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Apr 11 2008

Atheist go home

The spinster aunt is, I suppose, what is generally described as an “atheist.” The term is regarded with a narrowed eye here at Blaming HQ, on accounta it presumes a natural state of “theism” from which the “atheist” is deviant. The dominant culture — is there anything the dominant culture can’t do? — forces us to define ourselves in terms of belief in a clairvoyant celestial dictator. Many atheists, or at least those of us whose natural inclination is to saunter through the day with nary a thought for either appeasing or not appeasing an invisible overlord, find this irritating and alienating. The prepended “a–” assigns a sort of oppositional equivalence between “god-fearing” and “the absence of god-fearing,” often to the extent that atheism is itself regarded as a religion.

This is batty. “Not believing in a deity” is not the philosophic opposite of “believing in a deity.” On the one side, there is nothing whatsoever. Zip. Bupkis. Nothing quantifiable or measurable in the faith department. In fact, there’s no faith department at all.

Whereas on the other side is an elaborate and convolute belief system of considerable avoirdupois.

So, to recap: atheism, because it consists of nothing and, let’s face it, is only conceptualized in the first place because of hegemonic pressures, can neither act nor believe nor not act nor not believe. It’s not a religion. It’s not a belief. It’s not an agenda.* It’s nothing.

Imagine if it were the other way around. What if the citizenry were presumed a priori to entertain no goddish delusions? What if it were the norm to calmly accept the indifference of the cosmos toward individual humans? What if, were one moved to acquire an intimate understanding of the physical universe, the commonly accepted procedure were merely to observe it, rather than to make shit up using obfuscatory, 2000-year-old anthrocentric, dude-centric, earth-centric folklore?

In a world where deity-worship was a quaint curiosity, rather than a megatheocorporatocratic imperative, mystics who employed an Invisible Concierge of the Sky might be referred to as “atruthists.”

Behold, via Pharyngula, the mad ravings of a publicly elected atruthist; the Chicago Trib’s Eric Zorn recounts godfearing Illinois State Rep Monique Davis’s mindblowing freakout on atheist activist Rob Sherman at a recent General Assembly meeting:

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings [...] I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children. What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous–

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! [...] I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court—

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

State Rep Monique Davis, buffeted by the holy tide of millennia of godly cultural imperative, provides an exquisite argument for Bertrand Russell’s contention that “intelligence is impeded by any creed, no matter what.”

_________________________
* Which is not to say that atheists cannot have agendas. The atheist activist, however, is mostly just saying, due to the in-your-face nature of the various dead lords and saviors, “Get your invisible dead lord and savior out of my face.” The threat “Or else I will tear your children’s throats out with my teeth” is merely implied.

61 comments

2 pings

  1. Pinko Punko

    Because of extrapersonal relational issues, I attend services twice a year. These are the worst times because these are the days of the heightened sales pitch. We’ll call them the PBS fund-drive type of days. Yeah, the big ones. Xmas and the Easter. And Monique Davis represents exactly the result of that stuff. You are bombarded with the possibilty that something good could exist but it is a fragile, hopeless situation unless you and everyone on else on Earth also believes. So she is sitting there constantly convinced that the reason our existences are not fluffy pillows and Smoke Dog not smelling like a gigantic frito are because of atheist Bob and his selfish, selfish refusal to just simply believe.

    The same behavior can be seen outside of religious issues. The desire to form a consensus on any particular issue within a fractious group. If we could only crush dissent then of course everything would just work out.

  2. Buffy

    I always wonder if these religious folks (who claim athiests have no moral “code” to live by and will therefore kill without qualm) would be completely lost without some ancient text to direct them in living their modern lives?

    It is possible to live and let live (gays too!) without fearing the coming Rapture. Oh, and believing in Jesus or God doesn’t exempt anyone from being a murderer. From my experience it actually stimulates quite a bit of unrest between people over race, gender and other religions.

