College Atheist Group’s ‘Smut for Smut’ Campaign, Where Bibles Could be Traded in for Porn, Is No More

For years now, I’ve commented on one of the big events held by the Atheist Agenda campus group at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Every year since 2005, members of the group would set up a table on a well-traveled part of campus and offer pornography in exchange for holy books. They called it “Smut for Smut”:

The point was pretty obvious: the Bible has plenty of sex (and violence and disturbing scenes) in it, so why not make a fair trade?

It was an idea that bothered me when I first heard about it. I didn’t think anyone seeing the campaign would jump at the chance to join the group. I thought it would only draw negative attention. I thought it would make people never want to associate with atheists. I couldn’t figure out who, exactly, the campaign was directed at…

But over time, I grew to appreciate what they were doing. I realized there was value to having a group that’s so in-your-face about the problems in the Bible and willing to discuss their beliefs with people willing to hear them out. Even if the campaign wasn’t for people like me, there were some people who would notice those atheists on campus for the first time and maybe even realize that the Bible wasn’t as good a book as they had been led to believe. They knew the porn was just the attention-getter, not the main focus.

In a way, the campaign worked exactly as they had planned, at least on me. My initial revulsion eventually gave way to saying, “Hmm… maybe they have a point.”

So it’s bittersweet — though probably for the best — to announce that “Smut for Smut” will no longer be taking place at UTSA. The group has softened up and, under new leadership, they’re taking a new approach to campus activism:

This semester, Atheist Agenda renamed itself the Secular Student Alliance, one of 402 groups affiliated with an Ohio-based umbrella organization of the same name. The makeover underscores a national trend in which secular humanist groups have been dropping edgy, insult-minded strategies for more welcoming ones.

“We don’t plan on doing (the smut-for-smut campaign) ever again,” said Jacob Schmidt, an officer with the newly formed group. “We encourage conversation, but we did it in the wrong way, just getting a rise out of people. And once you make someone defensive about their beliefs, you’re not going to get through to them.”

“A lot of people would come to meetings but then everyone would go straight to attacking religion,” said Schmidt, a former Atheist Agenda member. “It would really turn people off from the group. People left because we were so aggressive. We wanted to kind of settle down.”

I don’t blame them. The new approach will likely draw in far more members — active, excited, long-term members — than a porn giveaway ever would.

In the meantime, groups who like the “Smut for Smut” idea but find it a little too aggressive for their tastes can always try a “Fiction for Fiction” swap, with classic literature given out in exchange for Bibles and Korans.

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.

  • islandbrewer

    When I first read the headline, I was wondering whether they ran out of porn, or the student body ran out of bibles to trade in.

    • Sweetredtele

      It’s darn near impossible to run out of bibles. Within one year- I got 1.5 at the county fair, left the ones in the hotel rooms I stayed in- although i’m sure they wouldn’t mind me taking them. I think I saw one in the break room at work. I even turned down two Book of Mormon.

      Edit: growing up with evangelical relatives meant I also got a stack of ‘em. Childrens Bible, confirmation bible, turned some age bible, Christmas/birthday present bibles. Inherited family member bibles.

      • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

        A lot of Birthday/College/Misc. Gift bibles end up unopened and find their way to used book stores. It is a favorite thing to check the incoming books because thoughtful relatives would often slip in $20 – $100 bills just inside the cover. Those that got the books as a gift never knew the money was inside.

  • TiltedHorizon

    It was time to switch it up anyway. Porn is so readily available, thanks to the internet, people don’t have to make a choice between regular porn and bible porn anymore; they can have both.

    :p

    Side question. If porn exists doesn’t that mean an “absolute” porn must exist? How else would we know what porn is?

    • WallofSleep

      “If porn exists doesn’t that mean an “absolute” porn must exist?”

      Do not gaze over-long into that abyss.

      It’s all sticky and stuff.

      • https://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

        Beware the Abyss for the Lord of 34 resides there!

