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.

No comments:

Post a Comment