Tuesday, November 24, 2009

50 blogs on disbelief - Introduction

50 Blogs on Disbelief
My thoughts on the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, Why We Are Athiests, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. Written as I read them in no particular order. The page number of the essay is provided at the top of each entry.
p1 Russell Blackford & Udo Schuklenk “Introduction: Voices of Reason”

If I had read this before buying the book, I might have passed. The store I ordered it from did not have it on the shelf, so I didn’t get that chance. That made for an interesting story about the sideways glance I got from the customer service person, a sort of, “ahh, you are one of us” look, but I’ll save that for later.

I agree with the editors that it is important for these voices to be heard at this time in history. Early in my research into atheism, I discovered that atheists are treated like a minority. A large percentage of people would not want their sister marrying one or would be suspicious of a stranger if all they knew was that they were atheist. However I can’t agree with this statement from this introduction

“Each week, it seems harder to keep the candle of reason alight.”

Atheists may currently account for only 18% or so of the total population, and may be under-represented in government, but look at the lower age groups, and the numbers are approaching 50%. Conversion is unlikely to have much of an impact on that. Instead of acknowledging that, they make their case with something that boarders on deceptive:

“concerted attempts are being made at the level of the United Nations to cement a new concept into international law, the dangerous idea of “defamation of religion.”

This “concerted effort” was supported by nations that themselves are known human rights abusers and it was a non-binding resolution. The United States dropped out of the committee before it was passed in a sign of protest. Recently, after the book was published, the US has re-joined the committee, apparently in an effort to correct the resolution. Regarding this, Hillary Clinton said,

“Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion. I strongly disagree. The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions. These differences should be met with tolerance not with suppression of discourse.”

Here is a link to the resolution
Editor's Note: This link is now unavailable, it is has security restrictions. The document is labeled (E/CN.4/2004/L.5). I will continue to check for it being reinstated at the UN's website.

A friend of mine has a sticker on his refrigerator that reads, “Intolerance will not be tolerated”. The editors don’t seem to get the joke. They don’t seem to understand that intolerance, met with intolerance, is just more intolerance.

When they are not engaging in hyperbole, I agree with them. Sifting through a wide variety of thoughts on religion is not easy. Our schools systems, in honor of separating church and state, have instead reduced religious literacy to near zero. This hurts free thinking and cultural awareness at a time when it is critical to our survival. We don’t need teachers leading prayer in schools. We do need them teaching that the God of Abraham is claimed by Jews, Muslims and Christians and get kids thinking about what that means for today’s politics.

I admire that their editing process did not include forcing a party line. The resulting essays do not all agree. I think that is a good thing.

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