Friday, June 4, 2010

Why Are You Here?

Before anything else, I need to clear up a misconception about my blog's name, Atheist Apologist. Apologist doesn't mean someone who apologizes ... I'm not apologizing for anything. The definition of apologist is "one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something." In theological debates, the defender of Christianity is often referred to as a Christian apologist. I've never heard of someone being called an atheist apologist, so I figured I'd start a trend. Plus, it's alliterative, so win/win!

Now, regarding the title of this first blog, no, I don't mean "Why are you here?" in the existential sense, although you can't be faulted for assuming that considering the nature of this blog. I'm asking why are you here at this blog? And why is this blog here? Why should you care about this blog if you're an atheist? Why should you read anything contained herein if you're a faithful Christian (or Muslim, or Hindu)?

Well, a good first step in any blog is to answer those kinds of questions. First off, I want to address religious readers (because I don't want to scare them off, as I'm hoping to prompt constructive debate in my comments section).

If you're religious, I hope you'll read my blogs with an open mind and a critical eye. If I make a point that has no basis or no evidence, I want you to point it out. If I misinterpret something about your holy book or religious tenets, I want you to let me know. Hold my feet to the fire, because this is a quest for truth and knowledge, and if I'm wrong, I need to know. But there's an even more important reason for you to read my blogs: a faith that goes unchallenged is not a faith at all. If I understand correctly, one of the best ways to prove your faith is to have it challenged and yet come out with stronger faith as a result. The ultimate challenge to your faith would be to read my blogs with an open mind and to think critically and honestly about my points and yet retain your belief. If you truly don't think you can do that -- if you're somehow afraid to analyze what you believe -- then something already is wrong with your faith.

If you're a non-believer, I hope you use my blog as a jumping-off point to start conversations. Religion shouldn't be any more taboo of a subject than politics or your opinion of a movie. Use the points I make to build your arsenal of logic-based talking points. Go forth and spread logic, critical thinking, skepticism, and science.

And no, it's not best to let the sleeping dogs of religion lie, because this particular dog has rabies and is sleeping in your kid's crib. This is not a non-issue, and atheists/skeptics/humanists need to stop sitting on their hands and pretending like there's no problem. Religion hinders scientific- and health-based progress (costing millions of lives) and can give people justification for rights-violations and for evil acts in general.

I take this quote to heart: 

"I think that on the balance the moral influence of religion has been awful. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil -- that takes religion." -- Steven Weinberg.

Who Am I?

I'm a 20-something-year-old man living in -- where else? -- Las Vegas, Sin City. How appropriate, right? I was raised in a military family (Air Force) by Christian parents. We went to Catholic church a bit when I was younger, but our attendance quickly dropped off, likely due to living overseas for long spurts of time. I prayed every night until about midway through high school, and I never really questioned the concept of God.

It was around my sophomore year of high school that I started becoming skeptical. Nothing major happened to cause the shift, I just started thinking more critically about the world I lived in. To that point, it could have been my growing interest and aptitude in science classes and debating, both of which inspired logic, critical thinking, and the evidence-based scientific method.

More specifically, I remember one night thinking to myself that I should start keeping track of the success rate of my prayers. This was actually before I'd started becoming truly skeptical -- I simply thought it'd be a fun thing to do, and it wasn't intended to disprove religion to myself. However, through this diversion I started realizing that my prayers were being answered at a rate I'd expect given normal chance and my own actions toward realizing my goals. This specific little experiment of mine is likely what sparked my inquisitiveness about religion -- and that inquisitiveness ultimately led me to full-blown atheism.

My 'Qualifications'

Since being swayed toward skepticism, I've read dozens and dozens of books and watched a countless number of speeches, lectures, and recorded debates on YouTube concerning the arguments both for and against religion. I've read The Bible at least twice in full, and through my other readings have an understanding of The Bible that I'd argue rivals most sincerely devout Christians. You cannot be passionately for or against something if you don't know enough about it, so I pride myself in knowing the material. I've had incredibly close friends who were unflinchingly Christian (church every Sunday, Jesus fish on their cars), and I've had constructive conversations with them about their belief.

On the other hand, I'm admittedly (and regretfully) poorly informed regarding the non-Christian religions. I honestly know more about Scientology than I do about Islam, and Hinduism is as of yet mostly a mystery to me. While most of my writings from here on out can apply to religion in general -- because most religions share certain anti-critical thinking, anti-scientific, anti-evidence values -- I will not be arguing against specifics of any religion other than Christianity until I learn more about those religions (which I certainly plan to do).

Constantly Evolving Posts

Another thing I'd like to do with this blog is have every post be a constantly evolving document of an argument or point. This is the Internet age, and a printed work isn't set in stone -- which is a good thing. If someone makes a valid counter-argument or corrects an error, I'm going to address those things in the original blog entry. I'll also, of course, give credit where credit is due to any commentors or contributors (sometimes within the blog itself, sometimes as a "Thank you" in the comments). I want people to feel like they can make points and actually be heard/cause change. This is a quest for truth, knowledge, and accuracy, and that's no one-man job.

And, With That ...

... I'm off to write my first few entries for this blog. Every entry will be a work in progress, and I'll continuously update them as errors or additional resources are pointed out in the comments. If you want to support this blog, please do any of the following:
  • "Like" this blog on Facebook and share with any friends you're comfortable doing so with.
  • Post my blog entries on Facebook and inspire critical discussions among your friends.
  • Buy books on religion, atheism, or psychology through my Amazon affiliate link. I get a cut of sales, of course, but the price for the item doesn't go up for you, so it's a great way to support me and get something for yourself.
  • Buy any of my shirts from Zazzle. I don't have many, but I get a cut of these, too.

Even if you don't do any of the above, I hope you read and enjoy my blogs here.

Thanks, and God bless. (Wait....)

-- The Atheist Apologist --


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