Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Path to Peace

The Path to Peace

Fundamentalist atheism is an oxymoron. Atheism is defined as the lack of belief in a god or supernatural entity/force. Atheists are open though to such a deity if sufficient evidence can be presented. Atheists typically use and support a process we know as the scientific method. Truth, uncovered by the scientific method, is constantly being altered by new evidence that comes to light. Scientists, and most atheists, always are mindful that their current beliefs in the "truth" may have to be adjusted or even tossed away. Tolerance of new ideas is a scientific virtue.

Religious fundamentalists have no tolerance for either competing ideas or for evidence which may contradict their chosen faith. Atheists object to those of us who claim religious faith without presenting evidence for their beliefs. By objecting to 'faith alone', atheists are not being 'fundamentalist' but are requiring those with extraordinary beliefs to present extraordinary evidence.

A large issue in 'Atheism' today is just how should atheists and other freethinkers respond to theists and believers of all sorts. Purveyors of "new atheism" such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens recommend a direct, confrontational approach or "shock value" as you call it. On the other hand traditional atheists such as Paul Kurtz, sometimes are even hesitant to use the word 'atheist' because of all the baggage society has placed upon this word. They recommend a complementary approach with moderate believers working in ways to achieve earthly goals that all sides can support.

Of course there are benefits to each approach depending upon who is being addressed. With religious fundamentalists, I believe the slash and burn 'new atheist' approach is the only way of shocking the potential few converts out of their irrrationality and more importantly prevent moderates from moving to the extremes. With religious moderates traditional atheism can be more effective as reasonable evidence can be brought to bear and objectively discussed. The difficulty with religious moderates is that in defense of their moderate beliefs they provide cover and fertile ground for extremists among them.(witness islamic jihad) In addition it takes generations to modify their beliefs (witness the catholic church). Today we live in a world where those extremists can bring terror in horrendous ways to anyone, anywhere. Can we afford religious moderation when it inevitably fosters elements of blind faith and fundamentalist terror??

Some believe in "many paths to god".  I also believe this to be true except that my definition of 'god' might differ. Would it be more appropriate to say that there are "many paths to peace".??

Yes, there are many paths to 'peace', but not an infinite number of paths and the paths that do exist are not equal. The paths to follow are ones which not only make emotional sense to us, and give us inner harmony, but also are consistent with the physical world around us and our own humanity. A path which we find comforting and appealing but is not reflected in the world around us must be rejected and a new search begun. What feels "true to me" may be necessary but it is not sufficient.

Our traditional religious beliefs in the supernatural were born through our emotions during our species struggle to survive on this planet by providing group cohesion and some form of explanation of the world around us. It allowed us to expand our tribes and eventually create great civilizations. The enlightenment brought us the scientific method, technological wonders, and liberal democracy but it also brought us conflict with our traditional beliefs. Humanity must escape the cocoon of blind faith before we can insure our future survival and prosperity and find the peace we all seek.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

NPR.org - Irish Befuddled By New Blasphemy Law

anton becker thought you would be interested in this story: Irish Befuddled By New Blasphemy Law

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Freethought Today - FFRF Publications

Freethought Today - FFRF Publications

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Secular Christmas

A Secular Christmas

Atheism is the absence of belief in a god or supernatural force. Atheists cannot prove there is no god and are open to scientifically verifiable evidence of gods existence forcing them to rethink their position. To date, no such evidence has been provided therefore an absence of belief is the only rational position. Despite this humanity clings to theism. My suspicion is that our natural emotional responses to the dark events of life are what makes theism so firmly emeshed in our society. Christmas, as we all know, brings our emotions to the surface as we interact with our families and friends while expressing our most intimate beliefs.

I am no expert on loss or grieving. I am quite fortunate in this regard, and I thank "my lucky stars", even as i say it. One thing i do know is that we all have our moments of anxiety, confusion, anger, and maybe even despair and depression. We all find our individual ways to cope with these natural emotions when they arise in our lives and thankfully we get thru them as best we can. Of course we all fall back on and standby our families and loved ones to help us build our defenses against these dark tides. Many in our society, maybe most, also use their religious faith to bolster themselves against these trumatic events. It is this sturdy mesh of familiar tradition and theistic beliefs that atheists find themselves dwarfed by in both the private and public spheres.

Yes, atheists have families, and traditions, and history as well but these are fragile, relatively few and new. The pilings are not yet deep enough to forestall the darkest seas. When the difficult events of life occur for many atheists the only place to find comfort is right back in the theistic mesh. This is what i fear, that my rational, logical, skeptical viewpoint will be consumed by the desire for love and comfort. We all fear death, no matter our theistic fervor, but my atheist self also fears the death of my intellectual dignity due to some emotional crisis.

I have always loved christmas. Even as a non-believer I relish the season for the love and togetherness it brings. At the same time I recoil at the medieval superstitions practiced by the ones i love. When I find myself at the rare catholic mass I feel as the anthropologist does while observing the tribal customs of noble savages. The totality of christmas is lost for me. I treasure what remains but it is not what it once was for me.

So..... what is to be done. It is work, work driving those pilings deeper into the bedrock . It is establishing and supporting an atheist community in both the private and public spheres. It is fully supporting the seperation of church and state and it is fighting for the rights of anyone who is discriminated against because of their beliefs or non-beliefs..It is strengthening our educational system for the best defense against fundamentalist beliefs is a strong education. But, most of all, it is crucial to "come out", declare your non-belief and live a freethinker. It is to make Christmas as valuable a holiday to the atheist as it is to the theist.

Merry Secular Christmas and a Happy New Year

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What are our public schools for?

Why do we have public schools? To educate for sure, but that can be done in private and religious schools as well. Public schools serve a free society in many ways; they provide a standard for education, they provide access to all, they bring the community together, and when possible and at their best they bring diversity of ideas and culture. Also, students each day say the pledge of allegiance, learn about our form of government, and are taught to be good citizens. Students are taught to have respect for their teachers, their country and their legislators and president.

Our President is more than a politician, he is our country's leader for better or worse. It is this lesson of respect for our presidency that was tragically undermined by those who protested the presidents school speech. Furthermore, school administrators who did not show the presidents message to all children present were abdicating their role as educators and leaders. Every citizen who sends his child to public school enters into a contract with the values the public school system stands for. If a parent chooses to exercise his constitutional right to protest, boycott, or speak out they are free to do so and also free to keep their child at home. Despite the difficult position they were put in school administrators were required to show the presidents speech for they had no evidence of political manipulation to point to. Someone needed to stand up and tell the protestors - go ahead with your protest but we will not let bias and paranoia influence our public school system.

Please do not take my position as one who is against protests, criticism of government, free speech, or other forms of non-violent action. Our constitution gives us these rights and we are obligated to exercise them when we see fit. Our public schools are not immune from these actions but care must be taken as to the lessons learned by our children. Raw politics must not be a part of our public schools.

In their misguided attempt to prevent a president from doing so, those on the far right have in fact done exactly that.In the best light this was a case of not the president inserting politics into our schools, but the far right lunatics depositing their bile and poison. In the worst light, this is a case of racism both open and closeted. This cancer threatens our free liberal democracy. What are we teaching our children? It is time for us all to stand up.