Your Thoughts?

This is an open thread. Talk about whatever you like. Resume any discussion of issues you didn’t feel like were resolved in previous comments threads. If you’re a reader who has never really introduced yourself, it would be great if you told me a little about yourself. You can also share Your Thoughts on Camels With Hammers, pro and con.

Why the open thread? Well, it pains me to have to do this, but I have overdue academic writing to finish and so I am forbidding myself to write any new blog posts until it’s done. I could aggregate some stuff and I could run some preprogrammed posts I have lined up. But then that would not help my motivation as much as I need. I feel terrible when I’m not blogging, it’s become a therapeutic necessity for me to write my ideas out as regularly as possible, and so hopefully the desperation to resume blogging will give me incentive to get caught up on this other responsibility.

So, soon as I’m caught up with that other writing (and get some of my not yet overdue grading done), I plan to blog in earnest again—hopefully even squeezing in a couple posts this weekend during my weekend in DC.

When I resume a top priority is to start answering the solicitations for Philosophical Advice I’ve been receiving and to reply to recent objections to my definition of faith.

If you really miss me in the meantime, you could listen to that interview I gave to Whatever Whatever Amen that hardly any of you have been clicking on. It’s really good! Okay, I’m biased. But I really like it!

Okay, see you when I’m done writing. In the meantime, the blog is yours: Your Thoughts?


About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Reverend PJ

    Hi Daniel,
    Since you ask…. I’m a computer science professor, and am currently avoiding grading. In my spare time I conduct strictly secular weddings for students and family friends.

    – rev. pj

    • Daniel Fincke

      That’s wonderful, PJ! I’ve been thinking of how to get into that kind of thing. How does it work?

    • Reverend PJ

      I did the online ordination years ago which satisfies the legal requirements in my state. It’s an immense amount of fun and far more rewarding that I executed. Once someone approaches me to do their wedding we sit down and chat for a few hours. The chat generally goes something along the following lines:

      1) Do you want to get married?

      2) Are you sure?

      3) Here are the laws of the state.

      4) Any questions?

      5) Suggest that if they feel the need for pre-marital counseling, they see an expert.

      About 2 months before the wedding we review the procedure for getting a marriage license. Once we’ve covered the legal issues we take my standard ceremony as a starting point and work out a ceremony for the couple. Usually we go through a couple of iterations, and then I give them a rough timeline for the paperwork.

      The day before the wedding we all meet at the venue and have 3 walkthroughs of the ceremony and I get copies of the vows if they’re done. After the rehearsal we party down.

      On the wedding day I get to the venue about 1.5 hours ahead of time, chat with any musicians/DJs to work out timing. After the wedding starts, the time ranges from 15 minutes to 45 minutes for the actual ceremony and then another party. Since I don’t have any ecclesiastical garb I’ve worn suits, kilts, and top hats for the wedding. For one wedding I worked with the couple and we had a Star Trek rehearsal, moderately freaking the parents out. :)

      I’m looking at obtaining the secular celebrant certification.

      I generally ask for help with travel and lodging, and if they feel the need to spend more ask that they donate money to a charity.

      In the end, one of the best parts is helping make people a bit happier. A major part of my day job makes people unhappy so some balance is nice.

  • Rocky

    Daniel, I’m a pretty new reader of your blog, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a scientific naturalist, a Freethinker, a Humanist, a skeptic, and a “hard” atheist. I’m also a retired police Detective (forensic scientist), tennis player, and R/C sailplane flier. My wife, who’s a Bible-based Christian, won’t let me put a Flying Spaghetti Monster emblem on my car. She says it’s too mocking of her beliefs. Though I love to “debate” and “argue” about religion, she and I often have to nip it in the bud as she gets her feelings hurt–thinking that I’m attacking _her_ rather than her beliefs.
    Take care,

    • Daniel Fincke

      Nice to meet you, Rocky! My dad is a former detective too (a fire marshall). As to your wife, I really feel for you. That’s our greatest challenge, how to adequately separate critique of beliefs from critique of identities, especially when it comes to religious beliefs.

  • Stan Brooks

    Hi Dan, good luck with the grading. As to the secular celebrant thing, I know CFI has some sort of certificate for that purpose, but there are probably other avenues that will get you there as well.

    Again, have fun with the grading. I’ll go listen to your interview now.

