Conference in the news

Commentary on and links to religion or atheism in the media
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Re: Conference in the news

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Sat Jun 11, 2011 12:52 pm

The way the Irish Times display their letters online (using AJAX controls and dynamic loading) is really annoying if you ever want to link to them. The links posted above are both for the general letters page which changes every day to display the letters of the day.

But there is a work-around. From the main letters page note the title of the letter to which you want to link and type it into the search box. When you search for the letter that way, you are presented with the actual page for that letter. You can copy the URL from the address bar to get the direct link to the letter... and it will still be accessible from that URL in the future.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
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Re: Conference in the news

Post by mkaobrih » Sat Jun 18, 2011 8:56 am

Article in IT ... 54327.html
Atheists who protest too much risk affirming what they oppose
A FEW years ago, Jonathan Miller, the admirable physician, theatre director and satirist, gave an interview on the subject of (we choose our terms carefully) disbelief in a divine being.

“I never use the word ‘atheist’ of myself,” he said. “It’s scarcely worth having a name for. I don’t have a name for not believing in pixies.” It’s worth keeping Dr Miller’s words in mind when considering the debate – much of it carried out in the letters page of this newspaper – that the recent World Atheism conference in Dublin stirred up.

A few games of atrocity poker were played out. (“I see your clerical abuse and raise with the Stalinist purges,” nobody quite said.) Accusations of fundamentalism were flung back and forth. Nobody’s mind seems to have been changed.

Over the last decade or so, the emergence of something called New Atheism has fired fresh energies into this most ancient of philosophical debates. Writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have made it their business to lecture anybody who will listen about the lunacies of religious belief and the evils propagated by certain clerical bodies.

Many of us who categorise belief in God alongside a faith in toad-worshipping or rain-dancing are uneasy about this development. It is certainly a good idea to collectively campaign against specific outrages carried out in the name of religion. The continuing struggle by mainstream American politicians – the Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for one – to introduce “intelligent design”, the belief that evolution is engineered by a deity, into school syllabuses is worth worrying about.

(What next? The inclusion of “here be dragons” on maps depicting less-well-explored parts of the globe?)

It hardly needs to be said that right-thinking folk, religious or not, remain concerned about the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse scandals.

That noted, it must be acknowledged that the activities of the New Atheists often appear counterproductive. A superficial problem exists with the tone adopted by some of the group’s leading figures. It is a continuing irony that Richard Dawkins, a towering figure in so many ways, often comes across like a provincial archbishop addressing a congregation of serfs.

Even Christopher Hitchens, witty where Dawkins is patrician, is uneasy about Dawkins’s decision to launch an organisation, aimed at propagating a naturalistic worldview, entitled the Brights Movement. Hitchens finds it “a cringe-making proposal that atheists should conceitedly nominate themselves to be called ‘brights’ ”. More seriously, the attempt to organise disbelievers into a cohesive movement risks playing straight into the deists’ eager hands. Atheism begins to sound like a belief system; atheists take on the quality of adherents and those arguing against faith find themselves labelled secular apologists.

None of this helps the argument. If atheism is, indeed, a belief system, then it is one honoured by beer bottles, blocks of wood and weed-infested escarpments. After all, none of those things believe in God either.

To get some sense of the effect of such group thinking, one need only poke a cautious toe in certain evangelical corners of the internet. An anonymous YouTube user who calls himself ShockofGod has stirred up some fuss in these parts by issuing a stirring challenge to atheists.

“What proof and evidence do you have that proves that atheism is accurate and correct?” he shouts. His aim is to persuade viewers to “leave atheism” and join him in the bosom of God.

The language is carefully chosen. Far from being a neutral starting point for all thinking beings – and blocks of wood, for that matter – atheism is a quasi-religion that, once adopted, one must actively choose to leave. Argue that, given no scientific evidence for the existence of God, the rational human being will feel no need to believe and you risk being ridiculed as an agnostic who doesn’t understand the meaning of atheism.

One assumes that Dr Miller would shrug and move on. Call us what you like. It’s not as if we have any emotional or ideological attachment to that increasingly loaded word. Who cares how the believers in pixies wish to describe those unconvinced by the pro-fairy lobby?

Yet ShockofGod’s comments page is groaning with outraged comments from atheists who weirdly feel themselves defined by their non-adherence to a 2,000-year-old cult. Everyone wants to be part of a gang. That’s why religions caught on in the first place.

Theists can live quite happily with organised opposition. Such movements, in the vehemence of their resistance, only serve to affirm the supposed significance of religious doctrine. By expending so much collective energy, the New Atheists give the impression that hours of the average non-believer’s day are spent pondering the non-existence of God. In truth, most such people regard the issue as no more vital than the argument that bubble-headed Venusians built the pyramids.

Ignore God and he might just go away.
The church complains of persecution when it's not allowed to persecute.
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Re: Conference in the news

Post by Ygern » Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:44 am

Oh cool, a new variation on the "I am an atheist but..." theme.
We shall call this one the Argument from Youtube

Donald Clarke's argument is a bit muddled though. He announces the thrust of his argument (organised atheists are just reaffirming theists' beliefs) which is a dubious claim at best, and then produces his best bit of evidence to back up this claim: comments on one ShockOfGod's channel.

That's like saying you can't use the internet for information-gathering and pointing to the 4Chan website as your Number 1 proof.

Dear Mr Clarke

"Organised atheists" don't actually have a Leave comments on ShockOfGod's Channel campaign. We have a Secular Education System Campaign, a Secular Constitution Campaign, a Remove the Irish Blasphemy Law Campaign, amongst others. We don't have a Defeat the Not Very Smart Theist on Youtube campaign, though.
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Re: Conference in the news

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Sun Jun 19, 2011 9:59 am

Well that's 5 mins I'm never getting back.

I do remember a time when most atheists I came across were as complacent as the author of that article.

The reason so many of us don't think that way any longer is because it's incredibly ill-thought out. I know I don't have to explain to anyone here why that is. My favourite response comes from Danny Devito's character in the movie Other People's Money.

The character (Lawrence Garfield) was challenged over the fact that he is always surrounded by lawyers, despite the fact that he frequently expresses his dislike for them. Garfield responded by saying something to the effect of 'Lawyers are like nuclear weapons. They have theirs so I have mine'.

I think it says a lot about this line of thinking... that it was defeated by some terrible writing in a god awful 1980s movie.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
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