Nov 30 2009

RCimT: Fashionably Late Sunday Readings

Here’s yesterday’s Sunday RCimT, which is only fashionably late.

Your Cool Atheist of the Week is author Terry Pratchett of the Discworld series. The series is on my short list of books to read, as soon as I obtain a copy. Oh, and read everything else I’ve got queued up.

“I think I’m probably an atheist, but rather angry with God for not existing.” In a 1999 interview he told Anne Gay, “I’m an atheist, at least to the extent that I don’t believe in the objective existence of any big beards in the sky. That is a religious position, by the way.” He has also referred to himself as a “Victorian-style” atheist, in the sense that he rejects supernaturalism but considers himself culturally and morally Christian.

Alternet asks, what if people treated their religion as metaphor? Given that many apologists quickly proclaim that their foundational text is metaphor to begin with, especially where reality disagrees with specific aspects of these texts, what would the fallout be if people treated the whole text as metaphor? The morals conveyed by these parables would be intact, people would put less stock in the crazy parts that make no sense in context of scientific knowledge, and there’d probably be much less sectarian violence (and less sect-splintering).

AskMen.com has an article titled “The Bible: 5 things you didn’t know”. However, I actually knew these things (yes, including the “God of Breasts” bit), so… what now, AskMen? Where do we go from here? Do you issue me an apology? Do I forgive and forget out of the kindness of my heart? Or do we go our separate ways and never speak to one another again, out of a misplaced sense of pride?



In Nepal, a three-year-old girl has been appointed as the new kumari, or “living goddess”. The MSNBC article says, “[a]s a final test, the living goddess must spend a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear.” Then, she has to live in isolation in a temple until the onset of menstruation, at which point she may rejoin her family. In light of these disturbing facts, Lost Liberty Cafe states that this institutionalized aspect of Nepal’s religion is outright child abuse, and I tend to agree. Religion tends to institutionalize as sacred innumerable abuses of human rights and dignity, so it is imperative that we question these supposedly sacrosanct actions and put a stop to such abuses.

It’s about time someone exposes Scientology’s war on reality. And by “about time”, I mean, it’s been done a million times already (and even by high profile mags like Time), but nobody’s paying any damned attention, otherwise they’d be a complete shambles by now. Why is it, again, that religion gets a free pass to be as batshit insane and sociopathic toward human beings as inhumanly possible?

Speaking of insanity, just in case you’re new to the creation/evolution debate, someone is bound to pull the “but what if you’re wrong” argument on you about the existence of God, despite it having nothing to do with the debate proper and used time and time again despite it never really working — the textbook definition of insanity. The tactic is merely the creation of a fevered philosopher’s mind in desperately clawing for any justification for his theism, and if it leaves you stumped, you owe it to yourself to read up on Pascal’s Wager. And to the rest of us. If you get tripped up by such an easily parried argument, then you’re not doing our side many favors.

Jim Gardner at How Good is That tackles the allegation that atheism is a religion without a deity. In every instance I’ve seen this assertion made, it’s been uniformly made as a way of getting under the skin of your debating opponent, usually to throw them off their game. This tactic, in my estimation, is a way of throwing sand in your opponents’ eyes. It’s every bit as insulting as ending every anti-atheist screed with “God bless”, and it has the added effect of being difficult to disprove by virtue of being wholly baseless, depending as it does on a fundamental mis-definition of the word “religion”. This equivocation tactic usually takes the form of equating any unified worldview with religion despite the fundamental need for both dogma and conferring moral imperatives, neither of which are available to the atheist. Given that religious folks will often state that atheism’s lack of moral imperatives make it inferior to religion (because morals must be dictated, rather than innate, in a theist’s mind), it’s also an instance of arguing two sides of the same argument. The “dogma” part is usually (and laughably) argued as a dogmatic faith in some supposedly monolithic aspect of science that “must not be questioned”, despite there being no such thing in any field of science, especially not evolution which has been questioned strongly for 150 years and has held up admirably. If you want to read more about this tactic, there’s a good discussion at atheism.about.com.

There’s also a great synopsis on the achievements wrought by godless science as compared to those brought about by religion. Despite certain proselytizers’ claims that Christianity was the “birth canal for science”, when one looks at history proper, it’s fairly obvious this isn’t the case.

And while we’re providing links to knock down the easier canards theists like to vomit forth, Hitler had nothing whatsoever to do with evolution. There are at least three reasons for this according to Skeptico, and I can’t find any major flaws with any of the lines of argumentation. The fact that any one of them scuttles the argument, would suggest to me that the allegation is only made time and time again because Hitler was extremely evil, and mere association with him, spurious or not, can do a number on any philosophy that can be difficult for said philosophy to survive. The tactic is a damp squib, and again, the fact that theists try to set it off in just about every debate in violation of Godwin’s Law and to the jeers of the audience is the textbook definition of insanity.

And finally, now that I’ve provided a number of ways to counter silly theist claims, Mike Haubrich declares that it is Time for Atheists to Stop It — so forget everything I just linked. Apparently, the accommodationists were always right, and we loudmouths should shut up and stop affronting the religious with our, well, out-ness, and our lack of complicity with their scientific smear-campaigns.

Now that you’ve stuffed yourself back in the closet to satisfy the religious appeasers moderates, do try to enjoy the rest of your week. We’ll be by every day to slide cheese slices under the door.

1 comment

  1. 1
    Paul S.

    That was an interesting article about the possibility of treating religion as a good story that one is fascinated by rather than a literal truth. I think that some people who consider themselves Christians probably do think this way, although they are probably a minority even among the most liberal Christian denominations. The majority of people in the US who consider themselves Christian probably regard parts of their religion as metaphors or stories rather than as literal dictates, but for most people there are some core beliefs that are taken as literally true. This is probably true for pretty much every other religion as well.

    (There are also at least a few people who are generally theist or deist, but aren’t really sure if they believe the literal truth of any particular piece of any religion’s scripture, and so have to pick and choose what aspects of religion they want to follow without being really confident that they are picking the right things. OK, that’s just me for most of my life, but I would be surprised if I was totally alone on this.)

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