The reasonableness of absolute uncertainty

One of the complaints raised over a recent post came from my presumption that the phrase “There’s probably no God” is one way to describe atheistic thought. I’ve expanded on that idea in the past, so I didn’t feel it necessary to discuss it in my recent post (plus it was besides the point I happened to be making). But more than that, the notion seems so simple.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins actually spends more time than should be necessary on the point of how to define atheism. He creates a 7 point scale where a “1” is an absolute believer, someone with no doubt in the existence of God, and a “7” is the polar opposite, an absolutely certain atheist. In the middle are varying levels of belief or disbelief. Dawkins places himself as a “6”, describing himself as nearly certain there are no gods, but allowing for the possibility, however slim it may be. This is how a huge swath of atheists also describe themselves. (It’s at the root of some of the messages being put out on the bus campaigns, in fact.)

The complaint to this is the belief that atheism means absolute certainty. What requires this? The word means “without theism”. That does not imply certainty of what is true, but rather a degree of certainty of what is not true. In modern connotations, the term includes a rejection of deism and usually anything supernatural. But how does this rise to become certainty?

Many people, for whatever reason, insist that any lack of certainty thus equals agnosticism. There are two issues with this. First, no, it doesn’t. Atheism, again, does not require certainty. Second, the only way one can arrive at this conclusion is to use the modern connotations of atheism. The problem comes when the connotations of agnosticism are then ignored, ever so conveniently. That is, the fact that atheism is usually taken to mean a complete rejection of all things supernatural is employed, but then the fact that agnosticism is usually taken to mean a 50/50 uncertainty is ignored. This is why Dawkins needed his scale. Few people are right in the middle (“4”). Most of us lean one way or the other. In fact, I hope a majority of people do not categorize themselves as “1”, pretending as if they’re absolutely certain of their God’s existence. We should all have doubt; the lack of it is a mark of fundamentalism.

In essence, the argument that atheism is absolute certainty is a blatantly dishonest one. If the term means absolute certainty, then it cannot be ignored that agnosticism usually means a perfect middle ground. It is bad form to ground an argument in cherry-picked connotations; in this case, demanding a self-proclaimed atheist call himself “agnostic” due to a lack of 100% certainty is weak because the common notion of a 50/50 split for agnostics is being ignored – clearly the self-proclaimed atheist is not 50/50 on the existence of gods. This would be like demanding that anyone who says unicorns are possible must also believe the mythical beasts have a 50/50 shot of existing. Of course unicorns are possible – and everyone should acknowledge that fact – but they are exceedingly unlikely. And more importantly, there is not a shred of evidence for their existence. This does not make anyone agnostic towards unicorns except in the strictest, most semantic, most useless sense.

The faux war on Christmas is back and O’Reilly is leading the charge

Bill O’Reilly, silly pundit and man of poor reasoning skills, is back at attacking atheists. This time it’s especially fun because all he does is set up strawmen and make other dumb arguments.

Once again we are in the Christmas season, and the coal-in-your-stocking crowd is back at it.

This sounds like a negative, militant bunch! I have to imagine they have just an awful, awful message. Right?

This year, the American Humanist Association is putting up bus ads in selected cities that say: “No God? No Problem! Be Good for Goodness’ Sake.”

Hang on. This sounds like a positive, upbeat message. (It’s also a minor change to a previous bus ad.) How does this constitute wanting to put coal in anyone’s stockings? It sounds like this atheist group is promoting a positive message imploring people to be upstanding, good individuals. And isn’t it interesting how virtually all atheist groups seem to do this? It’s like reason and rationality lead to better people in general.

The picture accompanying the text shows a group of young people wearing Santa hats. Ho, ho, ho. The virulently anti-God group “Freedom from Religion” has launched a second front. It is celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas with ads that say: “Yes, Virginia, there is no God.” Nice.

Oh, excuse me. It appears Billo has utilized his thesaurus. These atheists are virulent, not militant. Maybe we can start calling all those negroes haughty instead of uppity, too.

The question is: Why bother? Why spend money at Christmastime (sic) to spread dubious will among men? The reason, I believe, is that atheists are jealous of the Yuletide season.

