Saturday, August 30, 2008

Response to Kitty Foth-Regner

This is my response to a comment left by Kitty Foth Regner, author of the book Heaven Without Her.

Original comment is here.

You mentioned several different topics in your comment to me, which you probably realize have already been addressed and answered hundreds of times by more qualified people than me, and that the responses are available for you to see on the internet and have been for a long time.

Clearly if the answers were enough to change your mind, you would have, just as if your arguments were enough to change my mind I would have already done so. Your arguments and mine are not original thoughts, but things that have already been thoroughly discussed by many qualified people.

So these answers are not really for you, because I know you are aware of the responses to your arguments and that they will do nothing to change your mind coming from me. But I have decided to try to provide responses to your arguments point by point mainly because I want those responses to be available to anyone who happens to see your comment.

Now, I am the first person to admit that I am no scientist, and I believe that you are not either. But I spent a lot of time researching the arguments you referenced against evolution and I will try to either answer them or refer you to existing responses:

Why do so many people oppose evolution? Is it because they do not like its implications? Regardless of whether we like the conclusions, the evidence overwhelmingly points to this. Just because it makes many people uncomfortable, does not make it any less true.

…children are not learning “differing viewpoints.”… They are learning only evolutionary fairy tales.

Intelligent design does not deserve equal standing in a science classroom with evolution because it is not a science. Science is a system of acquiring knowledge and intelligent design is based on personal religious belief.

Equal time would mean teaching every other creation story that mankind has believed in (Muslim, Hindu, Native American, and countless others). But they obviously do not want fair and equal time, because that would be ridiculous. What they really want is for the intelligent design to get preferential treatment simply because the Christian faith is dominant throughout the western world. But that does not give it any more validity.

The main argument for intelligent design is that the world seems like it was created. If that is the case, then why, necessarily, was it created by your creator? You have no specific proof that it was created by the God of the Bible.

Intelligent design is creationism disguised as a science in an effort to get it taught in schools, after the Edwards v. Aguillard made it unconstitutional. It is promoted by Christian groups because its main purpose is to promote the idea of the Biblical God as designer.

For more information on why intelligent design is creationism visit Talk Origins.

Another reason intelligent design does not deserve equal footing with evolution is that it has no evidence. On the other hand, evolution has mountains of evidence, and many other fields of science support the fact of evolution. Evolution is one of the most heavily criticized theories of science, and yet it has stood up to all of this intense criticism. If the evidence for evolution were not extremely strong, people would have succeeded long ago to refute it. But they cannot because the evidence is there.

Instead its proponents merely try to poke holes in the theory of evolution. But just because you think you can disprove Theory A, does not necessarily prove Theory B. You have to provide evidence for the “theory” of intelligent design, not just try to poke holes in evolution.

No taxpayer-funded teacher or professor ever mentions, for instance, that before he died, the late great evolutionist Stephen J. Gould of Harvard resorted to resurrecting the “hopeful monster” theory of our origins – “punctuated equilibrium,” he called it to give it more dignity – because, as he admitted, the transitional fossils that evolution theory requires simply do not exist.

This is an example of quote-mining and a misrepresentation of what Gould actually said in his essay “Return of Hopeful Monsters”.

Please visit Answers in Genesis Busted for more info on the misuse of this quote.

"Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists--whether through design or stupidity, I do not know--as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups. Yet a pamphlet entitled 'Harvard Scientists Agree Evolution Is a Hoax' states: 'The facts of punctuated equilibrium which Gould and Eldredge...are forcing Darwinists to swallow fit the picture that Bryan insisted on, and which God has revealed to us in the Bible.'"

That was a quote from Gould’s essay “Evolution as Fact and Theory”

And you can visit Talk Origins for more discussions of misquotations commonly used by antievolutionists.

No taxpayer-funded teacher dares to look at the irreducible complexity or at the fact that positive, additive genetic mutations do not occur.

Irreducible complexity implies that a system cannot function if one of its parts is missing, therefore it couldn’t have evolved by the addition of single parts without a loss or change of function. But there are still other evolutionary mechanisms that have been observed in genetic mutations:

• deletion of parts
• addition of multiple parts
• change of function
• addition of a second function to a part
• gradual modification of parts

Even if irreducible complexity did provide difficulty for the theory of evolution, intelligent design does not necessarily follow. This is an argument from incredulity or “god of the gaps”.

For more information on irreducible complexity: Talk Origins.

Here are Responses to Michael Behe

And here is more about the argument from incredulity, or “god of the gaps”.

