Tag Archives: blogs

Time machine: January 22, 2008

I haven’t been an atheist for long, really.

Back at the beginning of 2008, on an old (and long-since-defunct) blog of mine, I posted the following. It was one of the last things I wrote publicly as a believer, and I was barely a believer at that. I was on a lot of online forums, arguing with devout believers about the things they believed that didn’t make sense to me.

It’s interesting to look back on it now and see myself struggling with different ideas. I’ve overcome the challenges I faced then and become a much more content person, but this little glimpse into the past could provide some helpful insight, I think, to people who wonder what it’s like to go from believer to nonbeliever. (By April of the next year, I’d posted about why I was an atheist. Somewhere in the middle of that, I’d lost the last dregs of my faith.)

Without further ado:

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Shame on you, Google.

Atheist blogger Justin Vacula is in a bit of a quandary.

You see, Justin recently wrote a post about his dissention from Amy Davis Roth’s (SurlyAmy’s) position on anti-harassment policies at skeptical/atheist conventions. Whether or not you agree with either of them isn’t really the point of this post; I don’t know enough about the whole discussion to know what the situation is here. But that’s completely irrelevant.

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A Dose of Perspective on Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene is slowly plowing her way up the eastern seaboard of the US, drawing inexorably closer to where I live. But by the time she gets here, she’ll be little more than a tropical storm (if that). Earlier in the week, they were predicting that she’d still be a Category 2 by the time she got here. I’ve been complaining on Facebook about how boring things were going to be; I’ve kind of got a thing for big storms.

After reading this post from Hank Fox (author of Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist, which I highly recommend), I won’t be doing that anymore. Because I realized that the fact that I’ll be having a boring weekend is largely a result of me being lucky enough to be born anywhere other than in a Caribbean nation.

So I’ll take whatever I get, but I’ll also try to do what I can to help out the folks down in the Caribbean who’ve been hit pretty hard by this. I’ll also continue to be grateful to the scientists who gave us the technology to predict these sorts of things and track where they’re going.

Hank said it better:

All of this is really to make this one point: That here in this era of science (which I maintain is really only about 300 years old), we get to see the storm coming. Days, even weeks in advance, and from thousands of miles away. We can prepare, depart, or just sit tight and amuse ourselves with the approaching spectacle.

By contrast, in the era of religion, the previous tens of thousands of years, you got to see a storm when it hit your horizon, mere hours ahead of time, and you could flee at the speed of a human walk or — if you were rich enough — a horse’s trot.

Religion: Impotent. Lame. Late. Worse, as far as understanding the real world, religion not only fails to deliver the light for seeing things clearly, and at a distance, it blinds its followers from seeing what really is there. (Evangelist Pat Robertson said the recent Virginia earthquake is a sign of the end times, and Glenn Beck sees both the earthquake and the hurricane as a message from God.)

Science: As fertile as a thoroughbred stallion, it spawns stunning technology, useful information, world-spanning power to make change (admittedly not always a fantastically good thing), and, in this case, time to take shelter from the storm.

THIS is how lucky we are: We have science in our lives now. Instead of just religion.

The good ol’ ought-is problem.

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.

David_Hume

Pictured above being a badass motherfucker, even in drag.

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The Friendly Atheist – Hemant Mehta at RPI

Hemant Mehta, best known as The Friendly Atheist or The eBay Atheist, recently paid a visit to the Secular Student Alliance at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New Yok. Hemant’s original claim to fame was an eBay auction where he offered to go to the religious service of the buyer’s choice for one day per $10 spent. The media spun this as Hemant “selling his soul,” and after he tipped off a few key blogs and local media organizations, his auction quickly made the international news. Atheists and Christians squared off in a bidding war over the deal, and Hemant fielded dozens of questions in response, both off-the-wall and serious.

The winner of the auction, a former evangelical minister from Seattle named Jim Henderson, tweaked the deal a bit and offered to send Hemant to several different churches around the country, from tiny home churches to Ted Haggard‘s massive megachurch. Henderson runs an organization called Off the Map which (at the time – the focus has now changed) hired non-churchgoers to attend local churches and write up critiques of their experiences. Jim asked Hemant to do the same, and to post them online. The result surprised both Jim and Hemant: People from all along the religious/irreligious spectrum responded almost entirely positively, often finding common ground in their recognition of parts of what Hemant articulated.

In his talk at RPI, Hemant went into great detail about this project, its aftermath, and what he has been doing since then. Hemant is now chair of the Board of Directors for the SSA, a role which lets him play an active role in supporting secular student groups across the country. He is also a math teacher in the Chicago suburbs, a role which led to his coming under attack as a “dangerous influence” for kids from a extreme conservative Christian group called the Illinois Family Institute. Hemant described how that came about and how his life has changed (or not) as a result of it.
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