Posts Tagged ‘Sunday sermon’

Sunday Sermon: Tardis edition

I really should have written this a few weeks ago, given the subject matter, but let’s just pretend I have a time machine and that this is still December:

Something that occurs to me is that being an atheist is kind of like being a grownup at Christmastime. We have this shared knowledge that’s not polite to express in public, because there are still folks who believe in the magical bearded man, even though we know he isn’t real.

And I wonder if a lot of atheists are people who grew out of Santa Claus, and then just kept on growing. I mean, at some point as a grownup (or semi-grownup), you start going along with the program, and you knowingly let the little kids have their silly fantasies about Santa.

And you do this because you know that it’s relatively harmless and that one day they’ll grow out of it and come to realize Christmas isn’t really about some silly notion of a guy who lives at the North Pole and rides a magic sleigh full of toys.

It’s really about how the son of God was born to a virgin after being immaculately conceived as part of a grand plan for God to forgive mankind for having the sinful nature God gave them … and then you start going “Hmmm …”

Sunday Sermon: The discovery of lying

Still really busy with studying for tech certifications (closing in on the last MCSA module, now I just need to schedule the exams), so I’m afraid I just haven’t been thinking much about the whole atheism thing (I’m neglecting my main blog as well). But I’ve been sitting on this nice video of Ricky Gervais describing his childhood discovery that his mum was being a bit cagey about the whole Jesus thing. So I’ll turn the mic over to Brother Gervais for today’s sermon.

Sunday Sermon: Trends with benefits

One of the bogus arguments offered in favor of religion is the old “if it makes people happy …” line. They cite studies showing that religious people are happier or more content or find life more fulfilling or some such thing, and then suggest that this is somehow an argument in favor of the truth of the religious proposition, rather than merely a benefit of believing something that may very well be false.

But a new study by some folks at my alma mater suggests that even the psychological benefits of religion may just be the same as the benefits of any sort of group affiliation. The study finds that “it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction.” So maybe it’s not about feeling plugged in to some higher power, or perceiving life to have some special purpose, or even just having something to believe in, but rather, it’s just about having other people to believe it with.

I can’t help but think of this Onion article from years back: “Recently Born-Again Christian Finally Has Social Life”.

(pic captured from Atheist Empire)

Sunday Sermon: Gene therapy

I’m delighted to learn that one of my favorite writers, the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten (best known for his Pulitzer-winning “Pearls Before Breakfast” experiment as well as a great, must-read piece on children’s party clown The Great Zucchini), is an atheist, and today’s column is devoted to the recent Pew study showing atheists know more about religion than religious folks.

So I’m turning my Sunday Sermon microphone over to Brother Gene. Here’s a brief taste:

Q: If God didn’t create the universe, how do you atheists think it began?

A: With a Big Bang.

Q: Oh, yeah? Well, what came before the Big Bang?

A: The Big Diamond Ring.

You may have to sign up with to read it, but IMO it’s well worth it (I generally go there on Sundays for Gene and the Style Invitational).

Sunday Sermon: Maher-velous

If you’re reading this the day it posts, I’m out of town — visiting an old friend from college (On Wisconsin!) who’s now in Newark, and we’re probably watching the Packer game in a Packer bar in Greenwich Village(!) that used to be a beatnik hangout(!!). So I’ll turn the mic over to brother Bill Maher, who absolutely pwns Bill O’Reilly in his own “No Spin Zone.”

Sunday Sermon: Foxhole atheism

Some inspirational verse from Richard Tillman, brother of atheist hero Pat Tillman, whose family’s thirst for the truth led them to refuse to believe the authorities’ lies. Starting about 5 minutes into the video, we see how the family started standing up to those lies right at the funeral, when Richard follows John McCain’s religious platitudes by stating flatly that Pat was an atheist and isn’t “home” or “with God” or anything like that — “He’s fuckin’ dead.”

Sunday Sermon: God, in the cockpit, with the boxcutter

A dreadful 9/11 poem called “Meet Me In The Stairwell” was posted to the Christian-run forum where I spend way too much of my time. It’s noteworthy as a typical example of the kind of rationalization religious people engage in when they’re trying to figure out how a loving God could allow such horrors, and they can’t bring themselves to accept the obvious answer.