  3. Sophie

    I thought that “atheist” meant : sure that there is no god.
    I feel more “agnostic” : I think there is no proof of the existence of a god, and I frankly don’t care much and devote very little time to thinking about it. I don’t want to wear a red A on my shirt or blog…

    One of the things I dislike the most about religion is proselytism, in the “Please keep your beliefs to yourself and don’t try to convince me you and your imaginary friend are right, and I’ll do the same” way.
    I find militant atheists to be quite proselytic, but it might be a reaction to a frankly hostile world (meaning the USofA). In other, more secular countries, they might feel less threatened because no one is trying to teach ID at school, and be less vocal.

  4. Kate

    The same behavior can be seen outside of religious issues. The desire to form a consensus on any particular issue within a fractious group. If we could only crush dissent then of course everything would just work out.
    That so reminded me of a recently read blog entry, mourning the lack of respect & even contempt some men nowadays feel for women because of those horrible feminists. Btw, the author (a woman) meant all feminists, including those, who fought for voting rights. I was stupidly surprised after reading it. At such times I can only think: “life is so frightening”…

    Twisty, you wrote “Never view this blog using Internet Explorer”, but what should I use to read it? Was it a joke? Please, help!

  5. WendyAnn

    Twisty, I think you live in my brain.

    Get ready for the backlash. People don’t like when you don’t believe the same thing they do when it comes to their heavenly white robbed dude and his little bands of fat little baby angels.

    Ever read the stats on how many Americans think they have personal little cherubic angels watching out for them. Hah! The Universe is so funny, but not so funny as to be concerned with a bit of DNA on a planet rotating a small sun in a mid-sized galaxy among trillions of galaxies.

    But the little angels give them “hope” – more like indoctrination to keep them enslaved. Accept your lot in this shitty life (if your life is shitty) because your personal deity will give you everlasting life! Hell, who would *want* everlasting life. Existence without end? Pshaw – not for me!

    But the patriarch must have the illusion of significance in this vast universe. Usually on the backs of those he considers less worthy, be they slaves, animals, women or children (in that order – at least he can sell the slaves and animals and get money for them.)

    And the big three (The Abramhamic religions) are the worst purveyors of patriarchy out there. Get rid of the deity delusion and the patriarchy falls as well. Or is it the other way around?

    I used to say, ah, who gives a fig what the delusional religionists do in the privacy of their churches.

    The problem with my former live and let live approach is that it was not reciprocated. They try their damnedest to get us all to live by their code, including by passing laws, as evidenced in the article cited above. Their dude worshiping patriarchy has tried to enslave us all (there are some escapees, but not many) and their behavior is toxic to the very being of women, children and any “heathens” that must, according to them, convert or die.

    I know this isn’t a rationalist (my new term to replace atheist) blog, but I’m so sick of theism being the default assumption everywhere I go. I cheer when one of my heroes (that would be you) proclaims their rationality, loud and proud.

  6. Stella

    But, but… Representative Davis has now apologized…

    Pfft.

    “Atruthist” – I like that.

  7. norbizness

    I believe in eco-friendly comment recycling, so I’ll re-use a one-liner completing the Davis/Sherman exchange I employed on another site:

    Sherman: Um, could I get this parking ticket validated?

  8. a birch tree

    “Atheism” is a religion the same way “bald” is a hair color.

  9. norbizness

    P.S. I’m partial to apathetic agnosticism, which goes something like “who cares whether there’s a God, and if so, what of it?”

  10. Claire (CJ)

    Twisty, me too. :)

    Really though, I’m all about leaving people to their own particular set of self-destructive vices, be they of a religious nature or no. So long as I’m a respectable distance from the inevitable catastrophe, of course. In my experience it’s wiser to leave the wacky to be wacky and get on with the business of *actual* reality on your own and with those who choose to do the same.

    I’m an atheist all the way. Growing up in a fundamentalist christian household, thinking there was an invisible judgmental perpetually pissed-off being involved in my every waking (and non-waking) interaction never really made me feel safe. More like paranoid and forever worthless. Fuck that nonsense.

    Anyway, good posting and looking forward to more!

    Much love,

    CJ (Claire).