    • John

      Imagine, if you will, the greatest conceivable porno. If such a porno existed, would it not be greater than one that didn’t exist? Since it is the greatest, it must therefore exist.

      Now excuse me while I go buy another bottle of lotion.

      • Drew M.

        I’d lay 10:1 that this porno stars Sasha Grey.

        • Artor

          Meh. She’s pretty, but I’m not a fan of her style.

          • NightmareSnake

            Does that mean you’re a Grey-theist?

    • EdmondWherever

      God’s ability to see us at all times is the “absolute” porn. We’re all the porn stars.

      • 3lemenope

        “Sex is a joke in Heaven?”

        “Way I understand it, it’s mostly a joke down here, too.”

        • Drew M.

          “There’s nothing funnier than the ridiculous faces you people make mid-coitus.”

          • Morris Rhoades

            Bazinga!

    • cyb pauli

      *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

      • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

        That reminds me. I need to get a new recharger.

  • Bruce Martin

    If anyone takes apart the pages of a single bible, how many different handouts could they make and give away as plot suggestions for violent snuff films?

  • cyb pauli

    Most religious people are no less offended by calling their text of choice fiction, either. As demonstrated by many posts here, the mere existence of atheists makes theists defensive. Figuring out how to be a visible atheist group while remaining inoffensive to theists is like a dog chasing her own tail.

  • lovesalot

    And once you make someone defensive about their beliefs, you’re not going to get through to them.”

    Exactly.

    • Utrooooolig

      Wrong.

      We get in trough the REM sleep.. :-)

  • Robert W Ahrens

    I would imagine the fact that they are now aligning themselves with the SSA is probably the main reason why they are dropping the porn thing. I would doubt seriously that the national SSA would be happy to have an affiliated group handing out porn – under whatever guise it was happening…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The makeover underscores a national trend in which secular humanist groups have been dropping edgy, insult-minded strategies for more welcoming ones.

    I’m so glad to hear that.

    • Mike De Fleuriot

      I have my doubts, because the ignorance that is religion will see that as a weakening and a retreat, which will make them bolder.

  • Tom

    Legitimate question from someone (me) who obviously believes in the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind. How come you are an atheist? The reason I ask is if God is not the creator of making something from nothing, where did everything come from? My thought is this question would have to be a stumbling block to being an atheist. What is the answer you found, since you do not believe in the God of the Bible?

    • 3lemenope

      I’m sure that question makes sense from your point of view, but to an atheist it sounds pretty odd. It sounds odd because the account in the Bible shows no signs of being especially right (and in most testable ways looks dramatically, almost laughably, wrong), much like that of every other ancient myth. What makes you believe that the account(s) found in the Bible concerning the origin of things is correct? Why not the account given in the Qur’an? Or the Upanishads? Or that given by physicists and cosmologists? Why not apply the question to the notion of God itself? If everything must come from somewhere, from what source did God come?

      I think you’ll find that one way in which many atheists approach questions like this is by being comfortable enough with not knowing a definitive answer to resist the urge to make one up. It is OK to have the current answer to “why is there something rather than nothing?” be “well, I don’t know yet” rather than “well, this God got lonely and bored and so poof, and suddenly firmaments and seas and lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! (And it was good.)” There is very little value in either making an answer up or going with someone-else-long-dead’s made up answer if what you’re after is the facts of the matter.

      • Artor

        I would clarify that it’s not that I’m comfortable not knowing a definitive answer, but that I’m uncomfortable with accepting a wrong answer. I would rather keep looking and revise my opinion in the face of new evidence or a better explanation than settle on goddidit, or whatever the 1964 Encyclopedia Britannica says.

    • midnight rambler

      Let me turn it around a bit – why does it bother you so much to say “I don’t know”? There are many relatively simple things that we could know with our present scientific abilities, but don’t simply because nobody has made the effort to investigate them. Because they’re not deemed “impossible”, even believers wouldn’t give them over to God’s work and would simply admit that they’re unknown.

