atheist news feeds
'World Trade Center cross' fight continues as atheist group appeals ruling
A group called American Atheists will argue before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday that the cross does not belong in the private 9/11 museum, which will open on property leased from the government. American Atheists filed a lawsuit in ...
Atheists Continue Battle Against Steel Cross Display Inside 9/11 MuseumTheBlaze.com
Atheists take up battle against historyNew York Post
American Atheists Work To Keep WTC Cross Out Of 9/11 MuseumCBS Local
Christian News Network -New York's PIX11 / WPIX-TV
all 43 news articles »
Some columnist named James Knight has decided to strike back against New Atheist tyranny by rebutting their major claims, and he’s starting out by picking on Hitchens and Dawkins, who, he says, make terrible arguments.
As you’ll see, Dawkins and Hitchens have ready-made methods for twisting meanings and distorting logic in a way that the more pliant and impressionable individuals don’t seem to notice.
Prepare yourself; that’s from a guy who’s about to launch into a series of theological arguments. Self-aware, he’s not.
Knight has a whole series of excerpts from the Hitch he warbles about, and I’m just going to pick two of the more famous arguments he’s made, and I think that will be enough to see that Knight is all pompous puffery. I’m sure you’re all familiar with Hitchens’ theistic challenge.
Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.
Now read Knight’s pratfall:
To me that is the sort of pliable question that sounds intelligent but isn’t really. I think Hitchens’ question shows a lack of understanding of what religious belief entails, and also the overlooking of something that should be trivially obvious. The short answer is, the question is as meaningless as asking whether quenching thirst is better than feeding oneself. It is true in most cases that there is no ‘statement’ or ‘action’ that a theist can make or do that others cannot, but that tells us nothing meaningful about the God debate, because a proper analysis involves much more than just the statement or action – it involves analysing the beliefs, intentions, humility, motive, and other psychological factors that do not come out in a mere action. Naturally we could name good moral actions taken by both religious and non-religious people that have produced the same results, but that does not tell us anything about what is directing the action, or whether the person is living a Godly life, and it certainly has no bearing on whether there is a God.
That’s not a reply, it’s an evasion! We don’t understand what religious belief entails? Then tell us what it does. Throughout his replies, he does this constantly: you just don’t understand, he whines, implying that there is some great deep thought behind his claims, while never illuminating exactly what it is.
But most importantly, it’s an abject concession. He can’t cite anything a believer does that could not be done by a non-believer — there is no special grace granted by faith. We have good moral actions taken by both religious and non-religious people that have produced the same results, is one concession, but this is the bigger one: that does not tell us anything about what is directing the action. Exactly! You cannot discern the presence of a guiding moral force outside of any individual person, and Knight agrees…so how can he talk about a Godly life? How does he know?
It certainly does have bearing on the argument about the existence of gods. I have never debated anyone who doesn’t eventually get around to an argument from consequences: How can you be good without god? Aren’t you worried about Hell? Society will fall apart without god! Yet here is Knight, admitting that there are no moral consequences to disbelief, while also implying that goodness is a Godly life. He wants to simultaneously argue that unbelievers can be morally good, while predicating the standard for moral goodness on a god.
Here’s another famous Hitchism that Knight dislikes:
What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
Watch out, here comes the egregious relativism, which sounds like something straight out of Answers in Genesis.
To express fully what is wrong with this statement would take a whole essay in itself. But briefly, it grossly caricatures religious faith to state that it is ‘asserted without evidence’, when, in reality, evidence is in the eye of the beholder, and different people accept and interpret different evidences differently. Maybe some people are too easily seduced by interpretations that shouldn’t ever be offered as reasons for belief in God, but equally there are going to be lots of people whose psychological agitations predispose them to a scepticism that demands too much evidence, or the wrong kind of evidence.
I suspect Christopher Hitchens’ main problem is that he’d never thought through properly what evidence for God actually means, and how it might be different from the more simplistic evidence found in empirical science. Never once did I ever hear Christopher Hitchens tell us what he thinks good evidence is, what makes good evidence good, how belief in God differs from knowledge of the empirical world, and what he thinks would be satisfactory evidence for God.
