Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Experience at Sunday Assembly

I visited the Sunday Assembly this past sunday and I just wanted to share my experience with anybody that is interested about it. I had a great experience and I encourage anybody and everybody to go. It is a relatively small group (maybe around 50-60) and the location is perfect. It is right off of Charlotte Avenue in Nashville and is held in an older church-looking building. It is pretty much exactly where you would think the largest congregation of atheists in the area would meet on a sunday. They play several secular songs and the band rocks out pretty hard. It is a very collaborative effort with multiple people delivering "sermons" during the assembly. The "sermons" were not rules on how to live your life, but simply some suggestions on how to better increase your happiness or just suggestions on ways to help you out day to day. The people are incredibly friendly and quick to start a conversation. I highly recommend it to anybody interested. If anybody is interested in carpooling from murfreesboro to Nashville for the next meeting just let me know. Or if anybody has anymore questions about it just let me know!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Happy Hour/Philosophy Club

Hoping the summer remnant of HH/PC staying in the 'Boro will keep it going, in the temporary absence of those of us who'll not be in town. Maybe some of you might even use this space to report on the more interesting or memorable (or remembered) conversations that transpire under its auspices? And we who wander will look forward to rejoining the flock in August.

Just one more:

Do you like links and articles?

So here are some of the articles I talked about yesterday. Take a look or don't take a look. It's all in your hands.

Atheist monument

Reuters US religion and atheists

State Constitutions

Egypts Embattled Atheists

Prayers before town hall meetings

Deconversion and Some of the Problems I've Faced as a Result of It

      In class, I gave my presentation on some of my life experiences and how they have affected me. I will touch a little more on that in this post, but I really want to add on in some areas I didn't have enough time to fully focus on. As I stated, at one point I was very fundamental in my christian beliefs. I was devout and determined to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Ever since I was a kid I've had this overwhelming need to help somebody out when they are in a bad situation. This is not an uncommon trait, but it seemed more prevalent in me than those around me. Still to this today I can't stand the thought of people being treated unfairly or to see them suffer. I always attributed this to my unwavering belief and faith in Christ. I don't say any of this to try and make the point that I am some super compassionate and sympathetic being. I say this for the purposes of an experiment that I have run and evaluated in my own life. The question to be answered is, "What happens when you take my belief in God out of the equation?" I have come to the conclusion that there are three possible paths I could take at this fork in the road. The path on the left that represents a decrease in compassion, continuing on the road that I'm on that represents no change in compassion, or the highway on the right that represents an increase in compassion. So which road did it lead me too? The highway, undoubtedly. To be clear let me rephrase it. Yes, I'm saying that not believing in God has made me a better person. I say this because of the changes in my life that I experienced led me to a very different point of view. I no longer help those in need for the purposes of being more christ-like. I want to help people because they are connected to everything I am. We share the same condition that is life on planet Earth. This isn't a bad condition all things considered. I would rather exist and suffer a little for a short time than to not ever have existed at all. Even as frustrating as some people can be they are still connected to me and connected to everything I can see. Now that you have an idea of some of the positive effects I've experienced through my deconversion, let me shed some light on the negative things.
        When I first discovered I no longer believed in God, the first feeling I had was not of relief. It was of absolute terror. I had come to the realization that there was no divine being that had taken favor on my life and that was willing to protect me. I was all alone. Even worse than that, 90% of the people that I love in this world still believe in God. I have no problems with them believing what they want, but it started directly affecting me in a very negative way. My family thought I was depressed, my friends thought that I had fallen in with the wrong crowd and changed, and everybody I knew had the opinion that my soul was in jeopardy. The next feeling I experienced was utter despair. Knowing the opinions these people have of atheists gave me every reason to be upset. I had heard so many people say that atheists should be put to death if they thought life didn't matter or that killing wasn't wrong like God says. I had heard people talk about their unwillingness to trust somebody that didn't fear God's wrath. While I still feel this feeling of sadness that people might think of me like that I started to have other strong feelings as a result of this deconversion. The next feeling was a feeling of anger. I was angry at religion, my friends, my family, and basically everybody that regularly quotes bible verses to people when they ask for help. I was outraged over how non-believers and dissenters were treated. I was a second class citizen incapable of morality and lost like so many other non-believers. Or so they think. These things still make me angry, but I have moved on to the feeling I feel most often now. That feeling is excitement.
           This has been by far my favorite feeling associated with my deconversion. I am optimistic in thinking that this feeling might last, but this feeling has certainly stuck around the longest. I am excited by the fact that I am a collaboration of those that came before me. I am excited that there are still so many things for science to discover. I am excited about the possibilities of science and technology as society progresses. The thing that excites me most is this feeling that my consciousness is not eternal. One day I will assuredly die. Why does that excite me? It excites me because the here and now are all that I will ever be guaranteed. I have been baptized in the spirit of the present day. I am more present than I ever have been. I am no longer an observer, but a participant. To put this outlook on life in an metaphor that most students will sympathize with I reached a point in life where I was metaphorically pulling an all-nighter studying during exam week and I was reading words, but they didn't matter any more. My deconversion is the equivalent of drinking about 4 Red Bulls. My life had been pointless, and then all of a sudden I became aware of my longevity. I knew that I only had a finite period of time before the metaphorical and literal final I would ultimately face. The time spent in preparation for this final will ultimately determine the mark I leave on the world.
          I still face a lot of problems with people thinking I need serious help and prayer. It irks me that they would spend time from their life worried so much about how I am living mine. They worry because they care, I only wish they would understand that there is no need to worry. I have not lost my sense of morality, my ethical standards, or my love for life. These things have simply evolved and taken on new forms. I sometimes hate that I have faced some tough words and feelings from people that I love, but it has made me a stronger person. I only hope that one day I might be able to help out somebody that goes through the same things that I have. I want people to know that they are not alone. I want people to know that they aren't bad people for not believing in God. Most importantly, I want people to know that life without God can be even more beautiful than life with God. There may not be some ultimate maxim that describes the absolute point to life, but I hold out belief that there is a point to life. It is just not the same for everybody. To me, that is far more beautiful and unique than facing an ultimate end that is identical for everybody that believed the same as me. This may not be my ultimate point for living, but my ultimate goal that drives me is to help people suffering from the same condition I face. Life is really shitty sometimes and people need to be reminded that it does get better and that there is help available. I want my life to be lived for every person that has ever had theirs taken because of their race, beliefs, religion, sexuality, gender, or for any other reason. I want to live my life for all of those that struggle constantly on a daily basis. For every child that goes to sleep hungry, and for every parent that has no means of feeding them. I want to live on behalf of every person that has been sold into slavery and for every person that has been told that they were not good enough. Most importantly, I want to live my life for me. I want to learn, seek, feel, cry, lose, win, worry, and ultimately love. My father always told me as a kid that when you go places that it is important that you leave them in better shape than when you found them. If there is one motto that I live by, it is that. I want to leave the world in better shape then when I found it, or rather when it found me. We are just a reliant on our planet as it is in us. The life that thrives on our planet keeps earth from being another lifeless rock, which there are so many of. We make the earth unique, just as the earth has made each and every one of us unique. I don't want to seem arrogant or pretentious, but I would like to share with you my "commandments". Keep in mind, there is no eternal threat of damnation attached to not following these and I will never know if you abide by them. I can only hope that they might help guide you the way that they have guided me. Peace, Love, and Harmony to you all. I've enjoyed discussing things with open minded people for the first time in my life. I wish you all the best of luck and may the force be ever in your favor. (Don't even be mad about me mixing star wars and the hunger games together, we all have our own "galactic empire" to defeat whether it's a Sith lord or the Capital.)