No taxpayer-funded teacher dares to even wonder aloud how the laws of thermodynamics or biogenesis fit into evolutionary thought.

Intelligent design supporters believe that the second law of thermodynamics does not permit order to arise from disorder, therefore showing that macroevolution is not possible. But the second law of thermodynamics says no such thing.

“It says that heat will not spontaneously flow from a colder body to a warmer one or, equivalently, that total entropy (a measure of useful energy) in a closed system will not decrease. This does not prevent increasing order because: the earth is not a closed system and entropy is not the same as disorder.”

“The only processes necessary for evolution to occur are reproduction, heritable variation, and selection. All of these are seen to happen all the time, so, obviously, no physical laws are preventing them. In fact, connections between evolution and entropy have been studied in depth and never to the detriment of evolution”

For more information on the second law of thermodynamics and entropy check out Talk Origins: here and here.

The law of biogenesis states that modern organisms do not spontaneously arise in nature from non-life.

“The spontaneous generation that Pasteur and others disproved was the idea that life forms such as mice, maggots, and bacteria can appear fully formed. They disproved a form of creationism. There is no law of biogenesis saying that very primitive life cannot form from increasingly complex molecules.”

For more information check out Talk Origins Abiogenesis FAQs

Essentially, “no taxpayer-funded teacher dares to even wonder aloud” about these things, because they have already been addressed many times over by scientists. It is not as if these points are being hidden, they are discussed in the open and not viewed as a threat to evolution. These issues require a lot of background in biology to even understand, and that is why they are not taught to beginning students.

Also, attempting to expose weaknesses in the theory of evolution does not in any way make intelligent design more viable. This assumes that evolution and intelligent design are the only two possible models, which is false. Problems with one model do not imply that the remaining model is true. Another unknown explanation could be correct.

… why are evolutionists afraid of having the arguments for intelligent design and creation science presented alongside their proofs for evolution?

Scientists are not afraid of intelligent design. Intelligent design does not even qualify as a scientific theory because all of its claims of evidence have been shown to be invalid.

The threat is not to science, the threat is to education and the separation of church and state in this nation.

I am afraid of having the arguments for intelligent design presented alongside evolution in science class because I am concerned with children learning about the actual scientific method and learning critical thought. Intelligent design is simply a wedge used to get religion into schools. They only attack evolution because they see it as a threat to their Biblical explanations of the world. When intelligent design is given equal standing in science classes with the theory of evolution, it will mean that the nation’s children are not learning what actual science is, and they are not being taught to use their critical faculties.

Intelligent design relies on supernatural explanations. But science is about finding natural, reproducible, testable explanations. Teaching our students otherwise is harmful to their development of critical thinking. It is also harmful to our nation’s scientific and technological development.

The truth is, real science confirms Genesis, not Darwin. But real science does not get a hearing in our schools these days. That was my point: For nearly 50 years, our schools have been teaching that evolution accounts for the universe, that anti-Christian worldviews are intellectually sound, and that tolerance is the highest virtue. Our courts have in fact outlawed any mention of Christianity in our schools. So who’s closed-minded?

Please explain to me what your notion of “real science” is?

Distinguishing science from pseudoscience requires a definition of its methodology:

Science is a method of acquiring knowledge that uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena. It must be testable and reproducible.

Intelligent design is not based on any of these things, but simply on the desire for the Biblical explanation to be true. But wanting does not make it so.

…Our schools have been teaching…anti-Christian worldviews…

This may come as a surprise, but there are many different worldviews that differ from your own. A person who can’t see the value in learning to view the world from a different perspective is being closed-minded and ignorant. The Christian worldview has as much validity as any other worldview out there, and to claim that it is superior merely because it is dominant in the western world, would be arrogant.

In science, worldview is irrelevant. Worldview should not be taught in science class because science is fact regardless of one’s worldview. The vast majority of scientists from all over the world with many different worldviews all come together in agreement on the fact of evolution, as well as on many other scientific facts.

As I mentioned before, just because science does not fit your worldview or because you don’t like its implications is not enough reason to disqualify it. You must provide other valid alternatives that are based on more than religious beliefs and emotions.

…our schools have been teaching that…tolerance is the highest virtue…

Are you advocating the teaching of intolerance to our children in schools? Would it be better to teach our children to hate and disregard those that are different? We have seen the kind of hatred and violence that results from intolerance too often during our recent history and I honestly cannot believe that you would suggest that the teaching of tolerance is a bad thing.

