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News & For Sale “RIP Christopher Hitchens” by Peabody

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Peabody 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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He made it about a year and a half after being diagnosed with cancer last spring, but has finally succumb to his illness. One of my favorite writers and a hero of critical thinking. www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2011/12/In-Memoriam-Christopher-Hitchens-19492011
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Johnny Landmine 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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For bonus fun, try to count the Twitter users threatening to kill the person responsible for "#GodIsNotGreat" trending. They remind me so much of the Bible story about the time Jesus said he'd FUKIN KILL someone who disagreed with him after that person had already passed away from a horrible illness.
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Tulip O'Hare 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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DID ANYONE CHECK TO SEE IF HE DEATHBED CONVERTED LIKE EVERYONE KNEW HE WOULD?

I hope that we soon see another thinker who challenges the status quo as aggressively, persistently, and passionately as he did. He will be missed.

If nothing else, you've gotta admire the man for responding to finding out he's going to die by exploding into workaholism. I think he did more interviews and talks in the last year than in the entire rest of his career put together.
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John Booty 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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I'm an atheist but I usually think atheism is really boring because I can't get excited about not believing in things.

A lot of times, aggressive atheists are grown-up versions of the kid in your second-grade class who was the first one to discover that Santa didn't exist. Remember? That dude thought he was sooooOOOOOoooo smart. It's like, congratulations, dude. You made Susie cry. How is that helping?

Also, a lot of my favorite people in the world belong to various faiths so you're not going to hear me trashing those faiths en masse. Contrary to popular belief, most people who believe in various supernatural deities spend absolutely none of their time bombing abortion clinics or burning science textbooks.

There are most definitely times when we do need to stand up to faith when it gets in the way of science and learning, but I think we do the overall struggle for knowledge a disservice if we go out of our way to trash things people hold dearly. Those are real people with real feelings.

That all said, Christopher Hitchens was pretty awesome.
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Tulip O'Hare 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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Wow, I figured this would turn into "atheists are sooooooo meeeeean" eventually, but I didn't think it'd be the fourth goddamn post.
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all.things.serve.the.beam 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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John Booty said:
I'm an atheist but I usually think atheism is really boring because I can't get excited about not believing in things.

A lot of times, aggressive atheists are grown-up versions of the kid in your second-grade class who was the first one to di...


I'm pretty much with you on this one. I'm an atheist, and I like being an atheist (and I love reading works by other atheists like Hitchens), but I don't like going around arguing about it (unless someone starts it) and I always cringe whenever I hear about condescending atheist billboards. I didn't even know there were atheist billboards until about a year ago -- I figured one of the tenets of atheism would be not shoving your faith down people's throats. Even though atheism is very largely grounded in science, it doesn't definitively answer the god question -- so, to some extent, there's a leap of faith there as well to say "Well, there definitely is no such thing as god."

I frankly find religion (not faith, religion) to be on the whole more destructive than helpful, but it's certainly not going to go away by belittling people's beliefs.
PS: On the other hand, not all Susies are nice. Maybe this Susie was going around judging other kids in Santa's name using a set of criteria that's formed of her xenophobia/racism/sexism/etc. and letting the naughty ones know that they're terrible people, only because they don't believe in Santa.

Then I don't really care if Susie cries.

Moderator Amanda Says:

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Johnny Landmine 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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Tulip O'Hare said:
Wow, I figured this would turn into "atheists are sooooooo meeeeean" eventually, but I didn't think it'd be the fourth goddamn post.


Yeah, what the hell, dudes. Nobody said anything.
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John Booty 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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Tulip O'Hare said:
Wow, I figured this would turn into "atheists are sooooooo meeeeean" eventually, but I didn't think it'd be the fourth goddamn post.

You're both more than literate, so why did you willingly choose to comprehend my post so badly?

To comprehend it any worse you would have to go completely off the rails and declare that it was a donkey and not a post on the Internet or something.

When discussing one of the most prominent promoters of atheism ever, it's completely on-topic to discuss the practical ways and means of promoting atheism.

I just re-read my post and while it's not Pulitzer stuff it's clearly expressed and nothing at all like waaaaaah mean atheists. So what did you really disagree with there?
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Johnny Landmine 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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You didn't really "discuss practical means of promoting atheism," at least not until starting off with something that's easier to read as "mean atheists!" than you think it is. I get that that wasn't your intention now, but it seemed kind of an unprovoked way to lead in a thread about someone passing away.