I really despise the vacuous Well, we just interpret the evidence differently argument — it’s a lie. Over and over, I see it said in order to defend ignoring the bulk of the evidence.
I see a pad of post-it notes next to my keyboard on my desk. This is clearly evidence that tiny invisible elves from 3M climbed up the wall outside my window, translocated extradimensionally through the glass into my office, and left me a present. Or is it evidence that I picked up a pad at the central office and put it in a convenient spot near my phone? You don’t get to say that the existence of this pad is equal evidence for both claims; you have to ignore the consilience of phenomena that provide better explanations. There is a cabinet of these things just down the hall from me; it’s a mundane object with obvious utility; there are torn-off post-it notes with scribbled comments attached to my phonebook. At the same time, 3M elves have no evidence for their existence, have posited powers with no known mechanism, and are arbitrary, ad hoc, bizarre explanations for a perfectly ordinary object. It is not demanding too much evidence to expect some independent corroboration of the mechanisms of the phenomenon that aren’t more simply explained by my ability to walk 50 feet to a collection of supplies.
In the same way, believers like to say they do have evidence for their supernatural phantasm…and then they point to their Bible. Sure, it’s evidence. Evidence backed up by documents and history that over the course of many centuries, human beings collected stories and legends and hectoring homilies and poetry, all written by people, and assembled them into a clumsy compilation, and stamped it all with the imprimatur of religious authority. Meanwhile, you’re trying to tell me this hunk of cellulose and ink was magically transported into the world of Catholicism by the equivalent of invisible elves.
Who actually has evidence for the origin of the object?
Knight’s second paragraph is a complaint that Hitchens’ didn’t tell them what evidence for their god would be acceptable, which is a fair complaint. Or it would be, if there weren’t another problem: define God. I can’t tell you what would be evidence for or against it if you’re not going to settle down and get specific about this god’s properties and nature. Is it an anthropomorphic being with a penis that can impregnate human women? Is it a vast eternal cosmic intelligence that encompasses the entire universe and manipulates matter and energy with its will? Is it benign fluff, a happy feeling of love that permeates us all? I suspect he’d tell us some meaningless noise about a “ground state of being”, which seems to be the universal bafflegab right now to avoid answering the question.
You know, this is the big difference. If you tell a scientist that their evidence doesn’t distinguish between two alternatives, it’s the scientist who thinks hard about the problem, comes up with what would be differing consequences of an experiment if his hypothesis was valid or invalid, and does the work. We actually love this part of theorizing, thinking through the implications of a hypothesis and then testing them. And that’s a process that involves getting specific about the details of our hypothesis.
Theologians, on the other hand, hate that part. We can ask them what the difference would be between a universe that had a god and one that didn’t, between a god that answers prayers and one that doesn’t, between a Christian god and a Muslim god, between a Catholic god and a Protestant god, and they love to tell us that the differences are profound, but not anything specific. And then they yell at us that we haven’t given them the criteria that we could use to discriminate between the alternatives. And then, most aggravatingly, if we go ahead and make some predictions ourselves about what the universe ought to be like if there is or isn’t a god, they yell even more that their god isn’t like that, we used the wrong premises, we didn’t address their idiosyncratic view of a god…which is always conveniently tailored to circumvent whatever test we propose.
Do you theological wankers even realize that as the proponents of hypothesis about the nature of the universe, it is your job to generate testable hypotheses about how it all works? And that we, as agents in opposition to your nonsense, would be overjoyed to have you say something explicit about an implication of your ideas that we could test? Actually, I think you do know, because you so invariably avoid presenting any useful descriptions of what your philosophy entails. We keep waiting. And right now, your silence and the vacuity of what few feeble replies you make are just added to our stockpile of evidence that you’re all farting theology out of your asses.
James Knight ends with what he thinks is an insightful comment about the nature of god debates.
The God one accepts or denies is only likely to be as intellectually tenable as the intellectual tenability of the person holding those ideas.
I will therefore take the lack of intellectual competence of his arguments for gods as evidence of his own, personal intellectual emptiness.
Don’t worry, James. You’re in the company of a great many idiots, so you’ll just blend in.
