Freethought

Richard Dawkins Interviews Christopher Hitchens…

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From Richard Dawkins
New Statesman

America heading for theocracy? How worrying is the rise of the Tea Party? Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins discuss God and US politics.

‘Never Be Afraid of Stridency’

The 2011 Christmas issue of the New Statesman was guest edited by Richard Dawkins. This is his interview with Christopher Hitchens from that issue. It was to be Hitchens’ final interview; he died as it was published. A sensation at the time, it is now available to read online for the first time.

Richard Dawkins Do you have any memories of life at the New Statesman?

Christopher Hitchens Not that I want to impart. It seems like a different world and a different magazine and it happened to a different person. I’d love them to interview me one day about it, for an edition about the role of the Statesman, but I’d really rather you and I focus on the pulse of the issue, which is obviously our common cause.

RD I’ve been reading some of your recent collections of essays – I’m astounded by your sheer erudition. You seem to have read absolutely everything. I can’t think of anybody since Aldous Huxley who’s so well read.

CH It may strike some people as being broad but it’s possibly at the cost of being a bit shallow. I became a journalist because one didn’t have to specialise. I remember once going to an evening with Umberto Eco talking to Susan Sontag and the definition of the word “polymath” came up. Eco said it was his ambition to be a polymath; Sontag challenged him and said the definition of a polymath is someone who’s interested in everything and nothing else. I was encouraged in my training to read widely – to flit and sip, as Bertie [Wooster] puts it – and I think I’ve got good memory retention. I retain what’s interesting to me, but I don’t have a lot of strategic depth. A lot of reviewers have said, to the point of embarrassing me, that I’m in the class of Edmund Wilson or even George Orwell. It really does remind me that I’m not. But it’s something to at least have had the comparison made – it’s better than I expected when I started.

RD As an Orwell scholar, you must have a particular view of North Korea, Stalin, the Soviet Union, and you must get irritated – perhaps even more than I do – by the constant refrain we hear: “Stalin was an atheist.”

CH We don’t know for sure that he was. Hitler definitely wasn’t. There is a possibility that Himmler was. It’s very unlikely but it wouldn’t make any difference, either way. There’s no mandate in atheism for any particular kind of politics, anyway.

RD The people who did Hitler’s dirty work were almost all religious.

CH I’m afraid the SS’s relationship with the Catholic Church is something the Church still has to deal with and does not deny.

Born This Week in 1834: Freethinker Granville Stuart…

 
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From The Freethinker UK

On August 27, 1834, Granville Stuart was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia. He settled in Montana in the 1850s, and soon became a Montana prospector, miner, banker and cattle rancher.

He was manager of the Pioneer Cattle Company from 1879 to 1888, president of the Montana Stock Growers Association and Montana Board of Stock Commissioners, and president of the Montana Historical Society from 1890 to 1895.

Stuart became an important Montana politician who represented Lewis and Clark County in the Territorial House of Representatives for four years, and was President of the Territorial Council in 1883.

He was elected US Ambassador to Uruguay and Paraguay from 1894 to 1898. After returning to Montana, Stuart became a Montana historian, and wrote books including Montana As It Is (1865) and Forty Years on the Frontier (1925).

Stuart became a strong freethinker as an adult, according to As Big as the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuart by Clyde Milner II (2008). James Fergus, fellow freethinker and Montana pioneer, called Stuart “a fine writer and most radical outspoken infidel, and has pictures of Ingersoll, Bennett and Payne hanging in their Parlor”

Stuart, who died in 1918, is quoted in As Big as the West as saying “For all the use [people] make of their brains, in matters of religion they had as well have none.”
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My Path From Rome…

 

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From Barbara Smoker
The Freethinker UK

OH, YES – I once had an orthodox creed. I was brought up in a devout Roman Catholic family, and had an old-style convent education – and throughout my childhood and adolescence I was a steadfast believer. That was in the days (before the Second Vatican Council) when the Catholic Church was still Catholic and the Pope was infallible – so I had absolute certitude about God and the universe and my place in it. But in the end – and it took me a very long while – I grew up.

Whenever I mention my Catholic childhood, people tend to assume that the reason I have rejected religion so completely is that an extreme version of it was drummed into me as a child – but it wasn’t like that at all. No one needed to drum religion into me: I lapped it up like a thirsty puppy. Of course, I must have been given the taste for it first of all, but I cannot remember as far back as that.

What I do remember, though, is that my four younger sisters and one younger brother were coaxed to say, as the first syllables that ever passed their lips, not “Mama” or “Dada”, but the far more difficult “Jesus” – so presumably I was equally precocious. Anyway, by the time the good nuns got hold of me, at the age of four, I was hooked on the supernatural.