Do you consider it a good thing that some Muslim children are being taught religious intolerance? Is racial intolerance a good thing? I honestly don’t understand where you are coming from on this one. Is it your idea that Jesus promoted intolerance?

Our courts have in fact outlawed any mention of Christianity in our schools.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That was the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits the government from establishing a religion, from showing preference to one religion over another, or from showing preference to religion over non-religion.

Any mention of Christianity is not outlawed in our schools, but the promotion of Christianity above other beliefs is. This is the right that our founding fathers fought for, and this is a right that also protects Christians, so I honestly cannot understand why they would want to get rid of it. If ever in the future Christianity is not the majority religion in the United States, Christians would surely lament the loss of this freedom in the event that someone else’s religious beliefs were being imposed on them.

These rights were set out from the beginning, so to imply that they are something that has been imposed on you and other Christians or that religion has been “taken out” of schools or the public sphere, is blatantly false. These are rights that protect us all and rights that we should try very hard to preserve for future generations.

For more information about the First Amendment and the freedoms it provides us, look here.

In conclusion, I would like to remind the reader that I am not an expert, but I was able to find all of these answers online and you can do the same yourself. All of the typical arguments of antievolutionists have been refuted. Unfortunately this fact does not prevent them from being continually used.

The best source by far, and which I relied heavily upon for this response, is Talk Origins where you can find a long index to creationist claims and responses and tons of other helpful information about evolution.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's in the Water!

Here's a book review I stumbled upon. The book is Heaven Without Her by Kitty Foth-Regner, the story of an atheist turned believer after her mother's death. This is a clear illustration of the fact that people do not turn to religion out of rational thought, but out of pure emotion. Because there is nothing rational about it.

But what particularly struck me is the opening line of the review:

We've all heard the charges: Secular colleges and universities negate the need for a Creator by teaching that evolution accounts for the universe, expose students to anti-Christian worldviews, and then teach tolerance as the highest virtue.

Could these charges possibly be true?

Say it isn't so! Our children are learning science, differing viewpoints, and tolerance in school? The horror!

It really is a shame that a lot of Christian families fear even the prospect of their children being exposed to other ideas. Simply the closed-mindedness and ignorance of that is enough for me to have a basic disgust for their type of belief.

Are they that insecure in their faith? Deep down do they realize that their beliefs can't hold a candle to science and rational thought?

My family also has this fear of education. It reminds me of the tree of knowledge in the Bible. I always wondered, why on Earth is it such a bad thing to have knowledge?

Because knowledge is power and religion thrives on the powerless.

I remember times when I would learn something new in school. Excited, I would share it with my parents when I got home, only to be disappointed by their response.

"That's ridiculous. Your teacher doesn't know anything."

At first I was a little hurt and confused by their response. Why didn't my parents appreciate the new information I had to tell them? I began to realize that my parents did not value science or rational thought. They did not value new ideas or anything that opposed their way of thinking. They were more content to keep believing whatever it was their parents had tought them, regardless of the evidence.

As an adult I am still shocked and dismayed by their reactions.

When I discussed with my brother a little while before I became an atheist how amazing it was to watch orangutans and to see the similarities we have with these relatives, my mother overheard and said, "But what about what the Bible says? That can't be true."

I replied, "But you can't take the Bible literally, Mom."

"Of course you can."

This was the first time I realized to what extent she was willing to ignore reality.

I was upset that so many people that I trusted as a child actually taught me ridiculous stories out of the Bible as literal truth. Did they really believe it themselves? How could these seemingly intelligent adults that I trusted actually believe such nonsense?

Even more recently I informed my grandparents that I had been in Berlin and had heard Obama's speech. They were disappointed when they realized I had made a trip there especially to hear Obama, and wasn't just in Berlin "by coincidence".

My grandfather warned me not to believe everything I had heard to which I replied,

"Don't worry, I don't believe everything I'm told."

But they only want me to believe certain things I'm told, they just wish they could censor the rest. Just as amusing (and/or depressing) was when they were saddened to discover that no, I unfortunately do not get the Fox News Channel in Germany. Apparently it's too risky watching other news channels because I might be brainwashed by the liberals that "run the media"! Terrifying thought, I know.

This is a fundamental problem I see with religion. It is so closed-minded that the potential of differing viewpoints even being overheard causes them genuine distress.

Of course there are people on every side of every issue who want to censor opposing viewpoints. I am in opposition to this idea no matter what viewpoint they support. But I feel that religion is especially eager for this type of censorship.

