If you’ve got several spare hours, I’d recommend watching Steve Shives’ series “An Atheist Reads The Case for Christ” and “An Atheist Reads I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”. They’re great deconstructions of a couple of books that I and many other atheists often have thrown in our faces as ‘good’ arguments for Christianity.
I do love me a good philosophical discussion.
Over at Lacrimae Rerum (ooh, Latin!), Skatje Myers has posted a delightfully scathing review of Sam Harris’ book The Moral Landscape. Initially I was impressed by Harris’ arguments, and I still agree with much of what he said, but I have an admittedly slim education in philosophy and wasn’t aware of many of the kinds of objections people would raise to what he said. Skatje did a much better job of critically analyzing the book, in my opinion.
The comments over on her blog have raised a lot of interesting philosophical questions, so if you’re into that sort of thing, I’d suggest hopping over to join the discussion. If not… well, don’t. Anyway, I just wanted to copy a couple of comments from there that I thought really distilled the is-ought problem, as originally outlined by Scottish philosophical genius David Hume.
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Christopher Hitchens’ anthology The Portable Atheist, do. It’s a fascinating collection of writings on a massive variety of subjects of interest to and written by freethinkers, atheists, philosophers, scientists, and so on. A lot of the material is really dense stuff, particularly the bits by Hume and Marx. I love it and highly recommend it.
Also, apparently there’s a big hubbub in the atheist community about stuff happening in elevators in places. I’m doing my best to avoid talking about it because I just don’t think I could say anything that hasn’t already been said better.
Anyway… sometime this weekend I hope to put together my third post in my series on the Alpha Course I attended. Stay tuned.
So, it’s 2011. We’ve marked off another circuit of our journey around the sun, beginning at an arbitrary point in our orbit. Yippee!
My resolution for this year: Get through a first draft of a book. What does that entail? Well… I’m not sure yet. I’m not even sure what I want to write about. But I’ve got all sorts of ideas constantly floating around in my head that I’d love to commit to paper, and if I can contribute something to the evolving societal zeitgeist, that’d be nice, too.
My biggest stumbling block is that I have some weird obsession with trying to write about something nobody else has covered yet. My girlfriend (rightly) reminds me just how futile this is; the chances of an idea being actually original these days, with almost 7,000,000,000 people on the planet, are next to nil. So once I get over that block, I’m sure the writing will come more easily to me. I’ve got all sorts of themes I’d like to cover: why freedom of religion must necessarily include freedom from religion, why morality doesn’t require an absolute source to be valid, why evidence-based belief is better than faith-based belief, why I dislike postmodernist thinking and its effects on pluralism, and so on. I’d also love to write in greater length than I already have about my deconversion, and how it affected my life, my thinking, my relationships with others, and my outlook on the world.
Fortunately, I won’t have to go into this totally blind. We’re fast entering an era where self-published books and books published by smaller publishing companies have a good chance of competing in the market, and Hank Fox, local author and member of our atheist Meetup group, has just come out with his own book, “Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist: Simple Thoughts About Reason, Gods and Faith”. I haven’t read the book yet, but I really look forward to it, since folks like PZ Myers and Hemant Mehta have been promoting it (and my views tend to align with theirs on many issues). I’ll have to chat up Hank and see just what he had to do to get published and promote himself… but that’s far in the future for me. I’ve still got all that writing to do…
I guess that’s my resolution for 2011: Write a book. Lofty goal, sure, but I know I can do it if I put in the effort. Wish me luck!
Just recently, I spoke over twitter with Jen McCreight (she of ‘Boobquake‘ fame). With minimal effort, she talked me into buying a copy of The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas, a compilation of factual and fictional writings on the Christmas holiday and its trappings by a wide variety of atheists (well-known and little-known) from around the world. I got in the mail yesterday, just in time to share it with my fellow heathens from my local atheist meetup at our happy hour. It sparked a lovely discussion about our own experiences with Christmas, how we first realized that there was no Santa Claus, what Christmas can be like as an atheist in a house full of Christians, and so on.
Now I just have to read the book…
I also picked up a copy of Sam Harris’ new book, The Moral Landscape. Our group is setting up a book club-style event with this book (probably… we’ve yet to decide) as the subject, and I’ve heard it’s really quite a dense read, so it’ll be … interesting … trying to balance the sweet lightheartedness of the first book with the meaty, intellectually challenging richness of this one. I think I’m up for the challenge, though.