A Panel of Atheists Discuss Religion, Science, and Morality

This is neat: Cara Santa Maria of HuffPo hosted a panel of atheists speaking about religion, science, and morality. Why only atheists? Because this wasn’t a debate about god and the supernatural. There’s no proof of any of that nonsense. Let’s move on and talk about things that really matter.

Panelists included Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine, Theoretical Physicist Sean Carroll, and Edward Falzon (author of the parody Being Gay Is Disgusting).

Also chiming in (albeit from a distance) are James Randi, PZ Myers, and AJ Johnson.

I haven’t seen the entire thing yet, but I’m listening to it as we speak. As always, leave interesting timestamps in the comments!

(Thanks to MegaZeus Thor for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    That was pretty good.

    I kept waiting for them to make the point that an atheist’s morals are superior to a theist’s if they are only being good because of threats of Hell and bribes of getting to see their loved ones after death.

    Now I will patiently wait for political candidates to explain how their religious beliefs will or will not affect their policies. Hopefully before the world ends. By being engulfed by the Sun.

    • randall.morrison90

      I always get a kick out of atheists telling us how much more moral they are than everyone else.

      And smarter.

      Etc.

      And then assuring us that they would treat the inferiors decently if they got control.

      Why is it you call this “The Friendly Atheist”, Mehta?  You have as much as admitted the name is not accurate.

      To continue to use it is Willful Dishonesty, and belies the claim that atheists are “more Moral” than their inferiors.

      • Bram Kaandorp

        As soon as you can show me a good deed that a religious person would engage in, but not an atheist, I’ll agree with you.

        Yes, I know that it’s not an original proposal, but I do think it’s important to repeat it.

      • JohnnieCanuck

        I always get a kick out of Theists telling us that without Religion, there is no reason to act morally and that they don’t understand why anyone who doesn’t fear their God and His threat of eternal torture wouldn’t do anything they could get away with, including stealing, murdering and raping. If you really think that then I really don’t want to you to ever lose your beliefs.

        I need a citation for that “treat the inferiors decently if they got control” non-quotation. Name a name or it didn’t happen. Somehow, I think you are just projecting your own attitude onto atheists there and making it up.Take a look at northern Europe, where Atheists are now the majority in some countries. How badly are the theists being treated there? Fired? Forced to listen to Atheists deny God daily? Worst I can think of is that in some places Muslims are being told they can’t keep some of their cultural customs like burqas. Speaking of which, what would be your opinion of mosques and burqas becoming common in your neighbourhood?If lower crime rates correlate with being more moral then once again, northern Europe would be a counter example to your claim.I don’t imagine Atheists score much better than Theists on Intelligence Quotient tests. Still, keeping your mind open to accepting the unevidenced ideas of religion might spill over into other areas in life, increasing the chances of making poorer decisions.Something tells me you didn’t listen to the video. Why would you when your religion has already given you all the answers you need?

        • JohnnieCanuck

          Trust me. There are paragraph breaks all over the place there. Not sure if they are invisible pink fire-breathing ones, but they were there when I hit post.

          • usclat

            You’re cool JC. Nice entry, by the way. 

      • Agnostic

        ……and smarter….Humans actually do not know how stupid they are. I reason, the highest recorded IQ in humans is over 220. I doubt those people in that catagory can fathom everything. 95% of human have IQ of less than 130 and yet some among them claim to be intelligent. Atheists are so smart that they think agnostics are atheists. It is because of people like Dawkins that I no longer think of myself as an atheist.

        I didn’t bother to listen to the talk as I never like one sided arguements. That is brainwashing.

        • Agnostic

          Correction. I do not bother to listen to one sided justification when I think that I already know from previous research that I will be listening to regurgitation of the same arguments. I do listen to one sided argument when I think I will learn something new. So it was my error using the word never.

        • JohnnieCanuck

          You would have learned something about how they see using the atheist vs. agnostic labels. Food for thought.

          They acknowledged that many people refuse the label because of the intensely negative associations that religious people assign to atheism, now and over the centuries past.

          One observation I liked was that it didn’t really matter whether you couldn’t prove a negative statement such as that there are no gods; only whether you live your life as if there is a god or not. Call yourself agnostic if you like, but how much time do you put into staying on the good side of the god that might or might not be there?

          If because of the possible existence of a god, you feel you need to do more than just be the best person you can be as a moral atheist might, what would that be? Praying? Begging forgiveness? Burnt offerings? How do you choose the appropriate rituals? Pick the wrong ones and you might be worse off than if you hadn’t. Pascal’s wager has always had that flaw.

          One symptom of brainwashing might be avoiding other points of view because they threaten your precarious status quo.

          • Agnostic

            I am quite comfortable without rituals of any kind. I acknowledge that I do good only because I enjoy it and it makes me feel useful to myself. I certainly do not expect people with more money than me to do more good than me. I help when it pleases me to, and the work that I do with underprivileged children pleases me. That is why I do it,not because of the possibility of the existence of some god.

