American Atheists all over the place

The American Atheists conference will be in Minneapolis on 21-23 March, and yes! The registration information is now online! I’ll be there, let’s see lots of others there, too.

If you want more details, besides the info on the web, Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, will be the featured guest on Atheist Talk on Air America Sunday at 9am. Tune in!


  1. 386sx says

    Mr. Boteach says all you have to do to prove the existence of god is to look and see how smart Mr. Hitchens is with his complex Mr. Hitchens brain and whatnot. I don’t think Mr. Boteach is a very bright fellow, however I could be mistaken about that.

  2. Fedor says

    Could someone tell me how to join the Pharyngula chat room? I have an IRC client installed already…

    Mail me at: fedor{at}steeman{dot}dk

  3. Richard Harris says

    There’s a religious news program on BBC Radio 4 Sunday mornings. I listen to it to laugh at their nonsense & feel contempt. But today, with a Catholic bishop saying condoms aren’t the answer to the AIDS problems in Africa, but health care, nutrition, & education are, I turned off in disgust.

    Although the man speaking was obvioulsy intelligent, the stupidity or evil of his position, due to his ideology, offended my sensibilities, & I contrast the nonsense spoken on this program with atheist discussions.

    The stupidity & dishonesty of religion sometimes enrages me.

  4. John Phillips, FCD says

    @#4 and #6, same here in IE7 and yes, according to debug mode it is the Simmons post causing the problem with an invalid character. In the Comic Sans Simmons’ quote wherever one expects an apostrophe one instead gets an up/down arrow character which also appears in the IDiot’s original wingeing post on the Discovered IDiots site. E.g. at the end of the phrase “It is worth one” there is an up/down arrow instead of an apostrophe which would then appear as “It is worth one’s”. In Arial it is either U+2195 or U+21A8 but has no equivalent in Comic Sans, which may be the problem.

  5. says

    PZ you’ll be there with your minions? What a great target that must be. Surely God will rain his fiery balls on you, maybe turn your Trophy Wife into a pillar of salt. If not, you’ve got to wonder.

  6. KC Jones says

    How would an athesitic President, for example, represent all of the people?

    Would he, or she, respect the rights of the religious?

  7. KC Jones says

    Or, as another example, would an atheistic professor repect a Christian student, who performed well in class and on exams and understood the professors position.

    Would PZ respect such a student?

  8. Richard Harris says

    KC Jones, are you suggesting that the delusionists should have extra rights?

    At present, in Western-type democracies, there already are rights for freedom of & from religion, written into law. In the UK, the delusionists have some rights to discriminate against others who don’t follow their particular brand of superstition. They have rights that I think they don’t deserve, but they’d disagree with me.

    Rights are granted by the law; they do not exist as entities. Society comes to some sort of consensus where powerful influence groups compete over rights issues. The power of a President to override this is very limited.

  9. says

    KC Jones:

    what are you talking about? The rights of the religious are the rights of every other human as well! I do not see how they could have or demand some extra rights that an atheist president must respect. Can you enlighten me here? Same for the student: as long as he did well there is not reason not to respect him!

    You are missing something here: people can believe whatever they want. It only becomes a problem when they try to impose their beliefs, when they restrict the further development of science, when they misuse science to backup their ridiculous claims etc. I do not see how a student that has simly declared him/herself a Christian might do something like that. Unless he/she writes in a biology test that he was created by God…

  10. Schmeer says

    KC Jones,
    PZ has addressed your question regarding Christian students in the past. Simply put: yes he respects the student and gives an appropriate grade for their understanding of the material.

    In case you’re wondering, no one has yet claimed that he resembles that atheist professor in assorted urban legends.

  11. Richard Harris says

    KC Jones, if the student understood PZ’s position, he or she’d realize that their religious beliefs are nonsense, so they’d become an atheist.

    I mean, it’s obvious that all religions were just made up by ancient mythopoeic savages.

  12. bleh says

    How would an athesitic President, for example, represent all of the people?
    Would he, or she, respect the rights of the religious?

    I may not be president, but as an atheist, I’m extremely disrespectful to people who ask arrogant questions like this.

