It’s that time of the year when people travel around, and I’m no exception. I will be traveling abroad over the next couple of weeks with next to no access to the internet. Thus, you will not see any entries here until at least 01/11/09. I need to get a blog partner to keep things going when I can’t.
It is a common topic in skeptic circles. Where should we stand in matters of religion? Does skepticism imply atheism? Or is it the other way around? What is the connection? Is there one? Should we even bother? Do we mention this at all?
I am going to share my thoughts on the issue. I don’t suppose I’ll be changing anyone’s mind, but that’s not the purpose of this entry anyway.
What this boils down to is to a person’s conception of what skepticism and atheism are. It is a matter of definitions and using different definitions you could reach various answers to the above questions. Therefore, before I proceed I want to give broad definitions of what atheism and skepticism mean to me. The ensuing discussion is based solely on such definitions.
Atheism – Lack of belief in God/Gods.
Skepticism – A method of acquiring and interpreting information based on the scientific method, which includes a requirement of scientifically acceptable evidence to back up any claims and which categorically excludes all and any fallacious arguments.
So, starting with the above two definitions let us examine the relationship, if any between the two.
Does Atheism lead to Skepticism? – Not necessarily. There are many reasons why a person may lack belief in God. A devotion to facts and evidence is only one such reason. Other reasons include personal tragedy, dogma, or simply lack of exposure to religious beliefs. None of these necessarily imply or lead to a skeptical worldview. It is very possible for a person to be an atheist and at the same time believe wholeheartedly in astrology and homeopathy. Lack of belief in one supernatural phenomenon does not necessarily imply lack of belief in all supernatural phenomenons, let alons lack of belief due to lack of evidence.
Does Skepticism lead to or imply Atheism? – It must. If one is bound to evidence and the scientific method as a skeptic, there is no real scenario under which a skeptic could also be theistic or even agnostic. Each of these two positions requires a temporary suspension of one’s skepticism. There is as much evidence of God’s existence as there is for Bigfoot’s existence. The lack of evidence must necessarily lead to rejection of the claim under the skeptical worldview as defined above, regardless of the claim. Unless one is willing to call themselves a skeptic who believes in Bigfoot or is agnostic about Bigfoot’s existence, one cannot call themselves a skeptic and believe in God or be agnostic about God’s existence.
Honestly that would amount to nothing less than special treatment for the God Hypothesis, treatment that is not extended to any of the other hypotheses the skeptic usually investigates. I find this position indefensible from a logical standpoint, and dare I say hypocritical.
Should we identify ourselves as atheists as well as skeptics, or should we keep quiet on the issue? This is more of a personal choice each one of us must make. It is well known that atheist as a group are not very well liked especially in the US. So from a marketing point of view I can understand why one may shy away from professing their atheism while wearing their skeptic hat. I mean, one bad rap is bad enough without having to complicate it with a second bad rap right?
Nevertheless, I think that we must be true to ourselves and fight every injustice in every front. Just like a black gay does not have to choose if he should fight for equal rights for gays or blacks, we shouldn’t have to choose if we’re gonna fight the skeptic fight or the atheist fight. We can, and we should, fight both to the best of our abilities. That is not to say that people shouldn’t specialize in one or another, and spend most of their time in one area, in order to be more effective. It simply means that we should not shy away from a religious/atheist argument solely because we don’t want that to interfere with our skeptical agenda.
A real skeptic is also an atheist (as defined above), or he’s not a real skeptic. What’s your take on this whole thing?
Dining out or, as lesbians refer to it, “eating out,” removes families from the home, relieves wives of their god given duty of preparing meals for their children and husband/master (thereby making wives slothy, fat and unattractive), and allows different family members to eat food that their family members are not eating. This, of course, destroys family togetherness and disrupts the meals of families who do decide to eat traditional dinners at home.
Now that Washington State has approved the addition of a Festivus pole to the holiday display at the state capitol, I think we can properly hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner on our metaphorical air craft carriers. Yes, combat operations have ended in the so-called “Christmas wars.” Of course, atheists can only join the celebration as observers since we were never actually involved in the conflict. In fact, it turns out that the only combatant in this bitter dispute, a handful of dimwitted Christians, have finally achieved victory over themselves. They have made a thorough mockery of the very holiday they were allegedly defending from imagined threats.
