Assumptions of Believers and Post Death Sports

A very popular post death sport of believers is to foist their beliefs upon atheists – those sexy little blank slates.  In life atheists “have a faith in science!  ZOMG They worship science!” but in death there are secret prayers to assign, desperate conversions to gloat over (Pandagon):

humans have invented thousands and for all we know, millions of deities. Since you have so many to pick from, and you, being a naughty atheists, aren’t beholden to the one you inherited at birth, the field is wide open. Personally, for my secret moments of desperate prayer that I supposedly have, I’m definitely not going to go with the Christian god, who is mainly characterized in the Bible as a patriarchal dick. Seriously, fuck that guy.

This reminds me of debates I used to have with Campus Navigators and such at UMass, where I’d ask “if you start from scratch, how could you know which holy book to believe in?  Each claims to be the truth, none present evidence”. Without having been raised in a faith, there isn’t a compelling reason to join one outside of marriage, convenience, or intense social pressure.

For the believer, the assumption is always “oh an atheist will of course secretly believe in MY god.”  There are better alternatives out there.  Amanda Marcotte has chosen Tefnut – goddess of moisture, born of a holy wank, giver of sticky liquids in our times of need.  A wise choice, and she asks, who would you choose?  I’d like to invite fellow non-traditional-theists (like yours truly) into the fun, since doubtless true believers will speculate over our beliefs when we die – whether it is evangelical family members or celebrity religious nuts if we are lucky enough to grow famous.

I choose Zaltrog the Unbeliever – pictured above (src).  Zaltrog is frankly shocked at epistemic certainty of any kind, and demands contextualist cuddles.

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Yahoo on Ricky Gervais: Oh No ATHEISTS!

Quick Hit, Tara Ariano’s end to her write up of Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes ended with this:

But, being Ricky Gervais, he seemingly couldn’t stop himself putting a button on his performance that would practically guarantee that he’ll never be invited back: “And thanks to God for making me an atheist.”

Good call Tara, nothing worse or more rare than an atheist comedian.

Why Atheist Buses Rock

A comment (by this fellow) on the atheist bus advertising campaign caught my eye:

My question to Hanne Stinson would be “What has this appeal acheived?”

For an atheist like Dawkins, the statement seems a little weak to me. “There probably is no God” does not carry the tone as when Christians declare there definately is one. I’m suprised at the level of compromise.

I think its heartening for atheists, secular humanists, and agnostics to see something like this.  For myself – a theist – its a cheering thing to see (I live in the DC area, where we have our own advertisements for Atheism).

It isn’t a compromise, its truthful.  The logic of Atheism can be a bit counterintuitive to folks coming from a faith-based background.  Instead of starting with a neccesary belief and using logic to defend it, one starts with available evidence and uses logic to explore it.  So from an Atheist’s perspective, one might say there is no reason to believe God does exist.  But there is evidence to suggest God doesn’t exist (the Problem of Evil is  one example).  So its simply the most likely possibility that God doesn’t exist.

I think this bit from the campaign’s website clarifies the use of the word probably perfectly (emphasis mine):

As with the famous Carlsberg ads (‘probably the best lager in the world’), ‘probably’ helps to ensure that our ads will not breach any advertising codes Committee of Advertising Practice advised the campaign that “the inclusion of the word ‘probably’ makes it less likely to cause offence, and therefore be in breach of the Advertising Code.”

Ariane Sherine has said, ‘There’s another reason I’m keen on the “probably”: it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist (or that anything doesn’t). As Richard Dawkins states in The God Delusion, saying “there’s no God” is taking a “faith” position. He writes: “Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist”. His choice of words in the book is “almost certainly”; but while this is closer to what most atheists believe, “probably” is shorter and catchier, which is helpful for advertising. I also think the word is more lighthearted, and somehow makes the message more positive.’

The campaign  defines Atheism in a way theists ought to sit up and take notice of:

Atheism [/aythi-iz’m/] is defined as “a lack of belief in God”.

But atheism is much more than that. It’s about making sense of the world, thinking freely and feeling liberated because of it. It’s about using your intellect and sense of reason to learn what life is about, and having the courage to think for yourself. It’s about relying on evidence when deciding on your beliefs, and being brave enough to speak the truth.

While I do have a belief in God, I can absolutely embrace the ideal of thinking freely, using evidence, and speaking the truth.  When we stick to these principles we can be more honest in probing our own beliefs and internal consistency, as well as being accepting of other ways of viewing the world besides our own.  It frees us up to have the kinds of conversations that are fulfilling and healthy for society to have, those about ethics and purpose.

Which is why I see these buses as such a wonderful thing.  At the very least, they are letting people know how many Atheists are out there.  I’d also bet that the ads are inviting more than a few people to examine their own thoughts.

