Friday, December 30, 2011

Hitchens' Razor

Let's make sure this becomes a thing.
 

Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth


Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth from Berkeley Arts and Letters on FORA.tv

Friday Link Dump ~ 12/30/11

The Pope asks Catholics to be stupid This link could be the whole FLD.  This may not be the worst aspect of religion but it is probably the part most responsible for turning an apathetic nonbeliever into an angry atheist.


THE GREASED LIGHTNING SAVIOR This post had us cracking up.  Great writing on this blog.


God for the retarded Try not to get too turned-off by the title.  Mental Retardation is still a clinical term .  There is an interesting discussion about it in the comments.  

Pope laments Christmas consumerism, glitter i-ro-ny (n.) incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony.  
~Example: the pope’s ridiculous ruby red shoes.


There is no Contoversy

Unknown Sixth Toe Discovered in Elephants Damn it! Is nothing sacred?!?



Hall of Idiots this is a bit like our old Sunday Morning Crazy / Hate posts.

Therapists revolt against psychiatry’s bible The bible in question is the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) slated for 2013.  Some professionals are concerned that new diagnoses will lead to over-medication and labeling of the public.  Speaking as a psychology nerd who will have the DSM-V on pre-order,**taps tobacco pipe and pensively massages beard** I have to point out that any new diagnosis will peer reviewed and that many erroneous and outdated diagnoses will be erased.  Also, insurance companies will not just dole out millions of dollars to medicate the populous because a new “bible” finds a new way to describe human behavior.  They wont even do that for the old bible.

Side note: look up DSM code V62.89 Religious or spiritual problem filed under: Other psychological or physical stress not elsewhere classified.  Ah, science.


The Scientist Who Controlled People with Brain Implants [Video]

The End of Free Will? I am still not completely sold on Determinism, but this article certainly contributes to the conversation.

Religious Sex-Toy Sites Vow to Save Marriages

Noebel: 'Obama and his Radical Homosexual Mafia Plan to Sodomize the World' Summit Ministries founder Davis Nobel is a frightened little man.  His response to the Obama administration’s initiative against global persecution of gays has yielded the above quote.  Am I the only person who recognizes that Americans have been sodomizing the world for about 200 years?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fundamentalist Atheism is a Lie


The Accusation of Fundamentalist Atheism: Smoothing the Theist's Cognitive Dissonance

If there is one thing that really annoys me about writers and bloggers (*looks in mirror*) is ‘masturbatory writing.’ I define this as writing that is fluent, it seems to work, it may even be good, but Zod damn it— it seems empty and self-congratulatory. "Look at me! I can put extravagant sentences together in extravagant ways!”  *fap fap fap fap...*

This rant is brought to you by a piece from Religion Dispatches entitled In Praise of Mary Magdalene. Every other paragraph seems to end in a kind of ornate, literary non-sequitur. It’s all very “hipstery.”

I will say nothing about the writer’s unspoken assumption that Mary of Magdala even existed. I won't point out the projection that she represents "activism" while arguing against projecting anything on to her. No, I just want to focus on this gem:

“If there is a path beyond belief and beyond atheism—which, after all, is but another form of belief, and lately a rather fundamentalist form to boot—Mary Magdalene walks that path.”

*pinches bridge of nose*

I also won’t even challenge the “atheism is a belief” thing. I’ll grant the writer that, though I doubt we mean the same thing. With apologies to my fellow atheists that fall into the “atheism is simply a lack of belief in god(s). Nothing more” category…I’m going to go big here: I do not believe in god. I actively do not believe it. There. Done. We can move on from that now, yeah? My teeth-grinding is just getting started, however. I have noticed that Religion Dispatches’ writers have a tendency to fall into the “fundamentalist atheism“ trap that conservative theists parrot. This is why I have a special dislike for many so-called “liberal theists.” They should know better. They do not.

Even if I concede that my atheism is an active disbelief in god(s); this atheism can still be no more “fundamentalist” than, to use the old adage, my not playing baseball is “fundamentalist not playing baseball.” This is a labored point, I know. The mistake from religionists on the atheism claim is to try and categorize this disbelief/belief into that same realm as their belief in whatever god they adhere to. I reject the god concept out of reason, evidence (lack thereof), and the logical improbability of—quite frankly—the clear of immorality of such a being while supposedly being perfect.

