact that we’re not prone to accepting fantasy-as-reality doesn’t mean that we’re emotionless robots or Vulcans, incapable of appreciating beauty.

I’d argue that, in fact, the opposite is true. The individuals that I’ve met in the atheist community, are rarely dull. To the extent that we’re unpleasant, it stems from the frustrations of seeing reality treated as a minority position by individuals who credulously accept the supernatural while attempting to impose their religious views on other by legislation, coercion and indoctrination.

With respect to the lack of machismo or being unappealing to women, I find those claims absurd and sexist. They are particularly stupid charges that would be beneath response if it weren’t worthwhile to expose the ignorance and privilege of those making the claim.

There’s not a single public atheist figure that is advocating logic at the expense of emotion, humanity, beauty or empathy. (And if they’re were such a person, the rest of the public atheists would be the first in line to point out that this individual certainly doesn’t speak on behalf of other atheists).

There is no “spiritual” requirement for enjoying beauty or art…and such statements only demonstrate that the individuals have no concept of either the people their criticizing or the human condition. Most of my atheist friends greatly appreciate beauty, art, literature, fantasy, science fiction, music, films….the list goes on and on.

In addition to the television programs, podcasts, speaking engagements and activism efforts, I not only work a full-time job, but I take time to enjoy the world I live in. I read books (often fantasy and sci-fi), visit zoos, caves and museums, shop at craft fairs, hike and explore nature. I also crochet, make chain mail jewelry and oil paint. I play board games, card games, computer games and billiards. I am moved by great musical and artistic performances – occasionally to tears.

I do these things with my wife and with many other members of the atheist community. Dawkins has spoken many times about the beauty of nature. Hitchens has done so as well. I was fortunate to hear both of them speak publicly about this subject at the convention this past weekend.

As I said, the accusations aren’t remotely accurate and can only be made by someone engaged in a quixotic and xenophobic dismissal of a perceived enemy. What a sad existence one must have to presume that those who don’t share one’s imaginary friend are somehow deficient and sub-human. Curiously, they’ve often adopted religious positions that relegate the entire glory of existence to the status of a doormat – a place to wipe one’s feet while waiting for an afterlife. While their perceived enemy, to the extent that they’ve established anything akin to a religion, have largely adopted humanist positions.

And, as I’ve now wasted two e-mails responding to this absurd subject, I’ll be posting it on the blog so the reply might help prevent others from asking this.

Thanks for the question and for pushing for a follow up…but I’m most definitely finished with this particular subject.