            Who says that if there is a god, that it will have to be a god described by any of the religions?

        • usclat

          Hey dumb shit Agnostic, it wasn’t intended to be an argument! Didn’t you read that in the blog entry, even if you didn’t watch the video? Wow, it’s difficult not to get sideways with people like you. 

      • LoudGuitr

        The reason Ateists are more moral is that they operate purely from a standpoint of right and wrong, and not out of fear of punishment. Checkmate.

      • cipher

        Hemant is friendly. That doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of us. I happen to be a bastard.

        In any case, Randall, I wouldn’t sentence you to hell for even ten seconds, let alone for eternity – so yes, that makes me morally superior to you.

        As far as being smarter than you is concerned – I’ve seen some of your other comments, here and elsewhere. It isn’t much of a contest.

      • usclat

        “Inferiors”? What the fuck are you talking about? Get off this blog and get back on the Pat, Billy, Rush, Ted or Glenn blogs. Shit, we can’t get away from you energy-sucking myth-believing assholes! 

      • Marco Conti

        “Friendly” is one thing. “Deferent” is another. What you guys expect is deferency to your silly beliefs.  I can be friendly but I don’t have to agree with you to be such. So can Mehta
        For you, religious intolerance is any action or statement that is not in total agreement with your beliefs. 

        More than once I read articles by Mehta where he was being reasonable and more than fair toward your site. But unless there is total agreement than you are being persecuted.

        Show me some tolerance on your part that is not tinted with pity and condescension, show me that you would fight for the beliefs and rights of muslims, hindus and nonbelievers as strongly as you do for your own and we may start to  deserve more respect.  

  • Py

    A panel of all atheists talking about religion? Why do I have the feeling that would be about as intellectually stimulating as a panel of all Christians talking about atheism?

    • Guest

      I loved the comment about how it is “infuriating” when asked why you would want to preach about atheism. What is it atheists always complain about theists doing? Oh yeah, preaching about their religion.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

         Exactly, calling a civil discussion amongst atheists preaching *is* infuriating. I think you missed the point Cara was making – that they would not call it preaching from another group.

    • Andrew Bernhardt

      Because you didn’t bother to watch the video?

      • randall.morrison90

        Its just an atheist propaganda piece.

        And they have a right to engage in that, of course, but lets not pretend its anything more than that.

        Okeydoke?

        • Andrew Bernhardt

           “Okeydoke?”

          No.

    • MattD

      Why do I have the “feeling” that your moods are irrelevant to the conversation?

  • Chakolate

    Did anybody try to convert the video to audio, and if so, did you have any luck?  None of the sites I usually use to convert YouTube videos is working.  

    • T G H

      I agree.  Mp3 version would be useful. For the majority of presentations and panel discussions, the audio is what matters. I can only listen to this stuff when I have time away from the computer. Download audio options please!  

  • LoudGuitr

    The panelists struggled with the lack of a doctrine which delineates right and wrong. The golden rule is perfect for this, although they seemed to agree that it was inadequate. I’d love to know why….

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Have a look at the Wikipedia entry for the Golden Rule. Down near the bottom it discusses criticisms and responses to them.

      The thought experiment of how it applies to a man who wants to get into a fight is provocative.

      Likewise how should a Judge apply the Golden Rule when he is passing sentence on someone?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    With respect to Bush Senior’s disputed comment about atheists should not be considered citizens or patriots, the closest I think we can get to documented proof is the White House’s response to repeated pressure from American Atheists:

    http://www.robsherman.com/advocacy/bush/thirdfax.pdf page 21 on Feb 21, 1989

    Dear Mr. Murray:

    Your letter of December 19, 1988, to President Bush has been referred to me for reply.  As you are aware, the President is a religious man who neither supports atheism nor believes that atheism should be unnecessarily encouraged or supported by the government.  Needless to say, the President supports the Constitution and laws of the United States, and you may rest assured that this Administration will proceed at all times with due regard for the legal rights of atheists, as well as other with whom the President disagrees.

    C. Boyden Gray
    Counsel to the President

    So they never did confirm or deny the “citizens or patriots”, but it doesn’t seem like an unlikely sentiment for him to have.

  • Guest

    Wow, nothing more courageous than a bunch of freethinkers – who always seem to think alike I might add – sitting around explaining why they’re obviously right, so no sense debating.  It’s a little like the kid saying ‘obviously I could beat you up, I’m just not going to lower myself to prove it.’  Yeah.  Right.  The type of stuff that made Archie Bunker think he was smart.  The difference I see between religious individuals and atheists?  Religious individuals believe in God and, despite atheist caricatures, respect the intellect (though I admit both sides have their fair share of individuals who might not).  Atheists, on the other hand, have disdain for something they can’t demonstrate to be false, and worship their own intellect to cover it up.  It’s a clash of worshippers when you get right down to it, though I think the more zealous award goes to the atheist worshippers of their own intellects.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      who always seem to think alike I might add

      You’re obviously new here.

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