  • aaron

    Hi Dan -

    Started reading your blog a little while before the move to FTB and have been reading since. I’m about to start grad school in mathematics, but I’ve always had a soft spot for philosophy (and, honestly, who else can understand the love of logic better than philosophers and mathematicians?) Yours is also one of the blogs I deny myself when I have a backlog of math research or practicing….which I do now, so…

    Regarding the secular weddings — I officiated a couple years ago at my sister’s secular wedding. I can’t recall the organization off the top of my head — it wasn’t ideal, more of an interfaith thing than strictly secular (but no need to profess any faith whatsoever) — but you could basically fill out an online form and they would certify you as a reverend. (Oh, here it is:

  • John Morales

    The more I consider the matter, the more I like the level 1 comment nesting.


  • machintelligence

    Hi Dan: Good luck with the paperwork. I have been working my way through Philosophy Without Any Gaps, but after 30 odd episodes it no longer seems to be available. Is there an active link? Thanks.

    • Alex Songe

      They may have changed the mp3 urls. See: for an updated feed. I’m up to date at episode 72! I look forward to my Monday morning commute after the Sunday release of History of Philosophy: Without Any Gaps.

  • Ace of Sevens

    If someone makes a bad, or woefully incomplete argument about a sensitive subject where you mostly agree with them, what are you supposed to do? If you point out the flaws in their argument, they’ll figure you disagree with them, which can get ugly with touchy subjects. If you point out the flaws and agree with them, they think you are concern trolling. I can’t think of a solution.

    • Daniel Fincke

      You need bona fides. If you have them, people will know the difference from concern trolling. Also if your emphasis is on the truth and not “I’m just worried about how others might take this” it’s not concern trolling. You can emphasize that your issue is truth-focused.

  • Donovan

    Hey Dan,

    I’ve been reading your blog since FTB came out and had followed a few links to previous writings of yours, though I don’t remember what.

    I’m a recently discarded microbiology lab instructor in search of a grad school. My own focus is on stream ecology. But I started my academic career in the humanities and had barely begun work on a BA in linguistics when the economy crashed and I lost my tuition assistance, had to change to a cheaper school, had mid-degree crisis, embraced my addiction to science blogs to cope, and voila!, turns out I’m not bad at the sciences. I’m even better than I was at linguistics.

    I like philosophy, but find too much hinges on the authority of the philosopher and not the argument. My philosophy professor thought the argument, “Since we can conceive of a god, there must be one,” was absolutely brilliant, for instance, while I thought accepting that argument made my professor absolutely childish and doltish. Any thoughts on this, or do you find that, on the whole, I am wrong in my assessment?

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thanks Donovan. Without getting into the ontological argument from the idea of a perfect being to its existence, it is not an argument from authority. And neither is other philosophy. Philosophy requires rigorous argumentation. When philosophers cite great philosophers or current specialists it is not because they have any special authority but because there is at least a presumption that someone who is a leader in their specialization or who has an enduring historical philosophical model likely has something to say and good reasons for their judgments. We still have to assess them for themselves but there is a presumption that what they say may have some weight before dismissing it, given the general systematic thoroughness and precision of their thought.

      But all philosophers know dozens of reasons to reject dozens of ideas from even the most revered historical philosophers.

    • aaron

      In my experience (limited to philosophy classes), philosophers tend to reference other philosophers not from the idea that that proves the argument, but to establish context. Saying, “Kierkegaard argues that true faith requires doubt” gives other philosophers an idea of where you’re coming from, because they’ll be familiar with the debate surrounding Kierkegaard’s ideas.

      This took some getting used to, coming from a maths/science background, because in STEM fields there are certain well-established facts and theories that can be used for building blocks, so you don’t have to reference Euclid or Einstein anymore, they are part of the consensus. But philosophy is much more challenging in the sense that you are debating the very meanings of words and root concepts, so you can’t ever assume that everyone knows what “morality” means, there needs to be a reference point that everyone in the discussion can start from.

  • reasonbeing

    Daniel–good luck grading. I am a former teacher myself. I want to take second and thank you for your blogging. I look forward to reading daily. Your blogs are always well thought out.

    I have been an atheist for a long time, but just started becoming active. The political and religious scene here in the U.S. is just more than I can take quietly. That is why I started my blog and am looking for more ways to become active in the small atheist community where I live.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thanks reasonbeing, it kills me to not be providing daily material this week! But the article is nearly done. Friday I should ramp up while hopefully using the wi-fi on Amtrak train to Reason Rally!

