Appearing in San Francisco: NAPCON 2013

Banner for the National Atheist Party Convention (NAPCON 2013).I’ll be speaking at an event held by the National Atheist Party in two weeks time. So sorry I’ve been absent from my blog for over a week. Traveling and speaking at two events last week in North Carolina and then bills and taxes (a several day job for me, as my wife and I work three jobs, two of them self-owned businesses) have kept me from getting back to my blogging. I’ve got a few things in the queue, but for now, just a quick announcement of my next event…

I’m an invited speaker for the one-day National Atheist Party conference. See a quick video promo for that. You can buy tickets and get more information here (and definitely read their webpage which has a lot more info). This will happen Saturday, March 9 (2013), 8am-5:30pm (followed by the afterparty, which you also have to get tickets for). There is a special fundraising luncheon as well (separate from the afterparty). It’s all being held at the South San Francisco Conference Center. A lot of cool speakers and performers are featured.

As a frequent denizen of San Francisco, I have to admit this conference center is a bit difficult to get to, so plan ahead for that. It’s not in downtown. Nor next to the airport. No BART station comes near it. But there are lots of hotel accommodations nearby and the facility is respectably highfalutin. My talk:

“Separation of Church and State: Pagan Style”

Dr. Carrier, a historian of antiquity, discusses some of the ways state and religion interacted in ancient Greece and Rome, and how the American Constitution is far more a product of secular pagan thought than Christian.

You know, some “ancient history” perspective on the whole idea of political atheism. Back to my roots.

Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers

Picture of Kimberley Veal of African Americans for HumanismThis February 24th (2013) is going to be a Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers. For an explanation of what that means and how you can participate, read the great piece by its organizer, Kimberley Veal (writing as a guest on Greta Christina’s blog): “Come Out and Join in.”

I’d also love it if you scheduled yourself to throw some financial support to the educational charity drive run by our own Black Skeptics Los Angeles, who are providing scholarships to poor families sending their first generation to college: see Secular Community Steps Up for South L.A. Scholars. For more on the details of that 501(c)3 charity (which is an awesome idea), see Black Atheists Step Up. If they get a bunch of donations on that day, it will make a valuable statement.

But at the very least, make this February 24th a day to look up something to read online about the history of black atheism and nonbelief, and talk about it (online or elsewhere). You can watch a video at BlackAtheistsAmerica or google one of the prominent black atheists currently in our movement (Greta Christina’s list will soon be updated, but it’s a great place to start, with further links on minority atheism generally: see Atheists of Color; in fact, if you know any active black atheist speakers not on that list, let her know), or google up what you can on one of the prominent historical figures listed at the Black Atheists website. Not all on that historical list were atheists, but all have sternly questioned aspects of religion.

Picture of Frederick DouglasMy favorite, and actually the historical person I most admire (and that’s person, of any race), is Frederick Douglass, whose first autobiography everyone should read. It’s inspiring, astonishing, and superbly written, and today barely costs more than a dollar: see Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. That’s right. He was an escaped slave, who secretly taught himself to read when it was a death penalty offense. His book tells the tale. He never renounced belief in God or Christianity, but he was well known for his harsh criticisms of religion, and for such witticisms as “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

On religion in general he once declared such words as we never much hear from top Christian leaders today:

I love that religion that is based upon the glorious principle, of love to God and love to man; which makes its followers do unto others as they themselves would be done by. If you demand liberty to yourself, it says, grant it to your neighbours. If you claim a right to think for yourselves, it says, allow your neighbours the same right. If you claim to act for yourselves, it says, allow your neighbours the same right. It is because I love this religion that I hate the slave-holding, the woman-whipping, the mind-darkening, the soul-destroying religion that exists in the southern states of America. It is because I regard the one as good, and pure, and holy, that I cannot but regard the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. Loving the one I must hate the other, holding to the one I must reject the other, and I, therefore, proclaim myself an infidel to the slave-holding religion of America.

Even this atheist says “Amen.”

Appearing in NC: Greensboro & Raleigh

I’ll be speaking at two venues in North Carolina later this month (February 2013): first for the Triangle Freethought Society at NCSU in Raleigh (details here), then for the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics at Greensboro (details here).

Raleigh: Wednesday (February 20) at 6:30 pm in the Walnut Room of 4115 Talley Student Center at North Carolina State University (2610 Cates Ave., Raleigh NC 27606). Open to the public. Parking is free after 5:00pm in the Coliseum Deck (directly east of Talley). My talk will be “Why the Gospels Are Myth: The Evidence of Genre and Content,” with Q&A. I’ll be selling and signing some of my books afterward.

