Freethought

Christopher Hitchens Says Goodbye…

Transcript:

I’m not as I was.
Some of you I’d urgently felt I ought to do while saying,
and one mustn’t repine or relate to self pity about that,
but at this present moment I have to say.
I feel very envious of someone who’s young and active
and starting out in the argument.
Just think of the extraordinary things that are happening to us,
Go for example to the Smithsonian museum,
To the new hall of human origins,
magnificently curated and new in exhibition.
Which Shows among other things the branch,
or branches along which perhaps three,
certainly three,
maybe four if you count Indonesia,
humanoid shall we say anthropoid species,
died out,
not very long ago
within measurable distance of 75, 000 years or so
possibly destroyed by us possibly not, we don’t know
We know they decorated their graves,
we think they probably had language ability,
we don’t know if they had souls,
I’m sorry I cant help you there
But I so envy those who could glimpse…
I’ve only mentioned three or four of the things that have
magnetized and charmed and Gratified me to think about in the recent past,
and how much I hope that each of you form some such ambition this evening
and carries it forward,
In the meantime,
we had the same job we always had,
to say as thinking people and as humans that
there are no final solutions,
there is no absolute truth,
there is no supreme leader,
there is no totalitarian solution,
that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry,
if you would just give up,
if you would just abandon your critical faculties
the world of idiotic bliss can be yours
but we have to begin by repudiating all such claims
grand rabbi’s,
chief ayatollahs,
infallible popes,
the peddlers or surrogate
and mutant quasi political religion and worship.
The dear leader,
the great leader,
we have no need for any of this,
and looking at them and their record
and the pathos of their supporters
I realize that it is they who are the grand imposters
and my own imposture this evening
was mild by comparison,
Thank you very much.
~~

Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself?

From SAM HARRIS

My recent collision with Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show, Real Time, has provoked an extraordinary amount of controversy. It seems a postmortem is in order.

For those who haven’t seen the show, most of what I write here won’t make sense unless you watch my segment above:

So what happened there?

I admit that I was a little thrown by Affleck’s animosity. I don’t know where it came from, because we hadn’t met before I joined the panel. And it was clear from our conversation after the show that he is totally unfamiliar with my work. I suspect that among his handlers there is a fan of Glenn Greenwald who prepared him for his appearance by simply telling him that I am a racist and a warmonger.

Reza Aslan and Ben Affleck Are Wrong About Islam and This is Why…

From Friendly Atheist

This past week, a clip of Reza Aslan responding to comedian Bill Maher’s comments about Islamic violence and misogyny went viral. Also, Ben Affleck went ballistic (new movie promo?) on Bill Maher’s show here.

This is a guest post written by Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider (below). They are co-founders of Ex-Muslims of North America, a community-building organization for ex-Muslims across the non-theist spectrum, and can be reached at @MoTheAtheist and @SarahTheHaider.

Maher stated (among other things) that “if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe, and they do, that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.” Maher implied a connection between FGM and violence against women with the Islamic faith, to which the charming Aslan seems to be providing a nuanced counterbalance, calling Maher “unsophisticated” and his arguments “facile.” His comments were lauded by many media outlets, including Salon and theHuffington Post. Although we have become accustomed to the agenda-driven narrative from Aslan, we were blown away by how his undeniably appealing but patently misleading arguments were cheered on by many, with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple going so far as to advise show producers not to put a show-host against Aslan “unless your people are schooled in religion, politics and geopolitics of the Muslim world.”

Ebola: Where is Oral Roberts now that we need him?

oexChristian.net
~~

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Children of Christian Narcissists…

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From Godless In Dixie

[...]People with character impairments are unskilled in practicing empathy.  Granted, while many of them likely have zero empathy for others, they are often quite practiced in appearing as if they do.  Some have empathy for those whom they consider to be like them, a part of their tribe, but none for anyone they consider to be “the other.”  Some of them become aware that their self-absorbed behavior is negatively affecting their relationships and then begin to practice the skill of empathy in order to make positive changes.  I think we see this when people change their opinions on homosexuality because someone they love “comes out” to them.  Others who are deeply entrenched in their personality will never be able to change, or even see that their behavior is harmful.  We see this in the people who abandon the people they pretend to love, because they are not living up to their (God’s) expectations.  What they fail to grasp is that no one feels the love when their parents abandon them in the hope that this emotional manipulation will draw them back to God.  Love usually feels like love, and this feels like exactly what it is:  It is hate masquerading as love.

