Tag Archives: atheism

If you get religion to make yourself happier, be sure to get a lot of religion

 If you get religion to make yourself happier, be sure to get a lot of religion

Dan Ariely, Daniel Mochon, and Michael Norton polled people in the UK about their religiosity and their well-being. Of the non-religious, atheists were happiest, followed by agnostics and the just plain non-religious.

For the religious respondents, the researchers asked them how religious they were, and that response seems to have a strong relationship to happiness. The least religious religious people were on average happier than the agnostics but less happy than the atheists. The moderately religious were the least happy of all, but past that point, religious people just get happier the more religious they are. The most religious people were way happier than everybody else.

So hurray for them.

From Epiphenom.

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If your kid is an atheist, make sure he’s not armed!

 If your kid is an atheist, make sure hes not armed!

From Answers in Genesis, the same people who brought you the thrilling tale of the boy who did what his parents wanted him to.

Via Dangerous Minds.

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Quote fight: meaning in life

On Sunday, Andrew Sullivan quoted this from an essay by Jennifer Fulwiler about becoming Catholic:

If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death. And considering that the entire span of homo sapiens’ existence on earth wouldn’t even amount to a blip on the radar screen of a 5-billion-year-old universe, it seemed silly to pretend like the 60-odd-year life of some random organism on one of trillions of planets was something special.

This is a woman who was an atheist until she married a Christian and had a baby. She was always racked with worry about the meaninglessness of life, so she read some Christian books and decided their standard arguments for Christianity were good enough for her.

Then yesterday, I read this post from Matt Haughey. He has a benign brain tumor and recently lost his mom to cancer.

I feel like the tumor scare has taught me to appreciate all the people, experiences, and things in my life and I’ve done my best to live a fuller life while I can. In 2012 I’m going to be doing a lot of things I’ve always wanted to do, and they will mostly involve travel to places all over the world (planning on Hawaii, New Zealand, Belgium, Yosemite, Italy, all in the first six months). A tumor taught me that life can be brutal and short and to relish our time here.

Of all the ways to demolish Fulwiler’s arguments against atheism — and most of them are pretty lame, if you read the whole article — I think this nails it best. If you can’t handle that a lifetime is all you get and that, yes, eventually your accomplishments will be washed away by the vastness of space and time, then I think you ask for too much.

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God makes sense, intuitively

Razib Khan highlights a paper about the correlation between intuitive reasoning and belief in God. According to three studies, how a person performs on a Cognitive Reflection Test tells you how likely they are to believe in God and that this likelihood is independent of a whole lot of other factors like education level, IQ, income, and more. A Cognitive Reflection Test is one that gives you math problems that aren’t difficult to solve if you can ignore the intuitive and wrong answers that they all have. Here are some examples:

  1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball.
    How much does the ball cost?
  2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take
    100 machines to make 100 widgets?
  3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size.
    If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it
    take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

(Answers at the end of the post.)

This suggests that people are more likely to believe in God when they rely more on shortcuts in their reasoning. That’s not a knock on shortcut reasoning, which is an essential human skill that lets us react quickly to things that can’t be — or aren’t worth being — thought through analytically.

Khan ties this in with a recent study that shows a link between atheism and autism. Autistic people rely more on analysis than intuition, so it makes sense that they would be less swayed by God’s intuitive nature.

‘People with autism tended to be more consistent in their pattern of choices, their greater attention to detail perhaps helping them avoid being swayed by their emotions,’ says Dr Neil Harrison.

Although this attention to detail and a reduced influence of emotion during decision-making is beneficial in some situations, it may be a handicap in daily life, explains Dr Benedetto De Martino.

‘During social interactions a lot of information must be processed simultaneously, making this a very complicated computational task for the brain,’ he says.

‘To solve these complex problems we rely on simplifying heuristics – gut instincts – rather than extensive logical reasoning.

Answers: 1. $0.05, 2. 5 minutes, 3. 47 days

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How low standards of evidence killed Lee Strobel’s faith in atheism

I quickly determined that the alleged resurrection of Jesus was the key. Anyone can claim to be divine, but if Jesus backed up his claim by returning from the dead, then that was awfully good evidence he was telling the truth.

