Abilene talk: Intro to Atheism

Recently, I gave a talk in Abilene that was intended to be an introduction to atheism for an audience of theists. Although only a few Christians showed up to argue, I’m proud of having written this speech and intend to use it again. Unfortunately the recording didn’t turn out well enough to share, so I’m just posting the text instead. Enjoy.

Russell_Abilene_talk [Read more…]

Explaining scientific understanding to a creationist

Got this email:


My biggest question for you guys is…
How do you believe that we (and by we, I mean the entire earth and all of its contents) are here? Of course Christians, like myself, believe in the 7 Days of Creation.
I’m watching your television show (your showdown with Ray Comfort) and I see the fallacies in his argument and the unwillingness to address your valid points. He also did not question you to the extent that I would have liked to if that were me. Somewhere in there, I came up with the question, “How do they think we got here?”
Do you accept the Big Bang/Point of Singularity or do you believe that the universe is ever-existent in itself? If it is the former, I’ve always wanted an atheist view on it. I watched a piece that Steven Hawking endorsed that was something along the lines of “Does God Exist.” He “proved” that God did not create the universe because time did not exist in which God could have created it. However, I cannot/refuse to believe that the amount of force needed to create that explosion could have been self-existent.
It would be awesome if y’all could address this question. I do not have a lot of free time, as I am a college student working 24 hours a week. Therefore, I can’t really turn on the tube and watch the show. Even if I could, I don’t think I have that channel. What I’m wondering is, if you could address it through e-mail or if you could address it on the show and send me a link where I can watch it on the internet.
I believe it will be fascinating to see a new view, as I live in a religiously-dominated area and differing opinions are few and far between.
I appreciate you guys taking the time!
[Name withheld], Freshman at [University withheld]
My reply is below.

Online atheist forums

The Atheist Experience gets a lot of email. Way more email than we can possibly respond to. In some cases, one person will write to us many times, seeing us as a sort of atheist pen pal. Although I enjoy filling that role sometimes, most of the time we’re stretched too thin to be a personal atheist mentor. In those cases, we often advise people to find a message board or a Facebook group to join instead. There are lots of people willing to talk there.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is a good way to get started if you’re not able to meet atheist friends in person, and you’d like some online contact.

Message boards

Facebook groups

Other groups

General sites of interest

There will undoubtedly be lots more suggestions in the comments.

Reading list for atheists

I hear that Matt claimed on the last episode that I had made a blog post with a “top ten” book list for atheists. Actually, I only sent somebody an email with my list, but there was no blog post, so I thought I should make one.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and I’m sure the comments will fill up with others I’ve missed. I put this together recently by polling my Facebook page with this question: If you met a new atheist who was trying to get a basic handle on the intellectual foundation of atheism, what books would you recommend? These are the books I chose:

  1. Dan Barker, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists (2008)
  2. Dale McGowan, Atheism for Dummies (2013)
  3. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006)
  4. George Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (1974)
  5. Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2009)
  6. Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (2005)
  7. A.C. Grayling, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism (2013)
  8. Guy P. Harrison, 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God (2008)
  9. Victor J. Stenger, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason (2009)
  10. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (1967)

Additionally, for many new atheists I don’t recommend they jump into these books until they have read some foundational works about critical thinking. I consider both of these essential reading:

  1. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1997)
  2. John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (2001)


Why are so many theology schools asking their students to pass out questionnaires?

Just now I rejected three identical comments to three different blog posts from the same person. The text read as follows:

Hello and to all atheists concerned:

I am currently pursuing a masters in theology and this week’s class project requires that I interview 3 middle/high school candidates concerning a particular set of questions (If you are in your twenties that’s okay even if the requirement is middle school or high school age-this class is about youth ministry). Candidates must be “unsaved” (Their words-not mine) but preferably they once attended church and had some idea as to the concept of “God” and what that means.

This is not a troll, a trick, or some sneaky method to get unsuspecting atheist youths in my spider’s web of church deceit. I just have several questions that need to be answered by 3 candidates that match the aforementioned profile. NO CONVERSION ATTEMPTS! I just need these questions answered that are enumerated below:
a. How do you describe your religious background and church involvement if any (past and present)?
b. To you, what is God like? Describe God or at least the concept of God if you believe this entity to be a myth.

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Review: “Freethought Resource Guide”

“A Directory of Information, Literature, Art, Organizations, & Internet Sites Related to Secular Humanism, Skepticism, Atheism & Agnosticism”

—by Mark Vandebrake
Website: http://freethoughtguide.comAvailable now on Amazon.com


Mark Vandebrake has clearly put in a lot of hours and energy sorting through countless resources for the freethought community in this recently released book. Despite the fact that he calls this compilation “not an exhaustive collection,” it represents more than enough to cover the areas of freethought that are most commonly discussed, and some areas I had not actually even considered.

The general structure of the volume consists of sections that begin with introductory essays, in which the author expresses his perspectives, interweaving passages from the writings of famous and historic freethinkers, relevant to the subject matter. These introductory essays are then followed by a breakdown of resources that cover the topics under consideration, often broken down further into subcategories. These resources take the form of annotated bibliographies, and occasionally simple lists. Vandebrake has inserted personal notes and recommendations in areas where he felt further information or clarification might be useful to the reader. [Read more…]

Lady Godiva and a Forgotten Lesson about Honor

Do you recall the story of Lady Godiva?

Most people recall an image of a woman with long flowing hair, on horseback, naked. But less people are actually familiar with the legend behind the image.

In summary, the good Lady was married to a greedy tyrant who exacted painful levels of taxes from his subjects. She issued repeated pleas on their behalf, that her husband should be less overbearing and exercise pity for his subjects. He finally answered that he would agree to her request if she would ride naked through the streets—pitting her pity against her sense of personal honor and dignity. In the end she agreed to expose herself to public shame. The subjects were asked to stay indoors, and she endured the now-famous ride. According to the tale as it was told to me as a child, everyone in the district, out of respect for her generosity and sacrifice on their behalf, closed their shutters and made no attempt to take advantage of her situation, as she was, quite literally, laid bare before them. [Read more…]

Neil DeGrasse Tyson posts a surprisingly disappointing video

Let me be clear here: I loves me some Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Whether he’s smacking down end-of-the-world predictions, or calling out James Cameron for putting the wrong sky in Titanic, or just letting Jon Stewart know that the latest private enterprise spacefaring scheme is no bullshit, the guy has a lot of charm, and has done a lot for science popularization.

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Why I am an atheist

Russell here.  I’ve been feeling left out of PZ Myers’ series on how people became atheists, but I thought it would be greedy of me to try to guest post on his blog when we’ve got our own.  So instead, I’m posting my own story here.

My parents are both of Jewish cultural/ethnic backgrounds, with roots in Germany and Eastern Europe.  They are also both more or less atheists — my dad more, my mom a bit less.

Continued below the fold…

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