  11. neddie jingo

    Long-haired preachers come out every night,
    Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
    But when asked how ’bout something to eat
    They will answer with voices so sweet:

    CHORUS:
    You will eat, bye and bye,
    In that glorious land above the sky;
    Work and pray, live on hay,
    You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

    [snip]

    Workingmen of all countries, unite,
    Side by side we for freedom will fight;
    When the world and its wealth we have gained
    To the rafters we’ll sing this refrain:

    FINAL CHORUS:
    You will eat, bye and bye,
    When you’ve learned how to cook and to fry.
    Chop some wood, ’twill do you good,
    And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

  12. Kathleen

    I don’t know who it was, but somebody famous said that on the topic of belief and unbelief he was “unmusical” (it was a man; very few clever things uttered by women were recorded between the dawn of time till now, unless they were said by Jane Austen and encapsulated wry wistfulness about marriage): that is, it just didn’t strike any chord in him either way.

    One thing that bothers me a lot about many of the blogs I like best is that there is so much aggressive atheism, which overall strikes me as being as ludicrous as Satanism — to take either seriously at all is a dead giveaway you’re as high church as they come.

  13. Pinko Punko

    I was never “indoctrinated” into atheism, I just grew up without religion. My parents never ever talked about the big G either way, whether to praise or denounce. It truly was the complete absence. Thus when faced with a cafeteria of essentially random folk beliefs I did not choose any. Nothing is nothing, it’s not something, so I completely agree. I don’t think this counts as agnostic.

  14. Feminist Avatar

    What bugs me about people like Davis is if your God is so big and all-powerful and you have such a strong sense of his existence, then why are you so frightened of atheism? It’s only dangerous if your foundations are shaky, imo. This is the same as what annoyed me about the Catholic Church is ‘losing’ cause the wimmins aren’t having babies- if you are relying on the indoctrination of children to ‘win’- what does that say about your religion?

  15. Lisa

    “Land of Lincoln”?

    Wasn’t Lincoln kinda not-so-religious? If anything, I believe he flirted with Unitarianism in his adult years. But I believe it was him that said (paraphrasing my best here), “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”

    I always thought that if God was so good and all-forgiving (well, the New Testament version of the God with Multiple Personality Disorder), his ego could take the little children who heard about and entertained with the idea of atheism, as well as those who were raised in some isolated pigmy-type village somewhere remote that never had or heard of a bible.

  16. jo22

    I like ‘agnostic’ because ‘atheist’ sounds arrogant to me. We can’t actually *know*.

  17. Pinko Punko

    Yeah, but what does “arrogance” matter to something that might not exist? In fact we can “know” that all specified, traditional religions are not real, nor the Gods that they specify. We cannot know about an infinite number of unspecified gods, but what would be the point? Atheism isn’t about knowing. I don’t think God in his or sometimes her hypothesized forms exists, nor is there evidence to the contrary. This is atheism not agnosticism.

    Just my view. Since the whole thing is nothingness to me, I can’t be bothered to even be philosophical about atheism as I see no need to make a case that appears to be obvious on the merits.

    I just got distracted by a stray nerve impulse so the very tiny amount of brain RAM I have for G-unit just got wiped. What were we talking about?

  18. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    There are those who embrace magical thinking, and those who struggle to be free of it.

    One of the many reasons why those who struggle to be free of it are sometimes aggressively militant about their self-definition as atheists, and hostile towards those who embrace magical thinking–religionists, astrologers–is that most who embrace it also claim to have sole possession of the origin of ethics, meaning, interconnectedness, and justice, to name only a few of the concepts which supposedly sprang from the various organized systems of magical thinking.

    In fact, it’s looking like animal emotions, primarily empathy (mirror neurons) and cognitive abilities such as imagination, are the real source of ethics, meaning, interconnectedness, justice, etcetera.

  19. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    I forgot to mention I’m a Sagittarius.

  20. Calabama

    Geesh, grumbles about “militant atheists” are all too reminiscent of gripes about those pesky “militant feminists.”

    Any oppressed and endangered group might be considered “shrill” or obstreperous in its struggle for survival in a hostile world, is all I’m sayin’.

  21. PhysioProf

    Yep! It is really frustrating to deal with ridiculous demented theocratic wackaloon doucherattles who don’t have the fucking logical thinking capacity to distinguish between absence of belief and belief of absence.

