Speaking Tour Reviews: Days 3-5

I’m finally back home after trips to Indiana and California. The last of the writeups are also in!

They say positive things along with some constructive criticism.

Akusai at Action Skeptics has both a short and long review:

Short version: Hemant was funny, personable, and an extremely talented speaker. While my irascible, sarcastic nature causes me to differ slightly with his take on positive atheism, there really is nothing in his approach with which to outright disagree. If all atheists were like Hemant, I don’t think anyone could hate us.

Thanks! Akusai also has a bit about my criticism of people (like PZ at times) who have a much more blunt attitude toward religion. The point I wanted to make was that we can criticize religion all we want, but we need to be mindful of the people who practice it. Name-calling won’t help people want to think rationally. Understanding where they are coming from and helping them across the bridge to our side will be more effective.

Michael at The Lucky Atheist was inspired:

So, I’m going to start an AGD (Atheist Good Deeds) series. This could be anything from donating time to personal improvement, like breaking bad habits. I’m going to do both in April. I’m going to get the kid I’ve been mentoring since 2001 to finish his GED exams, and I’m going to give up chocolate for the whole month. (Atheist Lentmadan, I guess.) What will you do?

Gauranga has good things to say about the Stanford Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics:

Sadly, for the religious community, they are much nicer than many of the religious groups on campus…

But hopefully in the process [of reading I Sold My Soul on eBay] they would meet a friendly atheist in the pages of the book and maybe just maybe develop a little appreciation where many people who have lost interest in organized religion/God are coming from.

Josh Pearce wrote about my Stanford dialogue with a pastor as both a reporter and a regular guy:

i wanted to see more of a debate between the two. the pastor who was opposite hemant was a pretty liberal guy (i’ll just call him rev. geoff because i forget his last name) and in most circumstances would be the kind of christian leader i’d be looking for, but for the fact that i feel religion has pretty much failed to provide any good answers to anything. in a debate, hemant would have torn rev. geoff apart, not because of any superior speaking style, but because rev. geoff was hedging around his real beliefs in order to stay relevant and in order to appeal to the young age of the audience. he couldn’t come out and talk about his issues on abortion, gay marriage, creationism, evangelism, etc., because he didn’t want to alienate anyone. you could see it in the way he steered most of the conversation toward his stance on social justice and human rights, which was liberal enough to sound good to college students.

hemant, on the other hand, could just let loose with what he believed because he had no need (or desire) to pander to anyone…

Frankly, I didn’t think Pastor Geoff’s views on those social issues would’ve been different from most atheists’ views. His beliefs led him to focus on social justice issues. But he did have the harder challenge: presenting a Christian viewpoint that most of us are not used to hearing, one that’s less doctrinal and more about good works.

There was a brief video clip of the talk available. More video will come soon:

My collar appears to be eating my face.

In any case, thanks for everyone who came out to the events! I had an awesome time. Hope you did, too.

  • llewelly

    I’m going to get the kid I’ve been mentoring since 2001 to finish his GED exams, and I’m going to give up chocolate for the whole month.

    Now wait a minute here. If the goal here is to demonstrate good morals, giving up chocolate is definitely a step in the wrong direction.

  • no2religion

    I am very bummed that I was not able to attend any of the California events (family health comes first). Hopefully, you will be invited to speak in the area again or even closer to me; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo or UC Santa Barbara.

  • Anticontrame

    I wish you’d come back to Michigan. I missed you last time.

    On an unrelated note: Your site just had an ad for Dianetics.org at the top. I clicked on it (with malice in my heart). In theory, you just got a little richer and Scientology just got a little poorer.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    If all atheists were like Hemant, I don’t think anyone could hate us.

    A nice compliment, but I think they underestimate the capacity of religion to generate hatred.

  • River

    Hearing your explanation of how you got to questioning your beliefs, I’m struck on how similar it is to my story. I came from a Christian rather than Jainist background, though, but my story involves a move leading to questioning.

