What can I say, the man never tires in his quest to evangelize the world into the Christian faith.
In William Lane Craig's recent op-ed on FoxNews.com, he rolls out the same 5 tired old arguments for god's existence that he's been using for decades as a "gift" to atheists. It's not like as if many atheists will be on FoxNews.com anyway. Most of us non-believers regard Fox News and everything that it does to be a charade, exemplified by their phony annual "War on Christmas," their bending over backwards for the religious right, and their outright lies and manipulations - to name a few. I can't see how any intelligent person, atheist or not, would take Fox News as a serious news organization.
But perhaps that makes it perfect for a person like William Lane Craig. I mean after all, he's first and foremost an apologist, and an apologist is a propagandist, who must lie and distort the facts in order to make their case convincing - in a way just like Fox News! So in Craig's piece, he challenges atheists who he claims "have no good reasons for their disbelief." Um, excuse me? We have plenty of good reasons for our disbelief, and I've recently outlined some of them in my post Why I'm An Atheist. But hey, Craig was only offering us his "experience." I will at least give him some credit that there has been a failure of many public atheists in communicating arguments for atheism properly. This is something atheists need to improve on. But for a person obsessed with atheism, William Lane Craig should have undoubtedly heard all the arguments by now and he's been called out several times on abysmal failures to refute arguments for atheism (like his failed attempt to claim animals do not consciously suffer). I suspect he really just wants to reassure his readers (who haven't researched into the arguments for atheism) that atheists don't have any good arguments in the hope they'll just take his word for it.
For many non-Christians, Christmas is a confusing time of the year. If I had my way I probably wouldn't celebrate it at all, although I definitely enjoy the time off from work. As someone from a culturally Christian home, I do enjoy the season and I do enjoy the time spent with my family who I only see once or twice a year. But for many people around the world, Christmas has evolved into a celebration of consumerism. That's basically how I see it today. It's a capitalist holiday; an ode to corporations and our cultural materialism.
There's really nothing Christian about Christmas. December 25th was not Jesus' birthday, and many of the traditions trace its roots back to various pagan celebrations surrounding the winter solstice. Most of the festivities typically associated with Christmas, such as putting up the Christmas tree, hanging up stockings, burning the yule log, and the Santa Claus myth, all have their origins outside the Christian tradition. Perhaps it is time non-Christians reclaimed Christmas for what it is: a loose assortment of pagan beliefs, traditions and myths that were stitched together and incorporated into Christianity.
It's certainly something that will piss off many Christians. But then again, Christianity has never had a friendly relationship with facts. One thing I would like to see more of are Christians being properly educated about the rampant paganism in the Christmas tradition. Perhaps with a diligent education campaign, secularists will be able to reclaim the Christmas holiday season away from the Christian grinches who stole it.
God is dead dying
On a side note, this is a great time to celebrate if you're an atheist given the newly released Harris Poll that is lighting up the blogosphere. Atheism and agnosticism are on the rise, and belief in god is on the decline. Santa hath delivered my wish this year.
The new poll indicates that only 74% of Americans believe in god. Although still a comfortable majority, that number has declined by almost ten points since 2005 when 82% of Americans reported god belief. For "echo boomers" (those under 35) which would include all of Generation Y, god belief tops out at just over two-thirds at 64%. Absolute certainty that god exists is down as well, from 66% to 54% in the last ten years. In addition, nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) describe themselves as "not at all" religious. These would be the "nones" we've been hearing so much about recently. The last Pew survey about the "nones" from 2012 indicated that 19.6% of Americans reported no religious affiliation at all. This new poll would indicate that this number has grown by 4 points in just one year but you have to factor in margins of error and other things of that nature. Nonetheless, that 12% of Americans do not believe in god, which by the way is the definition of an atheist, I think is amazing. Atheists now outnumber Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other non-Christian believers in the US combined by a long shot. We're a force to be reckoned with.
