I guess there is a theme today….
Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:
I have neither the heart nor the time to reprise or analyze the latest salvo of attacks on New Atheists, so I’ll just list them here (with a brief quote from each) if you’re interested. These have, in fact, all appeared in the last few days, so something is afoot.
As a palliative, there’s one defense by Michael Luciano.
“The damnation of St. Christopher“: Michael Wolff rips apart Christopher Hitchens in British GQ Magazine.
On my page ‘When Religion Dies’ I wrote about the death throws of religion. At the time it seemed like that is what we would be seeing for a while. I didn’t know then that it was the beginning of an avalanche of anti-theism. Let’s be honest, the rise of the nones is anti-theistic. In the doctrines of theism, if you are not with them you’re against them. I did not anticipate the The Clergy Project, the rise of the ‘nones’, the sheer number of blogs and youtubers, the number of anti-theist books and on and on.
Today I got a comment on this page:
Not to you and me, but a lot of others still can’t speak out loud their truth about religion. But, absolutely, we’ve come a long way. Thank you.
This made me think. I replied: It is still often enough more convenient to use pseudonyms than real names, but at least people are speaking out now. When I first thought I might be atheist, I couldn’t name one other person that I knew was an atheist except for Madeline Murray O’Hare. Now I can name dozens, visit with them, drink with them, laugh with them, and talk freely with them.
I find that an inspirational statement, if you think about it. In just my lifetime, the world has changed that much. Then I got this:
Yes, with regards to what you just wrote, that is true. I was referring to people speaking out about their real feelings about religion and their religion in general, all the conditioning that says it’s a faux pas. My religious views are something I tend to keep to myself, outside of proclaiming I’m an advocate for tolerance and believe in kindness and acceptance for all. Thanks for the great conversation.
To me, this validates as necessary all the blogging and youtube videos and books and even the vitriol that we’ve witnessed in the past couple of years. So despite what might be found in the open letter included below, speak, read, write, talk, communicate. The only way to lose the right to be non-theistic is to not use that right. Clearly there are a growing number of people that would like to tell you how to use it. Not me. I won’t tell you how to. Just fucking use it!
If you can’t blog, make you a ‘God Hates Fags’ sign and cut the bottom third off of it… walk around speakers corner with that if it’s all you feel comfortable doing. Activism has no rules. Atheism has no rules. Anti-theism has no rules.
If you want to be a humanist or whatever, check their rule books. My atheism doesn’t have any!
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An Open Letter to the Secular Community
It is an amazing time to be part of the secular movement. Look at what’s happened in 2012 alone. We held the Reason Rally, the largest event our community has ever had, which brought over 20,000 atheists, humanists, and other secular people together on the National Mall. We are growing, attracting new people, and drawing more attention than ever before. A big part of that growth is thanks to our large and dynamic online community. Online secular communities have helped people encounter new ideas, deepen and broaden their thinking, and even change their minds.
A Problem with Online Communication
At the same time, the fact that so much of our community is online brings with it certain challenges. Communicating primarily online can make it difficult to recognize each other’s humanity. Online we don’t have the same vocal and physical cues to tell us what another person means by his or her comments, so it’s easier for misunderstandings to develop. The instantaneous and impersonal nature of online communication also makes it much easier for these misunderstandings to escalate, or for civil arguments to turn into bitter fights. Like many online communities, our comment and forum threads all too often become places for name calling and even threats, rather than honest dialogue based on mutual respect. Between the small but vocal number of abusive participants (often called “trolls”) who hurl threats and insults, and the overheated rhetoric of some ordinarily friendly and reasonable people, our online environment is in danger of turning toxic. Fortunately, our secular values of reason and compassion give us tools to rise above the lowest common denominator of online communication.
Our Position and Our Pledge
We, the leaders of the undersigned national secular organizations, pledge to make our best efforts toward improving the tone and substance of online discussions. The secular movement as a whole is friendly, welcoming, and committed to the use of reason and evidence as a means of resolving disagreements. We refuse to allow the deplorable conduct of a few to debase the reasonable, appropriate, and respectful conduct of the overwhelming majority of our community.
We seek to promote productive debate and discussion. We firmly believe open and candid discussion is the most reliable means of resolving differences of opinion and bringing about needed change.
Insults, slurs, expressions of hatred, and threats undermine our shared values of open and candid discussion because they move us away from an exchange of views supported with reasons.
