Monday, 15 July 2013

Trayvon: deserved it?

I just stumbled across a post in which a Christian literally justified the murder of Trayvon Martin because Martin may have, possibly, someday become a mass murder like Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Apparently, Trayvon was at a high risk for committing a crime, so maybe killing him wasn't so bad?

I'm not exaggerating when I say this is one of the vilest things I've ever read.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Evidence. It's not hard.

What would it take to convince you that atheism is wrong? It’s actually not as easy a question as it sounds. Furthermore, it’s not as though Christians have presented no evidence to support their claims, it’s that they’ve presented very poor evidence.

But what exactly would constitute good evidence, if such a thing exists?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

When did atheists become militant?

According to Mark McIntyre, a Christian blogger, Jessica Ahlquist is a militant atheist. For those who may not recall, in 2012 Ahlquist won a court case in Rhode Island to remove a Christian prayer from the walls of her public high school.

While McIntyre also attempted to diffuse the anger and threats Christians have been hurling at Ahlquist, he nevertheless seems to have no qualms in reducing a young female atheist to little more than an angry caricature.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The habituation of a lie

Lately I’ve been coming to consider that religious belief, in particular ritual, is an unconscious method for people to accommodate inconsistencies between what they believe and how the world actually works.

Consider transubstantiation. In Matthew 26:26-28, Jesus said:
26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
From an early period in Christian thought, there was a belief in the literal transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. However, since this does not actually happen, a disconnect is formed between the desired belief and actual reality.

Such believers realize it’s not true, but they want it to be. So how do they make sense of this?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Letter to a psychic

I’ve heard you say,
"No one is more acutely aware of the unreliability of psychic powers than we are. But when it does work, it leaves us so astounded that we simply can't accept any materialist theory as sufficient."
What I can interpret from your words is something along the lines of, you don't always succeed at predicting the future, but when you do, it seems more significant than chance.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Psychic needs a chill pill. And actual abilities.

Chip Coffey, looking rather unhappy.
On Sunday, April 28, CFI Regina protested the dubious psychic Chip Coffey. Seven of us showed up to take a stand by handing out an informational pamphlet on cold reading and hopefully raise awareness of the ways psychics fool people.

Paul Dechene, a contractor for a local magazine called the Prairie Dog, also showed up. Check out his summary of the events on his website – they’re good stuff!

Our intent for the night was not necessarily to confront Chip or anyone in the audience, but rather to be respectful, courteous, and open minded. We didn’t even want to make claims about Chip himself, but rather about psychics generally, and allow the audience to draw their own conclusions in light of some basic cold reading principles.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Failures of the human mind

As an executive of my local Centre for Inquiry branch, I recently helped host an event where we brought in a Professor of Psychology, Dr. Chris Oriet, from the University of Regina to do a talk on human reasoning titled: Are humans reasonable?

Dr. Oriet holds his Ph.D in Experimental Psychology from the University of Waterloo. He is currently employed as an Associate Professor and as the Experimental and Applied Psychology graduate program coordinator.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Can atheism replace faith?

Let’s just get it out of the way that atheism means the lack of belief in God, or even as I would argue, an active rejection of God. However, that’s about as meaningful as saying Christianity is about following Christ, Judaism about following the laws of the Torah, or Scientology about being off-the-wall crazy.

Once you strip away your need to ascribe existence and purpose in life to a higher power, you inevitably begin looking for these answers elsewhere. Atheism does not necessarily proscribe this for you, but it’s not uncommon to find a sense of meaning in your own life through an appreciation for humanity, the universe and even science itself.

There’s a reason why if you visit an online community of atheists, you will frequently see references to Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and so on. On this very blog, if you look to your right you will see an entire playlist made by Symphony of Science, which is a fantastic remix that pays homage to these famous scientists and many, many more.

Monday, 1 April 2013

If theists want to put the ball in our court, it’s game on

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World
This phrase was popularized by Sagan as a simple explanation of what is wrong with arguing that, if we cannot disprove something, it must therefore be true.

