Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gloriously Huge Universe

Several years ago I was debating the existance of God in an online forum. The debate was pointless, as my opponent was quick to draw arbitrary "micro-evolution, not macro-evolution" lines and resort to the inerrancy of the bible to 'prove' his point of view. He was a young-earther, too. Even though the debate stagnated after a while, there was one topic I had delivered, about which I was never able to extract a response. I posted one picture, and he put a full stop on all efforts he had been making in that direction. It was a nice moment for me. What was the topic, and what was my response?

As I stated, my opponent was a young-earther. I asked how, then, were we able to see light from stars millions of light years away? Did he not believe in the speed of light? No, he responded, the speed of light was fine. But the methods used to measure the distances to the stars were 'unreliable,' and that they were in fact much closer than we had been led to believe. This was when I struck.

Then how, I asked, do you explain the Hubble Deep Field image? I included a link to the hi-res image, and pointed out that, save for a few foreground stars, every glob of light in that image represented an entire galaxy of stars. And, if they were all within 6000 light years of us, how could the individual stars in these galaxies exist, considering they must be much smaller than a star needs to be in order to maintain nuclear fusion, and how would it have enough gravity to withstand being blown up by the nuclear energy?

This was what I couldn't get a response to. There is just something very compelling about a good visual.

The original Hubble Deep Field image (hires version here) was a snapstop of a tiny piece of the sky, like looking through a tiny keyhole. If you were to look up at the night sky, the little window this was taken from would be about the size of a dime -- held 75 feet away. And it showed more than 1,500 entire galaxies. What is really incredible is that the entire universe is like this, in all directions.

The image at the right is a more recent image, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image (breathtaking hires version here). This image was taken from a section of the sky about 1/10 the diameter of the moon, over an exposure lasting 1,000,000 seconds. It reveals more than 10,000 galaxies. Aside from the foreground stars, these are all entire galaxies with billions of stars each.

It should again be noted that this is typical throughout the sky. That means that, lurking behind the moon, is at least 1,000,000 entire galaxies. And the full moon only takes up about half of 1/1000th of 1% of the full sky (360 degrees, north and south hemisphere), or 1/200,000th of the sky. Which results in roughly 200,000,000,000 galaxies that would be, barring any obstruction, visible from the Hubble telescope at a similar acuity as the HUFD.

Folks, that's one big universe.

The next step is to try to picture how big a galaxy is. A new image from Hubble shows exactly that. It is the highest detailed image of galaxy M81 (Bode's Galaxy, about 12 million light years away, shown left) ever taken. Fabulous hires version here. Yes, every single little pinpoint of light is a star. In the center they are so dense and the galaxy is so thick that they cannot be distinguished from one another. I don't even have to calculate how many stars that is, you can just see for yourself. (I've heard that 150 billion stars is average for a galaxy)

Another neat demonstration of how big the universe is -- by showing how small we are, is here in a series of image. First, the earth compared to the other rocky planets (and Pluto). Then to the rest of the planets. Then to the sun. Then the sun is compared to other normal stars. And finally, to the very largest stars. Earth grows invisible very quickly.

I don't want to write a complete rehash of my last post on nature -- but doesn't it feel just wonderful seeing how big the universe is? How could anyone possibly believe they are "God's chosen people" after seeing how amazingly tiny we are?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Not in Kansas Anymore

For years it seems like much of the news about Intelligent Design was coming out of Kansas, especially since ID was kicked out of Dover. This is probably because I lived in Kansas at the time, but I've heard it mocked so many times I believe it is safe to say that Kansas had a national, if not international, reputation for being ID-friendly. But now the winds of change have arrived, and Dorothy and her little dog Toto have been picked up and dropped into Kentucky. And as with the travelers to Oz, what they found there was quite a different reality.

Yep, Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis are opening the Creation Museum to the public today. Or, as I've also heard it called, the Fred and Wilma Flintstone Memorial Museum. PZ has collected a good selection of quotes from various newspapers about the opening. Zachary Lynn got a sneap peek and posted his photographs of the museum in a guided online tour that's interesting to look through, if only to see the Robo-Adam and Robo-Eve. (does anyone else think that Eve looks a bit like Alanis Morissette?)

