Archive for atheist

Atheists, Theists and Skepticism.

Posted in atheism, skepticism with tags , , on September 26, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Gather a group of skeptics together and you will find that they will talk about almost anything with a critical outlook.  Whether it is the latest alternative medical claim, psychic expose, or quantum gizmo the conversations flow like a floodgate released.  Many in the community revel in such discussions since often it is difficult to be able to talk with the average person on the street and have equal understanding.  The one topic however that is considered taboo by some is that of religion.

Many skeptics self identify as atheist or agnostic as well and as such have no problem delving into the dubious nature of many theistic claims.  There are times though where we encounter the Theistic Skeptic, and when this happens there is and admonishment against making them feel uncomfortable.  This was the message that we recieved from TAM 7 in July from Master of Ceremonies Hal Bidlack.

On a recent episode of The Non-Prophets, Matt Dillahunty talked about the separation of skepticism and atheism.  Matt was pointing out that atheism can be traced to a skeptical outlook.  It is a valid observation, I myself credit my burgeoning skepticism with my own deconversion from Mormonism.   The problem with equating skepticism to atheism however is that not all atheists are skeptics.

To be an atheist is simple, just lack a believe in any god(s).  To be a skeptic requires a more critical approach to life separate from personal beliefs.  I have known atheists who are anti-vax, follow “spiritualism”, believe that 9/11 was an inside job and more.   Some equate science to being a religion, and groups of atheists getting together for a common goal as indoctrination.

There is of course a lot of overlap between the 2 but at least in our local groups in Edmonton we felt that the distinction was enough to separate them.  With this separation we have drawn some to the Edmonton Skeptics and others to the Society of Edmonton Atheists.   Both of these groups are great to attend but they also have different dynamics.

As for the theistic skeptics however their unease of more theological discussions occurring in social settings should not be a call to quash such talk, but rather for them to examine their own position a bit more critically.  Free and open discourse is key to the skeptical movement, it may be better for official organizations like the JREF or Michael Shermer’s Skeptic Society to steer away from heavy involvement in religious debunking.  On the social one on one level however such limits can push people away.

Regarding the “Authenticity Required” argument.

Posted in activism, atheism with tags , , , , , on February 22, 2009 by Northernskeptic

This started out as a reply to an old friend on my last post, but I think that it warrants a deeper look. Many friends, family, commenters, and the bishop who came to my house have said that the Mormon church needs to confirm the veracity of my request to remove my name from their records. On the surface this may sound like a reasonable argument, but when examined through the critical eye there are blatant holes that cause it to fall flat.

The argument mainly relies on the “what if” scenario of a fraudulent removal request, in this case some ne’er do well falsely resigns another person from the church. In this case the victim should have nothing to worry about, because first and foremost God wouldn’t fall for it (he is after all omniscient).

As for the local effects say that member records removes him/her, then passes that on to the Stake, then to the Ward, logically the individual’s continued attendance would be noticed and the bishop could easily ask for confirmation without being required to go to the person’s home. A quick e-mail/phone call and the matter is resolved. Alternately if this occurs as a member is moving, then it would be caught almost immediately since the members will ask to have their records transferred to the new Ward and/or Stake.

The church itself did not even acknowledge this as a reason in their official correspondence with me. They simply referred to the matter as ecclesiastical in nature, which required local priesthood leaders to contact me (see their response letter here). The bishop visited me 2 days after receiving their letter, I was out so he left his phone #, which I called about a half hour before my interview on Q Transmissions. I explained in no uncertain terms that I was to be removed from their records and that the letter was not an invitation for proselytization. A couple days after that he came to the house again acknowledging the receipt of my phone message (which call display would have confirmed it as coming from me) but still requiring a face to face. Once again I had to tell him to remove me, and expressed my displeasure at the hurdles being placed in my way. It wasn’t until this point that he mentioned authentication being required. I was not asked to sign any documents, my ID was not requested, and I did not have to confirm my last recorded address that the church had. A couple of days later the bishop dropped a letter off indicating that he had sent the paperwork to the member records. I have yet to receive confirmation from member records despite nearly 3 weeks passing since the last letter from the bishop.

