The Essentials of our movement

[This is written by Brian. And I'm glad to be writing again. :)

Feel free to violently disagree. ;) ]

DJ Grothe and his ambivalent stance regarding sexual harrassment. Dawkins and his ‘Dear Muslima’ letter. Penn and… well, frankly, everything. All of these freethinkers and atheists and skeptics taking a wrong turn here… They must be bad freethinkers and atheists and skeptics. Right…? [See links at the end of post for background info]

I am anti-religion. That, I think, could be said of me without any fear of contradiction. I am anti-religion because it’s false and unsupported by the evidence. I am anti-religion because (generally speaking) religions are anti-woman, anti-homosexual, anti-sex, anti-animal, and anti-[pretty much anything that takes power away from the people running the religion]. But these are the surface reasons, not the core. As bad as these things are, these are secondary illnesses, not the primary disease. The problem?

Essentialism.

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Rhetorical questions: of rocks and Jell-O

So this past weekend was the Reason Rally, where atheists from all over the United States gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to make a powerful political point: atheists exist and we are paying attention to politics. The kind of obsequious Jesus-based pandering that is the lifeblood of American democracy is at a particular peak, which makes more baffling the claims of Christians to be some kind of oppressed minority who is forbidden from practicing their faith by the evil secularist government forces headed by secular Muslim socialist Caliph Barack Obama (I am trying to distill a bunch of crazy into one sentence, so I am making this parenthetical thought extra-long in order to not overload the ratio of crazy:comprehensible… almost there… how are all of you doing?).

I didn’t go to the Reason Rally, but I was overjoyed to see a segment on MSNBC’s Up! With Chris Hayes where an all-atheist panel was assembled to discuss some of the rally’s major issues. I was quite impressed with the panel’s mere existence, because it stands in sharp contrast to the usual practice of having a lone atheist forced to contend with one or more idiots presenting “the other side” uncritically. The atheist’s time is then consumed almost entirely in distractions, forced to explain what atheism is, the difference between criticism of belief vs. believers, and in some cases having to explain grade 6 science to grown adults. This panel was different though; everyone (including the host) was an atheist, and thus could discuss the vagaries of the divergent viewpoints within organized atheism without having to stop every five seconds and explain why there are still monkeys.

I enjoyed watching the show, despite having a few objections (that are not really worth going into), and thought it was quite a coup for a nationally broadcast program to put that many atheists on camera at once. But then I read this: [Read more...]

The Watchmaker Analogy: not an argument

The ‘watchmaker analogy‘ has been around for quite some time (about 209ish years by my count), and it was refuted shortly after it’s explication (in fact, Paley was refuted by Hume before Paley was born). Several folk have gone after it, in a variety of ways but the damned thing just keeps showing up. To be fair, it’s not that the argument won’t die, it’s that people ignorant of it’s failure simply won’t stop trotting it out, as if restating it over and over again somehow means that the previous refutations didn’t happen.

Quite recently, Fazale Rana (a member of Reasons to Believe) directed me to his claim that “Kai ABC Proteins Re-invigorate the Watchmaker Argument for God’s Existence” with the invitation to ‘explain how is reasoning is faulty’.

Ask and thou shalt receive.

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Vaccines and the State

Here’s a report from Australia:

“The Australian government has decided to deprive parents of their tax benefits if they do not immunise their children against diseases.

Some families could lose over $2,000 per a child. And while the benefits of vaccination, for individual children, and for the population, far outweigh any risks, some parents question the policy, and do not like money coming into the equation.”

I think it’s trivial to say that this is a case of a government interfering in the choices of a family. Whether this interference is warranted, however… Does the government of a country have the right to financially penalise a family for making choices that don’t directly affect anyone else?

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Wrong per se

So this might be a first, but I am hoping to crowdsource some resolution on this topic. Last week I posted about the clear evil that I saw in abortion for sex selection. I thought for sure that the readership would join me in condemning such a barbaric and nakedly misogynistic practice.

What I got instead was a surprising amount of tacit “aww shucks” support for the right of someone to choose to abort a pregnancy because the child is female. Nobody thought it was a good idea, but there were very few people who gave it the kind of blanket condemnation that I had initially approached it with.

This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem for me. After all, any given post might yield a few or a lot of dissenting opinions. I consider it a mark of honour that I have engaged, intelligent and thoughtful readers who may disagree with me on any number of topics. It forces me to become better at defending my ideas, or to learn to change my ideas in places where it is clear that I am wrong. [Read more...]

Hate the belief, not the believer

There’s a post that I come back to on this site again and again. It’s something that I frequently link to when having discussions with believers and non-believers alike whenever they start getting their back up and feel that they are under attack when I’m pressing on their beliefs: we are not our ideas.

However, I’ve not always been comfortable with it in it’s entirety. I mean… ‘Hate the sin, not the sinner’ is clearly crap, but is there a significant difference between that and Crommunist’s ‘hate the belief, not the believer’? (my paraphrasing)

If I were confronted by a believer on this point, the apparent double-standard, could I respond effectively? [Read more...]

Economists and Ethics

It’s something of an inevitability that when the various heinous acts of corporations are brought to light, the Economists march out in lock-step to explain to the dissenters A) how emotional and irrational the dissenters are acting and B) sure, isn’t this the best possible thing that could be happening for ‘those people’?

This line of thinking was most recently articulated by Paul Krugman in The Slate. I want to focus on the two main points of this article: 1) the lie being presented that this is the best possible choice we could make given “the alternative”, and 2) the objection to this is being made on purely emotional grounds (i.e. there are no rational grounds to this objection) [Read more...]

Why people don’t like to answer theistic questions…

To readers who prefer short posts, I’d like to apologise in advance: this is not a short post. Unforunately, the nature of this extended argument is such that there’s no easy way to break it into 2 or 3 posts without killing the flow.

In a discussion I’ve been having recently with one particular believer, some ideas have repeatedly surfaced. This is not, however, the first time I’ve come across these particular notions. I want to take some time to fully address these ideas and the problems that are imbedded in the ideas. First I’ll simply quote the statements as written, as a group, break down the problematic/vague parts, then address them individually.

  1. “Can one expect human logic to understand the supernatural realm as easily as it does the natural realm?”
  2. “Are you saying that you reject the existence of the supernatural because people around you can’t agree on the exact nature of God, or of the Creative miracles?”
  3. “My fear, for those who choose that route, is that due to the acceptance of methodological naturalism as the defining limitation to science (defining only what can be proven from within nature itself), those that limit themselves in this way and trust that nature itself is “all there is”, will never have the chance to find out if the supernatural actually exists.”
  4. “Does methodological naturalism include or exclude God?”

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