Atheism writ large 4

billboard want a better worldbillboard keep religion out of politics

billboard imagine no religionbillboard don't believe in godbillboard beware of dogmabillboard being a good person doesn't require godbillboard are you good without god

billboard all religions are fairy tales


Posted under Atheism, United States by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 21, 2009

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Freedom and religion 0

Among free people there will always be many who hold absurd beliefs, such as those of Christianity. Some will hold beliefs that are not only absurd but cruel, such as those of Islam. The beliefs should be argued against. The people who hold them should not be persecuted, though they must be stopped from harming others. That remains in any case the most important function of law.

From an article by Luke Goodrich, Director of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in the Wall Street Journal:

The view of religion as a threat is, of course, common. “New atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins, are one manifestation of that view; he dubs the Catholic Church a “disgusting institution,” one of the “greatest force[s] for evil in the world.” But new atheists are not the only ones. Others cite a history of religious wars, Muslim oppression of women, or Christian skepticism of science as proving the dangers of religion. Backward, superstitious, and bigoted, a threat to science and progress: religion is a divisive, intolerant force that governments should tame.

There are two possible responses to this view. One is to attack the premise, arguing that, no, religion really is a force for social good. Religion motivated 19th century abolitionists; religion gave us Mother Teresa; religion permeates the Louvre.

But might there be reasons to protect religious freedom even assuming religion is harmful? I offer three.

First, a practical one: suppressing religion may exacerbate the very problems it is designed to solve. History shows that religion does not disappear when governments try to suppress it. It goes underground, sometimes erupting more violently than if it were not suppressed.

Second, empowering governments to deem religion harmful, and therefore suppress it, opens the door to tyranny. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are inextricably linked. If the government can deem religion harmful and suppress it in the name of public order, it can do the same to other ideas. It is no coincidence that many of the 20th century’s most tyrannical governments—Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia—made suppression of religion a centerpiece of their administration.

[Third] Finally, suppressing religion—even when done in the name of freedom and equality—strikes at the heart of human dignity, which is the foundation of all human rights. Every human being is born with a “religious” impulse—the urge to seek truth, to embrace the truth as one finds it, and to order one’s life accordingly. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “All human beings are born free” and are “endowed with reason and conscience.” Absent a serious threat of violence or imminent harm, suppressing religion interferes with people’s ability to be fully human, to seek and embrace the truth as they understand it. A serious commitment to human rights requires governments to respect the religious impulse—even if much of society thinks religious beliefs are wrong, silly, or even harmful. If the European Court of Human Rights cannot get past its fear of religion, its jurisprudence will only become more incoherent, and all human rights more fragile.

On the second and third points we agree. They are in defense of freedom.

To the first point – that persecution can strengthen an undesirable movement – we would add this maxim from our own Articles of Reason:

Many a belief can survive persecution but not critical examination.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Ethics, Islam, Law, liberty, Muslims, Religion general, Totalitarianism by Jillian Becker on Saturday, December 12, 2009

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An atheist trapped between two constitutions 5

From the Citizen Times, Asheville, North Carolina:

North Carolina’s constitution is clear: politicians who deny the existence of God are barred from holding office.

Opponents of Cecil Bothwell are seizing on that law to argue he should not be seated as a City Council member today, even though federal courts have ruled religious tests for public office are unlawful under the U.S. Constitution.

Voters elected the writer and builder to the council last month.

“I’m not saying that Cecil Bothwell is not a good man, but if he’s an atheist, he’s not eligible to serve in public office, according to the state constitution,” said H.K. Edgerton, a former Asheville NAACP president.

Article 6, section 8 of the state constitution says: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

Rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution trump the restriction in the state constitution, said Bob Orr, executive director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.

“I think there’s any number of federal cases that would view this as an imposition of a religious qualification and violate separation of church and state,” said Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Maryland’s requirement for officials to declare belief in God violated the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Additionally, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Bothwell’s campaign treasurer, Jake Quinn, said everyone should be entitled to their own beliefs.

“The test occurred on (Nov. 3),” Quinn said. “It was called an election.” …

We aren’t very perturbed for Cecil Bothwell who seems to be a lefty sort of guy. But it will be interesting to see how the constitutional contradiction is resolved.

Our Articles of Reason 1

We are re-posting our Articles of Reason – what we’re all about – because we have temporarily lost the permanent link to them on our front page.