      It’s taken this long for us to understand what happened within 10^-34 seconds of the Big Bang; maybe we’ll be able to get further and answer the question of where everything came from and why there’s something rather than nothing, and maybe not. But even if it’s never answered, in our lifetimes or anyone else’s, is your need to have an answer to it so great that you’re willing to concoct one regardless of whether it’s right?

      For myself, I don’t particularly care. It would be neat to know, but the question of the origin of the universe doesn’t keep me up at night. We have, after all, already traced the origin of the Earth, our solar system and galaxy, etc. And our own tiny world – even just the immediate surroundings around me – is more than big enough to keep me occupied.

    • Lando

      Just speaking for myself, not knowing the exact mechanism by which all the matter in the universe came into existence isn’t enough to make me attribute it to an all-powerful being. We don’t understand it yet, but latching onto a simple explanation without any real evidence is a little tough to stomach.

    • Mike De Fleuriot

      Tom, could you possibly point out one thing in this universe that requires a god to make and or maintain it. Of course you could claim that a god made the whole universe, but we both know that you can not show how this god did it. And even worse, you can not show that it was your god that did it, without you calling on faith and circular reasoning.

    • smrnda

      You know the advice they give for multiple choice exams? They say rule out the obviously wrong answers first, then pick from among the ones remaining. There are reasons to disbelieve most holy books, and I think they can be better explained as myths, legends and such.

      I also have to admit that I’m not a physicist, but from what I can tell, words we use like ‘something’ ‘nothing’ ‘beginning’ and such can’t be translated neatly into aspects of scientific theories, nor can those theories be easily translated into ordinary language. Really, I don’t know enough to understand very well what people mean when they talk about the origins of the universe and origins of life and such, but I can at least recognize that their theories are based on the scientific method.

    • JB

      Speaking as an atheist who believes all gods, including your so called God of the Bible, are mythological, there is no question that I would answer “god did it.” That would never occur to me.

    • Mads Andreas Elvheim

      Hi Tom.

      I’m an atheist because I’ve never found any argument for believing in a god or several gods from any specific religion persuasive. When all arguments for gods seem equally implausible, how do you choose which religion to believe in? Then, being an atheist is just the default position. No one is born religious.

      Furthermore, to answer existential questions, I don’t think replacing no answer (saying “I don’t know”) with a god hypothesis (X happened because god did it) really answers anything. You just replace an unknown with another unknown, as belief in a god has no explanatory power, unlike scientific theories. While I acknowledge it might give comfort, it doesn’t make it true. I don’t think we should be afraid to conclude with “I don’t know” to fundamental questions. Questions like:

      “Why is there something instead of nothing?”
      “What does ‘meaning’ mean?”
      “What does it mean to be a good person?”

      “Is there a meaning with life?”

      “Did time have a beginning?”

      “What is ‘nothing’/’nothingness’ ?”

      “What is ‘free will’ and do we have free will?”

      “What does it mean to know something? What is knowledge?”

      ..have been probably been asked by people since the dawn of civilization. I find them highly interesting, and I love to think about them. While a religion might give quick answers to some of these questions, I think the answers are highly lacking for one, and I think modern philosophers address them better with more compelling arguments. Kant, Hume, Kierkegaard, Descartes and a bunch of other philosophers have much more to say about these things than any religious book. Of course, that’s not to say that the New Testament doesn’t contain any stories you can learn from. My favorite story from the new testament is the parable of the prodigal son. I had the priest read that in my fathers funeral, and everyone understood what it symbolized.

      My point is, these existential questions can’t be answered definitely (for example with a god), but the philosophical arguments that exist are highly interesting, and the best arguments were made by modern philosophers from the 16th century and until the present day, so why limit oneself to one book?

    • Janet Holmes

      If you believe a god created the universe, then what created your god? Take the answer and apply it instead to the universe. There is no need of the god hypothesis, if you use it you have to explain where god/s came from which makes things harder not easier. A god is a very complex entity, which means that it would have been improbable and time consuming to generate, whereas the universe started out simple and evolved complexity over 13.7 billion years, and we still haven’t evolved anything with the powers of gods.

