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Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God…. Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I’m just not very high on atheists.

George H. W. Bush on Aug 27, 1987.

The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit. On the other hand, I don’t see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord.

George W. Bush on Jan 10, 2005.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.

Barack Obama on Jan 20, 2009.

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Via a post by Althouse, I was alerted to this recent Richard Dawkins quote about children reading Harry Potter and other fantasy fiction:

I think it is is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don’t know…

I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious [e]ffect on rationality, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s something for research.

In fact, Dawkins goes further than simply advocating that children should not read Harry Potter. He thinks identifying children by their religion or even teaching them your religious views, is child abuse:

Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality […]

It’s a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn’t want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it’s as bad as many forms of physical abuse.

It is worth noting that Dawkins also once advocated that legal action be taken against astrologers under trade laws.

Now, I am an atheist. However, on the Harry Potter issue, I am more inclined to agree with the Althouse commenter who writes:

Does he have kids? Does he remember being a kid? Does he approve of the way our culture infantilizes children through and beyond the age of 18?

To which I could add some more — does he understand freedom? Imagination? The simple fact that indulgence in fantasy is a necessary component of growing up?

Also, I am disturbed by his tendency to impose rationalism via coercion. For a very personal take on coercion vs science, read this old entry of mine.

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One of the great tragedies of modern USA, particularly seen in the modern Republican party, is its disdain for intellectualism and love for dumbing down. Do you pronounce foreign words correctly? It’s a liability. Eat aragula? Terrible! Skeptical about the existence of God? Kiss your chances of ever getting elected to office goodbye.

On the other hand, if you believe in creationism and are able to say the phrase “Joe-six-pack” faster than your predecessor can yell “nucular”, you have a good chance of getting nominated for the Vice-Presidency. And wait, you actually don’t give a hoot what researchers think? Congratulations, you are President.

(‘Pock-i-stahn’ Hat Tip: The Agitator)

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When I first read about P.Z. Myers’ decision to destroy a consecrated communion wafer (which he followed up with actual action), I was appalled at his lack of regard for the feelings of a billion people who had never personally offended him. I was inclined to agree with Andrew Sullivan’s characterisation of his action:

It is one thing to engage in free, if disrespectful, debate. It is another to repeatedly assault and ridicule and abuse something that is deeply sacred to a great many people.

Let me make it absolutely clear though: I never disputed he had the right to do it. However, having a right and exercising it are not the same thing. For instance, we have the right to be unfaithful to our spouse but we usually condemn those who indulge in such behavior. (This is why libertarians correctly distinguish between the legal and the moral.)

Thus, while I viewed Myers’ action as an exercise of his inalienable right to free expression, I did think it was an uncivil and hurtful act that did nothing for the cause of atheism or rationality. However the angry reaction of fundamental Catholics (who are now calling for a law against blasphemy) has tempered my view of the matter. Being nice to people is a wonderful trait but there can be no real compromise with those who believe in enforcing niceness through censorship. Unfortunately there is ample evidence that this kind of thinking is not limited to fringe groups (see, for instance some of the comments below Eugene Volokh’s post on the matter).

I am not sure what the appropriate reaction to religious fundamentalists is. Myers’ way — which I certainly sympathize with —  may not unfortunately be the most effective approach to quieten them.  However, I happily welcome attempts to convince me it is; anyone who succeeds in doing that earns a photo of me destroying a holy cracker. No kidding.

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An excerpt from the 1954 Albert Einstein letter that was recently sold at auction for £170,000.

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

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From a CNN news story:

Like hundreds of young men joining the Army in recent years, Jeremy Hall professes a desire to serve his country while it fights terrorism.

But the short and soft-spoken specialist is at the center of a legal controversy. He has filed a lawsuit alleging he’s been harassed and his constitutional rights have been violated because he doesn’t believe in God. The suit names Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“I’m not in it for cash,” Hall said. “I want no one else to go what I went through.”

Known as “the atheist guy,” Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and — just as severe to some soldiers — gay, none of which, he says, is true.

Link.

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An Illinois assemblywoman goes ballistic at a witness for preaching a destructive philosophy, one that she rages is so dangerous that children should not even know that it exists.

The philosophy being .. umm .. atheism.

(Link via The Volokh Conspiracy)

 

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