  13. says

    Errm, my university is not an atheist-only university. I have LOTS of students who go to church every week. Some of them get straight As. Your scenario is not hypothetical at all, but a daily routine. And yes, the “atheist professors” pass your test and excel at treating all of their students equally, no matter whether they are godless or godly.

  14. AllanW says

    KC Jones, a-trollin’ and a-rollin’
    KC Jones, you never have to guess.
    When you hear the tooting of the dogma
    It’s KC at the throttle of the christian express!

  15. Squiddhartha says

    KC Jones, are you suggesting that an atheist President would do a poorer job of defending the rights of theistic citizens than a theistic President does for atheistic citizens? I would expect the reverse to be true.

    And Richard Harris, I think I must correct your assertion that “Rights are granted by the law; they do not exist as entities.” The premise of the Declaration of Independence, and the philosophy of the Founders, is that rights pre-exist the law, and governments must be organized in a fashion that prevents them from infringing on even rights that are not specifically enumerated.

    …Which doesn’t stop lots of people from asking, “Where in the Constitution does it say you have the right to do that?” when the correct question is “Where in the Constitution is the government given the power to prevent me from doing that?”

  16. Donalbain says

    Squid: The text of DoI might state that some rights “pre-exist”, but that does not make it so. After all, the DoI is not some sort of holy scripture that is necessarily correct. If a right pre-exists, then how exactly do we test that idea? How can we determine what rights exist? For instance, does the right to own slaves pre-exist, or does the right to be free from slavery pre-exist? Until a law is passed, and society acts to enforce one or other of those rights, then we are in a situation that is exactly equivalent to one in which neither of them exists. And as there is no point in needlessly multiplying entities, we can say that they DONT exist until society says they do.

  17. Squiddhartha says

    Well, Donalbain, the philosophy of the Founders was that all rights pre-exist, up to the point where they infringe on the rights of others. For instance, you cite a “right to own slaves.” I would instead cite a “right to own property,” but when it comes to slavery, that right is trumped by the rights of another person to liberty and self-ownership.

    There is no explicit right to privacy listed in the Constitution. Is it then your assertion that nobody has a right to privacy?

    Don’t forget the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” That’s pretty much a prima facie acknowledgment that rights pre-exist.

  18. bigjohn says

    Rights are not granted by law. The laws protect rights. Well, most laws do, some actually remove rights.

  19. Gray Lensman says

    I am by definition an atheist, but I am not going to any conferences about it. Intolerance is offensive no matter in which direction it points.

    Commandment 11: Keep your religion (or lack of it) to yourself.

  20. says

    I will be there. However, I am curious if there is parking available for those who don’t need a hotel room. Does anyone know or do I have to scope out the place beforehand?

  21. says

    I wonder: does the “Gray Lensman” think that the fact that Christians might go to church every week (or several times a week) is an expression of intolerance? What he really wants to do is silence any expression of ideas he finds uncomfortable.

    As for parking for those who don’t mind Oppressing Religious America, it’s there. $19/day, or you can take mass transit there.

  22. raven says

    How would an athesitic President, for example, represent all of the people?

    Would he, or she, respect the rights of the religious?

    Might be an improvement.

    An atheist president wouldn’t be burning heretics, witches, scientists, and gays at the stake because god or the bible told him to do it.

    An atheist president wouldn’t be sacrificing humans on top of pyramids to keep the rain and sun gods happy.

    This is because atheists don’t believe in god(s).

  23. Richard Harris says

    Squiddhartha & bigjohn,

    It is important to understand what exactly is meant by the term ‘Human Rights’. There has been concern that they are not grounded in any justifiable concepts. Jeremy Bentham famously described ‘natural and imprescriptible rights’ as, “nonsense upon stilts”.

    There is good reason to disagree with this, on the grounds that human rights can arise from a contractual obligation, which was not fully operative in Bentham’s England, and therefore not recognized by him. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) lived about sixty years of his life during which slavery was legally sanctioned in the UK. There are other aspects of British life at that time, such as the lack of full adult suffrage, which meant that he lived in a society that was not democratic. Furthermore, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection had not yet been formulated, let alone evolutionary psychology. I think these facts account for his somewhat dyspeptic take on ‘natural rights’.

