Tag Archives: fsgp

Seven Ways a Black Hole Can Kill You

One of the few things that most (and let me stress, most, not all) freethinkers have in common is a love for science.

Science is the tool that allows us to understand the universe. It’s the process that has allowed us to communicate over vast distances by typing into these little magic boxes (computers, I think they may be called). And, quite simply, it’s just really cool.

Obviously not everyone agrees with me. My own 11 year-old self absolutely loathed going to science class in school. But it can help to capture your attention if the particular scientific subject being discussed is entertaining or interesting. And there are few things as interesting or entertaining as contemplating your own morality and the destruction of the planet. Am I right?

If you think I am, check out the video below. Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy and president of the JREF, gives an hour long talk about 7 ways in which a black hole can kill you.

So enjoy. And try not to panic.


Mel Seesholtz talks about the christianist war on equality and knowledge

On April 7th of this year, Penn State Abington English professor Mel Seesholtz spoke to the Freethought Society about theopolitics and how the religious right are supressing equality in this country. The video of his talk is now online. During his talk, he showed a few clips from the Bill Maher movie Religulous
, which have been removed for lack of copyright license. I also apologize for misspelling Dr. Seesholtz’s name in the opening slide, but in my defense, I was just copying a typo from the newsletter. 😉

Mel Seesholtz — Theopolitics: The Christianist War on Equality and Knowledge from Freethought Society on Vimeo.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

How to win at “What if?”

This is brilliant stuff. And it sounds even more brilliant because it is juxtaposed with such idiocy.

There are many things that I disagree with Christopher Hitchens about. And I don’t think all of his arguments are the best, or even the correct ones. But when he is on point (and not drunk) there’s no question that he can go toe to toe with anyone in intellectual debate.

Needless to say, evangelist radio host Todd Friel never had a chance…

(Thanks to Pharyngula for pointing me to this.)

The false wisdom of religious myths

‘Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way,…and few there be that find it.’ When a modern religion forgets this saying, it is suffering from an atavistic relapse into primitive barbarism. It is appealing to the psychology of the herd, away from the intuitions of the few.

This is a quote from the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, from his Religion in the Making. To some it might sound like a promotional phrase from a local Christian organization, in that it might be interpreted such that it demonstrates how so many seem to miss God’s word, and only the few will accept it. But, knowing Whitehead a little better than that, I can say that it means something quite different.

Whitehead’s use of the term “few” is interesting and perhaps misleading. He does not mean that few will attain or choose this straight and narrow, but rather that few will comprehend the complexity in order to navigate it. The issue of religion in all of its philosophical, psychological, and sociological factors is much too complex to be comprehended in simplistic dogma handed to us as the “truth.” Thus any religious group that gives answers to the difficult questions of life in a way that hordes of people can understand and try to follow has severely, I believe, oversimplified the matter, and acts as a stumbling block to true wisdom. True understanding takesr genuine effort.

For those that would respond by saying that it is through belief that we will understand, I say bullshit. Our minds are plastic enough to rationalize something nonsensical which we accept, but this does not ean it will stand up to more objective scrutiny. Socrates is credited with saying “I know that I know nothing,” which made him wise in the eyes of many both ancient and contemporary. Many of those you will find preaching the “Word” today might claim a similar ignorance in saying that we only have the wisdom of man, while there is a wisdom of God available to those who choose to accept it.

But how is our “flawed” human wisdom to recognize divine wisdom without a divine point of view on our parts? This would not be a problem for a theoretical God-man, but it is a serious problem for any fully human receiver of that message to be able to recognize that the messenger or the message is legitimate without access to the divine wisdom in question. (Can anyone say circular reasoning?)

Our wisdom is indeed limited, and we each have much to learn in order to understand the vast universe. But this reasoning is not sufficient to conclude that our wisdom is so inferior that we should capitulate to dogmas and doctrines about the universe that offer a simplistic solution to difficult issues. The fact is that most people will never understand the world or themselves sufficiently in order to approach religious notions with serious comprehension. Yet some will. It is for the more rare mind that the social and psychological constructions of religion become clear. Many others, the “herd,” adhere to simplistic ideologies and beliefs in place of truly comprehensive understanding of religion either because they lack the time or energy to do so.

Religion in our culture has become so watered down, so common, that even someone uneducated in critical thinking, religious history, and philosophy can claim the supremacy of the “Word.” This is not to say that religion is without merit or significance, as there is much to religious thinking that is wonderfully deep and philosophical. Unfortunately, most are unable to appreciate this. And when they do appreciate it they utilize religion’s philosophical depth in order to argue that the simplistic notions epiphenomenal to this depth to are valid in themselves. In other words, they use the wisdom hidden behind the superficial myths to validate the myth.

As a Zen master once said, once you have used the finger to point out the moon, you no longer have use for the finger. So, if you find something useful and wise in the depths of religious traditions, wonderful. My suggestion is to throw away the simplistic dogmas that are promulgated as a lure for the masses in order to truly understand what is important in religious thought for the pursuit and love of wisdom. After all, the few are so few only because the masses don’t try hard enough, don’t care, or are too defensive or stubborn about their beliefs to challenge them.

Jason Schnittker speaks about beliefs regarding mental illness.

