Skepticism = Skepticism, X = X

Michael Rosch posted an article on GS on Tuesday about another article by Jeff Wagg. The following was originally a comment I was posting to his piece, but it got so involved I decided to just submit it as it’s own piece. Please to enjoy.

I read the Wagg article, and I think you’re misunderstanding it (or perhaps I did, maybe), but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that atheists don’t belong involved in skeptical movements. A large proportion of skeptics seem to be atheists (I have data to support). But I think there’s an important distinction between atheism and skepticism.

I’m a lot of things: a feminist, an atheist, a liberal, a Joss Whedon fan, a grad student, a bisexual, a nerd, a gamer, a woman…a skeptic. And yes, I’d say there is significant overlap in the various things I am. For example, my experience as a woman might have made me more likely to self-identify as a feminist. My skepticism might led me to the sort of examination resulting in the conclusion that I’m an atheist. My general nerdom might have led me straight into the Whedonverse. However, if I found that a majority of feminists were Joss Whedon fans (he does favor strong, female characters), could I say that being a Joss Whedon fan and being a feminist are the same thing? I certainly couldn’t. Because even if the experiences and characteristics I had that led me to Buffy also inspired my strong feelings about the equality of men and women in society, they are still two different parts of who I am. … continue reading this entry.

Extraordinary [religious] claims require extraordinary evidence

Beware of dragon

“George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and Christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd.”

- Sam Harris

If you replaced the phrase “Christians love him for it” with “skeptics must shut up” in the above quote, Sam Harris could be describing the current state of the skeptical movement.

Recently, one of my least favorite issues has resurfaced, what role, if any, atheism has within the skeptical movement. The controversy seems to have begun with Jeff Wagg writing a blog singling out a flyer and four scheduled talks at Skepticon3 focused on atheism or more accurately religious criticism, one of which with a heavy emphasis on physics. Though Wagg hadn’t seen the talks yet, he expressed more than mild disapproval of them based on their titles and his opinions of the speakers themselves. In fact, he suggested these topics have no right being discussed at a skeptical conference at all. According to Wagg, this doesn’t look like a skeptics conference at all, but rather something entirely different, “an atheist conference”…or worse “an anti-Christian conference.”

BUT DON’T PANIC!!! … continue reading this entry.

The God of Creationism

Believe it or not, as an atheist I don't see this as an irrefutable text.

As far as atheists are concerned, I think I come off being rather tame.  I have never suggested that religion is some horrible institution that should be burned to the ground and I have been quite outspoken with my fellow skeptics about my belief that there are forms of belief which cannot ever be debunked through skepticism.  That said, creationism bothers me on multiple levels.  Last week, I wound up spending an inordinate amount of time arguing with a creationist on this very blog and I came to the conclusion that reactive defense of evolution was not going to win an argument with someone who refuses to look at evidence.  So I’ve decided to go on the attack on this one.  My reason is simple: whether there is a god or not, the specific God of Christian Creationism is logically impossible. … continue reading this entry.

Hey Phil! I wasn’t a dick!

On Friday I did something that was fairly new for me.  I’ve been online writing about my opinions for… years.  I’ve been getting into random arguments with strangers for… years.  What I’d never done before was get up in front of a room full of Christians and try to represent an atheistic and highly skeptical viewpoint.  And now I have!  The people that ran the event say they’ll have it up online by the end of the week, when it is I’ll give everybody the link and if you want to see me with my ratty blond beard being told that I’m representing the New York City Skeptics (I told them that I wasn’t a representative of NYCS, but just a member, but they didn’t always listen) and saying why I don’t believe in God, you can check it out to your hearts content.  For today, I’m going to do what I can to tell you about the event, say what I took from it, where I think I could have done better.  Basically, I’m going to use this blog that I hope you tend to enjoy as my diary.  Aren’t you lucky? … continue reading this entry.

Draw Mohammed Day cartoonist in hiding

Click to go to the "Everybody Draws Mohammed" wiki gallery.

I’ve heard from many people who were opposed to Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. It seems that those people just didn’t get it or get why it was so important. But perhaps no one demonstrates why it was so important better than Molly Norris herself, the cartoonist who came up with the idea of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, as she is now in hiding like Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali because of threats on her life due to a fatwa. From the Seattle Weekly News:

The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, “going ghost”: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It’s all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon. … continue reading this entry.

Thor and the Lightning Pole

A small Nordic camp, 1100 years ago.  A cloudy Thursday.
ERIK and OLEG stand in front of KING LEIF.
LEIF
So where are we on this whole “lightning destroying our crops” thing?
ERIK
I’ve noticed that lightning seems to be attracted to tall things and metal.
OLEG
I think Thor’s mad at us.  Or drunk.  It’s hard to tell the difference. … continue reading this entry.

The Mind Games of James Ray

Would you give this guy money? How about your life? (From citypages.com)

(From citypages.com)

This week ABC aired an episode of a new documentary news show they call Mind Games detailing motivational speaker James Ray’s rise to fame and fall from glory. James Ray, you will remember, is the self proclaimed guru that has pled not guilty to three counts of manslaughter after the deaths of several of his followers during a sweat lodge ceremony last year. Given that this guy’s psychological manipulation, exorbitant fees and questionable philosophy has led to the death those who trusted him,  ABC had no option but to report on this story in a purely skeptical way. While interviewing some of Ray’s devotees who participated in that fateful “Spirit Warrior” program, the ABC reporter frequently asked, “But didn’t you think that was crazy?” … continue reading this entry.

Scientology: The Reason I Should Avoid Salt

I have to say something: for all the complaining we do about the mainstream media, there is one paper out there that’s been hitting it out of the park, even if it is exclusively on one very particular issue.  That would be the St. Petersburg Times and their coverage of the “Church” of Scientology over the past year.  We mentioned this briefly back in November, but it’s worth bringing up again.  The St. Petersburg Times got a bug in their asses over the lords of LaLa Land after talking with a former member of the cult back in June of ‘09, and ever since they’ve shown no sign of backing down, slowing their coverage, or toning it down to avoid offending those people who deserve a bit of offending.  Anyway, their most recent article is about the treatment of women in the Sea Org who happen to get pregnant, and it’s a fairly repugnant story, to say the least. … continue reading this entry.

How Do You Stop Sylvia?

The one psychic Ill always believe in...

The one psychic I'll always believe in...

You probably have the same reaction that I do to the name “Sylvia Browne.” It’s a sort of growl that starts at the back of your throat. Maybe it makes you writhe slightly, maybe it makes you gag, maybe it actually makes you snarl audibly. I mention her because it turns out, Sylvia’s got a new book. It’s called PSYCHIC: My Life in Two Worlds and it’s published by HarperOne. My guess is that it’s going to do well, and right now I’m racking my brain to figure out why.

A google search of “Sylvia Browne” delivers her site three times at the top. Well, two of her sites. Those are www.sylvia.org and www.sylviabrowne.com twice. After that, video results come in from YouTube, which are not complimentary to Sylvia. Below the video results is Sylvia’s Wikipedia page which is, by it’s nature, fairly neutral, and right after that we get Robert Lancaster’s fabulous site, www.stopsylvia.com. … continue reading this entry.

Undivine DNA

(THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB snoozes in his lounge chair.  ARCHANGEL MICHAEL storms in and slams a newspaper down on God’s lap, waking him up.)

GOD

Aaaaah!

MICHAEL

Have you seen what they’ve done now?

GOD

What!?  Who?!  I’m taking a nap, you slam a paper on my lap and ask me these questions!

MICHAEL

The monkeys, sir!  Who else? … continue reading this entry.

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