    BTW, if anyone’s interested–in a car-crash rubbernecking sort of way–we are beating the shit out of a dumbass sexist shitbag over at Zuska’s (“Julius” and “J.”). This absurd fucknozzle is threatening to call the police and tell them we are harrassing him, because we told him he is a total fuckwit and should go fuck himself. Funny shit if you like to see wackaloons go wackadoodle.

    http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2008/04/a_mournful_complaint.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2008/04/explaining_women_geeks.php

    Incidentally, these posts are substantive in their own right, discussing issues of misogyny in science and engineering.

  22. lump

    I envy “those of us whose natural inclination is to saunter through the day with nary a thought for either appeasing or not appeasing an invisible overlord” somewhat. While I recognise this as the only sensible attitude I just can’t seem to achieve such nonchalance. This could have something to do with my religion-saturated upbringing. The only response my teenage self could usually come up with in the face of faith bombardment from school and parents was howling rage. Remnants of said rage still manifest whenever I start getting involved in discussions involving religion. I am probably one of those militant atheists mentioned above.

    I guess this illustrates Twisty’s point quite well however as I choose to define myself as an atheist in direct reference to the ‘theistic’ influences I’ve endured. Hopefully one day I’ll manage not to care so much, in the meantime you know who I blame.

  23. Twisty

    Allow me to clarify: it’s not that I don’t “care” about religion. I do, insofar as it’s in my face all the time and I want it out, and because it clearly makes people stupid, and because its ubiquity oppresses everyone. When I speak of sauntering along without a thought for Jesus or Kombucha or Vaal, I allude to an ideal world in which the default state is having no mystical “belief.”

  24. C. Atrox

    In response to Jo22,

    I would respectfully say we CAN know and what we know is this:

    No demonstrable evidence supports belief in angels, spirits, eternal life, ghosts, astrology, heaven, hell, god, or devils. Our understanding of the cosmos and our earthly evolution undercuts practically everything taught in the Bible, Koran, Urantia Book, Book of Mormon, et al. I would imagine we all agree that Zeus, and Shiva, and Osiris are all crazy myths. No one has to twist your arm to get you to admit that Ganesh, the elephant-headed god-thing, is a rather comical and unbelievable deity. The Old Testament-inspired imbecility practiced as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is no less ridiculous than those other gods and has no more credence in the scientific world. Science has inadvertently destroyed the foundation that these more acceptable myths have been built on. Unfortunately, superstition dies hard.

    The problem, as Twisty suggests, is not that some of us don’t believe in unsubstantiated myths. The problem is that so many people do believe in the irrational and call it “truth”.

  25. uh huh

    I love Ganesh – he is the coolest looking deity out there. Don’t go knocking my fetish deity.

  26. Fiona

    Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee said: “In fact, it’s looking like animal emotions, primarily empathy (mirror neurons) and cognitive abilities such as imagination, are the real source of ethics, meaning, interconnectedness, justice, etcetera.”

    Lieutenant, I salute you. I think that might be the best single-sentence summary of my own “belief” that I’ve ever seen.

    Almost forgot to mention I’m a Taurus.

  27. slythwolf

    Another priest said, “Is it true you’ve said you’ll believe in any god whose existence can be proved by logical debate?”

    “Yes.”

    Vimes had a feeling about the immediate future and took a few steps away from Dorfl.

    “But the gods plainly do exist,” said a priest.

    “It Is Not Evident.”

    A bolt of lightning lanced through the clouds and hit Dorfl’s helmet. There was a sheet of flame and then a trickling noise. Dorfl’s molten armor formed puddles around his white-hot feet.

    “I Don’t Call That Much Of An Argument,” said Dorfl calmly, from somewhere in the clouds of smoke.

  28. slythwolf

    Oops, forgot to cite. Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett.

  29. KMTBERRY

    But Twisty!
    Vaal MUST be Fed !!!
    Vaal protects us!!

  30. Chris E.

    This is definitely the wrong name to be dropping in these parts, but Frank Zappa came up with a useful comeback to the atheism-is-a-religion gambit.

    Back in the late ’80s, some God-bothering wackjob judge in Alabama ruled that secular humanism is a religion, and that therefore God-bothering wackjobbery deserved equal time in the public schools. In response, Zappa filed papers to legally make secular humanism a religion, to make it eligible for “the same benefits under U.S. law that every other religion enjoys: tax exemptions, awesome political power, unaudited expenditures of vast sums on real estate speculations, etc.” The name of the religion was the Church of American Secular Humanism, or C.A.S.H. for short.

