FFrF Radio: Values Voters Summit Dissected

Podcast link.
November 3, 2007Dissecting “Values Voters” Summit

This episode hit a cord with me. I’ve long thought that we allow the Religious Reich to hijack that bus at our own risk. We all have values, and I resent the implication that only religious people have them.

Here’s a link to a column on Obama by Michelle Goldberg (a 2006 interviewee) on the same subject…


2006 Archive episode.
November 4, 2006Church Referendum Electioneering

This episode was largely about the Wisconsin Gay Marriage ban, which passed. So there isn’t much to recommend there.

FFrF Radio: Steve Benson

Podcast link.
October 27, 2007Guests: Steve Benson & Robert R. Tiernan

The grandson of Ezra Taft Benson (the former head of the Mormon church) is an Atheist. Gotta love that irony. I can’t say that he’s my favorite political cartoonist (I have a soft spot for local artist Ben Sargent) but he’s definitely good. Steve Benson @ Arizona Republic

Good interview.


2006 Archive episode.
October 28, 2006Author Ann Druyan, on Carl Sagan and Religion

Interview with Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s widow, without a doubt the best episode in the 2006 year (but then I am just a bit of a Carl Sagan fan) discussing the volume of his work that she edited and recently released entitled The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God.

Her recollections of Carl on the program were priceless.

FFrF Radio: Atheist Nobel Laureates

Podcast link.
October 20, 2007Nobel Laureates & Atheism

It’s no surprise to me that a majority of Nobel Laureates are Atheists. I’m still not sure why a majority of the population isn’t.


2006 Archive episode.
October 21, 2006State/Church Entanglement Prevented and Secular Reasons Against the Death Penalty

Richard Dawkins on the Colbert Report:

“You can’t disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster; You can’t disprove Thor with his hammer, you can’t disprove Zeus, or Poseidon. You’re an Atheist about all those gods. Everybody here is an Atheist about all those gods. Some of us just go one god further.”

Jean Gams was an interesting interview. It’s clear that the people who wanted to place a Christmas box angel in her city park saw the monument as a religious monument; but I have to say that angels have morphed over the years into fantasy creatures more than religious creatures (if they aren’t fantasy creatures, then why are the majority of the angels found in todays works of art female, while the angels in scripture are predominantly male?) I daresay if a group wanted to place a (Invisible Pink) Unicorn monument on public property, someone would have a problem with that.

I think I’ve also blogged on the subject of the Death Penalty before, which was the subject of the second interview. The social costs are beside the point for me, it’s a philosophical issue.

Atheist Radio Show Goes National on Air America

Faux News reports (you decide!):

“This one-hour weekly show from Wisconsin I don’t think is going to have much of an impact, thank God,” said Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,300719,00.html

My response to religious objections to a one hour Saturday program from FFrF? Where’s the rapture when you need it? Cheese & Rice, but I could use a little less religion on my airwaves, let me tell you.

Air America is not on the air in Austin, Texas. The purported Liberal Island in the sea of Conservative Texas doesn’t have a radio station running Air America. What a travesty. So, here goes. I’m working my way through the podcast archives, as well as listening to the new episodes as they air.

Podcast Link.
October 13, 2007Special Guests: Ron Reagan & Emma Martens

Press coverage on Freethought Radio going national.
Announcement of the billboard campaign.

Freethinkers Almanac. Freethought of the Day. Brad Pitt on loss of faith. Audio for this bit:

New Rules – A Religious Test for Office

Emma Martens is having a problem with Boulder High School, and their form of broadcasting the pledge of allegiance over the loudspeaker system. (How about no pledge?)

Ron Reagan on his life with his father. Worth listening to. Openly atheist Ron Regan on life with his devoutly christian father, as a child. I’m having a hard time picturing this, but it’s a good interview.


2006 Archive episode.
October 14, 2006Rescinding South Dakota’s Abortion Ban

The South Dakota abortion ban discussion. I think I might have blogged on this subject before. If men were smart (and wanted to ever have sex again) they’d follow my lead and echo the line “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” Leave the judgments about the proper use of a uterus to those who have them.

Luckily, the ban failed.


Mea culpa review 2019. Historically there were links to Digg.com articles in most of these blog entries. Digg ain’t what it was, so the links are going away. The Wayback Machine has been giving reset errors all day long. So, no updated link for this one.