Before I get to my regular post, I need to add a little something to my topic from last week. Tonight I watched the President’s address. On balance, I have to say that I really liked it. As is tradition, the opposition party broadcast a response following the address. The tradition is that the person chosen to give the response is a rising star within the party. Tonight was no exception: Bobby Jindal delivered the response.

I must confess that I didn’t watch the response. Tomorrow I’ll find out what he said, but I had absolutely no interest in hearing him speak. You see, Bobby Jindal is the evolution denying (pdf) exorcist Governor of Louisiana. And let me assure that these facts aren’t some closely guarded secret; it is common knowledge that Jindal is a creationist who claims to have once cured a woman of cancer by performing an exorcism on her. And yet (fully knowing his history) this is the man that the Republican party has chosen to be their face for this. It’s going to be a long, long, long, long time before I vote for a candidate from that party for any political office. [/political rant]

On the third of February, Jason Schnitker, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke to a snowy day depleted group at our monthly meeting. His presentation, An Uncertain Revolution: America’s Changing Beliefs Regarding Mental Illness, dealt with how the American public perceives mental illness (causes, treatment, stigma, etc.) and how those beliefs have evolved since 1950. The video is below, and his PowerPoint presentation can be found here (pdf).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Jason Schnittker: America’s Changing Attitudes towards Mental Illness from Freethought Society on Vimeo.

Adam Carolla: Freethinker, Atheist, Comedian and Modern Philosopher

Many of you have probably never heard of Adam Carolla.

Of those of you who have heard of him, you probably associate him with being one half of a sophomoric television show called “The Man Show”.

Sadly, not enough people know Adam Carolla as the deep thinker he is. He has spent the last 14 years on talk radio, and only last week had his show cancelled. In an attempt to ‘fill the void’ (his words) he has decided to podcast a daily show on his own.

Why should you be interested?

Although he does, admittedly, have a brand of humor that is considered sophomoric, he is also a very intelligent and deep thinker. He spent 11 years on the hit radio show “Loveline”, dispensing serious relationship advice to severely disturbed callers. Doing that and keeping it entertaining is no small feat. Occasionally, he would wax-poetic about atheism, rational thinking and the craziness of the religious.

If you want an ‘atheist’ show, Adam Carolla’s podcast may not be for you. But if you’d like to listen to a master of minutiae, there is absolutely no one better. So please, give support to a fellow Freethinker. You may just thank me for the recommendation.

You can find his new podcast at CarollaRadio.com

Why I do this.

Why do I participate in the freethought movement? Why am I an activist? Why do I care? Why should I care?

I care because ignorance has been running rampant for far too long now. I am living in a country where a non believer cannot get elected to a high office. However, incompetent buffoons who prattle gibberish rise to positions of leadership. Allow me to introduce to you Delegate Jeff Fredrick of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Now Mr. Fredrick is not only a delegate of Old Dominion, he’s the chairman of Virginia’s Republican party. That’s right, this man leads one of this country’s two major parties in its 13th largest state.

As you may have already guessed, he is indeed a kook and a nincompoop. So why am I concerned with him? Well, I wouldn’t be if he were just an aberration, but he’s not. He is a symptom of the disease. A nimrod like him could have never achieved the position he has unless that type of ideologue and dogmatist was seen virtuous by a large number of powerful people. This is the man who Virginia Republicans want leading them! It should scare all of us into action.

But on to specifics. Here is Delegate Fredrick addressing the Virginia assembly on Charles Darwin’s birthday.


Let’s dissect what he said.

Ladies and gentlemen of the House, as the gentleman from Alexandria pointed out, today is Darwin’s birthday. Charles Darwin was born February 12th 1809, but there was also somebody else that was also born on February 12th 1809. [pauses] I’ll tell you who! It was the first Republican president of the United States–a guy named Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln is best know (sic), as you all well know, for freeing the slaves by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation affirming in his Gettyburg (sic) Address in 19, I’m sorry, 1863, saying “Our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Clearly this man is a somewhat of a dolt. However he does appear to have a plan. He’s pulled the line from the Gettyburg Gettysburg Address where Lincoln quotes the Declaration of Independence, then tied it to the Emancipation Proclamation. Yes, clearly the first Republican president is a man to be admired. Now let’s hear what he has to say about Darwin.

Darwin however is best known for the theory of evolution, arguing that men are not only, quote, are only, not, not created, but they are not equal, as some are more evolved… While Darwin’s theory was used by atheists to explain away the belief in God, the last act of congress signed by Abraham Lincoln before he was shot, was to place the phrase “In God We Trust” on our national coin. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let’s ignore the incoherence for a moment. On second thought, let’s not; the man is a complete twit! Now back to the critique. Some men are more evolved??? Obviously he’s saying that to contrast it with “all men are created equal”, which was said by Lincoln–quoting Jefferson (and neither of these men were Christians). Ah yes, evil Charles Darwin was the antithesis of good ole amercun values. The thing is, I’ve read a bit of Darwin–and quite a bit more about him–and I don’t remember him saying exactly that.

As for atheists using evolution to explain away the belief in god, while the wording is somewhat awkward, it is technically true for many atheists. The rub is that many atheists have also used the Christian bible to explain away the belief in god.

Why do I do this? Exhibit A: Jeff Fredrick.