Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts

Monday, 15 September 2014

Study: In US Atheists Seen as Greatest Threat to Moral Values

It's Monday so today is not the day to be happy. Let us all now be depressed after reading this latest study which apparently shows that atheists are seen as the greatest threat to moral values to society.

Confirming and expanding upon previous research, a newly published paper reports that, in the minds of many, atheists are deeply threatening. Specifically, they are seen as posing a danger to the value systems that unite us.
The synopsis of the actual paper (which is behind a paywall), No Good Without God: Antiatheist Prejudice as a Function of Threats to Morals and Values spells out grim results.
A sociofunctional, threat-based approach to prejudice suggests that perceived outgroup threats lead people to act to minimize those threats. In 2 experiments the current research explores how perceived threats to values affect antiatheist prejudices. In Experiment 1 we found that atheists were perceived to pose significantly greater threats to values, and elicit greater moral disgust, than other groups also perceived to pose values-related threats (gay men, Muslims). In Experiment 2 we randomly assigned participants to read either a news story detailing moral decline—priming values threats—or a control story. Following the values-threat prime, participants reported increased negative affect and greater discriminatory intentions toward atheists, but not toward students or other groups (gay men or people with HIV). Together, these experiments suggest that perceptions of threats to values are associated with, and negatively affect, antiatheist prejudice. We discuss our findings’ theoretical implications for a sociofunctional, threat-based approach to prejudice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
Research team leader, Skidmore College psychologist Corey Cook, has a theory about why atheists are apparently so feared and despised -- and in my opinion television and film portrayal of atheists do nothing to counter this.
“Atheists are stereotyped to be (among other things) cynical, skeptical, and nonconformist,” they write. “Individuals perceived to endorse conflicting values, or who fail to openly endorse group values, could threaten to undermine performance and success of the group as a whole by failing to adhere to group norms.”

“Although acceptance and egalitarianism are endorsed as traditional American values,” they add, “perceptions of violations to personal and group values are often seen as justification for hostile attitudes and subsequent discrimination. Such justification is reflected in the unwillingness to accept atheists as an everyday part of American society.”
Bear in mind that last paragraph. This study only applies to the US and I would imagine things would play out a whole lot differently in places like northern Europe, Ireland and the UK. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

"Still Small Voices" -- Religious Ecstacy Fades Leaving Uncomfortable Truth

By Frank Vincentz (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I have a confession to make, I have made a terrible mistake. Back in July, author Carolyn Hippolite sent me a final draft of her new book, Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born-Again Atheist after I agreed to review it here on my blog. I was at the time on my way to Chicago to attend the Humanism at Work conference so the plan was I would get a whole lot of time on the plane to read it and then write a review... sometime.

I found the premise of her book so compelling that I put aside several other book review requests I had lying on my desk, neglected and cursing me. Eagerly, I dove right in. That's the problem though, the mistake I always make. I read half the book and realized I had been too engrossed in her story to take any proper notes for a review! So there it sat, incomplete with everyday life banging on the doors and I had no words to put to paper.

All this to say: Sorry, Carolyn!

So I now give you an eagle's eye view from the book's middle. This is not a collection of dry axioms and philosophical arguments. It is truly a testimony -- a very human story about one woman's love, revulsion and eventual escape from religion. It shows how religion can taste so very different depending on the nature of its grip on the heart and mind of the taster.

These are the sort of hush private words you hear from friends and family in confidence around the kitchen table or in the cafe over a brew. Dissecting Pascal's wager may feed the mind, but there are aspects to Carolyn's experiences that might fix better to the ground where our feet are. It's every day and is more likely to resonate in both our skull and chest.

I reopened the book today to where I left off, chapter four, and found yet another gem. Carolyn had returned to religion -- to the strictest most fervent evangelical Catholicism -- and, unlike most Catholics, was reading the Bible regularly. It was her first time reading Judges 11:29-40, where Jephthah promised God the life of whomever should walk through his door first in return for military success. His daughter ran through the door first. So he gave her two months to run around the hills weeping with her friends before she got the chop. Naturally, like any moral human being, Carolyn was utterly shocked and repulsed that God could endorse such a thing.

(pp. 79-81) Emphasis my own.
It was the first time I had read that passage. I was stunned. I was disgusted. I felt numb. I did not even attempt to understand it. I did not try to rationalize or spiritualize it. I did not try to decipher whether it was history or mythology. I accepted it and allowed the horrendousness fact of it to penetrate every cell in my body. I sat in the church in silence. I read no more. I said no prayers. I waited for the mass to start and participated normally allowing the shock that I had experienced in what I had scheduled as a time of spiritual and moral uplift to dissipate. I did not make any plans to ask a member of the clergy to explain it. I did not seek to read anything about it. After all, what could anyone say? It could not be excised from Bible. It could not be made morally acceptable through creative hermeneutics. It was irredeemable.

For whatever reason, that this was sufficient reason to doubt the inspiration of the Bible and my religious commitment never occurred to me. By this time, not being a Christian had become unthinkable. I simply made an unconscious choice to live with it. I suppose this is how we come to live in the self-deluded hypocrisy where we claim to believe in the Bible while never actually using it for our morality except on the occasions when the Bible is actually offering real moral truths. It becomes obvious at some point that there are things in the Bible that are morally abhorrent. Yet, if you have become convinced that being a Christian is God’s will, not being a Christian becomes unthinkable. Perhaps, like me, you had religious experiences that you believe to be authentic and denying that Christianity is real would be tantamount to accepting the fact that at least at some point you were delusional. Plus, you’ve told everyone enthusiastically that being a Christian is the greatest of all good. You revolved your whole life around this conviction. To change your mind at this point is highly inconvenient as well as embarrassing and so you don’t even allow the possibility to arise in your conscious mind. But here you are faced with very good evidence, enough to admit that you had made a huge ideological mistake because you had not done sufficient thinking or research. But you’re not ready to admit that. It’s too shameful so you pretend nothing has happened.