I do not oppose intelligent design in school because I fear my children will be converted to creationists. I oppose it in science class because it does not meet the requirements of a science. I oppose it because I am afraid it will lead to the total removal of critical thought and real science from the classroom and that my children will never hear about evolution. I have absolutely no problem with my children hearing about intelligent design and about religion in the appropriate venue. But that appropriate venue is not science class.

There is no fear of their children not hearing about their god and their creation story. They hear it at church. I wish they would be content to leave it at that. But the fear that their children might actually hear another side to the story is what leads them to try to censor and condemn differing viewpoints.

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Who's That Girl

The Atheist Spot has a series on their blog where they interview atheist bloggers so we can all get to know the atheist community a little better.

I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute, and here is my interview!

Check it out, and please read the other interviews. Two of them are from two of my favorite bloggers Adrian and Vjack.

I am looking forward to getting to know the others and to having the opportunity to meet new ones!

If you have an atheist blog and would like to be included in the series, you should leave a comment on the blog asking.

And you should also check out The Atheist Spot while you're at it, a place where you can share and rate atheist articles.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Awe Inspiring

Since I have had the awesome opportunity to live in Europe, I have seen several beautiful cathedrals.

I can easily see how these massive structures inspired awe.

These buildings could be seen from far away and people traveled great distances to visit them.

It is mind-boggling to consider how difficult it must have been to build these cathedrals without modern machinery and it is easy to imagine how the sight of one of these beautiful buildings would be enough to convince a person back then that their god truly did exist.

But today these impressive structures seem to me to be a testament to the enormous waste. How many people went hungry or had no place to live while these great monuments were built to glorify their gods?

True, these buildings are gorgeous and a wonder to see today. But sometimes I cannot fathom the amount of energy and money spent, and in my opinion, wasted on creating these giant monuments to non-existent deities.

It is true when people say that religion has given us very beautiful music, art, and architecture. But would the same beauty have resulted in the absence of religion? Some say it wouldn't, but it can only be conjecture.

Perhaps a secular country would waste their money glorifying other things.

An ideal society, however, would not have wasted so much money creating a building that served no real purpose when its citizens were homeless, sick, or hungry. Whether religious or secular shouldn't the goals be the same?

But I am quite convinced that one does not need god to inspire such beauty.

First photo: Milan Cathedral, Italy
Second and third: Meissen Cathedral, Germany

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Thoughtful Parenting

I just wanted to promote a blog I discovered recently which many of you might have already heard about: Parenting Beyond Belief.

Someday I hope to have kids and I already anticipate what a challenge it will be to answer their questions and encourage them to be skeptical and thoughtful individuals.

I read an entry where the blogger talks about death with his two daughters, ages 6 and 10. I am absolutely awed by their thoughtfulness and intelligence at such a young age. I am positive that when I was that age I never tackled challenging topics like this.

It's a great read and you should check it out sometime!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Spore and Atheists

Here's an interesting interview with the creator of the game Spore, Will Wright.

In the interview Wright talks about being an atheist, his initial fears about offending religious people with the representation of religion in the game, and the surprising fact that most criticism of the religious aspects of the game are from what he calls "militant atheists".

"I'd probably be best described as an atheist. I'm open to the idea that there is some creator somewhere. I can almost envision humans one day being able to create a micro-universe."

"I think our bigger fear was that we didn't want to offend any religious people; but looking at the discussion that unfolded from this thing, what we had was a good, sizeable group of players that we might call militant atheists, and the rest of the players seemed very tolerant, including all of the religious players."

"I didn't expect to hit hot buttons on the atheist side as much; I expected it on the religious side," Wright revealed. "But so far I've had no critical feedback at all from anybody who is religious feeling that we were misrepresenting religion or it was bad to represent religion in the game. It was really the atheists."

I'm not going to get into my dislike of the ridiculous term "militant atheism" in this post. We'll save that for another day. But what do you think about what he says? Do you think it is offensive that a video game would have a religious aspect to it?

To me, it seems like that is the entire premise of the game and one should obviously know that going in. You are playing a "god-like role" by creating life, or something. I haven't played it, but would like to give it a try sometime. Tell me what you think.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Making Assumptions

I often make the assumption that all atheists are rational.

I know this is a silly assumption, especially since atheists are usually compared to a "herd of cats". We have nothing necessarily in common with each other except our disbelief in gods.

But never the less, I usually make this assumption subconsciously.

Perhaps it is because I know that rational thinking has led me to my disbelief in gods, and that now that I am a disbeliever, I try my best to be rational and think things through for myself, instead of just accepting what people say. I am probably assuming that other atheists try to employ rationality as well.

