Liberals, atheists and George Will?

My goodness, Mr. Climate Change Denying George Will is an atheist? I suppose so.

Liberals Islam poses a challenge for liberals. Sam Harris explains. Basically, the tenants of Islam are highly illiberal and many of the Muslim theocracies are highly oppressive.

But I should be clear about a few things:

1. Saying that a religion contains a lot of noxious and bad ideas is a condemnation of those ideas and not of the people who might belong to a said religion. As Harris explains: condemning communism for being a very bad idea is NOT a condemnation of Chinese or Russian people.

2. Nothing in this criticism justifies denying Americans religious freedom; an American Muslim should have the same religious rights that, say, Christians, Jews and Hindus have. The same goes for places of worship. The same goes for world events; no US Muslim should have to apologize for, say, the Saudi terrorists who attacked us on 9-11. True, the 9-11 attackers were, in part, motivated by religion. But, abortion clinic bombers are also motivated by religion and I don’t expect Christians to apologize for them.

3. Still, huge numbers of Muslims around the world have some very backward, noxious ideas. To pretend otherwise is to be blatantly dishonest.

4. I am tempted to say that people like this do not belong in the United States.


But are these people really any worse than those who want, say, campus speech codes?

It pains me to say this, but at times, conservatives stick up for free speech better than liberals do. For more on the United States and free speech, go here.

Of course, there are plenty of Americans who, at the core, really don’t like free speech unless they agree with it; many are my relatives (I am sorry to say).

October 8, 2014 Posted by | atheism, free speech, religion, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

An atheist at a religious memorial (or other service)

This post is based on a comment made to me at a “after the memorial service” lunch.

A cousin remarked that she unfriended me on Facebook (some time ago) as she didn’t care for some of my atheist related posts. I was fine with that; I like discussing ideas and that, to me, involves critiquing religious ideas (if they are put out there).

But she (and another cousin who hasn’t unfriended me) said that, during Mom’s memorial service, they looked to me to see how I’d react to the religious parts of the service.

So here goes: This service was supposed to conformed to MOM’S religious beliefs and NOT to mine. I expect Christianity to be involved in the memorial service for a Christian, just as I’d expect a service for a Muslim to have Islam, or a service for a Jew to be a Jewish service, or a service for a Hindu to be a Hindu service.

My only issue would be if someone tried to lie about what my mom believed (e. g. if the brand of religion presented was not what my mom actually practiced in real life) and that was NOT the case here. Mom would have approved of the type of religion and the amount of religion in the ceremony. My sister did well.

Now when Dad died, there was no religion in the service as dad was not religious (though he was NOT an atheist either; his deity was a generic “God”..of some sort).

If it were a wedding service, I wouldn’t worry about the type of service but instead be grateful that someone invited me to begin with.

Sorry to disappoint but to this atheist: religious ceremony is offensive to me only to the degree that our government attempts to hold people as a captive audience to someone’s particular brand of religion. At private events: no problem.

Now if you want people to take offense to a religious service, you’d be better off finding a believer of another religion. Example: some Jews find Christian beliefs “blasphemy” as Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus. Some Christians might take offense to statements made at a pagan service.

Because I am an atheist(*), theological concerns don’t bother me at all; pray how you wish.

(*) I suppose that I am really a type of agnostic as I remain open to the possibility that:

There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

Yes: that quote was said by Richard Dawkins. It is possible that some sentient beings somewhere in the universe got it right, or perhaps that NO sentient beings got it right but it “exists” anyway. However, I don’t find any of the deities that I’ve been introduced to or that *I* can conjure up to be credible enough to warrant serious thought or contemplation.

May 28, 2014 Posted by | atheism, social/political | | Leave a comment

Different types of atheists …..

A couple of years ago, I was having a discussion with a friend and we disagreed on something. I said “oh come on, we are both atheists”. She said: “yes, but I am a Jewish atheist and you are a Christian atheist” and …well…I got what she meant.

It wasn’t merely the “cultural Jew” thing either.

In our case, her atheism is more of a “there is no god that is going to save your bacon” sort of thing. Mine is more of a philosophical/intellectual conclusion: I see no evidence of a deity and no compelling reason to hypothesize the existence of one.

Then, there was another recent discussion. Several of us had lunch after an NPR show (“What do you know”) aired near Peoria. One of the friends is an atheist; his reason: “evil in the world”. My reason: what I just said. To me: “evil” is a human construct (and a useful one, though one gets into sticky questions: “is nature evil” and, if our conjecture about Neanderthal males impregnating homosapien females is true, were the Neanderthals acting in an evil manner?

That is what lead to this little ramble.

