Category Archives: Atheism

The Right to Walk Away

Atheism, culture, freethought community 2 Replies

Sue Blackmore has an article up on Richard Dawkins’s website regarding a hundred or so students who deigned to walk away from a lecture on memes she was giving. She expected “people to listen and then argue and disagree if they wished to” as opposed to exercising their right not to be denigrated or insulted by walking away. Note that she wasn’t prevented from speaking, though she was accosted afterwards (which was entirely not-cool, please don’t misunderstand me as being in favour of post-lecture ambushes….).

Her article is an exercise in bullshit and spin. Here’s why:

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Rhetoric and Context

Atheism, freethought community, philosophy, psychology, Rhetoric Leave a reply

How we argue with people sends signals to those around us. We are socially signalling the kind of person we are, and giving them cues as to whether or not they want to engage with us. This is, I think, an important point in rhetoric and persuasion, and can determine how we approach an argument. We can, of course, choose to remain ignorant of the signals that we send (thus sending the signal that we hold the people around us in contempt), or we can go too far and focus too much on ‘how’ the argument is presented such that the content is diluted to nothing.

An example of the former is a tweet by Secular Outpost (@SecularOutpost):

This is, frankly, sending up a flare that displays to all and sundry “I am a giant asshole, and I am not here for constructive conversation, but to have fun at the expense of those around me”. Disagree? Alright, let me walk you through it. Continue reading

A “Personal Relationship” with Jesus

Atheism, culture, philosophy, theology 2 Replies

I’d like to go back to the most excellent example of terrible writing, 7 Things That Prove God Is Real, to focus on the last two points that the author (J. Lee Grady) makes. I want to focus on them as they appear to be pretty common within the arguments for [insert religion here], and they’re not only terrible, but run contrary to how we typically reason about things.

They basically come down to having a “personal relationship” with Jesus (and/or a god), and I’d like to discuss why this, in itself, does not warrant the claim that the god (or Jesus, here and now) is real.

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A Short Overview of Free Will

Atheism, culture, Education, philosophy, religion, theology Leave a reply

Last night, I gave a short presentation on Free Will in order to kick off some discussion between mixed groups of atheists and theists. It went quite well, I feel, and the discussions that I was involved with went pretty well. The notes I used are included below. It’s a really just a rough overview, and I wouldn’t consider it a compelling argument for the compatibilist position in and of itself, but… Well, people have written books on that, and this was only a 15-min presentation, so bear that in mind if you think that I think you should be convinced by this.

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Free Will: Illusion or Real? A Theist and Atheist View

Atheism, personal, philosophy, theology Leave a reply

I will be presenting one half of a discussion on Free Will tomorrow evening (in Vancouver, BC, for non-local readers). I (and the other presenter) will be giving a short 15-min introduction to the topic, and then everyone will be breaking up into smaller discussion groups.

If you’re interested in having positive (I hope) discussions with people of differing viewpoints, this could be worth a look. It’s not free, but it’s pretty low-cost. None of the funds from this go to me (disclaimer: I’ve been promised a beer, so I’m getting something out of it), nor do I know how the payments breakdown if that’s a concern.


Could be worth a look. Details (and registration) are through Eventbrite. (And no, I will not be endorsing Harris’s position on this)

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and his Confusion about Words

Atheism, culture 5 Replies

I’d like to preface this essay by saying that I’m a big fan of Dr. Tyson. I have enjoyed pretty much every presentation of his that I’ve seen (that I can recall), and I think he’s doing an important and necessary job of communicating science (well!) to the general public. I think his new Cosmos is the best thing to happen to science communication in decades.

Dr. Tyson recently appeared on the Rationally Speaking podcast to explain “why he doesn’t call himself an atheist”. And it was incredibly disappointing to hear someone of his intellectual and educational background repeat a variety of old tropes about atheism, that are both irrelevant and largely false. Continue reading

Anti-Abortion Arguments, Including the Secular Ones, are Uninformed Drivel.

Atheism, civil rights, culture, Education, ethics, feminism, philosophy 32 Replies

I’ve had something of a writing block for the last month or so, so I’m thankful to Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist for providing me with some fodder to dissect. I’ve always figured that there had to be some folk out there whose anti-abortion stance wasn’t built on a foundation of religion, as the latter simply isn’t logically necessary for the former. Plenty of people hold ignorant and poorly thought-out positions, appeals to god are simply gap fillers: people can also either fill in the gaps with a non-religious non-explanation, or just ignore them.

Such is the case in the guest post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, titled “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them“. An alternative title would be “I’m unaware of how shallow my arguments are, but here they are anyway”. That is, perhaps, unfair: it’s possible that Kruszelnicki is aware of how shallow these arguments are, but she claims that they are compelling….

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To The Stone: Please Pull Out of Your Nose-Dive

Atheism, philosophy, theology 6 Replies

The Stone is part of The New York Times, an outlet for Philosophy and public discussion of philosophical issues. Generally speaking, I think it’s an excellent idea: philosophy needs more public engagement, and the public needs to engage with more philosophy.

Its most recent article (“Is Atheism Irrational“), however, is pure, unadulterated dross. Under the pretense of being “an interview”, Alvin Plantinga misrepresents the arguments against theism, and engages in nothing more than sophistry and rhetoric. This is, to some degree, par for the course when it comes to Plantinga, who has long backed entirely vapid defenses of theism by engaging in Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). My criticism here is aimed mainly at Gary Gutting, allegedly a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, and an editor of the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He entirely fails to engage with Plantinga’s questions, fails to point out where Plantinga has clearly dodged the question, and fails to underline where Plantinga has inserted doubt as a substitute for an answer. My remarks here will take the form of criticism of Plantinga’s answers, but they are intended as a rebuke to Gutting: this is critical thinking 101 stuff, something Gutting should have been more than capable of, and (given the position of The Stone as a vehicle for public engagement in philosophy) more than willing to do.

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Integrity: Something Catholic Schools *Shouldn’t* Teach?

Atheism, civil rights, culture, Education, ethics, religion Leave a reply

Sometimes, I read something that’s really quite awesome, like a bunch of High School kids protesting against the firing of the Assistant Principal of their school. Why was he fired? Because he was gay. I think that it’s a credit to those kids that they felt they should stand up against an injustice and a credit to the school for instilling a sense of civic responsibility and ethics into their students.

However, some incredibly ignorant folk (like Rebecca Hamilton, 18-year member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives) believe that the job of a Catholic School is to raise mindless drones. In her own words:

It also points to a failed Catholic school. Based on the behavior of its students, this school appears to have failed in what most people think is the real mission of a Catholic school, which is raising up young people who can stand for the faith.


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A Secret Confession

Atheism, philosophy, religion, skepticism 2 Replies

I have a secret to confess. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s likely to be popular with atheists (or skeptics in general), but I have to get it off my chest: I think Ken Ham is amazing. I think that he’s the best thing to happen to religious-secular dialog ever. Before you shut the browser tab/window, please hear me out…

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