Fundamentalism is strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles. We all know what fundamentalist religion looks like (I am not talking about “extremist” religion which is threatening and violent. That is different). Fundamentalist religion manifests itself as strict belief and adherence to scripture even when that belief is provably false. Even when that belief is silly. Creationism comes to mind given my most recent post. Liberal theists are generally not seen as fundamentalist and in truth they generally are not. At least not in the details.

No, they think it is silly to believe the world was created in six days 6,000 years ago. They see the clear impossibility of a man gathering two of every animal onto a boat and the clear lack of any evidence whatsoever of a global flood. They are rightfully horrified at the various commands to discriminate against fellow humans or even kill whole ethnic groups. They will, however, stop in their tracks when it is pointed out that there is also only cursory and flimsy evidence to suggest that Jesus ever existed. Their feathers are ruffled when it is shown that contemporary historians that are often cited are decades after the fact if not centuries. They get downright irate when it is pointed out that the resurrection story doesn't make sense and is not "proof" of any human named Jesus' divinity; should he have existed. They will turn on a dime, when the skepticism and questioning of faith gets a little too close to home. They will, eventually, call to question the morality of atheists. Challenge them enough and it happens. It just takes longer.    

So, how does one become a fundamentalist atheist? What strict adherence to non-belief is there? What deluded belief could I have in my rejection of a supposed god that cannot be bothered to do anything that would be apparent or required? Outspoken atheists do not adhere to some nebulous and nefarious “fundamentalist atheism.” Indeed, it simply because we are outspoken that we get labeled as such! We are to be quiet. Not speak up. Conservative theists call us angry, hateful, and bigoted and the liberal theists sneer at the conservative invective. But when the criticism gets too close to home the liberal theists turn around and throw the same accusations. Calling someone “fundamentalist” is a type of religious language and religious accusation and one the religious are familiar with. It is false in our case. We atheists are not fundamentalist. We do not strictly adhere to the disbelief in god anymore than a disbelief in unicorns or floating teapots in orbit. Show me the evidence and, like Tim Minchin says in his poem Storm: “You show me that it works and how it works, and when I’ve recovered from the shock I will take a compass and carve ‘Fancy That’ on the side of my cock!”

It would be easy to change my mind. How easy is it to change the mind of a religious adherent; conservative or liberal? Who’s the fundamentalist?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

There Is No Controversy

https://controversy.wearscience.com/design/devil/
Recently, I ended up on a day trip with a co-worker for a meeting a few hours away. I previously had a sneaking suspicion that this person, while perfectly nice, was in fact a very conservative Christian. He's a nice guy and I'll preface this whole story by stating that at no point did we start yelling at each other or had any kind of real tension. Was there frustration? Yes!

On the two hour ride to the meeting we talked about football (the American kind), and then it somehow slid into Global Warming and American politics. It won't shock anyone for me to tell you that he thinks global warming is basically a fraud. I got the distinct impression he thought it was a green energy company conspiracy to grow a business market at the expense of the traditional energy companies. I laughed and told him that I'm surprised anyone on the Right would think that commie/hippie/tree-huggers had that much capitalistic business acumen. He didn't laugh, but I think it was more from not getting the joke. Anyway, it was civil and only a cursory conversation on these matters. He does listen to Rush Limbaugh, however. That...that is just disappointing.

As we made our return trip home he asked me what was the oldest site I had ever excavated (for those that aren’t already aware, I'm an archaeologist).  I told him about several early Archaic sites (North America) that I had worked on dating between ~10,000 BP and 3000 BP. After telling him about this he says "Yeah, I'm interested in the whole Young Earth vs. Old Earth debate." I just turned to him and flat out stated:

"There is no debate."

He was, of course, somewhat shocked by my insolence, but the conversation continued. I don’t want to relay the whole tedious (sooo tedious) conversation, but needless to say he was firmly in the Young Earth camp (the Earth really is ~6,000 years old), he rejected the Theory of Natural Selection, firmly believed that a flood covered the Earth (presumably in the past 6,000 years), and a whole litany of nonsense. Why do I easily call it nonsense? Aren’t we supposed to respect other points of view? Shouldn't we—at a minimum—entertain the possibility of a Young Earth? Shouldn’t we respect such beliefs?

No.

There really is no debate.  There is no controversy. 