In my case, the damning evidence had the same emotional impact on me that my religious conversion had. Just as I had experienced ecstasy during my conversion experience and a few times after, I experienced a revulsion of equal magnitude that morning. When I read that story, I felt like I was there. It was very real. I felt the horror of what I would feel if I saw a man sacrifice his daughter because he had made a vow to God. Nonetheless, I did not allow that negative emotion to transform my ideology in the way that that positive emotion had. I neither concluded that the Bible was not the holy word of God nor did I conclude that it was morally acceptable to sacrifice virgin daughters because one made a vow to God. In retrospect, it now seems to me that I just went on living as if Judges 11 did not exist. I knew it was real but I seem to have chosen not to process it. Perhaps, I feared the result of processing it, but I was wholly unconscious of this fear. 
In just three emotion-filled paragraphs, Carolyn has well encapsulated the core defense mechanism of the religion meme (if you believe in memes, that is). It explains why, after hours of rational argument and solid refutations of religious claims, the religious person can continue to believe. It explains how people can read the atrocities committed in the Bible and still believe that God is an all-caring Being. It's really an emotional attachment that leads to self-delusion -- like an all-forgiving parent but in reverse.

The writing can be as clear as day on the wall, but until someone is in the right headspace to change their philosophy, reality will be warped to fit familiar and comforting beliefs -- beliefs that might answer big important troubling questions which can be like gaping sucking pits demanding to be filled.

I hope I have learned my lesson and plan to blog a couple of more times about Still Small Voices as I finish it off; small manageable chunks. It's a thoughtful and compelling story about a struggle that millions are likely having. I recommend you give it a read and leave your comments.

Check out Carolyn's website or follow her on Twitter.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Irish Christian Evangelical Group Calls For Secular Education In Ireland


So, anyway.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call Ireland.
Or so it would seem to me, a mere Canadian, living just an hour's drive from the United States of America, where they claim to have secular schools -- but we all know better, don't we? The thought of secularism sneaking its way into the schools of good American Christian children is the height of terror for a large portion of my neighbors to the south. Actually, the very word secular is sheer horror for people who call themselves conservatives and like to talk about family values and the sanctity of marriages.

I hope I've explained why this story sounds so bizarre to me. Maybe it sounds just totally banal and normal to anyone living in Ireland or the UK. Right? Maybe?

Evangelical Christians urge secular education in Ireland
Believers should fund own schools, not State, says Evangelical Alliance Ireland
Evangelical Alliance Ireland (EAI) has called for a secular educational system in Irish schools, as proposed by Atheist Ireland.
Right on! I suppose this is what happens when two large denominations -- Catholicism and a sprinkling of Church of Ireland -- basically control a more or less sectarian public school system? You know, like Ontario, I guess? Why can't this happen in Ontario? Will this happen in Ontario if smaller religious groups continue to gain numbers?
Responding to the calls by Dr Selim in his book Islam and Education in Ireland, launched in Trinity College last night, Atheist Ireland highlighted the lack of integration and inclusivity in State-funded Muslim schools and called for a secular education system with religion passed on through families, mosques and churches.

EAI executive director Nick Park said “evangelical Christians have often felt alienated by an educational system that they are expected to fund as taxpayers, but which has largely been run by branches of the Catholic Church. For example, the amount of time devoted to Catholic rites of passage such as First Communion creates a dilemma for evangelical parents.
Has Ireland become so non-religious that even the churches have started actually listening to the atheists? Well, looks like it's time to pack my bags.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Prominent African News Anchor Comes Out Atheist... And It's No Big Deal, Really

News anchor Rama Nyang. (source)
Things seem to be changing in Africa. Some popular figures in media have come out as atheist, like James Onen or Lindsay Kukunda from Uganda have come out recently. Well, Ramah Nyang, business anchor and reporter at CCT, has recently joined this group.

CCTV's Africa Business news anchor and reporter Ramah Nyang :I am an atheist

Ramah gives some reasoning about the inconsistencies of Christianity.
Christianity is not what it is cracked up to be. There is a lot of cherry-picking in religion. A lot of inconsistencies on values, and applications of the faith. Lots of pretence and double standards - saying love your neighbour as you love yourself but when the neighbour turns out to be gay then there is trouble. The same Bible has less kind words to this particular neighbour. [...]

[...] I’m an atheist. I was raised as a Christian in a Christian family, but as I grew older and studied it, in detail, I realised that Christianity adds no value to my life. As a way of life, it is untenable.
There is some negative reaction in the comments section, but otherwise, everyone seems pretty okay with it. So far, I've found just one negative response in the press by one Martin Oduor over at Ghafla!
One peculiar comparison that Ramah made left my mouth agape and wondering if it is the underlining reason for the news anchor to be an atheist. “Lots of pretence and double standards - saying love your neighbour as you love yourself but when the neighbour turns out to be gay then there is trouble” said Ramah when explaining why religion does not appeal to him.

The above sentiment is ambiguous and a lot of meaning can be derived from it; I do not want to insinuate anything so as for me I think Ramah has all the right and freedom to choose what to believe in and what not to. It is a free country anyway.

Ah yes, but Oduor is insinuating something and it's pretty obvious. Let me run it down like this: 1) Just because Ramah has problems with the anti-gay sentiments codified into many religions doesn't mean he's gay; 2) Even if Ramah were gay, there are plenty of gay theists out there; and 3) What's wrong with being gay, exactly?

Ramah makes it very clear that he is an atheist because he studied religion -- Christianity in particular -- in detail and that it adds no extra value to his life. Indeed, to many, life is more valuable without it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

13% Of Students At Egyptian University Are Atheists & Grand Mufti Knows Why

I've recently covered how the Egyptian government is grappling with the sheer world-collapsing horror that is atheism. They've even launched hip new programs to investigate why young people are finding Islam so uncool and turning away from religion in general. Furthermore, clerics are showing how serious they are about confronting this existential threat of atheism by demanding a belly dancing competition television programme be canceled. So maybe not that hip after all, right?

Well now the historic Al-Azhar University (I think) has conducted a survey of some 6,000 young people and have found that 12.3% of them are atheists. That's a pretty high number considering how the government is actively trying to combat atheism. I'd be rather timid to answer yes to such a survey so I imagine the number might really be a bit higher.

Former mufti blames al-Azhar negligence for youth atheism
At a meeting with university graduates at the Helwan Leadership Institute on Monday, former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said a survey conducted by Al-Azhar on a sample of 6,000 young people showed that 12.3 percent of them were atheists.

The study attributed this to 56 reasons, the most important of which was because they were angry with God.
Yeah, I don't think the survey writers quite understand what atheism means. I mean, I'm still angry about how unlikeable Colin Baker's Doctor Who was and really didn't much like his character, but he doesn't really exist. So they could be atheists who are disgusted by the fictional character of God -- and he's really not a very likeable character, now is he? Why don't they see this?

