Archive for August, 2010

People really don’t like atheists.

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

And to some extent, it’s not our fault; Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and A.C. Grayling are always extremely polite and respectful, everything they say is temperate and reasonable, and the only reason people don’t like them is that they openly criticize religion on a regular basis. You can’t win with some people.

Yet perhaps after all there is something wrong with the way some affirmative atheists speak, and the more reasonable voices may end up seeming guilty by association. (Also, have you noticed we’re all White men? Doesn’t that seem wrong?)

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Secularists and the “Ground Zero Mosque” Controversy

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

(posted by Ewan)

The response to the Park 51 Cordoba House (more commonly known, erroneously, as the “Ground Zero Mosque”) has been less than edifying. News organizations, chief among them Fox news, has stoked fear that the center is a bridgehead for jihadism within the United States. Meanwhile, the political establishment in both political parties has been mostly unable to take a stand for the principle of freedom of religion. Barack Obama voiced his support of the right to build, though he later added that he would not comment on the “wisdom” of doing so. Most Democratic politicians have showed even less political courage, usually skipping or only briefly touching on the right of the builders to continue the project and concentrating on how the project is “offensive.” Republican leaders have been worse, either openly fanning the flames of the controversy (as Newt Gingrich did when he compared constructing the Mosque to displaying “putting up a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum”).

One of the least edifying parts of the controversy, though, has been the reaction of the opinion makers and organizations in the humanist community. (more…)

I wrote a rap!

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Perhaps someday I will record myself performing it, but not today, my friends, not today. It’s about opportunity costs, and how incredibly important they are to understanding the problems of the world today.

It is titled, appropriately, “Opportunity Cost”.

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We watched “Expelled”!

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The film was surprisingly entertaining, actually, in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Plan 9 From Outer Space sort of way.

We watched it in my basement via Netflix Wii (which is awesome by the way). Four strapping young men, all rationalists, mocking Ben Stein at every turn; it was quite enjoyable. With the right commentary, Ben Stein’s Expelled really is So Bad It’s Good.

Richard Dawkins already reviewed the film in detail; I thought he was exaggerating the stuff about the Lord Privy Seal, but he wasn’t; if anything he was underestimating it. It is the singularly worst editing of a film I have ever seen. I did better stuff in high school A/V club. Shots of Khruschev are used to illustrate “saying angry things”; when someone says he has been “bullied” we are treated to clips from a 1950s mafia film. All throughout atheists and evolutionists are juxtaposed with completely unrelated images of various bad things and bad people. At one point we see Richard Dawkins getting his forehead powdered; on another occasion we watch in disgust as Ben Stein scratches his back.

If you’re looking for a laugh at the expense of really bad scientists, or even for a few good arguments in favor of evolution, by all means, grab a few friends and have fun making fun of the movie. Just don’t take it seriously; Expelled is all lies.

Actually, we DO have something in common with fundamentalists.

Friday, August 13th, 2010

It’s a disturbingly common accusation, made by accomodationist atheists and moderate religionists alike, that affirmative atheists (or New Atheists, as we are known, though all must agree we are nothing new) are “just like fundamentalists” in some way. This is generally taken as a wholesale refutation of everything we are saying, which is at best a hasty generalization and at worst guilt by association.

The usual response is to point out all the ways we are not like fundamentalists—we are open to rational persuasion, we value scientific discovery, we support free inquiry, and so on—and this is worth saying, since in all these respects we are clearly better than fundamentalists.

But in fact I think we do share something in common with fundamentalists, something beyond what we share with everyone else. (Obviously we are all human, we all feel joy and suffering, we all have biological and emotional needs, et cetera. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.) There really is something about affirmative atheism that is closely akin to religion fundamentalism, something that probably frightens accomodationists and moderates.

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