Tag Archives: Atheism

The Archbishop of Canterbury Believes We’re Damn Dirty Apes and Other Revelations

I confess, I’ve just not made time to watch the recent headline-making Richard Dawkins-Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury debate. Bad Angela. Bad militant atheist. Still, whatever Rick Santorum thinks, a good CPAC panel does a great deal more to radicalize my beliefs than Professor Dawkins ever, ever could.

While I can’t know this for certain, I doubt when I finally watch this that I’ll be very surprised by any of the content. I’ve seen these two men converse before — I won’t say debate. For all his reputed venom, there is no such thing as a Dawkinslap, and I’ve always found him to be very blunt, but also quite respectful. I’m pretty well read and YouTubed up on Dawkins and his Four Horsemen colleagues. Please partake if you’ve not seen these discussions, featuring Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett.

One thing that would definitely NOT surprise me is the fact that Dawkins allows a scintilla of the possibility that there might be a God or a Great Something-Or-Other or FSM, whatevs. He’s said that before. He wrote a whole big long book about this. It’s called “The God Delusion.” And yet after this debate, like manna from heaven, gleeful headlines that Dawkins is an agnostic, not an atheist. Clearly a saucy headline. All he’s saying is there is a limit to his knowledge, and so of course he can’t say there absolutely is no such thing.

What I found more eyebrow-raising, unmentioned in most reports I’ve seen, although present in the Telegraph account, was the Archbishop’s admission that he believes that humans have non-human ancestors. Perhaps if I were a Christian, or one who doesn’t live in the U.S., that would surprise me less, too. I think it would be a very good headline. “Head of the Church of England Believes in Darwinian Evolution.” As good as “World’s Most Famous Atheist Isn’t Quite Strictly an Atheist”? Perhaps not. I still like mine though.

I leave you with one of my favorite Dawkins moments from the YouTubes: the look on his face when Deepak Chopra explains how scientists have hijacked quantum theory and what follows, what I suppose you MIGHT consider a Dawkinslap.

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Christopher Hitchens Memorial Statue Campaign

I know, I know. The notion of a statue of Hitch for anyone who genuinely appreciated his work can seem only slightly less moribund than the mummified V.I. Lenin displayed like Snow White in her glass coffin. There is that. But what persuades me this proposal is not a repudiation of Hitch’s legacy as Hitch himself intended it is that a statue represents the status of his ideas in our society. For years, the Crackpot Right has been threatening a Culture War, and by God — essentially by God — they’re bringing it. Particularly in the current U.S. political environment where all the credible Republican candidates (Huntsman and Ron Paul are not really conceded as credible by anyone, right?) are at least unstinting religious zealots, those of us who are sane need our heroes and we need to be inspired to stand up. So damn the contradictions, immortalize the essential Contrarian, as the very existence of this statue will be a refutation to those who take their wisdom from on high or not at all.

I also find it a delightful notion to consider a golem of Hitch staring balefully out onto a society of hovercars.

Christopher Hitchens Memorial Statue Campaign.

(Crossposted to http://angeng.wordpress.com/)


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Catholic Church Opposes Repealing Limitations On Child Sex Abuse Claims Because It’s Bad For Business

Recent revelations about the systemic sexual abuse of children in sporting institutions has many legal scholars and children’s rights advocates lobbying to get the statue of limitations on reporting such heinous crimes extended or lifted altogether.  This is the right thing to do.  The fact that in some states, the statute of limitations to make legal claims against abusers ends two years after the victim turns 18 is outrageous.

I left the Catholic church when I was in high school.  I’m proud to say my mother left the Catholic church after the child sex abuse scandal broke a decade ago.  I have many issues with the Catholic church, but the story I heard on NPR yesterday shocked even little jaded old me.

Most of the story is about legislative efforts to extend or repeal the statutes of limitations on sex abuse claims.  In 2003, New Jersey offered a one-year window during which the statute of limitations was waived and other states are considering similar measures.  But the Catholic church is against it.

Why?  It’s not because they deny the allegations.  Nobody in the church is claiming these heinous, despicable acts never took place.  They’re not saying the people making the claims are libeling the church with false accusations of priestly misconduct.  On the contrary.  In fact, in a rare moment of bizarre transparency, the executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference testified against the legislation saying, “The reality is this proposal simply fosters lawsuits.”  You don’t say?

So there you have it.  The Catholic church is against child sex abuse victims’ rights because it’s bad for the bottom line.  When New Jersey cracked the window open for one year, 800 lawsuits were filed.  The church know if the statue of limitations preventing victims from finally seeing some justice goes away, they will be sued out of existence.

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Christopher’s In Heaven Now

Christopher Hitchens was a complicated man.  He was hard not to like, but he was also hard to like.  Possessed of a keen intellect matched only by his keen wit, he was a passionate spokesman against the tyranny of religion.  But he was also a bit of an insufferable blowhard who championed the Bush regime’s Iraq campaign.  When he smashes theological arguments with logic and reason against which there is no logical argument, it is a wonder to behold.  But watching him defend an administration that is in all likelihood guilty of war crimes is a real bummer.  He had his reasons for doing so, but try as I might, I was never persuaded by them.

Buy this book and read it

I first encountered the Mighty Hitch in the early 2000s, wen he was writing pro-atheism articles in magazines like Skeptic.  This was long before it was fashionable to write about such things.  But those articles were the first I had read that made sense of all the conflicting thoughts and feelings I experienced after leaving the Catholic church in the 10th grade and during my subsequent search for a religion that resonated with me.  It disturbed me deeply that I found none.  And here was someone telling me that was OK.

Letters To A Young Contrarian was the first Hitchens book I read and it changed my outlook on life.  Up to that point, The Rebel by Albert Camus had been my secret pick-me-up manifesto.  But by the time I read it, it was more than 30 years old.  Good as it was (and still is) it can’t help but be a product of its time.  Letters brought it all to the present, even though much of it springs from lessons of the past.  Emile Zola and Vaclav Havel are here, but it’s Hitchens’ voice that makes it such a strangely comforting read.  The last thing one thinks of when one thinks of Christopher Hitchens is the word “nurturing,” but there you have it.  That’s what he is in this book.  This is the book for those of us who found ourselves in the unfortunate position of being a contrarian, a rebel, or remotely counterculture, where a present-day elder statesmen was encouraging us not to give up the good fight, even when it felt bad.

Here is a great, hour long appearance on C-Span’s Washington Journal where he talks about the book.

Kurt Vonnegut began the eulogy of his friend and fellow writer, Isaac Asimov with the words, “Isaac’s in Heaven now,” providing a much-needed and essentially Vonnegut-esque moment of levity.  And so it goes.  It is with a heavy heart that I must report Christopher’s in Heaven now.  And I’m sure he’s giving ’em hell.

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Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

Christopher Hitchens was one of the great minds of our time. I feel sorry for anyone on the opposite end of an argument with him. This video is a collection of some of his finer moments. He will certainly be missed.


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