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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Nation, Under Guard


Our daughter recently started Kindergarten, and, as all Colorado schools are required to do by law, they recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. However, since our daughter is still learning the Pledge, along with the (incredibly long) school pledge about being caring, respectful, etc., instead of saying "under God", she says "under guard". Pretty cute.

Since she's only 5, we've decided that we won't start talking to her about religion, gods or anything related until she starts asking questions. It's confusing enough for adults, and many of the concepts are just too nebulous and confusing for a 5 year old. I'd rather wait until she's ready to ask questions, then we plan on teaching her about many religions, as well as Greek, Roman and Norse mythology. Information is inoculation, as they say.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Holy people to compete to convert atheists on Turkish TV show


According to a report on the Hurriyet DailyNews.com Web site, a new Turkish TV show is set to air in September that will challenge holy people to convert atheists to their brand of godliness. The show, which is loosely translated as "Penitents Compete," will feature a "Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi... a Buddhist monk" and 10 atheists.

Interesting concept. I'd love to see what their various arguments are, and whether they'll have any actual atheists on the show, or if it'll be like much of the "reality" tv in the US where it's all a setup and scripted by the shows producers. I think the show has the potential to be a dangerous (for religion) as the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate mentions, since the single most dangerous thing to religion is to expose people to different ideas and create "complications" in their minds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Parenting Beyond Belief on YouTube


Dale McGowan, author/editor of Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers has a YouTube Channel. Here's the first video:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stop pussyfooting around


One of my favorite atheist blogs these days is Heaving Dead Cats, and Neece has a new post up that I really like about calling it like it is.

An excerpt:

Of course you might interpret it all differently. That’s only natural. But I can not and will not sugar coat reality just to make people feel better on this blog. I think that is intellectually dishonest and completely unhealthy.

When you wrap yourself in faith and fairy tales and refuse to listen to reason, or look at science, then yes, you are intellectually lazy and gullible. There’s no nice way to say that. I don’t believe in being politically correct because all it does is make us weaker and more sensitive. Just look at how uptight and sensitive people are about every little supposed slight or utterance. It’s disgusting. I won’t play that stupid game on my blog or in my life.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Papercraft Pope



H/T to Science Punk

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interesting Idea


Tags: ,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I'll have the dog cake


I was going to just post the Happy Zombie Jesus Day poster and call it good, but I recalled a somewhat amusing story from HZJD a few years back. We always go to my mother-in-laws for Eostre, and she almost always makes a cake in the shape of a lamb, frosted in white frosting and covered in coconut to resemble wool (plus a few other dessert options). When my nephew was about 5 or 6, MIL asked what he wanted for dessert, he said "I would like a piece of the dog cake". Funny thing is, the cake actually does look more like a poodle or Bedlington Terrier.

Not that Eostre means much to me, other than a lovely mean of ham, scalloped potatoes and fixin's, but it's still amusing to me to think of it as a dog cake rather than a lamb.

Happy Zombie Jesus Day


That sums it up pretty well.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In which I respond to Just Some Guy Thinking About Stuff.


About a week ago, I came across the blog of a theist where he posted about an essay by Edward Feser, about the new atheists

Since Feser claimed that his 12 year old daughter could "out-philosophize" Dawkins, I commented "You claim that Dawkins arguments are fallacious and his presentation of the theist arguments and positions are wrong, yet you fail to provide any examples or your own counter-arguments. What are your counter arguments?"

He has responded to that comment, and my response is below.

First, a false presentation of theism by Dawkins can be found in this caricature of faith in the context of belief in God:

Faith is belief in something without evidence.

Now the actual position of theism as noted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 36:

"Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason." Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation.

Actually, your response was not about faith, but the position of the Catholic Church on the existence of God. Faith, according to the second definition at dictionary.com, is "belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact." By definition, faith and knowledge are mutually exclusive. Once you have knowledge, it's no longer faith. Before having knowledge, the only way you can accept something is to do so without evidence.

You have not refuted Dawkins in any way. Your argument is not only a red herring, it commits the fallacy of appeal to authority. Fallacies alone do not necessarily invalidate an argument, so I'll also respond to your quote from the Church. The church claims that God can be known, but they provide no evidence for such knowledge. I can easily claim the same thing about UFOs, leprechauns or anything else, but in order to validate my claim, I need to provide evidence or a chain of logic which can be examined for validity. The Catholic Church has done no such thing-they've only made a bare assertion, which is a logical fallacy.

Next, we have Dawkins' fallacious summary in The God Delusion of the Cosmological Arguments put forth by St. Thomas Aquinas:

All three of these arguments [the first three of the 'five ways'] rely upon the idea of a regress and invoke God to terminate it . They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress. Even if we allow the dubious luxury of arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator to an infinite regress and giving it a name, simply because we need one, there is absolutely no reason to endow that terminator with any of the properties normally ascribed to God. (The God Delusion, 77)

First I ask, what is worse: the errors or the fatuous insufficiency with which age-old and venerated arguments are temerariously dismissed...by one who reminds us at every other moment of the profound rationality of which he and his ilk are in full possession? (Really Dick, if religion is the Root of All Evil, then, by all means, take it a little more seriously.)