But then I started off by laughing about Twitter so what do I know.
PS: Like reading your post at first, it came off a lot like a reaction to something that hadn't happened in the thread yet. Granted it might well eventually have, but I think that's why it seemed inapproriate.
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John Booty 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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all.things.serve.the.beam said:
Even though atheism is very largely grounded in science, it doesn't definitively answer the god question -- so, to some extent, there's a leap of faith there as well to say "Well, there definitely is no such thing as god."

That's a bit like saying socks don't keep your head warm, isn't it? That's not their purpose, just like the purpose of science isn't to prove that no God exists.

I get a little feisty when any part of science described as a leap of faith. There are gaps in our knowledge but it's not a leap of faith to say, "We've been learning about things in a rigorous way for centuries and absolutely everything we've ever discovered points to a rational universe not controlled by anything that remotely resembles the 'God' or gods of any religion."

How can we look at the sum of science - centuries of work by hundreds of thousands of brilliant people from Newton through Einstein up to today, and say it's a leap of faith?

Theoretically, every atom in the universe could spontaneously decay tomorrow. We can't absolutely rule it out just like we can't rule God out, but it's not a leap of faith to say, "Everything we've learned so far points to all atoms in the universe not decaying tomorrow."
PS:
You didn't really "discuss practical means of promoting atheism," at least not until starting off with something that's easier to read as "mean atheists!" than you think it is.

Yes, I'm clearly criticizing the way a lot of atheists go about things because I think it's counterproductive. No, nobody had brought it up yet.

But since we're discussing a guy who pretty much made it his life's work to talk about, write about, and promote atheism... it's a pretty on-topic thing to introduce into the thread.
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Johnny Landmine 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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Aiight.

Definitely seconding your reaction to science-as-leap-of-faith. It's impossible to discuss atheism online without someone saying that atheists rely on faith as much as the religious do, and every time I hear that, I think, what? Did you really say that?
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all.things.serve.the.beam 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that science, in part of in whole, is a leap of faith. I just meant to say that faith is believing in something you can't prove to be true (and I understand that this may be an opinion that only I have). "Everything we've learned so far points to all atoms in the universe not decaying tomorrow" carries a different weight than "The universe will not decay tomorrow."
PS: I think this might be a semantic issue, and it's my bad.
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Moonage Daydream 2 years ago on 12/17/11
Equipped: Link's Boomerang named "I wish I knew how to quit you"
Science has much to say on existing and documented systems of belief in God (e.g. how much time has elapsed since the Big Bang, how long life on Earth has existed, evolution, etc.), but nothing much to say on the possibility of "God" in the sense of why or how the universe as we know it came to exist.

Therefore atheism in the sense of "all existing and documented systems of belief in God are fairy tales and superstition" is defensible but atheism in the sense of "there is no God or higher power in any imaginable form" is silly.

I feel like we need a new words for the former concept, because I can never tell what someone means when they use the word "atheist."

Actually there's one I heard, although it doesn't seem to be in common use, but maybe we can change that: If you simply reject all human religions but are "agnostic" on the idea that there may or may not be a higher power, or creator, that is beyond our ability to comprehend, you might just be an "adogmatist."
PS: To keep thread on track, let me just post one of my favorite Hitchens quotes:

"A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can't make old friends."
 
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Britishly Delicious 2 years ago on 12/17/11
Moonage Daydream said:
If you simply reject all human religions but are "agnostic" on the idea that there may or may not be a higher power, or creator, that is beyond our ability to comprehend, you might just be an "adogmatist."


Or they could just be a huge pussy and should really take that fence post out of their ass.
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John Booty 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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Moonage Daydream said:
Actually there's one I heard, although it doesn't seem to be in common use, but maybe we can change that: If you simply reject all human religions but are "agnostic" on the idea that there may or may not be a higher power, or creator, that is beyond our ability to comprehend, you might just be an "adogmatist."

"Adogmatist" seems sort of useful, and "atheist" probably needs replacing as well since it's a little bit too narrow: it literally means we don't believe in deities. But not all religions have deities - animism, the chakra system in Naruto, etc. And I don't believe in them, either. (Maybe the Naruto one, just a little....)