I have found that it is easier to quit a job with a resignation letter than it has been to quit the church. I will be sending yet another letter to the church if I have not received confirmation of my removal by the first week of March. This new letter will not be as nice since this ordeal has been going on since the original letter was sent on December 12, 2008 and it is currently February 22, 2009 over 2 months later.

Returning to the original topic of authentication, as Janine said in the comments on my previous post that there may be some truth in this The Science Pundit did point out that there is a reasonable limit. What could have been a quick matter has been stretched out needlessly, I for one will be glad when this is finally over. Stay tuned as we await the final chapter to my resignation from the mormon church.

Thanks again to SP and Janine their comments on my last blog post inspired this one.

Wow where have I been? Mormon resignation update.

Posted in activism, atheism with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by Northernskeptic

I know it has been a while since I last posted, and for that I do apologize to those who are reading. I just wanted to give an update to my ordeal with the Mormon church.

I did get a visit from the local bishop and made it absolutely clear to him my displeasure regarding the unnecessary hoops I was being made to jump through. I made sure my tone was polite but firm. A couple of days later he dropped off a letter confirming that my request was being processed, I am still waiting for the “official word” from member records but for now it looks like I will be getting my wish.

To those of you who have supported me through this as it has been a far more emotional ride than I anticipated, and my good friends in the skeptical community at large were integral to the process. I eagerly look forward to having a celebration once I get the final notice from the church.

PZ Myers in Edmonton!

Posted in atheism, skepticism, The Amaz!ng Meeting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Recently PZ was in Edmonton to debate Kirk Durston on the existence of a personal god. Well Durston’s arguments were atrocious full of the usual strawmen, false-dichotomys, and post-hoc fallacies we’ve come to expect from apologists. It was educational to watch PZ show how a god is not needed to produce complexity from an evolutionary standpoint, otherwise it was a case of dogmatism being blind to reality on Durston’s part.

The fun in the evening really got going at the obligatory Pharyngufest afterwards at RATT in SUB on the UofA campus. PZ was the center of attention but was very accomodating even allowing me to request that our picture together was with drink in hand. The most amusing part though was when I asked and he signed my copy of “Death From The Skies” by Phil Plait

Thanks again to CFI Calgary for organizing the Lecture at the UofC which I also attended. Thanks also go to UAAA in cooperation with Campus for Christ for putting the debate in Edmonton together.

And now for some pictures, courtesy of my friends Marc-Julien and Bill



.....and drink!

.....and drink!

Hmmm what could he be signing?

Hmmm what could he be signing?

One of my favourite books.

One of my favourite books.

Now wait until I go to TAM this year and get Phil Plait to sign it.

Now wait until I go to TAM this year and get Phil Plait to sign it.

Mormon Response to My Resignation Letter

Posted in activism, atheism with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Today I received the long awaited response letter to my resignation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Needless to say I am not happy with their response. Not only did they refuse to process my request, they sent my letter to the local stake president so that he in turn can send the bishop that covers my area to me.

I will be using Mormon No More again to help set these guys straight. In the meantime I’m including scans of the letter and the pamphlet for your amusement (minus my return address for my roommates sake) and my obligatory dramatic reading from YouTube

Mormon Response Letter



Q Transmissions: This Week

Posted in activism, atheism, Q Transmissions with tags , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2009 by Northernskeptic

This week Heather and Desiree are going to be discussing losing your religion with a very special guest….ME!

I’m going to be talking about my life and background and what brought me from devout mormon to skeptical atheist activist.

Please tune in to hear my story and call if you wish to ask me questions about my life.

Resignation Letter Update.

Posted in activism with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2009 by Northernskeptic

I recieved confirmation that my letter was recieved on December 22 in Utah (it paid to use registered mail), now I am merely waiting for their reply.