Types of atheists I have encountered:

I Not raised religiously and never thought about it.
There are some who weren’t raised in a religious household and have simply not thought much about religion one way or the other. They don’t care about such questions.

II Rejection of the God of a given culture
There are different types of this category of atheist.

One is the “reading the Bible” made me an atheist type. In this case, the reader of the holy text is dismayed by, say, the gross immorality in the text itself or perhaps the ridiculousness of the “miracle” stories in it.

Others say that their disbelief is linked to evil in the world, e. g. wars, diseases, crimes, and genocides.
Some are upset that THEIR group wasn’t protected (e. g. the holocaust) and some are upset that there was no divine intervention on the behalf of a friend or loved one.

III Rejection of deities due to science or philosophy (intellectual rejection)

These are the people who see no evidence that would suggest that the hypothesis of a supernatural agent should even be entertained. Or one might wonder why there is an intellectual reason to make our species the center of anything, given that we orbit just one star among 400 billion in our own galaxy, which is one of 100’s of billions of galaxies in the observable universe.

I am sure that there are other types; I know that some think that atheists are merely rebelling against any authority above their own whims. But I’ve yet to meet an atheist that thinks in this manner.

So where am I?

I see no evidence of a deity in the workings of this world, and the “one solar system among billions of billions” fact makes me think that human ideas about deities are mostly wishful thinking.

But in some sense, I am sort of a “rejection of the deities that I’ve heard of” and acknowledge that my underpowered brain might not to be able to conceive everything that is “out there” and there might be a concept of deity that I’ve never heard of that might be “true”; for all I know it might be the deity/spirit/whatever of some other sentient beings in some other part of the universe.

I remain open to evidence and open to the thought that the instruments that humans have access to might be incapable of detecting the existence of a deity.

I don’t say that much, because some people think that this means that I haven’t made up my mind about, say, the Abrahamic God. I have: I see it as an artifact of our more primitive past and unworthy of being taken any more seriously than, say, the old Greek Gods.

So I remain an atheist (I don’t believe) agnostic (I do NOT claim to KNOW) and remain undecided about concepts of deities that I might not have heard of.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | atheism, religion | , , | Leave a comment

Interesting meme: read from top to bottom then bottom to top


April 10, 2014 Posted by | atheism, religion | | Leave a comment

Be Still and Know…..



March 22, 2014 Posted by | atheism, religion | | Leave a comment

The good and bad of cherry picking


This meme made me chuckle; when it comes to the social debates of our day, the liberal religious types cherry pick the “feel good, love thy neighbor, judge not” verses from the Bible, whereas the religious conservatives cherry pick the verses that stress rebuke and stress adherence to rules. Missing in this debate: the fact that “my holy text says X is moral” means absolutely nothing, except to those who “believe in that holy text”. It is not some universal authority.

So in one sense, it makes sense to “cherry pick”: go with good advice no matter where you find it, and discard bad advice no matter where you find it. It is bad to cherry pick if you are trying to get at some larger truth (e. g., pick the data you like, ignore the data that you don’t want to see).

Now we have atheism. Here it is argued that things like a wider access to healthcare will lead to more atheism. The main idea: more health security means less reliance on superstition. You see some of that argued here:

The critics of the new atheists like Terry Eagleton and Karen Armstrong keep arguing that the true function of religion is not to state facts about the world, but to structure our lives through rituals and to open our eyes to the transcendent dimension. I beg to differ: while a small minority look for spiritual experience and ritual without buying into the factual assertions of religion, in the end most religious people just have certain beliefs about the world that are comforting, and that’s why they stick to their faiths.

So why, at the onset of the 21st century, is it so difficult to say in this ongoing discussion that religion is psychologically comforting and that this is the reason it has such a strong hold on the human mind? I think it is primarily because of the cultural imperative of political correctness not to offend the religious, and the mistaken belief that such pseudo-respect will prevent unrest and strife – even though appeasement has often been counterproductive, as in the case of the fatwa against Rushdie, the relentless fight of the Bible-belt against liberals and evolution in the US, and the ruthlessness of messianic right-wingers in Israel in colonising the West Bank.

While some critics of the “new atheists” have made valid arguments, primarily that their optimistic humanism is far from realistic, they are missing out on a simple point: adhering to a scientific worldview requires discipline; it requires giving up on the certainties of childhood and the belief in ultimate protection. I don’t know whether doing so turns us into better human beings, but it certainly makes us intellectually more responsible.

But….there is another aspect. If one looks at the correlation belief in a deity by education, college educated people are actually slightly more likely to believe a deity than those without college educations. Sometimes there is a “God is good because He blessed me” effect.

