Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Boston Atheist: December 16 - 22nd, 2007

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI spoke less well than his name promises (pun!), proclaiming in the second encyclical of his papacy that "the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" are properly attributed to atheism. Those that put their faith in human reason, he explicitly argues, are well-deserving of the "trail of appalling destruction" that followed the French and Communist revolutions. I thought you should know what we're shouldering the blame for now. Is Lucifer not pulling his weight these days?

Greg Beato writes in Reason Magazine that we Atheists aren't properly kitted out. Culture wars are waged in the marketplace, not only of ideas, but of crappy knick-knacks. "Atheists," he writes, "are still in the pop Dark Ages"...
Their T-shirts aren’t as visually appealing, their tchotchkes aren’t as diverse, and their rock bands aren’t spreading a 110-decibel message of rational humanism. It’s time to evolve past the Darwin Fish and fill up nonbelievers’ stockings with atheist junk that’s as gloriously profane as the junk blessed by Jesus.
So! Here's a few sources for godless gift gear:
* Mugs, T-shirts, stickers, emblems, and other progressive and freethought items from http://EvolveFISH.com
* A nice mix of irreverent, defiant, hostile, and proud products can be found at the Atheist Café Press shop
* Bart Meltzer from American Atheists recommends that we check out the Naughty & Nice list being circulated by the Christian conservative group Liberty Counsel, a group of lawyers who are devoted to "restoring the culture one case at a time by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family." Their Nice category is full of retailers who have not been cowed by us Atheists into denying their faith, and openly acknowledge and even celebrate Christmas in their stores. The Naughty category, on the other hand, is full of shops that instruct their employees to keep things on a more secular keel. This is very helpful; to think we might have had to do the work of finding all those Naughtily realty-based retailers on our own! Thanks, Liberty Counsel, for directing us to those businesses which value everyone’s ideas.
* If you were wondering were to find Atheist holiday cards, you might have some luck at http://www.atheistholidaycards.com. The American Atheists sell similarly themed cards, as well.
* Jon Gledstone's utterly PC nativity card is explained at The Sun.
-1. Finally, the Evangelical Atheist a few years ago compiled a nice list of thoughtful gifts for your Atheist loved ones. It's still a great source for ideas!

Writing in the Houston Chronicle, Beverly McPhail bravely ventures into the hypothetical minefield: "Suppose we elected an atheist president?" According to her analysis, "journalists and voters would have to focus on substantive policy positions held by candidates rather than their professed beliefs." Our political system, in short, would run to chaos.

NOT on my list of recommended holiday purchase: The Beginner's Bible Coloring Book, a sample of which can be seen at Flickr. I stumbled across this howler while browsing Dr. JonboyG's photo gallery of shots snapped off at the Creationist Museum. I especially enjoyed the triceratops wearing a saddle, for God so loved his children that he gave them herbivorous, ceratopsid ponies.

P. David Hornik, writing for The American Spectator, can't see what Atheism has to offer, other than negation: "do not feel what you feel, do not believe, do not hope, there's nothing out there, our (self-)limited minds comprehend everything there is and it's not much; above all, do not seek a consciousness beyond your own." His is an earnest, genuine, and I think sadly mistaken understanding of what Atheist represents as a worldview, and what kind of beliefs about itself the world is prepared to support with true facts. Give his article a read, and if you're feeling in an expository mood, I invite you to share with the mailing list what you think Atheism has to offer, other than negation.

A fundamental point that is often overlooked as believers battle nonbelievers over the existence of gods or the truth about human origins is that when you set aside our respective worldviews, we're all basically the same. This sameness mostly manifests itself at dysfunctional family get-togethers.

The Atheist Meetup of Greater Lowell is still in need of an Organizer. If you'd like to coordinate monthly meetings and additional activities as the occasion calls for it, let me know so I can put you in touch with members of the group and acquaint you more fully with the responsibilities involved.

Dinner parties, pub nights, movie screenings, book clubs, protests or teach-ins, trips to museums or speeches, or debates, the deployment of BA information tables at local festivals and public gatherings, charity or service events, special BA-only seminars on science, philosophy, or politics, meetings with government representatives to articulate the Atheist perspective on community and state issues... what do YOU want the Boston Atheists to do in 2008? Let me know, or contribute to the discussion on the mailing list. I've got plans in mind for quite a few activities, but I can't meet your needs and fulfill your expectations if I don't hear from you.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Conjecture

Is it the case that, because the burden of proof is carried by the party claiming the actuality of any event with low initial probability, atheism does not need prior demonstration? Discuss.