I don’t agree with her on everything, but as with Hitchens, that doesn’t dampen my respect.
I have a facebook friend who shared this picture on her wall. Now, I’ve been asked by both family and friends not to comment on things like this. I’ve also been asked politely (and less politely) to keep my atheist posts to the blog so I don’t inadvertently end up force-feeding the “indifferent majority”; a position I find rather useless and unnerving. Continue reading
Sometimes journalists are good, sometimes they are just plain lazy.
Richard Dawkins is world-renowned for his staunch atheism; so much that it eclipses his work in the field of evolutionary biology, his long, illustrious career with the University of Oxford, and his creepy, meme-worthy resemblance to Emma Watson. Indeed, if you know anything about Richard Dawkins, it’s probably that he’s an atheist. Maybe it’s a sign of old age (he’s pushing 70), maybe he was genuinely flattered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, his sparring-partner last night, or perhaps he was just feeling generous. Either way, last night Professor Richard Dawkins admitted that he can’t be certain that there is no God.
The insincere shock journalism stems from a conversation between Dawkins and Williams. Specifically the article notes:
Slow down there, we’re not talking conversion. But for the first time, Dawkins is actually admitting that he leans a little agnostic. Sharing an Oxford stage with Dr. Williams, Dawkins said he was “6.9 out of seven” certain of his atheism. “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very, very low,” he said. Philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, asked: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” to which Dawkins answered that he did.
Slow down there (because phrases like this make a journalist sound classy), this is definitely not “the first time” for any such admission.
In fact, anyone who actually made it through the first two chapters of The God Delusion will find this quote (from page 51 of the hardcover) that defines his position after outlining his scale of 1 (strong theist) to 7 (strong atheist):
…I count myself in category 6, but leaning towards 7 – I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden. [Emphasis mine]
It’s like the media sees this frank and consistent admission as somehow equivalent to the Pope admitting that maybe Jesus never really existed or that perhaps Mary wasn’t a virgin (of course there was a proper amount of press over revelations of Mother Teresa’s personal doubts). Dawkins, like all new atheists, has admitted that there is a vanishingly small chance that they’re in error. Something the devoutly religious rarely concede.
Finally, we can also dissect the semantics of the words atheist and agnostic to realize they are not really in contradiction. [A]theism deals with beliefs while [a]gnosticism deals with knowledge. So if one knows there is a God, he is a gnostic theist. This has been summarized effectively in a simple chart:
Dawkins admitting the limits of his knowledge is not a change of position. It is not the end of the New Atheism. It is most definitely not a gotcha moment that the pro-religious media seems to think will restore religion’s dominant place in society
Ok, so I’m going to say it, I think this guy was being a total dick… but that’s not against the law… right?
Well, apparently being a jerk justifies assault in some places…
I’m trying to wrap my mind around this one. I suppose if you replace the atheist in a Muhammad suit with a bigot in a Klan outfit, one could reasonably expect some sort of confrontation in public. And maybe the muslim guy thought it was hate-speechy… He’d be wrong.
But aren’t judges supposed to protect free speech and punish physical violence in the good ole USofA
Hard to tell exactly what happened in the video, but I’m not happy about the court outcome at all. This looks like the judge decided disrespecting religion was worse than violence. Not cool.
Edit: Sorry Scotland.
You are guilty, because someone, who died before you were born, did something bad, and since you share genetic information with them, its on you to make it right.
Sound familiar? It’s the story of Adam and Eve, and Christianity beginning to end, and its the story of Richard Dawkins… who had an ancestor who was a slave trader.
Poor guy can’t win of late, first he is a misogynist, now he’s a vicarious slaver.
Fortunately, our modern justice system doesn’t accept the idea of children being guilty for the crimes of their parents, any more than it accepts the strange notion that the ‘crimes’ of children can tarnish a whole family. This of course is the sad and despicable logic behind ‘honour killings’.
If you’re interested, the article links to the original.. in all its glory. Here’s a sample.
In 2010 Richard Dawkins wrote an obituary for his father, describing how John Dawkins had inherited Over Norton Park from a distant cousin and how the estate, in the Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty, had been in the family since the 1720s. He omitted, however, to mention how previous generations made their money.
The website, The Best Schools, has published a list of the top 50 atheists in the world today.
Larry Moran who brought the list to my attention says, “I’m not a very good atheist ’cause I’ve never heard of most of the top 50 atheists.” I recognize 44% of the names on the list. Does this make me “a very good atheist”?
Check out the list, see how many names you recognize and be prepared to be surprised, perplexed and amazed.
The video of Greta Christina’s presentation at Skepticon IV was posted by tildeb on his blog, Questionable Motives. Every second of the video merits close attention, but here are some highlights:
I’m angry that people are dying of AIDS in Africa and South America because the Catholic Church convinced them that using condoms makes Baby Jesus cry. (8:40)
I’m angry about the girl in the Muslim family who was told . . . by her teacher . . . that the red stripes on Christmas candy cane represented Christ’s blood, that she had to believe and be saved by Jesus Christ or she’d be condemned to hell, and if she did not convert, there would be no place for her in his classroom. (12:02)
For the purposes of her talk, she defines religion as a
belief in supernatural entities or forces that have an effect on the natural world, the belief in entities or forces that are invisible, inaudible, intangible or otherwise undetectable by any natural means (26:32)
I got a request for an interview over the weekend because an intrepid reporter with News1130 here in Vancouver noticed that Vancouver City Council is opening its weekly sessions with a prayer.
The story highlights that these prayers often don’t involve any references to religion or god. I guess we’re very liberal with our language here on the
left West Coast. Google gives the following definition for prayer:
- A solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.
- A religious service, esp. a regular one, at which people gather in order to pray together.
Neither definition sounds very secular to me.
So I gave my two cents to the story
Atheist Ian Bushfield with the BC Humanist Association disagrees. He would like to see the name prayer changed to something more accessible, like "opening remarks."
"When they bring these church ideas or religion into city hall, they potentially exclude a lot of people of different or even no faith. So I don’t think there’s any need to invoke any higher power. Having some opening words is not against anything I believe in, to mark the ceremony. It’s just important to recognize there are different viewpoints and we should try to include anyone rather than exclude anyone."
This is the second time in a week where I’ve played the token atheist around here. Hopefully by putting that atheist label out in the media more and more we can begin to raise our profile above the rapists.
They also have a poll, so go and crash it. It’s currently pro-prayer by a slim margin.
OK so I am sure that Ipsos Reid, being in the business of statistics is a little more careful with their numbers, and how they portray them, than the title would suggest. Statistics can be quirky things, they can be made to say a variety of things, even the truth. No that is not my quote. The author is unknown.
Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History, recently gave a talk at Rutgers University about her new research into “Poetic Atheism.”
The historical research is really interesting to me, and Hecht argues that the New Atheist movement breaks with our history, which was often based more in the humanities than the hard sciences. She argues that many of the great storytellers of history were potentially less religious than assumed, including William Shakespeare.
“If all of the great poets were believers, they would have been religious writers,” she said. “They didn’t believe dominant stories about what meaning is … John Keats, he never mentions Jesus. In Shakespeare, there’s none of this kind of religious thinking.”
She further suggests that many of the great writers wouldn’t have used the word ‘God’ if they had known the intellectual baggage it would carry today.
While some of these ideas sound a bit far-reaching, I’ll hold out judgement until I read the book. It wouldn’t be the first time that a news article glossed over the key details of a complex argument.
It sounds like a fascinating talk. I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Hecht speak, but she’s definitely on my must-see list.
What are people’s favourite atheist poems (or at least poems that can be interpreted atheistically)?