Objective scientific facts ( <- yes that is redundant) are actualities regarding the known universe based on observation, testing and refutation. Religions, and Creationism by extension, are "revealed" knowledge which have no evidence to support the assertions. If Creation science can be called science at all, it can only be considered a failed science. Why? It doesn't work. You cannot observe, test or refute most religious claims. Those that can be tested are invariably refuted. To say that they are on equal footing or that there is a debate between the two is absurd. They are not two competing theories. Natural selection is a Theory (big “T”). Creationism is not a theory (little “t”). As Christopher Hitchens succinctly put it in god is Not Great, “In all its well financed propaganda, it has never even attempted to show how one single piece of the Natural World is explained better by design than by evolutionary competition.” In other words: It doesn’t explain anything!


To state that there is a debate is to give it credence. To state that there is a controversy is to employ false equivalence. They aren't in the same wheelhouse. And for the record I do not support the Non-Overlapping Magisteria compartmentalization of Stephen Jay Gould. I reject that notion completely. What I mean is that religion doesn't belong in the same breath as science unless it is being studied by science. Religion—as explanation for the universe, how we came to be, and even what is best for humanity and our planet—is quite useless and in many instances detrimental.  

This is not to say science alone can answer these questions. Too often we atheists prop up science as the “end all, be all”, or at least we state things in such a way that is seems so. We need to choose our words better. Science isn't an “answer” to anything. It is one of the tools we use to find answers and, possibly more importantly, ask more questions. Religion is a tool, but only as a poorly constructed coping mechanism or as well constructed means to control people. It doesn't actually produce answers that are not already provided and this provided knowledge comes with the caveat to never ever question it. Not in any meaningful way.

The “Science vs. Religion” debate is a manufactured dichotomy with a manufactured controversy. Without the forced respect and forced discussion, religion—as a means for understanding the universe, ourselves, and how to best live our lives—is irrelevant in comparison. Science is limitless in its useful applications as a tool. Religion’s usefulness peaked during the Dark Ages and, then as in now, holds on only by hook or by crook.



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lies We Tell Our Children

The best way to raise an honest child is to lead by example.  No one wants to lie to their kids, but we all do it.  We lie to protect them: “There are ghosts in the basement.  Don’t go down there!”  We lie to spare their feelings: “Fluffy went to a big farm where he can run and play.”  Sometimes, we lie to control them.

When I was growing up, my grandmother’s house was right next door.  One night when the family was there for dinner, my mother sent me back to our house to get something.  While searching for the item I stumbled across the cache of my Christmas toys.  I  didn’t need to compare those toys with the ones marked “Santa” on Christmas morning.  Finding them was all the proof I needed to fit the rest of the pieces together.  I don’t remember being  upset at the loss of a childhood fantasy, only excited that I had unraveled the mystery on my own.

Non-believers the world over struggle with the Santa myth when it comes to their children.  Discovering the truth about Santa Clause and the process of apostasy are too similar to be ignored.  We start projecting our fears and outrage on children who are really just interested in the end result of presents and candy.

I hate even the idea of lying to my son.  However, it is infinitely easier to invoke Santa as a behavioral modification system than the old “because I said so.”  Last year I outright refused to do it.  This year I find myself saying things like, “Do you think Santa just saw you jump from the couch to the love seat?”  I have said before that I have no intention of raising an atheist child.  My memory of that childhood discovery is part of the reason why.  I was so proud of myself for cracking the code at age seven.  I confided in my older sister who said that I would get more gifts if I played along.  She was probably trying to avoid taking the blame for admitting it to me.  The significance was discovering the truth for myself by using deductive reasoning as a tool.  If someone would have just told me that there is no Santa Clause, I may not have believed them.

I have noticed a subtle shift in holiday culture over the years.  Not that long ago no one would ever consider telling a child that there was no Santa.  The social censure was enough to keep most people from doing that.  In the decades since I was a child, the mythology has shifted to be more about the power of believing in Santa Clause in spite of all evidence the contrary.  That’s right.  The marketing and storytelling has taken a faith-based approach.  The animated movie The Polar Express comes to mind: with the bells that can only be heard by those who “truly believe.”  I can understand why some non-believers would be upset by this.  The magical man who watches all of your deeds and enacts an annual judgement will not reward you if you do not believe in him.  Last year I watched a woman slap her pre-teen daughter in a department store for asking if Santa was real.  This mother was no doubt attempting to preserve the magic of the holiday season.  

Eventually, my son will put these pieces together.  It happens to everyone.  At six he is already asking some of those logic-based questions about reindeer and their ability to fly.  We talk often about myths and legends and while I occasionally reinforce the Santa myth, I also provide a framework and a language for him to use when he finally deciphers the illusion.  Sound familiar?  By giving him the tools and encouraging critical thinking I can help guide him through the first great apostasy that most of the Western world experiences.   I can indulge this part of his fantasy life the same way I participate in (epic) light saber battles in the back yard.  It’s OK to have magical thinking when you are an actual child.   