Liberals Giving Islam a Pass…

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From Atheist Revolution

What is it called when we routinely criticize one group of people for objectionable behavior while virtually ignoring the same behavior when committed by another group? Perhaps there is a more precise name for this sort of thing, but the one that most readily springs to mind for me is hypocrisy.

Yes, we usually think of hypocrisy as condemning someone else for doing what we ourselves are doing (e.g., “It’s okay when we do it!”). But condemning the behavior of one group while giving another a pass for doing the same thing – or even worse things – certainly strikes me as hypocritical. At the very least, it is the sort of thing we should seek to avoid.

Bill Maher (HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher) recently scolded liberals for giving Islam a pass on all sorts of human rights violations. I think he’s right that this is a problem, and it is one of a handful of things that has come to irk me about my fellow liberals. Yes, I am still a liberal. And no, that does not mean I have found it necessary to drink the kool-aid that prevents me from thinking critically about liberalism and its more problematic aspects. I suppose one could say that I’m a freethinker before I’m a liberal.

Christian Crock of the Week: Why Is God Hiding?

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From Southern Skeptic

If the Christian God exists, where the hell is he? The entire debate between Christians and atheists boils down to this one problem. If God exists, why is there no proof that he exists? I’m not talking about “logical proofs” that merely define God into existence, “scientific proofs” that make ad hoc assumptions, or “emotional proofs” that can easily beexplained by psychology. I’m talking about empirical evidence that all laymen can understand and all scientists can agree on (like the proof that gravity exists). But apparently God won’t allow that. He is everywhere, yet he chooses to remain invisible, intangible, and inaudible. A little suspicious, don’t you think?

I want to know why God can’t appear next to me as I write this–standing there with his long white beard, dressed in robes that shine like the sun–and say in a thunderous voice, “Here I am.” I just looked around the room. Nope, nothing.

Imagine how much better the world would be if God revealed himself to everyone in such a manner. All the fighting over which religion is true would end, criminals would be afraid to commit crimes, and when disasters occurred God could actually help people. So why doesn’t God reveal his existence?

The most common response is, “Because of free will.” The idea is that God can’t appear to everyone because then people would have no choice but to worship him. Christians hold this defense up like a shield, completely unaware that it’s as flimsy as a handkerchief. This apologetic fails for 4 reasons:

No God? No Problem…

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From LA TIMES

Sam Harris isn’t quite the atheist provocateur that Christopher Hitchens was nor the militant that Richard Dawkins is. But he is building his place in the pantheon of god-free thinkers book by book. His latest is “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.” As a California native, he grew up with the Golden State’s alternative ideas. His own ideas — among them, that morality and spirituality can have a secular, scientific foundation rather than a religious one — are rooted in his UCLA neuroscience degree and his years’-long studies of meditation in places such as Tibet and India, including a brief gig on the security team for the Dalai Lama.

You write that you want this book to “pluck the diamond from the esoteric dunghill of religion.” What is the diamond of spirituality?

The Christianism Death Cult…

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From John Zandy

Few Christians will admit it because few Christians even recognise it, but they are members of a Death Cult; a degenerate, death-anxious, exclusively fatalistic religion that has since the Hammer of the Arians (Bishop Hilary of Poitiers) predicted the mass liquidation of all earthly species in 365 CE and has produced a continuous supply of socially derelict luminaries who’ve longed for nothing short of the total and complete annihilation of our home world. Now, granted, like an awkward uncle it’s something most liberal churches try not to bellow about from the pulpit, but let there be no doubt, Christianity (like Judaism and Islam) is an anticipatory religion; a sect almost wholly fixated on the expectations (and apprehension) of a single and supposedly inescapable future event: the apocalypse detailed in John’s Revelation where all but “saved” Christians (perhaps as few as 144,000) will be butchered by the Middle Eastern Christian god…. and it’s a bloodbath many Christian captains have been (and still are today) simply giddy about.

What Leaving My Religion Did for Me…

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From Godless In Dixie

People often ask me if my life is better now that I’ve left my religion.  My honest answer is that it’s a mixed bag. On the negative side, I have to say that the reactions of people who liked me better when I still had faith have been at times very strong.  I usually become a target for re-evangelism for a while, but they eventually learn to quit pushing me after they realize that I’ve heard everything they have to say about this a thousand times.  Most people probably just decide I’m being stubborn and/or that the Devil’s got me under a spell; but while the pushing may stop, the disappointment lingers on.  Some do their best to keep a lid on that, which I appreciate, but you can still hear it in their voices and that can hurt. If you crave the approval of people, and if you live where I live, I wouldn’t recommend atheism for you.

