What is the Future of Atheism? December 4, 2010

What is the Future of Atheism?

A couple weeks ago, I was at Pomona College in Claremont, California for a panel discussion on “the Future of Atheism.” The other panelists were Dave Silverman (president of American Atheists and FOX News staple this past week) and Chris Mooney (bestselling author and notable accommodationist).

The audio for that discussion is now available as part of the Point of Inquiry podcast.

You can decide for yourself whether the “aggressive” or “accommodationist” side won 🙂 I know I’m biased, but I thought this was an entertaining conversation — especially if you’re up to date on the kinds of conversations atheist bloggers have amongst ourselves. It’s a podcast I would’ve downloaded even if I didn’t take part in it.

Also, you hear religion compared to heroin. So there’s that.

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  • daakujc

    A photo I found on the net of the panel discussion.


  • Revyloution

    Chris Mooney (bestselling author and notable accommodationist)

    Poor Mooney, accommodationist is probably going be carved into the granite on his tombstone.

  • Lamar

    The future of atheism is more of the same. Rejection of the Biblical worldview, while continuing to search for a scientific explanation of creation, and the religious experience of countless individuals from varying socio-economic backgrounds and intellectual abilities. Atheism’s denial of Biblical truth and Christianity’s acceptance of this truth, separates the two camps and the future of the two will either be that they are both wrong or one is right — but they can’t both be correct. The future of atheism? Same as always. Since most atheists already agree there are some things that cannot be known, they are more than half way to accepting faith — believing what cannot be seen.

  • Greg

    Lamar – atheism has very little to do with Christianity. Your god is only one among millions we do not believe in.

    Since most atheists already agree there are some things that cannot be known, they are more than half way to accepting faith — believing what cannot be seen.

    Actually, the two positions are almost exclusive of each other.

    Faith is claiming to know something that can’t be known, after all.

  • Korinthian

    A majority of this talk was apologizing for one’s opinion it seems. Nothing much happened 🙁

  • Steve

    Here’s hoping it will be available for download through iTunes or RSS feed soon… It seems to be available only on the website, as of this post.

  • Anonymous

    Dave Silverman is right about the Supreme Court and the separation of church and state. Absolutely right. I’m glad to have him in this fight.

    Here’s the wake-up call – this country is much farther gone than we realize.

    Obama’s stimulus pours millions into faith-based groups

  • Lamar

    Actually, man can know God as God makes Himself known through general and special revelation. Without revelation man would never have been able to acquire any knowledge about God. It is not human reason that discovers God, but it is God who discloses Himself to the eye of faith. All of our knowledge of God is derived from His self-revelation in nature and in the Scriptures.

  • steve

    @Lamar: The problem becomes how to distinguish revelation from your own mind’s thoughts and perceptions and/or random chance. Rationalists reject the idea of revelation because it’s unfalsifiable and unless it violates the laws of nature or is a blatant statistical anomaly, why attribute the “revelation” to a supernatural being? It always appears that individual revelation seems to coincides with what the recipient of said revelation already believes or wants to believe. I don’t think that’s just coincidence… And interestingly enough, many so called revelations contradict each other, so which one is true?? Just saying…

  • another steve

    I think the most important part of this talk was the very end– a definite resolution was reached between all three speakers once misconceptions about the other panelists were cast aside. As an interfaither with new atheist leanings, this was very very satisfying.

  • The Real Steve

    Mankind has no “knowledge” about god(s). None. We only have beliefs. Big difference.

  • jose

    “God makes Himself known through general and special revelation.”

    You mean “the priest told me”.

    Without revelation man would never have been able to acquire any knowledge about God.

    Unless man made him up. And there’s plenty of made up gods throughout history. Surely yours is special.

    It is not human reason that discovers God, but it is God who discloses Himself to the eye of faith.

    Then why do people keep knocking at my door and stop me in the middle of the street to explain to me how illogical it is to think that this supercomplex universe wasn’t created by your god? Why do priests explain the bible? Is God that lazy? Can’t he just disclose to everyone at the same time? No, he must act like a cigar-shaped UFO, presenting himself to nutty people so they can be His witnesses.

    If God existed, faith wouldn’t be necessary. It’s a lame ass excuse that people use when they fail to explain properly why they believe what they believe. “Well, it is my faith”. Well, it’s my faith that Elvis was a Greek God reincarnated–AND I have a book that says it. Now, how do we figure out which faith is right?

    All of our knowledge of God is derived from His self-revelation in nature and in the Scriptures.