So it is always so shocking to me when I engage in discussion with some atheists, how similar it feels to debating something like evolution with fundamentalists.

I am often disappointed when I discover that a fellow atheist is just as irrational and emotional as I imagine fundamentalists to be. This is ridiculous, since I should know that we are all just humans, and on every side there will inevitably be mean or ignorant people along with the kind and thoughtful ones.

For example, I remember once engaging in a discussion about male circumcision with other atheists. I was surprised to hear that many of them had no problem with male circumcision, and so I asked them why.

Some of the responses I got went like this:

"If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for my boy."

"Foreskins look gross."

"Foreskins are unclean."

"It protects from diseases."

The last one may have some merit, but I have yet to see any conclusive findings on the topic. Besides, isn't that a precaution that a sexually active adult can make if he so chooses, and not a decision to be made for him by the parents?

These are all pretty ridiculous rationalizations for mutilating a child's body.

I was really disappointed to hear so many arguments that I viewed as irrational from the very people that I expected to be most rational.

I also cannot believe the reaction I get from other atheists sometimes when I disagree with them. I would expect them to be rational and to be accepting of disagreement or constructive criticism, but instead I sometimes find them to be mean, petty, and intolerant of any dissent from their views. It is eerily reminiscent of my past in the church, and their discouragement of any contradictory view points and intolerance for disagreement or questions.

I think the feeling is probably the same one a believer might have. As a Christian I remember wanting so desperately to trust everything my pastor and youth pastor said. I remember hearing about the money scandals within the Southern Baptist church and being a little disappointed. I trusted these people because they believed in my God. To me that meant that they must also have the same values that I have. They would know it was wrong to steal or to lie. So how could they be so dishonest?

There is probably this desire to think that someone who has a certain belief is the kind of person you expect them to be.

For example, There is probably a great desire by many believers for someone like Todd Bentley to be genuine.

This person supposedly shares the belief in God and the Bible that many Christians all over the world have. But just because he believes in your God, you should not make the mistake of lending him instant credibility.

Often Richard Dawkins is called the "leader" of atheism. This is nonsense, because not all atheists agree with everything he says, and if he said something questionable or told us to all go out and do something tomorrow without good explanation, most of us would refuse.

I like a lot of what Richard Dawkins has to say, but that does not make him my leader, and that does not mean that I would believe everything he says. I wish that more believers would employ this kind of skepticism instead of accepting everything their religious leaders tell them.

I suppose the point of this is that we are all just humans. We should not always jump to conclusions about the character of a person based on whether they believe in your god, another god, or no god. Question what you are told even by those that you trust.

Sometimes it's in a good way, and sometimes it's not, but oftentimes, people will surprise you.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Oh how I love to beat a dead horse...

This will be brief. I tend to dwell on a topic, but it's only because I want to be sure I have satisfactorily stated my point.

I have been called a prude (among the nicer names) since my recent "crusade" against profanity. But I want to assure you all that I am no saint, and that I do use profanity in real life occasionally.

I never wanted to condemn all users of profanity or claim that it should be disallowed. I just wanted to stress how ineffective its use is in communicating.

This all started when I realized that the negative stereotypes of atheism were only being reinforced every time a believer read an atheist blog that was peppered with profanity.

So I felt it would be a good thing to address the topic, because I think every little action counts. So if I try to be civil, and just one Christian who has a negative image of atheism sees it and is impressed or surprised by it, I think I have done a good job.

I also wanted to note that there have been studies conducted that show that profane language in persuasive messages generally has a detrimental effect on the perceived credibility of the communicator.

So why would you want to limit the strength of your message from the get-go by using profanity? It's just not a good persuasion technique.

Now let's change the $#!@ing topic already, shall we?

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Dirty Word

I mentioned in a previous post that it seems like it is taboo for an atheist to admit that they want to convert people.

One of the reasons this word is so taboo is that many atheists are wary of being called a religion.

First of all: Atheism is not a religion. There is no atheist philosophy. Atheism does not tell you where life came from or how it ends, and it does not give you rules to live your life by. All that is necessary for atheism is disbelief in a god.

Perhaps the reason this comparison is so often made is that believers cannot understand how one can live without something that for them is such a big part of their lives. But nevertheless, it is an odd thing that believers attempt to insult atheists by saying this. Odd that they would want to insult somebody by comparing them to themselves.

So what is the deal with converting? To convert is to change someone's opinions or beliefs, usually having to do with things like religion or politics.

