Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Six Atheist pigeonholes

My own hybrid brand of friendly (not angry) naturalist, humanist, pluralist, saganist, futurist etc. etc. does not seem to fit into any of them, but it'll be interesting in the Spring to canvas my Atheism & Philosophy class to see how many of the pigeonholes do fit.
"Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga have completed an extensive study of more than 1,000 non-believers nationwide, and the researchers have identified six basic types of atheists.  Dr. Christopher Silver and Thomas J. Coleman led the project, and their study showed that 14% of atheists are angry, confrontational “anti-theists.”  However, 12% of atheists are “ritual atheists” who attend religious services even though they don’t believe in the theology.  In this feature segment, we find out why some atheists choose church..."
Some Atheists Choose Church Over Confrontation? | WUTC:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Working for the cure

Atheists should stop arguing with theists, says "Mad-dog" Alex Rosenberg. He's
fed up with atheists who avoid facing up to the big persistent questions such as: ‘what is the nature of reality, the purpose of the universe, and the meaning of life? Is there any rhyme or reason to the course of human history? Why am I here? Do I have a soul, and if so, how long will it last? What happens when we die? Do we have free will? Why should I be moral? What is love, and why is it usually inconvenient?’ Rosenberg demands that atheists just stop arguing with theists, for one because ‘contemporary religious belief is immune to rational objection’ but also because it eats into the time atheists should be taking to work through the implications of their own worldview. Atheists need to spend more time getting to grips with what they should know about the reality we inhabit because science reveals it is ‘stranger than even many atheists recognise... Nice Nihilism » 3:AM Magazine
Richard Dawkins has done more than his share of getting to grips and he agrees, reality is stranger than we probably can imagine. But he's still sporting this message:

Like the faith-challenged Mormons featured in the Times yesterday, he just wants the truth. It can hurt, and it can liberate. Part of the important reality of our historical situation is that some of us still do not want the truth. They must be argued with, for all the good that may not do; but more than that, they must be superceded. We don't have to bad-mouth religion, we just need to clarify its superior naturalistic alternative.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rethinking the Lord's Prayer

Buckminster Fuller was one of those humanist freethinkers (like John Dewey) who rejected God but still talked about divinity and a common faith in something he called "God." I still prefer to be God-free, but if I were going to talk that way I might sound something like this too:
To be satisfactory to science
all definitions
must be stated
in terms of experience
I define Universe as
all of humanity’s
consciously apprehended
and communicated (to self or others)
In using the word, God,
I am consciously employing
four clearly differentiated
from one another
experience-engendered thoughts...

No need to go into all that here. Suffice to say Fuller, like Dewey, like James, was concerned to enhance the quality of human experience and extract from it whatever meaning it might be made to contain. "Acknowledging the mathematically elegant intellectual integrity of eternally regenerative Universe is one way of identifying God." Whatever floats your dome, Bucky. Say it as you will, we can agree:

Up with the natural and human spirit, up with experience, up with life.

Happy Birthday, Buckminster Fuller: A Scientific Prayer | Brain Pickings

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hitch, closet dualist

Meghan O'Rourke's sobering essay on how some writers have written their own endings includes Hitch's acknowledgement that rejecting dualism is much easier said than done, when it comes down to it. Even the staunchest atheist is liable to look for an escape clause.
In notes appended to “Mortality,” Hitchens observes: “Always prided myself on my reasoning faculty and my stoic materialism. I don’t have a body, I am a body. Yet consciously and regularly acted as if this was not true, or as if an exception would be made in my case.”
The wise and brilliant John Updike was also taken aback by his final confrontation with the human condition, made to realize that we're really only young once.
As [he] asks in earnest, heartbreaking surprise, having glimpsed himself looking remarkably old in a bathroom mirror, “Where was the freckled boy who used to peek / into the front-hall mirror, off to school?”
Anatole Broyard also had to discover at first hand, as we all probably do, that the trite truth still and always applies:we don't have forever. O'Rourke:
The dissonance here is that dying is not really like entering “another country.” As Sontag observed accurately, it is our country from birth: “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.” But in a world that lacks an ethics of death, as ours does, we live estranged from this deeper knowledge. Perhaps because we must.
Deadlines - NYTimes.com