    No, all your knowledge about God is derived from what you have been told in Church.

  • Jim [different Jim]

    @Lamar, your “god” only appears to reveal himself to the faithful because the faithful dream him up so thoroughly that he feels real. Just a placebo, really. been there done that. I am going to share a story about “faith” that I have shared many times. [apologies to those who have read this before]. Your own mind will convince you of anything that you believe in if you believe strongly enough. Here is my story. Apologies for being so long winded.

    It was a trick that me and a buddy played on my roommate back over 22 years ago. Back then, like a lot of people, we would often smoke the “mighty herb” on weekends.

    My buddy and I decided to have a little fun and also try a test. We made a couple of reefers with nothing but tobacco and tea leaves. For those who don’t know, tea leaves smell EXACTLY like the demon weed when smoked. They do nothing else but give you a headache.

    About 10 minutes before my roomie came home, we lit up the fake joints. Soon the room was permeated with a very familiar Friday night odour. Right on cue, my roomie came home. We then put on an Oscar winning performance. You’d swear we were totally fried, but in reality we were strait as a board. We pass the J’s on to the roomie, who took them with great enthusiasm. Very soon, he was completely cooked…or so he believed!! The best part was, when we told him the truth, he didn’t believe us!!! He remained wasted the rest of the evening…and proceeded to clean us out of Doritos!!

    My point is, my roomie had “faith” in the joint he was smoking. He truly believed he would get a good buzz and his mind was happy to oblige. This placebo effect is nothing new. What the mind believes, the body feels. My roomie’s faith didn’t change the fact that he was only smoking tea leaves.

    It’s no different than the euphoria that many theists claim they feel with their religion. They feel the “Spirit of ” because they so fully and completely expect to.

    That, in a nutshell, is religion…just a placebo on a grand scale. The more open the mind, the better the placebo works. That’s why children are indoctrinated so early.

  • Aj

    Religion is not a tool, it’s not misused or abused, religion is the cause of much evil. Religious people aren’t just atheists with a set of excuses, silly and arbitrary rules to anoy and hurt others with, they actually do believe. Even if it’s not unique to religion, it doesn’t mean it’s a necessary part of humanity. I hate this argument, that humanity is a atrocity waiting for an excuse. A world without religion would be a better place, that doesn’t mean that if there was no religion it would be a utopia or that our work would be done, but it would be progress.

    The concept of a god that does play a role in evolution is not a scientifically defensible position. It’s not the denial of science akin to creationism, but it is opposed to the scientific enterprise. I don’t think it’s right, or enough, to just accept the scientific consensus, I think it’s far more important for people to admire and value it as a way of gaining knowledge.

    Conversion is just another word for persuasion, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when your position is reasonable, and the other is not. Accommodationists try to persuade us toward their position. I don’t understand the problem with trying to convert, expressing an opinion and stating why it’s a good opinion to hold. There are obviously conversion practices common to religion that are wrong, regardless of the message, that we wouldn’t want to emulate.

    I think we have a problem with accommodationists because they use labels such as dick, jerk, and fundamentalist, lie about others or set up absurd strawmen. They only do it to get attention and ingratiate themselves to theists. Apart from that I don’t think the difference between accommodationists and others are worth discussion, their fatalism and indifference to irrational belief, are value judgements.

  • Nordog

    What is the future of atheism?


  • Vas

    Jim I can fully relate to your story. I have the ability to “trance out” no one has to trick me into it, I just take about 20 or 30 mins and concentrate on getting “disconnected”. The effect is similar to “psychedelic” drugs like LSD or E, (MDMA). The thing is that once I get there I can’t just turn it off by concentrating on getting “re-connected” I just have to ride the “trip” out which generally takes several hours. The fact that I never really “dropped” a chemical seems to make no difference, I’m rolling just the same. I don’t know how it works but I’m guessing I’m triggering a chemical change in the old noodle, (figured out how to turn on a nozzle) and once my gray jelly is all hosed down with happy sauce,(serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine?) I just have to let it run it’s course. I got the notion that I might be able to do this by watching xtians bliss out on the holey spirit and thinking that it looked like a cheap legal high. Well guess what… it works, for me. I’m guessing both myself and the xtians are doing the same thing with a different pretext. It’s not really a placebo effect but it sounds like a similar result. In any event I get the same result with no god required.

    Oh yeah the future of atheism? Well I’m a nihilist as well as an atheist so… really it does not concern me all that much, but I do think it will all end badly for each and every one of us.
    Have a nice day,

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