Reclaiming the Definition of Atheism: Disbelief in God
For too long atheists have been granted a free pass to deliberately dilute the definition of atheism. Too many active and passive atheists are quick to assert the informationally deficient definition of atheism widely known as "a lack of belief in God ...
The Lone Atheist At CPAC
"There are some atheists who are opposed to abortion, so I'm not going to disagree with you on that," Silverman said. "Gay marriage, death with dignity, all of the social issues, evolution in the science classes, this is all strictly separation of ...
NBC Southern California
Mother Removes Cross Memorial After Dispute With Atheist Rights Group
NBC Southern California
Mother Removes Cross Memorial After Dispute With Atheist Rights Group. Ann Marie Devaney placed the cross near where her son was struck and killed. She plans to remove it after demands from a resident who complained it violates the Constitution ...
They even come right out and say it. Here’s Larry Pratt, of Gun Owners of America, pleased that fear of getting shot will keep congress in line.
I was told of a conversation that one of our members had had with a member of Congress. And he was lobbying on a gun issue, but he was, I knew the guy well enough to know that almost certainly he was mild-mannered, he was just explaining our position. And apropos of nothing, the congressman – congresswoman, actually – said, ‘You want to shoot me, don’t you.’ Well, that’s probably a healthy fear for them to have, even though that’s not the guy’s – he wasn’t saying anything about that, it wasn’t in his demeanor. But you know, I’m kind of glad that’s in the back of their minds. Hopefully they’ll behave.
Perhaps Larry Pratt ought to be politely shooed out of the halls of power as a barbarian who does not belong in the company of civilized lawmakers?
You’ve all been replaced by a simplistic algorithmic protocol, which, as a side effect, has completely ruined van Eyck for me for all time.
A pilot on a Westjet flight, Captain Carey Steacey, got a friendly note from a passenger, David, in seat 12E. Of course he didn’t confront her directly, he scribbled this note on a napkin and left it for the crew to find after he left the plane.
At first I thought, what a dumbass…and then I remembered something.
A couple of years ago, I was on a little puddlejumper flight — an itty bitty prop-driven plane with maybe 10 or 12 seats. I was looking across the field and saw two crew people walking towards us. One was a rugged big guy, clean-shaven but with a manly 5 o’clock shadow, and the other was a petite Asian woman. I didn’t think anything of it, but I was literally startled when once they got on the plane, the woman sat down in the captain’s chair and started doing all that pre-flight switch-flipping, while the man made himself busy in the galley, fussing with trays. I was pleasantly surprised, but still…I was on that plane with a fine cargo of stereotypes in my head.
I think the difference between me and David isn’t that I’m some deeply, intrinsically egalitarian liberal with no biases at all, but that when the world rises up and breaks the model of it in your head, some of us are tickled by the experience and are happy to revise our models. Others are annoyed and offended at the defiance of their sacred preconceptions and want to insist that the world cohere to them. And then their brains just drift farther and farther from reality, step by step, until you get David, who wants to get off a plane when the crew doesn’t look like his mental image of a proper flight crew.
And his model isn’t even a bad approximation of reality: WestJet has 1,118 men flying their airplanes, and only 58 women. David just fails on the inflexible vs. adaptable parameter of his brain. And unfortunately we live in a culture where religion is a vehicle for promoting inflexibility, in an era where we need to adapt.
Atheists take up battle against history
New York Post
So offended is American Atheists Inc. by the Ground Zero Cross, it sued the Port Authority for leasing land to the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum — a private nonprofit that the group is also suing for planning to exhibit the cross in a display ...
Atheists Continue Battle Against Steel Cross Display Inside 9/11 MuseumTheBlaze.com
Atheists nervous about coming out in southern statesThe Pendulum
'World Trade Center cross' fight continues as atheist group appeals rulingToday.com
all 9 news articles »
Mad About Atheist Speaker At UConn
Dawkins is world famous as an evolutionary biologist and as a blasphemous atheist. He characterizes people who believe in God as deluded (see his book "The God Delusion"). By her announcement, Herbst endorsed a man who is a famous symbol of ...
