Monday, August 28, 2017

Time To Walk The Walk: Hurricane Harvey Donation

If you want to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, and if you're a humanist or an atheist who wants to show the world that atheists can do what the religious can do — but even better, then donate to help the recent hurricane victims through the Foundation Beyond Belief. I just gave $10.

Foundation Beyond Belief

Sunday, August 27, 2017

David Smalley - Eating Our Own: How You Can Save the Movement

Recently at the Gateway to Reason conference in Missouri, podcaster David Smalley of Dogma Debate gave an excellent speech on the divisions in the atheist community that are tearing us apart. The Atheist Conference we're doing in New York City is specifically about atheist unity and rebuilding our community so that together we're stronger and more able to fight for what we stand for.

Our agreements far outweigh our disagreements. We all need to stop freaking out when someone disagrees with us on one thing, especially when they agree with us on ten things. Nuance is a word we must all become familiar with and practice.

Listen to the valuable points he makes in this talk.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Back From AACon2017

So earlier this week I got back from the American Atheist 2017 convention down in Charleston South Carolina. I had to take a 13 hour bus ride there because flights were insanely expensive due to the solar eclipse, and hotels were also completely booked so I also had to stay with some friends.

This was my first atheist convention and so I had few expectations. The only other atheist event I went to was last year's Reason Rally, which was fun, but a bit of a dud. We were there primarily to make connections with leaders in the atheist community for our upcoming conference in New York City to have them support or speak there. And so far that goal seems to be successful.

Every conference needs good speakers — speakers that motivate you to buy tickets and come out to the event. It also has to be fun. We need to bring the young atheists out. The average age of this conference was about 50. There were a lot of silver haired seniors. Many of them were heads of the secular and atheist organizations that partner with American Atheists, and those roles usually require skill sets that take many years to acquire. There really needed to be a lot more 20 and 30 somethings in the crowd.

Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist

We want The Atheist Conference to be full of young atheists, motivated to atheist with a cause. That's why we want to get the YouTube atheists on board. They bring the young atheists out. So we have our eyes set on prominent YouTube atheists for speakers, panel discussions, and perhaps, a debate. I will be hosting a panel discussion on debating atheism that I will be designing soon with two highly knowledgeable atheists thinkers and debaters. This is right up my alley, and should be a big hit (I hope) if not really interesting and informative.

So my primary take away is that we need to be more entertaining than AACon was and that will be partly because our goal with TAC will be different. We need more young people, and we need to make it much more fun for the attendants. We need more drinking, more socializing, less awkwardness. We're working to make this happen and I will have a lot more information in the coming months leading up to the conference.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Evolution Of Anti-Evolution Legislation

Amazingly, evolutionary biologist Nick Matzke has charted the evolution of anti-evolution (read: creationist) legislation in the US, as reported a few years ago by Slate. Ironically of course, it looks remarkably similar to the tree of life of actual Darwinian evolution. Don't these creationists see the irony? From the article:

To make the chart, Matzke performed a phylogenetic analysis, tracking the language in 65 bills since 2004 that have sought to limit or oppose the teaching of evolution. He found that these bills had been directly reproduced with a few mutations and modifications. For the most part, all employed the seemingly reasonable-sounding strategy of encouraging educators to “teach the controversy.” Shocker: It’s the same technique that has been used in bills that oppose the teaching of climate change.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Atheist Vs Accutheist Dialogue

In an email thread, a person who describes himself as an "accutheist" is debating several other atheists and I on the existence of god. He's a pantheist turned theist who created the term accutheist to mean accurate theist, or one whose idea of god is accurate. I wrote to him about how his logic for his belief in god is weak and filled with dogma and how one cannot see their beliefs as dogma when they believe it. Here is a section of that email below where I summarize what our lengthy 2 and a half week debate was basically like:

You see, no one can tell they're being dogmatic when they sincerely believe what the dogma is about. Then, it appears as "logic" to the dogmatist. 
Accutheist: God is defined as everything.
Atheists: That's your definition, most other theists disagree with you.
Accutheist: No here's a wikipedia article saying this.
Atheists: We've checked, wiki doesn't say that. It says pantheists define god as everything, not all theists.
Accutheist: But the Bible says god is everything.
Atheists: No it doesn't, and even if it did, it wouldn't prove god is indeed everything because you cannot define something into existence.
Accutheist: You don't understand logic, God is defined as everything.
Atheists: Again, you're just defining god as everything, you need to prove god is indeed everything.
Accutheist: God is defined as everything. Everything exists. Therefore god exists.
Atheists: THAT DOESN'T PROVE GOD EXISTS, NOR DOES IT PROVE GOD IS EVERYTHING. You cannot just assert god is everything and claim you've showed it is.
Accutheist: This is the definition everyone knows.
Atheists: No it isn't. It is a particular pantheistic definition you are asserting is true.
Accutheist: You don't understand logic, God is defined as everything.