Greensboro: Thursday (February 21) at 7:00pm in the UNCG Sullivan Science Building, Room 101 (301 McIver St., Greensboro, NC 27403). Open to the public. Not sure about parking. My talk will be “Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist: A Historian Explains the Evidence That Changed His Mind.” I will be talking about some things I haven’t mentioned in prior talks about this subject, but also summarizing some of my past talks on the same subject (and only minimal overlap with the Raleigh talk), and of course taking Q&A on the topic. And then selling and signing some of my books afterward.

Sexual Objectification: An Atheist Perspective

Picture of Caroline Heldman, Ph.D.A recently excellent TED talk by Caroline Heldman about sexual objectification is a must-view. It will just take you thirteen minutes of your time, and I guarantee every minute is informative–things you should know, if you don’t already (and don’t assume you do). She correctly defines and identifies a real problem, identifies from empirical and scientific findings why it’s bad, and lays out what you can do about it, and everything she suggests is doable without much expense (the only resources required: just your attention and concern, and what it motivates you to say and think and do) except one thing, which is producing better art, advertising and media yourself (which we need not all do: that’s a recommendation for artists, marketers, and media people).

To watch that video, and read yet another disgusting example of how the women in our own movement are being treated, see Rebecca Watson’s post on it (Reminder: I Am an Object). Her post is short but to the point and she gives the evidence of what she’s talking about (in her case, something far worse than what Heldman is talking about, but on the same arc). Why so many men in our movement (and even some women) are not taking this seriously as a problem to speak out against and fight I don’t know. Anyway, the Heldman video is embedded at the end of her post, so if you don’t care about the latest harassment of Rebecca Watson, you can just skip to the end and watch Heldman (or click on her picture here above). Indeed I dare you to.

In the meantime, I have more to say on this subject as an atheist, a humanist, a feminist, and a philosopher… [Read more…]

Paging Dr. Pander Hyperbole

Christianity is the most amazing thing ever. Or not.

In clearing my by-the-desk bookshelf of books I’d been using to complete On the Historicity of Jesus Christ, I came across Bart Ehrman’s excellent Jesus Interrupted again, which is still the standard book I recommend to anyone who wants to get up to speed on what the widest mainstream consensus is on the state of New Testament Studies (the ideal analog to The Bible Unearthed for Old Testament Studies). It’s definitely a book every atheist should own and have read (it has errors, but they are few).

I’ve been thumbing through all these books, re-checking my marginal notes to make sure I’m not overlooking anything before relocating them to more rarefied cubbies in my vast household array of bookshelves. Doing the same for Jesus Interrupted, I came across this, the very last line in the second to last chapter. Immediately one of those cartoon &?#$& thingies appeared above my head (as clearly it did the first time, since I see I wrote a pithy note in the margin after it):

The ultimate emergence of the Christian religion represents a human invention–in terms of its historical and cultural significance, arguably the greatest invention in the history of Western civilization.

Boing! Wha?

Are You Serious? (Davis Silverman Meme)








My note written below it:

What about democracy, science, philosophy, logic, [formal] mathematics, and human rights?

(Indeed, what about electricity or the internal combustion engine or the computer or the solar panel or the light bulb?)

You know. As for example.

That was obviously just off the top of my head, probably while kicking back on some couch somewhere. Revisiting the notion in just a few seconds, I thought of a few others I could have jotted in there (vaccination, birth control, radio, the satellite, women’s suffrage … &?#$&). Feel free to post your own list of “arguably the greatest inventions in the history of Western civilization [that are damn well more important than Christianity]” in comments here.

I’ve addressed the “Christianity saved the universe” baloney before, of course. In my chapter “Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science” in The Christian Delusion (pp. 396-420) and online in “Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy” (or human rights blah) and Christianity didn’t invent everything (see Flynn’s Pile of Boners) and the “Stirrup of Jesus” didn’t save Western civilization and whatnot (see Lynn White on Horse Stuff) and Jesus was not the greatest philosopher in history (he doesn’t even rank; see my summary On Musonius Rufus and Reply to McFall on Jesus as a Philosopher, in which Christianity supposedly invented feminism, too).

I don’t mean to pick on Ehrman. Or that book (it’s otherwise mostly great). And I’m not attributing all this nonsense to him. It’s just that at the end of the day, re-reading that remark just made my head spin. So I had to vent a bit…and remind people these kinds of remarks are really, really absurd. Like I said of something else in one of the above links: this is not nonsense on stilts…it’s nonsense on twirling rockets to the moon.

