Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Welcome to the new "Atheism & Philosophy" site, supporting the eponymous MTSU course. We will meet on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 2:40 in James Union Building room #202 during the Spring 2012 semester, beginning January 12.

For now, at least, this site is private and limited to "authors" (students) only. Please post anything you consider relevant and interesting. When we formally begin, everyone will be expected to post pertinent questions and comments prior to each class.

The syllabus page link is posted in the right margin.

Note the "Books" section below the syllabus link. The texts we'll definitely be reading this semester bear the parenthetical notation ('12)... and if we decide to add another text, we'll make that decision as a class. So if you have any suggestions let us know.

I'll soon also add a section of blog and video links, if you have any favorites to share please pass them along too.

If you want to get started reading and thinking, we'll begin by splitting Rebecca Goldstein's "36 Arguments" amongst ourselves and discussing (see her "appendix" in the aforementioned "Books" section). Then, we'll move on to Baggini's Atheism.

But before that, we'll discuss Jennifer Michael Hecht's "Scale of Doubt" Quiz.

And before that, we'll introduce ourselves. I  invite everyone to post a biographical introduction (where you're from, where you're going, what you love, why you're taking this course, whatever else you want to tell us) and responses to these questions: 1) Do you consider yourself a good person? 2) Why or why not?

See you in class!



  1. I'm very much looking forward to this class. Personally I have what would be considered a non-traditional view of "the divine", and some of my absolute best conversations this year and last have been with a small group of atheist friends. I'm looking forward to exploring the topic more fully.

    Especially appropriate given the recent death of Christopher Hitchens....

  2. Hitch pulled no punches. Love him or hate him, you had to listen to him. (Check out the cartoon beneath the "Books" section.)

    I'm looking forward to many fruitful conversations too, Jamie!

  3. Very much looking forward to the class. You had me at Sam Harris :-)

  4. I just noticed the part where you said we should post some biographical information. I'm 28 years old, a Marine Corps veteran, born and raised in Nashville but spent a considerable amount of time traveling and living in different places. I was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian, and I now identify as a Muslim of Sufi/Universalist leanings, I've applied to and been accepted to some PhD programs in religious studies so I'm in this for the long-haul.

    I do consider myself a good person. To me being a good person means trying to identify yourself with others and taking careful considerate deliberation about the motivations of your actions and then trying to always act out of a desire to do the good. That's a pretty hard task, I don't always make it, and of course rational people can disagree about what the 'good' is. But that's the goal right?

  5. Ah, I posted my bio info and answered the two questions on my profile bio. I should have posted here, so I wouldn't have been restricted by the 1200 character limit.

  6. If Jamie and David are a portentous sample, I can see we're going to have some interesting conversations this semester!

    Here's David's profile post:

    I am a returning student, on course to get my Information Systems degree. I am originally from Oklahoma, and moved to Nashville almost a year ago. I am an atheist, but I am equally comfortable calling myself a humanist, a secularist, a rationalist, a skeptic, and a freethinker. Discussing religion is one of my favorite hobbies. Christianity in particular gets the bulk of my attention, mostly because that is the tradition I was raised in. I am taking this course because I am always looking to challenge my own thinking. Morality is a hot topic in philosophical circles of late, and I look forward to clarifying my thinking on the subject. 1. Do I consider myself a good person? Of course I do. 2. A person that behaves well out of a concern for his own well being and the well being of others, instead of simply following orders in the hope of some eternal reward, meets the only definition of good that makes any sense. Following a set of rules doesn’t make a person good. Rules fall out of interactions between people, and codify what we have learned about getting along with those around us. As Hitch said, human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.
    Interests Reading, hiking, movies, disc golf, facebooking, sushi, religion
    Favorite Movies The Matrix, Inglorious Basterds, Star Trek, Gladiator, Blade Runner, Deathtrap
    Favorite Music 90's alternative, Hans Zimmer soundtracks, John Mayer
    Favorite Books The God Delusion, Armor, The Man Who Never Missed, Why Evolution is True, The Riftwar Saga, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Wicked, I own 16 of the books listed on the blog as potential readings.

  7. Hi everyone. I’m really looking forward to this class and meeting all fellow atheists, humanists, skeptics, freethinkers as well as agnostics, theists and all in between.

