smackshack: Marvin the Martian looks peeved. (Marvin the Martian)
I already tweeted some stuff about it, but if you're craving some (allegedly) deeper thoughts about the movie, check what I have to say after the cut.
Read more...if you dare! )
smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)

Christianity or Islam from atheistcartoons.com


This is the thing that always gets me about religious apologetics. The speaker -- especially Christians in my experience, but I've seen it from Muslims and Buddhists as well, and I have no reason to think anybody else is any different -- takes the plausibility of their own mystical, mythical, supernatural tradition for granted. As though the question of whether a divinity exists rests just on the plausibility of the stories in the Bible or Koran, or on the historicity of a particular prophet or guru.
 
So if atheism really turns you off, I'd ask you to do a thought experiment. Ponder the people who believed in Thor and Odin and Frejya, or in Apollo, Demeter, and Athena...don't worry so much about the gods, think about the people who prayed and sacrificed to these gods for the sake of a safe childbirth, for the hope that their sons would return from the war, for the hope that rain would feed the crops, for the strength and courage and wisdom needed to carry out their domestic and public duties. Imagine that you're one of them and that you take your devotion to those gods just as seriously as you might now entertain the reality of Yahweh, Christ, or Allah. (Imagine further that your choice of god doesn't depend on which religion happens to field the biggest army.)
 
How can you be fair to those people? What does it mean to treat their inner lives with as much respect as you expect for your own? Are you capable of distinguishing the preferences that stem from habit, culture, and upbringing from actual evidence for your beliefs and theirs?
 
It's worth thinking about.

smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
Normally I'm "rah rah rah" for atheism, but today I think I'll post links to a pair of thoughtful essays that look critically at the state of atheist culture.

First is "You Don't Have to Be a Skeptic to be an Atheist" by Amy at the blog Skepchick.  Amy reports on her experience at the recent Atheist Alliance International convention, where she's surprised by the number of people so committed to railing against religion that they're unaware of a broader skeptical movement.

Second is "Culture and Barbarism: Metaphysics in a Time of Terrorism", by Terry Eagleton.  This is an essay that feels a bit quaint in its willingness to indulge in sweeping generalizations about the nature of civilization and culture.  I think Eagleton makes a mistake in equating what he calls liberal humanism with something that would better be called technocratic utopianism, and I think he's also mistaken in thinking that people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are the standard-bearers for that utopianism -- they both strike me as people resigned to an understanding that human nature is far too intrinsically shifty to be the object of mass scientific reformation.  (They just don't think this is an excuse for excusing superstition.)

I'm going to want to think about the second essay some more.  I can feel myself reacting defensively to it, and that would be contrary to the spirit of skepticism, after all.



smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
The Wall Street Journal commissioned Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to write short essays to answer the question, "Where does evolution leave God?"

Ooo, watch him blather! )

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