Weekly Buzz: 7/14/14

Atheist TV, Roku

This week’s buzz features the first ever atheist television channel, a new book about the origin of atheists, and more from everyone’s favorite philosopher of science/comedian—Michael Ruse.

Atheist Television Channel Coming July 29th!

American Atheists announced that Atheist TV, the first atheist television network, will premiere July 29th. Roku will stream the free television channel.

What kind of content will Atheist TV broadcast? American Atheists President David Silverman explains what we can expect:

For the first time, atheist video content—from firebrand speeches, to stand-up comedy, to documentaries, to real science-based educational programming, and more—is now available to atheists worldwide, on the air and all in one place. Atheist TV brings consistent, quality, superstition-free programming for children and adults, on the air and on-demand, right from your regular television.

Ronan Farrow interviewed Silverman about the new channel. In the segment, Silverman makes the dubious claim that atheists make up 20% of the world’s population.

If Atheist TV featured brilliant atheists like Massimo Pigliucci, Michael Ruse, and Vlad Chituc, I’d be very excited. (And for all I know, they might.) Unfortunately, given American Atheists’ track record, I’m not terribly optimistic. I worry that Atheist TV will look like an atheist version of Christian televangelist channels.

I’m hoping they prove me wrong, though. If they don’t, we’ll always have Rust Cohle from True Detective.

Stanley Hauerwas on Left Behind

Jonathan Merritt interviewed theologian Stanley Hauerwas last week on the end of times and the end of his life. Hauerwas gave a great response to a question about the influence of Left Behind and rapture theology:

My reaction to the “Left Behind” series is one of amusement and pathos. Pathos because so many people have misunderstood Christian eschatological convictions and turned them into speculative accounts of the so-called “rapture.” I take it to be a judgment against the church that that kind of speculation has gained a foothold.

Hauerwas might consider the popularity of rapture theology a “judgment against the church” now, but he’ll sing a different tune once Nic Cage’s Left Behind hits theaters.

Dawkins and Krauss AMA

Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, the stars of The Unbelievers, teamed up once again. They did a Reddit AMA last week. I’ve picked my favorite answer from each of them.

Dawkins filmed another video of himself reading his hate mail:

Did another hate mail reading but it’s not yet published. Lovely young woman sat beside me playing sweet music on the cello as I read. Laughter is the best responds [sic] to hate.

If you haven’t watched the first few videos of Dawkins reading his hate mail, you’re in for a treat.

Krauss had some interesting advice on being a better communicator: “[T]alk about what excites you and do not hide your excitement! :)”

Atheists: The Origin of the Species

Scholar Nick Spencer just published a book about the history of atheism, Atheists: The Origin of the Species.

Michael Robbins wrote a review of it for Slate:

Spencer’s account too often trades depth for breadth, but one of his most trenchant themes is that it is more proper to speak of atheisms and of various species of atheist. (One wonders, therefore, why his subtitle adds a definite article to Darwin’s title.)

This point is a good one. There are many different kinds of atheism—it’s not monolithic. It’s worth reading the entire review.

I’m reading Spencer’s book now; I’ll post my take in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Kiss from a Ruse 

Michael Ruse, an atheist philosopher of science, had a great interview with The New York Times last week. Ruse’s name makes me think of Seal’s classic song, “Kiss from a Rose.” In the interview, Ruse actually starts talking about a rose. It blew my mind.

For real, though, he has some great answers. I liked his strategy for responding to bad forms of religion:

I don’t think you are going to counter the bad just by going over the top, like in the Battle of the Somme. I think you have to reach out over no-man’s land to the trenches on the other side and see where we can agree and hope to move forward.

I love Ruse’s intellectual honesty—he has harsh words for some of Dawkins’s arguments—and willingness to work with believers toward common goals.

Ruse has a book coming out in January, Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know. I’m looking forward to reading it.

(If you missed Ruse’s jokes last week, check them out!)