    I’ve been an atheist ever since I really started to pay attention and ask questions during my Methodist indoctrination as a youngster. I quickly learned that some questions are completely off limits (read blasphemous) within Protestantism. I found that difficult questions are often met with castigation and reproach instead of answers—like when Job’s final plea to his capricious God for answers is finally met with divine hubris and anger. In the story of Job, to me, God is just like Bill O’Reilly. God—“Where does light come from?” Bill—“How did the moon get there? You can’t explain that.” Anyway, although I didn’t understand the terms “presupposition” or “question-begging,” even at the age of 6, I knew something was amiss.

    I didn’t think about God or gods until I turned 40. Then I went into what I can only describe as an epistemological crisis. I started questioning everything I thought I knew only to discover I really didn’t know much of anything—much less for certain. One day, to test God, I decided to worship a box of Cap’n Crunch for a month and eventually got a nice check in the mail from a publisher. Thank you, Cap’n!

    I’ve been pursuing a bachelor’s degree at MTSU for over 30 years in between long, long excursions, traveling as a singer, songwriter, musician, and part-time poet. I live with my wife Carol and our two rescue doggies Bear (pug) and Sophie (rat terrier) in Smyrna, Tennessee.

    Thanks Dr. Oliver for petitioning for this class. I’m looking forward pursuing further enlightenment in the “counsel of the ungodly.”

  8. Correction: "my wife, Carol, and our two doggies, Bear and Sophie, ..."

    Carol is a nonrestrictive descriptor in need of a comma. Otherwise I have some explaining to do at home.

  9. No worries, Dean. I have been in conversations with people who think you are just as likely to suffer eternal torment for contemplating adultery as you are for committing it. No such thought crime in the ranks of the ungodly ;-)

  10. I have to admit, I've been very interested to see what the composition of the class will be. Granted, the number of people who take an early look and response to things like this blog before the semester even starts is somewhat self-selecting. But if I find myself the only believer in the divine in the class, it's gonna be an interesting semester indeed! Even if it is a non-traditional sort of Theism.

    Btw Professor Oliver, can I invite a friend to follow/read the blog? He's an atheist who's very interested in the secular study of religion and is thinking about coming back to college to do such. I told him he might be able to 'audit' the class in so far as there's an online component!

  11. Sure thing, Jamie.

    I know for a fact that you won't be alone, Jamie. Nor will you be made to feel uncomfortable, even if slightly outnumbered by nonbelievers. In 2010, the "Atheism & Spirituality" class included a few outspoken atheists, a couple of vocal theists, several others at various inner points on the spectrum, and many who held their own counsel respectfully. Mutual personal respect is crucial, and I'll insist on it.

  12. Hi David, I loved your line: "You had me at Sam Harris." Contemporary and apropos. And yes, thought crime is truly frightening.

    Further, I think you may have me beaten by a couple of books in the potential reading section. I'll catch up this semester.

    Hi Jamie, First, thank you for your service to our country.

    Secondly, as a believer in our First Amendment right to religious freedom (of and from), I look forward to hearing about your transition and journey through life. As for being raised a Seventh-Day Adventist, serving our country, and conversion to your "non-traditional" religion, you must have some great stories to tell. What did your parents think of your conversion? How was it like serving in a religiously diverse military with some who think we are fighting all Muslims? Did you find yourself exhausted to try to explain Universal Sufism to those of other religions?

    I look forward to meeting you all in class; welcome to the conversation.


  13. @Phil Respectfully, I would submit that if a believer is not make to feel (at least somewhat) uncomfortable at some point during the course of this class, they are either not paying attention, or their status as a believer is likely to be so nebulous as to be unworthy of the label. I know that my path towards abandoning my belief started by confronting some very uncomfortable facts and ideas. I know as a matter of personal experience that the very existence of atheists makes many believers uncomfortable. If, on the other hand, you are simply referring to manners or polite social convention, then I agree that we should all strive to be civil. To bastardize an old saying, one can "love the believer, hate the belief." Questioning the beliefs a person holds is not the same as attacking the person. After all, people can and do change their beliefs when they are confronted with better ones.

  14. Ok, having read back over my comment, perhaps that sounded a little harsh.

    My point is, I hope the main objective here isn't to avoid making people uncomfortable. My hope is to engage with the material and my classmates in such a way that we might all learn something. It's my experience that this process can be uncomfortable, in as much as learning oftentimes comes at the expense of questioning previously held assumptions or beliefs.

