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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Carnival of the Godless #126: Summer’s End Edition

Welcome to the 126th edition of the Carnival of the Godless, the Summer’s End Edition. I hope you’re ready to settle down for some good, godless reading.

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YarmouthHarbor5Today’s carnival opens with a lighthearted piece that fans of Harry Potter and Bewitched may enjoy: Susan Howe’s explanation of how one can Become a Witch in 12 Sites or Less, located at Star Costumes Blog.

Susan introduces this piece to our readers with this note: “Wasn’t sure if this is a good match, but you may find it a fun read.” Her post is a change of pace from the typical focus of this carnival, but I’ve included it as a lighthearted bit of fun for you to enjoy while the coffee percolates and the toast burns.

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countryside001Our next featured post is Andrew Bernardin’s Sunday Sacrilege: Jesus — The Most Anthropomorphic Deity, posted at The Evolving Mind. Andrew says,

It seems to me that part of the appeal of Jesus is his dual nature: part human, part god. He walked the earth, had a beard, a nose, two eyes, could suffer, and perhaps even farted now and again…. But ultimately, he was a true super hero.

Go read the rest of Andrew’s take on Jesus as super hero. When you’ve finished that piece, read his second contribution to today’s carnival, Unweaving the Ineffable, where he asks,

Can you put an experience in words? No, not really. Describing what swimming in the ocean feels like is a poor substitute for the actual thing. It doesn’t come close to relaying the full richness of the experience.

Read the rest of the post to find out what else Andrew thinks about experience and ineffability.

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maidmist003Bing McGhandi presents Catching Heck, or, how not to plagiarize, posted at Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes. If you missed reading Peter Heck’s argument for God’s existence, you won’t want to miss Bing’s response, which opens with these fighting words:

Seriously, do they think that I was born fucking yesterday? Peter Heck, who is of no real significance, as evidenced by the fact that his article, “No Atheists in Birthing Centers,” appeared on onenewsnow.com, has written a titanically foolish, self-stroking failure of an argument.

Admit it: that opening has you salivating for some pancakes and the rest of Bing’s post, so help yourself to both on this fine Sunday morning.

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BodieLighthouseGreta Christina presents a pair of posts on racism, sexism and the atheist movement. Part one, Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race, is posted at Greta Christina’s Blog. She introduces her post with this thought: “Why is the atheist movement so predominantly — and so visibly — white and male? Some observations on unconscious bias, self- perpetuating cycles, and a movement that starts out being mostly white and male will tend to stay that way… even without any bad intentions on the part of anyone in the movement. (Part 1 of a 2-part piece.)”

In the second post of this set, Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why, Greta ponders “What — exactly — can the atheist movement do about the fact our movement is so predominantly white and male? And why should we care? Some thoughts about strategy… and some Political Organizing 101 for people who aren’t familiar with how unconscious bias can weaken a movement — and how diversity can strengthen it. (Part 2 of a two part piece.)”

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073107-001I don’t know whether Sikivu Hutchinson read Greta’s posts before writing This Far By Faith? Race Traitors, Gender Apostates & the Atheism Question, in which she shares her thoughts on the same issues, but you can go to blackfemlens to read more.

The post opens with these words,

Martin Luther King, Jr. once dubbed Sunday at 11:00 a.m. the most segregated hour in America, a microcosm of the titanic divide that specifically separates black and white America.

and finishes with this thought:

Finally, in an intellectual universe where rock star white men with publishing contracts are the most prominent atheists and atheism is perceived in some quarters as a “white” thing, it is also critical that acceptance and embrace of non-supernatural belief systems be modeled in communities of color “on the ground.” Only then can secularism defang the seductions of the communal dimension of faith that defines our most segregated hour.

There is a lot good stuff to read in between those two points. Do yourself a favor and read the whole post.

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GC016Paul Fidalgo presents Augment but never persuade: Accomodationism’s lack of ambition, which you can find at Secularism Examiner. Partway through this piece, Paul says,

It probably goes without saying that this rule applies only to atheists. Religious believers are free to make their case to those of differing faiths or no faith, but preach the word that there is no Word, and a social crime is committed….

If that doesn’t whet your appetite for the rest of Paul’s post, you probably need to check your pulse.

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lgny001Mauzzie offers us The ‘merciful’ God posted at Ponderer. Here’s a taste of what’s in store for you:

I don’t support death penalties, but I’ve known many who do.

It’s not much different than ‘murder’ in my eyes. I have often seen a positive correlation between conservatives and the support for it… the more conservative often are in favour of death penalties and the more pious are, too.

You’ll want to read the rest of this post about morality. This is the first of three items in this carnival that address this issue.

