CARNIVAL OF THE GODLESS #34 !
The day after the preceding Carnival edition was met by me with some trepidation. This is my first time hosting a blog carnival. Would I be deluged with entry after entry of nihilistic word-games, religion-sympathetic grievances, or perhaps... *gulp*... poetry ?
Actually, I shouldn't have worried. Everyone sent in great entries, and no subjectivist hula-hoop in sight.
Here we go !
- "Ebonmuse" starts us off with "Life Without Superstition", a list of reasons why atheism is a better way to live :
Atheism offers the exhilaration of choosing your own purpose. As an atheist, you are not a pawn in a cosmic game, trudging through life toward a predetermined end; you can throw away the chains of holy writ and set your own course, steer your own path. To an atheist, life is not a prescripted morality play or an exercise of a god's whim, but a wide-open horizon, gloriously real and significant. Whatever makes your life meaningful and gives you happiness and contentment is your right to choose, so long as you respect others' right to do the same.Atheism is truly a door that opens to all the possibilities of human life. The hardest part seems to simply open it and take the first step.
- UberKuh grapples the concept of productivity in his entry "Productivity = Happiness". I have to admit that the value of productivity is the moral issue that I tend to skip around the most, but UberKuh really puts it in a clear perspective.
For the rational among us, productivity is the key to happiness, the result of which is an enjoyment of the product, as well as the process, of their productive efforts. For the irrational among us, productivity is a nice way to pass the time, but, ultimately, it means almost nothing when compared to a servile obediance to static, preordained, and, thus, impractical moral principles. In short, for the rational among us, life is about doing good, while, for the irrational, it is about being "good." The first values conscious, intellectual action based on an appreciation of fact gleaned as truth. The second values unconscious, emotional reaction based on an appreciation of blind, dogmatic belief, accompanied by ignorance and fear of the unknown. Which quality do you choose - productivity or passivity? I choose productivity.A clear-headed moral entry showing the antithesis between religion and rational individualism ? I'm jealous - this entry really belongs on our blog ! Seriously, great work UberKuh. You're gonna make Raving Atheist go ballistic if you keep up the Rand quotes, though (not that that's a bad thing).
- Now, I wasn't too hot with including this entry, simply because it's not from a blog. It's not even really blog-ish. But the entry was just too good to pass up. This may be my bias talking, but it's another entry about morality, "Gods and Morals" by Hank Fox. Hank really gets into the meat of the morality-religion confusion, and even gets some moral realism in there.
Finally, and importantly, if you believe that morals are handed down by mystical superbeings rather than worked out among rational, compassionate adults, you will never really "get" morality.To believe that morality is handed down by God under threat of punishment is exactly like being a baby getting screamed at by mom or pop. It seems to be so comforting to stay a little baby, isn't it ? Religious authoritarianism is such a poison that even atheists need to learn their lessons all over again.
It is impossible to be a moral being yourself, or a positive moral force in your society if you don’t understand the REASONS for moral acts. The young man I quoted at the beginning of this essay had no way to think about morality beyond "I have to do what my god says."
- Here's another moral entry, this time from Alonzo Fyfe, making an analogy between evangelist debaters and human sacrifice in "Faith and Human Sacrifice". His basic point, that all collectivist systems not only exploit their victims but also exploit people's good will, is well taken :
The human tragedy, then, applies not only to the victims of religious sacrifice, but also to the priest. He wanted to do good deeds. He wanted a life of meaning and significance. He ended up with a life in which he added one more source of misery and death to all of the causes of misery and death found in nature. He wanted to help his people -- to protect them from hurricanes and enemy attack. He ended up being just one more threat to their lives and well-being.
- Daniel Midgley mashes his nose against the impenetrable wall of religious inter-subjectivity in "Conversations with The Priest, part one: Faith".
For me, learning about critical thinking broke the cycle of faith. I learned that I was engaging in many different kinds of bad reasoning in my religious practice, including selective sampling, wishful thinking, confirmation bias, and cognitive blackouts when a line of thinking became too threatening to a cherished belief. (I plan to treat each of these in future posts.)While this is a very good entry, I hardly see the point of explaining this to a priest, who by definition is already committed to epistemic insanity. Daniel should get a more productive hobby, like ramming his head into walls until it bleeds.
I could go back to 'exercising faith' after learning about all of this. But to do so, I'd have to be willing to suspend my critical reasoning skills, and instead just believe the beliefs. Accept the pattern. Start interpreting things according to the theory. In time, it'll seem like it's true.
- Jarndyce has some comments on the famous cartoons of Mohammed in "Those Danish cartoons and systematic oppression", and replies to a rebuttal from some communist crackpot in "Racism and cartoons (again)".
[H]is neo-imperialist discourse that doesn't work without a victim, and for whom the faces of right-wing cartoonists receiving death threats and embassy staff having their workplace burned down don't fit. The actual victim, the butt, is long dead and fair game.I've gotta say that, even if I also follow neo-imperialist discourse, there's no way I can see the Islamists as victim on that one. You'd have to be supremely dishonest, or supremely disconnected from reality, to make such a claim. Good reply, Jarndyce. You said pretty much all that needs to be said on this whole stupid affair.
- Austin Cline gets a zinger in with "Demons and Humans: Why Irrational Belief is Praiseworthy in Christianity". Reading Smith's "Why Atheism?", he highlights the fact that demons believe in God, and yet are not praised for that - what Christians value above all is ignorant belief :
Demons arguably have stronger reasons to believe than humans do. The problem is, they don’t have faith — which, according to Aquinas, means that they don’t believe for irrational reasons. Rational belief is not praiseworthy; irrational belief is[.]I'm not sure about that conclusion though. What about the Apostles ? Christians obviously think the Apostles were great Christians, even though they had plenty of evidence to believe - evidence that no one else has. Of course, it's all fairy tales anyway, so I guess we shouldn't expect too much consistency...