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Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Link Dump ~ 12/23/11


We need to talk about Christopher Hitchens.  We need to discourse and debate and deliberate on his life and work.  We need to do this because the movement will not see another like him for decades.  Maybe longer.  The combination of wit, intelligence, sophistication and giant fucking balls is something rare and amazing even in this lightening rod culture where almost anyone can be heard but so few have anything worth saying.
We need to talk about Hitch so that we don’t forget him.  We need to give him true everlasting life.  We need to honor him for his ability to truly change the way we think.  If Dawkins made me realize that I was an atheist, then Hitch made me realize that I needed to talk about it.  Hitch taught me that silence is slavery.  And that reasonable people, that is: people of reason are duty bound to speak up and stand up in the face of fear and manipulation.  Magic does not get a pass.  Superstition is not an acceptable excuse for bloodshed, or bigotry, or subjugation.  He was New Atheism’s loudest voice.  We are all going to have to speak up a little more from now on.

Christopher Hitchens & My Antitheism

Sam Harris: The Blog : Hitch





Romney Unveils his 3 tier Marriage System for Gays  This proves without a doubt that he is fully aware of the second class citizenship status he is doling out.  If you already received the equality, then it would be unfair to take it away.
This is the way I deal with my child when I say he can have candy then find out that he didn't finish his dinner.  Well, I already said you can have a peice of candy  --but don't ask for ice cream!!

Marcus Bachmann’s Agenda As ‘First Spouse’: Deny Marriage Rights To Gay People Well that is much way more important than making sure American children eat a healthy lunch at school.

Ron Paul's Shaggy Defense Yes there is a theme here.  Read Ron Paul’s responses to questions about some racist statements on his newsletters.  Hint: the ones he can’t tapdance around are not his fault.

Frothy Mixture & Christians think only Christians Have Rights We just wanted to run through the Republican candidates to give our godless readers fresh ammo for when they find themselves across the table from Uncle Conservative this weekend.  You’re welcome.

The Liberal Whitewashing of Religion & Equating Hitchens with Religious Bigots This one is for your ultra liberal cousin on break from the university.

Time for Nonbelievers to Emphasize Equality Michael Tomasky: The Republican Whitewash of the Iraq War to Come A few years from now, I will be searching this blog’s archives for this article.

What Exoplanets Might Really Look Like  

3 Things the Higgs Boson can teach you about physics

Married After 64 Years A modern love story.

You Say You Want a Devolution? An interesting observation on American culture.

Tebow's Religion: Fair Game Steve really said it all here.  But I enjoyed this article anyway.

Robertson: SNL Tebow skit fueled by ‘anti-Christian bigotry’ Robertson expertly walks the fine line of the persecuted pity party and the lamenting that there is not a modern Christian equivalent to the Fatwa.  Whenever pampered children like Pat Robertson complain that they want to be treated like everyone else it is usually because they are being treated like everyone else.  If he thinks a  4 minute loss of absolute sacred privilege is “disgusting”, Steve and I should send him audio of one of our prolonged theology discussions.

Good Minus God


Solar Power Much Cheaper to Produce Than Most Analysts Realize, Study Finds

Find Your Inner Neanderthal

How We All Pay For the Huge Tax Privileges Granted to Religion -- It's Time to Tax the Church Hell.  Yes.

Let's Face it: It's the Radical Right, not Islam, that is the Greatest Threat to the American Way  The running complaint used to be that Muslims are always portrayed as terrorists. But now, the message being sent is that "not portraying American Muslims as terrorists" is sufficient for complaint and controversy. It's moving the goal posts to a dangerous new "lowe."

Wound-Treating Jelly Regenerates Fresh, Scar-Free Skin  This should renew your faith in humanity after reading that last article.

Saudi woman beheaded for 'sorcery'  OK that didn’t last long.

This is both disturbing and hilarious.  Mostly disturbing.  But who am I to rain on someone’s holiday festivities?  We (Americans) sit around a dead tree and eat candy out of our socks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Liberal Whitewashing of Religion & Equating Hitchens with Religious Bigots



Tim Padgett wrote an article entitled A Christian on Hitchens’ Atheism and Lowe’s Muslim Problem to defend “reasonable religion” from the twin threats of fundamentalist religion and “angry atheists.” As is typical of the religious-liberal, they invoke false equivalency to tamp down any criticism of religion by equating critiques of religion as bigotry and therefore just as bad as fundamentalism. In this sanctimonious article, Tim Padgett repeatedly mentions (therefore equating) Christopher Hitchens’ name in the same sentence as David Caton; the head of the idiotic Florida Family Association (they have the word “family" in their title so that's a head up as to their hate group status). The man’s grave isn’t cold yet. Low blow, bro. Low. Blow.