Of course we will disagree with each other on some issues, but we can do a better job of expressing our disagreements. We can resolve to avoid mischaracterizing the positions of others, relying on rumors as the basis for our opinions, and using inappropriate tactics such as guilt by association. Instead, we can give one another the benefit of the doubt, strive to understand the whole story, and de-escalate rhetoric to foster more productive discussions. We can become better at disagreeing by treating each other like reasonable human beings.
It takes patience to educate people, but we can change how people think by having a constructive dialogue. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t bother in the first place to communicate online about important issues.
The Debate over Sexism and Feminism
Before listing some specific recommendations regarding improvement of online communications, we have observations about one particular set of interrelated issues that has engaged much of the secular community in the past year, namely sexism within the secular movement, the appropriate way to interpret feminism, and the extent to which feminism, however interpreted, should influence the conduct, policies, and goals of movement organizations. This set of issues is worthy of careful consideration, but in a few areas our positions should be very clear.
The principle that women and men should have equal rights flows from our core values as a movement. Historically, there has been a close connection between traditional religion and suppression of women, with dogma and superstition providing the rationale for depriving women of fundamental rights. In promoting science and secularism, we are at the same time seeking to secure the dignity of all individuals. We seek not only civil equality for everyone, regardless of sex, but an end to discriminatory social structures and conventions – again often the legacy of our religious heritage—that limit opportunities for both women and men.
Unfortunately, the discussion of these issues has suffered from the same problems that plague online discussion in general—although arguably to a greater extent. Some blogs and comments actually exhibit hatred, including rape threats and insults denigrating women. Hatred has no place in our movement. We unequivocally and unreservedly condemn those who resort to communicating in such a vile and despicable manner.
Here are some things that we plan to do to make our online secular community a place where we can exchange ideas and views instead of insults. We hope that others may also find this approach useful.
By improving our online culture, we can make this movement a place that engages, fulfills, and welcomes a growing number and increasing diversity of secular people.
David Silverman, President, American Atheists
Rebecca Hale, President, American Humanist Association
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Chuck VonDerAhe, President, Atheist Alliance of America
Richard Haynes, President, Atheist Nexus
Ayanna Watson, CEO, Black Atheists of America, Inc.
Mandisa L. Thomas, President, Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
Mynga Futrell, for Brights Central, at The Brights’ Net
Amanda Metskas, Executive Director, Camp Quest
Ronald Lindsay, President and CEO, Center for Inquiry
Tom Flynn, Executive Director, The Council for Secular Humanism
Jan Meshon, President, FreeThoughtAction
Joseph McDaniel Stewart, Vice President, FreeThoughtAction
Margaret Downey, Founder and President, Freethought Society
D.J. Grothe, President, James Randi Educational Foundation
Stuart Jordan, President, Institute for Science and Human Values
Jason Torpy, President, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Edwina Rogers, Executive Director, Secular Coalition for America
August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director, Secular Student Alliance
Todd Stiefel, President, Stiefel Freethought Foundation
Fred Edwords, National Director, United Coalition of Reason
Each of us animals is running a simulation of the world in our brains. We use our sensory data to inform that simulation. This causes a ‘buffering’ effect as data is processed for presentation to our conscious minds. It’s fast enough that we don’t notice it because as babies we trained our minds to work with the delay between sensory data and muscle movement. For the most part we never notice but there are times that we do and there are ways to see the delay. All we need is a film camera which is many times faster than our visual sense data systems. To witness this, here you go… enjoy. Two Simulations Crashing together
In slow motion you can see all the delays that we normally do not notice. You see the imperfections of the human’s aim, the delay in the turtle’s response etc. When shown in normal speed, it all happens fast and seems accurate. This is why using our simulation to consider the simulation running in our brains is difficult. Nothing is as it seems.
TomTomPiper celebrates 300 subs with a thought that is awesome. Enjoy, subscribe to his channel.
Read the Guardian article! jonnyscaramanga’s blog is good ….
Originally posted on Leaving Fundamentalism:
I decided to get out the big guns this time. I uploaded scans of all the relevant PACE pages and linked to them from the text. Anyone who wishes to accuse me of misrepresenting the facts now has quite a lot of evidence to contend with.
This one hasn’t created quite the enormous splash on facebook that my last one did, so if you could share it with your friends (the Guardian link, not this blog post), I’d really appreciate it.