Victor Stenger Coming to Mississippi

Cover of "God: The Failed Hypothesis: How...Cover via Amazon

The following is an e-mail from Victor Stenger. He is going to be in Mississippi in October and is willing to give a talk in Oxford or possibly other locations. He is asking only for some help with travel expenses. He is already booked in Memphis and plans to speak in New Orleans as well. It would be great to have him speak in Mississippi if arrangements can be made.

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Hi from Vic Stenger, author of the 2007 New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis--How Science Shows that God does not Exist.

My wife and I will be driving down the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans in October. I have talks scheduled along the way in St. Louis on October 17, Memphis on October 18, and New Orleans October 24. We will be in Oxford on October 20, Vicksburg October 22, and New Orleans October 23-29.

I would be happy to talk in Oxford on October 20, or perhaps elsewhere if it can be arranged. I have attached some information.

I do not require an honorarium, but some help with travel expenses would be appreciated.

It is also possible for your to sell copies of my books and keep the profits. If interested, I will tell you how.

I hope to hear from you.

Vic Stenger

Mississippi Woman Diverts Tornado Through Prayer

A tornado near Seymour, Texas.Image via Wikipedia

When an EF 3 tornado (136-165 mph) hit near Magee, MS, early yesterday morning, the damage could have been catastrophic. Granted, at least 20 people were injured, and many homes were destroyed, but it could have been so much worse. Despite at least four tornadoes across the state, no fatalities were reported. With clean-up underway throughout the state and a state of emergency declared for nine counties, we are starting to learn that one woman just may have saved the day.

According to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, 185 homes were damaged in the storm. The fact that nobody seems to have died during this storm is clearly a miracle, and the Christian god is to be thanked. Never mind that this same god caused the storm or saw fit to destroy Corinth Baptist Church in Simpson County.

Fortunately, one woman made a difference, diverting the course of the storm through prayer. Apparently, the same god who caused the tornadoes in the first place was willing to do this woman's bidding in order to protect her loved ones.

More storms are predicted tonight. Stay safe.


Humanist Symposium #34 at Atheist Revolution

The 34th edition of The Humanist Symposium was just posted at Atheist Revolution. It includes a recent post by our own Steve Schlicht. Check it out for some good Sunday reading.

And while you are in the carnival mood, be sure to visit Skeptical Parent Crossing #6, a monthly carnival for rational/skeptical parents.

The Legality of Teaching Intelligent Design

The FedEx Institute of Technology is a major r...Image via Wikipedia

The University of Memphis will host a debate on the legality of teaching intelligent design (i.e., creationism) on March 25, 2009. The debate begins at Noon, following a reception and is expected to last until 1:30 pm. It is free and open to the public. For more information, please refer to the press release or contact Jason C. Beard at 731-608-3912.

Jane Goodall at the Memphis Zoo

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 11:  Dr Jane Gooda...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Dr. Jane Goodall is going to be at the Memphis Zoo, and the Olive Branch Atheists are going to make a meetup out of it on March 21, 2009, at 11:00 AM. Dr. Goodall will give a public lecture, free apart from the cost of zoo admission. This sounds like a great opportunity for those in the area. For more information, see the group's Meetup.com page.

No God(s)ess(es) required

Since vjack recently took a stroll down memory lane (and I've been rather busy at work over the past few weeks!) I thought I would re-post a guest voices "On Faith" column I was invited to submit over at the Washington Post last year.

Y'all might be interested in checking out the discussions that ensued as well.

So, enjoy:

Let me try to clear some of the smoke from the On Faith pulpit.

I am an atheist because there is no objective evidence for the existence of God(s)ess(es), not any of them.

This label is one of many I have and really tells you nothing more about me or any other atheist. For more information about us, you really would have to spend some time to get to know us personally and actually ask us what we hold dear and what we have as behavioral standards for our lives.

You will find a wonderful world of diversity and depth, I assure you.

Atheism does not demand that we should be "anti"-belief or "anti"-believer or even "anti"-American. It is also very important to note that atheism does not demand that you should not be "anti" anything either. The word atheism, like the word theism, simply doesn't apply to those other important issues.

Atheism is a position taken regarding the claim that any God exists, no matter how he/she/them/it is defined. It isn't anything more or less than that. It has no dietary stipulations, hairstyle, geographical boundary, special authority figures in fancy robes or favorite baseball team.

Mr. Charles Colson and many of the other religious panelists have never met me, but hope to convince themselves and others that I am their fearfully ignorant and vehement arch nemesis when nothing could be further from the truth.

We operate through our senses and reason with our brain. It isn't too much to ask that objective evidence be the standard daily provision and not "faith" without it. If any God wants to be known then this should be the method by which to reach us and not through human intermediaries claiming to be the specially appointed conduits of divine authority, some of whom openly assert that they are born severely flawed.

It is a wonderfully unique human trait to ask questions, to doubt and to require evidence for all claims made about our real lives and the natural universe in plain view.

In contrast, instead of asking questions about the methodology of the Pew survey or doubting the veracity of the results, many of the religious panelists chose to accept them on faith and to demonize atheists by telling others how we live, what we think and even what we are so that it conveniently fits their belief that the faithful (of any faith) are better people, the right "kind". All people contradicting religious claims are redefined as non-existent, artless, distrustful and ignorant. There is a word for that behavior as well and it is a word that is ugly, inhuman and wasteful.