Hitchens was best known as one of the "angry atheists" for his 2007 best seller God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and narrow-minded fundamentalists like Caton made his work a lot easier. So of course did extremist Muslims, as well as extremist Roman Catholics, Jews, Hindus and all the fanatics who ruin religion the way drunks ruin driving. Which is why Hitchens' attacks on faith, while brilliantly written, could also feel gratuitous.

Think about that. He equates Hitchens who, while passionately against religion, had many reasons not the least of which was his disgust with bigotry, tyranny, and oppression by the religious with a man who is a bigot and given the opportunity would oppress people. Probably including Mr. Padgett. 



So it's fitting, at least for the silent majority of Christians who aren't hatemongering zealots but who derive hope and humane inspiration from our beliefs, that Caton and Hitchens should both be in the news during the Christmas season. (emphasis added)

“...The silent majority of Christians who aren’t hatemongering zealots...” Therein lies one of the problems. The majority of Christians are silent on these issues. They sit back and let the “angry atheists” defend their rights and attempt to stop the theocratic fascists from taking over. Of course they are quick to throw us under the bus whenever our sites turn on religion in general and not just the silly fundies. Anyone that frequents this site knows that I have asked where the “Liberal Christians” are in really standing up to the lunatics. If they really were out in full force or even half-force, we wouldn’t be dealing with the likes of the GOP primary candidates. They are the new face of mainstream Christianity people. If it wasn’t true they wouldn't be two steps from the Presidency. Take a look in the mirror.

But Caton and Hitchens at least give us Christians a convenient place to start. They prod us on the one hand to assess what isn't Christian — like demonizing gays and Muslims — and on the other hand to reaffirm why Christianity and religion itself are a positive and not always poisonous influence in the world.

Again, equating Caton and Hitchens. It is ludicrous. I can’t help but shake the feeling that he doesn’t realize what he is saying here. So at least some of the time Christianity is a poisonous influence on the world?

It's a fairly widely accepted maxim that atheist fundamentalists, as I call them, can be just as intolerant as religious fundamentalists. And the problem they share is that both take religion way too literally. Just as Christian fundamentalists insist on a literal reading of the Bible, angry atheists tend to insist that belief in God qualifies you as a raving creationist.(See "Why Christopher Hitchens Is Wrong About Billy Graham.") (emphasis added)

Atheism cannot be fundamentalist. Atheism (the BIG umbrella definition) is  based on rationalism and evidence. What could atheist fundamentalism possibly look like? What crazy claim could “atheism” dream up? Again, this is canard almost as old as the “atheism is a religion” one.

Atheism takes religion “way too literally” because it matters. Mr. Padgett, you yourself are describing the fundamentalists as hateful, bigoted and dangerous. Then you self-describe the majority of Christians as “silent” and you have the nerve to tell us we take it too literally? Do you listen to yourself?

Here's what they refuse to get: Yes, Christians believe that Jesus' nativity was a virgin birth and that he rose from the dead on Easter. But if you were to show most Christians incontrovertible scientific proof that those miracles didn't occur, they would shrug — because their faith means more to them than that. Because in the end, what they have faith in is the redemptive power of the story. In Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited, an agnostic says to his Catholic friend, "You can't seriously believe it all ... I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass."

"Oh yes, I believe that. It's a lovely idea."

"But you can't believe things simply because they're a lovely idea."

"But I do. That's how I believe."

That is crazy nonsense. I know I may have just lost any Christian reading this by saying that, but Padgett is the one who typed that up and thought it showed how noble Christians are. It is patently crazy to believe something IF it was proved to be not true. You cannot seriously expect a nontheist to read that and suddenly think “Oh well, it is a lovely story and they believe in the power of stories.” How very postmodern of you.

I'm willing to bet it's how most believers believe.

Gah!

With all due respect to the memory of Christopher Hitchens, making the here and now better would be difficult without religion. But it's also hard enough without the un-Christian antics of people like David Caton. As Christmas ought to remind us.

