Can We Play Not-Nicely Better, Please?

And speaking of sparing feelings without pulling punches, there's been a donnybrook going between Tom McDonald (Catholic) and Hemant Mehta (atheist) and JT Eberhard waded in yesterday.  I'm not planning to tag in exactly, but I would like to suggest that they have a slightly different fight.Both Tom's original post mocking atheism and Hemant and JT's rejoinder seemed pitched particularly to their own sides, so, even though the posts got pretty heated, it has kind of the effect of a flurry of … [Read more...]

Am I enabling blasphemy?

hand over mouth

While the commenting system changes over, some disputes in the content of the comments stay the same.  And there was a recent tete-a-tete I'd think needs a post worth of response.  In Cam's reply/objection to Scott's essay on suffering and optimal search strategies, Cam went through a couple of the usual objections to theodicy and then exclaimed: Why are there multiple types of suffering? Is your deity a sadistic fuckhead? Let’s accept all of the arguments offered by the author. This entire syst … [Read more...]

Watch me discuss the Ideological Turing Test at Chicago Ideas Week!

Chicago Ideas headshot

In October, I was one of the religion panelists at the Chicago Ideas Week conference. My co-panelists included Eboo Patel (interfaith activist), Lauren Drain (fled the Westboro Baptist Church), Theodore Ross (his family hid their Judaism) and Julia Sweeney (atheist and comic).Since we were a diverse group of people, my talk was on having better arguments about religious disagreements, instead of just agreeing to disagree.  My talk was based on some of the principles of curious, charitable … [Read more...]

Cultivating Curiosity [Index]

"Don't you understand?  If curiosity kills the cat in the game... it dies in real life!"

Back in September, Bob Seidensticker of the Atheist channel took on a challenge to try 40 days of prayer, and he asked some of the Christian Patheosi what we thought he needed to do to give it a fair shot.  While other people talked about thankfulness and humility, I kinda ended up talking about Live Action Roleplaying (LARPing).  But seriously, I find this approach helpful for considering ideas and worldviews I disagree with, and short circuiting antagonistic feelings that may keep me from lo … [Read more...]

Handy Dandy Blogging Advice!

Blog_New Yorker cartoon (Medium)

This weekend, I went up to Baltimore to attend a session of the Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The session was called, "An Encounter With Social Media: Bishops and Bloggers Dialogue" and included a presentation of survey results about Catholic blog reading habits, a panel discussion, small group discussion, and then a period where the bishops asked questions of the bloggers en masse and then we switched and asked them questions.They encouraged us to … [Read more...]

Am I my schismatic’s keeper?

Westboro-Baptist-Church-Dead-Soldiers

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell.By the end of Breaking the Spell, Dennett has shown the reader that religions may have memetic staying power independent of their truth.  And, even if a religious reader isn't convinced that their own religion is explained away by evolutionary processes, he hopes his book will awaken the religious to their unique duty to short-circuit dangerous religious memes. He writes: "There is more work to be done, and it is th … [Read more...]

Ideological Fight Club

Julian Sanchez offers an antidote to poisonous political discourse that reads like a hybrid of the Ideological Turing Test and steelmanning (the opposite of strawmanning - deliberately trying to improve your opponent's argument and rebutting that attack). I offer a modest proposal for American universities. All freshmen should be required to take a course called “Offense 101,” where the readings will consist of arguments from across the political and philosophical spectrum that some substantial … [Read more...]


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