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Secular Sunday: Freethought IRL!

April 26, 2009

So no post today. (Er, besides this one.) Finishing up a script for entry into the Nicholl Fellowship[1] is taking most of my writing energy.

I did, however, manage to make it out to the Festival of Books at UCLA this morning, and came by the booth for Atheists United. It’s an organization that I joined toward the end of last year but, life being what it is, I haven’t had a chance to get involved or attend any meetings. It’s mostly an educational/community building organization, but they get involved in the occasional activism regarding civil liberties and the separation of church and state.

I showed up at the booth just as a Christian decided he wanted to present the moral argument for God, a fifteen minute conversation that you know I dove into headfirst. After talking himself in circles endlessly (first “we can have total knowledge” then “we can’t know anything for sure” then “we know God’s nature” then “God’s nature is beyond our comprehension” etc.), and attempting false equivalencies (saying that morality = mathematics, there is either right or wrong), he said someone was waiting for him and scurried off.

I introduced myself to the booth folks as an AU member and, having checked out most of the Festival already and paid for a full day of parking, I availed myself as a volunteer to man the booth for a few hours.

I won’t lie, I was kind of hoping for more debate opportunities, but surprisingly enough, after that first guy, the people who came to the booth were very friendly, and mostly atheists glad to see an organization of like-minded individuals (which is, after all, the point).

They’re looking for ways to do more social outreach, including resurrecting a radio show they apparently used to do (!!), so I might be getting more involved in the future. We’ll see. For today it was fun and I met some cool people.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a script to finish.

  1. Coworker: Is it really a “Nicholl” type of script?
    Me: It’s the closest I’ve got, at least.
  1. Oh noes! Atheism is turning… *shudder* organized! 🙂

    I jest.

    Are there churches or some equivalent in a religion that are not recognized? Yes… depending on who you ask.

    So… who gets to decide what is a religion and what is not so they can determine who gets the legal allowances based on religion? That kind of exclusive thinking does not sound to me like the “freedom of religion” we supposedly hold so highly.

    Yet, we also cannot excuse someone who claims their religion allows them to commit criminal activities. Yes. There are provisions in place that supposedly prevent that, but again, who decided what was acceptable and what was not? We are back to being religiously exclusive again.

    So what do we do? I think the best option to separate ‘church’ and ‘state’ is to remove the concept of ‘church’ from all legal definitions and promote the concept to an equivalent status based on the existing genre of non-religious organizations, instead. IMHO, this also opens up special protections against abuse that are currently exempt to ‘church’. By that notion as well, religions are all treated equally under the eyes of ‘state’. There is your ‘freedom of religion’.

    By definition, any recognition of ‘church’ by ‘state’, where ‘state’ must adjust its actions for ‘church’, is not separation. In other situations, such a relationship would see one entity (church) lording over the other (state). The state cannot attempt to play ignorant and pretend that specific organizations do not exist (though that is a broad and rather inaccurate paraphrasing for the sake of brevity).

    … and surely the gods can easily work within the laws of Men, unless they are just not all-powerful.

  2. What do Athiests do when they get together?

    Curious. I asked a friend and he assumed there was a punchline.

    • We all sit in a fashion similar to a large, auditorium classroom and have someone standing up from tell us what we are supposed to think about Atheism and that it is dangerous to be thinking in different ways.

      Wait. No. That’s not right. 🙂

      I am jibing, but seriously:

      Instead of thinking of “us” and Atheists (them), just think of it as different people with different beliefs. In my experience, Atheists do not seek out other Atheists for some kind of Atheism congregation. We have no such commonality except in the generalized label that people apply to us (as the differences between Mr. Scott and I should make obvious). Given the fact that we hang out with so many different people without such commonality just shows us (Atheists) that we don’t really need it.

      Again in my experience, Atheism usually comes up only when someone starts to bully someone else with their beliefs or when someone starts to claim there is only one right way to think based on their beliefs. However, I do not mix with the same circles as Michael, so I cannot speak for all Atheists. (That is just another example of how there is no common Atheism.)

      The idea of a booth does seem surprising to me, though. Given the possibilities when one is unbound by external moral influence, I would expect like-minded Atheists to be much more rare (and I would believe that would be the point). A congregation of Atheists seems counter-intuitive; a means of segregation through immaterial identification and through selective cooperation instead of cooperating with everyone regardless of their “like-mindedness” (which is something many Atheists balk at regarding many religions), a means of defining something that is undefined (undefined as Michael puts it being the rejection of beliefs and not the establishment of another).

      I find the idea of the booth was someone putting themselves out there looking for a fight. Michael seemed more than willing to do just that, but as I have stated before, knowing people online is like trying to solve a sliding puzzle with mismatched pieces.

      Gotta run! Be “good”, or at least, be good at it! 😀

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