Once Again, There’s Pressure to Cancel an Ayaan Hirsi Ali Event, but Yale’s Buckley Program Isn’t Budging…

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From The Friendly Atheist

Earlier this year, Brandeis University announced that it would be awarding honorary degrees to five notable figures, including atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her advocacy of women’s rights around the world:

Hirsi Ali, in her bestselling books Infidel and Nomad, made no secret of the fact that Islam, as interpreted by militants, extremists, and even (in some cases) casual believers, was not only untrue but harmful to the world. Between female genital mutilation, honor killings, the idea of martyrdom, and the murder of her friend Theo van Gogh, you could understand why she would courageously put her own life on the line to speak out against the horrors of the faith. In her mind, the problem wasn’t radical Islam. It was Islam, period. That’s why she was very blunt in a 2007 interview about her goal of trying to defeat Islam because she didn’t believe the “religion of peace” was capable of being saved in its current form. Almost immediately after the announcement of her honorary degree, Muslim groups began to protest her selection.

Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon…

ISIL takes Turkey govt. hostage: Terrorists raises flag at Turkish border

From Sam Harris

In his speech responding to the horrific murder of journalist James Foley by a British jihadist, President Obama delivered the following rebuke (using an alternate name for ISIS):

ISIL speaks for no religion… and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt…. we will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim’s memory. And may God bless the United States of America.

In his subsequent remarks outlining a strategy to defeat ISIS, the President declared:

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim…. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way…. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocentsexactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

Madalyn Murray O’Hair Interview 1965…

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Until June 17, 1963, she was dismissed by many people as a litigious, belligerent, loudmouthed crank. On that day, however, the Supreme Court upheld her contention that prayer and Bible study should be outlawed in U.S. public schools, and Madalyn Murray became the country’s best-known, and most-hated, atheist. She also became the churches’ most formidable enemy when, undaunted, she promptly proceeded to launch another broadside at religion: a suit aimed at eliminating from tax exemption the churches’ vast nationwide property holdings — a case which many lawyers concede she will probably win if it gets to the Supreme Court, and which, if she wins it, may be what one attorney has called “the biggest single blow ever suffered by organized religion in this country.” Organized religion could hardly have an unlikelier nemesis.

Sam Harris’s Vanishing Self…

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From NYT

Sam Harris is a neuroscientist and prominent “new atheist,” who along with others like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens helped put criticism of religion at the forefront of public debate in recent years. In two previous books, “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” Harris argued that theistic religion has no place in a world of science. In his latest book, “Waking Up,” his thought takes a new direction. While still rejecting theism, Harris nonetheless makes a case for the value of “spirituality,” which he bases on his experiences in meditation. I interviewed him recently about the book and some of the arguments he makes in it.

Gary Gutting: A common basis for atheism is naturalism — the view that only science can give a reliable account of what’s in the world. But in “Waking Up” you say that consciousness resists scientific description, which seems to imply that it’s a reality beyond the grasp of science. Have you moved away from an atheistic view?

Godless in America: A Short Film of Madalyn Murray O’Hair…

“An Atheist is a person who questions every kind of authority… and this is the thing that is important: if we can, without blinking an eye, question the ultimate authority, god, who must be obeyed, then we can question the authority of the state, we can question the authority of the university structure, we can question the authority of our employers… we can question anything.”

There are many accounts of Madalyn’s life, with most having a Christian twist or edge of nastiness. This film is free from such bias, at least in the telling of the story.

Frank Sinatra on Religion..

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From deadstate

We came across this old interview with Frank Sinatra recently, and needless to say, we were stunned.

The interview originally appeared in Playboy Magazine in 1963, and it demonstrates the timeless performer’s incredibly deep and evolved thoughts on organized religion – thoughts that rival many of today’s scholarly critics of faith.

Check out this excerpt:

Religion and the Destructive Force of Asking Questions…

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From Greta Christina

Is the mere act of questioning religion an attack on it?

There are religious believers who seem to think so. An increasingly common refrain among religious writers and leaders is that the recent surge of atheist writing is unacceptably offensive and insulting. Intolerant, even.