We've probably all heard stories about the museum by now, like images of a Tyrannasaurus Rex grazing in a meadow and eating leafy greens and opening coconuts with six-inch razor sharp teeth, but now there are pictures in the flesh -- and when I say in the 'flesh' I'm talking about the two skinned and bloody goats in a diorama about sacrifice. And Cain standing woefully over the inert Abel, lying bloody on the ground with a bashed in head. I think these gory shock-value images are only peppered here and there to make the 'science' seem more adult and less elementary-school level. In the same way that a producer might insert a few especially brutal or graphic scenes in order to bump a movie into an 'R' rating. Also in the same way that teenagers think that ridiculous amounts of cursing will somehow make them seem more grown up.

Fortunately there is a four-page primer by Lawrence Krauss called "Top 10 Reasons Why the Universe, the Sun, Earth, and Life are NOT 6000 years old". Something I find interesting -- and sad -- is that old-earth people calmly gather facts, data, and arguments that easily blow the young-earth view out of the water. They let the facts choose the truth. But the young-earthers simply make up stories that suit their beliefs, and let the belief choose the truth. I've read Genesis, and there was nothing in there about dinosaurs eating coconuts.

Maybe religious people would be easier to debate with if they actually knew more about their own religion! Stephen Prothero has a book called "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't" (A book that made my wish list on Amazon as soon as I heard about it.) Did you know that less than half of the people polled could identify Genesis as the first book in the bible? More than 10 percent think that Noah's wife as Joan of Arc. And evangelicals don't know a whole lot more about the bible than non-evangelicals. Right or wrong, spreading the word is the important part, eh?

I think that about sums of the Creation Museum, too. All $27 million dollars of it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Natural World

The long and tiring move is over, and we are finally getting settled in to our new house. It is a log house on two acres with a terrific view right out of the big glass doors to my home office area. We've traded the sounds of traffic and sirens to birds and cows. Indeed, while I frequently listened to music while working, lately I've been keeping the music off and just enjoying the birdsong. When we are out driving, it is not traffic we are weaving around, it is mountains. I can look up at night and see more than twenty stars. Thousands, on clear nights. Our house, at night, actually gets dark! There are no street lights outside the window, just moonlight. In short, we are living in nature, and nature is spectacular.

So why ... ruin it by making up stories about a creator that fiddled around and whipped up the whole thing in six days? That makes it sound so trivial. So mundane. So ... disenchanting. My nature was the product of several billion years of refinement. It has matured, like a fine wine. It is mysterious and wonderful because I don't assume that it happened for a reason, or at the hand of a master designer. Because I don't assume that human beings have lived on this planet but for a fraction of a percent of its existance.

I love driving in rural areas, especially ones that are new to me. I frequently get urges (so far unmet, but one of these days...) to stop the car and run up a hill to an isolated spot. I want to sit down right there, and wonder if any other human being had ever sat down right there before, or was I the first? And to think of all of the animals that had been right there, and what kind of lives had they lived, and sights they had seen. To think of all the strange plants and creatures that had been right there, but have long been extinct. Wouldn't the concept of somebody actually creating that spot ruin that feeling? Wouldn't the unconscionable brevity of the creation story of existence minimize the wonder of the ages past?

We are not the product of evolution, of course. Evolution doesn't work like that -- there is no destination. But we are undeniably part of the same wonderous device that is evolution, and therefore part of the same wonderous machine that is our universe. In the vast set of equations that are silently being perfomed every time two people fall in love, or whenever the weakest antelope falls prey to the lion, or when baby sea turtles fight their way across the beach, or as the tree with the strongest roots survives the storm, or when a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo...we are part of the system. What is more, we are only particularly special because we are aware of the system, and we are slightly more influential in the system than most of the other creatures on this planet. Which is to say, completely ineffective on a solar scale, much less universal.

In the immortal Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, Douglas Adams (an atheist, thanks to Richard Dawkins) envisioned that the perfect punishment was to be given awareness of how small and insignificant one really was in the universe. I don't believe this would effect many atheists. Myself, I rather like feeling that I am only a tiny part of the universe, because it means there is so much else out there to learn. But for many theists, this might indeed be the perfect torture. After all, theist mythology was born from a world that was very small, from the point of view of its inhabitants, and it hasn't developed as much as it might have since then.

But as humanity and human knowledge has grown, so has our awareness of the world. Believing that the universe was created by one being, let alone within a week, and that all of the animals on the planet could co-exist, much less fit, on a boat for more than a year, is shrinking the amazing universe we live in to an unappreciably small existance. Would the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel be nearly as awe inspiring if it was painted on the head of a pin? No.