    That was my point, hope I didn't come off as too strident ;-)

  15. Hello all. My name is Patrick Gibbons and I am a sociology with a theology and a philosophy minor. While this is a philosophy course it certainly does lend itself to theology which is a subject I really enjoy.

    I am not an atheist like the majority seems to be turning out to be. I am a pagan, more specifically Wiccan, pagan is a term which does not mean any one religion where as Wicca is the religion I practice. My path is closest to Stregheria but ultimately regardless of the denomination I would be categorized into I am a mostly shamanistic practitioner.

    As to the two questions do i consider myself a good person and why? I do consider my self a good person. As to the why I simply feel that I make an effort to send positive energy out in the world. I'm an active member of the GLBT community and charities associated with them. I'm also going to be a sign language interrupter when i graduated and get certified. That and I generally feel that by comparison I have met some really bad people and I don't feel like the average person could be on the same level of "bad" as them.

  16. @Dean - Thanks for the kind words. I actually wasn't really anything when I was in the military. I guess I would have still identified myself as Christian, but I was as far from religious or spiritual as it could get. And yes, definitely having more Spinozan like views about the divine has led to many interesting long conversations. I'm actually doing some side research/writing riht now into religious conversions, and one of the points that keeps cropping up is that in a lot of ways there are as many religions as there are people in them (everyone being a religion of one), because it is very rare to find someone who actually believes every single one of the 'official doctrines' of their religion all the way down. To some degree, everyone picks and chooses.

    @David - I took the Professor's comment simply to mean that people shouldn't be personally attacked or run rough-shod over. I certainly hope we'll tackle some hard issues, and far from being sensitive about things I am if anything one of those who enjoys a healthy and energetic debate, yelling optional as long as everyone can shake hands and remain friends (or at least respectful and friendly acquaintances) at the end. I very much look forward to the semester.

  17. @Jamie Fantastic! I have spent many hours in entertaining (if sometimes frustrating) conversation with believers of all flavors, and I have yet to tire of the exchange of viewpoints. I feel it's always a good idea to seek out opposing (or at least different) opinions, lest one become trapped in an echo chamber of affirmation.

    I'm really looking forward to this semester as well, and I can only hope that my other coursework doesn't suffer as a result of loving this class.

  18. Looking forward to this class as well!
    I'm a 20 year old Pre Law major with a minor in philosophy.

    Falling into Atheism about halfway through High School was almost as momentous as becoming self aware a second time. Prior to that, I had followed my parents around vague denominations of Christianity, and even trying my hand at Asatru (Germanic Neopaganism) and Solipsism before kicking back into the ease of Atheism.

    Living in the "Bible Belt" as an Atheist honestly hasn't been as difficult as one might expect either, but it really does give me an undeserved sense of superiority, because I am so -certain- that I know something very important that many of my peers refuse to accept or know.

    I love debate, as well. I always argued religion with my parents, who both had vastly differing interpretations of the Bible. Nothing gets the neurons pumping quite like it, and SO, I am absolutely looking forward to this semester.

  19. Your comment about the Bible belt reminded me. A very articulate and intelligent Nashville friend of mine has started a blog specifically about being an Atheist in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and so far it's been very good. Check it out sometime.


  20. @dg675 I understand that some variants of Wicca can be atheistic, in as much as they don't believe in interventionist deities. I guess your particular interpretation does include some component of interaction by the supernatural? Just curious.

    1. Yes David. well yes to my branch of the religion having interaction with the supernatural that is. the branch i specified is the practice that modern Wicca stems from and was widely practiced in Italy circa 31 B.C. It was the first pagan religion to establish a mother goddess and father god as equals and any other deity as a separate facet of them. But i give that bit of information to point out that no variant of Wicca could be atheistic because Wicca is defined as different from the other pagan religions (of which there are a great deal past and present) by it's deity set being duotheistic. No matter what deity an individual pagan may worship by definition of the religion to be Wiccan means that they see their patron/matron (main god/goddess worshiped and worked with) as incarnations of the mother goddess (moon) and the horned god (sun.) But of course if you go back far enough shamanism/animism/totemism are what Wicca is based of and humans have practiced that for as long as we've been able to see human history. with my sociology background it really makes me surprised how our societies all sprang from worshiping in the sun, moon, earth and sky to and ambiguous muscular bearded man that has some weird beef against women :p