At no point did you show respect to the memory of Christopher Hitchens. You lumped him in with the very people he despised and railed against in his fight to ensure we didn’t all become their victims. Including you, Mr. Padgett. Your nice and safe Christianity that doesn’t hate gays is fine when you’re driving the kids to Sunday school, but how does it serve you when other Christians (and they are still Christians whether you want to admit that or not) are trying to gut our rights and ensure their supremacy to enact Dominion? Your Christianity will not allow you to look in the mirror and see how alike you are from them. It will not allow you to see that the underlying absurdity of their beliefs is the same as the underlying absurdity of yours. So, you externalize the cognitive dissonance. “It’s not me, it’s them.”

The proof is in your self-admitted fact that the majority of Christians are very much silent.  



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Frothy Mixture & Christians think only Christians have rights

Tell me you don't want to punch that face.
One of the many things that disgust me regarding the religious Right is that they can yammer on and on about religion and the First Amendment and the second someone disagrees with them they whine. As if the contradictory statement is a violation of their rights and that it is not protected by the very rights they claim are being violated.

Related to this is their "religious freedom" meme; which simply means their “religious freedom” is violated without their ability to dictate people’s lives according to their religion and only their religion. In other words, they have preeminent rights and everyone should respect them. Other’s rights are minimalized or subservient to their own. It really is simply childish.

As far as the “Christian Persecution Complex” where they think every Christian who speaks up for Jesus is torn down by the media; Santorum, Tebow, et al…

Well when you put that out there; attaching your religious beliefs to your name and personality people are allowed to form a judgment on it and therefore you. You don’t get a pass because it is religion. Of course they think so, but again that protection is only for Christians (and maybe Jews). Not Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, etc. We see that over and over.  Again, it is a special protection for them an only them. Giving them more power and opportunity will lead to this being the law of the land.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christopher Hitchens & My Antitheism


It's been a few days since Christopher Hitchens died and I really didn't want to immediately write something just to write something. I didn't know what to say and pretty much all I could muster on Twitter was “god is not great. Christopher Hitchens is."
After watching and re-watching several old and new videos over the course of the past few days I have felt a mix of emotions. Obviously, I didn't know the man. I admired him, I respected him, and to some extent this site wouldn't exist without him. I was already long an atheist when a friend lent me 'god is Not Great' so it isn't like he "de-converted" me. Many have said in, one way or another, over the past few days that "Christopher Hitchens didn't tell me what to think, but he taught me how to think." To an extent, this applies to me. What I think Hitchens' greatest contribution to me personally was to illustrate the passion in which it was OK to attack religion. Others have done it before, but very few—if any—did it as well. He was quick. He was brilliant. He was logical. He was precise. He was brutal. I do not have that talent, but there is no doubt that my better moments (if any) of "rapier wit" are influenced more from Hitchens than any of the other "Four Horsemen" or other atheists I have read and conversed with. I didn't always agree with everything he said or even how he said it, but I respected his ability to make it extraordinarily difficult to say why I disagreed. That is a superintellect. That is why his enemies respected him. Not many, if any, won an argument against him.

Hitchens allowed me to step up and openly discuss, debate, and mock that which I find odious. He, above all others, helped me shed that cowardice of silence. We can speak up and so we must! We must say these things that make other people uncomfortable, angry, and perhaps unsurprisingly; threatened. We must be iconoclasts. Not for the sake of being iconoclastic, but to tear down the walls of false respect and sacredness. The falsity is right there in the open. The light is already on it. Just say it! People suffer because of religion. People are bilked out of money in the name of religion. People contract diseases that are preventable in the name of religion. People are kept in ignorance in the name of religion. People are beaten in the name of religion. People are oppressed in the name of religion. People are raped in the name of religion. People are murdered in the name of religion. The vast majority of the religious, no matter how "liberal" they claim to be, do not speak up to tear down the basis of this danger because they cannot. That would require kicking the ladder out from under them.

Faith deserves no respect. It does not even require opponents to discredit it. It is already, by definition, an admittance of a lack of any reasonable basis to believe. There is no basis for a faithful belief other than a desire to believe it. That is not worthy of our time. Why bother refuting something that is irrefutable? Why bother arguing over something which is inarguable? Is this a Catch-22 for the antitheist? No. It is worthy of our time because it inevitably and invariably begins to adversely affect others. When the religious belief, as unsubstantiated as it is—and it is unsubstantiated— manifests itself as a force for discrimination, hate, dehumanization, oppression, death, etc. it is now an enemy of humanity.

As others have said: "Thanks Hitch. We'll take it from here."

Steve