Well, Ali Gomaa thinks he knows the reason: They don't know that God is merciful.

Bingo! Well, that solves that then. These people who do not believe that God exists are just angry at him. OR they don't know that this non-existent being would actually be merciful (note: if it actually existed, which it doesn't.)

Curiously, much like a common evangelical trope in the United States, the evil secular university seems to be to blame. You know, education and free inquiry in a university setting may have something to do with it.
Gomma blamed the negligence of Al-Azhar for that phenomenon although he said it has succeeded in persuading 10 percent of them to go back to religion. “Still there is a long way to go,” he said.
Well, there you have it. It looks like Egypt is well on their way to understanding and fixing their atheism problem.

I'd love to see what the question actually was and what those 55 other reasons were for all these youth becoming atheist. I'm sure many are just as ridiculous as them being angry with god.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Egyptian Clerics: Belly Dancing Dangerous, Like Homosexuality And Atheism

(Scroll towards bottom for video.)

As we know, Egyptian religious police, the Ministry of Endowments and Culture , in an apparent competition with Saudi Arabia, has already declared war on atheists. Well now Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, an Egyptian educational institute that appears to exist just to tell people and governments what's right or wrong, is tackling the existential threat that is a belly dancing program on television.

Egypt religious body: Suspend belly-dancing show

Belly dancing is by no means a new thing in Egypt, but American-style belly dance competition programs are.
The call by Dar al-Ifta, the top body that advises Muslims on religious and life issues, follows others criticizing the show called "Dancer." But the debate over it isn't all about it being too racy for television — it's part of a concerted effort by Egypt's government to show its both challenging Islamists as a political forces while still respecting the country's more-conservative values.
This is a little confusing, but I think it means they want to throw their fundamentalist conservative types a little meat by banning some dancing shows or jailing some atheists while all the same fighting dangerous groups like ISIS. I get it, but I think it's really the wrong way to go about it. It's sort of like taking away people's freedoms to improve national security or something -- sort of like what happened in many Western countries just after 9/11.
In its statement, Dar al-Ifta said the show "serves extremists who take such matters as a justification to promote the idea that society is fighting religion."
It seems like this is a move to prove to extremists that Egypt is fighting immoral acts -- like belly dancing... which has been going on in Egypt for centuries, but oh well.

Truth be said, I find these dance competition programs mind-numbingly dull. It also has a RealityTV feel to it which sounds awful, but I still think that banning it for reasons like this is pretty silly.
In an advertisement, the network said the winner would receive the title "the best belly dancer in the world." The contestants also shouted at each other and fought in the advertisement in the tradition of Western-style reality shows.
Still, the competition is international. So it might bring aspects of other cultures to the forefront that conservative critics may not like. It might be a force for good, showing the humanity of those in all sorts of different cultures. It may unify where unity is not wanted.

Apparently critics of the show are clerics and they've even filed a lawsuit! One such cleric has compared belly dancing to homosexuality and atheism... yeah...
Anti-Muslim Brotherhood cleric Muzhir Shahine and a group of professors Al-Azhar, a Cairo university prestigious in the Muslim world, issued a statement criticizing the belly-dancing show as part of "attacks on society's values," while also trying to compare it to atheism and homosexuality — which a large number of conservative Egyptians perceive as taboos.
Right... sure... I totally see the connection... Belly dancing: An attack on society's values since at least the 18th or 19th century -- maybe longer.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Saudi Court Upholds Raif Badawi's Ten Year Sentence

Raif Badawi
Bad news again from Saudi Arabia. A court has upheld the ten year jail term, one million riyal and 1,000 lash sentence for Raif Badawi. His crime: creating a website insulting to Islam. 

Or more to the point: creating a website insulting to a bunch of religious clerics.
He had been convicted of “creating a website insulting Islam” and criticising the role of the notorious religious police “which we all do” in Saudi Arabia, the rights group’s co-founder, Souad Al Shamari, told AFP.
To add insult to injury, the initial sentence was for seven years and 600 lashes. After the retrial the court decided to increase it to 10 years and 1,000 lashes.
“Even the worst terrorists have not received such a harsh sentence,” Al Shamari said. 
Can somebody please tell me who in our current Canadian government I can petition? Because, the Office of Religious Freedom doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about people in Badawi's situation.

This angers me so much. I cannot imagine ever dealing with ten years in jail, painful lashes and very possibly crippling debt. All this for exercising his human rights of freedom of expression and freedom from religion. How is it that Saudi Arabia is still on the UN's Human Rights Council? That's absolutely sickening.

I also feel sorry for Badawi's wife and children who are, luckily, safe in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Office of Religious Freedom Trivializes Human Rights Violations Against Atheists Again

Dr. Andrew P.W. Bennett (source)
You know, I really ought to give up on Andrew Bennett and the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom. They've not once stood up for a single persecuted atheist -- even when asked very nicely by CFI Canada. Although actually getting to the Office was apparently not unlike going to see the Wizard.

Bennett looks like a nice enough person to me -- the kind of person I'd likely enjoy conversing with. Really, he looks like a great guy and I really don't want to keep writing these posts. It's just that things like this recent interview with Bennett keep falling into my Google Alerts.
Q Should Canadians with no religious beliefs care about religious freedom?

A Absolutely. If we don’t have religious freedom in society, it’s very hard to also have freedom of expression, freedom of association. All these different human rights are linked together. When we look at freedom of religion, it’s the freedom to openly — publicly or privately — profess your faith. It’s the freedom to engage in public worship in peace and security. It’s the freedom to engage in missionary activity. And here’s the real acid test: does a country allow people to freely convert to another faith? Conversely, does it not force them to change their faith?

There must also be an understanding that people should be able to not have religious faith. But the vast majority of people in the world who are suffering as a result of the denial of religious freedom are people of faith. 
What am I supposed to make of this? Is there no time in Bennett's schedule to simply issue a single statement on the Office's website condemning the obvious human rights violations being made by places like Saudi Arabia against atheists there? The Media Room site seems to have roughly one release per month. Surely, someone there could find some time to fit a little something in.

And they're not very long either. Here's a sample.
Ambassador Bennett Concerned by the Shooting of an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan
May 24, 2014 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:

“I was sincerely shocked and appalled to learn of the death of Khalil Ahmad, who was shot while in police custody in the Sheikhupura district in Pakistan on May 16, at the age of 65. He was being held on charges of alleged blasphemy.