Wow, this one should be fun.

1) Atheists bother because they want to get their message out there. Religion is a stain on society and needs to be put back in its box so that we can all enjoy more liberty.

2) Atheist groups have spent money on these sort of ads all year long. Christmas time, however, is a period when religion’s profile is raised more so than during other times of the year. It makes sense to counter this by intentionally raising atheism’s profile, too.

3) Billo believes we are jealous of this season. Once again, we see a non-rational religious individual going on faith alone; he has no evidence for his silly little belief. See #1 and #2 for real reason why atheist groups are putting out ads.

While Christians have Jesus and Jews have the prophets, nonbelievers have Bill Maher. There are no Christmas carols for atheists, no pagan displays of largesse like Santa Claus. In fact, for the nonbeliever, Christmas is just a day off, a time to consider that Mardi Gras is less than two months away.

Unlike Billo, I make no arrogant claim to be able to speak for all atheists. However, I do know that most still celebrate Christmas. They obviously have little to no interest in the whole Jesus part, but the holiday has come to mean far more than that. Christmas is when family from all over tends to get and come together to enjoy each others’ company. It’s a festive time that does not require any god for it to mean something.

And is Billo suggesting that Mardi Gras is an atheist event? Last time I checked it had its root in religious tradition, since being co-opted by dozens of cultures as a secular celebration – sort of like how Christmas can be and is secular for many. But maybe Billo wants to start claiming the fourth of July or St. Patrick’s Day as atheist holidays next.

But there is a serious side to this, and the American “Humanists” should listen up. Christmas is a joyous time for children, the big upside of celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Spectacular. First Billo spends his time arguing that Christmas is not to be done without God, then he sets up this contrast. First Christmas is a lot of fun for children, however and in addition, it is also a time when people can celebrate the birth of Jesus. Does he not get it? He just admitted that Christmas tends to be celebrated without regard to Jesus. It’s almost like there’s a secular component to the season – one that “is a joyous time”, and not just for children.

Of course, Billo is playing fast and loose with implications here. He’s trying to say that atheists don’t want children (or anyone else) to enjoy Christmas. This is a complete strawman, and an ugly one at that. This guy is just another mudslinger who has no interest in hearing the rational messages of atheists.

Why, then, do people who want to “be good” spend money denigrating a beautiful day?

Again, the denigration is directed at this myth that one needs God to be good, not the idea of Christmas. And again, most atheists celebrate the Christmas season – they just do it by staying connected with reality (i.e., spending time with family, not magic sky fairies).

Could it be that the humanists are not really interested in good at all?

No.

The head Humanist, Roy Speckhardt, says the anti-God signs are worthy because they send a message that atheists shouldn’t be vilified as immoral.

Billo’s slimy article as People’s Evidence 1.

Well, old Roy needs to wise up. The signs actually create resentment and hostility toward atheists. Here’s a bulletin: Many parents don’t want their children to see bus signs proclaiming that God is a big hoax.

Haha. Really? It’s the signs that have created resentment and hostility toward atheists? It has nothing to do with the smear pieces that get published?

As for what parents do and do not want their children to see, it is antithetical to rationality to try and block a child from a harmless message. In fact, parents should be encouraging a dialogue with their children about these ads. They present an important point of view, one which actually seeks to alleviate children of the burden of being told they may burn in hell for eternity for minor transgressions over a roughly 80 year period.

That message may be constitutionally protected, but it is not going to engender much good will among believers.

The broader point here is to start people talking. That has happened as we see here in People’s Evidence 1. As for encouraging good will among believers, I would hope it would do that. It obviously isn’t going to get Billo to do any good because that isn’t in his nature, but rational individuals may be invigorated to do something positive.

Of course, Speckhardt knows that and is being disingenuous with the “just looking out for atheists” posture his group takes.

Speckhardt’s point is that atheists are not inherently immoral. We want to see good things done just as much as the next guy. This is the bulk of what he has said. I don’t see where Billo has any grounds for calling him a liar.