***

ARTICLES OF REASON

A.    On Atheism

1.   Gods are creatures of the human imagination.

2.   Faith in imaginary beings does not prove their existence.

3.   All laws and moral rules are man-made.

NOTES

1.   An Agnostic may be a believer who is suspending his belief, or an unbeliever who is suspending his unbelief. If the latter, he is an atheist.

‘Seeing no reason to believe is sufficient reason not to believe’ – Karl Popper.

2.   Passionate devotion to a faith does not prove it to be true.

Many a belief can survive persecution but not critical examination.

3.   Justice is a human need and a human responsibility.

Justice may be elusive, but judgment is inescapable.

B.   On Conservatism

1.   Individual freedom is the necessary condition for prosperity, innovation, and adaptation, which together ensure survival.

2.   A culture constituted for individual freedom is superior to all others.

3.   Only the Conservative policies of the post-Enlightenment Western world are formulated to protect individual freedom.

4.   Individual freedom under the rule of non-discriminatory law, a free market economy, the limiting of government power by democratic controls and constitutional checks and balances, and strong national defense are core Conservative policies.

NOTES

Tyrants and socialist bureaucracies cannot know what people want, resist innovation, and cannot change in response to changing conditions.

Liberty and economic equality are incompatible.

The threat of totalitarianism arises when free markets are distorted by government manipulation, when free speech is constrained by rules protecting ideologies, including religions, from criticism, and when equality before the law is undermined by laws coercing economic equality.

When governments pursue ‘social justice’ – or redistribution, to give it its proper name – they rob industrious Peter to give a grant to indolent Paul. This is criminal and immoral.

Posted under Atheism, Conservatism by Jillian Becker on Thursday, May 7, 2009

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When in doubt, worry 6

From Cee Gee, who reviewed Richard Dawkins’s bad book on atheism for us (The God Delusion), we have received the following. We post it with a sigh for what it proves – that atheists can be as silly as believers. 

Atheists in Britain have placed posters on 800 buses which read: THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.

What a silly, woolly-headed muddle. What a waste of space. Not thought-provoking, merely provoking. Why "probably"? Why should God’s probable non-existence be grounds to stop worrying? Why should one stop worrying? Why should worrying preclude enjoyment of life? Are atheists happy chappies? Is the selling point of atheism its worry-free aspect, like maid service? 

Perhaps British atheists chose vapidity because of fears of outrage from adherents of the religion of peace, among others.

 

We invite readers to present alternative two-liners to advertise atheism in Britain, or elsewhere. Here are a few to start the ball rolling:

 

THERE’ S NO GOD. BUT SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS ARE WATCHING YOU. (Britain)

THERE’S NO GOD, SO THERE IS NO POINT IN BLOWING UP THIS BUS. (Britain)

NO GODS ALLOWED ON THIS BUS, EXCEPT FOR THE BLIND.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, January 6, 2009

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Respecting Christmas 0

 Burt Prelutsky writes:

Liberals are so intolerant they often can’t even bear to have people say “Merry Christmas” in their presence. In fact, they can’t even bring themselves to recognize it as a celebration of a specific event. Instead, they dismiss it as the holiday season or the winter solstice. Isn’t it funny how nobody feels the compulsion to exchange gifts or attend church services or decorate their homes for the summer solstice? Well, in spite of Kwanzaa and Chanukah, this is Christmas season because most Americans are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Even though I’m Jewish, even I have to acknowledge it’s a special occasion, and those who feel entitled to disparage it are worse than Scrooge. They are bigoted, intolerant, ignoramuses.

We entirely agree with him. 

And we think that the Jewish mother who protested about the singing of ‘Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ at her kid’s school was being narrow, intolerant, stupid, and wrong.  

However, about that atheist statement next to the Christmas creche in a government building in Washington, D.C., and the comments being bandied about that Christianity should be treated with respect, we have this to say: No religion has to be treated with respect. While it is good to treat people with respect, there isn’t an idea ever conceived that should not be criticized, with whatever emotion the critic feels, including contempt and disgust. Religious ideas are only ideas like any others, and trying to protect them by law (as the UN is now trying to protect the horrid ideas of Islam) is narrow, intolerant, stupid and wrong. 

