Tag Archives: theism

These six superpowers are why atheists are #winning

Atheism is #winning

To be free from superstition or the belief in the supernatural is a rarity in the history of our species. It’s so rare in fact that it’s a stretch to include it in the description of what it is to be human. It is only through generations of evidence-based knowledge about the world that we have recently found ourselves in an environment hospitable to modern atheistic and skeptical world views. This niche we find ourselves in has been so out of reach to humans until so recently that the ability to experience such a detachment from gods and superstition might even be fairly described as superhuman.

There’s evidence that the origin of supernatural thinking dates as far back as 300,000 years ago when Paleolithic humans began burying their dead. If you consider that we’ve only had access to enough evidence-based ammunition to smother the absurdity of faith-based and superstitious thinking since the dawn of the scientific revolution 300 years ago, you realize that only 0.1% of our species’ existence since the Paleolithic era has been marked by the potential to be a modern atheist or skeptic.

So it can be argued that to be an atheist or skeptic in the modern world makes you superhuman. As an atheist (or future atheist) you might ask, “what’s the point of being superhuman if it doesn’t come with superpowers?” Well it does, take a look:

Superpower #1: Freedom of Thought

We have the freedom to think about anything we want without thinking someone else is listening. While our religious friends are fearful to imagine for even a second that there might not be a god because they might be damned to eternal hell-fire, we’re free to explore all ideas. The ability to entertain all ideas without the fear of a supernatural eavesdropper allows us to make sound judgments about the validity of some ideas over the absurdity of others. We’re #winning because our freedom of thought gives us the freedom to be ourselves.

Superpower #2: Wisdom

We live at a time when we have access to an unimaginable breadth of knowledge that helps us not only better understand our past, but more presciently plan for our future. Theists have to square any new knowledge they gain with the views held in their ancient doctrines. When there’s a conflict, they’ll choose the obsolete doctrine over new evidence leading them to surrender their potential wisdom to utter ignorance about the world around them. We’re #winning because our wisdom is built on the shoulders of giants.

Superpower #3: Imagination

With the unimaginable amount of knowledge we’ve garnered on the inner workings of the universe, our imaginations are given boundless range for exploration. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a theist who understands enough cosmology (see Superpower #2) to dream about, say, someday terraforming a planet, or to realistically contemplate the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, or to make a great discovery in string theory. We’re #winning because we have a “spaceship of the imagination” that runs on logic and evidence and so is limitless in range.

Superpower #4: Honesty

Understanding the world based on facts and evidence allows an honesty in our thinking. Theists have to hold in their minds competing ideas about how the world works as becomes apparent when they have to defend a belief. For example, watch what happens when you ask your Christian friend how, when Noah’s ark landed, the kangaroos made it back to Australia? Your friend will have to ignore the entire fossil record and invent a response. We’re #winning because we don’t have to make stuff up to make sense of the world.

Superpower #5: Stewardship

Our ability to consume and synthesize facts and evidence in the absence of religious doctrine allows us to make decisions that will benefit the future of our species. As is all too common in the US, Christians are the first to ignore scientific evidence in favor of faith, submitting control of the future of our planet to their imaginary friend. An atheist understands there are no gods to solve our problems and will therefore work to solve them rather than ignore them or try to pray them away. We’re #winning because our thoughts and actions are positively correlated to the survival of our species.

Superpower #6: An Evolved Morality

Our morality like everything else is subject to evidence and research and as such is able to evolve as our understanding of human nature evolves. We don’t rely on an ancient, static doctrine to mandate fixed moral codes that aren’t open to criticism as we learn more about ourselves and what it means to live in societies. A static view of morality results in a narrow understanding of what it is to be human and by extension what it is to be humane. We’re #winning because our morality is adaptable to knowledge and therefore promises to work to reduce the suffering of as many fellow human beings as possible.

We’re #winning because we possess superpowers that were out of reach for our species until very recently. If you’re a fellow atheist or future atheist, enjoy these powers, don’t squander them, and use them wisely.