Poisoning the Well doesn't advance your argument here. You still haven't pointed out Dawkins errors, you just keep saying there are errors and then not advancing your own arguments. Dawkins doesn't need to take the Cosmological argument seriously, because theists have never been able to give a valid argument against it.

Here's Dr. Peter Kreeft's summary of the the Cosmological Arguments put forth by St. Thomas Aquinas (my emphasis in bold, my comments in blue):

Since you couldn't be bothered to actually think for yourself and come up with your own arguments, I guess I'll have to respond to Kreeft.

The most famous of all arguments for the existence of God are the "five ways" of Saint Thomas Aquinas... Four are versions of the first-cause argument, which we explore here.

The argument is basically very simple, natural, intuitive, and commonsensical. We have to become complex and clever in order to doubt or dispute it. It is based on an instinct of mind that we all share: the instinct that says everything needs an explanation. Nothing just is without a reason why it is. Everything that is has some adequate or sufficient reason why it is. [Ironically, atheists leave off God, saying that there is no sufficient explanation for His existence; and in so doing fail to give sufficient explanation for everything.]

"Common sense" is a very vague term and can mean anything the user wants it to mean. "Common sense" 400 years ago was that the earth was flat and at the center of the universe. 150 years ago, "common sense" was opposed to germ theory. Newton's First Law of Dynamics violates "common sense". When we set objects in motion, they stop fairly quickly. The existence of friction is not obvious, and until you understand the science, it doesn't make sense. The instinct of the mind is very often wrong and contrary to reality, and this statement alone nearly invalidates the rest of what Kreeft has to say.

Your comment is not only a completely circular argument, but commits the burden of proof fallacy. You are the one claiming the existence of a god, therefore the burden of proof is upon you to provide sufficient explanation. If your god doesn't exist, why would we need to provide sufficient explanation for it?

I would agree that there is probably a cause for the existence of our universe, but there is no sufficient reason to assume that any deity is the cause. There are several pretty interesting theories about the origin of the universe, including a "big bounce" theory.

Philosophers call this the Principle of Sufficient Reason. We use it every day, in common sense and in science as well as in philosophy and theology. If we saw a rabbit suddenly appear on an empty table, we would not blandly say, "Hi, rabbit. You came from nowhere, didn't you?" No, we would look for a cause, assuming there has to be one. Did the rabbit fall from the ceiling? Did a magician put it there when we weren't looking? If there seems to be no physical cause, we look for a psychological cause: perhaps someone hypnotized us. As a last resort, we look for a supernatural cause, a miracle. But there must be some cause. We never deny the Principle of Sufficient Reason itself. No one believes the Pop Theory: that things just pop into existence for no reason at all. Perhaps we will never find the cause, but there must be a cause for everything that comes into existence...

Yet Christian theology, and the Cosmological Argument in particular, do assume that something "popped into existence. That's how you explain your God. We atheists, including Dawkins, say that you are being hypocritical when you engage in special pleading for your god.

Now the whole universe is a vast, interlocking chain of things that come into existence. Each of these things must therefore have a cause. My parents caused me, my grandparents caused them, et cetera. But it is not that simple. I would not be here without billions of causes, from the Big Bang through the cooling of the galaxies and the evolution of the protein molecule to the marriages of my ancestors. The universe is a vast and complex chain of causes.

So far, so good.

But does the universe as a whole have a cause? Is there a first cause, an uncaused cause, a transcendent cause of the whole chain of causes? If not, then there is an infinite regress of causes, with no first link in the great cosmic chain. If so, then there is an eternal, necessary, independent, self-explanatory being with nothing above it, before it, or supporting it. It would have to explain itself as well as everything else, for if it needed something else as its explanation, its reason, its cause, then it would not be the first and uncaused cause.

Can you say "non sequitur"? Kreeft makes a huge leap from "no first link in the great cosmic chain" to "there is an eternal, necessary, independent, self-explanatory being" without establishing why there must be such a being. If there can be a being that is self-explanatory and eternal, why is it that the universe can not be self-explanatory and eternal? Kreeft makes no argument for that, but simply says it's so.

Why must there be a first cause? Because if there isn't, then the whole universe is unexplained, and we have violated our Principle of Sufficient Reason for everything.

Not necessarily. As I pointed out, if a being can be eternal, then the universe can have that property as well, and it's a complete non sequitur to leap from there being a first cause to that first cause having to necessarily be a being.

If there is no first cause, each particular thing in the universe is explained in the short run, or proximately, by some other thing, but nothing is explained in the long run, or ultimately, and the universe as a whole is not explained. Everyone and everything says in turn, "Don't look to me for the final explanation. I'm just an instrument. Something else caused me." If that's all there is, then we have an endless passing of the buck. God is the one who says, "The buck stops here."