    2. I think I would actually be ok with going back to sun, moon, earth, and sky worship :-)

  21. Hello all,
    I'm a pre-grad psych major, minor in neuroscience and philosophy. I'm 21 from Franklin TN. I am currently involved in EEG research at MTSU. I plan to go to grad school in neuroscience and hopefully one day contribute to the science of the brain.
    I was raised Catholic, both parents and families are Catholic. Sometime early in high school I began questioning my religious beliefs. I discovered I had never really believed in much at all... so the move was quite natural. Though I have expressed atheist beliefs to my closest friends, I'm honestly afraid to talk to my parents about religion...
    I like to look at religion from a scientific point of view, asking how it physically helps people live more satisfying, healthy lives? I think that is important for atheists to understand.
    Hopefully we can discuss at some point!

    And for the question,
    A person is not a unified thing. I think the self is constantly changing. Also, I don't think I have a solid conception of good and bad.


  22. Hello. My name is Joe. I'm from Hendersonville, Tn. I'm a psy major with a philo and business minor. I don't have a solid long term plan currently. I love the acquirement of anything that will make me a stronger, better person. I grew up with limited religious upbringing. I'm taking this course to learn more than I knew before.
    No, I don't believe I'm a good person. I believe it takes the stronger person to be good, in that I mean a utilitarian ideal of morality. I find that my actions are all self serving, thus not good. There are no actions throughout my day that server other just to server them. If I help, it for a reason and removes its moral value. Anyone can take. It requires more to give.

  23. Hi, my name is David from Franklin Tennessee.
    I am taking this class because it looks to be extremely interesting and also fun. I am an atheist and I am interested to discuss atheism with other people since I only have one or two friends that are atheists.
    I'm not sure if I would consider myself good or bad since I am not really sure that "good and bad" even exist. Maybe in the eyes of a religious person I would be considered an "evil" person since I am an atheist.

    Looking forward to class!

  24. My goodness, this is going to be an awesome class! I'm so stoked to meet everybody :D

    Hello thar, I'm Kat! I'm a 20 year old agnostic from Tecumseh, Michigan. I just switched majors to join the Philosophy tribe, and I could not be happier about that decision. I do believe that I'm a good person. With complete honesty and a lot of compassion, anyone can be a good person. We just have to be honest not only with those around us, but also with ourselves. A good deal of empathy helps, too, I suppose.
    I'm taking this class because I really like Prof. Oliver and his teaching methods...as well as the subject matter.

  25. Thank you, Kat! And thanks to all of you who've jumped feet-first into the course before we've even met, this bodes well! Looking forward to meeting old friends and new in a couple of hours, God willin' and the crick (or snow-bank) don't rise!

  26. My name is BJ, I'm from here in Murfreesboro, and am majoring in Economics and minoring in Philosophy.
    I'm taking this class because I've had many a long late night conversation with strong theists, which were very interesting and pleasant because of our mutual respect for one another, and after having several people whom I worked with reject the idea that i could be an atheist on the grounds that "atheists are bad people, and BJ is a good kid so he cant be an atheist"
    I Love talking about and discussing anything and everything. From religion to quantum physics and everything in between I'm hard pressed to find topics I don't like talking about.
    I'm an outspoken Geek/Nerd, I'm a Brony (if you don't know what that is, I'll be happy to explain but you still may not believe it) and you'll all no doubt see me clad in weird/geeky apparel (Such as my favorite Chicken hat!)
    Because I feel that names are important, I always Choose the name Radiance for myself whenever possible and would go by that in everyday life if I could, That word embodies what I desire and strive to be. A Shining Radiance helping others find there way in this Dark and Unfriendly world, and make the world a little brighter and Happier while I'm around.
    As to the Questions:
    I do believe that I am a good person.
    I try to Always help people when then are in need and I am at all able. I try to always smile and be friendly (sometimes a simple smile means the world to people.) I try to as Open minded and Tolerant of everyone's differences, I cannot tolerate Hate simply because someone is different and as such will never refuse friendship or help to someone because of their Gender/sexual orientation/religious beliefs/Skin color/age/ect.
    I have a touch of a Knight complex, I feel it is the responsibility of the Strong to protect the weak, and put myself in harm's way to protect others if only because I feel like I can handle it better than they can.
    I act the way I do because that is the person i want to be, Who I think I am, Not because of religious driven morality or fear of eternal retribution. That is why I think I am a good Person, even though I know I am far from perfect.