What many nonbelievers enjoy doing is mocking those who embrace theology. I guess that makes some atheists feel better because there is no other reason to run down Christmas. It is a happy day for most human beings.

Non-sequitur alert! Non-sequitur alert!

Why the sudden new charge about mockery? How does that have anything to do with the ad? And “no other reason to run down Christmas”? Didn’t Billo just spend his entire article talking about how jealousy was the reason for these ads?

The latest Rasmussen poll on the season says that 72 percent of Americans like saying, “Merry Christmas,” while just 22 percent prefer the greeting “Happy Holidays.”

So the evidence suggests that despite the American Civil Liberties Union, atheist groups and a politically correct media, Christmas is actually gaining in relevance and, perhaps, reverence.

Here’s another good example of why Billo is not a rational person. He cited a single poll and then claimed it was evidence for a trend. I don’t think I need to go any further on that point.

Most folks know a good thing when they see it, and the converse is true, as well. They know these anti-God signs at Christmastime are dumb and unnecessary.

See People’s Evidence 1 again.

The faux war on Christmas is back and O'Reilly is leading the charge

Bill O’Reilly, silly pundit and man of poor reasoning skills, is back at attacking atheists. This time it’s especially fun because all he does is set up strawmen and make other dumb arguments.

Once again we are in the Christmas season, and the coal-in-your-stocking crowd is back at it.

This sounds like a negative, militant bunch! I have to imagine they have just an awful, awful message. Right?

This year, the American Humanist Association is putting up bus ads in selected cities that say: “No God? No Problem! Be Good for Goodness’ Sake.”

Hang on. This sounds like a positive, upbeat message. (It’s also a minor change to a previous bus ad.) How does this constitute wanting to put coal in anyone’s stockings? It sounds like this atheist group is promoting a positive message imploring people to be upstanding, good individuals. And isn’t it interesting how virtually all atheist groups seem to do this? It’s like reason and rationality lead to better people in general.

The picture accompanying the text shows a group of young people wearing Santa hats. Ho, ho, ho. The virulently anti-God group “Freedom from Religion” has launched a second front. It is celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas with ads that say: “Yes, Virginia, there is no God.” Nice.

Oh, excuse me. It appears Billo has utilized his thesaurus. These atheists are virulent, not militant. Maybe we can start calling all those negroes haughty instead of uppity, too.

The question is: Why bother? Why spend money at Christmastime (sic) to spread dubious will among men? The reason, I believe, is that atheists are jealous of the Yuletide season.

Wow, this one should be fun.

1) Atheists bother because they want to get their message out there. Religion is a stain on society and needs to be put back in its box so that we can all enjoy more liberty.

2) Atheist groups have spent money on these sort of ads all year long. Christmas time, however, is a period when religion’s profile is raised more so than during other times of the year. It makes sense to counter this by intentionally raising atheism’s profile, too.

3) Billo believes we are jealous of this season. Once again, we see a non-rational religious individual going on faith alone; he has no evidence for his silly little belief. See #1 and #2 for real reason why atheist groups are putting out ads.

While Christians have Jesus and Jews have the prophets, nonbelievers have Bill Maher. There are no Christmas carols for atheists, no pagan displays of largesse like Santa Claus. In fact, for the nonbeliever, Christmas is just a day off, a time to consider that Mardi Gras is less than two months away.

Unlike Billo, I make no arrogant claim to be able to speak for all atheists. However, I do know that most still celebrate Christmas. They obviously have little to no interest in the whole Jesus part, but the holiday has come to mean far more than that. Christmas is when family from all over tends to get and come together to enjoy each others’ company. It’s a festive time that does not require any god for it to mean something.

And is Billo suggesting that Mardi Gras is an atheist event? Last time I checked it had its root in religious tradition, since being co-opted by dozens of cultures as a secular celebration – sort of like how Christmas can be and is secular for many. But maybe Billo wants to start claiming the fourth of July or St. Patrick’s Day as atheist holidays next.

