Archives for February 2006

On Presuppositions

Malcolm Gladwell. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Little, Brown and Company: New York, 2005.D.L. Rosenhan. "On Being Sane in Insane Places." Science, vol.179, no.4070, p.250-258 (19 January 1973).In 1973, the peer-reviewed journal Science published a now-classic study in psychology. In its introduction, the study's author, D.L. Rosenhan, pointed out that the criteria for determining whether someone is mentally ill are highly subjective. The provocative question Rosenhan asked … [Read more...]

A Personal Journey to Atheism

One of the questions I am frequently asked is how I came to be an atheist. Personally, I don't place a high emphasis on the details of deconversion - whether it happens gradually or in a Damascus Road-like flash is not relevant to me - and since I did not have an intense religious upbringing to break away from as many deconverts do, I thought my personal testimony would not contribute greatly to those already out there. Nevertheless, I thought it good to write it down once and for all, so as to … [Read more...]

Greetings from the Losers' Club

John Loftus of the blog Debunking Christianity has very kindly linked to my recent post, "An Inspiring Story", with a post of his own, "Ex-minister Walks Atheist Path".However, it seems that his much-appreciated courtesy has attracted attention from a different direction. Specifically, the Christian site Triablogue responded with a post titled "The 'Inspiring Story' of Induction into the Loser's Club" - the losers in question being atheists, in case there was any doubt.From the very … [Read more...]

Cracking the Fortune Cookie

A Response to John Searle's Chinese Room AnalogyJohn Searle. "Minds, Brains, and Programs." Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 3, p. 417-424 (1980).In a famous 1980 paper titled "Minds, Brains and Programs", the philosopher John Searle proposed a notorious thought experiment, now known as the Chinese Room, relating to the possibility of artificial intelligence. Searle has no objection to "weak AI", the claim that a properly programmed computer can help teach us about the mind; but he … [Read more...]

An Inspiring Story

Sheryl Kay. "Ex-minister walks atheist path." The St. Petersburg Times, February 17, 2006.His message is clear: Jesus is not coming. Not today. Not ever.At 59, James Young has spent almost a decade sharing his atheist beliefs with the public, driving every Wednesday morning from his home in Lithia to set up a tent at the University of South Florida Bull Market.Even on the coldest morning, Young is there, ready to share, and sometimes debate, his views with anyone who will listen that there … [Read more...]

Christian? Jewish? Who Cares?

Michael Luo. "Reform Jews Hope to Unmix Mixed Marriages." The New York Times, February 12, 2006. In this age of potpourri spirituality, Anique Olivier-Mason, 25, classifies herself generally as a Christian: she grew up Catholic and often attends a Presbyterian church near her home. But on a recent Friday night, she was attending Sabbath services at Larchmont Temple. This article from the New York Times concerns the efforts of some Reform Judaism congregations to convert the non-Jewish spouses of … [Read more...]

Living Up to the Renaissance Ideal

In my previous post in this category, Know Everything, I expressed my desire to know every fact there is about the universe, to know how to solve every problem that has been solved. This goal is, of course, impossible. We cannot do that, so what can we do?I have always admired the Renaissance ideal - the person who is knowledgeable in many areas, and constantly learning about more. Given that we can never know everything, this is probably the best we can achieve, and I think it is what we … [Read more...]

Life Without Superstition

It is a common misperception, promoted and sustained by religious leaders, that atheism has nothing good or positive to offer the seeker. Nothing could be further from the truth. It will be one of the major purposes of this weblog, and more specifically of this category, the Garden, to explode that myth, and there is no better time to start than now. To counter this oft-held misperception, here follow some of the benefits of atheism:Atheism quenches the fear of Hell. As an atheist, you do not … [Read more...]

The Fallacy of Free Speech

In August 2005, according to a December article in the San Francisco Examiner, the private Calvary Chapel Christian School sued the University of California. The UC's offense, according to Calvary Chapel's lawsuit, was in not granting college credit for several courses taught from an explicitly Christian viewpoint; doing so, they claim, constitutes discrimination against the Christian viewpoint.Consider, if you will, the implications of this lawsuit. Calvary is claiming that the UC should not … [Read more...]

Better Left Unsaid

Mahatma Gandhi said, "All religions are true." If you think about it, they all serve the same purpose: comfort the afflicted, explain the unexplainable, provide moral guidelines for living a good life. The differences are primarily cultural — language, place of origin, traditional elements — not spiritual. What does it matter if one person prays to Allah, another believes in multiple deities, and another doesn't believe in any God, if all three are fundamentally good people who treat others the w … [Read more...]