Recently I’ve run-up against the argument that atheism is “just another faith” — as if that somehow raised the merit of a believer’s position, which of course, even if atheism were, it does not.

I’d like to begin by quoting my buddy Sam Harris:

I think that ‘atheist’ is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people ‘non-astrologers’. All we need are words like ‘reason’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘common sense’ and ‘bullshit’ to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.

And I agree… a lot. The label “atheist” makes me bristle in the same way I bristle when someone calls me “Catholic” because a white-collared guy dripped water on my head before I was young enough to object or say “I do”…

Now if by “atheist” one means I am not a “theist,” well then yes, ok — for I am definitely not a theist. I do not believe in a personal God that listens to my thoughts and has a plan for me, who occasionally usurps the laws of physics to do his bidding but cannot seem to figure out a way to give me both free-will and also alleviate “the problem of evil” (I really think I could design this, btw).

Why is the label “atheist” at all necessary? We do not need a term for those who do not believe in bigfoot or vampires, no one is compelled to call me an abigfootist or avampirist…

Furthermore, the idea that atheism is a faith (where this post started) reveals just how caught up in the idea of faith the faithful are — it is as if they cannot imagine approaching the world in any other way. Now, to be fair, extreme atheism can become a bit faithlike, there may be some folks who “blindly” rattle on about “knowing” that God does not exist, and I would say that is a faith-based position… but even Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, writes, “Reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist.

In other words, as the scientific method dictates, new evidence can always come in, no fact is unrevisable… and we can never prove the non-existence of something. In an infinite universe, there is always someplace one has not looked, and a healthy scientific worldview requires that questions are answered by probabilities, not by absolutes…


Color Blind

Watch this one to the end…

PZ’s Mailbag

I wasn’t planning to write more about this after my previous post on it, but having read through some of the letters that PZ has received, I wanted to share one that reveals, on a couple levels, the kind of view that many with a “religious mind” seem to have: Continue reading

Sunday Funny #2

This video is in response to McDonalds giving $20,000 and receiving membership to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. A McDonald’s spokesperson has been quoted as responding: “Hatred has no place in our culture. That includes McDonald’s, and we stand by and support our people to live and work in a society free of discrimination and harassment.” Also, whoever did the sound mixing in this thing is remarkably unskilled…

“Because I Love Her” Is a Rational, Reasonable, and Logical Response

In his book The End of Faith Sam Harris points out, “People of faith naturally recognize the primacy of reason and resort to reasoning whenever they possibly can. Faith is simply the license they give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail” (232). To believe something true without evidence or in spite of evidence is called faith — and many consider it a great virtue. A semantic distinction becomes necessary here; I am not talking about faith as trust — as in, “I have faith my wife will show up on time.” This type of faith is likely based on experience, e.g. the many times my wife has been on-time. Having faith as the result of weighing and thinking through available evidence is simply how one operates in a reason-based worldview. Logic, emotion, and even subtle “subconscious” cues may add to and aid our evaluations and calculations, but this kind of faith requires no leaping or revelation. This kind of faith does not require faith. Continue reading

“Host-age” Update — THE END!

Wow! Ok, let me catch you up. College student walks out of Catholic mass with communion wafer to show to friend. News gets out and inflamed Catholics harass student until he fearfully returns said wafer. Biologist PZ Myers posts a scathing review of events on his blog, ending his commentary with an invitation for someone to send him a “consecrated” wafer.

Time goes by. Threats are made; someone gets fired (not PZ). Many thousands of posts accrue on PZ’s blog — here are some, and here and here. They make for fascinating reading.

Then, finally, he desecrates the cracker (and the Koran, and the God Delusion) in this post The Great DesecrationContinue reading

Wheatgrass and Autism

Michael Shermer has a short article over at Scietnific American titled “How Anecdotal Evidence Can Undermine Scientific Result.” It touches on both my posts over the last two days. He’s a smart guy. You may know him as the “skeptic” on several History Channel programs; he is also a former Evangelical Christian. I reccomend his books Why Darwin Matters and How We Believe. The first one is short, the second one is longer, but better…

That is all.