The only way to truly appreciate the grandeur and splendour of the universe is by not taking it for granted. By explaining away our existence in just a few of pages in Genesis, we are making up answers to questions that deserve a lot more attention. A lot more ... reverence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The importance of a face

I've been extremely happy with the amount of atheistic video I've found online recently. In a recent post I commented on the very positive interview of Christopher Hitchens by Lou Dobbs, and YouTube now has another good Hitchens interview, with Anderson Cooper:

Another excellent Hitchens appearance is his debate with Al Sharpton. Sharpton and Hitchens are both wonderful speakers -- but it's interesting to me that Sharpton keeps modifying the definition of religion in order to support his points. His own view of religion might match exactly what he says, but he cannot claim that he represents all religion. It reminds me of the Kansas board of education that tried to redefine 'science' to allow for the teaching of ID.

Bligbi has also collected a good list of longer format videos, such as Dawkins' The Root of All Evil? and the recently viewed-in-america A Brief History of Disbelief. Thank you, Bligbi!

The importance of these videos cannot be understated. As I and other atheists frequently claim, misunderstanding is one of our greatest challenges. People are more likely to try to understand a person when they can see them face to face, rather than just read what they have written. It is easy to take a statement out of context, but not so easy in a video segment. The visual cues of a speakers face, inflection, gestures, etc. gives enough clues to get past trivial misunderstandings. A viewer can see the honesty, passion, and intelligence of a speaker. This opens the floodgates of empathy, and the easier for a viewer to understand the speaker by personally relating to individual statements. And through this, breaking down the misunderstandings that are causing atheists so much grief.

And finally, for a bit of fun:

You scored as Spiritual Atheist. Ah! Some of the coolest people in the world are Spiritual Atheists. Most of them weren't brought up in an organized religion and have very little baggage. They concentrate on making the world a better place and know that death is just another part of life. What comes after, comes after.

Spiritual Atheist


Scientific Atheist


Militant Atheist


Apathetic Atheist




Angry Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with

Friday, May 11, 2007

Travel, Talk, and Holes in the Dike

Travel over the last couple of days has been lovely. None of us had ever seen the southwest, and we've been really enjoying ourselves -- despite the thermometer hitting 108 today. We drove from Kansas City, through Oklahoma, through the Texas panhandle, and into New Mexico on the first day. We stayed in a historic Route 66 motel and had a great time (other than my daughter doing a face-plant on the sidewalk, creating an unsightly set of scrapes and bruises on her face -- just in time for her flower-girl wedding photos!). The next day we finished the ride to Phoenix, and got to take a few side trips.

The first place we stopped at was the Petrified Forest national park and painted desert. We've also stopped at the Red Rocks state park in Sedona, AZ. Both places were well worth a little hike. We slung the kids on our backs and just had a great time. I sometimes feel guilty at how little of this fabulous planet I've seen. After this trip, I feel a bit better.

Another exciting advanced I've made on this trip is regarding religious discussion with my wife. The events I discussed in my last post were like the holes in the proverbial dike. I'm not letting the little Dutch boy stop it back up, though! I'm looking forward to seeing where this will lead.

My wife -- who nearly had enough world religion classes to have received a religion minor in college -- has a very spiritual approach to life. She's reading two books right now -- a [moderately] skeptical book on the existence of the afterlife and reincarnation (yay!), and a Sylvia Brown book (boo! -- but I would never discourage her from enjoying whatever she wants to, of course). And she is absolutely one of the most benign theists you can imagine. But she worries about my soul. She doesn't believe in hell, but she's concerned that when I die [and assuming there was a heaven] that I wouldn't accept it even in death.

This was a simple concern to alleviate, because my non-belief is based on lack of evidence, not rebellion or anger. I wondered how many rebellious or angry atheists she has known, to unknowingly consider me in that group? I think perhaps it is my use of the term 'atheist' instead of 'agnostic.' I think it is a good choice because, although I would accept incontrovertible evidence of god if I was given it, I find the odds of there being a supernatural deity so highly unlikely I feel that I am only an agnostic by slight technicality. On Dawkin's 7-point system, I am a strong 6.

Given this discussion, though, maybe the term 'atheist' is more misleading than I understood? Is it being read not as a belief, but as a position? From my perspective, this is something that I feel should be solved by educating those, like my wife, who do not understand that atheism is based on the principle of reason not denial. But how much weight should we give to our perspective in this matter? Shouldn't we be concerned about the perspective of the larger population? This is another time when I think a new term, like Bright, will do us all a lot of good. The biggest problem we face is misunderstanding. It doesn't have to be a fundamental misunderstanding like thinking that atheists worship the devil. It can sometimes be simply being unaware of where atheist stops and agnostic begins -- and where they overlap.