At first, nobody objected to the “holiday tree” erected in the Washington State Capitol. However, a handful of thin-skinned Christians soon decided that using the more inclusive term “holiday” was a blow to their preferred religion. They requested the addition of a nativity scene, and with the help of a lawsuit filed last year by the Alliance Defense Fund, their request was granted this year.
The thing is, Washington State recognized that the only legal way to permit a nativity display in a public building would be to permit all other groups to add their own displays. So, in getting their nativity scene, the Christians opened the door to virtually any other sort of display. Washington State deserves credit for understanding the implications of the Establishment Clause.
Some time ago I heard a series of Skepticality episodes (original episode and a later response to the original episode where they talked about an article written by Daniel Loxton, titled “Where Do We Go From here? Has classic skepticism run its course?“. For a while I had wanted to comment on this episode, but had not gotten around to it, until today…
The essential points that he makes (at least as far as I read it) are:
- There is a feeling that skepticism has “won” (maybe not a complete victory, but if somebody wants to know the truth of just about any pseudo-science, the evidence is available)
- The top skeptics of the movement (James Randi, Paul Kurtz, etc) are aging, and many in the movement are tired of fighting the same old battles year after year
- Skepticism and the focus of skeptics seems to be shifting away from the old paranormal foes
- We need to get back to our roots and not only fight them again, but with renewed vigor
- There are two proper areas of focus for skeptics.
One is the promotion of science literacy and critical
thinking (often using the paranormal as a pedagogical
tool); the other is consumer protection in fringe science
areas — in particular, as regards paranormal claims
- That the skeptical community are the ones best equip to fight against the scams, shams, and charlatans who are using fraudulent methods to bilk people of their money, and in some cases their lives
- And finally that skepticism should under no circumstances become entwined with and religious (or lack of religious) or political beliefs
While I know that many of my readers are perhaps to used to my long winded posts, I also understandthat no everybody wil lwant to read the full 9 page pdf of this, but I would suggest checking out the two Skepticality episodes (most particularly the first) to hear in his own words, how Daniel Loxton believes we should move forward, by going back ot what got us here in the first place…
We will always need people who still want their chance to slay the dragon.
Let’s go to work.
BANGALORE, India (Reuters) – Thousands of parents and their children protested outside hospitals in the southern Indian city of Bangalore following false rumors that children had fallen sick after being given polio drops, police said on Monday.
Police said nobody had fallen ill from the vaccine and filed a complaint against a local TV station, saying it helped spread panic following the rumors of children contracting fever and vomiting.
Police used megaphones to cool tempers at a government hospital on Sunday night where more than 3,000 people had gathered, as traffic slowed to a crawl in parts of the infotech city.
Protesters pushed some doctors and smashed hospital windows, after their children were administered polio drops as part of a government immunization drive launched more than a decade ago.
Oh Ed, Ed, Ed what would we do without you!
RIYADH (AFP) – A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty, a lawyer involved told AFP.
“The judge has dismissed the plea (filed by the mother) because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty,” lawyer Abdullah Jtili told AFP in a telephone interview after Saturday’s court decision.
The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl’s divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.
“She doesn’t know yet that she has been married,” Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.
Prepare thyself, he who reads this, to tremble and quake before the Incredible Word of God, as written by THE LORD HIMSELF!
In the spirit of the Season of My Son’s Birth, which is apparently love, I grant the faithful readers of My Divine Blog the chance to send Me their Christmas prayers.
I don’t know why any of you ever waste your time asking your family and friends or Santa for gifts, when it is I, The Almighty God, who allows any gifts for anyone.
Naturally, you will be expected to follow the usual protocol I expect. All Christmas prayers must begin with ‘Dear’ and some variation of praise unto Me, His Beautiful Handsome Awesomeness, The Almighty Lord your God. You must then humbly send Me your prayer, and be sure to give proper respect throughout by capitalizing all mentions of My Wondrous Person. You must also wish Me a ‘Merry Christmas’ and verily, when your prayer is concluded, you must thank The Lord profusely and then say ‘Amen.’ If you please Me I may grant your Christmas prayer. If you disrespect Me, you or your child may open a present only to discover a dead puppy. Unless that’s what you wanted.
Note: There will be no Christmas Miracles this year. I’m too tired and none of you deserve it anyway.