Wow, is that a weak analogy, as well as committing the composition fallacy. Of course, that doesn't automatically invalidate the argument, but we do have to be very cautious when applying the properties of part of something to the whole. Kreeft still doesn't provide a valid argument for why there has to be a being as the first cause.

If there is no first cause, then the universe is like a great chain with many links; each link is held up by the link above it, but the whole chain is held up by nothing. If there is no first cause, then the universe is like a railroad train moving without an engine. Each car's motion is explained proximately by the motion of the car in front of it: the caboose moves because the boxcar pulls it, the boxcar moves because the cattle car pulls it, et cetera. But there is no engine to pull the first car and the whole train. That would be impossible, of course. But that is what the universe is like if there is no first cause: impossible.

And still, Kreeft hasn't given a valid argument for how the universe requires a first cause and yet his God does not. Special pleading is not a valid argument.

[Dawkins, in effect, says that the engine is just another boxcar which theists arbitrarily conjure up to terminate the regress...and then make the unwarranted assumption that this boxcar (which we merely call an engine) is immune to regress, endowing it with properties normally ascribed to self-powered box-cars. But that is a mere caricature of classical theism, which says, in effect, that if we are to satisfy the Principle of Sufficient Reason and give a proper explanation of how one car has the power to pull another car, there must be a car who, necessarily, posesses its own power.

No, that's not a caricature of classical theism. Dawkins agrees with theists that if they can satisfy the Principle of Sufficient Reason and give a proper explanation for a "self-powered car" that such a car must exist. The problem is that theists have not satisfied the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Some car must possess it's own power to give it to one car...so it can pull another...so it can pull another...and so on and so forth. Dawkins caricature of the Cosmological Argument in effect says, that it is sufficient for the regress to go on infinitely with one car recieving its pulling power from the one before. Theists would say that no one car would have pulling power to pull another car if one of the cars didn't necessarily have its own pulling power to start the whole process. And this all men speak of as an engine.]

Why must some car possess it's own power? You still haven't established why there must be a being, and why the universe can't be eternal and self-explanatory.

Here is one more analogy. Suppose I tell you there is a book that explains everything you want explained. You want that book very much. You ask me whether I have it. I say no, I have to get it from my wife. Does she have it? No, she has to get it from a neighbor. Does he have it? No, he has to get it from his teacher, who has to get it. . . et cetera, etcetera, ad infinitum. No one actually has the book. In that case, you will never get it. However long or short the chain of book borrowers may be, you will get the book only if someone actually has it and does not have to borrow it. Well, existence is like that book. Existence is handed down the chain of causes, from cause to effect. If there is no first cause, no being who is eternal and self-sufficient, no being who has existence by his own nature and does not have to borrow it from someone else, then the gift of existence can never be passed down the chain to others, and no one will ever get it. But we did get it. We exist. We got the gift of existence from our causes, down the chain, and so did every actual being in the universe, from atoms to archangels. Therefore there must be a first cause of existence, a God.

But the universe is not a book and cannot be borrowed or handed down. That analogy is incredibly weak. The properties of a book and the properties of the entire universe are very different. He's also assuming the existence of archangels without establishing that they exist.

If there is no independent being, then the whole chain of dependent beings is dependent on nothing and could not exist. [This one sentence refutes Dawkins, no?]

No, that sentence does not refute Dawkins, it merely restates the Cosmological Argument, and throws in a false dichotomy on top of it.

In more abstract philosophical language, the proof goes this way. Every being that exists either exists by itself, by its own essence or nature, or it does not exist by itself. If it exists by its own essence, then it exists necessarily and eternally, and explains itself. It cannot not exist, as a triangle cannot not have three sides. If, on the other hand, a being exists but not by its own essence, then it needs a cause, a reason outside itself for its existence. Because it does not explain itself, something else must explain it. Beings whose essence does not contain the reason for their existence, beings that need causes, are called contingent, or dependent, beings. A being whose essence is to exist is called a necessary being.
The universe contains only contingent beings. God would be the only necessary being—if God existed. Does he? Does a necessary being exist? Here is the proof that it does. Dependent beings cannot cause themselves. They are dependent on their causes. If there is no independent being, then the whole chain of dependent beings is dependent on nothing and could not exist. But they do exist. Therefore there is an independent being.

Restating the same non sequitur over and over does not make it true. The "something else must explain it" does not have to be a deity.

Saint Thomas has four versions of this basic argument.

* First, he argues that the chain of movers must have a first mover because nothing can move itself. (Moving here refers to any kind of change, not just change of place.) If the whole chain of moving things had no first mover, it could not now be moving, as it is. If there were an infinite regress of movers with no first mover, no motion could ever begin, and if it never began, it could not go on and exist now. But it does go on, it does exist now. Therefore it began, and therefore there is a first mover. [These two sentences, seem sufficient to refute Dawkins, who merely asserts that the first mover is subject to a mover before him, effectively denying the existence of a first mover and consequently forfeiting an explaination for why anything at all moves, violating the Principle of Sufficient Reason.]

Dawkins does not violate the Principle of Sufficent Reason, he merely points out that the explanation that "God Dit It" does violate the Principle of Sufficient Reason. He doesn't use the phrase "Principle of Sufficient Reason", he points out that claiming god does require a mover is special pleading.

* Second, he expands the proof from proving a cause of motion to proving a cause of existence, or efficient cause. He argues that if there were no first efficient cause, or cause of the universe's coming into being, then there could be no second causes because second causes (i.e., caused causes) are dependent on (i.e., caused by) a first cause (i.e., an uncaused cause). But there are second causes all around us. Therefore there must be a first cause.

I'll let Hume's response answer that for me:
In such a chain too, or succession of objects, each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes which succeed it. Where then is the difficulty? But the whole, you say, wants a cause. I answer that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct counties into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable should you afterwards ask me what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.

Essentially, Aquinas has not provided a sufficient reason for us not being able to trace an infinite chain of events into the past.

* Third, he argues that if there were no eternal, necessary, and immortal being, if everything had a possibility of not being, of ceasing to be, then eventually this possibility of ceasing to be would be realized for everything. In other words, if everything could die, then, given infinite time, everything would eventually die. But in that case nothing could start up again. We would have universal death, for a being that has ceased to exist cannot cause itself or anything else to begin to exist again. And if there is no God, then there must have been infinite time, the universe must have been here always, with no beginning, no first cause. But this universal death has not happened; things do exist! Therefore there must be a necessary being that cannot not be, cannot possibly cease to be. That is a description of God.

There is a serious fallacy with this argument. First of all, it has not been established that everything won't eventually die. In fact, this directly contradicts what science tells us, that the universe will probably eventually suffer a heat death and turn cold. We don't know if there will be a Big Crunch, a Big Bounce, or some other event that will start the whole universe cycle over again, but to assume that a deity is involved is a non sequitur.

* Fourth, there must also be a first cause of perfection or goodness or value. We rank things as more or less perfect or good or valuable. Unless this ranking is false and meaningless, unless souls don't really have any more perfection than slugs, there must be a real standard of perfection to make such a hierarchy possible, for a thing is ranked higher on the hierarchy of perfection only insofar as it is closer to the standard, the ideal, the most perfect. Unless there is a most-perfect being to be that real standard of perfection, all our value judgments are meaningless and impossible. Such a most-perfect being, or real ideal standard of perfection, is another description of God.

This is a really weak argument by Aquinas. There is no standard definition of "perfection" or "goodness" that we can use as a meaningful yard stick, and Aquinas has not satisfied the Principle of Sufficient Reason for this premise. In addition, just because we can conceive of a perfect being does not mean that such a being exists or is necessary. I can conceive what a leprechaun looks like and what his properties are, but that does not mean that he exists.

There is a single common logical structure to all four proofs. Instead of proving God directly, they prove him indirectly, by refuting atheism. Either there is a first cause or not. The proofs look at "not" and refute it, leaving the only other possibility, that God is.

Wrong. Aquinas has been well-refuted by many philosophers and for a long, long time. His arguments are full of logical fallacies and assumptions. Kreeft's statement above is completely wrong. Even if Aquinas had managed to refute "not", that would not validate the possibility that a god exists, and would certainly not validate the existence of the Christian god or the truth of Christianity. Even if it did validate the existence of a creator or first cause, it does not follow that such a creator would be involved in our daily lives, or would need to still exist.

Each of the four ways makes the same point for four different kinds of cause: first, cause of motion; second, cause of a beginning to existence; third, cause of present existence; and fourth, cause of goodness or value. The common point is that if there were no first cause, there could be no second causes, and there are second causes (moved movers, caused causers, dependent and mortal beings, and less-than-wholly-perfect beings). Therefore there must be a first cause of motion, beginning, existence, and perfection.

Restating the arguments do no make them true.

How can anyone squirm out of this tight logic? Here are four ways in which different philosophers try.

* First, many say the proofs don't prove God but only some vague first cause or other. "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the God of philosophers and scholars", cries Pascal, who was a passionate Christian but did not believe you could logically prove God's existence. It is true that the proofs do not prove everything the Christian means by God, but they do prove a transcendent, eternal, uncaused, immortal, self-existing, independent, all-perfect being. That certainly sounds more like God than like Superman! It's a pretty thick slice of God, at any rate—much too much for any atheist to digest.

No, they do not prove that such a being exists, and they are easily refuted by the logic of the average 8 year old who would automatically ask "who made god"?

* Second, some philosophers, like Hume, say that the concept of cause is ambiguous and not applicable beyond the physical universe to God. How dare we use the same term for what clouds do to rain, what parents do to children, what authors do to books, and what God does to the universe? The answer is that the concept of cause is analogical—that is, it differs somewhat but not completely from one example to another. Human fatherhood is like divine fatherhood, and physical causality is like divine causality. The way an author conceives a book in his mind is not exactly the same as the way a woman conceives a baby in her body either, but we call both causes. (In fact, we also call both conceptions.) The objection is right to point out that we do not fully understand how God causes the universe, as we understand how parents cause children or clouds cause rain. But the term remains meaningful. A cause is the sine qua non for an effect: if no cause, no effect. If no creator, no creation; if no God, no universe.