Arizona Republicans: Swear An Oath to God to Graduate High School

Graduate high school for God and country!As reported on Monday in the Phoenix New Times, a proposed Arizona state law would require students to swear an oath to God (we can assume the Judeo-Christian god) to defend the United States Constitution in order to graduate from high school.

Swear. An oath. To God. To graduate. From high school.

No, it’s not an Onion article. You can read the text of HB 2467 on the Arizona State Legislature website:

Before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:

“I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; so help me God.”

Nothing like being required to “take this obligation freely.”

Students aren’t being asked to serve two compulsory years in the country’s military or defend people in court. They’re graduating high school, which, as blogger Kevin Bondelli points out, “is the culmination of an education that up until that point was compulsory.” It’s the bare minimum requirement for admission to most colleges and universities, and to getting a job that pays more than minimum wage.

This law is aimed directly at public school students, whose ranks include Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and atheists, to name a few. But I guess if you can’t be a good little American and pretend like you believe in the [Judeo-Christian] God like the rest of this God fearing nation, no one else is to blame but you if you don’t get a high school diploma…

Bondelli points out: “I am fairly certain requiring a public high school student to swear an oath to God to graduate would violate the First Amendment of the Constitution that they are trying to force these students to swear to support and defend. This paradoxically means that in order to actually support and defend the Constitution, you have to refuse to take this oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

But the Constitution doesn’t really matter, right? Not when it’s trumped by the Bible. Because the Founders used the Bible as their primary source for writing the Constitution, don’t you know? Or did you miss the Amendments about selling your daughter into slavery and killing anyone who works on the Sabbath or converts from Christianity?

So the people who want to make it impossible for non-Christians to graduate high school in Arizona (at least without lying under oath) are the same ones who believe that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old, that a woman can’t get pregnant if she was raped, and that gays are directly responsible for hurricanes? (I exaggerate a little on that last one.)

Yeah. No disconnect there.

The tactical atheist: On the motivations behind engaging with theists

Not a tactical atheist.A guest post on the Friendly Atheist blog today posed “Six questions for Christians following the Newtown massacre.” Two weeks ago I offered some thoughts of my own about prayer during tragedies, and the author delves further into the implications of “directives to pray and [proffer] religious explanations for the carnage.”

(A quick word about the Friendly Atheist blog. In case you’re not familiar, it was started by atheist activist Hement Mehta in June of 2006. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and separation of church and state violations get a fair amount of coverage, so if you’re wondering what’s happening in atheist activism, this is a good place to go. In addition to himself, Mehta now has 25 regular contributors to the blog, so the RSS feed can be a bit much to keep up with at times.)

Watchdog atheist activism

In her post, Tracey Melody follows what many Christian leaders have said about the “causes” of the tragedy to the logical conclusions. If God loves His children, why let His children’s children be slaughtered simply because they are in a place where they cannot worship publicly? These and others are uncomfortable but fair questions — ones that “God’s ways are mysterious” can’t wipe away so easily.

However, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, what’s the purpose of even posing questions like these? Melody wrote in conclusion:

I have no quarrel with people who seek refuge in prayer to cope with this or any tragedy . . . However, when fundamentalists begin laying blame for such events at the feet of secular laws and assert that their God could do better, it is fair to require them to demonstrate how, precisely, He would do so.

We’re right to hold people like James Dobson and Bryan Fischer who have a wide audience and influence accountable for their words. They represent a dwindling portion of the population desperate to hold on to the power and influence that religious leaders have enjoyed for over two thousand years. For too long they’ve been able to work unopposed.

However, we still might ask ourselves what we hope to accomplish by asking these questions, and what our aims ought to be in engaging with theists in the first place.

Ideological trench warfare

A few days ago I was reading comments on a Facebook page for an online community I also contribute to (www.thepeopleproject.com). The post was an image of a Carl Sagan quote, part of which read: “Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mine that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.” It didn’t take long for theists to start trolling, the first one stating that if anything, atheism is “the lack of knowledge.”