FFrF Radio: Christopher Hitchens ; Archive: Jim McCollum

Podcast Link.
October 6, 2007Special Guest: Christopher Hitchens

This was the first nationally broadcast episode, so it includes a brief introduction to the hosts of the show. Earlier episodes of the show feature full host interviews (Loosing Faith in Faith & Religion’s Harm to Women)

First billboard unveiled.

Theocracy Alert. 65% of Americans think the US is a christian nation. This is not the case, no matter what presidential candidates might say otherwise.

Jeremy Hall was scheduled to be interviewed for this episode, but was unable to appear. Mikey Weinstein substituted for him, and detailed the events that led up to the filing of the lawsuit at Military Religious Freedom.

Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great) brings such a weight of understanding to the subject of religion (like Richard Dawkins) one is almost compelled to agree with him. Or maybe (also like Richard Dawkins) it’s the British accent. In either case, it makes for great listening.

Stay Away from Priests

Verde

2006 Archive episode.
October 7, 2006Vashti McCollum: Champion of the First Amendment

Cambridge Companion to Atheism is referenced concerning the numbers of non-believers.

Theocracy Alert. List of bills before Congress that were of concern. Discussion of the appropriateness of practicing Catholics sitting on the Supreme Court bench, especially when it comes to ruling on the subject of abortion. School shootings in the news.

Jim McCollum’s interview follows the events that lead up to McCollum vs. Board of Education
and the intensified harassment that ensued after the case was filed. Listening to the interview, one wonders what more the devout might have done to insure that the case was filed, and then pursued until won.

All establishment cases since McCollum cite it as the precedent that enables suit to be brought. FFrF has produced a documentary on Vashti McCollum Champions of the First Amendment. Her book, One Woman’s Fight is also available (?) from FFrF.

Dan performs “Freethinker Blues”

New 7 Wonders vs. Ancient 7 Wonders

From the Article at National Geographic:

The contest was organized by the New7Wonders Foundation—the brainchild of Swiss filmmaker and museum curator Bernard Weber—in order to “protect humankind’s heritage across the globe.” The foundation says the poll attracted almost a hundred million votes.

Yet the competition has proved controversial, drawing criticism from the United Nations’ cultural organization UNESCO, which administers the World Heritage sites program (pictures of the newest World Heritage sites).

“This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by [the] public,” UNESCO said in a statement.

read more | digg story

New wonders should, in fact, be new.

Space Station Alpha, for example, would be a new wonder; or perhaps the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Of the seven, only one of them was constructed in the modern age, and it’s just a very large ancient religious symbol in Brazil. Not exactly the kind of wonders that I would think of as ‘new’.


Check out these other wonders:

7 Underground Wonders
7 Underwater Wonders
7 Abandoned Wonders part I
7 Abandoned Wonders part II

Every one of them more impressive than the 7 new wonders that were voted on.

Pledging Allegiance is contrary to Freedom

Below is the text of a letter I sent to the local school district (and my state reps) in response to a notice informing me that my children would be required to recite the pledge of allegiance, and observe a minute of silent prayer.

To Whom It May Concern:

I received a flyer amongst several other pieces of documentation sent home from school with my child yesterday; a flyer informing me that Texas has taken another step down the path towards worshiping the omnipotent state (and the christian god that walks hand in hand with it here in the US) and will be requiring all students to mouth the words of the United States pledge of allegiance, as well as the newly revised Texas pledge of allegiance (HB 1034) in addition to observing a moment of silence once each day (SB 83) a practice that is obviously intended to re-introduce morning prayer into the public schools.

I don’t recall ever seeing this particular notice (even though the requirement to recite the pledges has been on the books since 2003) but having noticed it, I now feel compelled to respond to it. Dictators and cult leaders require the slaves under their rule to swear allegiance to them, because power is jealous of rivals. It is far more than mere coincidence that the author of the United States Pledge was a self-proclaimed socialist, and that most pledges currently in existence came into being at about the same time; a time before the discrediting of socialism. They are an outgrowth of socialist sentiment, the elevation of The State above the individual. In a free society, pledges of allegiance should not be required, because individuals are free of any allegiance other than to rational self interest. Additionally, pledges required of the public are contrary to the sentiments of the founders of the United States, as it reverses the role of the subservient state and places it above We The People.