A lot of atheists resent the fact that religious people actively seek converts by going door-to-door or handing out tracts. They see this as a negative thing, so it is understandable that they don't want to be accused of doing the same thing.

But what is wrong with wanting to convert someone's opinions?

I have heard from many atheists that they do not want to convert people. All they want is for believers to think critically and to stop being so pushy.

This sounds really tolerant, but I see a big problem with this.

First of all, isn't critical thinking what led most of us to become atheists? Wouldn't most of us agree that if one were to think critically, it would ultimately lead to the rejection of the supernatural?

Saying you just want them to think critically is no different than saying you want them to stop believing in their god. It just sounds better.

Secondly, it is nearly impossible to ask a believer not to be "pushy". I know from being raised Christian that a central theme in this religion is wanting to convert the "lost", and they believe they will be rewarded in heaven for it. The theme of evangelizing is very central to their religion. They need and want to spread their beliefs.

It is also hard to ask believers not to interfere in the laws of the land, because many of them consider the United States to be a Christian nation, and many of them see no problem with taking away individual liberties if it means being a more "Christ-like" country. The Bible teaches that we need rules and punishment because we are sinners and they fear having a secular society because they see it as a threat to their way of life.

So asking Christians not to be so "pushy" is no different than asking them to stop being so Christian.

Basically when an atheist says that all they want are believers to think critically and leave everyone else alone, they are asking for the impossible. We can't have it both ways.

When I hear atheists say this, I view it as a sign that they want to be tolerant and they do not wish to be associated with the word "convert", but to me it seems like they are being dishonest with themselves.

Of course we want people to stop believing in the supernatural! To claim that we don't would be dishonest.

The difference is, we are not attempting to tell people the meaning of life, how they should live it, and where they will go when it is over. Atheism does not attempt to answer these questions.

It is not our goal to disallow belief in the supernatural, it is only our goal to change minds.

It's what we do when we argue, when we debate, when we express our opinions. We are hoping to change other peoples' minds. And there should be nothing embarassing or taboo about admitting that.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Catching Flies Revisited

I received many varied responses to my previous entry Catching Flies where I talked about the ineffectiveness of using profanity and personal attacks, specifically when writing an atheist blog, and just when communicating in general.

I would like to address some of the typical responses I received:

"There are appropriate uses of profanity."

I would agree with this statement, there are appropriate uses of profanity. When I stub my toe at home, or when I'm watching the game with my friends and my team loses, this would be an appropriate time for profanity.

But, when I am writing about the existence of god or the validity of science and hoping to appeal to a crowd of people who I know do not generally appreciate profanity, that would be inappropriate. As adults we should value the ability to have a civilized conversation, because sometimes they are hard to come by.

Take Richard Dawkins for example. Would he be as effective if during a debate or interview, he decided to resort to using personal attacks and vulgarity to get his point across?

The example of Penn & Teller was also brought up to justify the use of profanity. They use profanity on their show and it is entertaining to many. But is it entertaining mostly because you agree with what they have to say? For someone who does not agree this might be a bad way of trying to reach them.

When you use profanity on your blog, the people who will find it entertaining are most likely to be those that already agree with you. And this is fine! If you are writing a blog for other atheists to read, this may be the tone and approach that you choose. But for a blog that is attempting to discuss issues with believers, this is a very ineffective method.

I don't know of any believer who would read such a blog and say, "You know what, they're right! I do need to pull my %$!#ing head out of my @$$!"

"We have the right to use profanity, and they do not have the right to censor us or to not be offended."

This is true and I couldn't agree more that none of us have the right not to be offended. That is exactly why I am not suggesting that any blog with profanity should be censored. But our right to use profanity does not always justify the use of it.

Just because we have the freedom to insult people, does not mean it is wise to do, or that it is an effective way of communicating.

And this is not just because religious people are "prudes" or don't want to hear profanity. If someone was trying to tell me something, but was using personal attacks and profanity to do so, I would not be too happy about it either and would more than likely reject their message simply because of its packaging.

"We are past the point of civil dialog / The ridiculous deserves to be ridiculed / We are frustrated and provoked."

Trust me, I understand your frustration. Anyone who has had an argument with a young earth creationist, for example, will know how easy it is to lose one's cool and use inflammatory language. But has resorting to uncivility ever made you more successful in the argument? Probably not.

And I also agree that the ridiculous deserves ridicule, or atleast does not deserve our respect. For instance, I agreed with PZ Meyer's desecration of the eucharist because I think that we have no obligation to consider something holy just because someone tells us we should. I also do not think we should bow to the pressure of Muslim extremists when they do not like their prophet's picture drawn in cartoons.

