Friday, June 24, 2011

Atheist Word Association

To assist me in writing a far more poignant piece than this one (to be posted at a later date), I asked my "friends" on Facebook to play a little word association. Simple: when I say Atheist, what comes to mind? Now, it is not my intention to judge those who responded because I truly do appreciate them helping me out on this. Plus, as anyone who has played word association knows, the first word that comes to mind is not necessarily your actual definition or belief regarding the subject with completely unrelated jibberish a frequent result - hence the fun of the game over a few beer. Nonetheless, here are some of the responses and my thoughts on them. Like I said, this post is not the ultimate product of this little experiement but rather some Friday fun.

Societal Outcast
Love this one because it is ironically true. Those who would rather have fairy tales proven before believing them are considered socially deviant in our current society. Happy to be part of this group of misfits.

Common Sense
Aside from the obvious, my favourite aspect of this response was the follow up: ("which I suppose isn't so common"). Amen.

Modern, moderate, rational
Nice to think we are thought of as modern. I suspect this is because Atheism is "trending" in social circles right now. While, superficially I will take this as a compliment for the movement, I certainly hope we become more than just today's leg warmers. I love hearing "moderate" and "rational" (even though I know this person thinks I am anything but). These are two descriptors that are welcoming and will, over time, allow closeted sceptics to comfortably walk through the doors of logic sans fear.

This one bugs me even though I recognize the point and admit my aggravation is one of silly semantics. While I understand that anyone can subscribe to anything for which they have strong passion for as a religion (i.e. hockey in Canada; public breast feeding in Ottawa)  I pettily default to Merriam Webster's first definition of the word and hate being associated with a faith in the supernatural.  But c'est la vie.

Lost Little Boy
This is either a classic response with absolutely no relevance to the subject or someone who needs to spend some time with me or another male atheist in their locale. We aren't lost nor are we dwarfs.

As humans, yes we are, at times, snarky. Not sure what we would call the god of the old testmament then.

Nice reponse especially when we think about what Atheists really are. Simply people who choose to believe based on their logic and reason. Quite a benign and mundane lot really.

Sceptical but not without compassion
Love this one. Hits on exactly what my greater purpose is for this project. Will leave it at that and ask you to come back when I finally finish it.

I suspect this is what came to mind when this person thought of me, and if the case, an accurate first impression. However, she may also think of Atheists this way in a general sense. We have to be argumentative when we have women covering their bodies in the name of religion; school boards discriminating against gay students; governments listening to Christian lobbyists in an effort to thwart equality; and mythology being taught in science class.

Closed Minded
While I love this person very much and will always defend people's right to religion as much as I fight for my protection from religion, this is definately my favourite. Two general, but not inaccrate comments:
Atheists: people who choose to believe only what has been objectively proven to date or that which has strong probability based on scientific trends, with the willingess to be proven wrong by future discoveries - including the true proof of the supernatural.
Theists: people who believe in something with no objective proof, generally unwilling to admit they could be wrong and that their belief is based on blind faith alone. Fought to have the phrase "There probably is no god. Be good for goodness sake" removed from a bus.
You decide.

You don't believe everything you are told
Can't think of a better compliment

Lost, radical, and sad
A real trend towards being lost...interesting and worth a post on its own. Atheists get lost like anyone else. Oh, and sad too. But it's not our sense of logic's fault.
Radical: One guy believes in a ghost. The other doesn't. Let's play "Who's radical?" In all seriousness, this is one concept I genuinely find fascinating and illusrates the incredible marketing job religion has done over the centuries. I can accept someone chosing faith over atheism. But to call atheism the radical of the two choices makes absolutely no sense to me. Call me, ah, radical I guess.

Whitty response. Biting my tongue.

I can understand if a person that has a perceived relationship with a god equivalent to a real person, depending on him for clarity, purpose, and guidance views an atheist as lonely. Speaking for myself, I have a great wife, hilarious daughter, a solid family, and top notch friends. All is good with me. I am sure there are lonely atheists.....the ones with none of these things.

Interesting and in many ways true.  This response speaks to the general intolerance of society. To think that you have to be brave to state that you only believe in proven things in the year 2011 is a sad commentary on society. This is why I write this blog and drive people nuts on Facebook!

We're not.

As more responses come in I will add them and eventually make this a seperate page link, as I think they are at the heart of the misunderstanding of Atheism. Like I said, I will also be using this information to discuss a more pragmatic topic: the need for Atheist charity and community-building.

Considering the centuries of social persecution of Atheists at the hands of organized religion, misconceptions are logical.  To those of you reading this who contributed, I genuinely appreciate your time and respect your opinions and beliefs.

Enjoy your days!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Atheists doing good things. Time to make it a first impression.

Check out and contribute to the great new charity listed here on the left: Foundation Beyond Belief. It's time for people's first impression of Atheists to be that of compassionate community builders. This is a great place for us all to start. Thanks FBB!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dumb Chicks Talking About Smart Stuff

I was about to call this disturbing but then I came to my senses and thought about the collective IQ of these bimbos and their lack of  relevance in the world. But seriously, aren't beauty pageants a great example of a less evolved element of human existence? The good news? The winner actually believed unequivocally that only evolution should be taught in schools. Natural selection begins!

Friday, June 10, 2011

End of Week Thoughts on The Potential of Science and What It Means to Atheists

Everyday I use the time spent walking home from dropping my daughter off at daycare to reflect on things. Sometimes about work. Sometimes about family. Sometimes about my non-belief. This often results in me generating hypothetical conversations with imaginary believers or just trying to find the perfect phrase to capture an element of my belief system. This shouldn't be confused with a quest for the perfect debate clincher - although at times it does take this tone in my all-to-busy mind.

Today I was thinking about atheism, science, belief, and knowledge. The following statement came to mind:

Atheists aren't Atheists because they believe science has found all the answers. Atheists are Atheists because they believe that science CAN find all the answers.

An obvious statement to some. Maybe not so much to others.

Either way, I found it to be a nice thought to end a great week. Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Inspiring Words from a Christian Convert

I read this article written by Ms. Paula Kirby in the Hibernia Times. It is an incredibly articulate and intimate description of a former believer's path from faith to reason. Thoughtful. Respectful yet pointed. Inspiring to any Atheist, skeptic, or troubled believer. My favourite passages:

"Knowing what kind of god someone believes in tells us a great deal about that person – but nothing whatsoever about the truth or otherwise of the existence of any god at all."

"An atheist life, well lived, leads to the only kind of afterlife there is any evidence for whatsoever: the immortality of living on in the fond memories of those who loved us."

This is a great piece for someone trying to come to terms with the reality that their faith is faltering and the fear of not knowing what exists after the leap of logic.

Thank you Ms. Kirby

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Human Rights Are Not Religious Rights

It will be short and sweet today. I am reading Maryam Namazie's keynote address to the World Atheist Conference in Dublin last week (I wish I could have been there). Her talk was entitled The Islamic Inquisition. While I find her entire speech compelling, the following passage in particular intricately captures society's growing, and dangerous, desire to defend Muslims' collective "right" to Sharia law as an individual's right to freedom:

"As a result of such politics, concepts such as rights, equality, respect and tolerance, which were initially raised vis-à-vis the individual, are now more and more applicable to culture and religion and often take precedence over real live human beings. Moreover, the social inclusion of people into society has come to solely mean the inclusion of their beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas (read Islamism’s beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas) and nothing more. The distinction between humans and their beliefs and regressive political movements is of crucial significance here. It is the human being who is meant to be equal not his or her beliefs. It is the human being who is worthy of the highest respect and rights not his or her beliefs or those imputed on them."

Thank you Ms. Namazie for so accurately presenting one of the myriad theistic threats facing our society today. Of course, to get the full context of her concerns head to her blog:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Believer's "Coming Out"

Photo courtesy of

I have had a few conversations with believers lately that have brought the concept of blind faith to the fore. I am proud to say that I don't believe in a god. Sure, at times it can be a bit awkward to say when I know I am in the presence of believers whose relationship with me I value. But I am always very proud to declare my non-belief. It is a core element of who I am on par with my gender identity, nationality, sexual orientation, and being a fan of Arsenal FC.

While believers and I will likely never see eye to eye on anything to do with our chosen paths of belief, I would assume we both share one thing in common: a pride in the belief system we have chosen. I have to assume that the sense of identification I have in stating "I cannot believe in a god because I don't believe in blind faith" is mirrored by a believer stating "I have blind faith in God because I think some things are 'bigger' than science." In fact, I will even say that I "get" the latter statement. While I know I could never accept blind faith personally, I do respect that many people feel it.

So where am I going here? Well my aforementioned conversations have revealed several believers who appear to be "in the closet" with their blind faith. While they clearly declare their belief in "God" they become hesitant to base this belief on faith. When I say, "I respect your decision to believe in god I just can't have blind faith in something," they respond with a statement indicating that their belief in "God" is based on something more empirical than faith. It's at this point that my "New Atheist" side is revealed.

I don't claim to know for sure that there is no god. I claim that, based on all of the objective, measurable, falsifiable information available to me, I believe there is a near absolute improbability that a god exists. My lack of belief is based on my need for objective proof and I am proud to say it. When a believer states that: a. They are certain of god's existence and b. That their belief is based on the existence of proof......proof in the form of miracles, I lose my cool.

I'll end this with some semantics. "Faith" refers to the concept of hope and belief in something and it is a word with a broad range of utility. For example, I have faith that my wife and I will do our best to raise our daughter to be a responsible and considerate adult. I have no internal conflict when I make a statement like this. This "faith" is based on observable and reproducible behaviours that my wife and I plan to use in our parenting. What I cannot control are my daughter's genes, what may happen to her parent's health, what happens to the earth during her lifetime etc. I have no faith in those things because they are beyond any one's control and my psychological make up just does not allow me to have faith in these types of things. This is how I would characterize religious faith or "blind faith." It is a trust in the truth of of an unproven deity, the questionable history of a messiah, the future return of this messiah, and the existence of an afterlife. None of which has any objective, reproducible evidence or tangible probability of happening based on trends to date. As such, any one believing this is putting faith in something far different than putting faith in a sports team, family member, or friend. This is what I, and I will confidently predict most people, mean when they use the phrase "blind faith." While I don't have the ability to have blind faith I certainly appreciate its attraction and would fight for people's right to it. I just wish those whose belief depends on blind faith were as proud of it as I am of not having any.
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