Friday, December 29, 2006
Home, Bored

It seems I'm stuck for the time being -- my car exploded* last night, as it now seems wont to do around this time every year. So here I sit with nowhere to go -- or at least no way to get there. (It's cool -- I didn't have anything I had to do today anyway.)

What it all boils down to is that I've been spending some time reading online. There have been an unusual number of interesting articles about atheism floating around lately, so, y'know, here are a few of 'em. Read them if you like, or if not, don't. (I'm not offering much commentary, since it's not like I have much to say that isn't already covered in the pieces themselves.)

10 myths -- and 10 truths -- about atheism, by Sam Harris

Atheism is dogmatic.

Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity's needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn't have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

Not yet the majority, but no longer silent, by Daniel C. Dennet

Why, then, are we atheists in general so unnoticed, and why is this changing? Since atheists, in general, think there are much more important and interesting topics to discuss than whether or not God--which God?--exists, we seldom raise the issue, but recent trends in America have suggested to many of us that this diplomatic reticence has been exploited by sectarian ideologues, evangelists, politicians, and others intent on maintaining the illusion that we are a negligible fringe community, so we are encouraging those who agree with us to come out of the closet . I use the idiom advisedly. A few decades ago, homosexuality was looked upon as so shameful that few dared declare themselves, and as a result, most homosexuals had to lie their way through life, for fear of losing their jobs, their reputations, their friends and family. How times have changed -- and for the better! It is now possible for homosexuals to be elected to Congress, to star in television shows, to be honored for their accomplishments and treasured by their friends. Could an atheist be elected to Congress? Probably not now, but if we can just raise the consciousness of Americans to the fact that some of their best friends are atheists, this will change.

Why are atheists so angry?, a debate between Sam Harris and Dennis Prager

As an atheist, I am angry that we live in a society in which the plain truth cannot be spoken without offending 90% of the population. The plain truth is this: There is no good reason to believe in a personal God; there is no good reason to believe that the Bible, the Koran, or any other book was dictated by an omniscient being; we do not, in any important sense, get our morality from religion; the Bible and the Koran are not, even remotely, the best sources of guidance we have for living in the 21st century; and the belief in God and in the divine provenance of scripture is getting a lot of people killed unnecessarily.

God's enemies are more honest than his friends, by Sam Harris

As I pointed out in my subsequent book, Letter to a Christian Nation, we do not have a term for a person who rejects astrology, nor do we need one. If legions of astrologers sought to bend our public policy to their pseudo-science, we wouldn't need to dub ourselves "non-astrologers" to put them in their place. Words like "reason," "evidence," and "commonsense" would suffice. So it should be with religion. Still, one can only spend so much time quibbling over words, and there are far more consequential matters for believers and nonbelievers to discuss. Despite my misgivings about answering to the name "atheist," I consider the stigma now associated with the term to be entirely unwarranted. This stigma is, of course, the continuous product of the inane and unctuous declarations that still pass for argument among the faithful.

Update: Here's another one -- the Grand Poobah Atheist takes his turn:

Athorism is enjoying a certain vogue right now. Can there be a productive conversation between Valhallans and athorists?

Naive literalists apart, sophisticated thoreologians long ago ceased believing in the material substance of Thor's mighty hammer. But the spiritual essence of hammeriness remains a thunderingly enlightened relevation, and hammerological faith retains its special place in the eschatology of neo-Valhallism, while enjoying a productive conversation with the scientific theory of thunder in its non-overlapping magisterium.

Militant athorists are their own worst enemy. Ignorant of the finer points of thoreology, they really should desist from their strident and intolerant strawmandering, and treat Thor-faith with the uniquely protected respect it has always received in the past. In any case, they are doomed to failure. People need Thor, and nothing will ever remove him from the culture. What are you going to put in his place?

* not literally
1:30 PM ::
Amy :: permalink