- Ilkka Kokkarinen's got some nerve, telling us that nothing we write is original. But apart from that, his "A proposal for a future Carnival of Godless" to concentrate on the irrationality and evils of Islam has some merit.
There seems to be so much more unexplored potential in critizing Islam. I would therefore claim that an Islam-themed edition of this carnival would significantly energize and revitalize the atheist community all around the world. And I'm pretty sure that that we might even get some additional publicity out of it. Hey, it might perhaps even get atheism some worldwide mainstream media attention outside the blogosphere.That's all well and fine, but one can easily turn his own criticisms against his proposal... Freethought Mecca, anyone ? He also submitted another entry called "Do you mow your lawn with a lawnmower, or with prayer?", which I'm afraid seems to me equally ideologically flawed. With the personnalization of religion going on, I don't think eliminating organized religion would be such a big hit to religion in general - in fact, I think it would probably make it stronger.
- GrrlScientist, of Living the Scientific Life, gives us her review of David Mills's book "Atheist Universe: Why God Didn't Have A Thing to Do With It". We've had Mills on our show and I have to say the guy is a class act. And GrrlScientist really liked his book :
Throughout this book, Mills contrasts the rationality of science with the Bible's lack of veracity, noting at one point that, as far as accuracy is concerned, "the Bible is a non-prophet organization." Unlike some books that I have read in this genre, Mills never reconciles science and religion. As an unfortunate result, many religious people will probably throw this book into the trash before finishing it, without thinking deeply about the arguments presented. But I hope that a few of them will come to appreciate Mills' logic as they come to a clearer understanding of what atheism is and is not, and will realize why atheism is a rational position for anyone to hold.I've argued against consilience as a perversion of science on this blog before, and it's always nice to see someone else arguing against it.
- Mark Rayner has a story of a primitive man questioning the er... wisdom of the shamans in "Thag not grok god!".
“So where does the rain come from,” the shaman asked. It was a rhetorical question — even Dubyag, the unfortunate hunter who had been kicked in the head by an enraged wooly rhino knew that.Yea, we should really be happy that we know better than that nowadays. Everyone knows that meteorological events are the result of the Lord our God's mercy and vengeance. The Sky God ? What were they thinking ?
“The rain,” Weasel-Scratch-Face-Brother paused for dramatic effect, “comes from the Sky God.”
- Talking about stories, Frank the Financially Savvy Atheist brings us the scenario of the aftermath of a nuclear war caused by... Christianity, of course, in "Apocalypse Now".
Frank, possibly the last human being alive, struggles to his feet after another restless night of half-sleep. His hollow, sunken face looks up at the bleak sky as he wonders to himself, Why am I still alive. Not knowing the answer, he walks along the deserted road, limping from fresh wounds. Fucking president. Detonating nuclear fucking weapons because some imaginary friend told him that we were at war. How the hell did we manage to vote for this insane pissant anyway?.Well, it worked for Hitler, right ? Personally I think Christians would survive a nuclear war, because it's always the annoyances that survive - bacteria, cockroaches, and those things that bite us at night.
- Andy talks about the natural limits of body trading in "Limits".
There are two levels of limits. One is political or societal. The proper limit is when you start to violate someone's individual or property rights. Selling a baby is wrong because that is slavery. Humans are not chattel. But sperm (...) is not a human. It is part of a human. A kidney is not a human, it is part of a human. A human should be able to decide to sell those parts.Yes, it's really horrible that government has imposed a twisted health care value system by which the only person who is not allowed to benefit from organ donation is... the donor. People will just reject capitalism at all costs, even if it means people must die on waiting lists.
- Steve Pavlina thinks there's something more to Las Vegas than meets the eye in "Cave-Free Spirituality" :
If the pursuit of spirituality causes you to lose the ability to function in the modern world, then I’d say you’ve taken a wrong turn. Genuine spirituality should be immensely practical. If your model of reality is accurate, then you shouldn’t have to escape reality to feel whole and complete. You should be able to function even better than the average person, especially when confronted with modern day challenges.Steve is lamenting the "spiritual seekers" who "eschew the modern world and withdraw into solitude", but I think it applies to a lot more people than he thinks. People who call themselves "spiritual" seem to have an almost automatic bias against modern values and modern technology, because they have bought the line that modern man is degraded. I agree that it's a terrible way of seeing life.
- Jeffrey Shallit gives us "Does the God of the Bible Exist? - A Debate Report", about a debate between Chris diCarlo and Scott Wilkinson.
After the debate, I asked Pastor Wilkinson the following question: "You say the earth is 10,000 years old. Yet there are ice cores in Antarctica that give an unbroken record of 190,000 years. How do you explain this?" He had no good answer, mumbling about "uniformity" and "assumptions".
- Finally, there's my own entry, "Moral Responsibility vs Christianity" part 1 and part 2.
It has been pointed out many times that belief in the afterlife is in fact one of the most dangerously amoral beliefs there are. Such a belief is the most effective value-destroyer there is : if this material life is only a dress rehearsal, a test, a stepping stone to the infinite value of salvation and eternal life, then any horrific action can be justified by religious motivations.
See you all at JodyWheeler.com for the next Carnival of the Godless. Keep the party going !
Photoshops by Niels Van Der Linden.