Atheist-turned-believer Sara Miles' radical Ash Wednesday practice
Religion News Service
Sara Miles is a former-atheist-turned-believer and author of the critically-acclaimed “Take This Bread” and her newest book, “City of God: Faith in the Streets.” She is Director of Ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco ...
Atheists nervous about coming out in southern states
If atheist politicians aren't accepted by Southern states, atheist residents within those states assume they won't be either. This trickle-down effect encourages the silencing of a minority group that thinks differently, leaving atheists in a position ...
Gulf Atheism in the Age of Social Media
U.S. News & World Report
It is therefore ironic that the godfather of modern Gulf atheists was brought up in present-day Saudi Arabia and turned Salafist before embracing atheism. Abdullah al-Qasemi was born in 1907 in Najd, central Arabia, to a conservative family and a ...
and more »
Reagan was right, ACU wrong: Atheism is enemy of America
Reagan believed atheism was not merely wrong, but the enemy of freedom. The ACU has functionally adopted the position that groups promoting atheism can be featured at its annual Conservative Political Action Conference -- so long as they promote ...
GOP White House Hopefuls Court Changing CPACNBCNews.com
CPAC: 'Republican leaders preach the gospel to the faithful'CNN
4 things to watch at CPACMSNBC
ABC News (blog) -Washington Times
all 983 news articles »
I can scarcely bear to scroll through just our solar system, all just to see some tiny scattered dots. There isn’t a single solitary space squid to be found, so why bother?
Atheist group asks court to order removal of WWI 'Peace Cross' memorial in ...
An atheist group asked a federal court Tuesday to order the removal of a World War I memorial described in a lawsuit as a “massive Christian cross.” The 40-foot Peace Cross memorial has stood for nearly 90 years at a busy crossroads in Bladensburg, ...
I was reading these debating suggestions from a particularly stupid wingnut with the idea that I’d just do the opposite…until it sunk in that they’re so contradictory that I can’t even do that.
So to recap, the only way conservatives can win debates is to not look angry, while publicly shaming their opponent, punching first, and calling their opponents liars and haters. And remember: all of this is equivalent to futilely pinning some kind of gelatinous dessert to a wall.
I think it’s also got like three first steps, which means I’m going to have to grow another leg.
The cows. Thousands of years of sneaky deviousness — do not fear Skynet, it’s the time when the cows achieve full sentience (if they haven’t already) and rise up against us that you should be dreading.
Sometimes those are good descriptors. I read a happy story for a change this morning: it’s about Arunachalam Muruganantham, an Indian man who embarked on a long crusade to make…sanitary napkins. Perhaps you laugh. Perhaps you get a little cranky at a guy who rushes in to meddle in women’s concerns. And there’s some good reason to feel that way: he starts out with embarrassing levels of ignorance.
He fashioned a sanitary pad out of cotton and gave it to Shanthi [his wife], demanding immediate feedback. She said he’d have to wait for some time – only then did he realise that periods were monthly. “I can’t wait a month for each feedback, it’ll take two decades!” He needed more volunteers.
And then a man who didn’t realize until then that menstrual periods were monthly dedicated himself to years of tinkering and testing to build a machine to manufacture sanitary napkins, which just sounds perversely fanatical and obsessive. But it turns out to be a serious problem for poor women.
Women who do use cloths are often too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, which means they don’t get disinfected. Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene – it can also affect maternal mortality.
So Muruganantham set out to teach himself everything about making napkins, and examining and testing used menstrual pads. His wife left him. He was regarded as a sick pariah in his town — the disgusting guy who plays with menstrual blood. He was going up against traditional taboos and public squeamishness.
But he succeeded! He designed and built simple machines that take cotton and cellulose at one end and churn out disposable sanitary napkins — and it was relatively cheap, easy to maintain, and could be distributed to rural India where the women themselves could make the necessaries. And then we learn about his philosophy…
Muruganantham seemed set for fame and fortune, but he was not interested in profit. “Imagine, I got patent rights to the only machine in the world to make low-cost sanitary napkins – a hot-cake product,” he says. “Anyone with an MBA would immediately accumulate the maximum money. But I did not want to. Why? Because from childhood I know no human being died because of poverty – everything happens because of ignorance.”