 My Maxims and Mottos for a More Marvelous Materiality

1.) "Every day should be passed as if it were to be our last" -Publilius Syrus
2.) "One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love." -Sophocles
3.) "Whatever else there may be in our nature, responsibility towards truth is one of it's attributes."   -Arthur Eddington
4.) "Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart." -Mencius
5.) "Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule." -Buddha
6.) "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." -Gandhi
7.) "Things turn out best for the people who make the most of the way things turn out." -John Wooden
8.) "The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." -William James
9.) "It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." -Carl Sagan
10.) "Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way." -Christopher Hitchens

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bears repeating

Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous.
 let us always be true to ourselves and to the best in things, so that we can always be true to one another. (The Good Book: A Humanist Bible)
 Amen, and blessings upon us all.

An interesting report.

Here is a very interesting report for every one to look over.
Freedom of Thought Report 2013

Andrew Bird Imitosis write up

Robert Sieben
Dr. James P. Oliver
2nd Report/Presentation

Andrew Bird

"Mitosis is the process, in the cell cycle, by which a cell duplicates into two genetically identical daughter cells. In mitosis, chromosomes in the cell nucleus are separated into two identical sets of chromosomes, each in its own nucleus."

To plot a malicious act

A word or sequence that reads the same way forewords and backwards

Thomas Ruggles Pynchon- American Novelist who wrote about history, science and mathematics.

The four components of a cell membrane- Lipids, Phospholipids, Carbohydrates, Proteins.

