Category Archives: OUT campaign

The Unbelievers – A Review

 

Just released on iTunes this month, The Unbelievers features Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they go about the media and conference circuit promoting scientific inquiry over absolute religious belief. They want us to question everything, so here the question must be would you pay to download this movie?

If you are looking for Richard Dawkins to explain evolution or for Lawrence Krauss to expound on how there can be a universe from nothing this film is not for you. The Unbelievers may wet the appetite to watch their discussions in full (see video below) and read their books. This film is promoting why and how they are moved to do what they do, and the success will be if it inspires you to do likewise.

The motivation is dealing with the misconceptions of science, that people have the right to have their intelligence questioned when important issues like climate change need to be discussed. Let alone the origins of humanity. Religion should not get in the way of scientific facts. In american public life atheists are put on a par with rapists. The extent to which an honest adequate public discourse can occur is the background when faith and science clash.

A key difference did emerge between Dawkins and Krauss. Richard suggested that if one idea of a faith was obviously scientifically wrong why not abandon the whole thing? Lawrence rather stressed freedom of private belief. For him it was people that wore their religion on their sleeves in public life were fair game – while Dawkins wanted us to question if someone really believed in something like a wafer turning into the body of Christ.

Rather than believing absurdities, there is a magic in reality which gives comfort and joy. Finding purpose by critical thinking for yourself. It is about seeing the negative, and the positive, in life the universe and everything and being charged up to live while you can.

For a film that is just over an hour, it dwells too long on hotel rooms, lobbies and receptions, catching cabs and the professors waiting to be interviewed. The conversations by the two men should be the central piece of The Unbelievers. Another time wasting scene is Dawkins being interviewed over the phone while he is in his hotel room. All I could make out was a drone at the other end, wittering on, before Richard spoke. The room itself was dark and grey, about as enlightening as that interview.

The black and white segments at the beginning and end of the film, with Woody Allen, Cameron Diaz, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Hawking talking – to name a few – were notable highlights. It might have made sense to have more of them inter spaced during the film. The star monologues were the real cherries on top of the cake to be had. When Harris, Dennett and Hirsi Ali speak at a conference it is a brief few seconds from them in comparison, were too short.

If I wanted to introduce Dawkins and Krauss to a new audience this is not the film I would use. Rather, it would be the conversation they had together on “Something from nothing” which you can watch below for free.

The biggest regret with the movie is the main challenges facing unbelievers – apostasy and blasphemy – are not covered in this film. Rather it is a congratulatory look for the stand that Dawkins and Krauss take on science against supernaturalism. One you may wish to applaud with £9.99. This is the interest two academic science professors have in challenging religion as unbelievers, rather than highlighting unbelievers in the world. Krauss stressing secular activism in the film for effective public policy in a democracy using science at the Reason Rally in DC is the rallying point at the end of the movie.

That The Unbelievers may inspire you to take part in such activism, as you realize it is not just enough to have Dawkins and Krauss talking about it. It needs you doing this, without hope of a film of your exploits nor plaudits, to make something happen.

Related posts:

Why We Need Richard Dawkins

A neo new atheist? (includes trailer to “The Unbelievers”)

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog

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Filed under atheism, Dawkins, Film, OUT campaign, Philosophy, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Science

Diana Nyad on “Soul to Soul” and Acting As an Atheist Ethically

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Soul to Soul with Diana Nyad: “I’m an Atheist Who’s in Awe”

It’s incredible to think that the pigeon holing of atheists continues. That they are less civic minded, not good citizens – uninterested in life and the universe lacking the emotional response that people who believe in God have. No awe of nature or the spirit of humanity.

Diana Nyad on Oprah Winfrey’s show articulated awe without a supernatural element, spirituality without the divine. It sounded so good that Oprah did not want to call Diana an atheist. Rather patronising, but Diana handled with amazing grace. Talking about atheism as humanism that transcends the mundane to see and feel the sublime.

Diana showed a confidence to talk about her humanist view – which brings me to an article that David Silverman shared. That not talking about your atheism would be unethical. Silverman mentioned social benefits by more atheists being known in the community via a tweet.

According to David Silverman, president of American Atheists, “Hiding your identity means lying to everyone you know, forcing them to love someone fictional out of fear that they might not like the real you. However, given the chance, most family members love the person, not the lie, and everyone benefits from a more honest relationship.”

Why is being closeted about one aspect of one’s core worldview an untruth? Some nonbelievers will take offense to connecting this decision to ethics, suggesting that their lack of a god belief just isn’t important to them, so why advertise it? But that’s a weak argument because it’s undeniably of vital importance to many people in our society with whom they communicate. Despite the rising numbers of nonbelievers, belief in a god, specifically in the Christian God, is more than a majority idea in America. In fact, 78 percent of Americans believe in a Christian God, and 31 percent believe so strongly that they interpret their Bible as the literal word of God. Lack of belief in a god may not be the dominant issue in your personal life (most humanists understandably have a much more positive agenda than that), but it has to be recognized that it is meaningful to others. If people are to be respected, they deserve to know who we truly are.” [The Huffington Post article written by Roy Speckhardt Oct 15, 2013 whose opinions I am challenging here]
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As I am sure David would acknowledge, it will not always strengthen family bonds to openly declare atheism as this article highlights much more vividly than Huffington Post:

While Namazie was “astonished” when she found out how many Muslims there are with atheistic, agnostic and secular tendencies, she admits that groups like the CEMB find it difficult to attract them, as most are deeply worried about airing their beliefs in public. “Muslims are not homogeneous,” she says, emphasising how – like basically every human in the entire world – they don’t want their identities to be pre-defined in narrow terms. Unfortunately, owing to fears like the possibility of their family completely disowning them, they often end up falling into line publicly rather than admitting their beliefs lie somewhere else on the Kinsey scale of faith. [Source]

Putting aside physical danger to being open as an atheist (which the article mentions), I find the use of the word unethical to keep hidden from the world views on the existence of the supernatural perplexing, rather than offensive. Am I being unethical when I say bless you to someone that sneezes, “Oh God!” at the heights of ecstasy or even naming a child with a gospel name nine months later?