    • lmern

      Thank you very much for your question Tom. I enjoyed reading everyones responses.

      I would reiterate what midnight rambler has pointed out. Why does there need to be a finite answer? To cheapen the beauty of the Universe and the improbability of your existence with ‘God did it’ is something of a cop out (at least to me).
      It’s true that there are no conclusive arguments for the Big Bang, but there are some wonderful hypotheses, and elegant explanations that are as surreal as they are magnificent.

      But it is certainly NOT a stumbling block for Atheists not to know for sure. I value truth. I value the fascinating suppositions scientists have posited, and I feel that a definitive answer (in my life time) may not be reached, but that has never bothered me.
      Atheists simply don’t need all the answers to the Universe. But we’re well on our way to discovering them, so that’s enough for us.

      • Mads Andreas Elvheim

        Also, a definite answer which also seem satisfying to some (X happened because God did it) is a thought-terminating idea. If everyone was content which such an answer to unanswerable questions, we would stop looking for better answers. It would absolutely kill curiosity and the urge to explore both ideas and the physical world we live in. People might disagree with me, but in my opinion, I can hardly imagine something more catastrophic than that.

        • lmern

          I completely agree. Without curiosity we are lost.

        • midnight rambler

          Well said. And that applies to scientific ideas as well. I should have noted that when I said “we know X” in my comment below I was using the phrase in the scientific sense that “we have solid evidence for X”. Whenever new knowledge comes in, things constantly need to be re-evaluated, especially in the fine details.

          • Mads Andreas Elvheim

            Yes, but such epistemological musings isn’t how people think about knowledge in practice anyway, so you’re excused. My comment didn’t try to correct anything you wrote; it’s just an extra observation.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      And I have a question for you? Why this particular god? Even if you need a supernatural explanation to fill in that which we don’t yet (and might not ever) know, why this one particular god out of all the available ones?

    • Morris Rhoades

      Just because you don’t understand how something came to be, is no reason to fill in the blanks with whatever nonsense you like. Science explains a lot, but science also knows it doesn’t know everything, or it would stop. Legitimate question ; Which of these is more likely to have happened. All of the Cosmos, Nature and Reality stop, and are put on hold, so that an Immaculate conception can take place? OR , A young promiscuous Jesuit girl tells a lie so that she won’t be stoned to death or worse in the middle east?

      • Carmelita Spats

        Jesuit girl? LOL! Jesuit-trained girls can be very crafty and quick with the rapid-fire rationalizations. I think you meant Jewish girl but I could be wrong. :)

        • Morris Rhoades

          No..you’re correct I meant Jewish lol
          But that doesn’t answer the question.

    • ATMan

      “See? PCs always freeze. You should get an Apple.”
      “You know, giving up on something because it doesn’t work once or twice is like saying, ‘I just broke up with my girlfriend; I’d better start f+cking dudes!’”

      Just because something isn’t perfect, you don’t need to throw it out. You don’t need to divorce your wife because she was reprimanded at work. You don’t need to disown your children because they fail a class. You don’t need to throw out your PC and buy an Apple if it freezes once or twice. You don’t need to turn gay if you break up with your girlfriend.

      There is a name for this logical fallacy, which is called a “false dilemma.” Buying an Apple isn’t the only solution to the problem of a frozen PC (try restarting it before you throw it out, maybe?). Turning gay isn’t the only solution to relationship problems.

      So, why would the God of the Bible be the only solution to he problem of creation? We all agree here that we aren’t certain – there’s no real way to find out where matter and existence comes from. We have scientific methods to make a good guess, but really true understanding? Not yet.

      Ok, so we have scientific explanations – big bang, string theory, &c. – on the one hand and…God on the other? No, actually. It isn’t as simple as that. We aren’t limited to these two options: either it was the big bang or God did it.

