Thursday, January 28, 2010

My kid is going to have such a different view of dinosaurs than I did...

Cool science news is coming out. It has been known for years that dinosaurs had feathers. Even as a kid in a highly religious house that was dubious of any science news, I heard about dinosaurs with feathers. Now, my kid grows up in a world where we know what color they were. Awesome.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Boy, what a day.

I met my first homeopath today, also the Mormons just left.

The baby's teeth have been bothering her, and aspirin seems to stop her up. It has been a real frustration around our house lately. My wife, in desperation suggested I go down to the local herb shop. A friend had suggested they might be able to help. I was dubious, but I went ahead and stopped by while I was out. Sure enough, the only thing they had was a homeopathic solution made from chamomile. It was sitting next to a similar solution for bed wetting. Yes, they make homeopathic cures for bed wetting now. I asked the lady at the shop if they had anything that wasn't homeopathic, and she indicated that homeopathy was what they did. I was cordial, but told her that I wasn't convinced homeopathy worked and left. I forgot to even check the price.

When I got home, the Mormons were there. They've been making the rounds of my neighborhood for the last few months, and I was hoping to catch them. Fortunately, it was at a good time too. Other than having to take care of the baby, nothing else was going on. We spoke for over an hour, and they promised to return again in two weeks time.

I found it amazing how unprepared these guys were for a legitimate theological discussion. They were not well spoken. They did not have a firm grasp, or have even heard of, the most common atheist objections to theism or Christianity in particular. They'd never even heard of Jephthah or Elisha and the 42 bears.

When they return in two weeks, I'll be a little more prepared with questions and objections specific to their faith. Maybe then we can have a more fruitful discussion. Between now and then, I've got to go through my copy of the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Varieties of Secular Experience

My job allows me to listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot. Tons. Something like 12-14 hours a day.

This means my iTunes is constantly being updated and I'm always looking for new shows to listen to. Sometimes this is wonderful. Sometimes it isn't. I get stuff on philosophy, skepticism, atheism, history...all of it. Everything from guys in a basement talking comic books and video games to serious university lectures on physics and chemistry. I get to be the information sponge I always wanted.

Unfortunately, sometimes the most promising podcasts turn out all wrong. Other times podcasts I'm initially dubious of, turn out to be gems. Recently, both of these have occurred.

First the bad, Irreligiosophy. This podcast had so much promise. Both hosts are ex-Mormon atheists, a religion I find fascinating. It is up there with Scientology for crazy origins, and these guys come from both the mainstream and fundamentalist sects, so they have good perspectives.

If only they'd stick with what they know. In their third episode, they interviewed a liberal Christian author who had blasted the New Atheist movement in one of her books, which is great. Unfortunately, they didn't address any of her book's claims, and spent the whole time throwing really bad questions her way. This is forgivable. It was their first guest. They aren't professionals. Whatever.

Then they ruined me with episode four. Most of the episode was dedicated to ranting about Rick Warren's prayer at Obama's inauguration and a segment about atheists on Glenn Beck's show. I agree with these guys in principle on both subjects, but the arguments they were making were childish and unconvincing. Worse, they were uninformed. On the Beck rant, they attacked a good piece of legislation out of the Illinois constitution, because it mentioned religion.

Now the good. I had a mildly religious experience today. One of those transcendent moments that nearly brings a hard heart like mine to tears. A podcast I recently subscribed to called Skeptically Speaking had a special episode of music inspired by science and skepticism. By the time they got to the remix of Carl Sagan's 'A Glorious Dawn' featuring Stephen Hawking, I nearly cried. It was like one of those moments during prayer that Christians talk about where they have to pull over for the feeling of transcendence.

Finally, I found something much less emotional, but wonderfully educational. A professor at York University in Toronto has a lecture series on the early Christian church, its diversity and establishment, along with the historical Jesus. Anyone who wants to have a solid grasp of the historical context of the early church, and what evidence there is regarding its culture shouldn't miss this.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Give money, you godless heathens!

This is your chance to help prove to the world that you can be good without a god.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation is spearheading a Non-Believers Giving Aid drive to raise money for Haiti. All donations will go through two entirely secular charities, Doctors Without Borders and International Red Cross. You can rest assured that none of your money is going to programs trading souls for food.

Additionally, if you prefer one of these over the other, you can pick which of the two you want your money to go towards.

The payments are through Paypal (you don't have to have an account, you can use a credit card). All of the money you donate will go to the charity. Richard Dawkins has agreed to cover the Paypal fees up to $10,000.

Here is a link to the press release and donation site.

Our family donated. Will you?