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PS001The second post about morality is brought to us by PhillyChief. He makes his case for why God belief is a third wheel, at You Made Me Say It! At one point he says,

Nearly every atheist has heard the question from the religious, “if you don’t believe in god, then what’s stopping you from just killing people?” The frightening thought is that god belief apparently is the only thing keeping someone who asks such a question from perhaps killing you or me.

Read the rest of Philly’s post to find out what else he has to say about religion and morality.

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LancasterCo001Jim Linville brings a pair of posts to us today. In the first one, which concludes our focus on morality, Biblical Ethics, oops, the lack thereof: Davies and Dawkins, posted at Dr. Jim’s Thinking Shop & Tea Room, he explores several intriguing questions, such as:

Why do people believe in such nasty gods? For scholars of religion, this is a vitally important question, and I think that The God Delusion would have been a lot better book had its author wrestled with the question in a serious way.

Go read what Jim has to say about Philip Davies, Richard Dawkins, the Old Testament and morality. You’re in for an interesting read.

In his second carnival submission, Jim departs from the theme of morality and presents Atheology, Atheist Theology, Atheist Religious Studies. In pondering what atheists who study religion should call themselves, he says,

I think that atheists should not label themselves “atheologists”, but here we come to the question that Brady, Boer and MfMarx wrestled with, should an atheist describe her or himself as a “theologian”?

As you can see from this quote, Jim’s post considers the issue of atheist terminology from a perspective that atheists often overlook; it’s worth a read.

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Hatterasbeach002Eric Michael Johnson offers The Unseen and Unknowable Has No Place in Science, which is posted at The Primate Diaries. He opens with these provocative words:

Allow me to lay it out as simply as I can. It is my view that religion and science are incompatible in a very specific and important way.

I know you’ll want to read the rest of his post – that opening is irresistible.

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blossom001Finally, my contribution to this week’s carnival is the fourth installment of my Atheist Inspiration series. In this post, I looked at a passage from David Eller’s fine book, Natural Atheism, in which he tackled the question of the relationship between science and atheism. My response to Eller’s passage includes the following:

I know many believers try to combine faith and reason, and some do it in far more sophisticated ways than others. But, the degree to which faith is required to sustain religious belief is the degree to which religious belief is unreasoned.

I hope that tidbit inspires you to read the whole post.

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That concludes the Summer’s End edition of the Carnival of the Godless. Thank you for reading and please consider submitting one of your blog articles to the next edition by using our carnival submission form. Equally importantly, please consider hosting a carnival in the future. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

– the chaplain

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12 Comments

Posted by on September 19, 2009 in carnival

 

Atheist Inspiration #4: David Eller

One of my favorite atheist books is David Eller’s Natural Atheism. This was one of the first atheist books I read when I rejected Christianity. I was impressed then, and continue to be impressed, by the range of evidence Eller brought to his presentation, and the clarity with which he made his case. In this post, I offer you a small taste of Eller’s discussion of the relationship between science and religion (chapter 7, “On Science and Religion”).

I will now make my strongest assertion in this chapter: science is at its heart atheistic. I do not mean by this that scientists are or must be Atheists; we have seen that they often are not. I do not mean that science disproves god(s) or even denies god(s). I mean, along with Weinberg and Dawkins, that science disregards god(s). As the scientist Pierre Simon de Laplace famously said to Napoleon of god(s): “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

All really important and profound questions connect to other important and profound questions. The question, ‘Is science at heart atheistic?’ connects to the question, ‘What is atheism?’ As I have tried to explain in this book, Atheism is nothing more and nothing less than a lack of belief in god(s). It is a disregard for and dismissal of god-talk. It does not say, ‘There is certainly no such thing’ but rather, ‘I see no evidence or need for any such thing.’ It says, ‘God-talk makes no difference in my life, nor from all accounts your life, nor the world in general.’ It says, after Dawkins, that god-talk is superfluous.

Essentially and undeniably, science says the same thing. Science does not say it can disprove god(s); it says it can prove things without god(s). It merely carries on its business without them. Clearly we have seen people sneak god(s) into science, but evolutionary theory or big bang cosmology or what have you works just fine without them. In fact, like politics, it works much better without god(s) because the introduction of god-talk imposes nonanswer ‘god of the gaps’ kind of thinking as well as theological divisiveness. Science evacuated god(s) from the academy for a good reason: because an academy with Jesus is very different from an academy with Allah or an academy with Vishnu or an academy with Thor, and we have no standard by which to determine which is best or truest. You can certainly be a scientist and believe in god(s) – people have done crazier things – but there is no scientific basis for that combination whatsoever. The belief part comes from another source – not science, not observation, not reason – and that is the critical point (NA, pp. 191-192).