“In Pakistan, hundreds of Ahmadis have been murdered for their faith and beliefs, and thousands arrested for declaring Islam to be their faith.

“This is only the latest event in a long series of violent attacks on individuals who are accused, often falsely, under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.

“Canada strongly denounces such violence and we call for Pakistani authorities to ensure the personal safety of other Ahmadis associated with Mr. Ahmad who were also charged with alleged blasphemy.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada and Canadians, I extend my prayers and sincere condolences to the family and friends of the late Khalil Ahmad.”
This is tragic and I can understand why Bennett would release a statement like this. However, I don't see why he wasn't also be shocked and repelled by the brutal hacking to death of atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider last year in Bangladesh. Randy Tyson from Legion of Reason posted this long letter addressed to him over at their Facebook page, just in case they missed it -- but I'm pretty sure they have people to keep track of these things.

Could Bennett or perhaps a staffer -- or hell I'll write the thing and let him proofread it! -- have possibly spared a half hour to whip a little something up for any atheist in trouble anywhere?
But the vast majority of people in the world who are suffering as a result of the denial of religious freedom are people of faith. 
I wonder how Christian it is to prioritize like this? Oh, no I need to check myself -- as I am not aware of all the bureaucracy involved with issuing the equivalent of a two paragraph statement onto an HTML web page. Perhaps they should switch to Blogger or Wordpress? I guess within the Canadian Government this could be a major feat. Who knows.

Oh, and by the way, there was a report released last year by IHEU about widespread systematic human rights abuses, oppression and violence against atheists across the world. It demonstrates the dire consequences that await hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands... perhaps millions(?) of people who question religion across the planet publicly. People are not stupid. They understand their situation; that at the hands of oppressive cultures of dogmatic authority, people really do get beaten, slashed or murdered by those interested in silencing any questioning of religious dogma.

Really, how could Bennett know what's in the hearts and minds of atheists across the world if they cannot ever hope to freely express themselves without being persecuted or killed?

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Saudi Arabia Will Never Change Their Ways Until The Money Stops

Recently, I've been writing a lot about Saudi Arabia because in the past few months they've declared atheists terrorists and have recently begun shutting down atheist websites and imprisoning them for posting videos online.

This past month has seen the largest number of beheadings in the Kingdom for quite some time, more than 26 since August 4th for crimes as silly as sorcery.

All the while, some brave voices have been calling out countries like Canada, the United States and UK for gladly taking Saudi money for riot control vehicles and other tools of oppression. Blissfully turning a blind eye to barbaric human rights abuses.

Here's a fresh new article about this over at the Guardian.

To really combat terror, end support for Saudi Arabia: 
Ramped up rhetoric on security makes no sense so long as the west cosies up to dictatorships that support fundamentalism

It has some memorable quotes in it, like this one:
And then, of course, there is the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia. Much of the world was rightly repulsed when Isis beheaded the courageous journalist James Foley. Note, then, that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 22 people since 4 August. Among the “crimes” that are punished with beheading are sorcery and drug trafficking.
It's interesting what enough money and Western assets can do for a country isn't it?

It also goes into the religious angle with a mention of what happens to atheists -- like me -- who are open about their unbelief in Saudi Arabia.
Even talking about atheism has been made a terrorist offence and in 2012, 25-year-old Hamza Kashgari was jailed for 20 months for tweeting about the prophet Muhammad. Here are the fruits of the pact between an opulent monarchy and a fanatical clergy.
Religion (the dead serious kind) and complete power is a terrible combination.

If people are getting beheaded for witchcraft accusations, I dread to think what's going on with the two jailed atheists for uploading the video.

Our governments must stop paying lip service to human rights... but then, the money is just too good.

Please! Not All Atheist Agree With Dawkins All The Time!

Not long ago, shortly after the fallout from Dawkins' recent suggestion that it would be immoral to knowingly bring any child with Down Syndrome into the world, I lamented that no doubt, many in the mainstream media would latch onto this as representing the official atheist position. 
I'll agree that most of it was in the delivery. Dawkins, who is falsely portrayed regularly by religious media as some kind of Pope of the Atheists speaking for countless mindless followers, should be aware that tweets like the above without proper qualification that 'for what it's worth, my own choice would be to abort' is absolutely essential for it not to come off as some sort moral decree from on high. This isn't Dawkins' fault, it's just a sad reality.
I reacted like several other atheists did. My wife and I both decided to not abort a fetus that tests positive for Down Syndrome. Although our son is not a Down child, he is autistic (which I realize is not the same thing but is still considered by many a disability).

The point is, I apparently do not have the same morality that Dawkins has -- and many many parents who are statistically likely to be religious! On this count, I do not agree with Dawkins but I have no ill will towards him -- just as I understand why many parents choose to abort when confronted with Down Syndrome and other disabilities -- I respect their decision and believe they ought to have the choice to decide whether or not they can handle it.
I have no ill-will towards Dawkins. I think he's done a lot of excellent work and it was his book The God Delusion that finally gave me the resolve to call myself an atheist. Like me, he is a human being with ideas and feelings and a father. On this topic, we do not see eye-to-eye and that's okay -- he doesn't speak for all atheists all the time.
With this background, let me point out yet another tiresome article out that seems to assume whatever Dawkins says is a kind of papal pronouncement of atheistic doctrine from on high. Over at the New York Post (unsurprisingly), Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote an opinion piece: 

Can you see how even the title dooms this article to be a silly and inaccurate over generalization of the atheist? You know, The Atheist -- that guy?
Dawkins, like many of the so-called New Atheists (though they’re not so new anymore) finds himself regularly baffled at the way the public reacts to his pronouncements. He sounds a little like Mr. Spock when he wonders why there is this “wanton eagerness” to misunderstand his perfectly reasonable logic as cruel or heartless when, as he notes, so many people make just the choice he suggests.
Okay, at least she's saying many atheists and not all of them. Some atheists would have been a better choice. The trope being pulled out here is the cold, scientific, unfeeling atheist -- a dour and soulless creature who does not understand human emotion. Indeed, how can the atheist understand the beauty of life, love or the mysteries of existence, right?
It is possible that there are more people out there who subscribe to the same understanding of morality that Richard Dawkins does — a utilitarian view that human life is measured in nothing besides worldly pleasures. (The old, the very young and the infirm have a clear disadvantage in this calculation.)
Worldly pleasures? As opposed to other-worldly pleasures? There is nothing wrong with a utilitarian view that human life can be measured by the sum of one's happiness and fulfillment -- perhaps she meant to say thatI believe that most people actually do these sorts of ethical calculations without realizing it. They instinctively know that happiness is good and suffering is bad along with the ability to empathize with their children and others. They may also couch it in their own religious tradition.