Hopefully more people check out the website.

Atheism is Not a Religion

This particular falsehood crops up, often, in debates surrounding religion and its intrusion into the affairs of state.  Let’s get this straight.  Atheism is the belief that there is no God.  That’s it.  A single belief.

A religion is a system of beliefs grounded in faith.  It contains traditions and instructions on how best to live.

Atheism is often claimed as being religious or faith based in an effort to make arguments grounded in religion seem sound.  There’s a very obvious ulterior motive at play.

Steph’s Blog, home to some of the more interesting posts out there, has unfortunately provided a very good example of the fallacious reasoning that pegs atheism out to be a religion:

Atheism is an irrational faith based belief system because unlike agnosticism, atheism asserts that God doesn’t exist, that belief can’t be proved by evidence or rational argument, it’s a leap of faith. It’s the logical equivalent of Dawkins saying that he has never experienced the female orgasm so it doesn’t exist.

Note the ad-homimen.  Classssy.  Also utterly wrong.

Faith is the acceptance of a belief without the involvement of the usual epistemic suspects: logic or evidence.  Atheism is the result of paying attention to the host of attempts throughout history to prove the existence of God through the use of logic.  It is one conclusion on can reach, and although I do not agree with it, it can hardly be called an “irrational faith based belief system”.  That’s textbook ignorance.

As a faith based belief system, atheism is no more or less valid than any other, including my own: Catholicism. But as a political ideology, atheism has proved a good deal more nihilistic and genocidal than religion has during the 20th Century: Fascism, Nazism and Bolshevism were all secular ideologies, and far more wars have been fought over secular motives, than have ever been fought over religious ones.

This is where Steph steps over the line.  War isn’t a counting game.  Some wars have been fought over who, how and whether people worship.  These wars are an abomination and condemnation of the people pretending to fight in the name of religious principles.  But saying wars fought over land or natural resources are “atheist” wars is searingly idiotic.  Religion has historically had an element of social control associated with its structure and execution.  Thus some governments sought to clamp down on it or exploit it.  The nazis where actually opposed to atheism.  Theirs was a Christian movement (note that they did persecute Christians who did not follow their own particular brand).

But secularism is nothing more than regressive bigotry – it’s a throwback to the religious intolerance of the Nazis and it’s as fundamentalist as any American Evangelical sect. There is no room for compromise in secularism – religion is bad – so must be obliterated from all spheres of public life; children must be force fed an areligious eduction based on the lie that it is rational and desirable to believe that God doesn’t exists; and those who adhere to religious beliefs prohibited and punished from observing the tenets of their faith.

Steph’s attack on secularism is no more sensible than her attack on atheism.  The ideal of a secular government, as opposed to the alternative, a theocratic government, is a government that does not recognize an official state religion.  Perhaps the idea of the government enforcing its rule on a Catholic (Steph is in the UK) isn’t shocking when the Church of England is the dominant religious institution.  But I invite Steph to stretch her imagination and envision living in a country where her religion is significantly different from the dominant religion.

Discussion of religion in school is fine.  Officially teaching one religion to all students as though it were fact is religious bullying.  A secular state does not “prohibit and punish” people for “observing the tenets of their faith”.  It protects the right to practice or not practice as one sees fit, and ensures the government will never force a particular religion onto unwilling citizens.

In a world so warped by religious strife, we need more secular states and values.

I’d like to be extra clear on the point of the secular state.  In a secular state:

  • You are free to practice/worship or not as you wish

In a non secular state (a theocratic state) any of the following could apply:

  • The official state religion is taught in schools
  • Laws are based in the state religion’s scripture
  • You are not allowed to worship freely unless it is in the state approved manner

A secular country is one that understands and upholds freedom.

Atheism and Violence

LeftBack92 links approvingly to a faulty video attacking atheists for violence:

Transcribed from the video:

Quick Note:

Not all atheists are like this; just as not all self proclaimed “Christians” are evil or bad as others may want you to think.

It is the godless structures of man that are dangerous.

One might, easily, make the same claim. That religious power structures are dangerous, and often used to insight people to violence. Actually any power structure can be so abused, whether explicitly religious or not religious. Tyrants are tyrants whether they wave the Cross or a Red Flag.

The saddest thing about this video isn’t that the creators clearly do not understand atheism is simply a lack of belief in God, nor is it that they seem to be saying atheists ought to be ignored and “dropped” by religious people. The saddest thing is that they think one must believe in God or else. And as someone who believes firmly in God, this strikes me as quite tragic.

Although it certainly is ironic to see implied justification for violence against atheists in a video supposedly decrying violence.