These are all excellent reasons to celebrate the holidays a little more this year for atheists like myself. The numbers show that the US is finally beginning to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world, especially Western Europe. Are we "echo boomers" going to be witnessing the slow death of god in our lifetime? Probably not, but a god so small and insignificant that you can drown in a bathtub is a god I can live with. For now ;)
I've been feeling a bit compelled recently to write about why exactly it is that I'm an atheist and what reasons I have for being one. While I feel that this post was long overdue, an adequate justification for my atheism has been the product of a learning curve several years in the making. I know many others have written posts explaining why they aren't a Christian or why they aren't a Mormon, or a Muslim, etc., but technically I can't write a post like that because I was never myself a member of any religion. What I can do, is justify why I'm an atheist and why I think the naturalistic worldview best describes reality, and so here I want to put into a single post the main reasons why I personally am an atheist, and why I think you should be one too if you aren't already. I apologize for the length.
We must all always be mindful of our confirmation biases, especially as atheists. Do not be quick to let a piece of evidence "confirm" your position without having done some investigation as to whether its claims check out. In fact, you should be even more skeptical of the evidence that supports your position because your argument is riding on its veridicality, and if you don't do your homework and fact check its claims, your opponent will. So make a concerted effort to be skeptical of all the evidence for and against your position. Don't find yourself doing the very same thing that all too often we find many theists doing. Look up criticism of the evidence that supports your position and do the very same thing that your opponent will do to try and refute it. You might find that the "evidence" does not check out or you will find that it makes you better prepared to deal with the faulty arguments against it if it does. Either way, you should strive for making the most informed case possible, and that may mean getting rid of certain bad arguments.
Having spent the past several years debating theists, in my personal experiences their confirmation biases are often blatant. They fail to make an effort to look into the evidence against their evidence. And atheists are no exception. Back in 2007 for example, when the documentary Zeitgeist came out, it made a bunch of historically inaccurate claims for the argument that Jesus never existed, and millions of atheists jumped on it with out having fact checked anything. Even scholarly mythicists like Richard Carrier denounced it. This was a clear example of atheists falling victim to the inherent confirmation biases that we ALL have.
But we're better than that.
We are the skeptics, we are the rationalists, we are the ones who base our worldview on evidence and reason. We must not find ourselves doing the very same thing that our opponents do without regard, because then we will be no better than them, even if we're right.
I recently got into a flare up on Twitter with two other atheists who were accusing me of thinking atheism is a movement. Unfortunately, given Twitter's 140 character limitation, it's really hard to write what you really want to write, so I thought I would clear things up here.
In a recent post, I asked the question, "Should those of us who are in some way in the atheist movement really care why someone is an atheist, or should we just be content that the person is an atheist at all?" For some atheists, there is no such thing as an atheist movement because atheism is a lack of something; it's the absence of a belief in god, and just like how not playing basketball is not a sport, you can't turn nonbasketball playing into a movement. But suppose 90 percent of the world played basketball, and those who didn't were routinely discriminated against to the point where many people felt pressure to conform and pretend to like and play basketball in order to feel accepted. And suppose nonbasketball players were being coerced into playing basketball and told that if they didn't play they would go to hell. Imagine this was also forced onto children from an early age. If these nonbasketball players organized and came out and asserted their equal rights and how utterly insane it is to think that not playing basketball will send you to hell, I'd say that these nonbasketball players would appear to be engaged in a movement.
Atheism itself is simply just the disbelief that any gods exist. If you want to say that it's also the lack of a positive belief that gods exists, then fine. I'm not going to get all heated up over a difference I think is trivial. But when I said "atheist movement" I was referring to the people in the atheist community who are open about their atheism (either in person or online) who are advocating for the equal rights of atheists (who are still routinely discriminated against), who are seeking to change cultures that are hostile to atheists by educating the public on what atheism is and what atheists are, and who are advocating atheism and defending it against attacks. I was nottrying to say that atheism itself is a movement. I'm saying that atheists who are open about their worldview and who are engaging in any of the above, especially if they're organized, are engaging in a movement. So if you're a member of your local atheist group, or if you're a member of your college atheist or secular club, or, if you're just open about your atheism and what you stand for, then in my eyes, you're part of a movement. What else would you call the organization of people who are specifically trying to spread atheism and the acceptance of atheists?
Hipster culture to me is kind of like the fetishization of fashion itself. Fashion and beauty have been around for centuries, but what hipster culture does is it takes image and style and fetishizes it to the point where it becomes the only thing that matters. And living in New York, I can't help but pay attention to this subculture because hipsters are everywhere. They're unavoidable. If you're a relatively young person like myself in New York, you're going to feel a lot of pressure to be stylish and you will indeed be judged by how you dress, not only by hipsters, but by New Yorkers in general.