Kreeft again makes false analogies such as comparing human fatherhood and divine fatherhood without satisfying your Principle of Sufficient Reason. He even points out how false his analogy is by pointing out that we know how parents create children and clouds create rain, but claims that the analogy is still meaningful without establishing how it's meaningful. While it might be true that every effect requires a cause, Kreeft has still not established that the cause must be a divine being. He just makes circular arguments and jumps to a conclusion that satisfies his belief.

* Third, it is sometimes argued (e.g., by Bertrand Russell) that there is a self-contradiction in the argument, for one of the premises is that everything needs a cause, but the conclusion is that there is something (God) which does not need a cause. The child who asks "Who made God?" is really thinking of this objection. The answer is very simple: the argument does not use the premise that everything needs a cause. Everything in motion needs a cause, everything dependent needs a cause, everything imperfect needs a cause. [Only non-powered box cars need a cause for them to move and in-turn pull another box-car. The ultimate cause is an engine. It is its own explanation and doesn't need a cause.]

Presumably, a divine being would have to move to create the universe, therefore the argument is still circular and one of infinite regression. You have not established that your "engine" has to be a god, much less your god.

* Fourth, it is often asked why there can't be infinite regress, with no first being. Infinite regress is perfectly acceptable in mathematics: negative numbers go on to infinity just as positive numbers do. So why can't time be like the number series, with no highest number either negatively (no first in the past) or positively (no last in the future)? The answer is that real beings are not like numbers: they need causes, for the chain of real beings moves in one direction only, from past to future, and the future is caused by the past. Positive numbers are not caused by negative numbers. There is, in fact, a parallel in the number series for a first cause: the number one. If there were no first positive integer, no unit one, there could be no subsequent addition of units. Two is two ones, three is three ones, and so on. If there were no first, there could be no second or third.

Real beings are not the universe-again with the weak analogies. How do you know that the universe is not more like numbers than it is like people? No, positive numbers are not cause by negative numbers, but they do follow negative numbers in a sequence. The position of zero, in regards to time, may be arbitrary. If we place zero at the instant of the Big Bang, we don't currently know, and my never know, what happened before. Perhaps the Big Bang that created our universe was only one in an infinite number of Big Bang/Big Crunch/Big Bounce cycles. We don't know. Using the Cosmological Argument is claiming to have such knowledge without any evidence, and contradicts much of what we know about the universe.

To sum up, your response leave me to believe that you haven't really read Dawkins and tried to understand what he was saying. Rather than think out your own responses, you've merely appealed to authority and presented the most convenient fallacious arguments that support what you want to believe. If you really want to refute Dawkins, or any other atheist, you're going to have to do better than that.

The 114th Carnival of the Godless


The 114th Carnival of the Godless is up at Deep Thoughts.

Saturday, April 4, 2009



It continues to amaze me how willfully ignorant people can be about atheism and science. This post is an all-too-common opinion of atheism and science, and it's this kind of ignorance that makes me fearful of the future of this country:

The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned in dinosaurs ……..

Makes perfect sense.

Debaptism Certificates in the UK


There's been a bit of buzz lately, even in the mainstream media, in the UK about the National Secular Society debaptism certificates.

The certificate says:

I ________ having been subjected to the Rite of Christian Baptism in infancy (before reaching an age of consent), hereby publicly revoke any implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all its Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of alleged ORIGINAL SIN, and the evil power of supposed demons. I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.

I'm a bit of two minds about this. First, I kinda like the idea of making the deconversion process "official" and formalized, at least for some people. We humans like ceremony and formality at some level, and this makes a clean break.

On the other hand, it doesn't actually do anything for the deconverted, and it actually lends some sort of credibility to the baptism. Just ignoring the baptism, at least for me, is acknowledging the value and effect of the baptism, which is exactly none. Is it worth the £3? Perhaps, as a novelty item. It seems to mostly be done in fun, and I hope most people take it that way. I hate doing anything that lends legitimacy to religion.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Atheist Day


Vjack over at Atheist Revolution has a good post about the whole "the fool hath said in his heart "there is no God".

My favorite part is his reminder that the bible also says:

Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. -Matthew 5:22

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Is the rise of atheism due to humans getting smarter?


That's what this article claims. I'm not so sure that's the cause. Maybe we're becoming better informed, and we're certainly becoming more likely to be exposed to differing points of view thanks to the internet, the growing number of news sources, diversity in our neighborhoods (at least for some of us). I think 9/11 opened the eyes of many to the dangers of blind faith and dogmatic belief, and the scandals over the years from evangelicals like Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, etc. combined with the idiocies of Pat Robertson have eroded the appeal and influence of religion.

