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Evolution, Atheism and Popular Culture

April 22, 2008

Probably due to Ben Stein’s new film, I’ve been noticing a lot of discussion on evolution and atheism in the media in recent days.

Christopher Heard has capped a series of interesting posts on Expelled with a personal review of the movie. It’s quite good, and I recommend it highly.

New York magazine has a piece by Sean McMans entitled Do Atheists Need a Church of their Own? discussing issues of religious structure among those who deny the supernatural.

Yesterday, Marty Moss-Coane from WHYY‘s Radio Times interviewed Chris Hedges, author of the new book I Don’t Believe in Atheists ( Listen to this show via Real Audio | mp3). Despite the provocative title, Chris doesn’t have problem with the bulk of atheists or theists, but takes exception to those of both camp that operate with a militant fundamentalism. Many of the players from Expelled and the New York magazine piece show up in the discussion of how neo-Atheist neocons are impacting the discussion of religion in the larger global political structure.

Finally, this week kicks of the Year of Evolution celebration running now through the end of May here in Philly. I’m hoping to get over to the Penn Museum for some of the lectures over the next few weeks.

  1. Samuel Skinner permalink
    April 22, 2008 11:37 am

    Militant fundamentalist atheists reminds me of Austin Powers:
    “And Frau- from the militant wing of the Salvation Army.”

  2. April 22, 2008 6:04 pm

    just saw Expelled… all in all well done i’d say

  3. April 23, 2008 3:38 am

    Atheism seems to break down into two basic camps:
    1. Those who say, “I believe in no god.”
    2. Those who say, “I do not believe in god.”

    These are actually two different positions…Those in the first camp are really no different from their theist counterparts in that they believe in something without certainty (what many atheists and theists call “faith.”) These are the atheists who evangelize on WordPress and every other blog (I’m a big fan of Spanish Inquisitor). Those in the second camp may not even know or consider themselves atheist. They really don’t “believe” in anything. They probably don’t even think about it. They either consider religious belief irrelevant, unnecessary, or immature.

    The first camp is as militant and fundamentalist as the very people they oppose. If Jesus Christ himself walked into the room, the first camp would continue to believe in atheism. The second camp is much more open minded to new ideas and would be willing to accept belief in a god if they encountered the proper evidence.

  4. Samuel Skinner permalink
    April 26, 2008 12:56 am

    Wrong LP- I’m a strong atheist AND it doesn’t require faith. God exists as easily as a square circle- the whole concept is impossible given what we know about reality.

    And, I’ve Jesus Christ walked the Earth again, I’d change my mind… about the supernatural. I’m not willing to accept his “Son of God” talk yet- (how do I know you aren’t Satan? Why does it seem all you want is people to obey you?), but if someone could prove they were Jesus I’d be impressed… actually that is sort of impossible. We have crazies on the corner who claim that. Let’s just go with miracles. Raising the dead would be impressive.

    Also, you miss use fundamentalist and militant and set the bar to high. Many of the people in the second category (weak atheists) are also the “militant” atheists you decry- Richard Dawkins and Hitchens for starters. In addition “militant” and “fundamentalist” are a joke- these people have limited themselves to words. Declaring they are “just like their enemies” is the sort of stupidity I have come to expect from the brainless leftists and moderates who swarm our country.

    The reason that is wrong is similar to why calling abolitionists dangerous radicals is wrong. Think it out- I’m sure you’ll get it.

  5. April 28, 2008 4:16 pm

    But Sam, there you go: “given what we know about reality.” I’m not about to start making an argument from ignorance, but you see my point here? Whether you know it or not, you have “faith” that what reality you have come to understand is the final, ultimate truth.

  6. Sarah permalink
    April 28, 2008 5:01 pm

    I like LP’s summation and it would seem that Sam has given an excellent example of it LP’s first category:

    Group 1: “I believe in no god.”

    Such persons have made a conscious decision to place their “faith” in things seen and proven with scientific method. Even science requires certain levels of “faith” (use “trust” or “belief” if you prefer) in methods, theories, and presuppositions.

    AND – I have also noticed that such persons tend to have an evangelistic, or “fundamentalist fervor” to “convert” others to their way of thinking. The clearly defined response from Sam is an example of the philosophical defense (dare I say “apologetics”?) from such “Abolitionists” who seek to deliver Theologically Minded persons from their apparent philosophical slavery.

    Perhaps the use of “militant fundamentalist” was too extreme in a literal sense, but in the metaphorical sense I think it’s fairly accurate. And, I wish that more such Atheists would allow for respectful tolerance of Theo-thinkers like myself. Heck – I’ve had about as many Atheists try to convert me as I’ve had Jehovah’s Witnesses give me literature… Sigh.


  7. Sarah permalink
    April 28, 2008 5:09 pm

    BTW: more to the point of the Blog Post —

    An HR Boss of mine was Evangelistic with her Atheism. She was fun. I liked working with her. But, as HR Directors are prone to strive for written operating procedures and practices in the office, she had an informal ‘Liturgy’ for us all.

    When a new ‘process’ was developed, she’d say “So let it be written” to which we were to respond (if we liked playing the game) “So let it be done.”

    It was liturgy, plain and simple. It was a clear expression of the development of “New Cannon” for the workplace. Maybe she just needed her job to be her church community. Whatever.
    — she also wore “Atheist” jewelry and was happy whenever anyone would ask her about it… so that she could evangelize. Rather funny, eh? Especially since I intentionally choose to NOT wear religious jewelry… 😉

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