There is nothing wrong with maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering in this world. Of course, worldly pleasures is meant to be a negative thing -- it's got a bad rap in Christianity where I suppose one must focus themselves on what allegedly happens after this world. However, there is nothing wrong with pleasure here and now and a great deal of fulfillment can be obtained from helping others to be happy and flourish -- e.g. Humanism.

She also trots out the false assumption that Dawkins -- and by implication those who follow and atheistic utilitarian worldview -- care little about the very young and weak. This is a false equivalency as Dawkins is referring to early abortion and not to the killing of human beings.  This is the difference between those who are pro-choice and anti-abortion. (This doesn't make his delivery any less harsh sounding, though.)

All in all though, it's the title that bothers me the most, I guess. The content of the article doesn't come right out and say it, yet I still think it props up a  grossly over-generalized assumption.

The article should have been titled: Why Richard Dawkins' call to screen against Down Syndome is doomed 

I still wouldn't have agreed, but at least the title would have been a little more accurate.

Friday, 29 August 2014

850 Atheist Sites Shut Down By Saudi Religious Police

"CENSURE" by Dasemarcalvarez - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Twelve days ago, I heard about how Saudi Arabia was beginning to follow through with their looming threat of a religious purging of any messages seen as being against Islam. Back then the human rights crushing Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) were demanding that atheist bloggers be arrested.

Then, just five days ago, I learned that the purge has begun. At least two atheists were thrown into jail for posting a video on the social messaging platform Kik. As far as I can tell, the government is not even releasing their names nor in what condition they are in nor when they stand any sort of trial.

Now, something very grave is going on in Saudi Arabia targeted directly at atheists, but the information seems to be dripping out in small obscure news clippings -- at least in the English media. Yesterday, I ran into this older tweet from August 23rd which shows us why, perhaps, we're not hearing more about this -- the communication lines are being deliberately cut from within Saudi Arabia.
JR Buckley is pointing at this very short, seemingly undated news clipping in the Saudi Gazette. Although there is no complete dateline, the URL includes a content id which seems to include a time stamp of 20140820215257, putting the story at August 20th.
JEDDAH — Four government bodies have worked together to close down 850 websites that promoted atheism in the last 16 months. The same bodies are currently working to close down the Facebook group called Association of Saudi Atheists, which has at least 188 members. The head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, said the Haia has formally asked the Interior Ministry, the Telecommunications Authority and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology to help block such sites and arrest those responsible for setting them up.
I wonder how many of the workers over at the City for Science and Technology are themselves closeted atheists?

No word as to whether any of the website administrators have been thrown into the slammer or not. One can only hope they are in hiding or on the run. I later found another story over at the Peninsula Times, dated as August 21st in the URL, which shows that LGBT groups could also be targeted in this latest crackdown. (It is unclear to me whether depraved and homosexual material refers to mere mention or support for same-sex relationships or hardcore pornography but I doubt the Haia sees any nuance in this.)
Al-Shalil said 146 accounts on Twitter were being used to post “depraved and homosexual material” and the owners were arrested. An additional 735 accounts given to the Commission of Telecommunications and Information Communications (CTIC) to be blocked.

The sheikh stated that some of these account holders were talked to and they agreed to stop using their accounts especially for negative means.

The ICU warned against 10 social media platforms and their dangers to individuals and society. Also in coordination with the CTIC, the Haia has blocked 850 websites associated with atheism and violating religion.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Movie About An Atheist Making A Movie About Disproving God By Doing Satanic Things & Stuff

Michael King is making a documentary about being possessed in the movie The Possession of Michael King. (source)
I have a confession to make. Horror films scare me lots and I'm a big chicken. So I don't watch them. Anyway, there's this new horror film thing out there that seems to have a ridiculous premise around atheism. Here's a snippet from a review of The Possession of Michael King over at Variety.
As Michael (Shane Johnson, impressively committed) informs us at the outset, he’s an atheist, a condition that movies like this exist to rectify. By the next scene, his wife (Cara Pifko) is dead, partly due to advice she received from a psychic (Dale Dickey, seen too briefly), and Michael has waged a bitter one-man war on all religion, superstition and belief in the paranormal. Oddly, his campaign entails dabbling in the dark arts, participating in satanic rituals and attempting to summon the most diabolical forces known to man — all of which he captures on camera, in hopes that the demons’ non-activity will definitively disprove the existence of either God or the Devil. To say that his plan backfires would be an understatement, and understatement has no place in this silly, dunderheaded movie.
I like this opening paragraph of this review by Justin Chang because it points out the nauseatingly common trope of how atheism is something to be cured and follows through with a healthy mocking of the protagonist's ridiculous mission to disprove God. I can only assume that Chang rightly understands just how ridiculous this is and how much the creators of this silly sounding movie must not understand atheism or atheists.

I would leave it at that but we have this other review of the film over at the New York Times by Jeannette Catsoulis. Snippet follows, immediately.
Dim in wits and lighting, “The Possession of Michael King” strains our eyes, spits on our intelligence and saps our generosity of spirit. Relatively untaxed, however, is the part of the brain that processes new experiences: There’s scarcely a shot or an idea in this first feature from David Jung that we haven’t seen many times before.
No doubt the atheism thing is merely a plot device to get into some totally disturbing and grody demon possession -- all the while remaining comfortably familiar if we're to believe Catsoulis.

What I find extra ironic is that even if this Michael character is an atheist, (who doesn't understand you cannot prove a negative), he still gets possessed by demons. Since when does that ever happen in real life? It always seems to be the strong believers who get possessed by demons. Well, I suppose that this single point could conceivably be the least believable part of the entire film -- which I won't see because I'm not into horror! Capiche?