But there is a serious side to this, and the American “Humanists” should listen up. Christmas is a joyous time for children, the big upside of celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Spectacular. First Billo spends his time arguing that Christmas is not to be done without God, then he sets up this contrast. First Christmas is a lot of fun for children, however and in edition, it is also a time when people can celebrate the birth of Jesus. Does he not get it? He just admitted that Christmas tends to be celebrated without regard to Jesus. It’s almost like there’s a secular component to the season – one that “is a joyous time”, and not just for children.

Of course, Billo is playing fast and loose with implications here. He’s trying to say that atheists don’t want children (or anyone else) to enjoy Christmas. This is a complete strawman, and an ugly one at that. This guy is just another mudslinger who has no interest in hearing the rational messages of atheists.

Why, then, do people who want to “be good” spend money denigrating a beautiful day?

Again, the denigration is directed at this myth that one needs God to be good, not the idea of Christmas. And again, most atheists celebrate the Christmas season – they just do it by staying connected with reality (i.e., spending time with family, not magic sky fairies).

Could it be that the humanists are not really interested in good at all?

No.

The head Humanist, Roy Speckhardt, says the anti-God signs are worthy because they send a message that atheists shouldn’t be vilified as immoral.

Billo’s slimy article as People’s Evidence 1.

Well, old Roy needs to wise up. The signs actually create resentment and hostility toward atheists. Here’s a bulletin: Many parents don’t want their children to see bus signs proclaiming that God is a big hoax.

Haha. Really? It’s the signs that have created resentment and hostility toward atheists? It has nothing to do with the smear pieces that get published?

As for what parents do and do not want their children to see, it is antithetical to rationality to try and block a child from a harmless message. In fact, parents should be encouraging a dialogue with their children about these ads. They present an important point of view, one which actually seeks to alleviate children of the burden of being told they may burn in hell for eternity for minor transgressions over a roughly 80 year period.

That message may be constitutionally protected, but it is not going to engender much good will among believers.

The broader point here is to start people talking. That has happened as we see here in People’s Evidence 1. As for encouraging good will among believers, I would hope it would do that. It obviously isn’t going to get Billo to do any good because that isn’t in his nature, but rational individuals may be invigorated to do something positive.

Of course, Speckhardt knows that and is being disingenuous with the “just looking out for atheists” posture his group takes.

Speckhardt’s point is that atheists are not inherently immoral. We want to see good things done just as much as the next guy. This is the bulk of what he has said. I don’t see where Billo has any grounds for calling him a liar.

What many nonbelievers enjoy doing is mocking those who embrace theology. I guess that makes some atheists feel better because there is no other reason to run down Christmas. It is a happy day for most human beings.

Non-sequitur alert! Non-sequitur alert!

Why the sudden new charge about mockery? How does that have anything to do with the ad? And “no other reason to run down Christmas”? Didn’t Billo just spend his entire article talking about how jealousy was the reason for these ads?

The latest Rasmussen poll on the season says that 72 percent of Americans like saying, “Merry Christmas,” while just 22 percent prefer the greeting “Happy Holidays.”

So the evidence suggests that despite the American Civil Liberties Union, atheist groups and a politically correct media, Christmas is actually gaining in relevance and, perhaps, reverence.

Here’s another good example of why Billo is not a rational person. He cited a single poll and then claimed it was evidence for a trend. I don’t think I need to go any further on that point.

Most folks know a good thing when they see it, and the converse is true, as well. They know these anti-God signs at Christmastime are dumb and unnecessary.

See People’s Evidence 1 again.

Atheist Bus News

The atheist bus campaign in Indiana has averted a legal showdown and won the right to display its ads.

From the beginning, the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign said it knew it was going to win the fight against the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation.

After two months, the campaign was given the OK to run the ad “You Can Be Good Without God.”

“We’re all elated we won, of course,” said Charlie Sitzes, spokesman for the bus campaign. “We knew we were going to win the lawsuit.”

The decision comes just a week before the lawsuit was supposed to hit federal court in Indianapolis, Sitzes said.

The Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation will also be paying a substantial portion of the legal fees that were incurred. I have no idea why they thought for a moment that they would win this case, but it’s good that they quit before they got embarrassed any more.