    I would have commented on the lurker thread but by the time I read it, it had over 100 comments and I felt like I’d be lost in the deluge. So here’s my first comment, and thanks for having this blog that I can read and feel like I’m not alone.

  • Pastor Geoff

    Hemant,
    Thanks so much for the great conversation the other night. I think it was very constructive and helped to break down the stereotypes that we tend to have of one another. And I enjoyed the continuing conversations afterward at the Creamery.

    From Josh’s comment, I see that we have a way to go to dispel some of the stereotypes. If he cares to, he is welcome to read my Op-ed about Prop 8 in the daily at http://www.stanforddaily.com/cgi-bin/?p=465 or he can read my article in the Stanford Progressive, http://progressive.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/article.php?article_id=305
    Though I feel I must remind readers, this is a satirical article.
    Cheers,
    Geoff

  • Leonardo

    CHILD BRIDES 3 YEARS
    OLD

    Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah
    Niddah 44b

    MISHNAH. A GIRL OF THE AGE OF THREE YEARS AND ONE DAY MAY BE
    BETROTHED23 BY INTERCOURSE; IF THE YABAM24 HAD INTERCOURSE WITH HER, HE
    ACQUIRES HER THEREBY;25 THE GUILT26 OF ADULTERY27 MAY BE INCURRED THROUGH
    HER,28 AND SHE29 CAUSES UNCLEANNESS TO THE MAN WHO HAD INTERCOURSE WITH HER SO
    THAT HE IN TURN CONVEYS UNCLEANNESS TO THAT UPON WHICH HE LIES,30 AS TO A
    GARMENT WHICH HAS LAIN UPON [A ZAB].31 IF SHE WAS MARRIED TO A PRIEST, SHE MAY
    EAT TERUMAH. IF ANY OF THE INELIGIBLE PERSONS32 COHABITED WITH HER HE
    DISQUALIFIES HER FROM THE PRIESTHOOD.33 IF ANY OF THE FORBIDDEN DEGREES
    ENUMERATED IN THE TORAH COHABITED WITH HER HE IS TO BE EXECUTED ON HER ACCOUNT,
    BUT SHE34 IS EXEMPT [FROM THE PENALTY]. IF ONE WAS YOUNGER THAN THIS AGE
    INTERCOURSE WITH HER IS LIKE PUTTING A FINGER IN THE EYE.

    GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: A girl of the age of three years may be betrothed by
    intercourse; so R. Meir. But the Sages say: Only one who is three years and one
    day old. What is the practical difference between them? — The school of R
    Jannai replied: The practical difference between them is the day preceding the
    first day of the fourth year.35 R. Johanan, however, replied: The practical
    difference between them is the rule that thirty days of a year are counted as
    the full year.36 
    An objection was raised: A girl of the age of three years and even one of the
    age of two years and one day may be betrothed by intercourse; so R. Meir. But
    the Sages say: Only one who is three years and one day old. 

    23 ubject to her father’s
    approval. 
    24 he brother of her deceased childless husband, whose duty it is to contract
    the levirate marriage with her. 
    25 In consequence of which he gains possession of his deceased brother’s
    estate, is entitled if she dies to inherit her own estate and even if he is a
    priest, he may defile himself to her as to a legally married wife. 
    26 Punishable by death. 
    27 Lit., ‘on account of the wife of a man’. 
    28 If, for instance, her father betrothed her to one man and another cohabited
    with her. 
    29 When a menstruant. 
    30 Lit., ‘lower couch’. 
    31 Lit., ‘like the upper’. 
    32 A bastard or a slave, for instance. 
    33 Sc. if she was the daughter of a priest she loses the privilege of eating
    terumah. 
    34 Being a minor. 
    35 Lit., ‘the eve of the beginning of the year’. According to R. Meir she
    attains the prescribed age on that day while according to the Rabbis she does
    not attain it until the following day. 
    36 According to R. Meir the prescribed age is attained as soon as thirty days
    of the third year have passed, while according to the Rabbis it is not attained
    until the first day of the fourth year. 


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