One of my favourite “new atheists” is Angie Jackson aka “Angie The Anti-Theist”. At only 27, she’s been blogging, tweeting & YouTubing up a storm for the last two years since she googled her grandmother and discovered she had spent her whole life growing up in an extreme Christian cult. Now she’s fighting again faith in all its forms.
I’m having another attempt this year to promote my alternative celebration on December 25 “Anaxagoras Day”.
Anaxagoras was the first recorded atheist; has been described as the first scientist; and was the first philosopher to take up at his abode at Athens. He was the father of the idea of atoms and the teacher of Pericles. Around 450BCE he wrote his treatise “On Nature” which declared (among other things but we don’t know much of it, as it’s been lost to history) that the sun was a red-hot stone (an idea borrowed from the ideas of Anaximenes) and that the moon was made of earth and derives it’s light from the sun. He was accused of being an atheist, sentenced to death, but seems to have escaped (probably with the help of Pericles) and was exiled from Athens.
According to Britannica: “About 480 Anaxagoras moved to Athens, then becoming the centre of Greek culture, and brought from Ionia the new practice of philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry. After 30 years’ residence in Athens, he was prosecuted on a charge of impiety for asserting that the Sun is an incandescent stone somewhat larger than the region of the Peloponnese.”
If you want to join us in celebrating the life of Anaxagoras, just join the Facebook group. I just see it as a day to celebrate the fact that we CAN be atheists without fear of persecution. It’s a great day to think up a way to spread a little bit of rational thinking.
My guest today is David Nicholls, the President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the co-ordinator of the 2010 Global Atheist Conference which is being held in Melbourne in March 2010.
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In the comments on my post about the Australian pastor who conned thousands of Christians into believing he had cancer, Matt wrote:
I would highly suggest for you, and any one else interested to read the book The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions by self-professed secular Jew and mathematics/philosophies teacher David Berlinski.
This tells the story of a Jew who was forced to dig his own grave prior to being shot by a German soldier. Prior to being shot, the old Jewish man advised the German that “God is watching what you are doing”. The Jewish gentleman pointed what i think is the real problem with atheism. If you have the time please check the book out.
Matt, I just read the review you linked to but obviously not the book yet. For the benefits of others, the end of that story about the Nazi and the Jew is:
“If there is no God to watch what you are doing, then why should you be circumspect in your behavior? Certainly the Germans at Auschwitz, who gassed Samuel Goldfein, did not believe that God was watching them. As Berlinski points out, that is the real problem with atheism.”
I’m going to point out a couple of flaws in that quote.
First of all – the Nazi regime was Christian! Adolf Hitler was a Christian. In Mein Kampf he wrote:
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
In a speech in 1922, he said:
“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”
Hitler could not have come into power without the support of the Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany at the time. So, for a start, the reviewer of the book is ignorant.
Read more about Hitler and his Christianity here.
Now, let’s address the other suggestion from the reviewer which, I assume comes from the book.
Personally, I find the concept that humans who don’t believe in imaginary beings will become murderers to be completely asinine and offensive to the extreme.
Perhaps religious people believe that they personally would become murderers without their imaginary god keeping them in check. Many of us, however, are quite comfortable trying hard to be decent human beings without having to imagine some kind of sky bully keeping an eye on us. We try to do good things because being good is a end in itself. It doesn’t require some kind of supernatural pay-off. Now, I’m certainly not perfect. I’m made lots of mistakes in my life and hurt people, but never intentionally. I’ve been an atheist since I was 8 years old and I have no desire to kill or rape or steal.
I will also point out that in the history of the human race over the last 2000 years, Christians have been responsible for way more violence than atheists. I wrote a post about this some time ago.
So this sky bully concept doesn’t seem to keep Christians from committing regular atrocities. I’ll point out that the USA seems to consider itself a Christian nation (at least that’s what I hear from time to time) and they are the most violent country on the planet at the moment, actively invading other countries and waging economic warfare on many others.
I would go so far as to say that, not only does religion not curb violence, it BREEDS violence. The core tenant of all religious belief is “those that don’t believe what we believe deserve eternity in hell”. That is the most intolerant and violent philosophy I can imagine.
Atheism, on the other hand, doesn’t have a code that preaches violence.
So… what say you to that?