Poor Lee Strobel. He was an atheist whose agnostic wife found Jesus and became Christian. He thought he might have to get a divorce! Luckily, he instead did a whole bunch of research about Christianity and discovered it was definitely true. Marriage saved.

Here is Strobel’s response to Ricky Gervais’ Easter Message. In it, Strobel lays out the reasons why he thinks the resurrection is a historical certainty, which is basically just a list of possible alternate explanations and then him making extremely tentative cases against these suggestions.

For example:

Was Jesus’ tomb empty? Scholar William Lane Craig points out that its location was known to Christians and non-Christians alike. So if it hadn’t been empty, it would have been impossible for a movement founded on the resurrection to have exploded into existence in the same city where Jesus had been publicly executed just a few weeks before.

Besides, even Jesus’ opponents implicitly admitted the tomb was vacant by saying that his body had been stolen. But nobody had a motive for taking the body, especially the disciples. They wouldn’t have been willing to die brutal martyrs’ deaths if they knew this was all a lie.

Right. Because no one in human history has ever lied to support a passionately-held conviction. Or to solidify the legitimacy of a movement they’re a part of.

Besides, it’s much more likely that a man came back to life and then flew off into the sky, never to be seen again.

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I doubt that God is racist and homophobic…

I doubt that God is racist and homophobic but the Bible isn’t clear.
Ricky Gervais, from his Easter Message

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Christians mad that atheists marched in a Christmas Parade

A group of atheists marched in this year’s Christmas parade in Bryan/College Station, Texas. They called themselves the Brazos Valley Vuvuzela Atheist Marching Band, and they played “Jingle Bells” and wished onlookers “happy holidays”, “merry Christmas”, “happy Hannukah”, and “happy Kwanzaa”. Seems pretty harmless. In fact, it seems nice that they wanted to participate in a community event and do so in the spirit of the event.

Sadly, even this was controversial.

“Wasn’t exactly happy about the Christmas Parade this year, I spent many years teaching my children to love and respect other people and to love the fact that they were children of God and I don’t feel that they should be influenced in any other way especially not at a Christmas parade,” said Tina Corgey, who is a lifelong Bryan resident.

Corgey brings her three kids to the B/CS Christmas Parade every year.

She said she was disgusted by what she saw on Sunday.

“If you have younger children they weren’t going to understand but I have older children, a teenager, 8-year-old and they were curious and they asked questions and it was hard for them to believe and understand that there are actually people out there that don’t believe in God,” Corgey said.

Gosh lady, I’m sorry your kids were exposed to something they have trouble understanding. Perhaps that means you should do a better job educating them about their world. Meanwhile, atheists will probably continue to exist, and a lot of us are going to celebrate Christmas also.

Via Alternet.

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Terry Hurlbut – heroic feats of ignorance

I was reading a pretty poor anti-atheist article: “Despite billboard, atheism is contrary to logic and against reason”. The author’s main argument is that atheism is a negative and you can’t prove a negative, which indicates that this man has never had a serious discussion about atheism with an actual atheist.

On to the comments section: the very first commenter points out some flaws in the author’s reasoning and suggests that the Bible is pretty illogical. For instance, “Did people really live for hundreds of years?” Which is a fair question to any biblical literalist.

Lucky for us, the first responder to this comment is not just any biblical literalist:

“Did people really live for hundreds of years?” Yes. Pre-Flood, carbon-14 was not present in the vast quantities that pervade our atmosphere today, and cosmogenic C-14 was very rare. During the Flood, the earth’s crust, wracked with magnitude-10-to-12 earthquakes and rich in quartz (which generates electricity when deformed), acted as a gigantic fast-breeding nuclear reactor and produced all of the radionuclides (up to uranium and arguably plutonium) known to man today. That included C-14, produced in tremendous quantities through cluster decay. And when C-14 gets into your system, and then decays, it can wreck whatever molecule (including DNA) of which it became a part. So the reason we *don’t* live hundreds of years today is that we are all suffering from radiation poisoning (or isotopic substitutional poisoning) and have forgotten what it was like not to be subject to such poisoning.

