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catching up

Backberries are in season somewhere in the world because they are really cheap in the stores right now, and I've been eating them every day. :)

Giving exams this week, so I have some time to kill until the first class of the day is finished. After that, I can grade their papers during the next class. So, I'm using the time to catch up on links I've been saving to talk about on the blog. Sorry about the flurry of posts.

I watched an interesting Intelligence-Squared debate on whether atheism was the "new fundamentalism". As any atheist will assert, that a crock of shit. Atheism doesn't have any core beliefs; it's an absence of belief. How can you be fundamentalist about that? Though, I suppose it's just their way of being derogatory, words have meanings, and this is being pushed too far. It's no different than calling Obama a socialist... yeah, I'm not a socialist, and I'm way further left than him!

I tweeted (@theonides) about the debate while I was watching the recording. Some of the arguments from the believers were pathetic and insulting, not to mention counterfactual. But the debate was followed up by this story in the Telegraph. The author completely missed the point.

For one thing, he's harping about a lack of courtesy from the atheists? In an age when believers refuse to drive buses with the most innocuous signs on them ("You are not alone?") supporting atheism/atheists, we are the ones being accused of lacking courtesy? If I hadn't reread it, I would never have believed he'd said it in the first place.

And he also missed the point about atheists outnumbering the believers. The proof was not in the number of people for or against the proposition, but rather the change in the number of people who were supporting it, or undecided. The undecideds clearly moved into the "no" position at the end, by a large majority, proving that the believers totally failed to make their case.

I also didn't understand this quote from the article: "Moore's charge that the atheists were engaged in a narrow pursuit of literal truth above all else began to ring true."

Regardless of Moore's position, what is wrong with pursuing truth? And why would anyone pursue something other than "literal" truth? What use is metaphorical truth, for instance? And what does that have to do with art? There is no break between creativity and atheism, or creativity and truth.

I also don't understand this comment: " And increasingly, it looks like a cult, with Dawkins its leader."

A cult? Again, what is with the religious metaphors here? I don't consider Dawkins my "leader", nor PZ Myers, nor Christopher Hitchens, nor any of the other Four Horesemen, or anyone else. We are simply fellow travelers who happen to agree with each other. I became an atheist long before I'd ever heard of Richard Dawkins. Nor do I consider The God Delusion my Bible. I listened to it once on audiobook; it was enjoyable and I haven't listened to any of it since. I don't turn to it for guidance or worship it in a secret ceremony.

And again, real cults are extremely dangerous creatures, demanding people break ties with their families, and all that. Dawkins advocates nothing of the kind, and it's hardly his fault if religious families expel their own members because of differing religious views.

It is impossible not to see the contrast between the language that is being used against atheists and their actual religious counterparts. Religious cults kill people. Atheist "cults", I guess, put signs on buses?

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