      That’s a false dilemma. So, in fact, I would turn your question around on you: why were you so eager to give up on the quest for knowledge and settle for the first, easiest, simplest answer you could find? Why did you give up struggling with life’s questions and just decide that “God did it”? Have you explored EVERY possible solution for creation? Have you truly ruled out the Titans of Greek mythology? Are you SURE the world wasn’t created by Izanami and Izanagi when they dipped a spear into the celestial seas? Are you 100% certain that it wasn’t Osiris? Have you stopped so soon in your search and settled on the easiest answer: God?

      Why are you a quitter?

      In other words: from another perspective, YOU are the one who has given up too easily and settled for the worst possible, most hopeless option (the God of the Bible fills me with depression; as in, actual, real mental illness). Surely the Japanese pantheon, which forces no sexual morality on humankind and assures us that everything we see and do is sacred – is a more hopeful and life-affirming option than your God?

      You’re the one who has accepted a false dilemma – not us. And I don’t mean that to be confrontational or mean, but it is the simple fact of the situation: you accepted a false dilemma. We deny the false dilemma and acknowledge that vast, unlimited possibilities that the world offers.

      Religion is like marriage, isn’t it? You know where you’ll be every Sunday morning for the rest of your life – married to the same old idea, repeated over and over again ad nauseam – meanwhile, we atheists are out there dating a new, young, fresh idea every weekend, enjoying our lives.

      We would turn the question around on you: why did you settle so easily, at such a young age, for such an obviously weak answer as “God”?

    • Obazervazi

      The Bible contains both descriptions of God and records of His actions. The Bible describes God as loving, fair, merciful, and kind. The record of his actions portrays something much, much different, and actions speak louder than words.

      I’d worship an eldritch horror before I worshiped that.

      • Itarion

        Ia, Ia, Cthulhu fhtaghn.

    • Vanadise

      Personally, I have never not been an atheist, really; I grew up in a very religious small town but never really bought into it, and honestly, one of the most harrowing points of my childhood was when I realized that so many adults /did/ actually believe all those things they were saying about Jesus. As a child I assumed they were just stories everybody told each other because they sounded nice even though everybody knew they weren’t true, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

      But the answer to your next question is, I don’t know where everything came from. I don’t feel like I /have/ to know. It doesn’t impact my daily life and I don’t have any means to find out. There are people who are far more learned than I am who have dedicated their lives to using the scientific process to figure out that answer, so I’ll defer to them. I won’t worry about it too much until it actually becomes relevant to my daily life.

      I don’t see “I don’t know” to be any reason to jump to the conclusion that it’s because of a supernatural entity. That only leads to two more questions: where would that supernatural entity have come from in the first place (“It’s always been there” is a non-answer; you could just as easily say that about the universe), and why would that entity necessarily be the Christian God? There are plenty of other religions in the world with vastly different creation stories, and there were others before Christianity ever existed. None of them seem more credible than any other to me.

    • RowanVT

      Why is there something rather that nothing?

      Because if there was only nothing, we wouldn’t exist to wonder why there was nothing and not something.

      Why is ‘nothing’ the default? Why do you assume that ‘nothing’ is stable? True nothing (no time, no space, no matter, no energy, no laws) sounds exceedingly *un*stable to me.

    • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

      Every baby is born an atheist.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Thank you Tom, for asking your legitimate, sincere, and earnest question. It’s the asking rather than telling us why we are atheists that is so refreshing to hear. You may not realize that the majority of Christians who approach us just come to tell us what we think, feel and do, and then go on to tell us how evil, stupid, depraved, depressed, prideful, etc. etc. we are. The arrogance of pretending that they know us better than we know ourselves is insufferable.

      You should not be penalized for your fellow Christians’ behavior, and I am so very happy to see how everyone so far has responded to your question with their thoughtful, patient, and respectful answers. But you should be aware of your fellow Christians’ behaviors toward us, so that you might be more understanding in case one of us reacts crossly to you. That’s not an excuse for rudeness, just an explanation that might help you to not react in kind.