    I would suggest to you that this is how Human Rights are grounded. For highly intelligent social animals that live in large groups, there are the dangers of depredations that would be visited upon such groups by excessive acts of cheating. Consequently, we have evolved a capacity for moral agency. Moral agents are those who are capable of conforming to at least some of the demands of morality. This is normally taken to exclude young children and non-human animals.

    Anthropologists have validated the importance of ‘tit for tat’ in our quotidian affairs. This is the origin of morality, not only because the threat of punishment of other’s transgressions helps keep would-be miscreants in line, but observance of the golden rule allows for cooperative behaviour, and the societal benefits that this confers. Those of us who are moral agents living in a democratic society wish others to treat us as they would themselves wish to be treated. For the proper functioning of democratic societies, the realization of this wish is the fundamental Human Right, which then allows for the implementation of subsidiary rights. Observing this fundamental right is the duty that we owe each other, to enable all to enjoy the benefits of human society. And as the temptation to cheat is quite pervasive, we employ police and a judiciary to maintain this right, and all its subsidiary rights, against threats imposed by cheats.

    Democratic societies are a recent development. In the UK or Canada, we live in a parliamentary democracy, and in the internet age, that may seem anachronistic, but it is still democracy of a sort, with almost universal adult suffrage. All of the subsidiary human rights, such as a right to life in most circumstances, are therefore bestowed by the powerful, and in a democratic society, that means, (or should mean), the electorate.

    Darwinian evolution seems to have endowed us with the disposition for enforcing tit for tat. Our ethics has developed from this, because this allows for rewarding altruism, as well as punishing malevolence. The golden rule is merely a simple guide, limited because what is good or right for me may not be so for you. We must therefore try to take account of individual differences in moral sentiment, as well as stopping cheats, in our societal organizations. We need democratic government to achieve this goal, benevolent dictators always having been in short supply.

  24. LeeLeeOne says

    If you are lucky enough to not have to pay $99 + fees/taxes per day for this conference, I think $19 a day for parking your car may be a bargain. As I have been generously offered alternative boarding, I will take full advantage of any alternative transport offered. However, if needed, 19$ a day in parking fees is heartily accepted. Hint: Use your local resources from the Minnesota Atheist organization. There are alternatives out there if you do the work.

  25. Squiddhartha says

    Richard Harris, I note you say “in the UK or Canada,” which may explain the difference in our outlooks. I will happily accept the philosophies of Jefferson and Madison over that of Bentham, and I assert that I have a right to live because I am a living human, not because the government permits me to live. People create governments to protect the rights they already (ought to) have, not vice versa.

    I don’t think our views differ much in practice, just in their underpinnings.

  26. says

    Gray Lensman, #24:

    Commandment 11: Keep your religion (or lack of it) to yourself.

    Uh, I think the conference is being done in private among consenting adults.

    Heather Kuhn, #6:

    #4: I’m having the same problem in Seamonkey (also a Mozilla browser). AFAICT, it’s related to some punctuation/character coding weirdness in the latest post about Geoffrey Simmons. I expect that it will go away when that post falls off the main page of this blog.

    I’ve been having the same problem with a “Live Bookmark” in Firefox continuously for several days. But this morning it was gone, even though the Simmons post’s title is still on the feed.

  27. says

    I went back to look at the offending post. It looks like PZ edited it to replace the offending characters with apostrophes. Presumably, he saw the complaints here and dealt with the problem.

  28. says


    I have to be at work that weekend — no ifs, ands, or buts — so I won’t be able to go…

    Guess I have to set my sights on TAM 6.

  29. says

    Steve, there are many parking options in Minneapolis. Plus, it’s two blocks from light rail, so you can park down the line, and pay three bucks to ride the rail downtown. The weather shouldn’t be too bad in March.

  30. Eric says

    Hoping to make this event! Hopefully it’s warmer in March. This bitter cold is driving me mad… :(

  31. bernarda says

    As preparation for the American Atheists Conference, you can watch this BBC documentary on Nietzsche in a series called “Human, all too Human”.