But... ehhhhhhhh. Non-rhetorical question: is it worth coming up with completely accurate terms for one's precise level of opposition to things that are as nebulous as religious belief? I don't know. I'm kind of leaning towards "no, it's not worth it." But maybe that's the kind of lazy thinking we're supposed to be opposed to.
PS:
all.things.serve.the.beam said:
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that science, in part of in whole, is a leap of faith. I just meant to say that faith is believing in something you can't prove to be true (and I understand that this may be an opinion that only I have). "Everything we'...

Atheist types get picky about phrases like that since "WELL ISN'T SCIENCE JUST ANOTHER TYPE OF RELIGION OR FAITH? YOU HAVE FAITH IN THE THINGS YOU READ IN SCIENCE MAGAZINES EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR OWN PARTICLE COLLIDER TO VERIFY ANYTHING THEY'RE SAYING, SO HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT THAN ME READING THE BIBLE AND HAVING FAITH IN THE BIBLE?" is one of the most common and most horrible things people say in defense of religion.

You, of course, weren't saying anything like that!
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Tulip O'Hare 2 years ago on 12/17/11
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John Booty said:
You're both more than literate, so why did you willingly choose to comprehend my post so badly? <snip> So what did you really disagree with there?


Johnny pretty much covered it.
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Moonage Daydream 2 years ago on 12/18/11
Equipped: Link's Boomerang named "I wish I knew how to quit you"
John Booty said:
But... ehhhhhhhh. Non-rhetorical question: is it worth coming up with completely accurate terms for one's precise level of opposition to things that are as nebulous as religious belief?


I think it is; I've seen and read a number of debates where one side makes certain assumptions about the other side's views and vice versa based on different understandings of words like "atheist."

I've also known self-described "atheists" who didn't realize there could be a distinction between proclaiming "there is no God" and proclaiming "all human religions, however useful or sustaining their adherents find them, are fiction." Stating the former is as much an act of faith as worship is.

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Lord_BullGod 2 years ago on 12/18/11
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Gonna post tomorrow why.

But this dude is fantastic and is one of the most important people in history for me. I loved his work, though it conflicts with my own belief in some ways, but in others it futhers my life mission stance.

This man died way before his prime, but at least he died like a rock star.
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John Booty 2 years ago on 12/18/11
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Moonage Daydream said:
distinction between proclaiming "there is no God" and proclaiming "all human religions, however useful or sustaining their adherents find them, are fiction." Stating the former is as much an act of faith as worship is.

I don't agree that is an "act of faith" at all. Why would we call it an "act of faith" when it's a conclusion based on centuries of experimentation and learning?

Plus the term is just too nebulous. What is a god, anyway?

In a few centuries, we've pretty much mastered electricity and have made serious headway into fucking around with things at the atomic and subatomic level. And with things like particle accelerators we're peeking beyond that.

A civilization that was similar to us but had a tiny head start could be transmuting matter at will right now, just like we will be in a few centuries if (certainly a huuuuge "if") we keep progressing at our current rate.

So would they (or we) be gods?

Or does a god have to work or exist "outside the system?" -- not be subject to the laws that the rest of the universe is subject to? A civilization that masters matter and other kinds of energy as well as we've mastered electricity would pretty much effectively be kind of operating outside of the system anyway.

Does a god have to have existed before the Big Bang? Does a god have to be some kind of conscious entity?

So I don't know.
PS: But I do know we've never found one shred of good evidence for the existence of anything you could reasonably call a god.

There are still unexplored parts of the Amazon, but I think it's reasonable to say there are no unicorns there. It's not a leap of faith; we've never seen one single thing to suggest that unicorns exist.
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John Booty 2 years ago on 12/18/11
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Note: I realize that talking about "transmuting matter" is awful science fiction-ish.

It's not. It's mundane. It's inside your $15 smoke detector.

We create americium (a completely synthetic element) by blasting other elements with radiation until they transmute into americium. Then we put it inside $15 smoke detectors, where it slowly transmutes into neptunium. In your house.

Really, the only thing preventing us from doing more of that is the large amount of energy involved. The fact that we can put a little americium into your $15 smoke detector is just a lucky coincidence -- or not, because we can't rule out an intelligent designer, rite? -- because it happens to be a byproduct of nuclear reactors.

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