Further Reading

I have added a new page to Atheist Dave. Underneath the banner at the top of the website you’ll find a link to Further Reading. This is a page where I have added (and will continue to add) easy links to books I’ve read or mentioned dealing with atheism, evolution, biology, religion, zoology, or anything else even remotely related to this site’s topics.

So far I’ve only added 15 books including Darwin, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and even the exact version/edition of the Bible I’ve been referring to off and on in various posts. All of the books (yes, even the Bible) are highly recommended reads for better insight on all the aforementioned topics. Enjoy!

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Quotes

“Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“When we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; when we have no reasons, or bad ones, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another. Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn’t—indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable—is both an intellectual and a moral failing. Only the atheist has realized this. The atheist is simply a person who has perceived the lies of religion and refused to make them his own.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” – Charles Bukowski

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” – Albert Einstein

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect, had intended for us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

“It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so.” – Ernestine Rose

“Fundamentalists are like the fir trees in German forests: they cannot stand alone, and are only stable when crowded together, branches locked with those of their brothers. That is why we must always fear them, because they will always hate us for our individualism.” – Brent Yaciw

“If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.” – Isaac Asimov

“To say that atheism requires faith is as dim-witted as saying that disbelief in pixies or leprechauns takes faith. Even if Einstein himself told me there was an elf on my shoulder, I would still ask for proof and I wouldn’t be wrong to ask.” – Geoff Mather

“People will then often say, ‘But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?’ This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.” – Douglas Adams

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” – Richard Dawkins

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” – Douglas Adams

“Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.” – S. D. Weitzenhoffer

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.” – Richard Dawkins

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason” – Benjamin Franklin

“I credit that eight years of grammar school with nourishing me in a direction where I could trust myself and trust my instincts. They gave me the tools to reject my faith. They taught me to question and think for myself and to believe in my instincts to such an extent that I just said, ‘This is a wonderful fairy tale they have going here, but it’s not for me.'” – George Carlin

“Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” – Isaac Asimov

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” – Albert Einstein

The Magic of Reality

Richard Dawkins has announced his upcoming book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, to be illustrated by Dave McKean and released this Fall (Amazon.com gives it a release date of October 4th 2011). This book will be geared toward children and science novices with its easy-to-understand explanations and colorful illustrations. Below is what the cover of the book will look like, followed by an excerpt from the chapter titled “What is the sun”. Dawkins begins by outlining how various religions viewed the sun:

In other myths, the sun is not a god but one of the first creations of a god. In the creation myth of the Hebrew tribe of the Middle Eastern desert, the tribal god YHWH created light on the first of his six days of creation – but then, weirdly, he didn’t create the sun until the fourth day! “And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” Where the light came from on the first day, before the sun existed, we are not told.

It is time to turn to reality, and the true nature of the sun, as borne out by scientific evidence.

This book can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com, and you can view a few pages from it (illustrations and all) as a .pdf file by clicking here. Since the illustrations are so colorful and take up entire pages, the file may take a moment to open.

Missing Link? What Do You Mean, ‘Missing’? (an excerpt)

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for E...

Image via Wikipedia

I have a couple posts I’m working on at the moment, but don’t feel either are quite ready for publication. That being the case, please enjoy this excerpt from Richard DawkinsThe Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution. This is the particular excerpt to which I was referring in yesterday’s post; the one which introduced me to the writing of Richard Dawkins and ultimately led to my “coming out” as an atheist, as well as to my particularly anti-religious viewpoint:

Creationists are deeply enamoured of the fossil record, because they have been taught (by each other) to repeat, over and over, the mantra that it is full of ‘gaps’: ‘Show me your “intermediates”!’ They fondly (very fondly) imagine that these ‘gaps’ are an embarrassment to evolutionists. Actually, we are lucky to have any fossils at all, let alone the massive numbers that we now do have to document evolutionary history – large numbers of which, by any standards, constitute beautiful ‘intermediates.’ I shall emphasize in Chapters 9 and 10 that we don’t need fossils in order to demonstrate that evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution would be entirely secure, even if not a single corpse had ever fossilized. It is a bonus that we do actually have rich seams of fossils to mine, and more are discovered every day. The fossil evidence for evolution in many major animal groups is wonderfully strong. Nevertheless there are, of course, gaps, and creationists love them obsessively.

Let’s again make use of our analogy of the detective coming to the scene of a crime to which there were no eye witnesses. The baronet has been shot. Fingerprints, footprints, DNA from a sweat stain on the pistol, and a strong motive all point towards the butler. It’s pretty much an open and shut case, and the jury and everybody in the court is convinced that the butler did it. But a last-minute piece of evidence is discovered, in the nick of time before the jury retires to consider what had seemed to be their inevitable verdict of guilty: somebody remembers that the baronet had installed spy cameras against burglars. With bated breath, the court watches the films. One of them shows the butler in the act of opening the drawer in his pantry, taking out a pistol, loading it, and creeping stealthily out of the room with a malevolent gleam in his eye. You might think that this solidifies the case against the butler even further. Mark the sequel, however. The butler’s defence lawyer astutely points out that there was no spy camera in the library where the murder took place, and no spy camera in the corridor leading from the butler’s pantry. He wags his finger, in that compelling way that lawyers have made their own. ‘There’s a gap in the video record! We don’t know what happened after the butler left the pantry. There is clearly insufficient evidence to convict my client.’

