Category Archives: Atheism

Whether gods are dead isn’t a relevant question

HB, TJ

Happy birthday, Mr. Jefferson!

At the University of Virginia (U.Va.), today is called “Founder’s Day.”

At the same time that I temper my admiration for him with the knowledge that he kept people in bondage, bought and sold them, and abided their maltreatment, I also want to remember that Mr. Jefferson was among the principal architects—if not the lead author—of many socio-cultural, governmental, and philosophical constructs that I hold dear:

The  list could continue….And I very much appreciate these contributions to the commonweal. So, it’s a b’day worthy of celebration.

 

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Almost enough bacon?

bacon church robot

I have not knowingly eaten bacon in over 25 years, but I might be convinced to worship at the United Church of Bacon. Why? Well, the sensibility of the church’s teachings brought smiles to me at the same time as making sense. According to the church’s about page,

The United Church of Bacon holds to a list of 9 Bacon Commandments. We tried to make it 10, but ran out of space on the tablets and didn’t want to start over.

Our mission is:

  • We oppose supernatural claims. We are skeptics and atheists. In our religion, we doubt religion.
  • We fight discrimination. Atheists are not inferior and should not be hated and marginalized.
  • We raise money for charity
  • We perform legal weddings, always for free. How joyful!
  • We expose religious privileges as silly by claiming the same rights for Bacon.
  • We praise Bacon! If you don’t like pigs, praise Vegetarian Bacon or Turkey Bacon.

In the accompanying YouTube video, the church provides suggestions about the nearly miraculous powers of bacon. Prepare to be…well…be chuckling.

I’m adding UCB to the sidebar.

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Ms. Clinton on religious freedom

Many people who know me will know that I hold little truck with religion. At best, I consider religions woe-begotten variations on reasoned ways to live one’s life humanely. However, as much as I find religions untenable, I shall defend folks’ right to espouse religious—or anti-religious and especially non-religious—views. Thus I was thrilled to hear the US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Remarks at the Release of the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report” in which she delivered one of the most inspiring defenses of religious freedom I can remember hearing.

Whether you might agree or disagree with Ms. Clinton’s political positions, I think most people will agree that the core of her remarks are a spirited defense of foundational principles of human freedom. I hope people everywhere, regardless of political stripe, can watch or read this talk. There are, to be sure, the usual segments of the talk that have to do with thanking contributors to the talk, thanking allies, and calling out miscreants. But there are, as I heard it live while driving home from a meeting yesterday AM, sections of the talk that discuss fundamental human aspirations. Reminders of the ideas of principles on which the US and other democracies were based hundreds of years ago.

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AAI Conference

Wooohooo! I’ll just run the 1st three paragraphs of the press release here:

Ottawa, Ontario — (SBWIRE) — 09/30/2010 — Atheist Alliance International (AAI) in collaboration with Humanist Canada (HC) announce their joint convention, to be held October 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 2010, uniting atheists and humanists in an international movement transcending political and cultural borders.This will be the first ever explicitly atheist convention in Montreal, as well as the first North-American AAI convention held outside the U.S.A. The event, organized with local support from Atheist Freethinkers and CFI Montreal, will welcome hundreds of participants and be held at the Delta Centre-ville Hotel on 777 University St. in the heart of the city.

This bilingual event will feature a plethora of both anglophone and francophone convention speakers. A partial list of those confirmed so far includes: anthropologist Daniel Baril speaking on the evolutionary origins of religion; Philippe Besson, French freethought leader; Daniel Dennett, celebrated philosopher and author of Breaking The Spell; Belgian historian of atheism Serge Deruette; Belgian philosopher and secularism advocate Nadia Geerts; Louise Mailloux, founder of Citizens’ Collective for Equality and Secularism; famous evolutionary biologist and Pharyngula blogger P.Z. Myers; Jeremy Patrick, legal expert on blasphemy legislation; screenwriter and comedian J.D. Shapiro; Skeptical investigator Karen Stollznow, a.k.a. SkepChick; Rodrigue Tremblay, economist and author of The Code for Global Ethics.

The 2010 Richard Dawkins Prize will be awarded to Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Several other activities will take place in conjunction with the convention: for example the September 30th party to mark International Blasphemy Rights Day and underline the importance of freedom of expression; and an evening of stand-up comedy on Comedy Night.

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I reverse a position on religion and politics

I read with interest Damon Linker’s column in the Washington Post on Sunday 19 September 2010, “A religious test all our political candidates should take.” Given my resistence to mixing political and religious views, my first reaction when I read the headline was to disagree. After all, I know quite well that Article VI of the US Constitution very plainly states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification [for] any office or public trust under the United States.”
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Daos on parade in Kaohsiung

Parade feature at Kaohsiung restaurant

During dinner tonight (Sun the 6th here in Asia), we heard a tremendous assortments of fireworks and saw the restaurant staff exiting the front door. Our friend and local resident said that there was a parade coming to the restaurant. We hastened outside to watch, and I filmed some of the events. The accompanying image is extracted from one of the video clips, so it’s not particularly clear.

The parade came in three waves, each with a musical ensemble, dancers, and a brightly-lit portable alter. Loud! Fireworks. Loud! Music. Mostly youths seemed to be carrying the alters as if they were sedan chairs. A team with wheeled generators trailed each alter.

The restaurant staff stood in ranks on the sidewalk between the restaurant door and the curb. They held their hands together in front of their chests, bowed, burned incense, and watched intently. The dancers, musicians, and alter carriers came up to the curb. The restaurant people gave offerings (rice wine and cigarettes, we learned later) to them. In the image, one of three oversized dancers from the second troupe approaches the cooking staff, represented by the man in the white chef’s jacket at the bottom right.

Apparently, this was an opportunity to hope for a good harvest in the future. Quite an event!

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Texas is for believers!

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?

  • 38% Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process.
  • 12% Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, and God had no part in the process.
  • 38% God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago.
  • 12% Don’t know

Fifty-one percent of the people living in Texas and responding to a survey about their beliefs about and understanding of life say that they disagree with the statement, “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,” and 31% agree with the statement, “The earliest humans
lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.” One in five said that humans had always existed in their present-day form. I am using a winch to raise my jaw off the floor.

Equally amazing to me is the result shown in the accompanying box; please do the arithmetic. I’ll come back to it. And there’re lots more in these data.

I drew these data from a survey conducted the first week in February 2010. The researchers interviewed 800 registered voters and the results of the survey have a margin of error of ± 3.5%. The survey was conducted by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The interviews also asked about people’s religious and political affiliations as well as the political candidates they endorse, their church attendance, and other factors. The cross-tabs on these are fascinating.

So, when I walk along the street in TX, I should expect that three of every four people whom I pass, on average, believe that a mystical being or force was, at least, guiding human development. It might be as high as four of every five or as low as a little better than seven of every ten people.

Sigh.

In his report, Ross Ramsey uses the headline, “Meet the Flintstones.” Download the crosstabs and the raw data (all questions).

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