Friday, December 22, 2006

"The God Delusion" makes a swell Christmas gift

If you are a fence sitter on the issue of the existence of god, do yourself a huge favour and pick up Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", the best non-fiction book I've read in years. (Okay, that last statement is actually pretty meaningless, because it's the only non-fiction book I've read in years... because, let's be honest, non-fiction is generally pretty boring.) Presumably, I don't have to recommend this book to the atheists out there, as most of you should have already picked up a copy.

I'm no fence sitter, so the book was preaching to the choir with me, but there was still a ton of material and ideas that were new to me. I loved Dawkins' quick overview of evolution (he has written plenty of other books that tackle evolution in more detail), and his brilliant discussions of morality and the (im)probabilities of god. There are also numerous interesting case studies and quotations, and Dawkins even takes some time to tackle all the classic arguments for god.

My favourite chapter, by a small margin, is seven: "The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist." This material isn't new, but Dawkins summarizes it so nicely that I couldn't help but grin throughout. Also very noteworthy, especially in this day and age of religions flexing their political muscles, is chapter eight: "What's Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?" The whole book is excellent, building Dawkins' case brilliantly throughout (this book must be read cover to cover), but chapters seven and eight are the big payoff. And the concluding chapter, "A Much Needed Gap?" definitely closes the book out on a high note.

(You can spoil a lot of the book for yourself if you read the Wikipedia entry, but I strongly recommend reading the entire thing--a summary just doesn't cut it.)

Dawkins is an extremely skilled wordsmith, with always interesting phrasing and splashes of wit throughout. And he is surprisingly delicate in tackling the irrational beliefs of religious folk--far more delicate than I had any reason to suspect from the book's title.

Dawkins hopes this book will change the world. It's unlikely to have any affect on the staunch believers out there whose world views would fall apart without their loving god (and the chance of any of these people actually reading a book titled "The God Delusion" is zilch). But those people out there who don't really believe, but pretend to believe, because they are are under the mistaken impression that it's culturally wrong to not follow the majority religious crowd--those people need to read this book. Now.

It's okay to be an atheist. It's okay to not believe. "The God Delusion" will give you the evidence you need to step away from religion for good. And it will feel so good. Trust me. I've been there.

And, since this is the holiday season, I must remind you that you can embrace your latent atheism and still celebrate Christmas with your family. Atheists celebrate Christmas, too. We just don't buy into the whole baby Jesus thing... which has been an insignificant part of most Christmas gatherings I've ever attended, anyway.

This will in all likelihood be my last post of 2006. So, merry Christmas, everyone! And have a happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Blasphemy Challenge

For a good laugh, check out the following link:

Now we know how to make the IDists dance in their petticoats: blaspheme

If you haven't been following Pharyngula and/or Richard Dawkins, some of the names in this story may be unfamiliar, but take some time to peruse the comments and you'll quickly be brought up to date. (Or do some Wikipedia searches.)

Don't forget to visit the site that started all of this: The Blasphemy Challenge. (Also note that Richard Dawkins has no association with this site whatsoever.)

An Atheist Christmas

This may shock some people, but atheists celebrate Christmas, too.

I've had the idea for this post in my head for quite some time, but PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins stole my thunder last week, and I put it off...

Damn you, Richard Dawkins, for phrasing exactly what I wanted to say in an even better way than I could have ever managed!

Oh, well, now I don't need this blog post...

Oh, one last thing: all atheists should do themselves a favour and familiarize themselves with the history and mythos of Christmas. Start with the Wikipedia entry on Christmas. And don't miss the Urban Legends Reference Pages on Christmas. Jesus' birth, my ass!

Same-sex marriage vote--that was easy.

I'm three weeks late on this post, but after mentioning Canada's same-sex marriage laws in my Manifesto, I had to do a follow-up on the issue eventually.

Did you know that Parliament already had their second vote on this issue? I don't blame you for not knowing, because it sure wasn't well publicized. Yep, the same-sex marriage issue was quietly reopened on December 7th. (Okay, technically, the December 7th vote was about whether the issue should be reopened or not, so the issue wasn't really reopened... Confused yet?) And it was quickly slammed back shut with a 175-123 vote against discrimination.

I guess we might have heard more about this vote had the results gone the other way...

Sadly, I'm sure this isn't the last we'll hear of this issue. The Religious Right doesn't back down easily.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Sorry, I couldn't resist the terrible title to this post. I was originally going to title it "Extreme Measures for Lucky Seventeen," but made a last minute change.

Now, I know that in my last post, I promised to not blog about the Wii for a while. Well, it's been a while. It just so happens that it has been such a busy while that there hasn't been any intermediate posts! My bad.

(I am going to put up a significant post regarding Richard Dawkin's excellent "The God Delusion" very soon. I have 50 pages left to read.)

In a previous post, I mentioned how I was going to be out of town on December 8th and miss the big third Best Buy Wii release day. But then my plans changed--somewhat. I was still out of town. But I didn't miss the third Best Buy shipment release.

I gots one!

My wife and I drove 8 hours Thursday night so I could be in line by 5AM or so at the Best Buy in a certain big city. As it turns out, we were early, arriving shortly after 3:30AM. And that was a damn good thing, as I was already 28th in line at this time. Luckily, 11 people in front of me were in line for PS3s, so I picked up lucky Wii 17. By 4AM, the 24 Wiis were spoken for, but that didn't stop another 50 plus people from lining up for disappointment, until Best Buy handed out tickets at 8AM.

Standing / sitting in line for over 6 hours in total (including an hour after the tickets were handed out) was quite the experience. It wasn't a terrible morning, weather-wise, but it sure started to feel cold after a few minutes. And I didn't come prepared at all, as I underestimated how long I was going to have to be in line and how cold it would be before the sun came up. The people in line were pretty good--Nintendo fanboys all around. (In fact, the line was dominated by people seeking the 24 Wiis, rather than the 14 PS3s that were available--the Wiis actually sold out first.)

I certainly would never want to do anything like that ever again. But it was so very much worth it this time! Because of this change of plans, I had my new Wii with me as we visited our out of town family, and we had some great times playing Wii Sports and creating Miis.

I set up my Wii at home this morning before work and finally played some Zelda. Ah, bliss! I have another 50-some hours of Zelda fun ahead of me in the next few months.

I also already spent 1900 Wii points on some classic NES and Sega games for the Virtual Console. I can't wait until some of my favourites are available (Super Mario Kart!). The Wiimote works surprisingly well as an NES controller when turned on its side.

So, anyway, enough about the Wii... back to reading "The God Delusion."