In vain the prosecution lawyer points out that there was a second camera in the billiard room, and this shows, through the open door, the butler, gun at the ready, creeping on tiptoe along the passage towards the library. Surely this plugs the gap in the video record? Surely the case against the butler is now unassailable? But no. Triumphantly the defence lawyer plays his ace. ‘We don’t know what happened before or after the butler passed the open door of the billiard room. There are now two gaps in the video record. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my case rests. There is now even less evidence against my client than there was before.’

The fossil record, like the spy camera in the murder story, is a bonus, something that we had no right to expect as a matter of entitlement. There is already more than enough evidence to convict the butler without the spy camera, and the jury were about to deliver a guilty verdict before the spy camera was discovered. Similarly, there is more than enough evidence for the fact of evolution in the comparative study of modern species (Chapter 10) and their geographical distribution (Chapter 9). We don’t need fossils – the case for evolution is watertight without them; so it is paradoxical to use gaps in the fossil record as though they were evidence against evolution. We are, as I say, lucky to have fossils at all.

–Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution

God, Dawkins, coming out, and Mom.

I owe my thanks to my mother for introducing me to Richard Dawkins. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She didn’t really introduce me to him or his works, but she furthered it. I read an excerpt from his book The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution shortly after its release, and added the book to my Christmas “wish list.” My mom, reading the title but not the subtitle, thought the book had something to do with the Barnum & Bailey circus. I don’t know if that’s really what she thought, but when I opened my present on Christmas day that’s what she told me. But that’s my mom, the Catholic, trying to make sense of why she would buy her son a book about evolution, written by one of today’s most prominent and outspoken atheists.

The truth is, had she not gotten me that book, I probably would have forgotten about it and carried on with my life with little knowledge of the “New Atheist” movement that’s taken place this past decade. I may have remained inside my little shell of atheism, alone and discriminated against but not bothering to speak up about it. Around this time I purchased and read The End of Faith by Sam Harris. The next year for Christmas I bought my wife The God Delusion (and then read it before she had a chance to), and the year after that her father bought her The Portable Atheist by Christopher Hitchens. Until I started reading the atheist literature, I was timid (insofar as my atheism was concerned) and wouldn’t dare “come out” for fear of being berated for my [lack of] beliefs. I don’t always agree with what Dawkins says, but I owe him my gratitude for convincing me that being open about my atheism is not something to be afraid of.

Along with the New Atheism movement (actually, the guiding force behind it) came the harsh criticism of religion. Until the last few years I was a closet atheist. I didn’t think much about religion or gods and their nonexistence. I was (and still am, for the most part) a “live and let live” kind of guy. But once other people started speaking out against religion I began to think about how religiosity really does affect my life and the life of my wife (also an atheist) on an almost day-to-day basis. It was time for me to start fighting back. Unfortunately I have neither the means nor the time to fight back on a large scale – I can’t attend rallies or protests, I can’t afford to travel to hear someone speak, it isn’t worth risking my well-being to actively speak out in my God-fearing community. So I go online, I play the Facebook game, I write in a blog, and now and then I’ll participate in some good old-fashioned forum banter.

I get along fine with religious people on a daily basis – I have to, since I live smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. “Coming out” is a delicate thing. I still worry every now and then that this one factor of my life – my atheism – will lead to my being judged by people who otherwise find me quite pleasant. But it’s important. I want people to know I am atheist. I want to get that “dirty little secret” of mine out in the open. If somebody’s going to judge me, let it be done early on. Let’s get it out of the way. As a matter of fact, just the other day I came out to somebody only to be met with the response “Really? Me too!” That, my friend, was a genuinely heartwarming moment. So here’s my message to you: don’t be afraid. Be true to yourself and honest with those around you. You’ll never know if others will be comfortable with who you are until you are comfortable with who you are.

Here’s a link to the RDF’s “Out Campaign,” where you are encouraged to admit to yourself and others how you feel about religion. You may also click the “Scarlet A” on the right side of this blog at any time and from any page to access the Out Campaign’s website.

Laryngeal Nerve of a Giraffe

Probably my absolute favorite evidence against creation/intelligent design is the giraffe‘s laryngeal nerve. Put simply, it is a nerve which, in a giraffe, travels several meters in order to reach a destination mere centimeters from its starting point. This is due to the fact that evolution works with what it’s got; it cannot go back and fix things. An intelligent designer would have had the laryngeal nerve travel directly from point A to point B, but in every single mammal it instead travels down the neck, around the aorta, and back up the neck to the voice box.

Here’s a video of Richard Dawkins explaining exactly how the laryngeal nerve works in a giraffe:

Is atheism a religion?

No.

The moment somebody says anything along the lines of “well, atheism is kind of like a religion anyway. So in a way, your beliefs are based just as much on faith as mine,” I will drop out of a debate. That person is too ridiculous to continue speaking to. I will let them think they have won the debate; that’s fine with me. Instead of ranting and raving, however, I’m just going to have some fun this time with our favorite game of “If atheism is a religion…”

  • If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color.
  • If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.
  • If atheism is a religion, then “off” is a TV channel.
  • If atheism is a religion, then health is a disease.
  • If atheism is a religion, then unemployment is a job.
  • If atheism is a religion, then “nowhere” is a place.
  • If atheism is a religion, then silence is a volume.
  • If atheism is a religion, then not playing tennis is a sport.

Add more in the comments and I’ll edit them into the post.