Now his statement, especially in the manner he intended it, is certainly true. However, I would like to challenge its application somewhat, which I understand is an unpopular position, but hear me out on this. I believe that if God exists, then there should be evidence for him. If we cannot find evidence, this at least suggests he does not exist. It does not rule out the possibility of someday finding evidence, which would have been Sagan's contention, but it is in itself a form of evidence that shifts the balance of probability towards his non-existence.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

An infant’s regression: Deism is no threat, but you may be

I suspect anyone with a child has eventually had that conversation where they answer a question and are met with “Why?” Answer that question, and you will be met with the same question. Every. Single. Time. Until, ironically, you’re screaming like a baby, “WHY?!”

Granted, I don’t have a child, so I can’t say that this is the case. But since enough people say it, it must be true.

At any rate, to me, this is somewhat like debating with some theists. Not all of course, but some. “What caused the diversity of life?” Evolution. “What caused life, so that evolution could take place?” Probably abiogenesis. “What created inorganic matter, so abiogenesis could take place?” The Big Bang. “What created the Big Bang?”


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Science vs. Religion: The ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny

Is there a conflict between science and religion?

Well, yes and no. First, I’d like to say that there’s no question a person can be both scientifically literate and religious at the same time. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be tensions occasionally. Primarily, tension will occur when religion attempts to make factual statements about the world in which we live, and when science reaches a point that it can provide adequate corrections to these statements.

If it comes down to a disagreement between science and theology, theology will always back down. If it doesn’t, people will move on to the next religion that proved itself to be more adaptive – or they'll leave religion altogether.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Sword of Truth is sharpened by free inquiry

Is it really so much to ask for religious beliefs to be openly scrutinized? For the religious to be able to defend themselves against even the staunchest criticisms? To be held to the same successful standards as science? I firmly believe that one of the main reasons for the success of science is because of the fact that no ideas within its grasp are considered sacred.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Du bist ein Vogel* and the superstition of a bird
*Literally translated as 'You are a bird' but generally used to mean 'You're crazy!'"

By a significant margin, most people in the world are religious or at least have some spiritual/supernatural tendencies. There’s something like 2.3 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus and 700 million Buddhists. That leaves 1.1 billion with no religion, itself a loaded term that may well include a large number of spiritual, though non-denominational, individuals.

Therefore, it’s a compelling argument to wonder how it might be possible that such a vast number of people could also be wrong about something so important, so integral to our daily lives. Is the answer that we shouldn’t so readily cast our dice against these overwhelming odds? Or is there perhaps some other answer, some natural tendency among humans, explaining why we’re so easily taken in by religion?

Thursday, 31 January 2013

To the Universe: “I swear, baby, you’re beautiful the way you are”

I dare say there are two ways of looking at the development of knowledge over time. The first is like the progression along a ruler. As we learn more and more about the world, we scale the ruler and reach milestones – 5 centimetres, 10 centimetres, 15 centimeters... and so on.

But as we look back to where we came from, we notice that while we’ve moved forward, we can’t really tell the difference between where we started and where we are. It all rather looks the same.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

God is a cosmic mermaid

The other day, I was reading an article on atheism. The topic of the article really doesn’t matter since, to be frank, the moment an online article mentions god, everyone jumps down to the comments section and pretends the article never even happened. So there's a lesson, if you don’t want people talking about your article – mention God.

Reading these comments is like watching like a car crash: you're simultaneously horrified, remorseful and morbidly entertained. And you can't look away.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A message from your friendly, neighborhood atheist

Alright, so previously I talked about whether or not an atheist can make a moral claim. There are different ways you could fall on this argument, but ultimately I also said the question is moot. What matters isn’t whether atheists can make moral claims (we’ll make them regardless), but whether we actually are moral.

So, are atheists good people? As always, the answer is complicated, and I suspect I’ll be returning to this question from time to time, because it’s a *really* good one to ask. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

I’m a moral monkey (and so can you!)

I really find it interesting to discuss morality and how it relates to atheism. It’s a really important topic to me because, after all, what’s the point of getting so wrapped up in talking about this stuff if there isn’t some purpose at the end of it all? If asking these questions doesn’t somehow improve humanity?

I do believe that a secular society is a happier, more equal and more just society, but before I go there, I think I should first try to demonstrate that atheists can make moral claims in the first place.