I totally support the ridicule and criticism of dangerous and ignorant ideas or beliefs.

But this does not mean that I would support using profanity or personal attacks on these people to tell them how much I disagree with their views. There is a big difference between attacking an idea and attacking a person.

Again, take the example of Richard Dawkins. He has probably answered the same silly questions thousands of times from people who have not bothered to read his books or listen to his previous interviews. How frustrating must that be for him? And yet, he tries not to resort to being uncivil, because he knows that would be an ineffective way to communicate his message.

"We aren't trying to change anyone's mind or convert anybody."

This is a response I got from the blog after I told them that I thought their method was ineffective in reaching believers.

This is clearly untrue. Anytime that a person argues a point or posts their views on the internet for all to see, they are obviously attempting to change someone's mind, or to atleast make someone think about the topic at hand.

That is the point of debate and discussion. Ultimately you hope that your argument is successful and that others will accept what you have to say.

Of course, this is kind of taboo for atheists to say, because we are so wary of being compared to a religion. We do not want to seem as if we are looking for converts, but the truth is, we wouldn't mind if other people embraced reason, rejected god, and accepted evolution. I think many of us would welcome such a thing.

To claim that the goal of my blog is not to change peoples' minds would be dishonest, and even more so if I was clearly trying to engage in discussion with believers.

Ultimately it is up to you to choose the tone and language you use every day, but it is important to realize how this tone and language will affect how well your message is received.

As an atheist, if I am actively seeking dialogue with believers, but then resort to insulting them and using profanity instead of sticking to facts and rational dialogue, what is my purpose? Is it purely to insult them because I disagree with them?

Chances are we are not ever going to change the minds of the most die-hard fundamentalists out there. But there is an opportunity to engage in a civil discussion with the many rational people that are out there on all sides of the issue.

By no means am I saying that this is easy. Just like anyone else, I can become frustrated when debating with people about topics I feel passionate about. Getting angry and resorting to insults or profanity is the easy way out.

Let's not alienate each other with insults, because we can communicate so much more effectively without them.

Keeping your cool is a lot more challenging, but it is definitely worth it. I can't ever think of a time when I regretted keeping my cool and being civilized during a disagreement, but I can think of many times when I have regretted doing the opposite.

I'm sure I might slip up once in a while, but I think it is a worthy goal, and that is why I will continue trying my best to be amiable in my discussions.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Coming Out Godless

Coming Out Godless is a site that allows people to sumbit their personal stories and read other stories about nonbelief.

Perhaps one of the most moving types of stories are ones of personal experience. The idea here is to encourage atheists and other nonbelievers to come out in hopes of normalizing the idea.

They were kind enough to post my story. It is the same one you can find in my first post which talks about how I realized I no longer believed in God. If you are interested, do check it out, and I encourage you to submit your own stories!

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Catching Flies

Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"?

I do not wish to compare my readers to flies, but I think there is a lot of truth in this, and wanting to "catch flies with honey" is one of the motivations behind this blog and its title.

I recently engaged in a discussion with other atheists about the tone of our message.

I read some words written by an atheist that rubbed me the wrong way. This is not a smear campaign and I am not even going to say who, I only want to discuss what I think are ineffective ways of communicating.

The first problem I had, which was definitely not the biggest, was with the profanity.

This may be partially due to the remnants of my religious upbringing, but I really dislike profanity.

Of course I use it sometimes. But I think the setting is entirely important. It is one thing to use it with my friends or in private, but to use profanity in a loud and public way, I find, is very juvenile.

When I meet people who overuse profanity or who use it inappropriately, I usually interpret that as a lack of consideration or politeness.

Just because we have the freedom of speech, that does not justify our saying anything that comes to mind!

When one is attempting to make a point, or to spread their ideas, I find the use of profanity to be highly ineffective and think it is really a turn-off.

The thing that most bothered me was that this person was obviously representing an atheist view-point with his/her writing. It bothered me that a believer or someone looking for answers or who is just curious might stumble upon these words and be turned off by them.

If I were to walk into the public library looking for information or help, I would definitely be put off by the librarian yelling at me, and using personal attacks and profanity. I would probably stop my search for the information or atleast never patronize that library again.

I found the tone and language to be very ineffective at conveying any kind of message, and it bothered me that this kind of attitude or message is only perpetuating negative stereotypes of atheism.