We also "talked shop" a bit, and discussed some more mundane topics. We discovered we both have a preference for the NSRV bible. I was able to recommend the ESV, and she was able to recommend the NIV. She helped clear up a few of the distinctions between different denominations that I'm still fuzzy on. It was a very productive talk, and although I felt fairly tense when we started I was considerably more comfortable by the end. I'm not sure how she felt about this -- but I am taking the fact that she initiated the most recent discussion (in a very conversation manner!) as a good sign.

Sometimes I feel a little silly for feeling like there is such a wall between us that talking about religion can be such a problem. But I've decided that it's mostly a matter of respect. We both respect each other's beliefs to the point that we are afraid of unintentionally hurting the other's feelings. I'm starting to learn more of her boundaries, and where I've inadvertently crossed them in the past. And I think she's starting to understand where I am on the atheism/agnosticism line. Progress all around.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Traveling, Coke Cans, and Sam Harris

I will be posting when I can over the next two weeks, but it will be very irregular. We'll be travelling all over the country -- a wedding in Phoenix, and then moving to Virginia. I'm really very excited about seeing the west, this will be my first time out that far.

Unfortunately, all of this travelling means that I will most likely be missing the PBS airing of A Brief History of Disbelief. The series will be shown in Virginia before we get there, and in Kansas City after we leave! I hear it's on YouTube also, so that looks like how I will watch it. I will also be missing the televisation of the Comfort/Cameron vs. the Rational Response Squad debate! Augh! I have no doubt that will find it's way on YouTube quickly, too. Here's a preview already:

(there is some language in the 'intro' to the piece, so be warned if you're playing this without headphones in a work environment!)

In the meantime, I've found two write-ups so far of the debate, one from a theist perspective and one from an atheist perspective. They both pretty much agreed that while the Rational Response Squad didn't prove things one way or the other, the Way of the Master team was almost too embarrasing to watch. This from Becky Garrison's article:

Even though the atheists failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that God could not have been the spark that set all of creation, they seem to have nailed this debate when Cameron pulled out the get-out-of-hell card. Simply put, this was “what you believe about God will determine where you spend eternity.” At this point, if I wasn’t covering this event, I would have crawled out of the church in shame.

And this from OsakaGuy on the board, who says Comfort sadly did not come onstage with a banana. Instead, he used a coke can to 'prove' that any design must have had a designer. Wait, that's the "scientific proof" he's been proclaiming? That just goes to show that Comfort has just as fuzzy a notion of what science really is as the Kansas board of education.

Who won the debate? I was under the impression that Ray and Kirk were not going to rely on their bible to prove their god exists scientifically. By that standard they both broke the rules by referring to the bible multiple times, and proved nothing with their argument from design, so they failed. If there were any rational fence sitters out there I would assume they must agree. As for the respective choirs on each side, I'm sure they both thought their side won completely.

I was worried when I first heard about this debate. I knew that Comfort and Cameron weren't smart enough to actually come up with something interesting, but I was worried about the way they would treat the Rational Response Squad. I remembered how Ellen Johnson couldn't get a word in edgewise here CNN appearance, and I was worried that a couple of smooth talking presenters would appear to have an upper hand in this format. I am completely unfamiliar with the RRS. Fortunately, it sounds like this worry was completely unfounded. Not only did the RRS hold up very well, but it sounds like it was moderated well, too.

If only we could get some more moderation on the web. A Load of Bright has stumbled on an out-of-context quote being attributed to Sam Harris:

In a another passage [Sam] Harris goes even further, and reaches a disturbing conclusion that “some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them”. This sounds like exactly the kind of argument put forward by those who ran the Inquisition.

Well, that's a horrible quote all right. Horribly out of context! Check out ALoB article for the full context!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Confrontation. What is my focus?

My wife just unexpectedly breached our do-not-talk-of-religion taboo. Even though her phrasing was not conducive to dialog -- she was more interested in making a point -- I am very glad to see some discussion maybe starting to happen. It's certainly better than none.