Hilarious Anti Liberal Atheist Rambling

This is just too much awesome to pass up. Probably a parody site, but well worth tackling seriously.  Frank (Ignorant Christian) writes:

I’ve been thinking for a long time why liberals don’t beleve in God. Here’s what I learnt:

This is going to be extra special, so I’m going to go through point by point.

They don’t understand, but they never let that stop them!

Don’t understand what exactly? God? Theology wouldn’t exist as a branch of human study if anyone understood God and the philosophical implications of such a being perfectly. That said, notice the lack of a supporting statement. Frank just makes a flat claim, then leaves it hanging in the air, waiting expectantly for nods of approval from his audience.

Science. They think it replaced God somehow. They think sceince has all the answers. They think if they can anser questions with mumbo jumno that’s the only reason for God, instead of understanding God made this world. Real science keeps proving God over and again, but there’s a lot of psuedo science out there. Whatch out for anyone who tells you the world is somthing crazy like a billion years old, or dinosaurs could fly. But they keep having new laws of nature, handd down by God the law maker himslf. How can you have a law without someone to make that law, like the Sabbath.

What real science proves God exists?  The fundamentalists who play dress up in lab coats and explain that God exists because bananas fit in our hands?  Science is about repeatable, testable theories.  How do you test if God exists?  Do we stick a piece of holy litmus in the air and wait for it to turn blue?  I do dig his point about laws though.  Who enforces gravity anyway?  Let’s all break the law of gravity now!

It’s new and trendy. I read a good quote it said “People today are atheists not because of conviction but from indifference, distraction and confusion accelerated by mass media. Truth is not a democracy. Test the message.”

New?  There have been atheists since we’ve had recorded history.  The emergence of the monotheistic traditions that gave birth to Christianity are relatively recent.  The arrogance in his statement about conviction, again, offered not only without evidence, but in the presence of a mountain of contradictory evidence, simply underscores how utterly divorced from reality Frank is.

They feel popular.

This might be my favorite.  Yes, people become atheists to become more electable and generally well liked.  The fact is atheists are despised and seen as untrustworthy by far far too many in this society.

They don’t have to folow any rules. Big selling point for librals.

A handy little lie.  The idea that ethics come only from a Daddy figure in the sky telling us how to behave.  We can form our own ideas on ethics and morality, and live by them just as well without some concept of God who is “gonna getcha” during the afterlife if you misbehave now.  If anything I’d question how moral we can be if we outsource our own ethical reponsibilities to God.

They think God id boring. Not as fun as drugs and grand theft auto.

I guess non existent beings are kinda boring, huh?

Ignorance. Some of the critics on this web blog say they were born as athiests and never grew out of it.

Shame huh, some people weren’t indoctrinated into a religion when they were minors?  I guess knowing your own personal history does kinda count as ignorance in a bizarro sort of way.

They think God is a bully or something. I dunno how they can not believe in God and hate him at the same time?

You can hold the Biblical account of God to the fire.  This is a God who kills entire towns, and has the negative traits of jealousy and anger.

Ignorance. Libtards love to say “thats a strawman falsify” and the God they try to talk about is one to. They make up all kinds of things they don’t like, call it God, and then use that like it proves anything.

Ignorance, the point so good (and ironic) he had to hit it twice.  Again, with the lack of specifics.

Personality disordered. Athiests are always mad, you ever notice that? They can only decribe themselves being against something. God is always there.

Atheists mad?  Dear lord!  What delightful nuttery.  Atheism is simply not believing in God.  It is not an active belief like “I am against God”.  It is a simple lack of belief, usually due to a resounding lack of evidence.

Liberals are united by the desire to make the world a better place for everyone, including (gasp) the meek.  This is a feeling and a calling shared by the very deity worshiped by Frank.  Perhaps in his rush to condemn the scary people who don’t share his religious fervor and hate of science/reason, he forgot that.

p.s. For the curious, I myself am a liberal theist.

Playing Make Believe: Claiming Science is Religion

This is idiotic:

Modern science requires conversion, has priests, espouses a strict system of doctrine, and, most importantly, requires the steadfast faith of its adherents. Modern science is very much like religion.

What a load!  Science is simply a method of trying to figure out truth:

Scientific method refers to the body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[2]

No faith.  No doctrine.  Just because people who accept the results of a well-researched and executed study without having done the research themselves, does not mean they accept it on faith.  There is a world of difference between the anti-reason called faith, and testable, repeatable experiments and theories generated by science.

Religious folks have pretended to be historians, scientists, and more in their desperate attempt to claim the legitimacy of the scientific approach without any of the rigor.  Its become fashionable to fight a rear-guard action by instead claiming the scientific approach is hogwash without a trace of (well earned) irony.

The argument often makes an appearance when secularists argue for the separation of Church and State, in the form of “Science is a religion too!”.  Well no, it is not.  Stop playing make believe.