Three quick godless announcements

1. For those of you at Purdue or within driving distance of West Lafayette, IN, there’s an event tomorrow evening that you may be interested in. The Society of Non-Theists will be hosting Dr. Darrel Ray for his lecture The God Virus: How Religion Infects our Lives and Culture. It’s from 5 to 7pm in Beering Hall Room 2280. This is my last event as President, so you all should totally attend!

Women Thinking Free, a new non-profit organization founded by the Skepchicks focusing on women in science and skepticism, will be hosting its first official event on May 22. And their first speaker is…me! Elyse had the good fortune of asking me to volunteer before boobquake erupted – if she would have asked me now, I totally would be requesting a limo and $10,000 speaker fee. Sigh, I guess I can settle for her buying me a beer.

Anyway, if you live in the Chicago area and want to hear me ramble about feminism and skepticism, you should totally check it out. I’ll give a brief talk, and then we’ll have some food and booze – can’t get much better than that. The tickets cost $10, but it’s for a great cause. Go here for more information about the event and how to sign up!

3. The Secular Student Alliance Board of Directors elections open tonight at midnight. If you’re a member, you should totally go vote. Lots of lovely people are running (many of whom I’m friends with), and so am I. All of them would do an awesome job, but I’d also love to keep helping out the SSA. And if you’re not a member, you should definitely consider becoming one – SSA is a fabulous, hardworking organization that helps young freethinking groups, and every bit of money helps them a ton. I’ll also be speaking at their annual conference in July, which is an amazing opportunity for young people involved or thinking of starting non-theist student groups.


  1. roblepl says

    Would love to go to the lecture by Dr. Darrel Ray but, Puerto Rico is not within driving distance :-). Any chance it is made into a podcast or published somewhere on the web?

  2. Jerad says

    I saw Dr Ray’s lecture a bit over a month ago, it’s highly recommended! As is talking with him afterward if he’s doing dinner and drinks as well. Great guy all around, and a really interesting book.

  3. angeloATEO says

    There is a podcast on Point of inquiry, I would recommend this lecture to anyone and everybody.

  4. Brandon says

    Personally, I believe the Atheist vs. Theist argument to be a complete waste of time. It’s surprising how many purportedly “intelligent” people get sucked into it … and how much of the literature out there is simply choir-preaching propaganda. It’s something that will never be brought to a conclusion since neither side will see the others’ perspective.Everyone has the same evidence in front of them, but each side chooses to view it through either an “Atheist filter” or a “Theist filter.”

  5. says

    Re: “The God Virus: How Religion Infects our Lives and Culture”Isn’t that title just a bit too triumphalist or biased? The word “infects” is too provocative and incendiary, I think, and I am highly skeptical of how dispassionate or unbiased the speaker can be if he includes such a word in his title. If he’d like to offer objective or empirical or falsifiable sociological data, and if this data just happened unintentionally to depict religion negatively, then I’d have no objection. But when he titles his talk in the manner he says, then I have my doubts about how faithfully he is following the scientific model.And to quote and comment on what is said on the appertaining Facebook group (…. ):”For thousands of years, religion has woven its way through societies and people as if it were part and parcel to that society or person.” —> Indeed, because it WAS that society. Religion was simply the axiomatic culture, inseparable and indistinguishable from the rest of the culture. For example, in Biblical Israel, Judaism was not something additional to Hebrew culture, but rather, it WAS Hebrew culture. Likewise with most any other society before the modern era. It is difficult what Dr. Ray feels requires explanation. Is it not self-explanatory why religion was part of culture? How he will explain this subject without resort to tautology, I must confess I am at a loss.As an aside, plenty of others hold by their given ideology or culture with no greater degree of rationality or skepticism than religious individuals do theirs. A person who apodictically declares a given moral philosophy or political ideology to be correct, without attempt at justifying based on falsifiable empirical data, for example, has surrendered his reason no more or less than any religious individual. Whether or not any deity is appealed to is utterly irrelevant. As soon as one believes that ANYTHING is ontologically supreme and absolute, irrespective of proof or lack thereof, one is – as far as I’m concerned – a religious individual, irrespective of whether any deity is involved. After all, a deity is merely an absolute force given personality, but why should the presence or absence of personality in the absolute affect the requirement for reason and skepticism and empirical evidence and falsifiable proof? Beliefs without proof are fundamentally unscientific, irrespective of whether the absolute in question has personality and omniscience and omnipotence, or is an unliving unaware abstract moral or intellectual notion or ideology. One may worship G-d, but one may just as well worship any secular or non-theistic moral or political philosophy and abdicate his reason and defenestrate his skepticism no less than the religious. I am not saying I am innocent of the charges I produce, for I am most certainly not, but rather, I am saying that plenty of atheists are as guilty as I (a very religious individual) am.As a second aside, now is as good a time as any to quote an excellent passage from Professor Haim Kreisel’s essay “Interpreting Judah Halevi’s Kuzari” (… , the Kuzari being a 12th-century Arabic classic of Jewish philosophy by Rabbi Judah Halevi of Spain): “But was Halevi’s predicament really our predicament? Halevi, like Maimonides after him, was caught between two visions of the world [viz. Judaism and Arabic-Greek philosophy, which for Halevi was “science”) that both authoritatively claimed for themselves the label “true.” Important aspects of the clash remain, more often in the form of a clash between science and religion, now that philosophy and science are independent of each other. But is the clash really the same? Science, as opposed to medieval Aristotelianism, does not deal with the world of the spirit. Philosophy has branched out into two dominant streams. One, characteristic primarily of Continental European thought, is rooted in arational approaches, It makes claims that are as unverifiable from an analytic perspective as are religious claims. The other, analytic philosophy, continues to uphold the rational tradition, while narrowing its focus. Analytic philosophy may dismiss religious claims as foundationless, or unsubstantiated nonsense, but it cannot prove them false. To be sure, analytic philosophers have produced arguments against religious claims that are logical in their structure, but for the most part, emotive in their content. Furthermore, this stream of philosophy has not provided a positive substitute to religion in understanding reality. The resulting situation is that scientific truths remain material truths, while philosophic truths either must stop short of the world of the spirit or venture into that world on the basis of an arational vision that is relative to its beholder. Religion is left with a large domain of its own in which it can exist basically unchallenged.”