One track that sparked my general interest in religion and philosophy was Andrew Bird's  fourth studio album track "Imitosis" from his 2007 debut Armchair Apocrypha (hidden things). This track, to me, exemplifies the basic idea that everyone is alone. I think he got this from Kant originally saying that "Every man dies alone". 
Bird took his time to study many different aspects of biology, philosophy, and religion to get to the point of musical creation that he's at today. I think he has some pretty sound musical interpretations of the way that people live and why people think the way that they do. First and foremost I want to lay out the words to this song I'm describing. I then want to break down individual passages and lines from and throughout the lyrics in an attempt to show how I think Bird views these ideas. 

He's keeping busy, yeah, he's bleeding stones
With his machinations and his palindromes
It was anything but hear the voice
Anything but hear the voice
It was anything but hear the voice that says that we're all basically alone

Poor Professor Pynchon had only good intentions when he
Put his Bunsen burners all away
And turning to a playground in a Petri dish
Where single cells would swing their fists at anything that looks like easy prey

In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say
We were all basically alone

And despite what all his studies had shown
That what's mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis
And why do some show no mercy while others are painfully shy?
Tell me doctor, can you quantify?
He just wants to know the reason why
The reason why

Why do they congregate in groups of four,
Scatter like a billion spores and let the wind just carry them away?
How can kids be so mean?
Our famous doctor tried to glean as he went home at the end of the day

In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say
We were all basically alone

Despite what all his studies had shown
That what's mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis
Sure fatal doses of malcontent through osmosis
And why do some show no mercy while others are painfully shy?
Tell me doctor, can you quantify
The reason why?

In the first line Bird mentions a character with bad intentions and a confusing style. I think he's showing that this ill intentioned man at the end of the day still feels that he is alone. As much as he feels this way, he does all that he can to avoid the actual outcome. 

The second line describes who I now believe to be the famous american author Thomas Pynchon. He had only the best intentions with his studies and works for the better of human existence, but in the end finds that his tests and studies only decide to react after he has put them away. 

The chorus references that there are intuitions telling us that we are basically alone. It also describes closeness to anything really just meaning a replication of ones self. To be closely related in any sense, but just as easily mean to be replicated by the cell process instead of just related. I think this could also mean that together we are all alone by rights of one cell multiplying and creating all of us. 

The four components of a cell membrane are comprised of Lipids, Phospholipids, Carbohydrates, Proteins.I think the intention in the third verse was to show that these components all need to hang together to keep us alive, but like most things in the world, they get taken away at some point. There is no real rhyme or reason to the way that people treat others, but rather nature has been controlling that since the beginning of time. 

I don't think it would be too far fetched to say that this song could have some solipsistic tendencies. There are definitive arguments that Andrew Bird truly believes that we are each alone in life and I think he is definitely working under Kant's impression that every man dies alone. 

Friday, May 2, 2014


That was one of our big themes this semester, with Alex Rosenberg defending a hard version and Carl Sagan a softer one, of the view that science is our best knowledge-generator. Pragmatist Philip Kitcher and evolutionist Jerry Coyne weigh in. Kitcher writes:

"My essay, “The Trouble with Scientism”, has aroused a number of responses. It has made me some unlikely allies, and, at the same time, has apparently frustrated some people whom I take to be my intellectual kin.  So perhaps it is worth explaining just what I said and what I didn’t say..."
Philip Kitcher and I discuss “scientism” « Why Evolution Is True

Sam Harris on Hitch in Segment 2

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Exam #3 Study Guide

For the non-exempt (almost said non-elect)...

20 of the following will appear in altered form on Tuesday's exam (3:30 pm), and without alternative 'OR's.

The extra credit DQ (you may select your own):
Summarize your take-away from the course regarding the question of meaning: do you side more with Flanagan, Rosenberg, Sagan, Hitchens, or none of the above, when considering the meaning of (godless) life? How so? Why?

1. What else was Darwin's insight besides good science, to Carl Sagan?

2. What was CS's view of scientism and Russell's response to the "will to believe"? What did he admire about Wm James?

3. How did CS define superstition, & religion?

4. What sort of implications are entailed by our sun's finitude?

5. What's cruel about an immortal Creator?

6. What "dangerous fatalism" lurks in the anthropic principle of life?

7. What's the point of Rupert Brooke's "Heaven"?

8. [Proverbs]

1. (x) 2. (xi; xv) 3. (1) 4. (20, 28) 5. (29) 6. (55, 59) 7. (60-1) 8. (64.4, 69.5, 74.4, 81.1, 84.7, 99.11, 99.18, 117.8, 136.4, 140.6

