Why many professors are atheists: Academe as a secular religious community

Atheists. Agnostics. Freethinkers. Nonbelievers. Nontheists. Humanists.Whatever you want to call them and whatever they

Famous atheists, including several career academics.

Famous atheists, including many career academics.

want to call themselves. People who do not believe in God. I describe myself as an agnostic atheist and a secular humanist. For the sake of this article, I will use the term “atheist” (i.e., one who lacks a belief in God(s) or definitely rejects the existence of God(s)) to refer to the collective non-believing community.

It is no secret that atheists enjoy greater numbers in university communities than in the population at large. Their/our numbers aren’t quite as high as I thought, but the proportion of nonbelievers among professional academics is nevertheless several multiples of their proportion in the general population. They are particularly well represented in the sciences and among more elite research universities.

Why? Continue reading

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Is belief in God a choice?

The following satirical video, “Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene”, pokes fun at the concept of a “gay gene” and religious opposition to homosexuality.

The proportion of people who believe that homosexuality is chosen is decreasing. That’s not to imply that homosexuality is the phenotype expressed by a “gay gene”. Just that whatever makes one gay – e.g., some range of interactions between genetic, hormonal, neurological and/or social/environmental factors – it’s not the sort of conscious deliberations a teenager makes when choosing which college to attend.

Part of what makes the video above funny is that it suggests that being Christian is not a choice. To me, this invites the question (ignoring the particular religion)

Is belief in God a choice?

Can you simply choose to believe or not believe? Continue reading

Buddhism for Skeptics of Religion

I’m not a Buddhist. I subscribe to no traditional religion (though as I argue here, like everyone else I am religious). I am an agnostic atheist who values secularism, science, reason, mindfulness, and the pursuit of individual and collective wisdom and wellness. As an expression of these values, I would like to highlight key aspects of Buddhist philosophy and practice that I believe can be palatable, useful and positively enriching for even the most ardent skeptic.

Concepts to be addressed:

  • Monism
  • Atheism
  • Impermanence, Emptiness and Dependent Origination
  • No Self (or No Soul)
  • Attachment as source of Suffering; Letting Go as source of Freedom
  • Pursuing Wisdom, not Happiness
  • Mindfulness as a path to Wisdom and Wellness
  • Reincarnation and Rebirth
  • Karma

Continue reading

Atheists are Differently Religious – and No, Atheism is not the/a Religion

A main focus of this blog is to consider and compare different political and ethical philosophies so as to promote better understanding of one’s own worldview and those of others. I frequently focus on progressivism/liberalism and libertarian conservativism, arguing that these incompletely overlapping moral/political philosophies each have their own internal logic and validity, but that when viewed from the perspective of the other, each is libel to look stupid and/or even evil.

Close to a year ago, I posted Atheists are Religious. Here I re-post it with modifications. In this article, I argue that while lack of a belief in this or that God is not itself a religion, any value system that an atheist may hold is ultimately ungrounded in any sort of empiricism. Rather, these and all value systems rely on circular self-validation and assumptions and assertions that are themselves unscientific. As I will argue below, this doesn’t make them wrong or deserving of dismissal; it just means that subscribers cannot claim that their values are rooted in nothing but reason and logic. Reason and logic, in these value systems, are applied based on unempirical values, which can be conceived of as faith claims about an implied moral/existential reality. Continue reading

Talking to political adversaries: Tips on reaching across the aisle

Reaching Across or Reaching Around?

With corrupted campaign finance and limited oversight and regulation over the intersections among government agencies (e.g., The White House and The Pentagon) and between government and private industry, big finance and media, one could easily argue that genuine ideological debate in America has taken a backseat to public-to-private reach-arounds masquerading as Republican-Democratic reaches across the aisle.

If the Republican and Democratic parties were mixed drinks, they would be glasses of corporatism with small shots of ideology.

Of course, whether the bartender was George Bush, Barack Obama, John Boehner, or Harry Reid, the patron would be led to believe that they had just bought a straight triple of their ideology of choice; likewise, they would be told that the reason that the other drink tastes so bad is because it is a straight triple of that other, yucky ideology. And almost none of the Senators, Congressmen and women and members of the mainstream media who would be the alcohol regulators at the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) in this metaphor would call any of these bartenders out on this, as they’ve been at the bar drinking for free since lunch time. They are typically too drunk and too hooked on the free drinks to do anything but uphold the lie. This often leads to the trusting patrons of The Establishment being unnecessarily divided. While Republican drinkers and Democratic drinkers do have different palates, they are often mislead into believing that the corporatist solvent in the other Party’s drink is the ideological shot, or solute.

Often times, it would appear that members of each drinking group don’t mind the qualities of the other group’s shot as much as they think; they’re just confusing it with the flat, tainted corporate coke that it has been deeply diluted in.

How do we get past this? Just drink shots. Continue reading

Bush’s Book: A Book on True Crimes

In the video below, Dave Koller talks about a new movement that he has taken part in, wherein participants take it upon themselves to move copies of George W. Bush’s new book on his presidency to the True Crimes section of the bookstore.

This brings to mind a practice of some “militant” atheists of moving copies of religious texts such as the Bible to the library or bookstore’s Fiction section…

Atheists Are Religious.

Just because one does not believe in a God, Gods, karma, reincarnation, astrology, L. Ron Hubbard, or eighteen year old “elders” who knock on your door on Sunday mornings to bring you the good news from Utah, that doesn’t mean that they are not religious. I don’t know that I’ve ever met an atheist who wasn’t religious in their own way. I certainly am. Like other atheists, I subscribe to a sort of religion that is both different and similar to what we conventionally refer to as “religion”.

How are atheists religious? Continue reading

There Will Be War.

“I believe in world peace. I believe it is possible.”

– Every politician or beauty pageant contestant ever.

Highly unlikely. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be desirable. It’s just not going to happen. Even in an idealistic world where everyone had enough food, followed the Golden Rule, did not covet status, wealth or luxury, politicians weren’t corrupt, organized religions did not divide us, and everyone was perfectly honest, rational and considerate of the opinions of everyone else, and moreover, everyone knew that everyone else was being as morally upstanding as they could be, world peace would not happen.

Why not? In short, a lack of resources tomorrow, and irreconcilable disagreements on what is moral and best for society. Continue reading