I also wonder if changes in our society to provide more opportunities for socializing have had an impact. One of the strongest traditional benefits to belonging to a church is the social benefit, and with online social networking, services like meetup.com and others, are people finding that component without the need for churches and their reinforcement of religion?

I think we need to consider another factor, and perhaps the most influential on the "rise of atheism". As more and more people come out, it not only allows others who have been in the other closet to feel more comfortable admitting their atheism publicly, but it starts to raise doubts in some believers minds. By making the issues public, more believers are exposed to our point of view and begin questioning and examining their beliefs. Some, of course, will stay Christian, but many won't be able to convince themselves (to borrow a phrase from vjack) that the grass is actually blue.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just Accept That You’re An Atheist


Over at Sisyphus Fragment, there's a good post about just admitting that you're an atheist.

I don’t blame anyone for wanting to not be dragged through the trash just for being a non-believer but I feel like this is sort of a “free rider” situation where we are running around suing and fighting for secularism and these folks get the benefit of it with little to no effort

I agree. Some of the other terms do say more about what we believe rather than what we don't, but I think it's also important to stand up for what you don't believe.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Seattle Atheists come up with some interesting bus ads


Trina a The Examiner posts an interesting selection of bus ads by the Seattle Atheists.

The ads are not only much more nuanced and thought-provoking than the rest of the recent atheist bus ads we've seen recently, but I think they promote the good side of atheism: using reason and rationality, being moral for the right reasons, etc. I'd like to see more of these kinds of ads from atheist groups.

As a graphic designer, I'm also pleased by the quality of design of these ads. Most atheist billboards and ads I've seen are pretty ugly and unprofessional. It's nice to see good typography and professional design for once.


Monday, March 9, 2009

God doesn't believe in atheists


On the way home from a meeting today and ended up behind a car with this bumper sticker:

At first, I wanted to just roll my eyes at the cliché, but then I realized that it was true. No gods can believe in atheists, because entities that do not exist cannot hold beliefs. Christians just don't seem to realize how inane they can be.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Some of my favorite podcasts


I've been listening to quite a few podcasts lately and thought I'd post a list of some of my favorites, in no particular order.

Dogma Free America
Because dogma makes you crazy.


Skeptoid is a weekly science podcast dedicated to furthering knowledge by blasting away the widespread pseudosciences that infect popular culture.

The podcasts are fairly short (around 10 minutes) but the subject matter is always interesting, and Brian Dunning is highly entertaining, as long as you appreciate that sort of dry sarcasm (which I do)

The Atheist Experience
The Atheist Experience is a weekly cable access television show in Austin, Texas geared at a non-atheist audience. Every week we field live calls from atheists and believers alike, and you never know what you're going to get! Sometimes it can get quite feisty indeed! You don't want to miss it.

Point of Inquiry
Point of Inquiry is the premiere podcast of the Center for Inquiry, drawing on CFI's relationship with the leading minds of the day including Nobel Prize-winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers, and renowned entertainers. Each episode combines incisive interviews, features and commentary focusing on CFI’s issues: religion, human values and the borderlands of science.

Purpose Centered Life
Podcast by Eric Maisel, author of The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe
The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is a weekly Science podcast produced by the New England Skeptical Society (NESS) in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) : discussing the latest news and topics from the world of the paranormal, fringe science, and controversial claims from a scientific point of view.

Our podcast is here to bring you relevant, under reported current events, as well as in-depth discussions from a scientific, critical, skeptical, and humorous point of view.

In our travels we will tackle the beasts of pseudo science; the paranormal, supernatural, ufo / alien encounters, misunderstood history, astronomy, space, and overwrought legends - urban or otherwise. Welcome to Skepticality, truth in podcasting.

Pat Condell's Godless Comedy

Reasonable Doubts
We provide detailed counter-points to the fallacious logic and blatant misinformation used by religious apologists when attempting to discredit skepticism and provide rational arguments for their dogmas. We also defend the sufficiency of reason, science and naturalistic philosophies to provide a satisfactory and morally compelling understanding of the cosmos, human nature, art and culture (so I guess you could say were also engaged in our own "naturalistic apologetic"). We try to do this all with fair-mindedness and humor.

All of these are available on the site linked, or in the iTunes Music store for free. I prefer subscribing through iTunes, since it automatically notifies me when there's a new episode, plus I can take it with my on my iPod if I want to listen in the car, while exercising, or anywhere away from my computer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Skeptical Parent Crossing #5


Skeptical Parent Crossing #5 is posted at Mainstream Parenting.

It's an interesting format-the blog posts are associated with well-known works of art.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Incoherent Ramblins on the Denver Examiner site


The "spiritual living" examiner at the Denver Examiner has this rambling collection of nearly random words.


How is it possible to deny a higher force when actually experiencing the beauty of the natural world? -not just looking at and analyzing the aspects that compose a nice setting, but feeling at one’s inner core an inherent alignment with harmonious balance.

