Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I'm An Atheist

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.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Confirmation Bias Goes Both Ways

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.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is Advocating Atheism Proselytizing And Is Atheism A Movement?

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 not trying 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?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brilliant Parody Making Fun Of Ray Comfort

This YouTuber named CultOfDusty is growing on me. He's got some funny shit. Check out this hilarious parody he made making fun of the irreducibly stupid creatard Ray Comfort.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Further Thoughts On Hipster Atheism

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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hipster Atheism

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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Don't Cry For Me, Indonesia

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.


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