Posted under Christianity, Commentary by Jillian Becker on Friday, December 12, 2008

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Respecting Christmas 5

 Burt Prelutsky writes:

Liberals are so intolerant they often can’t even bear to have people say “Merry Christmas” in their presence. In fact, they can’t even bring themselves to recognize it as a celebration of a specific event. Instead, they dismiss it as the holiday season or the winter solstice. Isn’t it funny how nobody feels the compulsion to exchange gifts or attend church services or decorate their homes for the summer solstice? Well, in spite of Kwanzaa and Chanukah, this is Christmas season because most Americans are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Even though I’m Jewish, even I have to acknowledge it’s a special occasion, and those who feel entitled to disparage it are worse than Scrooge. They are bigoted, intolerant, ignoramuses.

We entirely agree with him. 

And we think that the Jewish mother who complained about the singing of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ at her kid’s school was being narrow, intolerant, stupid, and wrong.  

However, concerning that atheist statement next to a Christmas Nativity scene in Washington State’s Capitol in Olympia, and the comments being bandied about that Christianity should be treated with respect, we have this to say: No religion has to be treated with respect. While it is good to treat people with respect as a general rule, there isn’t an idea ever conceived that should not be criticized, with whatever emotion the critic feels, including contempt and disgust. Religious ideas are only ideas like any others, and trying to protect them by law (as the UN is now trying to protect the horrid ideas of Islam) is narrow, intolerant, stupid and wrong. 

Posted under Christianity, Commentary by Jillian Becker on Friday, December 12, 2008

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On being an atheist conservative 3

 Here is an article by me, in NeoConstant: Journal of Politics and Foreign Affairs, setting out some of my thoughts as an atheist conservative. 

Extract:

I am a convinced law-and-order conservative, an eagerly practicing capitalist, an ideological libertarian. I accept enthusiastically the whole package of US Republican Party policy and sentiment – pro-America, pro-victory in Iraq, pro-gun, anti-abortion (with sensible reservations), pro-death penalty, pro-tax cuts, pro-smaller government, pro-spreading democracy and freedom throughout the world, pro-Israel, anti-welfare – all except one of its usual ingredients: belief in God. I do not accept God.

Quite simply, I cannot believe in God. I am old, past my three score years and ten, and decade upon decade I have read and listened, and there cannot be much that is old or new, famous, terse, verbose, smart, innocent, insidious, widely published or commonly uttered, learnedly debated or popularly discussed on the subject of God that I have not read or heard. Because religious beliefs have been a hugely important factor in our history and the shaping of our world and time, I have long been deeply interested in how and why religions begin and develop. I have pondered well the better pro-God arguments but have found none that will do. Not one. The very lack of proof of God’s existence is a fair argument for his non-existence if one needs to produce such a thing.

 

 

 

Posted under Articles by Jillian Becker on Saturday, July 19, 2008

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Evolution trumps intelligent design 6

Here is a long video (nearly 2 hours) which is thoroughly worth watching.  Scientist Ken Miller’s lecture on evolution versus intelligent design is absorbingly interesting and often very amusing.

Continue listening into question time. One of the questioners suggests that evolutionists – and so by implication atheists – must be on the political left.

The fact that many atheists think this way, and are probably driven leftward by their non-belief in the existence of God, shows how important it is for those who think as we do to demonstrate that conservative politics fit easily with atheism.

The lecture itself carries this message in the fascinating story of a Republican judge who came down firmly on the side of those who argued for evolution.

 

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Monday, May 26, 2008

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Neuroscience proves God? 0

In an article in Townhall (May 21, 2008), Chuck Colson asserts that recent research into phenomena such as religious experience  corroborates the "biblical idea" that we are "hard-wired" (!) for spirituality and God.

So it is human nature to believe in God, just as it is human nature to walk upright on two legs, to speak, and to use tools (my examples).

But if this is the case, how does he account for the untold millions of us who do not believe in God (but do walk  upright,  speak, and use tools)?

In defence of Christianity as the one true religion he goes on to deny that the hard-wiring is so general that only a vague spiritual mysticism is implied by the research, not particular doctrines.  He demonstrates this by  saying that Buddhist claims (for instance) of reincarnation cannot be substantiated. Presumably he means substantiated by reason.

Can virgin birth and resurrection in the flesh be substantiated by reason?

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, May 21, 2008

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