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Once again the Atheist digest series draws to a close.  I’ll offer some final thoughts on this year’s event and about the possibilities for its future after I address the subject contained in the title.  Hopefully I’ll get some useful feedback on that front.  Here’s a link to the rest of the 2011 series.  The first -diary- er, post of this year’s series offers links to the two previous years.

Previous Diaries

8-5:  I Didn't Choose to be an Atheist

8-10:  On Anders Breivik

8-16:  Athesim and Socialism

8-21:  Unpacking the LGBT Comparison

On to the main topic:

    Most of the ideas I explore in this series can be, and often have been controversial.  I do my best to cover them as sensitively and tactfully as possible while still attempting to open up useful conversations and helping people understand each other a little more.  My idea is not to pontificate (pardon the irony of the term) to a bunch of Atheists.  Ideally, I want to draw in multiple perspectives and start some productive dialogue.  One of the main obstacles my fellow atheists and I encounter in the course of these discussions is the cultural propensity many have toward treating religious beliefs as sacrosanct, and criticism of those beliefs as personal attacks.  I realize how strong this instinct is, and I intend to lay out a case against anyway.

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(Quick note: to be more inclusive I have changed the word 'homsexuality' in the title to LGBT.  It doesn't change the analogy significantly, but hopefully makes clear I'm not trying to ignore anyone in that community.)

In case the title isn’t clear, what I intend to focus on in this diary is the occasional employment of the analogy between LGBT people and atheism.  It is sometimes used and sometimes criticized, so I want to take a deeper look and unpack the baggage that often accompanies these arguments.

First of all, I think it will be useful to define what I mean by analogy for the context of this piece.  An analogy is a rhetorical device that utilizes a comparison of similar characteristics of seemingly unrelated things.  There is no such thing as a perfect analogy.  The only thing that compares exactly with a given thing is the thing itself.  You do not have an analogy in that case.  

To be useful, an analogy has to be two things:  It must me accurate and it has to be instructive.  If an analogy is too flawed, it will not carry the argument because it will be bogged down in bickering over the viability of the comparison.  Once that hurdle is cleared, an analogy has to shed light on, simplify, or allow someone to relate to the thing being compared.  If it can’t advance an argument it is a vehicle without cargo.  There’s an analogy right there.  An analogy is a cargo truck.  If it doesn’t drive it’s useless, if there’s no cargo to transport, it’s similarly useless.  

We have seen, for example, many recent attempts by politicians to craft analogies which help simplify the explanation of the current state of the economy and how we got here.  Some of these work better than others.  

In order to get at the heart of the analogy in question I’m going to look at both aspects of the analogy.  After that, I’ll open it up to discussion and get your opinion.  Scramble over the curly do-dad with me.

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Welcome back to Atheist Digest 2011.  The summer diary series rolls on with a look at two things that seem pretty disparate on their surface.  I was musing about a few different aspects of comparison between these two and decided that it might make an interesting diary for this year’s series.  Here we are.  Before we get in too deep I’ll lay out the areas I’m going to cover:

  • Conservative Deprecation/Antipathy
  • Christianity and Capitalism
  • Empathy and Moral Hazard

There should be plenty of room for you to add to these in the comments.  Without further ado we slide into the curly abyss…

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I’m going to start off by assuming that anyone wandering in here has a pretty solid understanding of who Anders Behring Breivik is.  If you don’t, I’ll trust that you’ll use Teh Google to catch yourself up.

I dare say I would not be unique in labeling this person a ‘monster.’  But expressing that sentiment is hardly worthy of a diary.  I wish to delve deeper into this man and his acts from the perspective of an atheist.  I am writing this because I feel this person and his heinous crimes can lend to a discussion about religion and morality.  Just to be triply clear, I, in absolutely no way whatsoever, condone what he did.  I do not relish the circumstances that led to this discussion, and I am not here to rub it in anyone’s face.  Please read my whole diary carefully before jumping to any conclusion about what you expect me to write.  I will not engage in a pie fight with anyone in the comments that takes up an argument against a point I didn’t intend or attempt to make.  Go fight your straw men elsewhere.  

Come and jump into the squiggly pool head first with me.

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Welcome to the Third Annual Atheist Digest Series.  This year, yet again, I will change the format a bit from previous years.  Though I greatly enjoyed and appreciated having several other authors contribute diaries for the series, I have come to the conclusion that it can become a logistical burden to do it correctly and I don't wish to impose additional responsibility or stress on others or myself this year.  I'm going to keep the series as a modest handful of diaries on topics either not fully covered in previous years, or those I feel need revisiting.  

I want to stress, up front, and in BOLD, that I do not claim to speak for or represent the views of ALL Atheists.  Some may agree with some or most of what I will write, but some will agree with little to none of it.  That's fine.  I do this FOR the debate, not to try to stifle it, nor to imply that Atheists are a homogenous entity.

