I deserve to be flogged

I have confessed over and over again that I was wrong about the atheist bus signs. I initially raised an eyebrow at the innocuous messages that people were putting on those things, and thought they should be louder and more inflammatory to catch any attention. And again and again I had to be proven wrong: even the mildest and most positive statement, like “You can be good without god”, provoked vandalism and angry letters to the editor.

And now more atheists have to rub my nose in it.

NEPA and American Atheists got together to put this sign on buses:

It was rejected. Too controversial.

I give up. Point made. Just mentioning our existence is anathema to much of the American public, so my plan for an ad with Jesus and Mohammed having gay sex on an altar while rabid beavers gnaw on a crucifix, with the slogan, “WHERE’S YOUR GOD NOW, MORONS?” would probably be a little bit of overkill. Just forget I brought it up.

Also, another thing I have to apologize for: apparently, it is possible for American Atheists to be associated with a tasteful and well-designed billboard. (I know: David Silverman is the guy who will be doing the flogging now.)

Because we’ve been given so much to laugh at

Steve Kryger is complaining about the lineup at the GAC.

It listed the usual suspects – Dawkins, Harris, Myers (and sadly not Hitchens). But then I was confused. Was the Atheist Convention trying to save money by co-advertising with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival?

Out of the 34 speakers, 10 are comedians: Ben Elton, Mikey Robbins, Lawrence Leung, Jim Jeffries, Catherine Deveny, Simon Taylor, Tom Ballard, Stella Young, Craig Foster and Mr Deity. Sounds like good news for Melburnians – buy one ticket, get two conferences.

How flattering! Now I’m one of the usual suspects in a group of atheists! I do feel he missed an opportunity by not also counting me among the comedians, though.

But seriously, why are comedians such a common sight at atheist rallies? For this conference in particular, billed as a “Celebration of Reason”, why are nearly one-third of the speakers brought in to have a poke and a giggle?

For atheists, religion seems to provide no end of potential comedic material.

EXACTLY! How nice of him to have answered his own question.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be clever enough to grasp his own point. It’s a sad situation: in the Chinese Room of Mr Kryger’s mind, some correct answers emerge, but he’s too dim to be aware of them.

Granted, there’s much about religion that can appear confusing and even difficult to believe. It’s also easy to do a quick scan of the fringes and discover a barn full of straw men to encapsulate everything you don’t like about religion. But this doesn’t explain why atheists so frequently resort to satire, mockery, ridicule and scorn.

We don’t find religion confusing at all: many of us were brought up in a faith, and many of us godless folk are interested enough to study the subject. We’re also not critiquing fringe beliefs: we’re addressing mainstream Christianity, Islam, whatever, and also various versions of the religions within those domains.

And they are all absurd.

No, really. Once you get outside of, say, Lutheranism, it looks just as nonsensical and ridiculous to you as Mormonism or Scientology or Islam look to a Lutheran. What? I have to believe a rabble-rousing rabbi from the first century was a magical being with omnipotence and omniscience in order to get into Disneyland after death? What? It’s faith not works that gives you the key? What? The talking snake and the flying horse were literally true? What? This special underwear, these ashes on my forehead, visiting this rock, dancing just this way, not dancing at all, chanting these special words, eating this food prepared just so, not eating that food ever, chopping off this part of my penis, wearing a beard, not wearing a beard, cutting my hair just so, not cutting my hair ever…all of these things I must do at the behest of the universe-spanning master of the cosmos, or to fit in with my people, and you don’t find it all hilarious?

Even the ones who claim to be distancing themselves from miracles and magic and anthropomorphic beings in the sky and babble about believing in the “ground state of all being” or whatever other vacuous foolishness they’ve been spoonfed by some dithering theologian are laughable. You can’t take someone seriously who has so piously dedicated their life to defending piffle with deepities.

My question for atheists today is this: do you think the incessant mockery and smug ridicule benefits your cause?

Yes.

Does being a stuffy po-faced dimbulb benefit yours?

I’ve been to more than my fair share of Christian conferences. I’ve never attended a single conference where those of other beliefs (atheists or otherwise) were the subject of ridicule. I’m not suggesting this never happens, but on the whole, Christians are respectful of those with opposing beliefs.

This is true. They just say the proponents of those other beliefs will get theirs in a satisfactorily grim afterlife of torment and despair. Christians are very serious about that — they actually talk cheerfully about getting good seats in heaven to look down upon the writhing agonies of their enemies. I guess that’s “respectful” in a way. They certainly do take the whole business very seriously.

