Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion Highly recommended. Despite what you might have heard, Richard Dawkins does not spew venom in this book. Flames do not shoot out when you open it, nor does bile drip from the pages. Far from being an hysterical, rabid diatribe against religion, it is a quite measured, logical explanation of the evidence against God and why religion should not be treated with such reverence. (*****)
Daniel C. Dennett: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon I highly recommend this book for anyone who is about to embark on studying religion and atheism. Why do people enjoy music? Why do we like to socialize? Why do we sometimes become violent? Science has attempted to answer each of these questions. Dennett proposes that science attempt to answer another: Why are people religious? Even if one of the religions is true, that still means that billions of people believe religions that are not true. Why? What is it about our evolutionary past that makes us willing to believe? (*****)
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, Jack S. Cohen: The Science of Discworld You'll have to visit Amazon UK to locate this one. This book explains science concepts by comparing them to the decidedly different physical laws of the Discworld series. (****)
Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God" will be airing on Showtime, Showtime 2, and Showtime Showcase.
Here's the description:
Actress and comic Julia Sweeney chronicles her tumultuous journey of
faith from lapsed Catholic recommitting to the church to Buddhist, New
Age mystic, and finally atheist whose philosophical transformation
upsets her family in this fascinating one-woman stage show that follows
up her acclaimed "God Said, 'Ha!'"
Here's the schedule:
Dec 2, 10:45 AM (Showtime Showcase)
Dec 2, 9:35 PM (Showtime Showcase)
Dec 5, 1:30 PM (Showtime Showcase)
Dec 7, 8:00 PM (Showtime 2)
Dec 8, 5:30 PM (Showtime)
I haven't seen it yet (and I don't get Showtime), but I have heard the CD version (the audio of her one-woman show), and that is very good. It's interesting, funny, and poignant, and I highly recommend it.
YouTube has suspended the accounts of the James Randi Educational Foundation, Rational Response, and Atheist Media. The rumour floating around is that someone wrote a bot to automatically report all atheist-related YouTube accounts. We'll have to see how this plays out.
It would be nice if there was a presumption of innocence at YouTube, but apparently that isn't the case. Perhaps Vimeo is a better alternative.
On March 10, 2008, well-known skeptic and debunker James Randi spoke to a large crowd at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as did Nobel Prize winning chemist Richard J. Roberts. Several members of REALL and the Springfield Area Freethinkers made the trip to attend their talks.
An atheist group leader says he is the victim of a religious hate crime.
Freethought Association of Canada president Justin Trottier said he was assaulted at Ryerson University earlier this week while he and a colleague were hanging posters for a coming lecture.
Mr. Trottier, 24, and his colleague were hanging posters Tuesday night announcing a lecture by Victor Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis, when they were approached by two men.
One of the men hit him in the face twice, and butted him on his face, causing his nose to bleed, Mr. Trottier said.
So, was it a hate crime? The university and the police aren't treating it as such.
Were the attackers religious? (One might immediately object that they weren't acting religious, but that's a separate question. There's plenty of precedent to argue that attacking a non-believer is a very religious action, but we can debate that some other time.)
Assuming that the attackers were motivated by the fact that Mr. Trottier was publicizing an atheist event, would that make it a hate crime? Seems to me like it would. If Mr. Trottier was attacked because he was publicizing a Jewish event or a Muslim event, I don't think anyone would hesitate to call it a hate crime, so the fact that it was an atheist event shouldn't make any difference.
Of course, it's certainly possible that the attackers were motivated by nothing more than alcohol and boredom, in which case it was just a random event. However, unless there's something I'm missing here, it would seem prudent for the police to at least accept that this might have been a hate crime and investigate it as such to determine the truth.
(For those who wonder what the big deal is about hate crimes: If someone is going around killing everyone named "Sarah Connor" and your name is Sarah Connor, that is an implicit threat against you. It isn't just the immediate crime; it's the implicit threat against others that makes a hate crime worse.)
I received an email from Jill Maxick, Director of Publicity at Prometheus Books, saying that God: The Failed Hypothesis by Victor J. Stenger will appear at #21 on the next New York TImes Best Seller Hardcover Nonfiction Extended Best Seller List. (Coincidentally, #21 is where Letter to a Christian Nation is on the current list. The God Delusion is currently at #10.) Once it gets into the top 15, it will show up in the printed New York Times Book Review.
Yesterday I received an email from Victor J. Stenger, who said that he had just learned that his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, has made the New York Times Best Seller list. He doesn't know where it ranks yet, just that it will be on the "extended list" (i.e. the top 35 of hardcover nonfiction). At Amazon.com, it's #292 of all books.
This means that there will be THREE atheist books on the NYT best seller list at the same time:
Aside from it being pretty exciting that there are 3 atheist books on that list, I'm also happy because Victor Stenger will be speaking to our local skeptics group, the Rational Examination Assocation of Lincoln Land (REALL), on June 5. Being able to tell the local newspaper that a "New York Times Best Selling Author" will be speaking to your group sounds like a good way to get ourselves a little bit of publicity!
I found the whole piece a bit frustrating. The reporter, John Berman, seemed obviously biased against the group, at times bordering on hostile. I found the complaint that they were targeting teenagers to be particularly annoying. Religions target teenagers, so why can't atheists?
Berman also found it strange that people would spend their time opposing religion. Well, some people devote their whole lives to promoting religion, even swearing off sex and marriage to do so. I'm wondering whether he would be just as willing to label ministers and priests as odd?
Berman seemed to be unable to wrap his mind around the idea of God, Heaven, and Hell not existing. As a result, he seemed unable to grasp why atheists aren't worried about saying, "I deny the Holy Spirit".
And there was the usual "what if you're wrong" question, which should have been answered with "what if the Muslims are right and worshiping Jesus condemns you to Hell? What if the Hindus are right? What if the Norse were right? What if the Mormons are right? Which god should I worship?"
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, this reminds me of an event that happened to me in second grade. (For those of you outside the U.S., that means I would have been about 7 years old.) We had recently moved, so I was attending a new school. It was lunch time, and some kid was talking about ghosts. He asked me whether I believed in ghosts, and I said, "No".
Then he asked, "not even the Holy Ghost?", and I again said, "No". This got a shocked reaction as he immediately turned to the kids at the next table and exclaimed, "He doesn't believe in the Holy Ghost!" It was at that point that I realized that what he was calling the "Holy Ghost" my church called the "Holy Spirit". I was extremely embarrassed at my faux pas and couldn't bring myself to explain my misunderstanding.
I find it somewhat odd that I still remember that event 37 years later. I guess it must have been really dreadful, the feeling of being viewed as a heretic -- even though, at the time, I believed in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, just because everyone else did (or so I thought). It was another 10-15 years before I became an atheist.
If you haven't already seen it, here is the video promoting the Blasphemy Challenge: