Atheist Crowdsource

I’m looking for writing
That’s cool, or exciting,
Or just has a nice turn of phrase
That’s calm, or frenetic,
Or even poetic
There’s so many wonderful ways
Your favorites, selected,
Compiled and collected
For use, any way you see fit
So it’s time to get cooking–
Keep writing! Keep looking!
Go find all the best, and submit!

The background: Cuttlefish University does not have an atheist student organization. There are half a dozen Christian orgs, two Jewish orgs, and some sort of multi-faith thingie (no Muslim orgs, which my Muslim students have certainly noticed). I don’t feel it is my place to start a student organization, when I am not a student, but it certainly would be my place to offer to meet with any of the believers’ organizations as a “meet an atheist” day sort of thing.

Which brings me to the present, and to this post. I can certainly represent myself. But atheists have no central authority, no binding principles; we are privatively defined by our lack of belief in a god or gods. Someone could give the Catholic party line, but no one person can give the atheist perspective. I’m more than happy to share my own beliefs, but to really show these groups the breadth of atheist belief (because, of course, we do believe in stuff… just not in gods), I would like to be able to share other people’s beliefs as well.

In that context–an atheist, invited to address a group of believers–what would you propose should be read? I would like to develop a database of relatively short pieces (there are some wonderful books out there, but they are clearly too long a form for the current situation) that anyone could have access to, to augment their own experience in representing atheists while addressing religious groups.

So I ask–what essays have moved you? What stories would you want to share? Don’t limit this to well-known writers (but don’t neglect them!); don’t limit this to positive stories (or to negative!); don’t limit this to whitewashed or bowdlerized stories, if the unvarnished truth is what moved you; the whole point is to have a collection of real atheist voices, that anyone could draw upon to demonstrate “what atheists believe” or “who atheists are”. Be specific–not just “X is always worth reading”, but rather “this particular essay by X is perfect.”

I did a quick search before posting this–there are a few sites that seem somewhat related to my question, but frankly, none that fit what I am looking for. Certainly, I might have missed the perfect source–if so, please correct me! But if I am right, this could be a very useful resource. It will be available for anyone to pick and choose from, for their own “get to know an atheist” talks.

Please pass this on to others–nominate links in the comments. I will contact the authors for their permission, and will maintain the list to the best of my abilities. (I have no real ego, so if there is someone better qualified or better able to do so, let me know.)

And, for the record, anyone can use any of my verses in such a situation–consider this my explicit consent. I’ll likely look through and put just one or two verses into this collection, though.

Two More Days

For two things, actually–first, to decide which side gets to break out a razor, in the battle between Team PZ (a one-man-gang to be reckoned with) and Team Underdog (aka Team Awesome). For current totals, see PZ’s post here. The consensus is, PZ is an evil genius.

The second thing is, I just found an email (sorry, I was grading) that gives not a 20% discount, but a 25% discount, on my book. Just follow the link:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.
and use the code word CYBERMAY305, and save 25%–up to $500, if you order in bulk. (I keep mentioning this, but none of you own bookstores, it seems.)

Both of these good causes are toast at the end of the month. You can still give money to either, but it would be considerably more altruistic on your part.

Meanwhile… my grades are turned in, my parents have visited and left, the family is healthy. Almost makes me wish I had something to complain about.

Reminds me of a song I wrote a while ago–either a true story, or bitter sarcasm…

I’m in love with a beautiful woman
When she’s beside me I can’t lose
I’m in love with a beautiful woman
When she’s beside me I can’t lose
I’m so sad because I’m too happy to sing the blues

(chorus)
I got a ninety dollar necktie
Seven hundred dollar shoes
I got a ninety dollar necktie
Seven hundred dollar shoes
I’m so sad because I’m too happy to sing the blues

Don’t you give me no three wishes
Got no wishes I would choose
(X2)
I’m so sad because I’m too happy to sing the blues

(chorus)

I got everything I ever wanted in the whole wide world
Offer me more, I’d just refuse (go ahead, I dare you, make me an offer)
(x2)
I’m so sad because I’m too happy to sing the blues

(chorus)

Got more money than I can handle
It’s just me and Howard Hughes
(X2)
I’m so sad because I’m too happy to sing the blues

(chorus)

(etc.– at one point I had dozens of verses, I think…)

The Monster Of Morris

The Monster of Morris was loved and adored
He commanded the awesome Pharyngula horde
When he mentioned the contest, the mighty crowd roared
“We are stronger than even Chuck Norris!”
But the balance of power must soon be restored
We’ll defeat the Monster of Morris!