I had just read an article on Afarensis disputing one anti-evolutionist's claim that:

All the hominid fossils we have wouldn't fill a single coffin.
Afarensis handily deals with this misconception, summarizing with:

The Catalogue of Fossil Hominids put out by the British Natural History Museum in 1976 listed over 3900 fossils. I've heard recent estimates in the 10,000 range. In short, DaveScot doesn't know what he is talking about.
I found this amusing and related the story and the summary to my wife. She took it in, and sighed over the original claim. And then she stopped, leaned a bit against the piano behind her, and said, "You know...." That's when it happened. The breach! It wasn't complimentary -- in fact, it was a complaint. But that's really beside the point. It was dialog. Just a bit. But there it was.

She told me that she didn't like how I was always complaining. That all I ever did while "learning to become an atheist" was focus on how stupid intelligent design people were. She admitted that yes, they were in fact stupid (she's a biology major and understands even more of evolution than I do), but she didn't like me talking about it all of the time. She equated it to her constantly talking about how stupid Muslims were, or Jews were for, say, not beliving in Jesus' divinity. "You wouldn't like it if I did that all the time, would you?"

I decided to ignore the "learning to become an atheist" phrasing, even though I found it very insulting on a visceral level that I might explore later. It was probably just a slip of the tongue, probably in lieu of "learning about being an atheist." I was more interested in her use of the word "focus." I started wondering what, exactly, my focus is. Did atheists as a group have a focus, or was there only the focus of each individual atheist? How could I even begin to explain myself if I hadn't determined this distinction yet?

I'm not sure how she took my silence as I contemplated this, but she gave me a few seconds, told me "Think about that," and walked off.

It was not the best dialog I could have hoped for, but as I said it was a breach in our religion taboo and any breach is welcome. Best of all, she left me with something to contemplate.

It wasn't what she had really intended me to contemplate, of course. Her seeming interpretation of my atheism as a series of complaints against anti-evolutionists is simply because evolution is our common ground, so those are the stories and statistics that I relate to her. Specifically, it has been things like the public acceptance of evolution statistics, or gripes about Ken Ham's creation museum. Her analogy is poor because she is comparing the dispute over the scientifically supported concept of evolution with a dispute over an untestable traditional belief. In essense, comparing a dispute over fact with a dispute over opinion.

This is like a math student complaining to an english major that is spreading incorrect answers to math problems. When the math student calls him on the issue, the english major defends himself by saying, "You wouldn't like it if I spent all my time saying how stupid it is to like math, would you?" The correctness of math problems, which can be right or wrong, should not be compared with a preference or interest. Using this kind of correlation in an argument would be a logical fallacy known as a non sequitur. (which translates to "it doesn't follow")

Another aspect to her complaint is that the stories I relate and the complaints I make are usually over individuals, and very rarely regarding entire social/cultural groups. The only time I make comments on groups is when referring to statistical findings -- also very different from disputing traditions. When referring to individuals, I only need to say the words "Fred Phelps" to show that I am not the only one between the two of us that makes complaints of a religious action or belief!

But as I said, it was the term "focus" that really got me thinking. Do atheists, as a group, have a focus? Can we? In contrast, I would assume that a theists' focus could be something like, "follow the wisdom or Jesus," or "save as many souls as possible," or "wipe out the infidels," or "spread Christian love," or even just "live a good life and get to heaven," etc. But since the only real definition of atheism is the lack of any god belief I find that there is a corresponding lack of any atheistically-defined focus. We have no doctrine, therefore we can never have a doctrine-defined-focus. Instead, rather like discovering your own unique meaning of life, individual atheists must determine their own focus. Some examples are Dawkins, who has clearly stated that he hopes The God Delusion will change some minds and reduce the evils stemming from religion. Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor put much of their effort into defending the separation of church and state. The list goes on. But what is my focus?

I would have to say that my primary focus, lately, has been to become as educated an atheist as I can become. This includes becoming versed in god/atheism and evolution/ID arguments, spotting logical fallacies, learning more about the bible, learning more about world religions, and so on. My goal for this is to be able to hold my own in any discussions or debates that may come up, so that my position will never look like a weak one. A secondary focus is to be part of the larger atheist community in order to fill a social gap in my life, to start and contribute to discussions and reflections in order to learn more about myself and other atheists, and to find friends.

What my wife has interpreted as my only focus is actually a side-effect of a distant, third focus. As an atheist and a Bright, I am also acutely interested in truth. The scientist inside of me cringes every time I hear of such ridiculous misconceptions as the 'hominid coffin' statement above. I feel the need to try and counter the spread of such misconceptions and lies with an attempt to spread the truth. If I spend any time complaining about them, it is only my inner scientist trying to bury the lies. It is a reflex -- a gag reflex -- to spit out any garbage that has infected my day.