1. What was the prominent pre-Copernican speculation as to how the planets move?

2. As science advances, what kind of God is evolving?

3. What's CS's point about the Parade of Ancestors?

4. How much do we differ from chimps, blood-wise?

5. Is it likely that life elsewhere will closely resemble life on earth?

6. Why is it useful to study the organic chemistry of other worlds?

7. Why did Halley's comet frighten people in 1910?

1.63.  2.64.   3.65.  4.66.   5.67.  6.69.  7.75-6

1. Who said facts are stubborn things? Does CS think our wishes can alter facts? (What would a pragmatist say?)

2. Were Percival Lowell's canali a sign of intelligent life? If so, where?

3. What's the "one respect in which our civilization is probably unique in the Galaxy?"

4. How would the reception of extraterrestrial radio signals show us "the universe as it really is?"

5. What was the hopeful emotional appeal of Erik van Daniken's "ancient astronauts" idea? Did CS consider it benign?

6. Who wrote the definitive work on miracles? What did he say we should reject?

7. What's natural theology (what does it reject)? OR, What did Leonardo figure out about Noah's flood? OR, When (according to Ussher) did God create the world?

8. Why do religions make such an effort to attract the very young? [DQ: Is this also why CS & NdT did Cosmos?]

9. What routine galactic events suggest the likelihood of an "apprentice god," if any? (This, btw, might be a relevant point in my debate with Rami. Is this any way to run a universe, let alone a planet?!) OR, Does the fact that some of us are motivated to care for "the young of everybody on the planet" support Kant's moral argument for God? OR, What's the "perfect" Buddhist counterpoint to the Ontological Argument?

10. What suggests a molecular basis for religious experience? OR, Which argument implies a "gratuitous insult" to humanity? OR, Why (if God exists) must He be very busy, and incompetent?

11. What are the key distinguishing marks of happy cultures everywhere? OR, What's theophorin?

1.104   2.107   3.118   4.123   5.129   6.136, 144   7.147-8, 151   8.152   9.159-60   10. 162-5   11.173, 184

1. Where do traditions come from, and to what end? OR, Does CS think we should reflexively defer to received generational wisdom? OR, What unprecedented condition challenges the present generation?

2. What did the WHO say would be the prompt effect of a nasty nuclear war? OR, Is the extinction of all life on earth at stake? OR, Does CS consider religion in general fatalistic?

3. What pictures are we lucky to have? OR, What is humanity's defining dual enterprise?

4. What "conflict within the human heart" must we negotiate, to survive? OR, What atrophying skills must we rededicate ourselves to developing (especially we in education)? OR, What "commandments" would CS add?

5. What vision of our future does CS find strikingly absent from contemporary culture? OR, Why should we experiment, explore, and search for life in the universe?

6. What kinds of alternative God concepts does CS find irrelevant to the creation of the world or events in history? OR, What's the "zoo hypothesis"?

7. Why should there be a "test of faith" before the issuance of driving & flying licenses? [He's joking of course.] OR, What kind of "kit" should we equip ourselves with?

1.191-4   2.204,208,207   3.210, 214   4.216-18   5.219, 221   6.236, 238   7.250, 257

1. What's the story behind this photo?

2. What's Hitch say about "burning the candle at both ends" OR about "Why me?" OR about Thanatos/Eros?

3.What's ironic or telling about the lives and deaths of the devout and the pious? OR, Did those who said they'd pray for him say his health was their primary consideration?

4.What correlation did the 2006 prayer study find? OR, Did Francis Collins pray for him?

5. Why is Pascal's gambler "abjectly opportunist"? OR, How does the Devil's Dictionary define prayer?

6. Aside from his obvious desire to continue living, why else did Hitch feel "cheated and disappointed" when he found his cancer too advanced to yield to genomic "tissue engineering"?

7. Good Book? Maybe one of the Cicero passages, in honor of "the greatest orator of our time"? (Arguably, anyway.)

1.xi   2.5-6, 8   3.13,16   4.18-19   5.21   6.33   7. Acts 67.31: "After he finished, all his other hearers were astonished..."

1. What materialist proposition does Hitch confirm "it's no fun to appreciate" the full truth of?

2. Whose Last Lecture does Hitch say is an example of how not to be an "envoy from Tumortown"?

3. What functional physical loss does he compare to impotence or "amputation of part of the personality"? OR What is his advice to the aspiring writer, "above all"?

4. What cliched Nietzschean slogan did his illness cure him of?

5. Whose illness with "not the wish to die with dignity but the desire to have died"? OR What "realm" does he say "must be escaped before anything else"?

6. Good Book?

1.41   2.43   3.48,50   4.59   5.64-6

1. What two personal "assets" made Hitch's particular illness especially ironic (though he insists that there's "no real irony here")?

2. What "narrative expectation" did Hitch not take away from the example of British journalist John Diamond?

3. What view of "old religion's" attitude to life did Hitch share with Montaigne?

4. What "cost of immortality" does Hitch renounce, in a passage cited from Einstein's Dreams?

5. According to Carol Blue, what was Hitch's mood in his final days?

1.85   2.89   3.90   4.93   5.103