12-4-10 Hodgepodge

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Brief Word of Thanks

For the past several years until very recently, the former blogger known as "Resident Egoist" provided web hosting for the non-Blogger portion of this site (e.g., things like the "About" page). For his convenience, and because Blogger's gradual improvements over the years have mostly eliminated my need for that service, this site is now entirely hosted by Blogger.

I would like to take a moment now to thank Resident Egoist for his help during that time.

A Brief Note to My Readers

Opportunity has come a-knocking, but to answer the door, I have had to clear my calendar for the next few days. I'll be around to check comments and email, but I probably won't make a proper blog post again until next Wednesday.

From the Vault

About four years ago, I had great fun with a post I wrote entirely in haiku -- as did all the commenters!

Weekend Reading

"[I]nvestments are not people. They're not girlfriends, family members or close confidants to whom you owe any loyalty. When it's time for a change -- whether it's because of a shift in your portfolio, conviction or investment goals -- the only approach is that of a hired assassin: Do it quickly, move on and don't look back." -- Jonathan Hoenig in "In Investing, It's Tough to Make a Clean Break" at SmartMoney

"Life wasn't always easy. Our way of life in our country came about because of the suffering people were willing to endure in order to have freedom from tyranny." -- Charlotte Cushman in "The Tale of the Pilgrims -- Why It Needs to Be Taught" at American Thinker

"Letting go in certain situations says nothing about the control you can exercise in other areas of your life. In fact, letting go of what you can't control leaves mental and psychological 'room' for achievements in areas over which you DO have control." -- Michael Hurd in "Control and Serenity Don't Mix" at DrHurd.com

Cui Bono?

Apparently, an atheist group imagines that deliberately and indiscriminately antagonizing people with whom one disagrees is a productive form of activism. At least that's the impression this atheist gets from the billboard pictured below that recently went up in New Jersey.

Perhaps this will do some good, in the sense that bad publicity can be better than none at all. (But still, how much good can merely railing against a specific position really do, when one offers no positive alternative? Even mentioning reason fails here, as many Christians regard reason and faith as perfectly compatible -- and many "atheists" are philosophical skeptics, anyway.)

Many atheists will probably get a chuckle or feel a momentary jolt of satisfaction about such a sign becoming so prominent. But I think that the billboard is bad on balance, playing, as it does, directly into an unjust, but understandable, stereotype of atheists as obnoxious nihilists.

Leonard Peikoff once noted that the holiday of Christmas (as America celebrates it) is essentially secular. If some atheist group is going to spend money on billboards, why not turn the whole notion of atheists-as-sourpusses on its head with something like a simple, "Merry Christmas!" in large lettering, followed by a smaller, "from [Name of Atheist Organization Goes Here]"?

That said, I think that the question of whether there is a God is neither the most important philosophical issue facing our culture, nor often the most productive place to start a debate -- even on many issues affected by religion, such as separation of church and state. In short, I think that founding an organization solely on that negative premise is a bad idea.

-- CAV


The Former Blogger Known as "Resident Egoist" said...

Gus, you're very welcome.

Gus Van Horn said...

And don't forget to drop me a line should you ever find yourself in Boston!

Ryan M said...

I think that you're a little hard on the billboard. It's better than that one a while back that said "God probably doesn't exist..." This one at least says "you KNOW it's a myth" and the "celebrate reason" part does provide a bit of a positive message. Sure, as you point out, the atheists likely don't understand reason from the correct Objectivist position, but that confusion isn't in the billboard to muddy the waters.

A possible improvement would be to say "celebrate productivity" which is the correct perspective on Christmas. Of course, many atheists' affinity with altruism prevents them from celebrating such a thing.

The message could be clearer and a bit more positive. However, I don't think that it does much to harm the image of atheists.

Gus Van Horn said...


I can understand you thinking I was hard on the billboard, and I agree that it IS better than saying, "maybe."

But still, it has a somewhat unclear message at best that doesn't really persuade anyone one way or the other. Sure, a few people might, as I think someone from that organization said, feel encouraged to come out as atheists, but so might they with a less confrontational message.

You remind me of a couple other things I probably ought to have said earlier.

First, there is nothing wrong, per se, with stating certainly that Christianity is a myth. I'm objecting to clarity and context here.

Second, even the milder message I proposed would draw flak. That would be ideal -- if such an advertiser wanted to be confrontational for some reason -- since the fireworks would be set off by someone else.


Michael said...

yeah be for something rather than just oppose. this way people know what you stand for.