Obviously, from the tone of this letter, you will be able to discern that I am hereby notifying you in writing that my children will be exempted from this practice. They will not be required to recite any pledges, nor will they be required to observe a minute of silence. This notice is given pro forma, because my children have abstained from reciting the pledges for the entire time that they have attended school; and they have done this without asking me or the omnipotent state for permission to do so. They have remained silent during pledges even in my presence, when I have recited the pledge autonomically; and I applaud them for their strength of will.

If it was possible, I would extend this exemption to any student of AISD, of any school district in Texas, or of any state in the United States, who wished to abstain from reciting the pledge, but lacks the permission that the state requires.

Finally, I’d like to add this tidbit of information. The sponsor of HB 1034, when queried on the subject of religion, had this to say (source, Capitol Annex: More HB 1034 Exchanges):

BURNAM: Are you aware that Governor Perry has recently said, “Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion.” And my question is, do you agree with that statement, Ms. Riddle?
RIDDLE: I would say, Amen.

Which pretty much sums up the intent of the modification of the pledge, and the accompanying minute of silence; a blatant attempt to force religion back into the government schools. It also shows the utter contempt the governor and the majority of the legislature has for anyone who doesn’t share their particular christian beliefs. Freedom of religion is a meaningless concept unless it includes freedom from religion; requiring someone to have a religion places constraints upon the person, negating any freedom that might be present.

Sincerely,
R. Anthony Steele


As I sit here in 2015 looking back on this letter, I wonder how the leadership of the school read this letter when they received it.  I hope they had protective face shields for the spittle-flecked rant they were about to embark on.

The sad thing is that the bogeyman of the omnipotent state has faded away, yet the insistence by the blindly religious that we should all be christian remains.  If anything the Religious Right have simply become more strident over the years, not less.  They do not appear to have learned anything from the many battles they have engaged in and lost when it comes to the subject of making the US a christian nation against the will of the majority who like it just the way it is.

Socialism is not a bad word, and socialists are not bad people as long as they aren’t state socialists.  State socialists like the ones who wanted to get children to say pledges before they understood what pledging really means.  Another bogeyman that really should be retired, since the mindset that inspired the pledges now looks as alien to us as most of the other concepts of the time do. 

The Cave Again; or, God is a Couchpotato Geek.

I’m a Matrix fan. If I’m trying to be more accurate I should probably say I was a Matrix fan. If the current re-hash of worn-out philosophical concepts keeps resurfacing I might not be one anymore. A good friend forwarded me a link to yet another philosopher, with yet another theory concerning the unknowability of the realness of life the other day, possibly because he knew of my fondness for the Matrix. There might have been another reason, but frankly I would prefer to think it was because of that.

The link was to a NY Times article, but for those of you who don’t have a login for NYT, you might try this link instead. I find most of these hypotheses so laughable it’s hard to even summon the willpower to counter them, but I think I’ll try, just this once, to summon the requisite energy and present the case that is quite obvious to me.

Always, always, always those philosophers who want to convince us that we cannot control our world or even our own lives will invent some way to explain away the helplessness that we all supposedly feel when faced with cold hard truth. Invariably they will offer up some variation on The Cave (a favorite amongst SF writers) and pretend that none of us can turn around to see the world that really exists; that we cannot know reality.

In this particular instance, Mr. Bostrom offers up the Matrix-like computer simulation as his variation of shadows on the cave wall; a simulation capable of mimicking an entire world of people, clueless as to their existence in a simulation, on some yet to be invented computer system 50 years or so into our future.

As far as predicting the future goes, I’m still waiting for my personal flying car that I was promised by the futurists back in the fifties. I’m not holding my breath, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting one. I don’t think we know what the future holds, can know what the future holds. So it is all fine and good to project current computer trends into the future and suggest that some day we’ll have the computing power to simulate the entire universe just for the purpose of simulating a universe.

This theory of Bostrom’s has quite a few holes in it, as unoriginal as the theory is. To start with, the simulation would not only have to include every person, but every visible bit of matter in the sky. As I said, you would have to simulate the entire universe. Why? It’s quite simple. For the simulation to be flawless, undetectable to the sim or sims residing in it, you would have to plan for every eventuality. Space based telescopes to view distant objects in the universe, for example. Or perhaps electron microscopes for examining the atom, at the other end of the spectrum. True, you could falsify the data for individual sims, but what would be the purpose of creating a sim that interacts with no one and exists only to be lied to about what is real? The satisfaction of deceiving your own creation? A serious investment of time to no real purpose. No, the purpose of running simulations (even in games like The Sims and Simcity) is to discover the results of complex interactions between sims and the effects of external stimuli; in other words, you would need to have several autonomous sims interacting in a world that would be indistinguishable from the real world, which places you squarely back at simulating the entire universe.