At home, as in most large families, we were always playing competitive games among ourselves – and Rule Number One, which became standard for any competitive family game, was “No Praying”. This was at the insistence of the others, who thought that praying would give me an unfair advantage.

Anti-Evolution Creationists are ignorant of what a species is…

 

Evolution

From An Atheist in Illinois

First it’s important to note that accepting the reality of evolution is not a devotion to atheism.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams recognizes that humans evolved from other animals.

Pope John Paul II openly recognized the realities of evolution in 1996.

President John F. Kennedy had no problem with evolution. In fact, one of his speeches discussing our origin from the sea was played during a Super Bowl XLIX commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines.

There are those who keep a liberal interpretation of their religion that allows compatibility with modern science. This has allowed millions of Christians and people of other faiths to contribute to advancements in medicine, sanitation, food supply, transportation, and other fields that have greatly increased the standard of living for mankind.

And then there are those who keep a dogmatic interpretation of their religion that only leaves room for an 18th century understanding of the universe. Ironically these same people use computers and iPhones. They have no problem using technology that was made available by modern science while keeping their antiquated views of reality.

Someone who dogmatically believes that disease can only be cured by god and prayer will never create a vaccine that will ultimately be responsible for saving millions of lives.

Imagine a child arguing that the earth is not spinning because we don’t feel it or crash into things when we jump straight up. The best thing to do would be to explain the supporting scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates that the earth is spinning and relativity to understand why it doesn’t seem to be from our perspective.

But what if the child refused to listen and simply kept repeating that the earth doesn’t rotate. That is one obnoxious child that refuses to listen or learn. Now let’s suppose the child is 40 years old. We would need to conclude that the adult was mentally challenged, delusional, or extremely gullible and being persuaded by ignorant people.

When creationists argue that we never see a cat turning into a dog, the ignorance is staggering. What makes it worst is they often say things like that with a smug grin. Not only do they have no idea of how a species is classified or how evolution works, they are proudly and shamelessly ignorant. They have no desire at all to read a book and actually learn the subject matter.

A species should never be understood as some giant sudden leap from elephant to tiger. There is no magical point in time where a biological divide causes separate species classifications between animals. This understanding is critical to understanding evolution. The evolution of species isn’t about a sudden giant horn, long neck, or trunk. The most basic species classifications are about the ability to mate…

Complete article here
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Robert Ingersoll

 

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Would an infinitely wise, good and powerful God, intending to produce man, commence with the lowest possible forms of life; with the simplest organism that can be imagined, and during immeasurable periods of time, slowly and almost imperceptibly improve upon the rude beginning, until man was evolved? Would countless ages thus be wasted in the production of awkward forms, afterwards abandoned? Can the intelligence of man discover the least wisdom in covering the earth with crawling, creeping horrors, that live only upon the agonies and pangs of others? Can we see the propriety of so constructing the earth, that only an insignificant portion of its surface is capable of producing an intelligent man? Who can appreciate the mercy of so making the world that all animals devour animals; so that every mouth is a slaughter house, and every stomach a tomb? Is it possible to discover infinite intelligence and love in universal and eternal carnage?

What would we think of a father, who should give a farm to his children, and before giving them possession should plant upon it thousands of deadly shrubs and vines; should stock it with ferocious beasts, and poisonous reptiles; should take pains to put a few swamps in the neighborhood to breed malaria; should so arrange matters, that the ground would occasionally open and swallow a few of his darlings, and besides all this, should establish a few volcanoes in the immediate vicinity, that might at any moment overwhelm his children with rivers of fire? Suppose that this father neglected to tell his children which of the plants were deadly; that the reptiles were poisonous; failed to say anything about the earthquakes, and kept the volcano business a profound secret; would we pronounce him angel or fiend?

And yet this is exactly what the orthodox God has done.

According to the theologians, God prepared this globe expressly for the habitation of his loved children, and yet he filled the forests with ferocious beasts; placed serpents in every path; stuffed the world with earthquakes, and adorned its surface with mountains of flame.

Notwithstanding all this, we are told that the world is perfect; that it was created by a perfect being, and is therefore necessarily perfect. The next moment, these same persons will tell us that the world was cursed; covered with brambles, thistles and thorns, and that man was doomed to disease and death, simply because our poor, dear mother ate an apple contrary to the command of an arbitrary God.
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Turkish Atheists Give Soup to the Homeless Every Week…

 

From Friendly Atheist

In 2014, the first physical building dedicated to atheism opened up in Turkey. But the obstacles have come one after another since then. A court order blocked their website earlier this year, and death threats have led to the installation of a panic button in their building that directly connects to the local police.

None of that, however, has stopped the atheists from acting on their Humanism. Case in point: their weekly hot soup giveaways for the homeless:

Every Wednesday, the Atheism Association delivers free soup with the motto of “Soup campaign for you” in the streets of Istanbul. The association is also open to volunteer contributions to support its drive via its Twitter account.