It is true that those with graduate degrees are less likely to believe in a deity and that scientists are far less likely to believe; in fact, atheism is the norm among scientists; about one third of US scientists believe in a god, and about 7 percent of National Academy of Science caliber scientists are believers. But these people are outliers and unlikely to be affected by things like the Affordable Care Act.

Hence while I find this conjecture “more available health insurance will lead to more atheism” to be interesting, I find it unconvincing.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion, social/political | Leave a comment

No, the Bible did NOT turn me into an atheist ….nor could it have.

Sometimes it is claimed that “reading the Bible will make you an atheist.”

Yes, I am an atheist and yes, I read the Bible (all of it, including the so-called Catholic books). Yes, I was disgusted by the gross immorality that was divinely ordained (e. g. the wholesale slaughters) and disgusted by the backwardness (animal sacrifice, talking animals) and superstition.

But that didn’t make me an atheist; it turned me against Biblical literalism. For a long time I bought into the idea that the Bible was the result of human hands (I still believe that) and only part of humanity’s journey to discovering something called “God”.

However, rejecting the Jewish/Christian deity doesn’t make one an atheist; there are literally thousands of other human inspired gods out there, and how many gods are worshiped by other sentient beings on other planets in other solar systems in other parts of our galaxy or in other galaxies?

So, you might call me a “closet agnostic” in that I remain open to evidence of deities/concepts of deities that I haven’t considered as yet. And I am agnostic in the classical sense: I claim “I don’t know” and I remain an atheist in the classical sense in that “I do not believe in a deity” though I do not see the existence of a deity/spirit of the universe/creative force as impossible.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion | Leave a comment

Richard Dawkins on the Daily Show

You can find it here (Dawkins starts at 13:20 into it). I enjoyed the interview.

September 26, 2013 Posted by | atheism, evolution, religion, science | , | Leave a comment

That what makes us cheer and what makes us go “yuck”

Workout notes
Weights only. My left shoulder bothered me at times (mild, not the right one).

rotator cuff, hip hikes, back stuff, leg lifts, usual ab sets (3 sets of 10: twists, v. crunch, crunch, sit backs), Achilles, planks, etc.

pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (easier when I got warmed up)
bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 185 (not strong)
incline: 7 x 155 (improvement), 8 x 150 (improvement)
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
curls: 3 sets of 10 x 80 (machine)
rows (Hammer) 3 sets of 10 x 210
military (Hammer) 3 sets of 10 x 140

I found myself cheering just a bit here:

Part of the reason: you really can’t defend beliefs about heaven/hell or other stuff. That is baseless speculation, by definition. However, “I don’t believe things without evidence because I am not an idiot”; well, it is one of those things that I both cheered (“At last, someone stands up to the idea of “faith” being a good thing”) and disagreed (e. g. Francis Collins has faith and is much smarter and more successful than I am).

I’d say that it would be more accurate to say “I don’t have faith because in this aspect of my life, I am no longer brainwashed”. I see faith as a type of brainwashing that even smart, successful people are susceptible to.


Ok, I’ve read a bit about the “fast food workers” strike. I understand the negativity; though some fast food workers are teenagers trying to earn a bit extra and others are decent people who are just down on their luck in this absolutely horrible economy, well, others are not among the best educated and more intelligent members of society.

So it is easy to say: “hey, what did you expect when you took that job.”

But I think that it is important to remember that when the lowest on the economics ladder earn more, they spend, this drives up demand and makes things better going UP the economic chain. ALL of us benefit.

To put it bluntly, sometimes the economic policies that work the best for all of us benefits those that we might not care to socialize with.

August 30, 2013 Posted by | atheism, injury, politics, politics/social, religion, social/political, weight training | , , | 1 Comment

The Dawkins “theist to atheist” scale


Ok, I know that “agnostic/gnostic” is about “knowledge” (what you can “know”) and “atheism/theism” is about belief. But let’s go by the statements.

On this scale, I’d say that I was about a 6.5 with respect to the deities that humans have come up with (sun gods, Abrahamic deities, Hindu deities, etc.) and maybe a 5 with respect to deities that humans have not presented (perhaps believed by sentient beings on another planet or perhaps not even thought of by any sentient being anywhere in the universe).

No, I can’t be certain…not 100 percent certain, but I seriously doubt that humans 2000-3000-4000 years ago were right about much of anything, much less being right about the workings of the universe. Or put another way, I put LESS “faith” in their knowledge about deities than I do in their level of knowledge of science at the time; after all, they could make metal objects and plant crops. Yet, consider how primitive their knowledge of science was!

For scaling purposes, I would say my “acceptance” of, say, gravity, mechanics, evolution, etc. would be, oh, about 1.5 and my belief in fairies, elves and pixies would be also about a 6.5.

August 17, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment


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