The poem is from God’s POV, talking about where He was (everywhere, of course) and what he was doing (not very much except bringing people “home,” i.e. killing them).  The part that really strikes me is, “I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.” Yeah, including the pilot’s seat, with the prayer of “Allahu akbar!”

Another favorite (if that’s the right word for it) passage: “I was in Texas, Virginia, California, Michigan, and Afghanistan. I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news. Did you sense Me?”

Well, I definitely sensed something horrible and evil. So yeah, maybe so.

P.S. To all those Facebookers who reminded me yesterday to “never forget” — you really didn’t need to worry about that. Trust me.

(pic via CafePress)

Sunday Sermon: The Adams Homily

Things are turmoil-y here, so I think I’m going to turn my Sunday Sermon microphone to the late Douglas Adams (that’s him on the right, from an early appearance in a Monty Python sketch he wrote), in this interview with American Atheists.

This Adams interview is just so good, all the way through. Every time I go looking for a bit I can grab for an excerpt, my peripheral vision drifts to another part that’s just as good or better.

Probably the part that’s most relevant to today’s endless discussions of definitions (agnostic, “strong” or “weak” atheist) and handwringing about being “strident” is this:

I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god – in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly.

It’s interesting to see someone using the word “convinced” that way. I tend to think of it as a synonym for “certain” or “totally confident,” while his use seems to indicate a bit more wiggle room. Perhaps I’m misreading it, but he seems to be using “convinced” in the sense of having seen enough to form an opinion. I get the impression he would have said it’s reasonable for a person whose convinced X is true to later be convinced X is false, if more information comes to light. All the same, I think I’ll avoid using “convinced” to describe my own view, lest people jump to the same conclusion.

(pic via Python Wiki)

Sunday Sermon: Science and “spirit”

So, another atheist has added his voice to the chorus of complaint about “strident atheists” who thwart the quest to “literally rise above” the conflict between science and religion.

Astrophysicist Adam Franks writes that we need “a language for reimagining culture,” but one that includes the words “spirit” and “sacred.” He seems to be suggesting that we should pay some sort of homage to the “God of the gaps,” rather than merely acknowledging gaps:

“We do not yet have the language to express ourselves when we seek to both honor the practices of science and the experience of life justly called sacred.  We do not yet have a vocabulary that can acknowledge science and its ethic of investigation as a bulwark against prejudice and bias while simultaneously acknowledging the existence of other “ways of knowing” beyond the deployment of reason and empirical investigation.”

He also seems to think that an idea’s persistence implies some merit: “Can we see what is best in existing traditions and ask why they remain inspiring?”

Sure, but what if the answer is that science remains inspiring because it works really well at getting us closer to truth, while religion remains inspiring because it’s really good at giving people answers they find comforting, while frightening people who would otherwise reject it as utter folly?

(pic via Vampire Freaks)

Sunday Sermon: Growing a pair

New Scientist’s book editor, Amanda Gefter (right), writes an article on spotting religious agendas in books about science. It has some nice tips on red-flag terms like “scientific materialism” and “Darwinism” that tend to indicate the author is probably promoting some creationist or “Intelligent Design” or other anti-evolutionary nonsense.

Then they get an angry letter from the lawyer for one of the authors mentioned in the article (James Le Fanu, whose “Why Us?” was specifically called out by name).

So they pull the article, then  later restore it, without explaining the details or reasoning behind either decision. I’m guessing what happened was the lawyer wanted to play it safe by complying with the request (lawyers are hired to keep you out of trouble, and there’s no downside for them if you play it too safe), and eventually someone figured out that it was an empty threat.

I mean, what’s the guy going to do, sue them for defamation? For claiming he’s got a religious agenda? That would mean claiming that having a religious agenda is such a bad thing that to accuse someone of it is an act of defamation. And I’m guessing this guy doesn’t actually see a religious agenda as a bad thing. Hence the mention of his book in the first place.

At any rate, it’s nice to see reason and intelligence prevailing in the end, even if it took a more circuitous path than I would have preferred.

(Amanda Gefter pic via