This year's schedule and opening diary to follow the calligraphy orgy, but first...

Links to previous series (conclusion diaries contain links to all other diaries that year):

Atheist Digest 2010

Atheist Digest 2009

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Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 10:28 AM PDT

MAKE Him Do It

by XNeeOhCon

I read a lot of comments declaring intention to abandon the President and Congressional Dems should this debt ceiling deal go through.  I totally understand where those sentiments come from.  I’ve been pretty down for the last couple days.  Today is my birthday, and I feel like I awoke to a shit flavored cake with a big middle finger candle on it.  

The hostage survived but was beaten to within an inch of her life, and the perp made off with all the ransom money and the good silver to boot.  So, now what?

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Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 12:49 PM PST

The GOP's Best Idea Yet

by XNeeOhCon

Off to a flying start, the new Republican lead U.S. House of Representatives passed their first piece of legislation today, minutes after the session began.  The bill is entitled "The Everything the Democrats Have Ever Done or Want to Do Must Begin Its Title with the Phrase: ‘The Job Killing...’ Act of 2011."  This sweeping legislation has picked up some bipartisan support from the neo-liberals and is expected to pass the Senate 82-18 following its historic 430-5 passage in the House today.  Among some of its many provisions, the bill would provide a more streamlined process for GOP demagoguery, a move praised by GOP leadership in a press conference following the bill’s passage.

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American Action Network, another in the seemingly endless flood of outside groups flush with cash for negative ads against Democrats, has sunk to a new, revolting low.  

AAN is a right wing organization that is running several depicable ad campaigns in several races nationwide.  From their about page:

The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) ‘action tank’ that will create, encourage and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong

national security.  The American Action Network’s primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.


How many Rapists do you support giving Viagra to?

5%1 votes
5%1 votes
88%15 votes

| 17 votes | Vote | Results

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Here we are again, at the end of another interesting ride.  Thanks to all who participated in the series this year.  Unfortunately I don't have the time or energy to create the comprehensive wrap-up diary I managed last year, so I will just end this diary with a link to all the diaries of the last two years and ask people to explore at their leisure.  Any post game type analysis is welcome in the comments, as well as a discussion of this diary.  

My 'open letter to moderate theists' will commence below the fold.  Enjoy, and I'll see you in the comments.

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Satirist Jonathan Swift came to be in an awkward dream last night and dictated a sequel to his infamous Modest Proposal in which he proffered a solution to the problems of the Irish during the potato famine.  The idea:  we have lots of babies and no food so we’ll sell the babies as food.  Problem solved.  

Jon’s (he told me I could call him that) latest idea involved a practical fix to today’s 18th Century-like wealth disparity.  We’ll eat rich people.

I told him he was just being silly, but he shot me such a look that I almost wet the bed a little.  He’s very serious about his satire, you see.  It’s was like Steven Colbert got into the meth.  After giving me the simple idea, he elaborated, and I’ll recreate the dictation as close to word for word as I could remember when I awoke.

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I'll start off with a quick housekeeping note:

I had originally planed to end this series for the year with this diary.  After some uncareful consideration I have decided to keep the window open for a bit longer.  "A bit" could be as much as a month, if I think it is necessary, but it should be a minimum of two weeks.  In keeping with the relaxed nature of this year's publications I will just wing it.  Keep your eyes out for more diaries and the eventual conclusion diary, which will contain a brief wrap-up and a quite possibly contentious topic in itself: "An open letter to moderate theists."

All plans subject to change by me, so don't get your knickers in a twist if it doesn't go exactly as I have just stated.

All that said, lets get into the substance of this diary.  It's possible that a future diary or two will overlap this topic, and I'm sure they'll do a much better job than little ol' me, but I have to put in my two cents on the label "Militant Atheist" that is used somewhat frequently both in this forum and in broader society.  Without further preamble, let's dive right in shall we?

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Welcome back everyone.  Today we will be discussing an argument that is often used in support of creationism (or its alias "Intelligent Design").  It is insidious because at first glance it seems intensely compelling.  I’m talking about the extreme improbability of all the conditions to support life coming together without external "help" to spawn life as we know it on this planet.  One prominent example of this argument comes from Ben Stein’s epic waste of time: Expelled: No Inteligence Allowed.  In the film our vapid MC treats us to a science free explanation of the almost infinite improbability of 250 proteins all coming together to create the first cell.  First of all, the assumptions Stein makes to set up this argument are almost all false or misleading.  The YouTube clip below shows both the original movie segment and a reasonable debunking of much of it.  What is mostly absent in the debunking however, is a discussion about the problems with the nearly infinite improbability claim itself.  This claim is made in this and other pro divine creation arguments and is not frequently given the full smack down it deserves.  

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