    1. A knight complex? Vigilant indeed. I share this quality in quite a few situations. I try to hold the world to keep it from crashing on a loved one. What is necessary to make this complex "okay" is our finding our own time to be weak and vulnerable. Attempting to be strong ALL of the time tends to weigh down over the years...it could collapse a person with great haste if left unchecked and mismanaged. Not to sound preachy or anything...I just know how it feels to be strong for others for too long. There are moments when we need to let others be strong for us, too :D

      Awesome post, though! I look forward to getting to know you. You sound uber intriguing. Discussions await, fellow nerd/geek ^-^

  27. Word up, everybody!

    My name is Jonathan V. Rarick and I am a Communication Studies Major with a Minor in Philosophy. I am taking this course as it is one of the five I will need to complete my minor. It was also the most interesting and engaging philosophy course available to me this semester.

    I am a passionate Christian. I believe and fully trust that the God of the Bible is who He says He is. I believe that He is real, that He exists, and He created each of us with a specific purpose, that is, to know Him personally and have fellowship with Him. I believe that no one is without "sin" which is basically just doing things our way instead of God's way. I also believe that God provided for this, paying the price of our sin in our stead so that we might be able to fulfill our created purpose, that is, knowing Him personally.

    I do not consider myself a good person because I believe it is simply in my nature to do bad, even evil things. When I am left alone to my own devices, my own desires, not one of them are righteous, are edifying, or good. However, I know that Christ has paid for these things, past, present, and future. I have a lot to say about this, so forgive me if it seems inconclusive. In short, because of Christ, I am able to do good things, but these are yet not of me but are of Christ within me.

    Forgive me if that made little sense to you. I was trying to pack a lot into a small space. So far, I am the black sheep of our class as a Christian. :) Being a man who has consistently been interested in reason and the pursuit of knowledge, friends of differing beliefs and convictions have never been far from me. There is intrinsic discomfort and tension between myself and atheists, agnostics, or what have you, but not so much to exclude mutual respect, understanding, and friendship. I am looking forward to this class and conversing with each and every one of you.

    - J

  28. @Jonathan "When I am left alone to my own devices, my own desires, not one of them are righteous, are edifying, or good."

    My goodness. That seems a bit harsh, don't you think? How do you resist the constant urges to wantonly rape and pillage, exactly? And yes, that is a serious question. Do the specters of jail and social exclusion play any part in your self control?

  29. Greetings and salutations, folks. My name's Rachel. I'm an English major/Philosophy minor; by the looks of everyone's posts and from listening to you all in class, it seems like Atheism & Philosophy's gonna be pretty interesting. :)

    I've been the only person to question the Church of Christ belief of my entire family as far as I know, besides my science-geek brother, whom I couldn't be more thankful for in keeping me, well, sane. While this may seem rather unfortunate, I'm glad I had the first-hand experience of a religion and lifestyle that contradicts every last fiber of my new-found being. With that being said, I can easily relate to those of you who might have gone through that same struggle of self-discovery. And, growing up around people who consider this topic to be extremely "touchy" and offensive, I don't exactly see it as being thoroughly entertaining to debate upon, either. But with the approachable atmosphere, awesome professor, and open minds that I'm surround by in this class, I think that just might come with ease! I love to listen and interact in religious discussions from every imaginable angle. Our minds are so much more capable than how we perceive them to be.

    blablabla, anyway. I also love writing, my husky pup, and outer space, among many other people and things, respectively.

  30. To follow up on the Good/Evil question, I do not believe that I am really either. While I do not believe that good or evil do not exist at all, I do not believe that it is appropriate for me to denote myself as either, as they are entirely relative and subject to the observation of my peers. It would be like saying if I believed I am pretty or not.

    I am, I think and know that much, notions of good and evil are far too relative a forest for me to abandon my vanity and hubris in. I'd go insane. There's only power!