But otherwise, ridicule isn’t a good look for people who believe in the ridiculous themselves. The guy with the big red nose had better not risk poking fun at the other guy in the giant clown shoes, because next thing you know pies will fly and everyone ends up looking silly.

More criticism of Alain de Botton

Have you ever noticed the phenomenon where one person throws up, then everyone around them gets queasy, and then they start retching, and pretty soon everyone is having a pukefest? My emesis yesterday seems to have triggered a wave, with both JT and Martin geysering on cue.

Hmmm. That wasn’t exactly an enchanting analogy, I guess. But you know what I mean. And I think it’s perfectly appropriate to regard de Botton as an emetic.


And a defense! Hemant Mehta thinks Stedman and de Botton aren’t really that bad. It’s too bad none of his arguments actually address why some of us despise Stedman and de Botton, but OK. You play that game, the next thing you know, we’re siccing Ian Cromwell on you. Really…you don’t want to get on Ian’s bad side.

I need more torsos!

I seem to be peddling a lot of t-shirts lately, but I cannot resist this one. At this rate, I either need a couple of torsos or need to cultivate a habit of changing my shirt every hour.

Why I am an atheist – AJ Champlin

There are a multitude of reasons that I’m an atheist. With the exception of a brief time as an “angstheist” when I was a teenager, none of those reasons include denial or anger. Rather than focus on the negative, I’d rather focus on positive and start from the beginning.

I am an atheist because I am fortunate enough to be a member of an order of apes that evolved intelligence. This evolution may have wired us to see patterns and believe the absurd, but the intelligence we’re gifted with also allows us to overcome this shortcoming. I am an atheist because there were men and women before me who refused to believe that the mysteries of the natural world were to forever remain unknown. Collectively, they developed the most reliable means available of uncovering these secrets. I have no doubts that I would be dead (a severe impediment for being anything beyond compost) if not for this scientific revolution; let alone capable of writing this letter.

I am an atheist because I’m not afraid of questions to which I don’t have answers. Instead I am, like many before me, driven to embrace the search for truth, regardless of what strange, frightening or fantastic truth that search my unearth. I do not require fairy tales to reassure me and push an illusion of purpose.

I have been fortunate to have parents that cared more about my well-being than about indoctrinating me into their faith. They taught me to be a decent human being without the fear of divine retribution. I was taught to appreciate the truth and to discard any falsehoods I may have acquired. Perhaps most importantly, that is why I am able to say that I am an atheist.

AJ Champlin

The Mormons haven’t thought the consequences through

I’ve got a class to teach in an hour and a mountain of snow to clear from my driveway and sidewalk, and the morning was looking rather grim. And then I saw this cartoon and laughed, so I feel better now.

Mormon Heaven is going to be a much more interesting place now, especially since Stephen Colbert had all the dead Mormons converted to Judaism, so they’ve been sucked right out of the place and presumably sent to Sheol, instead.

Another view of de Botton

Russell Blackford read de Botton’s latest book, and has an interesting take on it.

I read Religion for Atheists on my flight over to the US – this is the new book by Alain de Botton. Verdict? Well, just quickly what I got out of it is that religions are comprehensive, totalitarian systems in which everything (art, architecture, music, the order of everyday life) is integrated and bent to a single purpose, with no room to manoeuvre except what the system itself provides. In other words, religions are even scarier than you thought.

The last time I picked up a book by a religious apologist for a flight, the results weren’t pretty. I’m bringing a cancer text with me instead. Far more optimistic and enlightening.

Schwaaaaaaag!

I know exactly what you’re thinking right now. The Reason Rally is less than a month away, and you have nothing to wear. You want to be fashionable, and you also want to declare your allegiance, affiliations, and your weird obsessions publicly. Whatever can you do?

Go to the Pharyngula store. We have new stuff! It will be ready in time for the rally (although you might have to pick them up at the event).

First, look at this t-shirt. You must have it.

It’s like the emblem Batman should have chosen. It will inspire fear and curiosity and weird monkey-like happy thoughts in all who behold you wearing it.

And then, you know, you’re going to be hanging out on the Mall, listening to raucous music and ferocious firebrands, and you’re going to get thirsty. Do you have your travel mug with you? You need it! It will be awesome and thirst-quenching!

There are other options. If you favor a more subtle, muted look, you can still purchase the lovely octopus t-shirt, and if you’re on a budget and can’t afford the full glorious PZ regalia, you can always get the button.

There. Your apparel needs are all taken care of. Buy now. Even if you can’t attend the Reason Rally, you can wear these and hold the mug as you watch us vilified on Fox News from the boring safety of your home.

Hmmm. I think I need to buy one of those shirts for my mom.