How awesome is that?

You can see several more pictures on the group’s Facebook page.
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The 8 most atheist-friendly countries in the world…  In many places around the world, this is an unprecedented era of freedom and social acceptance for freethinkers… 

 
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From AlterNet

A lot of non-believer writers and activists focus, rightly, on the continuing lack of acceptance in many societies and nations of those who profess no belief in religion. Keeping an eye on what’s not working is the first step toward making improvements. Still, in many places around the world, this is an unprecedented era for non-believers of freedom and social acceptance. In the spirit of celebrating the amount of progress secularism has made around the world, here’s a list of eight of the best countries in which to be a non-believer.

1) Czech Republic. Many former communist nations saw their populations eagerly run back to the forbidden religions as soon as they were free to do so, demonstrating that the least effective way to spread atheism around is by mandate. The Czech Republic hasn’t seen any such return to religion, however; only 21% of its citizens consider religion an important part of their daily lives. They seem to be hanging on to secularism for roughly the same reason that they do pretty well in international sports competitions. Unlike most Eastern European nations, the Czech Republic rates high on the United Nation’s Human Development Report. It hasn’t been riddled by the corruption and authoritarian attitudes that dominate other former communist nations, such as Russia. A mountain of evidence demonstrates that stable, egalitarian economies correlate strongly with higher rates of atheism. It seems that the government’s demonstration of faith in its people and commitment to their well-being has gone a long way towards keeping the citizens from rekindling religious faith, whereas in places like Russia, where citizens are more desperate, looking to God for answers perhaps becomes more appealing.

2) Sweden & 3) Denmark. It might not seem immediately obvious why high numbers of non-believers in a country would make life better for atheists, but the examples of Sweden and Denmark show why this is true. When non-belief or even outright atheism is widespread, atheists can go about their lives free from the fear that their lack of belief will cause people to mistrust, hate, or even discriminate against them. These two countries, in which only 17% and 18%, respectively, of the population consider religion important, have become icons of secularist values to the rest of the world. Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., spent a little more than a year talking to citizens to find out why. He discovered that your average Danish or Swedish citizen simply doesn’t think much about religion; in these two cultures, religion has largely been relegated to a ceremonial role. For the typical atheist who likes to have a Christmas tree without the burden of having to believe in the Virgin Birth, the Danish and Swedish attitude towards religion should fit like a cozy sweater.

Forget Jesus. Christians need salvation by Atheists…

 


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There’s an invisible man living in the sky…

 

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Sam Harris Utterly Destroys Religion and Religious Beliefs In 2 Hours of Rational, Intelligent Discourse…

 

“I think religion is the most divisive and dangerous ideology that we have ever produced. It is the only ideology that is protected from criticism both from within and without… All people are atheists with respect to everyone else’s religion. We are all atheists with respect to all of the thousands of dead gods that lie in that mass grave called Mythology…”

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Freethought: Born on This Day — Thorstein Veblen

 

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From Freethinker Bulletin

On this date, July 30, 1857, Thorstein Veblen was born on a farm in Valders, Wisconsin. Veblen conducted his undergrad studies at Carleton College, did post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins, and earned his PhD at Yale in 1884.

He taught at a variety of schools, including the University of Chicago, Stanford, and University of Wisconsin. His book,The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899, was the most famous of the nine he wrote.

Many progressives, ranging from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Margaret Sanger, were strongly influenced by it. In it, Veblen introduced the term “conspicuous consumption.” Veblen also studied the place of science in civilisation. While an evolutionist, he repudiated the unscientific application of evolution known as “social Darwinism.”

Abby’s Story: No Longer Alone…

 


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Losing Faith: Yahweh or the Highway…

 

 

From theramintrees
‘Atheism happened to me when I wasn’t looking. Theism happened to me when I wasn’t thinking.’ A timeline of some key memories around my personal experience of religion, running from my earliest memories to my emergence from it into atheism.
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Loving Jesus But Not the Bible

 

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From Neil Carter

I don’t follow the Bible, I follow Jesus.”

When I was a Christian, I used to say things like this all the time. I used to say “It’s about Jesus, not the Bible” for the same reasons that I used to say “It’s a relationship, not a religion.”  I was trying to distinguish my own particular variety of the Christian faith from all those lesser creations of men because unlike theirs, mine was The Real Deal. I had recovered True Christianity™ unlike all those millions of misguided yahoos who insisted they had done exactly the same thing but with wildly divergent results.

Those poor souls were taught to be a “people of the book,” but I knew better.  I knew that those who truly understood their book should have understood that making the book central goes against what the book itself intended.  The book just leads to Jesus and for that reason Jesus trumps the book.  If at any point the book seems to disagree with Jesus, you go with Jesus.  These were the distinctions I learned to make, and they made sense within the context in which I lived at the time.

