Monday, April 14, 2008

Hiatus for heathens

I'll be going on hiatus for a bit. I might have time to sneak in one more post, we'll see.

I just wanted to put this up so that the 3 of you (that may be stretching it :)) who read this thing don't miss me terribly.

I also wanted to invite any of you who want me to tackle a specific topic to email me. Questions (about me, atheism, whatever) are fine too. In fact I've tried to get in contact with one person who wrote me a question, I'm still waiting for a response (if this sounds like you, check your email).

I'll keep your name confidential and all that good stuff.

Take care


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Appeal to Celebrity

As I am a great lover of argument and debate (perhaps I should have been an atheist law student...) I try to keep my mind sharp enough to spot logical fallacies.

Appeal to celebrity is just such a fallacy, just because Jordon recommends a brand of underwear, it doesn't mean they're any good.

Similarly, I wouldn't advocate a world view just because a bunch of celebrities espouse it.

That said, this video, showing famous folks who are atheists is pretty cool. There were a few that surprised me (I didn't expect Lance Armstrong to be there).

There is a full list (including agnostics and ambiguous) at celebatheists.

So check it out, but of course make up your own mind.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Great Debates continue

Those of you who follow on RSS readers may be wondering where I've been lately. Well I've been engaged in a great conversation on evidence with a commenter. I just posted my latest response.

We most certainly have our differences but it's been a fun conversation.

These are narrower in topic and lengthier than the posts I usually do, check them out here if you like.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

A call for evidence

An anonymous commenter wrote something in response to one of my posts:

It seems as though you haven't tried finding any real evidence for religion, Christianity in specific. If you are up to opening your mind, read the book "What's so Great about Christianity" by Dinesh D'souza..I am sure it would stimulate your mind

To which I responded

Hi Anonymous,
I'm curious what you mean by "evidence for religion." My definition of evidence would be something like "undeniable, incontrovertible and reproducibly verifiable". And because all such statements, by definition, can only apply to natural phenomena I am puzzled as to what evidence exists for religion which is supernatural. I appreciate your book recommendation, but I have little time for reading. Perhaps you could summarize it for me. I assure you that I am quite open minded. My atheism is a call for evidence. If I can be convinced of the existence of god by evidence of the kind I described, then of course, I would be religious. I welcome you to continue comments here, or email me at the address provided on my profile.

(emphasis added)
Well I wanted to bring the issue up front, to this page. Why isn't there evidence, of the kind I described, for the existence of god? I can produce evidence for tangible things, obviously. Anyone familiar with basic physical science can demonstrate core principles of chemistry or biology which puzzled our predecessors.

I can even prove the intangible. I have perfectly valid reasons for believing in my family's love for me, for example. The amount of support and comfort that my family provides me is explainable only if they feel for me what I feel for them. Unconditional love.

So what proof would I expect for an omnipotent creator? How about a book of genesis that was filled with statements about the universe that weren't known to human beings 5000 years ago. For example, watch this video. If Genesis sounded like that, I'd gladly be a christian.

And before I end this call for evidence, let me give it some biblical backing. Undoubtedly some will claim that I am testing god, or that he is testing us by planting evidence that this planet is 4 billion years old, etc. Let me remind you of the words of Paul (Romans 1:20)
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Well we have seen and understood the world, and I see no evidence of a god in it. We have evidence of a natural progression of biological forms. Of a universe that defies the bronze age mentality of the bible. We have that evidence, and god is without excuse. If he was the Alpha of this system we would clearly see his hand. Instead we see only natural cause and effect.

So provide evidence if you can. I would gladly believe. But I will no longer believe for the sake of belief. I will no longer cling to an ancient mentality simply because it is ancient. I will no longer hold onto a book simply because some of it is moral, or inspiring.

I demand evidence. And so should you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wink wink

Today I want to talk about a very confusing phenomenon in Coptic/Egyptian society. Maybe it's common among other religious groups too, but my experience dictates my blogging. Usually, it goes like this. A young adult is having a disagreement with a parent (we Copts are tied to our family's opinions and dictates far longer than other peoples, it seems). The parent will end the conversation with something along the lines of: inshalallah we'll see (if god wills it, ie ain't gonna happen).

This is infuriating! I know it's not just my family, I've seen it in other homes too. So just like that, the conversation is ended and the inshallah-er wins by default. Another variant favored by the younger set is the "have you prayed about it" approach. It's a lot less dismissive, but often accomplishes the same thing because the person receiving said attack is meant to go home and pray about it. Thus ensuring an easy victory for the attacker (forgive the violent term).

Now, that alone is fine. We can claim that it really is faith that drives people to say things like that, not a desire to make the conversation end, feel free to draw your own conclusions. I'm more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to the "have you prayed about it" people, but again their motivations may not be totally faith based.

What's a scientist to do? Test of course! So I take it upon myself to turn the tables. I will always say I have prayed about whatever course of action is under discussion. Of course I didn't. I have news for you, I didn't always fast every day of lent either. Seeing as I am now an apostate, a fib about prayer in the name of science seems far less deceptive.

So what happens? Invariably I get called out for bullshit! Maybe the inshallah or "pray about it" folks never actually expect a response. Especially one as facile and quick as mine.

In reality I think that they feel lost. Like they have been stripped of a social tool of shame. Their tone turns from one of religion (pray pray pray) to one of worldly incredulity ("if you prayed you did it wrong because what you want to do is stupid").

So I submit that this whole exercise can be had without reference to religion, because it doesn't seem to have a religious basis. Tell people that they're being knuckle headed, or come up with something more diplomatic if you like. But don't inshallah someone when what you really mean is, "hopefully you become less pigheaded soon".

Giving someone a figurative knock to the head when they do something silly is a time-honored Egyptian tradition, I'm not saying it should stop. But perhaps we can strip off the layer of religious BS no one seems to mean.

So to recap my thesis is: when you want to be mean, say what you mean, and whatever you do don't ask me to pray about it.