Debate in Alabama

On Saturday, February 9 (2013), I will be debating the proposition “Is the Christian Faith Reasonable?” with Dr. David Marshall at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The whole event will run from 6pm to 8pm, doors open at 5:30pm, and Dr. Marshall and I will be selling and signing our books in the lobby afterward. The debate will be held in the Chan Auditorium. For more details see the calendar page for UAH Non-Theists, the co-sponsors of the event with the campus group Ratio-Christi.

Prototypical Sexist Atheist on Exhibit

In response to my post Monday on Adam Lee’s petition against the harassment of prominent women in the atheist movement (see The Name for What’s Happening), someone posted a comment that demonstrates the very existence and nature of the problem. Indeed, almost so perfectly I’d think a feminist invented it as an ideal hypothetical example; but no, this is an actual post by an actual antifeminist atheist who actually believes (or wants you to believe) everything he wrote. I responded there, but it’s all so worth reading I’m reproducing it here, in it’s own blog post. Because I want everyone to be aware that this shit is going on.

The commenter (posting as “submariner“) wrote: [Read more…]

Atheism+ : The Name for What’s Happening

Adam Lee has launched a petition I hope all my godless readers will sign. In fact I hope you will encourage as many godless friends and colleagues as you can to sign, to show how many of us support women in our movement and oppose the abuse and harassment of them that is going on from a very vocal minority of appalling atheists. See Petition: Support Feminism and Diversity in the Secular Community for the full explanation and link, or go directly to the petition at The Leaders of Atheist, Skeptical and Secular Groups: Support Feminism and Diversity in the Secular Community.

Why is this needed? As Lee well puts it:

We, the undersigned, are atheists, skeptics and nonbelievers who value free speech and rational thought and who seek to build a strong, thriving movement that can advocate effectively for these values. We’ve chosen to put our names to this petition because we want to respond to a video created by a blogger calling himself Thunderfoot. In this video, Thunderfoot attacks named individuals who’ve been active in promoting diversity and fighting sexism and harassment in our movement. He describes these people as “whiners” and “ultra-PC professional victims” who are “dripp[ing] poison” into the secular community, and urges conference organizers to shun and ignore them.

We hold this and similar complaints from other individuals to be seriously misguided, false in their particulars and harmful to the atheist community as a whole, and we want to set the record straight. We wish to clarify that Thunderfoot and those like him don’t speak for us or represent us, and to state our unequivocal support for the following goals: We support making the atheist movement more diverse and inclusive. … We support strong, sensible anti-harassment policies at our gatherings. … We support the people in our community who’ve been the target of bullying, harassment and threats. … [And we want] to put a stop to this bad behavior once and for all [by] chang[ing] the culture of the atheist movement…

As of this posting, his petition is approaching 1700 signatories, and I want to see it go as high as possible, so we know how many atheists in our movement have our back, and how many of us these horrible bad apples of atheism are offending. I want to know how alone I am in this, or how supported I am. I want to see where our movement is going: their way, or ours.

Please go sign that petition now. Then come back to read on. Unless you are still not convinced you should bother. In that case read on first, and then see how you feel. [Read more…]

Digitally Appearing in Winnipeg

Nighttime skyline of the beautiful city of WinnipegIf you’re in or near Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada), you probably already know, but just in case not: tomorrow I’ll be doing a live Q&A via FaceTime and/or Skype for the Humanist Association of Manitoba, after they do a viewing of my latest Skepticon talk, Miracles and Historical Method. I’ve offered to field questions on all topics, though, not just that, although the organizers I’m sure will prioritize questions in line with the event.

This will take place at Canad Inns Polo Park (1405 St. Matthews Avenue) on Saturday 12 January (2013), from 4pm to 8:30pm, although I believe they handle organization business first before getting to the viewing and then the Q&A, so I might not be on screen until around 6 pm (local time), give or take. See the announcement and event details in the Winnipeg Free Press and HAM’s website.





Bayesian Atheism Even Lowder

Yesterday’s post inspired someone to point me to another gem in the same category: the ongoing work of Jeffery Jay Lowder at The Secular Outpost on Bayesian Arguments for Atheism and theism. He has a long archive on that topic there and continues to post on debates in religion analyzing them in Bayesian terms. Though his posts are generally at a moderate and not beginner’s level of difficulty, nevertheless a lot of valuable insight is there, and many examples of how to test and frame arguments in religious debates using Bayesian reasoning. Even when he’s wrong, you can learn a lot by thinking about how to articulate what you think his mistake is using the same Bayesian concepts.

Lowder has even assembled a getting-started bibliography of his best posts on how to frame and improve evidential arguments for naturalism using Bayes’ Theorem in his Index of Evidential Arguments for Atheism. This and the ongoing entries he adds on Bayesian reasoning in atheism are definite must-haves on any bookmark list for Bayesian atheism. Enjoy!