  31. Only power? I don't think even Nietzsche himself really believed that What about weakness, vulnerability, compassion, kindness, tolerance, empathy, sympathy, aspiration...?

    But maybe your point is really the one we ended on today: it would be nice if everyone were a lot more circumspect and less "certain"?

    Anyway, I think we're off to great start. Let's keep it rollin'!

    1. Hello. My name is Steven Wolfe. I am 33-year-old Philosophy major with a Neuroscience and Physics minor. I am from south Mississippi, and I grew up Southern Baptist. From the first moment I realized that I had a choice in religious matters, I was an agnostic. It was the only thing that made sense to me. I'm 99.99% Atheist, but, having the opinion that certainty is by far the most dangerous aspect of religion, 100% Atheist seems almost as arrogant and misguided as being certain about a specific mythology. I am interested in learning and exploring new opinions and perspectives from fellow classmates and from the readings.

      I don't know if I'm a good person. I try to uphold my own principles, but I'm sure I fall short, and I'm suspect that even my principles might not meet the moral standards of "goodness". My goals, morally at least, are to make the people I care about happiest and ease their suffering whenever possible. I know this will not make the world a significantly better place, but, adopted universally, I think would work pretty well. You know, Golden Rule stuff.

      Anyway, nice to meet you all.

    2. I knew that was gonna happen. But, I can't find the button to post a new comment. Seriously, I've tried.

    3. Position #1: I don't believe in bigfoot. I can't prove that he doesn't exist (who can prove a negative?), but luckily I don't have to. The burden of proof is on those making the positive claim that he exists, and their evidence is far from compelling. If better evidence were to come to light, I would have to reevaluate my belief.

      Position #2: I don't believe in the god of the Bible. I can't prove that he doesn't exist (who can prove a negative?), but luckily I don't have to. The burden of proof is on those making the positive claim that he exists, and their evidence is far from compelling. If better evidence were to come to light, I would have to reevaluate my belief.

      One of these positions is often seen as arrogant, while the other is simply seen as common sense. Thoughts?

  32. Hi everybody, I too am quite excited about this class after reading these comments and the discussion we had in class. I took this class because this is a topic I have thought very long and hard about, and spent many a night in quiet contemplation over it. I have tried for some time to put down my beliefs and why I believe them on here, but alas I cannot make it concise enough. If any one is particularly interested you can try to catch me after class sometime and talk about it, though it may be a long talk. In brief, I was raised Church of Christ and now consider myself strongly agnostic. I am a Physics and Philosophy double major and really just love thinking about most anything. Last year I started to read about Nietzsche and his works and have found for the most part my beliefs agree quite well with his. Interesting fact, I am BJ's (Radiance) little brother, and this will be the first class we have ever had together.
    I do consider myself a good person, though I do not particularly think there is an evil. That is not to say that I do not think there is a bad that contrasts the good. This is essential a Nietzschean outlook on the topic of good and evil, at least as I understand it. So, I would define a good person as being one conscious of his or her own freedom who actively tries to express it while at the same time not hindering someone else's freedom. This means a bad person is one who actively tries to hinder the freedom of others. I think I most often fit that definition of the good. Though it is not always easy to live that way, I find I am most happy when I try to do so.

  33. Hey everyone my name is William Hardy, I'm from Nashville Tennessee. I've never moved my whole life. I love music and hanging out with my friends. I'm a pre-law major with a philosophy minor. I have always loved philosophy and have studied it since i was in high school. And to be honest I have no idea if I'm a good person or not. I feel like that is an un answerable question.