This went back and forth over the next few days, with a doubtlessly sincere teenage girl inevitably asking, “How do you think the world was made?” (i.e., “If God didn’t create the universe, where did it all come from? Checkmate, atheists!”) A handful of atheists attempted to reason with (or repel) the invaders, not-so-tactfully pointing out obvious flaws in their arguments or the snags in their moral formulation.

After World War I, trench warfare became a symbol of the futility of war. Both sides dug themselves in, creating sprawling networks of tunnels and bunkers to protect soldiers from enemy bullets. (This wasn’t much use against artillery shells or poison gas though). This meant that engagements could easily drag on for weeks or even months.

The current religious “conversation” seems little more than ideological trench warfare. The atheist and the theist lob attacks at each other from their respective ideological positions, the intent to obliterate the other’s belief. There appears to be little motivation to listen or understand. The atheist is convinced that the theist is blind to reason, while the theist is convinced that the atheist is blind to faith.

Theological armistice

Given this situation, what exactly is Tracey Melody trying to accomplish by posing her six questions to Christians? Is anyone going to be suddenly convinced that prayer is futile and give up belief in God entirely? Will an atheist realize that Jesus has been the answer all along because of the emptiness of believing that the shooting happened for no reason? To both of these, probably not.

So this leads me to wonder — what might a theological armistice look like? Is such a thing even possible? As a former Christian (and a fundamentalist one at that), I understand their arguments and theology better even than some who claim to be Christian. This leads to the larger question of the origin of belief, and what makes some people more likely to not believe in the supernatural. But it should also make us wonder about our tactics.

The gross casualties in World War I are largely attributed to commanding officers who failed to adapt to the new conditions of trench and mechanized warfare. Greater numbers and superior morale meant nothing against the machine gun and mustard gas. The phrase “lions led by donkeys” came to represent this failure to evolve.

Similarly, we as nontheists need to adapt and think outside the conversation box if we are to get past the immature squabbling that “debates” between atheists and theists often turn into. We can do that by not just claiming to be “Good Without God,” but focus on actually doing good as atheists. We can stop wasting words by not taking up every challenge that confrontational theists bring, and instead focus on building community with people who have similar values, for whom theistic belief is an expression of those values rather than an agenda for global domination. If we hear religious extremism as the last desperate gasps of a dying civilization, it might be easier to hear those who actually want to talk.

Again, I’m playing devil’s advocate, and the questions posed in Melody’s article are important. But the question I’ve been asking myself lately is, “Does it need to be Us vs. Them all the time?”

Gay without God | Challenging the Status Quo on Two Fronts

By GWOG | gaywithoutgod.com

A few of us are gay. Fewer still are atheists. And only a fraction of us are gay atheists. Those of us who are both gay and atheists have grown up against the grain of society, a society that is very much heterosexual and theistic. Only a segment of us were raised in families that had already challenged the status quo of sexuality and religiosity before we arrived. The rest of us had to figure it out on our own.

This, as it turns out, was a blessing in disguise. 

Through the process of having to twice challenge social norms as we came of age, our minds became primed for freethinking. We can consider it a gift of chance that through necessity we were pushed to question our realities (skepticism), pushed to analyze and test the evidence of what is real and what is not (scientific method), pushed to think logically in contemplating the norms of society (critical thinking). 

And through that process of questioning, we found that society was generally wrong. Homosexuality is not immoral, and God does not exist. We arrived at both these conclusions for the same reason: there is no evidence for the contrary. We were shocked to find that society had been ignorantly humming along before our arrival on baseless assumptions, acting on those assumptions, and damaging itself in the process. Until now, no one had made enough noise to challenge those assumptions. No one had formally placed the burden of proof on society in its theistic claims and moral subscriptions. 

Things are changing. We have arrived. We are Gay without God. We will be out and proud on both fronts in challenging the status quo. 

On Why There is No Valid Argument for God

Another awesome, to-the-point video by qualiasoup on YouTube: Faith has no place in demanding agreement or punishing disagreement in its attempted argument for the existence of God.