I’m not going to say atheists are never rude. But much of the time, atheists get accused of offensiveness and intolerance for saying things like:

5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed…

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From AlterNet

A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against whether Jesus lived.

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.”  In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth.  Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and  How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.”  In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

I’ve been sober for five years. Without AA. Without god. And I’m a better man because of it…

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From Godless Mom

I was baptised Anglican although I had no say in the matter. I remember learning the frightening Roman Catholic version of the ten commandments from my grandfather as a seven year old. I was confirmed against my will as a thirteen year old after being sent to vacation bible school, which are actually three words that have nothing to do with each other.

Just a run of the mill youth like many others.

When I was twenty I moved out of my parent’s house and started my career in another part of the country.

Over the next ten years I became badly addicted to alcohol. I should’ve known better as many relatives went down that path. I was always a functional alcoholic: able to go to work the next day and be very effective. Slowly but surely the addiction began to catch up with me, requiring more and more on a daily basis and chewing into my financial stability and physical/mental health. At my lowest point I was probably downing a quart and a half of Seagrams every night and began to have severe pain in my stomach as the lining had been chewed away to the point of ulcers beginning to form.

You Don’t Need God to Experience Spirituality…

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From NYT

ALMOST midway through Sam Harris’s new book, “Waking Up,” he paints a scene that will shock many of his fans, who know him as one of the country’s most prominent and articulate atheists.

He describes a walk in Jesus’ footsteps, and the way he was touched by it.

This happened on “an afternoon on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, atop the mount where Jesus is believed to have preached his most famous sermon,” Harris writes. “As I gazed at the surrounding hills, a feeling of peace came over me. It soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self — an ‘I’ or a ‘me’ — vanished.”

Had Harris at last found God? And is “Waking Up” a stop-the-presses admission — an epiphany — that he slumbered and lumbered through the darkness for too long?

A Hundred Walked Out of My Lecture…

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From Sue Blackmore

I’m still shaken by yesterday’s lecture and its aftermath. Oxford in the 21st century was, I’d fondly assumed, the epitome of somewhere I could speak freely and fully, and expect people to listen and then argue and disagree if they wished to. Apparently not.

I was invited to give a lecture on memes by the “Oxford Royale Academy”, an institution that has nothing to do with the University of Oxford but hosts groups of several hundred 17-18 year-olds for two weeks of classes and, I guess, some kind of simulation of an ‘Oxford experience’. I was told they were of 45 nationalities and I assumed many different religions. So I prepared my lecture carefully. I tried it out the day before on my husband’s grandson, a bright mixed-race 16 year-old from Paris, and added pictures of the latest craze for ‘Fatkini posts’ and more videos, including my favourite Gangnam Style parody (Python style), but I wasn’t going to avoid the topic of religious memes – religions are an example, par excellence, of memeplexes that use wicked tricks to ensure their own survival. I simply made sure that my slides included many religions and didn’t single one out.

Looking back I should have seen trouble coming early on. I began with a pile of stuffed animals on the desk that I use to illustrate natural selection. Many laughed at my ‘dangerous predator’ eating them but at the word ‘evolution’ a young man in the second row began swaying side to side and vigorously shaking his head. I persevered, trying to put over the idea that evolution is inevitable – if you have information that is copied with variation and selection then you must get (as Dan Dennett p50 puts it) ‘Design out of chaos without the aid of mind’. It is this inevitability that I find so delightful – the evolutionary algorithm just must produce design, and once you understand that you have no need to believe or not believe in evolution. You see how it works. So I persevered.

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion…

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From Sam Harris

I once participated in a twenty-three-day wilderness program in the mountains of Colorado. If the purpose of this course was to expose students to dangerous lightning and half the world’s mosquitoes, it was fulfilled on the first day. What was in essence a forced march through hundreds of miles of backcountry culminated in a ritual known as “the solo,” where we were finally permitted to rest—alone, on the outskirts of a gorgeous alpine lake—for three days of fasting and contemplation.

I had just turned sixteen, and this was my first taste of true solitude since exiting my mother’s womb. It proved a sufficient provocation. After a long nap and a glance at the icy waters of the lake, the promising young man I imagined myself to be was quickly cut down by loneliness and boredom. I filled the pages of my journal not with the insights of a budding naturalist, philosopher, or mystic but with a list of the foods on which I intended to gorge myself the instant I returned to civilization. Judging from the state of my consciousness at the time, millions of years of hominid evolution had produced nothing more transcendent than a craving for a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.

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