    Fortunately, the judge’s ruling was swiftly struck down, so Zappa dissolved the religion, but I think its time has come again.

    By the way, Twisty, I just recently found your blog via Who Is IOZ, and I’ve been poring through your archives since. It’s been an education and frequently a hoot as well. Not only have you got a fine line in invective, for which I’ve always been a sucker, but you really go right to the root of things. As a frequently clueless liberal chap, it’s best that I shut up and listen, but I did just want to tell you that.

  31. Ron Sullivan

    Twisty: … an ideal world in which the default state is having no mystical “belief.”

    I won’t give up my Lucky Birding Sox till you pry them from my cold dead toes!

  32. homitsu

    I was once not so long ago a very religious person but one with a currently hip and cool religion, namely Buddhism (Zen). I can hear the howls now “no NO it’s not a RELIGION!”. Oh yes it is saith I the long-time student and seminary graduate. And like all of the rest of them it disses us womenfolk bigtime. I’m afraid I have to agree with major weirdo alcoholic writer Christopher Hitchens, whose book God Is Not Great, has the subtitle “Religion poisons everything”. He makes the point that while religious people constantly harp (heh) on wanting respect and tolerance for their beliefs, they’re not willing to reciprocate for non-believers.
    The guru-master stuff is no different and no better than Bible/Quran/Torah stuff.

  33. Pinko Punko

    Cold toes are anethema, undead or no!

  34. Pinko Punko

    anAthema. At least I didn’t misspell it enethema. I don’t know what that is.

  35. Nia

    Twisty, there are two things you can call yourself which are not defined in opposition to religion:

    -Skeptic. Some people use skeptic to mean “someone who does not believe in magic; without faith”.
    -Empirist.

  36. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Perfect for Weekend and Holy Day Blogging:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFt8WQkEvb8&feature=related

  37. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    ALL HAIL GANESH!

    Oh come on: Ganesh weighs a ton, is smarter than a porpoise, never forgets anything ever, and dances 24/7. What’s not to like?

  38. RadFemHedonist

    I rather like being a ms Gruff the atheist goat. (except I’m not a goat and I’m not really all that gruff).

  39. Spiralbinder

    “Faithless” Rush

    I’ve got my own moral compass to steer by
    A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky
    And all the preaching voices -
    Empty vessels ring so loud
    As they move among the crowd
    Fools and thieves are well disguised
    In the temple and market place

    Like a stone in the river
    Against the floods of spring
    I will quietly resist

    Like the willows in the wind
    Or the cliffs along the ocean
    I will quietly resist

    I don’t have faith in faith
    I don’t believe in belief
    You can call me faithless
    I still cling to hope
    And I believe in love
    And that’s faith enough for me

    I’ve got my own spirit level for balance
    To tell if my choice is leaning up or down
    And all the shouting voices
    Try to throw me off my course
    Some by sermon, some by force
    Fools and thieves are dangerous
    In the temple and market place

    Like a forest bows to winter
    Beneath the deep white silence
    I will quietly resist

    Like a flower in the desert
    That only blooms at night
    I will quietly resist

  40. jo22

    But we cannot know what might be beyond our version of what is knowable.

  41. saltyC

    I don’t like Skeptic because in my mind it is synonymous with “party-pooper”, like, The Amazing Randi and Penn & Teller.

    I don’t like Empiricist because it is too science-worshipping, like science and technology is the paradigmatic human activity and it will save us and has all the answers, which it doesn’t.

    Agnostic to me elevates any ridiculous notion as being possible only because we can’t know. (Or the the existence of “unknowable truth.” I agree woth philosophers such as Rorty who say truth is a property of sentences, and I would expand it to include other forms of expression. Therefore unknowable truth is absurd.)

    I would rather resurrect the 19th-century term “Free Thinker”.