Now that I’m outside of that context, I’ve got people throwing those same distinctions at me and I’m having a hard time getting them to see that this talk only has meaning to those who share their implicit trust in what the Bible says.  Yes, I promise I’ve heard these disclaimers and clarifications before, and for what it’s worth, I recall them having meaning for me as well at one point in time.  Like them, I once sought to present a portrait of a God who was attractive and winsome.  “It is his kindness that leads you to repentance,” I would maintain, hoping to convince others (as well as myself) that my Supreme Being was supremely likeable, and far more concerned with “fellowshipping” with us than with judging or condemning us.  That’s all well and good, but…

No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong…

 

fFrom Houston Post

I have had so many conversations or email exchanges with students in the last few years wherein I anger them by indicating that simply saying, “This is my opinion” does not preclude a connected statement from being dead wrong. It still baffles me that some feel those four words somehow give them carte blanche to spout batshit oratory or prose. And it really scares me that some of those students think education that challenges their ideas is equivalent to an attack on their beliefs.-Mick Cullen

I spend far more time arguing on the Internet than can possibly be healthy, and the word I’ve come to loath more than any other is “opinion”. Opinion, or worse “belief”, has become the shield of every poorly-conceived notion that worms its way onto social media.

There’s a common conception that an opinion cannot be wrong. My dad said it. Hell, everyone’s dad probably said it and in the strictest terms it is true. However, before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions.

1. Is this actually an opinion?

2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?

Does God Speak To You?

 

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Born On This Day: Atheist Actors Daniel Radcliffe and Woody Harrelson…

 

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From The Freethinker

On this date, July 23 in 1989, actor Daniel Jacob Radcliffe. above left, was born to a Protestant father and Jewish mother in London. Radcliffe was selected for the 1999 BBC television production of David Copperfield to play the young title character.

The film was well-received in Britain, and it helped land Radcliffe a small role in the 2001 Pierce Brosnan movie, The Tailor of Panama. During filming, there was a massive search in the UK to find someone to play Harry Potter in the film version of the J K Rowling creation. Jamie Lee Curtis, on the set of The Tailor of Panama, sized up Daniel Radcliffe and told his mother, “He could be Harry Potter.”

Indeed, Radcliffe became immortalized as the star of the eight-movie Potter series. Radcliffe also acted in December Boys (2007), My Boy Jack (2007), and had his first theatrical role in the critically acclaimed West End play, Equus (2007).

Answering a question about what God would say to him when he arrives at the “Pearly Gates”, he told James Lipton during a 2008 appearance on Inside The Actors Studio: “‘Bet you’re surprised to see me’ … because I’m not, as I said, religious.”

Christianity disproved beyond a reasonable doubt…

 

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Website here
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Where is the grave-yard of dead gods?…

 

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From H. L. Mencken (1922)
[Repost]

What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a day when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter to-day? And what of Huitzilopochtli? In one year–and it is no more than five hundred years ago–50,000 youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest. Huitzilopochtli, like many other gods, had no human father; his mother was a virtuous widow; he was born of an apparently innocent flirtation that she carried on with the sun. When he frowned, his father, the sun, stood still. When he roared with rage, earthquakes engulfed whole cities. When he thirsted he was watered with 10,000 gallons of human blood. But today [in 1921] Huitzilopochtli is as magnificently forgotten as Allen G. Thurman. Once the peer of Allah, Buddha, and Wotan, he is now the peer of General Coxey, Richmond P. Hobson, Nan Petterson, Alton B. Parker, Adelina Patti, General Weyler, and Tom Sharkey.

Three Ways Religion Hinders Empathy…

 

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From Neil Carter

In the last week I’ve written a couple of confrontational posts charging that people around me have mistreated both me and the woman I’m dating for little other reason than our being atheists. First I told the story of how I lost a teaching job two years ago when a student outed me to my administrators in the Rankin County School District. BTW, that’s the same school district that Hemant Mehta posted about earlier this morning because they’re in the news yet again for violating a judge’s order to keep sectarian religious demonstrations out of school functions. They just can’t seem to help themselves. And in case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t had anything to do with these cases that have been making the news. They’re doing this without my help.

Two days later I wrote about a Christian father cutting his only child out of his will as punishment for being an atheist (and for refusing to quit dating one—namely me). Before he died, he behaved really rudely and said a lot of nasty things to me even though I did nothing but show the utmost respect for him and for his family.  His treatment of both me and his daughter added a bitter taste on top of the grief already present upon his passing. I explained in that post that a man in his position could easily find verses to justify cutting family off in the name of Jesus because the statements are there, clear as day.

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