I don't think I'll miss much. It turns out that Catsoulis also recommends giving it a miss.
“This isn’t what I wanted,” he moans when his eyes blacken and his bones contort. Viewers lining up to get their money back will probably be saying the same thing. 
I wonder how many church groups out there will want to use all or parts of this film in their Halloween Hell Houses? Pumpkin season is not too far away.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Cosmic Nothings: Good Thoughtful Music For Excellent Summertime Freethinker BBQs

Squid-like section of Drew Stedman and The Cosmic Nothings album cover. (source)
It's hot outside and finally we're getting some proper summer weather up here in Montreal. It's time to put something on the BBQ and break out some beers and pops. What to do about music if I'm feeling like something freethought?

Well, I recently found this group, Drew Stedman and The Cosmic Nothings and they fit this bill pretty well, indeed. These guys are talented, toe-tapping and their lyrics are pretty thoughtful too. The production quality is also refreshingly high. Only the best for my outdoor summertime cooking.

You can listen to their entire album online over at Band Camp

Also take a look at them playing here on this video.

If you're wondering what the name of their band actually signifies, Drew sums it up in an interview at the Columbus Dispatch.
The universe that we find ourselves in is so unfathomably immense that it completely transcends the human capacity to understand how very, very tiny we are.

It is only our pitifully limited perspective and conceit that allows us to think that we have any cosmic significance.
But us atheists and skeptics don't let that get us down. Just listen to the upbeat music for a boost -- and pass the mustard for my BBQ hot dogs!
Belief and skepticism from a humanist perspective. I also try to write songs that will inspire a sense of awe and wonder for the universe. I have noticed a trend lately in my music, which deals with mortality and accepting my status as a finite being.

Saudi Government Arrests Atheists Over Video

Well, perhaps ever since that article in Salon pointing out that atheists do exist in the Saudi Arabia and are perhaps increasing in number, the government has been setting up to do a good old-fashioned fascist-style theocratic purge of the non-believers.

First there was the declaration from the government of Saudi Arabia that atheists are terrorists. Then just last week, the Saudi religious police, the ghoulish 1984-style 'Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice' (Haia) called for the arrests of atheist bloggers.

Well,  now they've started their campaign of terror and human rights violations publicly for the world to see -- and I expect no nation to do anything at all meaningful to stop them. Don't expect our Office of Religious Freedom to do anything either. Afterall, it's not the religious who are lacking any freedom in this equation, but instead it has ultimate authority to do all that it pleases with those who have no religion. Something I've learned is that if you have no religion than the Office of Religious Freedom has no interest whatsoever in your freedom.

Guidance methods questioned after atheism clip surfaces

As far as I can tell, this is actually two videos. I'm uncertain about anything more since, naturally, none of the news sites I have found actually link to the videos themselves -- heresy.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice arrested several people for blasphemous remarks against God and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) after a videoclip on atheism went viral on a popular social networking site.
No word on who has been arrested and what the conditions are for them. Nothing showing us what was actually posted. If anyone could get me this information (without getting arrested) I would be interested.

The rest of the article goes into a talk about how education needs to be improved to counter a recent wave of atheism due to social media. A member of the  Ministry of Forced Indoctrination & Mind Control Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia has this sage advice.
Shutting down websites that spread atheism is not the only way to address the core issue, said Al-Ghaith.

“Authorities, however, must then intervene and shut these sites down when people disseminate inflammatory and inaccurate information across Twitter and other social networking sites.”

“That said, the first step to dealing with the issue is investigating and trying to understand the perspective of atheists,” he said. “We cannot change opinions by force.”

“We should focus on equipping our youth with knowledge and understanding rather than just forcing them to memorize facts because they would not do them any good when trying to impact others.”
Naturally, the first step in understanding the perspective of atheists is to shut down all their websites, tear down their videos, round them up and throw them into jail. I suppose this is meaningful ecuemenical dialogue Saudi-style. Isn't it interesting how only the authorities in charge can have access to these ideas and not the general public. I suppose it's like toxic waste to them or kryptonite?

And they certainly do seem to be using force to try to change opinions, aren't they?

The article includes a few more interesting points.
“Atheism is not a phenomenon in the Gulf or in Arab countries,” he said. “Atheists deny the existence of God altogether, while non-religious individuals may believe in God, but not practice everyday rituals.”
Essentially, he is saying that many of these so-called atheists are really disillusioned non-practicing Muslims. Okay, whatever keeps them out of jail, I suppose. I wonder what causes this sort of turn off to religion in Saudi Arabia?
“People who have grown up with strict rules may eventually associate religion with oppression and deny its existence altogether,” he said.
Oh, you mean like having an entire religious police force that goes around banning roses on Valentines day and arresting people for expressing doubt in religion on their blogs? You mean like that sort of thing?
“Qur’anic verses revealed to infidels and hypocrites are taken out of context, resulting in dire intellectual clashes,” he added. “We must spread the message of Islam through moderation and tolerance.”
Where to begin? You can start by disbanding the religious police and releasing the arrested bloggers. No really, you go first.

I'll leave you with one of the comments on the article.
There's nothing like the irony of trying to prove atheists are wrong about the oppression of religion - by arresting them and thus proving that they absolutely correct that religion is oppressive. In other words, the misconceptions are starkly obvious - and it isn't the atheists who have the misconceptions.
It would be hilarious if it weren't so twisted and sad.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Doctor Comes Out Atheist Tonight?

Dr Who (316350537)" by aussiegall from Sydney, Australia Dr Who Uploaded by russavia.  
Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
In a past post I credited Doctor Who and Carl Sagan's Cosmos for keeping my mind open to other worlds and other points of view. I see this as a crucial contribution to my overall skepticism and eventual atheism.

Well, rumour has it that the good Doctor is going to finally come out atheist this evening on the season premiere of the eighth season.
As if to underscore the point, “Doctor Who” proves plenty frisky itself in the wake of its own 50th anniversary last year. After years of speculation, the Doctor unceremoniously outs himself as an atheist in the premiere, though a creepy epilogue suggests the reveal is part of a larger arc for the season.
If I can see how watching the wonders of the universe through Doctor Who and Cosmos contributed to my disbelief in a 2,000 year old book of stories, then it only stands to reason that a Timelord who's literally seen it all wouldn't fall for any god belief at all.

It's also no surprise to anyone who's watched either the current or classic series. I mean, they even had Richard Dawkins do a cameo.

I'd love to watch this tonight to confirm, but I'm still terribly behind. I stayed up last night to 11:30pm (late for me) and got just past the halfway mark on season 7 -- thanks to US Netflix. So, I don't think I'll make up enough to be caught up by this evening. Perhaps in a week or two.