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6 thoughts on “Weekly Buzz: 7/14/14

  1. From my limited and recent interactions here so far, this sight seems to be a model for true tolerance such as the internet rarely sees.

    In the midst of a cyber world marked by flame wars, caustic mockery, and subsequent isolation, web sights such as this one are rare oases of hope. You carry forward a vision of tolerance in its true and all-too-rare form.

    What I mean by this kind of tolerance is the ability to welcome everyone civilly without demanding that all agendas are left at the door. If an agenda is murderous or harmful, that is a different situation. But agendas of persuasion, even oppositional ones, are to be expected and respected. And if anyone respectfully declines to be persuaded and wishes that a proponent should desist in their personal persuasions; that too is respected.

    The final feather in the cap of true tolerance is shown by whether both parties can continue in respectful long-term friendship despite the rebuffed agendas of one or both – complete with an acceptance from both parties that their respective agendas remain necessarily intact. To oppose some agendas is not intolerance. Some agendas need to be opposed. But to be bigoted or hateful against the holders of an agenda you oppose, that is intolerant.

    We need more Atheists and Christians who can just be friends beyond their respective apologetics. Thank you for hosting a forum where such a thing is promoted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merv, thank you so much for the kind words! I’m thrilled that you are enjoying the blog so far. Please keep coming back and sharing.

      I’m hopeful that this tolerant environment can elevate the discourse between atheists and Christians. I think there are a lot of assumptions and false cognates that inhibit dialogue.

      Like Rocky and Apollo in Rocky III, I hope atheists and Christians can use this forum to learn from each other.


  2. Silverman’s response (Atheist TV) to Farrow’s question “What would the world look like if we were all atheists” intrigued me.

    We would all look like the happy Scandinavians! I know Europe is known as post-Christian and all, but being curious I looked up the statistics –and maybe Silverman should have done the same. I was astounded to find that (according to the Pew Forum on religion report April 2014 –based on 2010 data) Sweden is 67.2% self-identified as Christian! And it gets worse for Silverman’s case if you look up Finland and Norway, not to mention Denmark. Maybe there have been a lot of changes in the last four years –nobody doubts that the “nones” are growing fast while some mainline religions are shrinking. But the CIA world factbook, which I believe may try to keep their stats more updated makes it even worse and has Sweden as 87% Lutheran while ignominiously lumping in the unaffiliated with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists. In fact they didn’t even mention the unaffiliated — just what did that data come from, that they couldn’t even dignify them with a mention in the “other” category?

    Apparently Silverman would have been better situated factually if he had just cheerfully replied “we would be more like the Czeck republic (76% unafilliated — very anomolous considering its neighbors), North Korea (71%), Estonia (60%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%) and China (52%) —the only six nations where the unaffiliated make up a majority. I totally understand why Silverman might not want to mention North Korea. But the smiling Christian Scandinavians?! He’s shooting himself in the foot.

    Okay, they may be “nominal” Christians that largely forego religious services or ritual, but I’m just following Silverman’s own rules here on what people call themselves. Besides the nominal portions cut both ways. In the U.S. a whopping 2/3 of the unaffiliated believe in God or some higher power (again in violation of what Silverman allows as atheist). Apparently just as there are huge populations of cultural Christians who may not be particularly religious, there are also huge populations of regularly lapsing atheists who fall off the wagon and believe in a God even if they won’t check any box with a religious label. If we just look at who is apparently “good” then atheists cry foul with the “No true Scotsman fallacy”.

    All the same, so many “Christians” of the world are functionally non-Christian in how they behave that Christians shouldn’t be eager to take any comfort in big numbers. “Broad is the path to destruction and many are they who trod it, and narrow is the way to life and few are they who take it,” somebody once said. Is that untrue Scotsman still knocking at the door?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Merv, thanks for looking up those stats! I really like your line about lapsed atheists: “[T]here are also huge populations of regularly lapsing atheists who fall off the wagon and believe in a God even if they won’t check any box with a religious label.”


  4. Pingback: Weekly Buzz: 8/4/14 | Jesus & Dawkins

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