This Week In God 8.10.11

August 10, 2011

1. Three great blogs moving – PZ Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, has moved from Scienceblogs to freethoughtblogs. Though he still posts some of his material at the old site, I’m not crazy about this move because because freethoughtblogs seems more atheist-focused whereas scienceblogs at least gives the impression of Pharyngula being more science-focused, regardless of whether the actual emphasis changes or not. Hermant Mehta has also moved his Friendly Atheist blog to Patheos, a site hosting blogs from many different religious and spiritual perspectives. I think this one was a good move because it gives Mehta’s atheist blog a great opportunity to gain readers among the religious, and this could possibly change some people’s views about atheism. And lastly, blogger Greta Christina will be soon moving her blog to freethoughtblogs. I’m fairly neutral about this because she’s already got a strong atheist readership, so I don’t expect much change one way or the other in terms of her readership.

2. Speaking of PZ Myers, he too has now publicly taken a position on the American Atheists’ lawsuit over the “9/11 Cross.” It seems that even that nasty militant atheist that Jeff Wagg today (I think quite unfairly) called the “FoxNews of atheism” in a tweet agrees with me that it’s just not worth the effort and that we’ve got bigger fish to fry:

I can understand that in principle it’s promoting religion, and I look at that random chunk of steel that forms a crude cross and can see that it is abysmally stupid to consider it a holy relic, but man, if atheists have to police every single act of stupidity committed by the human race, we’re going to get very, very tired. We need to pick our battles better, and this one is just plain pointless.

3. Stephen Hawking’s Curiosity refutes god on Discover Channel – You can watch the whole first installment at the link above…at least for now.

4. Jonathan T. Pararajasingham follows up his videos of 100 academics explaining their atheism with a 25-minute video of 20 academics and theologians explaining why they believe in god. The former is a wonderful collection of brilliant thinkers making intelligent arguments in favor of atheism while the latter is a depressing example of how motivated reasoning can poison the minds of otherwise intelligent people, causing them to make the most asinine and incoherent arguments to defend their indefensible faith.

5. Evolution wins out in Texas – Okay, I’m very late on this story. So sue me. The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution in a 14-0 vote, approving scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers, rejecting the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC.

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Even the good billboards get attacked

December 5, 2010

The other day, I expressed my disapproval of the latest American Atheist billboard that went up in New Jersey near the Lincoln Tunnel. And the more responses to it I see in the letters to the editor of my local Jersey newspaper and elsewhere, the more angry it makes me.

Sure, there are dumber criticisms such as the “why didn’t they spend the $20,000 on charity” charge, which exposes a complete double standard, since any motorist in the U.S. has undoubtedly encountered at least one of the thousands of aggressive Christian billboards across the country and never seemed to mind any of that money not going to charity.

But that shouldn’t distract from the legitimate criticisms of the billboard. While I completely agree that the Jesus story is accepted by many on entirely insufficient evidence and objectively has no greater evidence than any Greek or Roman myth (a point David Silverman makes himself in this clip), that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right message to stick on a billboard. David Silverman’s attempts to defend the billboard choice are not very persuasive because, quite frankly, they’re complete bullshit…and everyone knows it (or as American Atheists would say everyone “KNOWS” it). Regardless of the fact that the Jesus as myth argument is a completely valid position and one that even gets debated by actual historians, the message of the billboard is clear. It’s not to stir atheists from the closet, as Silverman pretends it’s intended to do, but to give Christians the finger. That’s it.

Finding positive reviews of the  billboard from people not already firmly in the atheist community is as difficult as finding positive reviews of any given PETA stunt from people who aren’t already devoutly devoted to PETA. It’s an unmitigated public relations disaster for the atheist community…and it was delivered by members of our own team.

So what am I to do? Write my own letter to the editor? I can’t defend that billboard. It’d be easier to defend the Iraq War. American Atheists has $20,000 to burn on a billboard and they chose to squander that opportunity by thumbing their noses at Christianity for spite and going, “Na, na, na, na, na!”

I’m sorry but “Na, na, na, na, na!” is not worth $20,000. To be honest, that money would have been better spent as a donation to charity. That’s at least positive PR. Hell, if, like PETA or the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), the goal was simply to garner attention with a publicity stunt, that money would have been better spent literally tossing it out onto the streets of Time Square ala The Joker from the 1989 Batman film with David Silverman holding a bullhorn announcing that the money was courtesy of American Atheists.

You see, that would get attention and wouldn’t give people a reason to hate our fuckin’ guts…which is the reaction we’re now getting thanks to American Atheists. Suddenly, we’re again less popular than Al Quada.

But of course there’s another problem we face. This one.

Even when we put up a fantastic advertisement on the side of a bus that actually does say something positive like “Millions of Americans Are Good Without God”, we STILL get attacked from Christians insisting that such a benign message is offensive to them. Not only that, but you get tons of Christians, most of whom probably never rode on a bus in their lives, are organizing a boycott of buses that happen to feature the benign atheist ads.

So what’s the solution? I don’t know. All I can say is that if we’re going to continue to advertise atheism, skepticism, rationalism, etc. (and I think we should), we need to do a better job of choosing our ads and our message, and I think we should strive for ads that accentuate the positive attributes of atheism and reason instead of trying to out-WBC the WBC…even if it means we’ll be criticized anyway. Our ways are not their ways and I’d rather defend against illegitimate criticisms than legitimate ones.

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