Yes, it might be possible some day to create such a complex simulation; but ask yourself, what purpose would it serve to simulate the entire universe? Better to program your sims not to question what lies beyond the window, or above the sky. This would save millions (probably even billions) of terabytes of data, and would radically simplify the simulation, making it potentially possible to program the simulation within a person’s lifespan. This is the other end of the problem that never gets addressed when these sorts of suggestions come up; who or what programs these simulations, and how long it would take. I daresay the programming time to accurately simulate the entire universe down to the individual atoms would roughly equate to the amount of time it has taken the universe to evolve in the first place.

All of that aside, clearly we can and do question what is outside the window, above the blue sky, what matter is made up of, etc.; so we are obviously not in a simulation. And if we are in a simulation programmed by a post-human that simulates the entire universe, how is that post-human distinguishable from god?

In other words, what Mr. Bostrom has created is an overly complex way of saying it’s God’s will. And it’s not much of an original thought when viewed from that perspective.

I think it bears pointing out that in The Cave, Plato allows one of the slaves to escape, because the allegory is an exploration of the interaction between the slave who has been free, and has a heightened understanding of what reality is, and the slaves still imprisoned in the cave. The purpose of the experiment is to explore the interaction between the different beliefs about what is real; and how easily deceived we are when it comes to the subject of belief. Even in the original allegory of the cave, no accommodation is made for the feeding and care of the slaves, or how this care takes place without the slaves becoming wise to the freedom of those who care for them; which would raise questions about the nature of the reality they were confined to. Again, curiosity and exploration would lead to questions that reveal the lie of the shadows; just as the Matrix is revealed to be nothing more than a sham to those willing to question it’s reality.

An allegory should not be taken literally. Plato’s cave questions the reliability of our natural senses, wondering what is hidden behind the limited visible spectrum; a question science has answered to a large extent today. The Matrix questions social interactions of the modern age, hypothesizing that there is a greater force than we realize at work behind the scenes. That the film goes on to literally find us plugged in to a simulation controlled by machines from which there is no escape is not the purpose behind the question. The purpose, in my interpretation, is for us to question what does govern our social interactions; what is the meaning of the endless wars, why is there a driving need to consume? Why should we lead meaningless, faceless lives that we do not believe in? Isn’t it better to throw off the chains and face the unknown, than to stare placidly at the cave wall and accept the musings of the equally clueless slave next to you?

My answer is obviously yes, face the unknown. I can’t speak for you, and your mileage may vary.

PBS airs A Brief History of Disbelief

I’d like to extend a thank you to my local PBS station for airing A Brief History of Disbelief. I generally feel that I am drowning in religious programs, even on cable channels that should not have a religious view. This program was like a breath of fresh air. I look forward to seeing the next two episodes.


I managed to capture and watch all three episodes with the DVR. Very enlightening. I understand that there are 6 additional hours of programming. I would be interested in seeing these as well some time in the future.


h/t to the WaybackMachine

Starting with the teachings of Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius, and traveling forward in time through the first appearance of truly atheist works in the writings of Baron d’Holbach, and the founding of the United States on Deist thought; to the spreading of disbelief (whether you call it atheism or not) in modern times, it is definitely a ‘rough’ history, but a thought provoking one. I recommend it to anyone who might be curious about the subject.

Penn Jillette on Politics and Religion

The self-described libertarian nut is interviewed concerning his thoughts on Nevada being moved up in the primaries.

[Youtube video “Penn Jillette speaks of his atheism with Wolf Blitzer” could not be found. to re-attach. My apologies.]

Apparently he was on Paula Zahn prior to this, also talking about religion, or his lack of it. I couldn’t find any content on the ‘net with Penn in it; but if these other clips are any example, she should be ashamed of the hatchet job she performed on Atheists everywhere.

YouTube – Paula Zahn – discrimination against atheists part 1
YouTube – Paula Zahn – discrimination against atheists part 2

At least she attempted to make amends by inviting Dawkins on after some viewers protested (YouTube – Richard Dawkins on Paula Zahn Now) but even the average talking head on TV should know that your panel should include people who hold the views under discussion.

…Making Paula Zahn a below average talking head, I guess.