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Teaching Atheism

Teaching Atheism

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Teaching Atheism

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  1. Teaching Atheism Prof. Matt McCormick Department of Philosophy California State University, Sacramento

  2. Proving the Negative There is no God. Inductive Disproofs (God is improbable) Deductive Disproofs (God is impossible) Single Property Disproofs Problem of Evil Omnipotence is impossible. Omniscience is impossible. Omnibenevolence is impossible. Divine Hiddenness Proof from Non-Belief Multiple Property Disproofs Scientific Naturalism Burden of Proof Problem Omnipresent and Conscious. Free and Omniscient. Creator and Outside of Time. Transcendent and Inside of Time. Argument from Anthropology, Psychology, Evolution

  3. How do you teach atheism? Is teaching it indoctrination? Does the act of talking openly about it create atheists? Conversion? Historically, organized religions have said to even think about it is to lose faith, sin, or do something wrong.

  4. Social and Academic Issues • The vast majority of Americans are believers. By some polls, over 90%. • Americans also take the Bible very seriously. • 78% of Americans either believe that the Bible is the “actual word of God, to be taken literally word for word,” or it is the inspired word of God. • 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, with about half of them claiming to be evangelical or born again. • People Are More Negative about Atheists More than Any Other Minority Group. • “From a list of groups that also includes Muslims, recent immigrants, and homosexuals, Americans name atheists as those least likely to share their vision of American society. They are also more likely to disapprove of their children marrying atheists.” • In general, atheists are an exception to the general trend of increasing tolerance nationwide that has included improved attitudes towards gays, lesbians, blacks, Hispanics, and other minority groups.

  5. Academic Freedom The test of human rights: when someone wants to exercise that right to do something that you find profoundly offensive. In academia (and everywhere else) people need to be able to explore and express offensive, repugnant, controversial, or inflammatory ideas.

  6. Catching More Flies with Honey than Vinegar Reason, autonomy, human freedom first, atheism second. It’s more important for people to have liberated minds than for them to be atheists. A liberated mind is one that reflects, analyzes, critiques, and then slowly and carefully comes to a conclusion on its own. The seduction of emotion, youthful rebellion, contrariness, sudden conversion are not the paths to reasonable belief.

  7. Being True to Her Words • Atheists boast: We live reason. We have rational, logical minds. • That means being prepared to change your mind, if that’s where the evidence takes you. • What would it take, hypothetically, to get you to change your mind? • A fundamentally transformed kind of human existence.

  8. Planting the Seed in Rocky Soil • People don’t simply, abruptly change their minds in arguments and debates. • “Oh, you’re right! . . . Ok, I changed my mind.” • But they do go home and think about it, and little thoughts turn into bigger ones. Questions turn into answers. Doubts turn into convictions. Or convictions about God turn into substantial doubts. • Presto, chango: An Atheist.

  9. The Evangelical Atheist The human race has been highjacked by a seductive idea, a mind virus, that has the potential to consume, destroy, distract, and derail. By every reasonable measure, science has improved the lot of humanity by orders of magnitude more than any other institution. The scientific method is the the most important discovery in the entire history of the human race. The essence of that method is actively seeking out disconfirming evidence. Doubt, analysis, critique, skepticism, and defeasibility. The essence of religion is dogmatism, belief, authority, stagnation, apologetics, rationalizing and conformity.

  10. The Confusion about Respect and Tolerance • Religious tolerance has come to mean indulging your neighbors. • Demanding reasons or an explanation of a person’s religious views is a social faux pas akin to pressing for details about their messy divorce, or dead wife. • We’ve conflating religious affiliation with ethnic identity. • Compare: “Oh, I was raised Catholic.” “Oh, I’m Sicilian.” • "Religions have contrived to make it impossible to disagree with them critically without being rude. They play the hurt feelings card at every opportunity and you are faced with the choice of articulating the criticism or buttoning your lip.” Daniel Dennett

  11. Respect is Disagreement Formula for Success: a social institution that propagates the view that disagreeing with it is disrespectful, intolerant, sinful, and evil. The most important thing we can do for each other is listen closely and disagree vigorously.

  12. Conclusion: Religion and religious belief bad. Freethought atheism. . . good. Fight.