The call echoed over the length of the land
For the underdog team, it was cluster’s last stand
With a weekend to go, they were still down two grand
So they raised up their voices in chorus:
Won’t the generous atheists please lend a hand,
To defeat the Monster of Morris!

Now the underdog team has a simple request:
If in humankind’s future you’d like to invest,
There are many good reasons to give to Camp Quest
And no reason at all to ignore us
The underdog team could be best of the best
And defeat the Monster of Morris!

The humanist, atheist, free-thinking kind
Who look not to heaven but to their own mind
Are asking the folks who are likewise inclined
To support, you don’t have to adore us
But the power of many, when all are combined
Can defeat the Monster of Morris!

Forgive us, I ask, if we poke or we prod
But I’m really concerned for the underdog squad
And we won’t have the help of some meddling god
Like Jehovah or Hermes or Horus
We rely on our readers to overcome odds
And defeat the Monster of Morris!

We are at the final weekend. If you were waiting, wait no longer. This is a good cause, no matter who wins, but I like underdogs. Hell, I’m a Browns fan.

So, if you have friends who might be interested, forward this along. Relatives? Neighbors? Pets? The odds are against us, but there are very few odder than me. Hey, if you are in good with some creationists, tell them they can rub PZ’s nose in it. Their money still works.

Here–read Greta Christina’s last-ditch post if you need context. Or you could just trust me, and forward this to all the benevolent millionaires on your list.

Good Night, Spirit

The New York Times is reporting that Spirit, everybody’s favorite* presence on another planet, is finally to be abandoned. After exceeding the wildest expectations of its builders, Spirit finally gave up the ghost a little over a year ago. Nasa has been sending a daily call since then, with no answer, and tomorrow will be the last call. It is exceedingly unlikely that spirit will give any sort of response, but NASA will be listening through the end of the month.

I remind you of XKCD’s homage to Spirit (click through–the pic is too big for my lousy layout, and it is one which brings tears to my eyes), and repost my own verse from January 2010:

Why do we care about poor little Spirit?
A robot is shutting down; why all the fuss?
My theory, assuming you might want to hear it—
It’s not just a bot: it’s a real part of us.

For over six years, I could wander a planet;
This rover named Spirit would act as my eyes!
Much more than suspected, back when they began it,
So, yes, I’ll be sad when the poor creature dies.

You say, “it’s a robot—it never was living!
It’s metal and silicon, lenses and gears!
Exploring the surface of Mars, unforgiving,
Controlled from a distance, for over six years!”

Of course, this is true. It’s a robot, just driving;
It just blindly does what it’s programmed to do.
But it does so where I have no hope of surviving,
And when it shuts down, then I’m blind on Mars, too.

I think it is good that the “death” of this rover
Is met with emotion—a tear, or a frown.
We all hit the off-switch, when our time is over…
I hope you’ll feel likewise when I power down.

*We cheer for underdogs. Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, is still up and running, improbably and wonderfully.

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

He’s 70 today.

I was late to the table in becoming a Dylan fan; couldn’t stand his voice. Now, it doesn’t bother me so much, and there is no disputing, the man has a way with words.

Anyway, others have said much more intelligent stuff about him and today’s lap of the odometer, so I’ll just say “Thanks for doing all of the heavy lifting”, and link to some of my older verses blatantly stolen. I could have sworn there were more.

They will be leaving, about the most recent rapture.

Ah, yes, with the Wisconsin union fights, it seems you couldn’t turn on a TV without seeing… Charlie Sheen?

How do you do science, when God intervenes? Is there a control for that?

Of course, God intervenes all the time in football. Especially on Super Bowl Sunday.

And a silly little announcement for a blog carnival hosted by the much-missed TUIBGuy.

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan, and thanks!

Apocalypse When?

With Harold Camping’s second strike,
His wounds were self-inflicted
Cos holy Jesus didn’t like
The date that he’d predicted;

He’s tried again! Oh, what a shame!
But this time, it’s October
(Too bad it’s not a drinking game;
We’d none of us be sober)

You guessed it!