I agree with Eller that science proceeds just fine without adding god-premises to one’s hypotheses. Not having read Victor Stenger’s works yet, I’ll provisionally agree that science has not, to date, disproved god(s) (I may change my mind about that with additional reading – but, it will take more than the work of one scientist to persuade me). Another reason for my provisional agreement is that I think it’s possible that, one day, science may either prove or disprove god(s). The reason for this belief is one that many others before me have stated: if god(s) are active in nature, there should be evidence of their activity and science should be able to identify, observe and measure that evidence. Even if we don’t have the tools to do so yet, we may have them at some point in the future. God(s) are not, in my mind, untestable hypotheses. But, they have not been, to this point, necessary hypotheses either.

One part of this passage that I think may offend some readers is the notion that science and atheism “say the same thing” about god(s), i.e., that god(s) are unnecessary hypotheses (scientifically) or assumptions (for living). Therefore, science is atheistic. I imagine some religious readers (if there are any here) cringed when they read that. Would such readers be more open to the idea that science is agnostic with regard to god(s)? Why or why not? What do my atheistic readers say about the matter – is science more properly conceived as atheistic or agnostic with regard to god(s)?

Another part of this passage that I think may be controversial to some readers is the final sentence: The belief part comes from another source – not science, not observation, not reason – and that is the critical point. I agree with this statement. I know many believers try to combine faith and reason, and some do it in far more sophisticated ways than others. But, the degree to which faith is required to sustain religious belief is the degree to which religious belief is unreasoned. There is a point, and it varies from believer to believer, at which reason pauses, and believers rest their cases on faith. Their faith may be based on what they believe the Bible says, it may be based on their church’s particular traditional creedal positions, it may be based on what they’ve experienced in their own hearts, or souls, or minds….

Many believers may say that their god-belief is based on any or all of these things, plus reason. Let’s call this the Faith-Plus group. If that’s their position, I suggest that they temporarily set aside the lenses of faith – adopt a temporary position of neutrality rather than belief – and closely examine the reasoned bases of their belief. If they can do so, they may surprised at what they discover about their beliefs. I know I was.

It seems that another set of believers contend that their beliefs are entirely reasonable, that they can make a sufficiently rational case for their beliefs without resorting to mysteries, tradition, authority, etc. Let’s call this the Reason Group. My question for these believers is this: if your belief is based entirely on reasoned thought, then what is the role of “faith?” If religious belief is based entirely on reasoned thought, then doesn’t that render “faith” superfluous, an unnecessary hypothesis?

In closing, I’m asking readers, both theists and atheists, to discuss any or all of these questions:

a) the relationship between science and religion,
b) the relationship between reason and faith,
c) the relationship between science and atheism
d) whether science is atheistic or agnostic re: god(s).

Let’s see how much mileage we can get out of those questions.

– the chaplain

 

Reach Out

Some of my – how shall I put this? – more chronologically advanced readers may recall AT&T’s “Reach Out” advertising campaign from the 80s and 90s. If you need something to jog your memory, watch the video, then keep reading.

I don’t know if any of you have noticed it, but the phrase “Reach Out” has become a cliche in the USA. As I prepared breakfast one morning a few weeks ago, I noticed a pamphlet from my congressman on the table. It’s a good pamphlet with great information about the services the congressman and his staff provide for their constituents. The part that made me gag was near the bottom of page 5, in a textbox entitled, “7 Tips for Working with Congressman XYZ’s Office.” Tip #4 opens with the phrase,

Reach out early…

I hate the phrase, “Reach Out!” It’s so- cutesy, warm fuzzyish, New Ageish and fake. It reeks of faux intimacy. And, I hear it all the time. I’ll be on the phone with someone from a job placement center, and that person will inevitably say, “I’ll reach out to XXX and see if he’s interested in the position you have open.” What’s wrong with saying, “I’ll call XXX…?” Or, if I’m speaking with someone whom I haven’t heard from in a month or so, she or he will say, “I just wanted to reach out to you and find out….” No one in the HR field calls, writes or contacts anyone. Instead of doing such mundane activities, we supposedly “reach out” to people. And now, I can’t just call, write or contact my Congressman and his staff; I’m supposed to “reach out” to them too.

I don’t mean to be rude to my congressman, or HR professionals, or job applicants, but, frankly, I have no desire to be bosom buddies, BFFs, or pals with any of them. I’m interested in conducting business in a professional manner with them. To do that, I will write, call, or otherwise contact them. What I most certainly won’t do, is “reach out” to them.

– the chaplain

 
26 Comments

Posted by on September 13, 2009 in humor, society

 

Friday Foto #10

HB048

– the chaplain

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2009 in photography

 

Couldn’t Have Said It Better

TXlife Got this via James Moore, at Huffington Post (go read his piece, it’s really quite good).

This, my friends, is fundogelicalism in a nutshell.

– the chaplain

 
12 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2009 in humor, indoctrination, religion, sex, spiritual abuse

 
 
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