As one of the posters said:
Just more content-free new age confusion. Not one coherent sentence in the piece. Small wonder it's so easy to start cults and gather followers among today's "seekers."

and part of my response:

Actually, it's quite easy to state with a clean "concience" [sic] that the universe seems to be the result of natural processes. Complexity is not the hallmark of design. In fact, it's just the opposite. Good design is always simple, elegant and purposeful. The universe is full of messy, inelegant and uncontrolled processes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If You're Not A Christian You're Going To Die


I hadn't heard about this:

BOULDER, Colo. -- A 24-year-old ski lift operator who fatally shot the general manager of the Eldora ski area was determined to kill co-workers who weren't Christian, according to court records obtained Thursday.

Somehow, it'll eventually be the fault of us atheists

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I thought Christians believed that lying was a sin?


Way back in early October, I posted on an idiotic blog post about Colorado's Amendment 48.

Then, on January 10, a visitor calling herself Jessica (it will soon be apparent why I question whether that's even her real name) commented about the post, pretending to be ignorant of the whole issue.

She commented a second time saying the post was from gingiedmonds.com. I guess I should have paid more attention. Apparently, she wasn't paying attention to my post. I clearly linked to the post I was fisking, and even linked to the site where where Allen J. Troupe, the author of the post I was referring to, referenced the text he was posting, and I noted that I had searched that site (http://survivors.la) but hadn't found the article there.

Today, "Jessica" commented yet again on that post, telling me that she had been lying all along. Below is the full content of her comment, with my responses.

You guys want to hear something really funny?! I'm Gingi's sister! That's right! However, I didn't lie about being new to blogger.com so if it doesn't say my name this time I'm Jessica, the one who posted earlier

I don't find it particularly amusing, but whatever...

Why'd I lie? Couple reasons...

It doesn't matter why. Lying is a sin, according to your religion, right?

I thought it was hilarious that you kept digging on Ging for never siting medical text where doctors agree when human life begins. I found it funny that you were so pissed about her doing that, that you mentioned it about 80 times. Yet not once did you provide "facts" that prove medical science dosen't agree whenlife begins (you couldn't do it because you had no "facts".) I even gave you the opportunity to bring forth your "facts", and guess what? You couldn't do it.

And I thought it was hilarious that you can't spell. I wasn't "pissed" about anything. I was merely refuting the illogical, unfounded claims of an obviously ignorant religious wingnut. Contrary to your exaggeration, I did not dig on "Ging" 80 times for not "siting" [sic] sources, and I did, in fact reference the 1989, amici curiae brief prepared for the Supreme Court case of William Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, where 167 scientists and physicians, including twelve Nobel laureates, argued: There is no scientific consensus that a human life begins at conception, at a given stage of fetal development, or at birth. The question of "when a human life begins" cannot be answered by reference to scientific principles like those with which we predict planetary movement. The answer to that question will depend on each individual's social, religious, philosophical, ethical, and moral beliefs and values. This is an easily verifiable fact. I could easily have come up with more examples of the lack of scientific consensus about when a human life begins, but felt that one example of that caliber should suffice to make my point.

The other reason, and pretty much the main one to why I first wrote to you. You tried to make it look like you made this an open letter to my sis, yet I know as well as you that you never tried to contact Gingi. I even made a joke about feeling silly about not looking up her name in the first place. Because it was so painfully obvious that you never tried to contact her. You would either have to be completly retarded when it comes to computers (which I know you aren't, seeing as you can figure out this site when I can't) and not know how easy it is to run a search. Or, you wanted to make it appear you posted this "brilliant" blog and Gingi was too scared to respond.

First of all, I had no knowledge of your sister, and was responding to Allen J. Troupe, who made no mention of your sister, other than putting her name at the bottom of the letter. When I went to the site he referenced, that letter did not appear anywhere. I, for one, have a pretty busy schedule and tracking down someone to let them know that I had posted on something they wrote which was then posted on another site, which was then posted on some guys blog isn't worth my time. I never once mentioned or even suggested that Gingi was too scared to respond. Having known a fair number of anti-choice crusaders, the last thing I would think is that one of you is too scared to respond-you're all too eager to shove your religion and your view point down the throats of those who don't agree with you.

Secondly, the day after I originally posted that, my wife and I found out that she had had a miscarriage, and we were more than a bit busy with dealing with that. Would I have tracked down Gingi? probably not. However, I know when I originally posted that I had intended on returning to Mr. Troupe's blog and leaving a comment for him linking back to my post. Shit happens.

I gave you an out! I said, "Also, what was Gingi Edmonds responce?". All you had to say was, I never sent it to her or, I've never contacted her. But, no...you had to prove me right again.

I'm not sure what I was proving "right", but like I said, I'm pretty busy these days, and responding to comments from people with remedial reading and spelling skills is generally something I don't have time for.

I'll break it down for you. Medical science HAS ALWAYS AGREED when life begins. Since I know you know your way around a computer do your own research before you post a blog boasting your own willful ignorance. Otherwise you just look foolish.