  • anon atheist

    Libby Anne as left FTBs. These kind of things sometimes draw attention and sometimes don’t. I think in this casse it is at least worth noting.

    • John Morales

      Her choice (which she announced some time ago, thus noting it).

      (May she prosper at the pathetic place)

    • Daniel Fincke

      Yes, Libby Anne is leaving. I will say something eventually. She and I have become pretty close in the last month and so it’s kind of hard for me to see her go.

  • Ace of Sevens

    I’d recommend checking out Natalie Reed’s latest post. Amy Dentata makes an argument so ridiculous that’s it’s hard to believe she isn’t some straw PC-zealot in some story about a daring conservative standing up against the liberal establishment on campus.

  • http://N/A Mylene Berkowitz

    Hi,I am not an Atheist, I’m not sure what my religious denomination is. I was drawn to your blog by the Atheism and Wicca series, which I find interesting because I don’t hear a lot of critical commentary on Wicca anywhere. I like it because I have read books about Wicca as a seeker and was always confused about what it meant, even after authors’ explanations which is what led me to investigate and try to google things.

    My comment is you suggest in one of your posts that any Religious person should naturalize and de-mythologize their beliefs. Myths are used to explain what has up until a given point in the timeline of history unexplained. At the point we’re at now, we know that things once thought to be “unexplainable” have been demystified by scientific process and interpretation. Sometimes previously held beliefs have been dis-proven. However, is de-mythologizing one’s belief system always appropriate, even when something has not been explained or made sense of by science? Or should one think of science and philosophy as an ongoing late night soap opera that is always to be continued (by scientists and philosophers), who will in time reveal a script nobody knows until all experiments are complete? How do they find answers that always make sense to everybody – timeless universal truth? Is it possible? It has always seemed to me that Atheists had a goal to strip the entire known and unknown reality of its wonder in the minds of everyone they come in contact with. Including the wonder of humanity’s creative imagination that allows it to create myths in the first place. When people do that I feel like they are engaging in a battle for world domination of their own, and I think I always avoided the subject of philosophy unconsciously for that reason. Its relatively new to me and I’m still extremely confused. Which is why I wanted to introduce myself and leave a comment for you. I was kind of hoping you could make sense of something, though I don’t know how or what you could do, but I left it for you because of what you’ve said about respectfulness to people who do have faith and also honesty. *I was raised in a secular/religious household, my mom is Roman Catholic, my dad was Jewish. I was not really forced into either system – which I think makes me lucky, in a way, although I think they thought I would eventually pick one of the two, it wasn’t a requirement of my family.

    • http://N/A Mylene Berkowitz

      I think I was trying to get you to challenge the scrap of faith I was holding onto, which, after I thought, and slept about it, grew stronger. Its not so much a religion that I need, but I do feel the need to continue to believe in a reality in which souls of all creatures exist and then an afterlife, and then that there is a spiritual dimension to reality. I don’t really want to let go of it, and were you to challenge it, you would have to be able to prove, to the letter, every thing you said, conclusively, and in a way that made sense to me. I think its better for me to just let life itself challenge me and see what happens, from a psychological perspective. It’d be better if, whatever I decide to believe, I came to it on my own rather than through an intensive debate with a Philosophy professor. I want to say now, I like your blog. It’s very interesting to me and I appreciate the respect and dignity with which treat others who feel differently even when they are or appear to be in the wrong. You write about a lot of s–t I think about, which is probably why I find it interesting. Thanks for the Atheism and Wicca Series; like I’ve said, I was looking for something like it a long time ago, but it really helped put that religion in a different perspective and context for me in my mind, and encouraged me to continue my own critical thinking about it. I’m still uncertain and confused, but I’d rather be that way than sure about my options right now. I don’t really want to be an Atheist.

  • Mary C. Young


    I’ve been meaning to link you with this blog for a really long time. I’d say it’s my favorite blog right now. Anyway, it’s called “Women in Theology” and it was started by a group of feminist theologians all in some way affiliated with Notre Dame and trained in either systematic, ethical or moral theology. I link you to the blog because I think it is hands-down the most intelligent progressive Catholic blog on the internet right now and they all display a better understanding of Church teaching (and a lot of its flaws) than I do and I think it might be a great sounding board for some of your thoughts/ dialogue.

    I hope you enjoy it!