He believes that big business is parasitic, like a mosquito, whereas he prefers the lighter touch, like that of a butterfly. “A butterfly can suck honey from the flower without damaging it,” he says.
Oh my god, an idealist. I thought they were all extinct! And such a fine beautiful specimen, too! I’m going to steal that metaphor, as well, just because it is so lovely.
Most of Muruganantham’s clients are NGOs and women’s self-help groups. A manual machine costs around 75,000 Indian rupees (£723) – a semi-automated machine costs more. Each machine converts 3,000 women to pads, and provides employment for 10 women. They can produce 200-250 pads a day which sell for an average of about 2.5 rupees (£0.025) each.
Women choose their own brand-name for their range of sanitary pads, so there is no over-arching brand – it is “by the women, for the women, and to the women”.
And my heart grew two sizes that day.
Some reporters from Vice crashed a UKIP meeting, and photographed and interviewed attendees. Normally that’s a fine idea to help humanize the opposition — there has been a lot of effort to make people recognize that gays and atheists are their next door neighbors, for instance — but somehow, when it involves really fringey ideas, especially British ideas, everyone comes out looking like participants in a Monty Python skit.
I’m not picking on the UK. The same phenomenon happens with the American Tea Party, we just lack the convenient surreal television referent.
Anyway, it’s full of weird stuff. The religion of capitalism poisons everything, and when you combine it with the religion of religion, you’ve got a hopeless case.
Two people who probably weren’t caught out by booze over the course of the weekend were Sally Grant and Philip Foster, members of Christian Soldiers in UKIP – a group who claim to be "Fighting through Christ for deliverance from EU tyranny". I asked Philip why God hates the EU so much.
What lies behind capitalism and Adam Smith are basic Christian principles of personal liberty, the right to property and respect for honesty in dealings. A free market only works with an unlevel playing field. If we’re all evened out, you won’t have anything I need, and I won’t have anything you need. The European Union is not a free market. It’s a customs union, which is quite a different thing. It’s a level playing field that’s held like that by regulation. They destroy free trade. Adam Smith would be tearing his hair out.
And there he is! Palimpsest Jesus! Once you spot him, he’s everywhere. There is no real Jesus — there’s only this blank screen on which people project their imaginary ideals. So Philip Foster sees Jesus as a property rights warrior, a kind of investment banker in robes who thinks inequity is a wonderful thing (Matthew 5, Philip, or Luke 10:30).
And then I spotted him in this interview with Sarah Silverman.
And to me, I love the symbol of Jesus. It’s so odd to me that so many people on the far right use his name to justify terrible things that I can’t imagine he’d approve of.
And I just want to say to Silverman that he was a first century Jewish rabbi: he probably would have been horrified at openly gay couples, or worse, women speaking and living independent lives. At least she said “the symbol of Jesus”, the tolerant and loving myth, when the reality of Jesus was a man of his time (see Matthew 21 and 25:46).
But Jesus has become this foggy dead mysterious authority figure that you can trot out for just about any cause you care about — he’s a regular mercenary who serves any cause, on the left or the right, and can happily serve them at the same time. Abolitionists and slave-holders, pro-choice and anti-choice, capitalist or socialist, he’s right there, manning the barricades and storming them. I tune out any argument that invokes Palimpsest Jesus any more, even ones where I may agree with the side using his name.
By the way, while I criticize her silly Jesus views, the Silverman interview otherwise earns her some respect. Standing up for liberal political causes has been some sacrifice for her.
Do you worry by being so public with all of this that you’re alienating a section of your fan base?
Oh, this is terrible for my career, make no mistake. This is not good for my career, and it definitely lost me an entire kind of audience. For networks that are selling soap, I can’t imagine that it would behoove them to hire me.
First of all, I don’t let myself read the comments. I need to protect myself, because when I’ve done that I’ve found myself trembling, scared that I’m gonna get killed. People on Twitter can be really, really scary. They always have avatars that are really scary cyber monsters. The bio is always like, “Family, Jesus, America.” It’s so odd. My friend told me she wants to write a book called “Jesus Would Hate You.”
Good work, and boy, that sounds familiar.
But really, Jesus would hate everyone.