Beta Culture: Dealing With Conservatives

Had a little epiphany today about the sense of humor, and why ultra-conservatives don't seem to have much of it.Humor requires a certain flexibility of mind, a capacity to quickly change mental directions. The lead-in to a joke sets up a certain expectation, then the punchline forces a radical departure from that expectation. The unexpectedness makes us laugh. A Hasidic Jew walks into a New York City bar with a frog on his shoulder. The bartender says "Where the heck did you get THAT?" The … [Read more...]

One Billion Atheists

When I started as an atheist activist 15 or 20 years ago, one thing was clear to most of the atheists I talked to: Every person had to get here on his/her own.In other words, it was decidedly wrong to proselytize. The thought was that atheism -- the good, solid, workable kind -- was this conclusion reachable only after much personal introspection and observation. That merely getting people to say "I'm an atheist" was empty and useless. Such an atheism would be no different from religion -- a … [Read more...]

A Dark Tide in Human Affairs

Dark Tide copy

I was thinking today about large-scale social motion in a negative direction. Not as some sort of accident, but as the result of some deeper human sociological/psychological tides.I think of bikers and biker culture. The skull motif so penetrates biker culture that it makes its way onto everything -- bikes, t-shirts, leather jackets, bandanas, helmets, face masks, even tattoos. It's interesting to me that this nihilistic image is of such unquestionable importance, and has no … [Read more...]

Death & Dying, Unbeliever Style


I'm late to the party, but Greta Christina has a new book on death and dying as it relates to unbelievers. So far available only in audiobook and digital versions, ordering links to Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God are listed on her blog.An earlier post on Alternet covers the ground on  what to say as a bystander to someone dealing with death -- When It's Not God's Plan: 8 Things to Say to Grieving Nonbelievers.Finally, one of my own thoughts on the … [Read more...]

Reimagining the Conceptual Foundation of Atheism


Inevitably, in any discussion with those critical of atheism, you'll hear "You can't prove there's no God, therefore atheism is not logically supportable."Here's the counter: There's this thought experiment we've been conducting for the past three centuries or so, the thought experiment of "What if everything works by completely natural laws and forces, with no capricious supernatural superbeings involved?"It doesn't matter whether or not the supernatural superbeings exist! We just … [Read more...]

Goodness and Guilt on the Dark Edge of Life

I’m thinking about guilt as a driving force of religion.If you treat somebody badly, and they later die before you have a chance to apologize or correct your action, you have no way to make it right with them. If you’re religious, though, you can regain balance both through the ceremonial forgiveness your religion offers and through the “knowledge” that you will either see them again and have the chance to make it right, or that they’re alive-after-death and able to see you, hear you, as you … [Read more...]