ReasonCon One, in Hickory, NC

This weekend I was a guest speaker at ReasonCon One. This was the first ReasonCon, held in Hickory, NC.

I was invited to come and talk about “Analogies.” The main Keynote was Dr. Richard Carrier, who spoke on the historicity of Jesus and the origins of Christianity. The speaker sessions were free and open to the public. Only the social events had fees. The lecture room held 250, and was packed, with overflow guests standing in the doorway of the adjoining room. The turnout was stunning.

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Is atheist activism counter-productive? (Spoiler: No.)

This post is a response to an email I received concerning an argument between two friends, both atheists. One of them is presenting the other’s claim that it’s not worthwhile to actively promote atheism, because even though religion may be false, it gives people comfort and motivates them to work towards worthwhile social causes. My response is below; first, the argument in full.

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Atheist Arrested for Blasphemy, and How You Can Help

I was a guest on Trolling with Logic podcast today. And I met another guest, Aly, who was on to discuss a recent blasphemy arrest, and offer information about what people can do to help. Currently the idea is to put as much public pressure on Kuwait as possible in hopes of getting them to relent these charges and drop this case. Aly provided me with a link to an article he asked that I share, which is what I’m doing here at the blog. Anyone interested please check out the article and its links to petitions and other avenues of action available. There is also a Facebook page set up for information, I encourage you to like and follow. I have asked Aly to try calling into TAE today, as well, to discuss this further with the hosts. Please show your support of Aziz and share this information as much as possible. Thanks for your consideration.

I’m pretty sure the ACA has been an Atheism+ organization for years

I was in a very slow line for Master Pancake (an Austin comedy group) the night Jen McCreight posted her brainstorm about a movement called Atheism+.  And it was spot on — despite the fact that I was standing in a crowded space, I had to keep reading and pointing out excerpts to my wife.

I noticed I haven’t been blogging much, and I feel extra guilty that I haven’t contributed anything to the current inter-blog discussion about what a good idea Atheism+ is.  Ultimately I don’t really have a lot to say.  For as long as I can remember being involved with the Atheist Community of Austin there have been discussions about how to keep events from being overwhelmingly populated by white guys like me.  We’ve spoken many times about how atheism doesn’t necessarily extend philosophically to anything other than “not believing in any Gods”; how technically Raelians are atheists; and you can be an atheist and still believe in all sorts of supernatural woo as long as it’s not God.  That’s all still true.

Technicalities aside though, we’ve also been bold about taking on issues that are outside the minimal scope of atheism, and worked to present a strong front of core values from our community.  The ACA has had a booth at the Austin Gay Pride festival for several years running, and put out press releases denouncing politicians banning equal marriage rights.  We’ve had many on-air discussions with concerned atheists from minority groups.  We’ve spoken for women’s rights to choose, and defended that position despite the fact that anti-abortion atheists exist.  Our TV show has a fairly diverse cast, and we’ve been producing Godless Bitches for a year and a half now — a show hosted by prominent female voices and promoting outreach on behalf of atheist feminists.  More recently, the ACA board began drafting a formal anti-harassment policy for members as soon as the issue started gaining discussion where conventions were concerned.

Our group strives for a diverse, welcoming environment.  There’s an argument that comes up a lot where tolerance is concerned, but should not be taken seriously by anyone: that you can’t be truly tolerant unless you tolerate intolerance.  Or alternatively, if you identify and condemn bigotry, you are being bigoted against the bigots.

Hopefully people get the point through my rambling, but this is a roundabout way of saying that I think “Atheism+” is a welcome new label for an old concept, it’s something that many groups have already been striving for before Jen bothered to give it a new name, and I’m all for spreading this particular meme.

For more excellent posts on the subject, please see:

The structure of social revolutions, part 2

A bit more than a month ago, I spoke about Thomas Kuhn’s notion of scientific revolutions.  In the case of Copernicus’ heliocentric model, and in many other cases throughout history, a major scientific discovery was not accepted by the scientific community, or in the public at large, within the generation of the person who discovered it.  This time, I’d like to talk some more about examples of social movements that have followed similar trends, and how this relates to atheist activism.

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The structure of social revolutions, part 1

As I see it, atheism as a movement is about two things.  First, it’s about skepticism and the advancement of knowledge free of dogma.  Second, it’s about achieving social change.  We want to remove the stigma of atheism, allowing atheists to be open and honest about their non-belief while minimizing fear of prejudice and hostility against them.

Speaking as someone actively involved with atheist visibility, I know that it can be really frustrating when it seems like progress is not happening.  In fact, people commonly write us to ask, “Why do you bother?  It’s not like you’re going to turn Christians into atheists.”

Social progress always happens slowly, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the possibility of long term change, and even reasons to believe that you might have a small part to play as an instrument of that change.  In this post and the planned follow-up, I want to talk a bit about taking a big picture perspective on social change.

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson posts a surprisingly disappointing video

Let me be clear here: I loves me some Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Whether he’s smacking down end-of-the-world predictions, or calling out James Cameron for putting the wrong sky in Titanic, or just letting Jon Stewart know that the latest private enterprise spacefaring scheme is no bullshit, the guy has a lot of charm, and has done a lot for science popularization.

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