When An Atheist Is Moved By Religiously Themed Music

Question: Is there any room for spirituality in naturalism beyond the the kind of Carl Saganesque awe of the universe?

I honestly don't know. But I'm willing to say yes.

Even a naturalist like me can become enamored with music devoted to religious belief and even god. Some of my favorite songs are actually about god.

Just about 8 months ago I really got into Audioslave. I had been a minor fan of Soundgarden back in the day and knew of Chris Cornell's work. My favorite Audioslave song is "Show Me How To Live." It's about asking your creator god how one should live their life. The chorus goes:

Nail in my hand, from my creator.
You gave me life, now show me how to live.
Nail in my hand, from my creator.
You gave me life, now show me how to live.

This goes against nearly everything I believe, but shit, it makes for one awesome song.

The video concept makes no sense to me however, but the song is superb early 2000s alternative rock, powered by one of my favorite guitar players, Tom Morello. I can rock out to music devoted to almost everything I stand against without a problem. We should all be able to do this. We should respect art for art. We should all be able to appreciate the work of things devoted to what we disagree with.

Another band that I just discovered makes amazing music often with spiritual themes. Goat is a "Swedish alternative and experimental fusion music group." One of my favorite songs of theirs is "Talk To God." It's an amazing piece of music that in me at least, invokes the kind of awe and emotion that I think religious people get when they pray and ritualize. Listen to it yourself.

Music has always been the one thing in my life that gives me anything close to spirituality. It opens my mind to seeing the world in new ways. It makes me see the inherent spiritual side of human nature. We've evolved to believe. We've evolved to ritualize things. It's what we do. To deny this is to deny human nature. So I'm searching for a real explanation to that question above, and I haven't found it yet.

But I'll let you know when I do.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trump And Religion

I love Seth Meyers's A Closer Look and The Check In segments where he breaks down the latest political events in a comedic way. Here he charts president Donald Trump's precarious relationship with religion.

God's Creation Ex Nihilo Time Paradox

In an email debate I'm having with a theist I thought of this argument that proposes a paradox. The paradox applies to the traditional theistic notion of a god that is an eternal, immaterial being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. The one major assumption that this argument makes is that god is not beyond logic. That means logic applies to god: god cannot do anything logically impossible or be in a logically impossible state.

The argument:

There are two views of time: eternalism and presentism. On eternalism all moments of time physically exist — past, present, and future; on presentism only the present moment physically exists.

This argument doesn't take a stance on which one is true, but only shows the logical implications for the claim that god created the universe on each view.

If eternalism is true, the universe (as well as everything else) is eternal and cannot by definition have been created in the sense of making something physically exist. All moments physically exist. Hence if eternalism is true, god cannot have created the universe. And also, there'd be no explanation for why this universe vs. another universe, and you'd ultimately get a brute fact.

If presentism is true and god is eternal (has an eternal past) then an infinite amount of moments had to pass before god created the universe. It is logically impossible to traverse an infinite amount of moments, therefore god could never create the universe on presentism.

So regardless of whether eternalism or presentism is true, neither scenario allows for god to create the universe. Hence, the traditional notion of a god who creates the world ex nihilo is impossible.

So how would a theist get out of this dilemma? Well, some say god is timeless prior to creation, or always timeless. But I'd argue that a timeless being cannot by definition do anything: timeless creation is itself logically impossible. They can grant eternalism and say that god creates the universe in the same way we create art and machinery by simply physically preceding it. But on eternalism we don't really create things in the sense of making them physically exist. They already exist. There's just a pattern of atoms before them in the form of humans making them, but it all exists. Now on this view god loses his omnipotence since he's locked into the block universe and could not have been any other way. It also means god has no free will, which few theists are going to accept, as this would negate the traditional notion of god and make it unrecognizable.

So in reality the theist has few realistic options here. They will most likely say that god's ways are beyond our comprehension. A cop out. I can just say the origin of the universe is beyond our comprehension.

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Debate: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

Well, it turns out that I forgot to upload my debate on political correctness from a few months ago. I thought I had published it, but I guess I forgot when I went on vacation. So, here it is: Has political correctness gone too far? What do you think? Who made the better argument?


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