      We don’t need to agree with each other nearly as much as we need to accurately understand each other.

    • Theory_of_I

      I wonder, Tom, if you have ever thought about this:

      Just to change perspectives a bit, what if we ask: 1. If we say there is no god, how does that change anything? and 2. What if humans were not persuaded to believe or have faith in a god?

      I’d say the first one is easy — Except for human behavior, nothing in the universe changes, everything remains exactly as it is and the god hypothesis is obviously moot.

      For the second one, I’ll try to list just a few changes among a great many that would take place, virtually all for the betterment of humanity:

      A major cause of divisiveness and strife among people would be eliminated. Not merely the differences between believers and non-believers as seen in this and other forums, but much more significantly, the perpetual and intractable conflicts fought among the various belief systems throughout the world.

      Abuse, suffering and death directly attributable to the practice of religion as demonstrated by the imprisonment, stoning, burning, hanging and beheading of persons accused of violating only religious edicts, or denied life saving medical treatment because of antithetical religious instruction. All these and more would never occur.

      The elimination of discrimination in employment and social activities on the basis of religious tests.

      The preclusion of new and annulment of all standing legislation based solely on religious doctrine.

      Significant economic improvements in the form of the vacating or removal of hundreds of thousands of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other religious facilities utilized generally only minimally each week and the related inefficient waste of energy, resources and tax supported services associated with them. In addition, many millions of gallons of fuel would no longer be used to transport the faithful to and from their places of worship.

      All of the above religious properties along with related believers retreats would be added to the property tax rolls, helping to reduce the tax burden for everybody.

      Well, that’s a small start. Additions are welcome..

    • Tom

      Everyone, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and beliefs. It is good to hear that you all took my question with the intent of my heart, I truly want to know why you believe what you believe. All belief systems require faith, mine included, with a worldview that sees the same evidence then puts together a “story” that best suits what they believe. My system of belief I find in the God of the Bible answers my questions, not all of them, but to an extent that satisfies my heart. We cannot verify with a scientific test what happened thousands of years ago, we try, but it doesn’t work. It requires an element of faith, what makes sense, and how can I trust it.
      Each of us has a worldview that has answers to the difficult questions, as stated in some responses below, all of mine are satisfied. My main question was out of curiosity, I really wanted to know how an atheist was satisfied with creation. I’m glad and thankful the question was taken so courteously by everyone. You have given me your answers and it is an interesting dialogue, for sure :-). Thanks again for the heartfelt answers, I’ve read most of the posts below and will try to finish the others soon (off to church :-). I’m really interested to see the rest! Blessings to all.

      • Drakk

        It is good to hear that you all took my question with the intent of my heart, I truly want to know why you believe what you believe.

        I remain skeptical, but I too will take this at face value.

        All belief systems require faith, mine included, with a worldview that sees the same evidence then puts together a “story” that best suits what they believe.

        Equivocation. The “faith” I have, in the sense of trusting in the conclusions of good science, is not the same as the “faith” you have, which believes conclusions despite the methods used to arrive at them. I’m not sure what “faith” you think atheism requires, because I, at least, am willing to change my position if shown evidence. Can you say the same, honestly?

        My system of belief I find in the God of the Bible answers my questions, not all of them, but to an extent that satisfies my heart.

        A statement essentially equivalent to “Ignorance is bliss”. Your “system of belief” is utterly unsupported by available evidence. It doesn’t “answer” questions so much as make answers up. Belief is not a form of knowledge.

        We cannot verify with a scientific test what happened thousands of years ago, we try, but it doesn’t work.

        False. Would you say belief in the Roman empire is unscientific? How aabout belief in the Mayan civilisation? Historical events can be investigated in a scientific way, that is to say by forming hypotheses about history and then checking if evidence supports that claim. Evidence does support the claim of Julius Caesar being assassinated in 44 BC. Evidence does not support the claim of the same fate being suffered by Octavian, nor does it support many of the historical and scientific claims of the Bible.