  34. I have been looking forward to this class since last semester. A little about me: I was raised in a catholic family, spent grades K-8 in a catholic school and attended a church of Christ high school. I was a youth leader from grade 7-12. I am not one who has an aversion from religion because of a traumatic experience in any of these instances. My questions about the truth of religion started when my catholic beliefs were challenged daily by my high school bible teachers (two of these biblical scholars were my football coaches) who were certain that my faith was greatly mistaken. The frequent arguments that resulted from our differing views made me take a deeper look at why I believed the things that I did about God, and morality. Even after four years of this I still believed in the divinity of Jesus, the infallibility of the Pope, etc. around age twenty (9 years ago) I lost interest in my religion for reasons that I don’t really recall now, but I suspect it was a mixture of over exposure and a my acquiring a fake ID that made it difficult to get up and worship every Sunday. I have since moved from disinterest in my old beliefs to distain for them. My atheism is of the loud and outspoken variety. I have a genuine interest in winning minds for rationality, and I can’t wait to hash it out with everyone in class. Putting the inquisition, the crusades, and witch trials of the past aside; I can see how many people now believe that there are redeeming qualities to religious faith. While there are many people who do well in the name of religion, the utility of religious belief says nothing about the truth of that religion. It’s just as if I were to say that I gave to charity because I believe that Elvis is alive and living on the streets of one of our major cities. My generosity is the result of this belief. It is enforced by the personal satisfaction I get from donating a considerable portion of my income to organizations that assist homeless shelters in major metropolitan areas that could potentially help Elvis. This would be helpful for many unfortunate people, but in no way suggest that The King is in need of my help.
    I would consider myself to be of average moral fiber. I wouldn’t be hard pressed to think of instances of complete and utter selfishness, and the complete disregard for the well beings of others (I don’t know the exact ratio, but my I suspect that decent and kind actions far out way these)…..however, these are still abhorrent to me in retrospect and are a helpful and humbling reminder of how I should not treat others. I like to think that most people are in the same moral ballpark as me.

  35. Hello, my name is David Nagy. I am a philosophy major in my sophomore year. I am taking this class to gain a better understanding of the athiest's views of morality, ethics, and life in general. Though I am not a religious person by any standard, I would also hesitate to classify myself an athiest, as I find that often when I give myself these labels my tendency is to defend my position rather than to look at the situation 'objectively' (assuming of course that objectivity is even possible). I was raised mostly secular and have throughout my life gained what I consider a healthy disinterest in most of my subjects of interest; that is, I, at least consciously, don't feel like I have a dog in the race, and am merely motivated to study the subjects, not out of some sort of metaphysical neccesity, but out of untainted curiousity - at least that's what I tell myself. I have strong criticisms of both the religious as well as the athiestic ethos, as well as many positive venerations for both, which hopefully I can explore throughout the semester. As for the question of whether I consider myself good, I can say that I personally believe that I am a good person, but would have to concede that my defintion of the term could very well be quite different than anothers, and am in fact very well aware of many of my habitual behaviors which quite a few would consider at the least immoral, as well as many actions that most within my culture claim to be good and honorable that I find deplorable. Good and bad have no universal position, in my opinion, and are entirely subjective and provably fickle by their very nature. So, I guess if you're into the whole prolixity thing, you could say that I'm a pluralistic agnostic with Nietzscheian tendencies and a secret idealistic fetish, with an innate bent towards Taoism, Buddhism, and the writings of the Upanishads. But really it's safe to say that I just don't know and am open to anything anyone has thought of, for the simple fact that something in the universe having a thought is such an amazing phenomenon to me that I believe that is sufficient proof in itself of its signifigance.

  36. Hello class! A bit last minute I realize, but I'll tell you a bit about myself. My name is John Holloway, I'm a philosophy major and second semester sophomore. I'm from Nashville, and still live in the same house that I've lived in since birth. I'm quite excited for this course, simply going off the class discussion on the first day, there will be many great thought-provoking discussions. I feel I am going to expand my thinking and perceptions beyond that of what is conceivable to me at this moment. I'm a confused person and at a strange point in my life where I feel I have no root system, just floating and attempting to understand the human experience with a language that does it's job, but mostly saturates and confines experiences...dusting purity and truth under the rug. I don't think there are bad people. Everyone acts the way they do because of genetics and experiences that mold them, they can't help how they are. I'm not sure where I am going or who I am, and don't want to make up something that isn't true just to have something to tell you all, despite wishing i knew just to have more of a sense of self. That is assuming people have an underlying defined self and aren't just composed of memories and the present. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a horribly depressing guy. I can find unlimited beauty and joy for myself in the smallest corners of the natural world and artforms.

  37. Your post's definitely not depressing, John, and I hope you're not depressed either! (You just missed Happiness class in the Fall.) Anyway, "unlimited beauty and joy" sounds pretty good to me.

    1. In class you mentioned you held an interest in naturalism, I would recommend Andy Goldsworthy's documentary Rivers & Tides if you haven't already seen it. It's less philosophical and more geared towards art and getting to know nature, but it's pretty enlightening.