  6. says

    So, in an effort to get a glimpse of where Atheists are coming from, I’ve begun reading Dr. Ray’s book. Already I’m amazed at the amount of baseless generalizations he makes. Apparently, when religious people make ignorant statements, it’s a result of religion “poisoning” their reasoning ability. But when Atheists make ignorant statements, it’s that specific individual’s fault … not Atheism’s. It’s amazing how conveniently this removes all responsibility from Atheism as a belief-system (or disbelief-system, if you prefer).I’m going to trudge my way through, to see if Dr. Ray can make any logical claims that aren’t “infected” with stereotyping, generalities, and conveniently staged examples (a.k.a “straw men” … not unlike the one that appears on the second page of the first chapter). I have a feel that this book was written more as an Atheistic circle-jerk than to actually enlighten anyone…

  7. says

    So what generalizations is he making that are baseless? When I saw him on the Atheist Experience TV show (highly recommend you check it out) his primary base was his research and experience as a psychologist, and found his claims to be well-supported. And as for the “atheistic circle-jerk” – you definitely aren’t invited

  8. says

    Why would I want to be invited to an Atheistic circle-jerk? Why would anyone, for that matter? Perhaps you misunderstood the comment. Anyhow…Here are a couple of areas that that Dr. Ray generalizes:Dr. Ray starts out right in the introduction by painting a stereotyped picture of Theists by using examples of people who are Theists (particularly, fanatical Theists). This is not an accurate way to define Theists, or really anything for that matter. This type of “reasoning” would akin to looking at vehicular accident reports, determining that more red cars were involved in fatal accidents than other color cars, and concluding, “red cars are obviously more deadly than any other color car.” While there may be “evidence” to back that claim up, I think we could both agree it’s circumstantial. Obviously, it’s the person behind the wheel of the car that’s dangerous; the color of the car is inconsequential. I would argue that Dr. Ray’s use of loose-cannon Theists as a defining example of Theists isn’t much different. If he wants to define Theists, he should go to the source of Theism, not people who’ve abused the use of the source.Additionally, right in chapter one, Dr. Ray gives a theoretical situation that’s nothing more than a thinly veiled straw man. He portrays a theoretical discussion between an Atheist and a Christian and suggests that the Christian will react in a defensive, illogical and angry manner — ultimately cutting the conversation off. Then he essentially says, “see, this is the kind of illogical reaction religion causes.” The only problem is that the situation he presents is a complete fabrication. Some people may react the way he suggests, others won’t. You can’t present a theoretical situation as “evidence.” This is exactly what Atheists accuse Christians of doing.

Leave a Reply