        Each of us has a worldview that has answers to the difficult questions, as stated in some responses below, all of mine are satisfied.

        This again says to me that your mindset is “I am happy to not require evidence for the things I believe”, because evidence is not available (and likely does not exist) in support of Christian views on the creation and history of the universe.

        I would venture to say that the lack of requirement for evidence is not consistently applied in your life – you would not take on faith alone the claim that your mechanic has fixed a problem with your car, for instance, and even if you did initially, you would begin to disbelieve the claim if available evidence presented itself (like the said problem appearing to not be fixed).

        The point I am trying to make is that both of us know how to require evidence for the things we believe, but I would contend that atheists are better at consistently applying this standard than religious people. I do not think faith is a valid means of acquiring knowledge at all, because faith has no means to differentiate between true and false claims. Try this exercise: try to imagine a claim so utterly ludicrous or so patently false that faith cannot be offered as a defense of that claim. More generally, what ideas cannot be supported by the phrase “I have faith that this is true”. My contention is that all ideas are such.

      • Greg G.

        Hi Tom,

        All belief systems require faith, mine included, with a worldview that sees the same evidence then puts together a “story” that best suits what they believe.

        I don’t have faith that I know anything. Every observation is a test for consistency. Just having a worldview that is consistent with my view of the world is insufficient. A worldview that is flexible enough to account for any observation is unreliable, there is no way for it to provide real confidence that it is correct if you can say magic words like “godidit” or “thedevildidit” to account for disconfirming evidence.

        My worldview is based on the strength of the evidence for each claim and I will re-evaluate my position in light of new evidence. My worldview allows me to make specific inferences from what I think is true. If that inference is wrong I reconsider what I thought was true.

        The closest thing a believer can do is see if prayer works. But it only works if you remember the hits and sweep the misses under the rug. That’s confirmation bias. We’re all susceptible to it. So even when a test seems to confirm an inference, I stay open to the possibility that I could still be wrong.

        People who think faith is a virtue should be ashamed to use the same word for my epistemology. The problem with religious faith is that if you begin with the wrong religion, you are trapped as there is no route to correcting the error. If you start from a position outside of a religion and keep eliminating incorrect positions, at least there is a possibility of finding a true position.

    • Utrooooolig

      “How come you are an atheist?”

      How come you’re not an atheist anymore?

    • canuck123

      If I may add Tom, there is one thing an omnipotent being actually cannot do (sounds odd, but it’s true). Namely, they cannot create themselves. They just happen to exist. No story can get away from this. You always have to start with *something* – a seed, a cosmic couple, a dude in the sky, or some matter. The plain fact is that if you start with nothing you will never get something. So the question – why is there something – is a great one, but no system can get around the problem. In your view, there was a dude but if so, it’s just fortunate that he happens to be there, likely wondering why he exists when nothing else did, and how he came to be.

  • Petzl

    I think they did the right thing.

    It’s good the did the S4S program in the beginning, perhaps as an exercise in free speech. But in the final event, you’re not making any new friends with S4S; you’re just getting giggles from the people who are already on your side.

  • rg57

    “We don’t plan on [it] ever again,…you’re not going to get through to them”

    And yet, religion is down, and atheism is up.

    Must be magic.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    WELL DONE FRIENDLY ATHEISTS! Your responses to Tom’s sincere question starting with 3lemenope all the way to Greg G. and every single person in between have so far been respectful, patient, thoughtful, and positive. I’m very impressed. Thank you.

    This is the central purpose of this blog, what Friendly Atheist was created to do.

  • Sami

    THIS IS PERFECTION!!! XDD

  • canuck123

    I’m puzzled. Where is the “friendly” in the Friendly Atheist who supports this campaign? It’s awful and thank goodness it’s over. Show class, take the high ground, and don’t reinforce the perception that atheists have no principles. And, oh yeah, porn degrades people so for the sake of your daughters in particular, don’t support something that so undermines our humanity.


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