I was then told that it is the reader's own fault if they choose to associate these words with a group, not the writer's. But don't we do the same thing every day when we read Ray Comfort's blog or hear about some denomination or church doing something ridiculous in the news?

I was also told that I was basically labelling atheism as a religion just like "fundies" do, which I find to be completely ridiculous because of course when you are writing a public blog that attacks religious beliefs from an atheist view-point, you are representing atheism. I'm not saying it is right or that people should see you as a representative, but they do and they will.

I am a representative for atheism on this blog, and I know that. As such, I do my best to be polite and to give thoughtful responses, not just rants, hatred, and profanity.

It is a fact of life that we are constantly representing a group by our actions and words. As a person living in a foreign land, I am constantly seen as a representative of my country. As a young person, I am often seen as a representative of my age group. I could go on to include hair color and many other factors, but I think I've made my point.

The issue is not whether or not it is right that your words represent the group as a whole. The fact is, that they do. Whether you like it or not, your words are posted on the internet for the world to see. Why would you use language that alienates instead of using "honey" to communicate your message?

Obviously the point of having a blog is to communicate a message, to share your views, and hopefully, to atleast make them think about it. If this is not your goal, then perhaps your blog would better be labelled as a private diary if it is only a place to vent your anger at the world.

And if you wish to continue using vinegar in your methods, understand that you will probably not have much success catching any flies. This fly was definitely not impressed.

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Comic Relief

I almost busted a gut watching this. You will either laugh or be completely annoyed...

Thanks to The Skeptical Sorcerer

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Fill my Pills

This is an excerpt from an article that was posted over at

A Bush administration proposal aimed at protecting health-care workers who object to abortion, and to birth-control methods they consider tantamount to abortion, has escalated a bitter debate over the balance between religious freedom and patients' rights.

The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.

Conservative groups, abortion opponents and some members of Congress are welcoming the initiative as necessary to safeguard doctors, nurses and other health workers who, they say, are increasingly facing discrimination because of their beliefs or are being coerced into delivering services they find repugnant.

"They are manipulating the system by manipulating the definition of the word 'abortion,' " said Susan F. Wood, a professor at George Washington University who resigned from the Food and Drug Administration over the delays in approving the nonprescription sale of Plan B. "It's another example of this administration's disregard for science and medicine in how agencies make decisions."

The draft states that numerous cases have been reported of health-care workers being "required to violate their consciences by providing or assisting in the provision of controversial medicine or procedures." It adds that many states have recently passed laws requiring health plans to pay for contraception, pharmacists to fill prescriptions for birth control, and hospitals to offer Plan B to women who have been raped.

"In general, the Department is concerned that the development of an environment in the health care industry that is intolerant of certain religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural traditions, and moral convictions may discourage individuals from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds from entering health care professions," the document states.

The most controversial section defines abortion as "any of the various procedures -- including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action -- that results in the termination of life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."

That definition would include most forms of hormonal birth control and the IUD, which most major medical groups believe do not constitute abortion because they primarily affect ovulation or fertilization and not an embryo once it has implanted in the womb.

"You could imagine a group of people with less than honorable intentions seeking to get hired at a family planning clinic with the specific objective of obstructing access. Under this regulation, there is little you could do about it," said Jill Morrison of the National Women's Law Center.

I don't know about you, but this makes me furious.

It is one thing to oppose abortion, but to redefine it to include forms of birth control is outrageous. This is just another example of the Christian right wanting to push their ideology on everyone. Ultimately I'm sure they hope to monitor every individual's sex life, since this is what this amounts to.

These people want to tell me what kind of sex life I should have.

If someone has an issue giving birth control prescriptions, then they need to just suck it up, or ask a co-worker to do it. But refusing to serve people is discriminatory and dangerous.

I'm sure that vegetarians or members of PETA don't apply at KFC and then refuse to serve meat to the customers. It's just completely idiotic!

There was also a really interesting comment on the article at that talked about a friend being uncomfortable performing male circumcisions because she is opposed to them. At first my instinct was to think, she shouldn't have to do them!

Of course, this was my first instinct because I am opposed to male circumcision. But I realize now that this is very much the same situation, and just because this woman doesn't like it, doesn't mean she should impede the procedure in anyway.

If she disapproves she should transfer to another department, or she can spend her time fighting for her cause when she is off-duty. This is the same thing I think these people should do who have a problem with filling a woman's prescription for the pill.

Even though you may not like something, it is the law and you were hired to perform your job. If you don't like your job, then quit. If you don't like the law, then fight to change it, but do this on your own time.

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