Wow. So Adam lived for 930 years because he wasn’t being poisoned by C-14, which was all released during Noah’s flood. Which is a double-win because that explains why all carbon dating mistakenly says the world is old. Nice. Other commenters in the thread point out that the radiation from a hypothetical increase in C-14 would be fractional compared to all the other radiation we’re exposed to, but still. Dude is not messing around.

And that dude is Terry Hurlbut, a prolific contributor to Examiner.com. His articles include a rumination on the starlight-and-time problem (how did light from stars more than 6000 light-years away get here in a young universe?) and a call to figurative arms against the American Atheists behind a certain billboard in New Jersey. Hurlbut visited the AA’s site to contend with their arguments.

Specifically, they state:

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you don’t believe in the fable of  Adam and Eve and the talking snake.  You probably think it’s a story, created out of ignorance, to explain the origin of life.  You probably don’t believe that Adam literally ate a fruit, resulting in God expelling him and Eve out of the idyllic Garden of Eden.

In other words, you know that’s a myth.

Right so far?

Wrong.

Oh snap. The American Atheists did not expect to be dealing with someone as fargone as Terry Hurlbut. And how fargone is Terry Hurlbut? Enough that Rational Wiki has an article on him — mostly because he’s an administrator on Conservapedia, which explains so much. Hurlbut was also a member of Digg Patriots, a group of conservative Digg users who collaborated to bury liberal stories and promote conservative ones on Digg.

Anyway, I’ll close with another comment excerpt from the original article. Because even if I don’t like the song, I have to admit I like the way this guy sings:

And hel-lo-ooooo! The Flood knocked down all the trees that were growing at the time! All the trees that grow today, sprouted after the Flood, not before. You have no concept of how violent an event the Flood was. Magnitude-10-to-12 earthquakes; a water jet powerful enough to throw 1 percent of the earth’s mass, as water, mud, and rock, into outer space; killer hailstorms that froze the mammoths (many of them standing up); and the formation of a protuberance (the Himalaya Range and the Tibetan Plateau) heavy enough to pull the earth off-balance and move the poles. (Which is what the mammoths were doing in the Arctic region in the first place; that used to be a lush tropical jungle.) Not to mention the big rocks that slammed into the Moon, mostly on one side of it, forming the “seas” and causing the Moon to turn one face toward earth and lock in place.

And there’s more. Did you know that every ancient calendar measured the year as exactly 12 months of 30 days each? Because that’s how it was. But the Flood caused a lot of gravitational settling, with the result that the earth spun faster on its axis, like a figure skater doing a spin by pulling in her arms. Result: a shorter day. At the same time, those big rocks that slammed into one side of the Moon (and always during its crescent phases) slowed it down and caused it to drop into a lower orbit, with the result that the month shortened even more than the day. That’s why a true month (from new moon to new moon) is about 29.5 days, not 30 as it originally was. The ancient Egyptians didn’t figure that out until the court astronomer finally said, “Divine One, the Nile crests earlier in the year with every year! We have been out of our reckoning of the year since our Great Migration from Shinar!” Or words to that effect. (Abraham and his people simply went by the appearance of the new moon and the ripeness of the barley crop, so it didn’t matter to them.) Ask yourself why the Babylonians divided a circle into 360 degrees, and why they used a base of 60 for numbers of medium size? And why the Mayans used a 360-day calendar?

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Atheists write better

Dating site Ok Cupid dives into its data and comes back with all kinds of racial and religious correlations. Among the revelations are that white people like Tom Clancy, black people like Soul Food, and Latinos like Merengue.

Of course, I’m way more interested in the chart below, which confirms my preconceived notions about religious people:

 Atheists write better

I will be smug for the rest of the day.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t want to hear about it.

A new group of atheists has arisen in society. Called the new atheists, they are not content to keep their views to themselves.

…say Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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