Harold Camping’s Success

“Harold Camping Fails Again”
The global headline hollers–
But no—his fraud’s a great success…
“Success” defined in dollars

Call me cynical, but I suspect there are two things Harold Camping loves more than Jesus. Money and attention. If we define Camping’s success or failure in terms of these two standards, he is a tremendous success. He took in tens of millions of dollars in just the past few years (the International Business Times reports $100 million in the past 7 years, based on tax returns), in order to spread the his gospel worldwide. Not to mention all the free publicity of the past week or so. No, this is a major win for Camping.

Of Headlines and Deadlines

News outlets struggled to capture the Rapture
With interviews, videos, photos and such
Intimate details make writing exciting
So everyone aimed for the personal touch

Editors laughed at the deadline in headlines—
Lunatic out-groups are always fair game—
Some woman attempted to slaughter her daughters;
I doubt that the newsies will shoulder some blame

Watching the rapture was once fun. I think the first story I saw on it was months ago, and it gave me a chuckle; I was amused that such a splinter story would make it to national press. As you are well aware, not only did it make it to national press, but in the past week I don’t know of a media outlet that did not have a rapture story.

And there’s the problem.

A fringe belief was given a sort of legitimacy by round-the-clock coverage. The linked story above is a bit of collateral damage. I expect more, and hope to be wrong.

News outlets could have done differently. The lede tended to be “look at how deeply these people believe” rather than “oh, look, yet another end-times prophesy” (yes, both themes were there, but the ratios were not to my liking). The prophecy was “debunked” by other religious leaders pointing to other bible verses, rather than by historians or social scientists. Camping’s cult is different only in the specificity of their timeline, and the lunacy of the broader belief was never (rarely, and by atheists, another outgroup) questioned.

This should have been a small paragraph on page 13, not a headline.

20% Off Sale!

I didn’t plan this, but it showed up in my mailbox–through the end of this month, you can get 20% off of the regular price of The Digital Cuttlefish Omnibus. If you are buying in bulk (yeah, right), you can save up to 50 bucks. Remember, it’s the perfect graduation gift, or end-of-the-world I-told-you-so gift, or just a really thick coaster for those icy summer drinks (northern hemisphere) or steaming cups of coffee, tea, or chocolate (southern hemisphere).

Just enter the coupon code “BOOK355″ (without quotation marks) and congratulate yourself on being a shrewd and thoughtful consumer. Here, I’ll even give you a handy button to bring you right to the store:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Make you a bet: If the world does not end within the next 48 hours (see how generous I am!), you buy one or two. If it does, I’ll buy you all drinks in Hell.

Wrong-Again Harold (A Camping Song)

Wrong-again Harold had made a prediction
Wrong-again Harold was once again wrong
Wrong-again Harold believed in a fiction,
But wrong-again Harold kept chugging along.

Wrong-again Harold had plenty of money
So wrong-again Harold bought billboards and such
People who saw them all thought they were funny
But wrong-again Harold, he didn’t care much

Wrong-again Harold misled the believers
Wrong-again Harold expressed no remorse
Wrong-again, wrong-again,
String-em-along-again,
Wrong-again Harold stayed true to his course.

Wrong-again Harold, he looked through the bible
Wrong-again Harold, he did all the math
Wrong-again Harold, he claim’s he’s reli’ble
And gives us the date and the time of god’s wrath

Wrong-again Harold, I feel I should mention,
Wrong-again Harold has done this before;
Wrong-again Harold, he craves the attention—
Wrong-again Harold’s a media whore.

Wrong-again Harold misled the reporters
Wrong-again Harold expressed no remorse
Wrong-again, wrong-again,
String-em-along-again,
Wrong-again Harold stayed true to his course.

Wrong-again Harold’s not much of a story
Wrong-again Harold has nothing to say
Wrong about rapture and heaven and glory
Please, can we just put this story away?

Wrong-again Harold, the media darling,
Radio, papers, the web, and TV
There on your soapbox, you’ve led me to snarling:
Bury this story, and just let me be!

Wrong-again Harold provided the message
Wrong-again Media, added their force
Wrong-again, wrong-again,
String-us-along-again,
Wrong-again Harold stayed true to his course.

Is there a media outlet anywhere that has not given this man coverage? How many separate stories has he been in, among the major players? This has all the civility of a circus freak show, and I’m sick of it.