Richard Dawkins: It's Immoral To Bring A Down's Syndrome Child Into The World

Richard Dawkins (source)
I know I'm going to catch flack for this from all sides, but Richard Dawkins' latest tweets about terminating pregnancies when the tests come back positive for Down's Syndrome really struck a nerve with me. I usually stay out of this stuff but I can't stay quiet about this one. I'm sure you've all seen this tweet.
Before I go any further, I'd like to make a full disclosure. I'm the father of an autistic child and the husband of an autistic woman. Even though I have no personal experience parenting children with Down's Syndrome, I still have strong feelings about disability and ableism.

I've read Dawkins' apology, Abortion & Down Syndrome: An Apology for Letting Slip the Dogs of Twitterwar and at some level I can agree with him. Although, even the title irritates me because it screams non-pology to me -- it implies he's not apologizing for anything other than causing a ruckus.

But then Twitter is no place for implications or nuance. It's definitely no place for expressing opinions about difficult and complex issues. Dawkins, as an accomplished author really should be aware of this and it leads me to think that he really doesn't understand that this is a complicated and highly emotional subject.
That’s what I would have said, if a woman were to ask my advice. As you might notice, it takes a lot more than 140 characters! I condensed it down to a tweet, and the result was understandably seen in some quarters as rather heartless and callous: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Of course I regret using abbreviated phraseology which caused so much upset. I never wanted to “cry havoc”!
That's an understatement! Here's what Dawkins would have said if he had more than 140 characters -- like in a blog or even a book!
“Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do.  I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.”
I'll agree that most of it was in the delivery. Dawkins, who is falsely portrayed regularly by religious media as some kind of Pope of the Atheists speaking for countless mindless followers, should be aware that tweets like the above without proper qualification that 'for what it's worth, my own choice would be to abort' is absolutely essential for it not to come off as some sort moral decree from on high. This isn't Dawkins' fault, it's just a sad reality.

It is also true that the majority of people do, indeed, abort early to avoid having a child with Down's Syndrome. In fact, my wife and I were pressured quite a bit to get amniocentesis. The doctor informed us it would be so we could screen against Down's. However, we both had previously decided we would not abort to prevent against Down's. We did not see this as immoral like Dawkins does.
I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. 
I think this contains the very false assumption that children with Down's Syndrome automatically reduce the sum of happiness. Who's happiness? What sort of happiness?

Although more challenging -- and perhaps fraught with some more suffering -- parents of Downs syndrome children do find themselves happy. In the end, all of parenting contains sacrifice and suffering! I've read several articles by parents of Down children who simply do not understand what Dawkins is talking about and are not the slightest bit impressed with his judgement that their children do not contribute to human happiness. What is Dawkins saying here?

The children themselves are often happy as well. They are kids, after all. They are not in constant pain. As far as I can tell, they are not suffering.
In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. 
Yes. I think these are all important things to consider for couples. I agree that it is wrong to force this upon anyone and to do so would likely breed terrible resentment and frustration that would be counterproductive to both parent and child. I've seen this before with some parents of autistic children who have left some horrible comments on my blog about how they cannot stand their children. These are people who -- if the technology existed -- probably should have opted to abort early to reduce suffering.

That said, we know what Dawkins would do -- and I'm fine with that. And we know what other parents would do -- also fine. The problem was with Dawkins' delivery and his automatic assumption that Down Syndrome is a net negative -- a non-contribution to society. It sort of implies he means a drag on society. I'll go no further. I don't want to drag this downhill, but you can probably tell where this path can lead in the minds of some of his readers.
I don't know what he bases this on. Is it his own personal experience or something more? It is this absolute judgement which disturbs me the most. He is here comparing one broad spectrum of functionality with another and calling one a enhancement and another a negative. 

It's undeniable that there are autistic people with a complex of delays and disabilities which can place them far below the functionality of many Down's people -- as far as society judges them and as far as their abilities to be self-sufficient and autonomous. I've also read articles about the great ability to carry on friendships and to express love possessed by many children with Downs Syndrome which could be judged by broader society as excelling the social skills of some autistic people. This is not black and white, and I think this tweet sums up Dawkins' seeming inabilities to see the greys and at least acknowledge them.

And yes, I have concerns about how my son will get on in the world and so does another father of an autistic child I've spoken with. There's just one thing. This is thinking very very far into a future we know nothing about. The quality of care depends very much on the society we will live in and our own circumstances.  The future is unknown. Anything can happen.

I have no ill-will towards Dawkins. I think he's done a lot of excellent work and it was his book The God Delusion that finally gave me the resolve to call myself an atheist. Like me, he is a human being with ideas and feelings and a father. On this topic, we do not see eye-to-eye and that's okay -- he doesn't speak for all atheists all the time.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Three Questions For Turkish Televangelist Who Said "Atheists' Greatest Father Is The Devil"

Alice in the processing all the absurdity around her. Alice in Wonderland, 1933. (source)
Not long ago, I wrote about Turkish Islamic scholar pundit televangelist Nihat Hatipoğlu who said some pretty silly and untrue things about atheists on national television. Some of these things made pretty strong links between atheism and devil worship which lead the atheist group Ateizm Derneği to launch a lawsuit against the preacher. He later offered a fairly lame apology.

Journalist Burak Bekdil has written up a brilliant little piece over at the Daily Hürriyet appropriately ridiculing some of the absurd and surreal viewer questions that come into Hatipoğlu television program, which seem to rival the sorts of insane questions asked over at Pat Robertson's 700 Club.
One of Turkey’s most popular Islamic preachers is Nihat Hatipoğlu, a professor of theology who runs a top-rated TV show. Some of the questions his pious audience asked him during an episode last year included:

Can a pregnant woman have her hair cut?

Does keeping a cat as a pet bring bad luck?

Does Satan have a father and a mother?

Is a woman having her period allowed to cook?

I shall give birth soon and I have a pet cat at home. Is it religiously permissible to put the cat to death?

Is it religiously forbidden to stand up and drink water?

Is a 3G wedding permissible in Islam? (No idea what a 3G wedding is.)

Does swimming amount to praying?

If I go to Heaven, do I have to put up with my spouse there?
Okay, that last question might not be so crazy after all. Actually, none of those questions rival the nuttiness seen on the 700 Club but you can see the similarity, I'm sure.