Hipsterism I suppose is the primary cultural phenomenon of our day, as was the hippy subculture of the sixties, and the beatnik subculture of the fifties. I guess you can say that I too am a hipster, but I don't fit all the stereotypes. Yes, I do care about how I dress. I do wear skinny jeans. I do have a beard. I do wear a lot of plaid. I do listen to a lot of indie rock and a lot of classic rock. I do like many things that are somewhat obscure. I do like art and film. And, I am an atheist. But - I'm not a trust fund baby pretending to be poor. I care more about science and philosophy than I do about style and looks. I sometimes wear things that aren't cool. I don't keep up with all the trends. I like many things that are mainstream and commercial. I don't wear thick rimmed glasses. And I fucking hate PBRs!
I do however, have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with hipster culture. Once you get into it, you start looking down at people who have no style. This is why hipster culture has so many haters. I've noticed myself numerous times insulting people behind their back who I thought had no fashion sense. But then I also despise people who take that attitude to the extreme and judge people only by what they wear. I don't go that far. I judge people by their personality. If you're interested in the same things I am, like science and philosophy and can carry your own in an intellectual conversation, then I don't necessarily care about how you dress. And conversely, you can be the most stylish mother fucker in the world, but if you're a purely superficial, lame ass douche bag who only cares about fashion and pop culture, then I will have little to no interest in hanging out with you.
When I'm out drinking around town and strike up conversations with strangers, I often want to talk about beliefs. I'm fascinated about exploring other people's worldviews. Lately, most of the young people that I've talked to have all been atheists. This may not come as a surprise given that I live in New York - a very liberal city and a third of all Americans under 30 have no religion, but here in New York the number of atheists/non-theists seems to be much higher than a third. It seems to be a majority.
New York has one of the largest hipster communities in the world, and Williamsburg (which is only a few miles from where I live) is considered the official hipster capital of the world. I don't have official statistics, but in my experiences with the hipster community, atheism or agnosticism seems to be rampant. Atheism seems to be "cool" with the fashionably conscious. It's very rare - almost never, that I run into a young person who actually believes in a theistic god within the context of a particular religion. While I think it's fucking awesome that so many young people are catching onto atheism in numbers that have never been seen before in the US, I certainly want to keep atheism a plausible intellectual position and not just some trend that will be jettisoned once it gets too popular. That's because once something goes "mainstream," hipsters are required to hate it by law, and the growing popularity of atheism might backfire if "uncool" people in backwards parts of the country start embracing it.
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country by population. About 87% of its 237 million citizens are Muslim. I have been there a total of three times, as recently as 2010. Two of my relatives are currently living in Bali as ex-patriots. I've always enjoyed going to Indonesia and whenever I went I never really felt like I was in a "Muslim" country at all. It seemed to me, a lot more like the popular images of Bangkok Thailand, filled with "discotheques" and seedy prostitutes. Indonesia was for a long time, perhaps along with Turkey, a shining example of a moderate Muslim country that could counter the crude stereotypes of many of the Muslim majority countries of the Middle East, and I can tell you that first hand. I first went there when I was 13 and I remember going out to a nightclub, being served beer and being able to buy cigarettes without any problem.
But perhaps I saw it through a filter. I've only been to two areas in Indonesia - Jakarta, the capital city on the island of Java, and the island of Bali, which is the predominantly Hindu part of the country, known to tourists for its nightlife. Just like in the US, religiosity in Indonesia increases once you get out of the big cities. Generally speaking, the further west in Indonesia that you go and the more rural the part of the country, the more likely you'll find people who are deeply religious. And in Indonesia, "deeply religious" tends to mean deeply Muslim, as Indonesians are at least about as Muslim as Americans are Christian.
Welcome to Atheism and the City. This blog is about exploring atheism through contemporary urban living. I live in New York City, the secular metropolis, and I have an avid interest in all things religion, science, philosophy, politics, and economics. I am an atheist, a humanist, a philosopher and a thinker, and the purpose of Atheism and the City is to write about my thoughts and experiences on the subjects and topics that I have a passion for. Feel free to respond to any post whether or not you agree.