Bus campaign update

The atheist bus campaigns remain in full swing. Several major cities have ads running on their city buses now (with lawsuits pending where some places illegally discriminate). Discussion is being prompted and the apocalypse still hasn’t happened. Success.

Oh, and the latest ad:

In the Beginning, Man Created God

Common sense wins

The atheist bus campaign has been whirling around the globe over the past several months. It was briefly stopped in Ottawa because of a stupid policy that states this:

…religious advertising which promotes a specific ideology, ethic, point of view, policy or action, which in the opinion of the city might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to users of the transit system is not permitted.

The only religious ad which could fit into that description would be one that says “No one is wrong and everyone is the best at everything” (thank you, Principal Skinner for that one).

Fortunately, the city council has some common sense.

Council voted to allow the ads — which read “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life” — to be displayed on OC Transpo buses after city solicitor Rick O’Connor told councillors the ban wouldn’t hold up in court.

They saw the obvious legal troubles and put their foot down. It’s the anti-Dover of behaviors. Of course, not everyone can be so smart.

Orleans Coun. Bob Monette said the ads are offensive and shouldn’t be allowed on public property.

“I believe they are in very poor taste and derogatory to anybody who believes in God,” he said. “I am concerned they are judging other people’s beliefs. It’s public property and it’s inappropriate.”

That’s exactly what it’s doing. What doesn’t judge other people’s beliefs? Why is that a bad thing in the least? Besides that, when, exactly, did religion earn this hyper-respect? Its ideas are flimsy at best. It has done nothing to show it has any worth in an intellectually-concerned society. Creationism/intelligent design-creation go to support this point.

Believers take the low road

The atheist bus campaign was done with two goals in mind: get people talking about not believing and help them to stop needless worrying. Of course, the second point to that was unlikely to occur, but the intent was at least there. Now some Christian groups, instead of desiring to improve the lives of their fellow humans, just want to take petty jabs.

Beginning Feb. 9, three separate Christian groups will launch advertisements on more than 200 of London’s buses to convince pedestrians of God’s existence. “It may be unpopular and unpleasant, says David Larlham, the assistant general secretary of London’s Trinitarian Bible Society, a group that distributes bibles worldwide, “but there is a whole lot of truth in the bible that people need to get to grips with.” His organization has paid $50,000 to display posters on 125 of London’s red double-decker buses that quote Psalm 53: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.”

Wouldn’t this organization’s time be better spent telling people something at least intended to be useful? With the atheist message – “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” – there is the clear intent of easing the stress induced by all the nutty bus messages telling people they’re going to burn in hell. For these Christians, the message is “You’re an idiot if you don’t believe in magic.” They have no interest in doing any good. As with most Christians, their bread and butter issues are really just petty interests with no real concern for other human beings.

Playing with language

It’s become quite popular, especially since the release of The God Delusion, for the proponents of religion to throw certain terms on to their secular counterparts. Take for example this excerpt from a recent interview with Richard Dawkins.

So, ironically, you have an evangelistic zeal about this.

As a science teacher, it is an important thing. “Evangelistic” would be an unfortunate word, if it suggested loyalty to some sort of book. It’s loyalty in my case to scientific evidence.

“Zeal” I’m happy to live with.

The zest with which those of religious persuasions thrust terms on to atheists that are generally reserved for their own world views is getting out of hand. The above excerpt is just one example. Pay attention and you’ll see far more. Atheists and humanists are “devoted” and evolution is a “religion”.

These terms can generally be discarded because 1) they tend to just be rhetoric, 2) they tend to come from people who believe in dinosaurs around the time of the agricultural revolution, and 3) they’re blatantly wrong and ill-thought. We should, however, pay some attention because they’re also delightfully ironic.

Evolution is called religious belief. People say “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”. Blah, blah, blah. That’s fine rhetoric, but it’s also fine humor. What is the point in calling evolution “religious” or using terms related to faith when speaking of atheism? It’s to indicate that these things have little to no basis; those who use these terms are being derisive – that’s the whole point. Faith in evolution is a bad thing because it is merely faith. It has no substance behind it. Of course, that’s patently stupid. Evolution is nothing but evidenced. But these creationists/less-honest-creationists-who-hide-behind-the-lie-of-intelligent-design are correct about one thing: faith is a bad thing. It should be derided. It serves little purpose but to delude people.