What is my focus? Knowledge, friendship, and truth. What is yours?

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Taking one for the team

One of the biggest problems we face is misunderstanding. I can't even remember how many times in high school I had to clear up the fact that being an atheist does not mean that I worship the devil. I am particularly fond of reading of reading stories from atheists who deconverted from being very religious. One of my favorites is Primordial Blog, especially Brian's "What the Bible Really Says" posts, and his four part series on being an evangelical faith healer. Lynn's Daughter also has some excellent tips coming from a "recovering evangelical."

Hearing about the lives of Christians (and followers of other religions as well, I just don't hear from as many of them) is interesting, albeit sad, but I like to think I have a better understanding because of it. Hearing about these lives from the perspective of atheists that have deconverted is one method of gaining this perspective, but obviously one must also discuss things with real theists! The is a sisyphean task, though, because of the amount of material. Some people, though, have committed the time and energy to really "take one for the team" and delve into the theist psyche. Or... at least their message boards!

Lya at Escapee from the Meme Machine has done this very thing, and we should all benefit from it. She visited 35 boards over a two month period, and generated some very good data. Her entire post is a must read, but the sections covered are:
  • The 11 most common misconceptions about atheists
  • The 5 most common excuses for having no evidence of the existence of god
  • The 14 most commonly used fallacies
  • The 4 most commonly used bits of known hoaxes/forgeries
  • Some notable outcomes
The most interesting section for me was the 14 most commonly used fallacies. I have been trying to brush up on my logic skills here and there over the last few months, and am especially trying to learn the common fallacies. This is a great list of what to start with. What I was most surprised with were omissions -- the lack of the "atheists worship the devil" misconception that I've personally come across, and the lack of a misunderstood "piltdown man" reference in the most commonly used hoaxes. Of course that's more about evolution but evolution is always a popular topic for theist/atheist debates. (I saw a post from a theist just a few days ago that confused Lucy with the piltdown man, and claiming that Lucy had been determined to be a hoax, and that therefore evolution was false and creationism is true. Of course, anyone that even uses the piltdown man itself against evolution has fallen into a trap -- it was the application of our knowledge of evolution that brought the piltdown man hoax to light, making it a triumph for evolution, instead of a disgrace.)

Thank you Lya for taking the time to do this. I know this must have tried your patience, but you have helped us all.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Lou Dobbs and Christopher Hitchens

I've never watched Lou Dobbs before, but after seeing this clip, I'll just have to give him a try. This almost redeems CNN of the Paula Zahn debacle, in my eyes.

Taking things entirely too far

So.... did everyone celebrate the National Day of Reason? (cleverly held on the same day as the National Day of Prayer, you know) Others appeared to have celebrated the National Day of Being Stupid.

Remember the first "challenge" from the movie Die Hard: With a Vengeance? It involved Bruce Willis standing on the sidewalk in Harlem, wearing a sandwichboard with the phrase "I HATE N*****S" on it. It was like that.

An atheist in South Carolina got beat up and robbed outside of a gym for having another phrase written on his back windshield. Miraculously, it was 8pm before he was beat up. The phrase? "F*** the Skull of Jesus" Rebellious atheist, anyone? I'm really sorry the guy got beat up, and I respect his freedom of speech. But that doesn't mean there aren't some things that are best kept to yourselves. I was really glad to see how objective the cop's report was, though.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Virginia and Censorship

It's official, we've signed on a house in Virginia, and will be moving around the 18th of this month -- very quickly! This is all taking place much faster than we had ever expected, but that's a good thing. I'm looking forward to the new house. Here is the view from the end of the driveway (which will be the view from the office as soon as we clear some trees from the end of the driveway).

I've recently speculated about the atheist population in that area, and by coincidence one of the stories I've read about recently is based at a high school around Roanoke, which is in the next county over from our new house.

Reed Braden innocently lends another atheist Dawkins' book The God Delusion. The friend's father, either not aware or not accepting of his son's atheism, finds the book and confiscates it. He calls Reed threateningly at 11PM, and later demanded from his principle that he be punished 'for "handing out literature" and attempting to convert his already-Atheist son to Atheism.'

Gideons were handing out bibles in the school parking lot a week earlier.

I contacted Reed directly about atheism in southwestern virginia. His report was about what I had expected. They're there, just not visible. Sounds like a good opportunity to start organizing!