So you are an atheist. Now what?

Over at stderr, Marcus Ranum has a great piece explaining why ‘movement atheism’ was inherently limiting and now appeals only to those (like Richard Dawkins) who have either no broader social justice goals and hence have nothing useful to say outside of condemning religion or (like Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, and the late Christopher Hitchens) are actively opposed to many of those goals.

Richard Dawkins has not had any thoughts about politics that are important enough to make him a footnote to a Cliffs’ Notes version of Plato, so he’s doing well sticking to the well-hoed field of atheism, where he can make arguments that would have elicited a yawn from Hume and an eye-roll from Voltaire.

Religion is a huge system of bullshit, and there are many sub-fields within religion, and anyone who wishes to can have a busy and productive life just attacking any one or maybe two of those sub-fields – in fact, I owe my perspective on movement atheism to Sam Harris and his shit-show posting about “Why don’t I criticize Israel?” [stderr] that made me realize that movement atheists simply do not have the chops to go after anything bigger and tougher than refuting religion.

What I’m saying is that folks like Harris, Dawkins, Shermer, Carrier, et. al., have found the place where they are as effective as they want to be, and they’re comfortable there. Oh, you want to argue about whether or not there’s evidence for the biblical jesus? That’s nice. Over in the deep end of the pool, they are arguing about whether there’s evidence that supply-side economics works and they’re trying to model what reparations for slavery might look like over the size of an economy like the United States’ and 400 years. Next up: what about the Indigenous Peoples? As far as I am concerned, the atheist movement hit its peak effort when a bunch of its stars stepped forward and then immediately fell all over themselves when they tried to express thoughtful opinions about politics.

You should read the whole thing.

Why movements should not have spokespersons

Being an atheist does not carry with it any special wisdom. Just because one has seen clearly on one particular issue does not mean that one sees clearly on every issue. This is why it is never desirable for fledgling movements to be too closely identified with one or a small set of individuals because those people might say things on other issues that are unwelcome and yet all members of the movement get perceived as having the same views.
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We’re #49!

The organization Reporters Without Borders issues an annual ranking of nations on press freedoms and this year the US ranks 49th in the world out of 180. Five Scandinavian countries Finland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden take the top spots. El Salvador, the country once notorious for its death squads that abducted and murdered any critics, including journalists, of its dictatorship, now ranks above the US at #45.
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An Atheist’s Creed

[A reader reminded me of an old post that I had written back in 2008 on my old blog site and I thought I would reprint it except for very minor editing. So here it is.]

In the course of writing many posts on science and religion and atheism, it struck me that I was tangentially making many statements about what I, as an atheist, believe. I decided to summarize those scattered thoughts into one coherent statement. Of course, I am not presuming to claim that all atheists subscribe to this statement. The creed is purely a personal one.
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Facing death-10: Dying without illusions

In post #9 in this series, I discussed the fear that people have of dying while the rest of the world continues without them. I think it is better to face death without illusions. This does not mean that one has no regrets. I do not like the thought of dying, however much I am aware that it is inevitable and that nothing exists after it and will feel regrets when the end is near.
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The strange opposition by some to the Sunday Assembly movement

I read through the first couple hundred of the nearly 500 comments on the Guardian website responding to the video of the Cleveland Sunday Assembly, part of the big worldwide rollout of such assemblies around the globe last Sunday that more than doubled the existing number. I was surprised at the number of commenters who were outright hostile to the idea. These were people who said they were nonbelievers themselves but felt this was the wrong thing to do.
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Why it is the Non-religious Who Can, and Must, Save the World

(The text of my talk at the Cleveland Sunday Assembly held two days ago.)

I must say that when I got up this morning and got ready to come here, I felt a strong sense of déjà vu. When I was a young man I was ordained as a lay preacher in the Methodist church in Sri Lanka and many a Sunday would find me dressing up to go to a church in the region to inflict my sermon on some hapless congregation. And now, decades after I became an atheist, here I am doing something that seems surprisingly familiar. Let’s see if I still have my preacher skills though if some people are getting a little worried, you can relax. Even in my heyday I was never a fire-and-brimstone, you’re-going to-hell-and-damnation-if-you-don’t-repent kind of preacher, and so am not going to be that way today either.
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Cleveland Sunday Assembly

Sunday, September 28 is going to see the launch around the world of a large number of so-called ‘atheist churches’ under the umbrella of the Sunday Assembly movement, including Cleveland, Columbus, and Pittsburgh in this region. The first meeting of the Cleveland group will be at 10:30 am at the Old Town Hall in Strongsville located at 18825 Royalton Road and all are invited. Subsequent meetings will take place on the last Sunday of each month at the same location.
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