I suppose I’m fine with Bible-thumpers calling me a man of faith. I just hope they begin to realize that by doing so they are undermining the very basis for their beliefs in magic and skyfairies.

Dinesh D’Souza is a moron

Let’s just jump right into an article by Dinesh D’Souza.

But of late atheism seems to be losing its scientific confidence. One sign of this is the public advertisements that are appearing in billboards from London to Washington DC. Dawkins helped pay for a London campaign to put signs on city buses saying, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Humanist groups in America have launched a similar campaign in the nation’s capital. “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.” And in Colorado atheists are sporting billboards apparently inspired by John Lennon: “Imagine…no religion.”

What is striking about these slogans is the philosophy behind them. There is no claim here that God fails to satisfy some criterion of scientific validation. We hear nothing about how evolution has undermined the traditional “argument from design.” There’s not even a whisper about how science is based on reason while Christianity is based on faith.

So because atheist and humanist organizations aren’t buying novel-size ad spaces, they’re abandoning science? Frankly, my dear, that’s fucking retarded. The reason these reasoned organizations are opting for messages encouraging people to be happy and to be good is that there is a far more complex message behind those words they wish to have come to light. Of course, it would be silly to buy ad space on some inconcise, rambling message. “Be good for goodness’ sake” helps to get at the heart of one atheist argument: we don’t need magic sky fairies to be good. D’Souza is right that there is a philosophy which is to be found behind these slogans, and no, not everyone carries a scientific reasoning behind them. It isn’t necessary that all atheists and humanists are interested in exploring how, perhaps, our morality comes from an innate sense with which we are all born thanks to our evolution as an intelligent, social animal. But it makes sense that in a successful tribe, sympathy, empathy, caring, love, and even self-sacrifice would be common, if not dominant, characteristics. There is always a place for atheists in the heart of science.

Instead, we are given the simple assertion that there is probably no God, followed by the counsel to go ahead and enjoy life. In other words, let’s not let God and his commandments spoil all the fun.

Lovely strawman. This isn’t about ‘disobeying God’ or any other rubbish like that which gets pedaled so ferociously by disingenuous Christians wishing to call atheists liars simply for maintaining a separate viewpoint. Atheists, agnostics, and humanists want people to live lives in which good deeds are done, care is given for our fellow man, and we celebrate our common humanity and community through our acts, words, and love. We don’t need any gods to tell us that loving and respecting one another is a good thing.

“Be good for goodness sake” is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. The question remains: what is the source of these standards of goodness that seem to be shared by religious and non-religious people alike?

This is precisely the point of the atheist bus campaigns, D’Souza! I’m glad you’ve shown, in glorious clarity, an example of the success of the recent bus ads. It’s too bad you missed it.

The only difficulty, as Folger makes clear, is that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of any universes other than our own. Moreover, there may never be such evidence.

Sometimes I wonder if these journalists actually read the entire article/study/whathaveyou that they cite.

“If a theory did gain credibility by explaining previously unexplained features of the physical world, then we should take seriously its further predictions, even if those predictions aren’t directly testable,” [Cambridge University astrophysicist Martin Rees] says. “Fifty years ago we all thought of the Big Bang as very speculative. Now the Big Bang from one millisecond onward is as well established as anything about the early history of Earth.”

That’s science and that’s what atheists and humanists embrace.

Of course, this article cited by D’Souza is nothing more than a recount of the history of the anthropic principle, debuted 35 years ago and now combined with the subject of string theory and ideas of a multiverse to make it topical. All this principle says is that ‘If things were different, they would be different.’ Well, of course. If A didn’t happen, then B may be different. I believe Ashton Kutcher covered this topic fully in 2004.

When this argument that life is finely-tuned is put forth, nothing is really being said. It’s self-evident that the present and the future depend upon the past. Obviously, had [insert random physical phenomenon], then we may not be here to discuss these things. So what? In a few trillion years, there will be absolutely no evidence of humans to be discovered anywhere in the Universe. Does it mean anything to say now that the Universe is finely-tuned to eventually be void of life as we know it? Who cares?

Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

Dinesh D'Souza is a moron

Let’s just jump right into an article by Dinesh D’Souza.

But of late atheism seems to be losing its scientific confidence. One sign of this is the public advertisements that are appearing in billboards from London to Washington DC. Dawkins helped pay for a London campaign to put signs on city buses saying, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Humanist groups in America have launched a similar campaign in the nation’s capital. “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.” And in Colorado atheists are sporting billboards apparently inspired by John Lennon: “Imagine…no religion.”

What is striking about these slogans is the philosophy behind them. There is no claim here that God fails to satisfy some criterion of scientific validation. We hear nothing about how evolution has undermined the traditional “argument from design.” There’s not even a whisper about how science is based on reason while Christianity is based on faith.

So because atheist and humanist organizations aren’t buying novel-size ad spaces, they’re abandoning science? Frankly, my dear, that’s fucking retarded. The reason these reasoned organizations are opting for messages encouraging people to be happy and to be good is that there is a far more complex message behind those words they wish to have come to light. Of course, it would be silly to buy ad space on some inconcise, rambling message. “Be good for goodness’ sake” helps to get at the heart of one atheist argument: we don’t need magic sky fairies to be good. D’Souza is right that there is a philosophy which is to be found behind these slogans, and no, not everyone carries a scientific reasoning behind them. It isn’t necessary that all atheists and humanists are interested in exploring how, perhaps, our morality comes from an innate sense with which we are all born thanks to our evolution as an intelligent, social animal. But it makes sense that in a successful tribe, sympathy, empathy, caring, love, and even self-sacrifice would be common, if not dominant, characteristics. There is always a place for atheists in the heart of science.

Instead, we are given the simple assertion that there is probably no God, followed by the counsel to go ahead and enjoy life. In other words, let’s not let God and his commandments spoil all the fun.

Lovely strawman. This isn’t about ‘disobeying God’ or any other rubbish like that which gets pedaled so ferociously by disingenuous Christians wishing to call atheists liars simply for maintaining a separate viewpoint. Atheists, agnostics, and humanists want people to live lives in which good deeds are done, care is given for our fellow man, and we celebrate our common humanity and community through our acts, words, and love. We don’t need any gods to tell us that loving and respecting one another is a good thing.

“Be good for goodness sake” is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. The question remains: what is the source of these standards of goodness that seem to be shared by religious and non-religious people alike?

This is precisely the point of the atheist bus campaigns, D’Souza! I’m glad you’ve shown, in glorious clarity, an example of the success of the recent bus ads. It’s too bad you missed it.

The only difficulty, as Folger makes clear, is that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of any universes other than our own. Moreover, there may never be such evidence.

Sometimes I wonder if these journalists actually read the entire article/study/whathaveyou that they cite.

“If a theory did gain credibility by explaining previously unexplained features of the physical world, then we should take seriously its further predictions, even if those predictions aren’t directly testable,” [Cambridge University astrophysicist Martin Rees] says. “Fifty years ago we all thought of the Big Bang as very speculative. Now the Big Bang from one millisecond onward is as well established as anything about the early history of Earth.”

That’s science and that’s what atheists and humanists embrace.

Of course, this article cited by D’Souza is nothing more than a recount of the history of the anthropic principle, debuted 35 years ago and now combined with the subject of string theory and ideas of a multiverse to make it topical. All this principle says is that ‘If things were different, they would be different.’ Well, of course. If A didn’t happen, then B may be different. I believe Ashton Kutcher covered this topic fully in 2004.

When this argument that life is finely-tuned is put forth, nothing is really being said. It’s self-evident that the present and the future depend upon the past. Obviously, had [insert random physical phenomenon], then we may not be here to discuss these things. So what? In a few trillion years, there will be absolutely no evidence of humans to be discovered anywhere in the Universe. Does it mean anything to say now that the Universe is finely-tuned to eventually be void of life as we know it? Who cares?

Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.