The evidence, however, shows that we are your doctors, nurses, scientists, artists, inventors, firefighters, police officers, teachers, students, programmers, soldiers and loving mothers and fathers, etc. And it really is our common humanity, our amazing curiosity and our love of potential that keeps us grounded in purpose and meaning.

No God(s)ess(es) required.

Take care everyone, be good to each another.

Steve Schlicht is a 17-year law enforcement veteran from Biloxi, Miss., who has special training and experience in violent crimes investigation, forensic video analysis, hostage negotiation and disaster response. He is a husband, father of three and an active community service volunteer who was awarded for his service to others before, during and after both Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Katrina.

Mandatory Moment of Silence in Texas Public Schools

The Texas State Capitol located at 30.2745° -9...Image via Wikipedia

Now that a mandatory "moment of silence" in Texas public schools has survived judicial review, can Mississippi be far behind? This seems like a perfect backhanded way for Christian extremists to get mandatory prayer back in our schools. The law even includes the word "pray."

What has always puzzled me about such efforts is that there is nothing currently stopping Christian students from praying in school. They simply cannot be disruptive in doing so or have the prayers led by school officials.

H/T to Friendly Atheist

Giving Tumblr a Try

First FlowerImage by _Hadock_ via Flickr

I am in the process of creating a new tumblog (Tumblr page) called Atheist in Mississippi as a way of raising awareness that there are in fact atheists in Mississippi. I am still not 100% sure what I am going to do with it, but it seems like a good way to promote blogs and other material addressing atheism or by atheists in our state. It may morph into something else as I learn Tumblr's capabilities and limitations. Anyway, you are invited to check it out and let me know if you have information to contribute.

An Atheist in Mississippi

Mississippi state welcome signImage via Wikipedia

In perusing various atheist blogs, I have learned that if I take the time to dig beneath the surface and check out some of the older posts, I often find missed gems. Back in 2007, Bligbi wrote a short post titled, "An atheist in Jesusland." The post referenced her experience in during a recent trip back to Mississippi (where she spent her youth) and ended with:
I was only there for a few days, but it was stressful as hell without my aunt getting in on the act, but that’s another post. I can’t begin to imagine the stress other atheists, non-believers, disbelievers and doubters are under.
I can't argue with that, as my experience confirms it. Of course, my experience may differ since I moved her as an adult and had not so much as visited prior to doing so (other than the interview). Had I grown up here, I suspect that I would have a different take on life in Mississippi as an atheist. I would know much more, and I would probably be even more reluctant about expressing my thoughts on religion. Why? Because I would have a greater understanding of the consequences of doing so.

It is stressful here for many reasons. If I had to pick just one, it would probably be the pervasive nature of religion in the daily life of nearly everyone here. Social lives are centered on church. Education is centered around church. Businesses flaunt their Christianity to attract customers. Vehicles are adorned with religious paraphernalia. It makes me feel claustrophobic at times, like I just can't get away.

In meeting a stranger for the first time, one is almost guaranteed to be asked "Where do you go to church?" in the first moments of the interaction. Anything short of saying that you attend the very church of the stranger will be followed with an invitation to attend the stranger's church. Door-to-door proselytizing by Southern Baptists seems nearly continuous, and anyone out in public virtually anywhere is evidently considered fair game. My pest control guy even tried to proselytize on two separate occasions before I indicated that they would lose my business if they did it again!

Why the hell do I stay here? I ask myself that question repeatedly every summer when the heat and humidity become even more oppressive than the religiosity. I ask myself that question whenever the stream of hurricane warnings start. Is life not too short and precious to endure this bastion of proud ignorance? How arrogant I must be to believe for a second that I can come out of this unscathed!

And yet, I am still here. There are certainly things about where I live in Mississippi that I like. My job is a big part of why I stay, but probably even more than that is pure inertia. I've moved so many times that I just can't imagine doing it again, at least not yet. I won't retire here, and I may begin a job search in the next couple years if the job market improves a bit. Then again, I may just continue to stay put and try to do more traveling in the summers to maintain what is left of my sanity.


Southern Skeptical Society Drink-Up

Bourbon Street New Orleans LouisianaImage by sexiliciouz via Flickr

The Southern Skeptical Society, which we told you about last month, is hosting what I believe will be their first meeting on Saturday, March 21, 2009, in New Orleans. The group plans to meet at the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street around 4:00 pm. Brad Fusilier, the creator of the Southern Skeptical Society, will be there so it would be a good opportunity to hear directly from him about his goals for the group.

Darwin Day at the University of New Orleans

Cover of "On the Origin of Species: By Me...Cover via Amazon

Great Southern Humanist Society announces Darwin Day at the University of New Orleans. The event will take place on Saturday, March 14 from 10am to 2pm at the Alumni Center and will feature:
  • Danny Povinelli (UL Lafayette), author of Folk Physics for Apes, on “Humanizing the Human Mind”
  • Steven Darwin (Tulane, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) on “Darwin’s Legacy”
  • Barbara Forrest (Southeastern) on "Back to the Future: The Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008"
  • Mark Phillips (UNO), “What’s So Great About Charles Darwin?”
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the group's Meetup.com page.

Science Has Been Cancelled

This was posted on the Central MS Meetup Group's listserv, and I thought it was too good not to share: