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My collection of (mostly) quotations and links (mostly) about skepticism, science, philosophical naturalism, freethought and humanism. Mostly. With occasional music. (Formerly “Un bon mot ne prove rein”.)
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It is a great socioreligious irony […] that when we consider the fundamental values and moral imperatives contained within the world’s great religions, such as caring for the sick, the inform, the elderly, the poor, the orphaned, the vulnerable; practicing mercy, charity, and goodwill toward one’s fellow human beings; and fostering generosity, humility, honesty, and communal concern over individual egotism - those traditionally religious values are most successfully established, institutionalised, and put into practice at the societal level in the most irreligious nations in the world today.

Theologians worry away at the “problem of evil” and a related “problem of suffering.” On the day I originally wrote this paragraph, the British newspapers all carried a terrible story about a bus full of children from a Roman Catholic school that crashed for no obvious reason, with wholesale loss of life. Not for the first time, clerics were in paroxysms over the theological question that a writer on a London newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) framed this way: “How can you believe in a loving, all-powerful God who allows such a tragedy?” The article went on to quote one priest’s reply: “The simple answer is that we do not know why there should be a God who lets these awful things happen. But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative. If the universe was just electrons, there would he no problem of evil or suffering.”

On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Housman put it:

For Nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither care nor know.

Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (1995)

Richard Dawkins

But we [‘militant atheists’] are dangerous: We murder dreams, and blow up illusions!
Well: here is the answer to de Waal’s question. Some atheists are evangelical because religious claims about the universe are false, because children are brainwashed into the ancient superstitions of their parents and communities, because many religious organisations and movements have been and continue to be anti-science, anti-gays and anti-women, because even if people are no longer burned at the stake they are still stoned to death for adultery, murdered for being “witches” or abortion doctors, blown up in large numbers for being Shias instead of Sunnis… One could go on at considerable length about the divisions, conflicts, falsehoods, coercions, disruptions, miseries and harm done by religion, though the list should be familiar; except, evidently, to de Waal.

A. C. Grayling, “Apes and atheism”, a review of Franz de Waal’s The Bonobo and the Atheist, Prospect

The Bonobo and the Atheist

h/t WEIT

Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.
God has left no footprints on the snows of time.

Recruiting Tools for Atheists by Jamie Kilstein

h/t Butterflies and Wheels

I’m tired of being told to shut up about what I think. I am especially tired of being told to shut up about what I think by people who think I am actually right. […] My problem is with people who ostensibly do see things as I do and yet complain that I or others like me dare to say what we think. I am tired of being told by atheists not to argue about the truth of theism.

I am tired of being told by fellow evolution supporters that it’s only appropriate to criticize creationism and that it is somehow inappropriate to argue that accepting the factual dynamic of natural selection philosophically requires either outright abandoning Christian theism or, at least, drastically revising it in ways few Christians are willing to deal with.

Dan Finke, “Why I’m Not Shutting Up About Atheism”, RDFRS

Go and read the whole post (and ignore the mean-spirited commenters).

h/t gbjames @ WEIT

We atheists, however, need to buck up, assert our rationality, and change the way we deal with the religious, with everyday affronts delivered (at times unknowingly) by believers, with the casual presumptions that historically have tended to favor the faithful and grant them unmerited respect. A lot is at stake. Religion is a serious matter, reaching far beyond the pale of individual conscience and sometimes translating into violence, sexism, sexual harassment and assault, and sundry legal attempts to restrict a woman’s right to abortion or outlaw it altogether, to say nothing of terrorism and war. Now is the time to act. Polls … show the zeitgeist in the United States is turning increasingly godless, that there are more atheists now than ever before (surely thanks in part to the efforts of the New Atheists).

Jeffrey Tayler, “15 ways atheists can stand up for rationality”, Salon

via WEIT