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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Atheists Spreading the Word

 
On Friday evening there was a 20 minute segment about atheism on CBC's The National. The National is the main evening news program on CBC. The segment is broken up into three YouTube videos (below).

I think it's a pretty good introduction to atheism and I can't imagine that it would have made the evening news a few years ago. No matter what anyone says, the evidence that Dawkins, Harris, et al. have moved this debate into the public realm seems overwhelming. I just don't understand those who think that the "militant" atheists are hurting the cause.

Look for Justin Trottier of the Centre for Inquiry. He's at the beginning of the third video. If you live in Toronto you should come out to our meetings at the centre [Standing Room Only]. It's just a block south of the campus. If you're a student you should join the University of Toronto Secular Alliance. We have many exciting events planned for this year. Watch for "Café Inquiry" coming this winter.





11 comments :

  1. For "balance" they included a liberal theologian rather than rabid Fundamentalists. He didn't have much worthwhile to say.

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  2. Tom Harpur is fibbing when he says he’d welcome seeing the evidence that supports atheism because he is busy misinterpreting that evidence in favour of his inculcated beliefs.

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  3. They had Tom Harpur? Haven't watched the videos yet, but I heard Harpur on CBC's Tapestry a few weeks ago (driving Hwy 17 on the Sudbury bypass, you listen to anything). The guy has totally lost it (assuming he ever had it); far gone in lulu-land. And the airhead host was just gushing over every stupid, content-free platitude Harpur uttered about "getting in touch with the Divine", and his free-associating reinterpretation of everything in the Bible.

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  4. Hmmm… Toronto seems to be a big hitter when it comes to well motivated, message-spreading innovative theologians and anti-theologians … remember the Toronto Blessing?,

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  5. Arcanum says,

    Tom Harpur is fibbing when he says he’d welcome seeing the evidence that supports atheism because he is busy misinterpreting that evidence in favour of his inculcated beliefs.

    Harpur is pretty liberal when it comes to religion. He even questions the divinity of Jesus. On the other hand, he has a thing against atheists. He's written frequently about the lack of moral guidance in atheists and other falsehoods.

    It looks like Harpur has identified the real enemy. It's not the Pope or the Archbishop of Cantebury—it's atheists. I give him some credit for that.

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  6. ...a pretty good introduction to atheism and I can't imagine that it would have made the evening news a few years ago. No matter what anyone says, the evidence that Dawkins, Harris, et al. have moved this debate into the public realm seems overwhelming.

    I'm not convinced that Dawkins, Harris et al have had nearly the effect which you claim. I believe you're mistaking correlation for causation. Tsk tsk ... :-)

    To believe that they've had that effect, you'd need to be a fan of the "great man" theory of history, which I find mostly unconvincing as a sole explanation of events.

    Also, there have been other instances of educated, well-spoken, snarly atheists "going public" without having the same sort of effect that you attribute to Dawkins and Harris. An obvious example in the English-speaking world is Bertrand Russell, but there are others, of course. Dawkins in particular is being used as the "public face" frequently these days, but that doesn't mean that he caused the interest.

    I suspect that it's more a matter of the timing being right for some number of people being eager to embrace the message of Dawkins/Harris. In fact, I suspect that Bush and the influence of right-wing Christianity in the US have probably had as much to do with the growth of the "atheist awareness" as Dawkins/Dennett.

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  7. Scott,

    It may be true that the "timing was right" in the sense that the message of Dawkins, Harris et al. would have fallen on deaf ears a decade ago.

    However, that doesn't address the issue. If there hadn't been a number of books published simultaneously last year there may not have been nearly as much publicity about atheism in spite of the fact that the "timing was right."

    Furthermore, I'm reacting against those who argue that the message of the militant atheists has been counter-productive and may even drive more people to religion.

    The point you're raising is serious but the answer lies in a mixture of "right timing" and great men/women. There's little doubt that the concept of evolution, for example, would have spread without Darwin but Darwin made it happen earlier and more suddenly. Just because evolution was "in the air" is no reason to disparage Darwin's achievement.

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  8. I found it interesting, simply because of the different perspective it provides. It seems to be the case that being an atheist in North America is a pretty big deal (fear of losing friends, ostracised by community etc), whereas here in the UK its extremely normal (except maybe in certain faith communities).

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  9. Stevef,

    It's pretty normal in Canada. I live in a residential suburb and half the people on my street are non-believers. Many refer to themselves as atheists.

    As a matter of fact, the one evangelical Christian family seems quite out-of-place.

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  10. FYI: The CBC now has the full documentary posted on their Website: www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/immigrationdiversity/spreading_atheism.html It's better quality than the YouTube postings (doesn't suffer from YouTube's low resolution and out-of-sync audio) plus more convenient to watch as one video rather than three clips.

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  11. Correction:

    That URL above got butchered. Append this to it:

    /spreading_atheism.html

    Sorry, noobie poster here.

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