  42. saltyC

    There was a recording of a talk by (misogynist) Richard Feinman (a quantuum physicist) and at the end during the Q&A, a student asked about whether it was possible there were particles that were impossible to detect, and Feinman paraphrased his question in an absurd way ” You mean is it possible there are particles which have no mass, energy or volume, do not interact with any other particle and have no effect on anything? And the student said, “yeah”
    I think Feinman said “sure.” (Like, and?) and everyone laughed.

    I guess that makes Feinman a ridiculous-ineffectual-particle-agnostic.

  43. a birch tree

    Feinman was being an ass. After all, there apparently exists both matter and energy that is currently “impossible to detect”, or at least was until very recently if my knowledge is outdated (that being dark matter and dark energy), but is still of great interest to the scientific community.

    Those kinds of questions should be the starting point of inquiry, not the ridiculed end.

  44. slythwolf

    I would rather resurrect the 19th-century term “Free Thinker”.

    I like this too. Its implied antonym is very satisfying to me.

  45. octopod

    a birch tree: I would contend that Feynman wasn’t just being an asshole. (Not that time, at least.) Based on the student’s agreement with Feynman’s paraphrase, hir question was not “What if there are particles that we have not yet discovered how to detect?” but instead “What if there are particles that we cannot possibly detect?”. The former is a good damn question indeed, as the folks at LIGO would probably agree if they wanted to keep their funding. The latter is…well, nonphysical, and thus to a physicist (or, more generally, a materialist) non-interesting.

  46. Susan

    Atheism isn’t about knowing.

    Precisely. It’s about not believing. I’m not crazy about the label, either. Everyone’s an atheist, after all (in that, there are gods they don’t believe in). I just go one god further. I also don’t believe there are tiny pink (invisible) elephants inside my computer making it work; do I need a label for that non-belief, too?

    Sometimes cartoons help:

    http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2008/03/atheist_religio.html

  47. a birch tree

    @Octopod:

    That’s a good point. I wasn’t making so fine a distinction… which is probably why I’m not a scientist. :)

  48. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Then again there’s always Cthulu:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DsgZ4JXXB8&feature=related

  49. saltyC

    Octopod: Exactly. Which is the analogy I draw to T.H. Huxley’s agnosticism, which claims that the metaphysical is intrinsically unknowable. And thank you for the spelling correction.

  50. Gertrude Strine

    Atheism (I prefer Hedonism, or at a pinch, Utilitarianism)is a good self-description for one who is generally disinterested in a personal ethics based on phantasy. It has however been forced to become oppositional to godbaggery – at least that’s how I understand it as it is reported in the news.

    In the context of this godbag-bully problem besetting the secular state that the USA is supposed to be (where the rules actually say that everybody is allowed their own private head fairies and the state has to stay out of it, not condone it) I fancy that it may be helpful to all those deluded Monique Davises if “atheist activists” – those who are having Paddy Chayevsky moments with the religious cry-babies – called themselves Secularists and derided the godbags as Asecularists.

  51. angie

    Feynmann was, while brilliant, enormously egotistical. He used to go work on research in strip clubs, and his philandering ways are well documented (often by him).

    For the record: dark energy and dark matter are indeed detectable, just not directly. We have good, concrete, observational evidence (galactic rotation curves, lensing effects, and observed galactic structure) for dark matter, and while dark energy is more elusive, it is now well established that _something_ must be causing the universe to behave as it does (it’s not only expanding, but accelerating). We don’t know exactly what either of these things are, but their effects are well observed and studied.

    Secondly, LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) is not detecting particles; it detects gravitational waves, which are ripples in the fabric of the universe, not discrete particles. The Large Hadron Collider is the apparatus looking for as-yet undetected particles (notably the Higgs boson), and is starting up this year.

  52. miss crabby pants

    angie-
    LIGO isn’t actually detecting gravitational waves, though it is trying to do so (as is another project called LISA). No one has detected gravitational waves yet.

    Just to clarify.

  53. Twisty

    No one has detected gravitational waves yet.

    Well, in that case, I’ll be floating off now. Thanks for the tip!

  54. miss crabby pants

    Ah, but gravitational waves aren’t the same thing as gravity. That, unfortunately, one can’t escape just yet. It’s like the patriarchy – you can fly up into the sky for a little while, but it will bring you crashing down eventually.