Someone sure looks foolish. I've done quite a bit of searching, and I can't find a single reputable scientific or medical source that claims to have a definitive consensus on when life begins, and certainly no consensus on when the fetus becomes a person.

And last of all, (this may sound harsh) grow some balls. If you spend all that time "debunking" and "ripping apart an opposing view" have the balls to say it to someones face. Otherwise you'll just look like a coward who is too afraid to engage someone with an opposing view.

You're probably right, I should have taken the time to at least post a comment on Mr. Troupe's blog. As I've explained above, things were a bit crazy back then, and I'm not going to apologize for that.

These views are entirely my own. If you want to talk to my sister I suggest contacting her.

Since Amendment 48 was defeated on November 4 by an incredibly wide margin (73.5% opposing to 26.5% in favor), why on earth would I want to engage in a debate about that amendment?

God bless,

Thanks, but keep your god to yourself.

I have no idea why so man Christians are perfectly ok with lying about crap like this. You accuse me of not having any balls, but, really, I was a tad lazy and super busy. You on the other hand, were so cowardly that you had to go out of your way to deceive me, rather than being up front and honest about your motives. You could have told your sister about the post and had her contact me directly, but you'd rather play your little passive-aggressive games and call me names. If you really are a Christian, you should be ashamed of yourself for lying, run to your nearest clergy and confess your sins.

And one more thing. Why is it that so many Christians can barely read and write English? It seems like every email and post I see by a wingnut is so full of spelling and grammar errors that I feel like I'm communicating with a fourth grader.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Purpose Centered Life


This has obviously been around for a while, but I just found it: Your Purpose-Centered Life: A Plan for Authentic Living

I haven't delved into the podcasts too far yet, but so far it looks really promising. Sort of a "spirituality" for us atheists. Not in a woo-driven, "higher power" way, but sort of a way to help you determine what your purpose is. Interesting stuff.

Skeptical Parent Crossing #4


The fourth edition of Skeptical Parent Crossing has been posted at The SkepDad Blog.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is the conflict between science and religion hardwired into our brains?


Found on MSNBC:

Experiments headed up by psychologist Jesse Preston of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her colleague Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago provide some data to support the argument that the conflict is inherent, or hard-wired. They found that subjects apparently cannot easily give positive evaluations to both God and science as explanations for big questions, such as the origin of life and the universe, at the same time.

They conclude that the conflict is hardwired, but I question their results. Or, rather, I question how the hardwiring occurs. They seem to be saying it's something biological rather than cultural, but since our neural pathways change according to our experiences and knowledge, I'm not sure I can agree completely with what they say. It may be that the conflict is hardwired into individuals, but is that hardwiring the result of our upbringing and the indoctrination we experience nearly from infancy, or is it truly biological?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

See-prayer DOES work!


50% of the time, anyway:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Is Obama making the right choice?


There's a lot of stir around atheosphere about President-Elect Obama's choice of Rick Warren, and for a while, I agreed with most of it that it was truly a horrible choice and a bit of a slap in the face to those who elected him. However, Dale McGowan over at The Meming of Life has a really interesting take on it, and what he says has caused me to reevaluate the situation. Could it truly be a very different kind of politics, beyond just a change from the Bush administration and their neocon puppetmasters?

For all his wrongheadedness on key issues, Rick Warren has shown a willingness to reach across the aisle, to open lines of communication when others have refused, often angering his team in the process. Obama has seized this opening despite their differences. In so doing, he may help moderate evangelical attitudes toward him. By co-opting one of their generals with a gracious gesture of inclusion that goes beyond the usual tokenism, he has quite possibly made it easier to move forward on several fronts. And progress on those fronts matters much more than the opportunity to pack the inaugural moment with partisan purity.

I'm not convinced that allowing such an anti-science, bigoted misogynist, but I really like many of the appointments he's making, particularly in the Department of Justice, and I think it's fair to give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

Friday, January 9, 2009

County Commision Charwoman is an idiot


In Mesa County, CO, there's apparently some stirrings of trouble around the invocation said at each County Commission meeting. Instead of doing the constitutionally correct thing and actually eliminating the invocation, the Chair of the commission decided that she would just bang her gavel after the prayer, as if that means the commission is not endorsing the prayer at all. The city of Grand Junction had already created a policy for random selection of "spiritual leaders" around the community to give the invocation and to request that they leave the word "Jesus" out of the prayers, and the county could have basically used that same policy to avoid lawsuits, but chose instead to be cheeky about it. Now, apparently, the ACLU is considering a lawsuit.

I have an idea-let's eliminate any prayer, invocation, meditation, goat-burning or any other type of religious ceremony from government meetings. Either that, or atheist and secular humanist groups around the country need to start flooding their local governments with requests to have humanist celebrants, atheist group leaders, etc. give the opening invocation.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Helping out other bloggers


Vjack at atheistrevolution has posted on the benefits of we atheist bloggers helpng each other out. I agree with him completely. I've been especially busy the past few weeks so haven't been blogging much, but will pick up the pace in 2009. In addition, I'm committing to posting comments on others' blogs.