Given the preacher's recent statements more or less accusing atheists of being Satan worshippers, Bekdil has his own three questions for Hatipoğlu.
If atheists are sons of the devil, who are the jihadists who kill en masse every day, mostly Muslims, especially in countries in Turkey’s vicinity?

Does the devil have children other than atheists? If so, who are they?

Is a cheating, killing, torturing Muslim rapist purer than an honest, law-abiding atheist?
The first and third questions speak to the hypocrisy of those who would accuse atheists of being monsters when it is not atheists who are carrying out these acts of violence. The second question implies a plausible conclusion.

His article includes this sage observation as well.
Is it not amazing how precisely common the jargon that the religious and/or ethnic nationalists resort to is in every corner of this part of the world? It’s as if they are one single tribe, only divided by different ethnicities and religions. Their speech writer must be the same man, perhaps the greatest father of atheists. 
I believe by father of atheists Bekdil is taking a page from Hatipoğlu's book -- this speech writer must surely be the devil himself.

Burak Bekdil is not afraid of speaking his mind and calling out hypocrisy or corruption. In 2002, he received an 18 month suspended sentence for humorously pointing out corruption in Turkey's judiciary system.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

By George! -- Christian Lesbian Singers & Platonic "Softy God" Atheisms

Okay, I am trying to take a step back and think about a response to Richard Dawkins latest tweet about how Down's Syndrome fetuses should be aborted for morality's sake. This is a situation where I need to just breathe deeply and process. So I thought I'd just comment quickly about something which doesn't make me want to scream and pull out all my hair.

Here's something calming for your palate. Robert P. George over at First Things has weighed in, sort of, about Christian singer Victoria Beeching. She came out a lesbian last week and endorsed same-sex marriage. She's apparently trying to change Christian views of these things from the inside out -- I suppose if her music is good enough she might have some traction there.

Haha! Yeah, as if that's going to happen.

Anyway, George relates her sexual predilections (ugh!) to the different Platonic atheisms, somehow.
I must confess to not having heard of Victoria Beeching before she made news by publicizing her sexual predilections. But the theology by which she proposes to justify her behavior and demand the approbation of her fellow Christians turns out to be far from new. Plato described and condemned it in his great final work, known to us as “The Laws.” There (at II: 885b4-9) he identifies three forms of “atheism” . . . (or what we might today call “godlessness” or perhaps “secularism”).
I'm not quite sure how this paragraph works, honestly. Anyway, he jumps into three forms of atheists which Plato -- whose hero Socrates got accused of atheism -- outlined. Plato was not friend of atheists, by the way.

The first form is the mere denial of the existence of gods and George recognizes this as the prevalent form of atheism today. I would rephrase this as a mere lack of belief in any gods, but this seems fairly acceptable to me.

The second form is the acceptance of god(s) which play no discernable role in our universe and do not concern themselves with us. George calls this deism which seems reasonable enough to me. Perhaps neo-platonic ideas like the nous or monad would also fall into this category. This would be the fancy pants philosophers' god.

The third form is the soft and fuzzy caring God that I think many non-crazy-fundamentalist Christians may subscribe to. Apparently, according to Plato and Robert George I guess, this is a form of "atheism" deserving of air-quotes. Yeah, that makes no sense to me either.
The third form of “atheism” accepts that there is a God and that God is concerned with human beings. But this “God” is soft-spirited and easily placated or appeased. He makes no stringent moral demands of human beings. He wants us to like ourselves and like him. So it’s fine with him if we do pretty much as we please, whatever we please. He is an “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.” divinity—the perfect deity for an Age of Feeling.
Bzzzzzzzz... sorry, that's not atheism.

It's fascinating to see Christians who believe homosexuality is a mere sexual predilection and who apparently cannot accept the idea of gay Christians.  Somehow people like Victoria Beeching worship the wrong god or are in fact "atheists."

Well, George doesn't see atheisms #1 and #2 along with Dawkins as a threat to Christianity. It's really just a God who will accept gay people for who they are and not be a complete monster. Yes, that's the real challenge to Christianity!
Many believers, however, are being led, as Victoria Beeching has been led, into Plato’s third form of atheism—belief in an imaginary God made in the image and likeness of man, as man is conceived in the pseudo-religion of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism. It is a most convenient “God” who is always willing to say, “do whatever you feel like doing, darling; I love you just the way you are.”
You mean a God that behaves like a loving 'Father' who accepts their children for who they were created as? You know, like all parents of gay children should behave.

Anyway, that's not atheism it's still theism and many would still call it Christianity. Deal with it, because the times are changing, okay?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Canada's Christine Shellska Is New Atheist Alliance International President

 Christine Shellska (source)
Atheist Alliance International is a super organization that helped construct the Kasese Humanist Primary School at its original railroad location -- they even sent four volunteers to help! -- and has been a principal supporter ever since. Without their help, we would have never been able to get the funds raised to help buy the land for the new permanent site, bring electricity to the existing building or begin construction on new classrooms in Rukoki.

So, I've had the pleasure of working with Tanya Smith and Stuart Bechman. Now I look forward to working with Christine Shellska! She's the new Atheist Alliance International President.
Christine is currently a PhD candidate (ABD) at the University of Calgary, Department of Communication and Culture, Faculty of Arts. Her research involves studying the rhetorical means by which the intelligent design movement translates religious claims into a form that convinces many to believe it is scientific discourse. She is active in several secular organizations, and in 2011, she prepared a successful application to represent the university’s students, staff and faculty who identify as non-religious, bringing together local, national and international secular groups to endorse the establishment of a Secular Humanist Liaison position at the University of Calgary’s Faith and Spirituality Centre (formerly Multi-Faith Chaplaincy). She also runs a small business, offering a repertoire of specialized graphic design services, and extensive experience in marketing, advertising, corporate communications, and public relations. Christine sees atheism as a site of political engagement; she believes that many of the threats to environmental sustainability, global peace, and social justice stem from irrationalism and superstition, and that reason and compassion are the requisite tools to promote a reality-based understanding of our world, and to counter ignorance, fear and hatred.  Christine joined the AAI Board in May 2012 and served as the Secular World Board Liaison from 2012-2013.
Nice to have a Canadian AAI president! Congratulations, Christine!

Christine is also a co-host on the excellent Canadian podcast Legion of Reason, where I heard this announcement.