  55. public emily

    There was a recent bit-of-something on “evangelical atheism” over on boingboing. I’m glad to see atheism getting more and more mentions in the blogs i regularly read (and in the world, generally).
    Surprisingly though, the well-educated, techno-nuts who commented over there were far more anti-atheism and more apt to say things like “atheists are just as fanatical as fundamentalists” than the twisted Twisty readers here.
    I shouldn’t be so surprised, though. The right of the atheist to say they’re an atheist and, moreover, to be heard as being correct and rational in a world full of religion is questioned (beaten down) in the same way that the right of a feminist to say they’re a feminist and be respected as having the correct view of the world — a rational one that states “women are people” — in a world drowning in the patrairchy.

  56. Former atheist

    Athesim is a belief system. It is to aver, without proof, that the universe is entirely material, that morals derive from human invention, and that there is no accountability for our actions independent from the perspective of humans (and in some cases, animals) here on earth. Right or wrong, it is a belief system.

    I firmly agree with much of the criticism of fundamentalists – of any stripe. They tend to flagrantly violate their core principles and cherry-pick their morals. I do try, in earnest, to have compassion for them, as they may be troubled and may be projecting insecurities and prolonged unhappiness on others.

  57. charlotte

    Reading all the above comments, I’m struck by how those who choose to believe in something are variously called “stupid,” “irrational,” or (my favorite) “ridiculous demented theocratic wackaloon doucherattles.” If what we’re trying to accomplish–all frustrations aside–is a place where everybody can be as spiritual (or not) as they want to be, then we might want to consider adjusting the language we use towards a paradigm of coexistence. Why should atheism be the only right and true way to live one’s life? Why should theism be the only right and true way to live one’s life? Fact is, your reality is exactly that–your own, both physically and psychologically. In other words: Live and let live is fine with me. But please don’t insult others or try to proselytize one or the other way.

    The issue I have with a-theism (and which, it seems, others are grappling) is that a-theism simply can’t get around defining its conceptual framework in terms of (not being) theism; many of the books published in recent years start with stuff like “why God doesn’t exist,” etc., therefore still engaging in a “theological” debate of sorts. In the words of a commenter above: Bald is (still) another type of hairstyle. That’s why, from a point of philosophical inquiry, I like agnosticism better in opposition to theism because it gets at the “who cares?” argument better than any refutation can.

  58. Twisty

    “Athesim [sic] is a belief system. It is to aver, without proof, that the universe is entirely material, that morals derive from human invention, and that there is no accountability for our actions independent from the perspective of humans (and in some cases, animals) here on earth.”

    This may be true of ‘athesim’. Not atheism, though. Atheism avers jack shit. It is not as unique in the world as you might think, to aver jack shit. Rocks, horses, and grass, to name a few, are some of our favorite fellow jack shit averers.

  59. public emily

    “a-theism simply can’t get around defining its conceptual framework in terms of (not being) theism”

    This is an issue for us atheists, i won’t deny.
    But this is not a product of atheism — atheism is a big nada that can’t be held liable for anything at all. If you want to blame an atheist, knock yourself out, but you can’t blame atheism. We have the word “atheism” because we live in a world where religion is the norm.

    I think of it this way, and would encourage you to too: there was a time when the word “racist” wasn’t bandied around much because just about everyone was one. Similarly “willing-participant-in-the-patriarchy” isn’t thrown around a lot, nor is “not-an-atheist.” To go it one further (perhaps too far for y’all), my hope is that eventually the word “atheist” will be as usefull as “abolitionist.”

  60. jessica

    thank god (seems a strangely appropriate phrase given the context), for this blog…

    what would i do without other radical feminists who don’t believe in god, and have a completely apathetic response to being challenged on that [lack of]belief.

    i never quite grasp how the devoutly religious think that, because i do not believe in a god, i must lack any sense of morality. apparently, the only reason to be kind, gracious, not go on a killing spree, is the ever-looming danger of being damned to hell…

  61. Trout

    A conversation I had today after I mentioned my “atheism”:

    Person X: What did you say you were?

    Me: Uhh…athiest?

    Person X: Really?

    Me: (confused) Yeah.

    Person X: (disappointed) Oh, I thought you were just agnostic…

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