The use of Christian names was brought up at an American Atheist Conference talk where it was suggested that using them entrenched Christianity – we should therefore name our children otherwise to promote a less religious society, rather than act in a way that condones religious sentiments.

This suggestion angered me. The talk suggested that our ethical character reflected on us as atheists. My radar is sharp to pick up such exertions on individuals to think of the group and others in our atheism. To suggest not being open about atheism is dishonest – not buying into that for the same reason. I happen to be an atheist and blog about it – such openness is not for everyone.

Intellectual honesty and being open about how you feel about faith or non faith are not quite the same thing. No one has a right to know what my religious feelings are – it is of my own free will to express them. No religious test may be imposed on me by the state or indeed anyone as a citizen. There should be no demands made to express or conform in society.

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In a truly secular world whether I am a theist or an atheist would not matter. Yet for some there will be judgments made on them. That is unethical – not someone that keeps it to themselves. I also resent that personal views should be expressed for the social benefits of others. In matters of religion they are deeply personal and a matter of conscience. It is up to an individual to decide whether to make them public or not. Diana is a model of how to speak with heartfelt sincerity about atheism and the humanist view – but that was for her alone to decide and no one would deny the benefit of her public appearance talking about it.

We should be encouraging people that being atheist, and joining the discussion about religion, faith, secularism and pluralism is not just about being intellectually honest. It is a rewarding discussion to have, and yes may have a positive benefit to society when we evaluate social policy not by religious dogma but impact on people irrespective of it.

Telling atheists they are unethical for not being open, is to me not the way to go about this, and quite frankly sounds dogmatic however noble the reason for saying it. I may even go so far as to say ridiculous. If someone brings up religion it is entirely ethical to say back that is a private matter for me or not to reply – if they persist quote Bill Hicks above right back at them. The really ethical thing to speak up for is secularism – we still have a long way to go to ensure that all citizens are treated equally regardless of faith or non faith. We need to be having a go at those that pressurise others for public declarations of faith, for being unethical. Not mimic them in this as atheists.

I would encourage everyone to get involved with promoting a secular state that is for all. Declaring your atheism by contrast is up to you when you are ready, and confident to do so. You may however feel as Brian Cox says above, that declaring it is the least part of your true character to be concerned about. That is just being honest.

Just remember, it is up to you.

Update: via twitter David Silverman felt I was misrepresenting his view vis “Telling atheists they are unethical for not being open” I have replied and restate here this is a counter view to The Huffington Post article.

Have made clearer now that Huff article was written by Roy Speckhardt, and it is that article I am replying too.

Hope that clarifies.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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My Huffington Post Blog

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Filed under atheism, Council of Ex Muslims of Britain, OUT campaign, Philosophy, secular

Bangladesh Atheist Bloggers Indicted

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Moshiur Rahman Biplob, Subrata Odhikary Shuvo, Russel Parvez and Asif Mohiuddin – the four atheist bloggers in Bangladesh who spent months in custody before being bailed, on blasphemy charges – have been indicted. November 6 is when the trial begins Associated Press reports.

Regular readers to the site will notice the red “B” that has been on the side bar for almost six months, clicking takes you straight to a post of mine in April here which gives more background.

For me this is what The Out Campaign is meant to be all about. I hope that Richard Dawkins can use his foundation, celebrity and the brand recognition of the campaign to raise awareness, promote solidarity and galvanise action – that a second, let alone up to fourteen years incarceration, is unacceptable for blasphemy.

If you are in the European Union, member states have a duty in foreign policy to encourage internationally the decriminalising of blasphemy laws. Remind them of this obligation.

As I mentioned in a letter to William Hague:

Such concern over free people expressing their conscience and views the world over are part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,”

For all that value freedom of religion and freedom from religion, with no compulsion or coercion on free thought and free speech, please show your support.

Update 11 September: more on via Rational Association

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Video parody: Human Apostate

Parody of “Human” by the killers. A reminder that the Jehovah’s Witnesses really do teach that I have been, since childhood, under the influence of satan to damn and tempt the faithful.

The dehumanising by religion of non believers, and the indoctrination of children needs exposing.

My Apostate Story by Rational Association

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My thanks to Enoch for sharing video.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, Humour, Jehovah's Witnesses, OUT campaign

Mariela – @atheistoverdose – all the best

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I have spoken before about the trolling that happens on social media when people disagree with what someone has to say. In a civil discourse just agree to disagree and move on if you cannot debate with a cool head.

Sadly it seems Mariela was being given such a hard time she has completely quit twitter altogether. A shame because many people liked her sense of humour. I remember some people disagreeing with her when I first saw her retweeted on my timeline, and I asked her if it was always like that.

She shrugged it off – but it seems that was only the tip of the ice berg, and tame in comparison to what she was being subjected to.

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Well Mariela, if somehow this post finds you know you were admired for being outspoken and being fun. I enjoyed our tweets together, and appreciate you may have decided to leave social media for good. Hope you may after a break decide to come back.

If anyone else is being trolled, please do not keep it to yourself. Tell others. Do not suffer in silence. Together we have to stop people being victimised.

All the best Mariela.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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