Common Christian Apologists
And The Fine-Tuning Argument
In the letter "Common Christian Apologists: How To Debate Them," you give links discussing the Anthropic Principle. I think you should add "The Fine-Tuning Argument" (1998), an article by Drange that raises some points Stenger has missed.
You'll hear more from me when I have more net-time.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Victor Gijsbers"
Subject: Re: Anthropic Principle link (after more time to think)
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 18:41:02 -0700
I am trying to contact Drange to get permission both to post and to reprint some of his articles. In the interim, I've gone ahead and appended your letter with a link to the Infidels piece.
A better solution would be if someone in the field (such as yourself) would put together a short piece summarizing the positions of both men. If you did this, I would place it as the feature piece in a print edition, and would link it from all discussions on this topic. I'd even give it a link from the Front Page as I did with the Stenger interview when it came out. Such a piece would surely give us a leg-up in this discussion. Even though some of the ideas would be original to Stenger and Drange respectively, a review of the common arguments (with a discussion on their relative merits and possibly some examples of how to use the various arguments) is in order, and would be most useful. Such a piece could even make our FAQ section (which is currently being updated among all my other projects).
Meanwhile, I'm glad you're back, and hope you'll be able to find time to help us continue to make this project what your earlier work has made it. Your work earlier this year is singly responsible for renewing my spark of interest in working on the webpage. Without your work, the task of just catching up seemed so insurmountable that at one point I was ready to give up on my prospects for ever being able to catch up. Now, I am even further behind than I though I was when you started, but I have a firm grasp of what is involved in keeping tabs on the Letters section, and I have developed some great automation macros in WordPerfect 2000 (version 9). Perhaps I could even dupe you a copy of the installation CD and you could see if it works in the Netherlands. If so, I'd be able to get you a licensed copy.
How do you like the face-lift I gave to the Letters section? I have discovered almost 600 old letters files that have not been formatted, and am slowly working on those. I took a break a few days ago to convert John E. Remsberg's classic The Christ which has no Internet presence right now. I am a little over halfway done with it and will get back to the Letters as soon as I am done with Remsberg.
Also, check out the pieces associated with "The Semantic Dance of Pantheism" which describes a bold new thought I've had as to the definition for Positive Atheism as we use it here. "Semantic Dance" is way long, but summaries can be found in "Atheists Of The Deep South: Stay In Your Closets!" by Bill Garrett and "Your Style Of Atheism Could Reduce Atheists' Stigma" by James Darpinian. Mostly, though, I was able to hammer down a better understanding and expression of the "weak" definition for atheism during this dialogue.
Here is the speech I gave at a recent convention featuring Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, which also summarizes my current goals for the meaning of the philosophy of "Positive Atheism" as developed during the "Semantic Dance" dialogues and the peripheral conversations among those who were observing this match; this is the original draft, which was later shortened for the presentation (a copy of which, I, alas, don't have, because I shortened it "on the fly" while standing at the podium):
July 29, 2000
Positive Atheism is a magazine and a budding philosophy. Next month, Cliff Walker will have completed 60 issues -- five years -- of a monthly atheistic magazine. This little nothing of a magazine, which doesn't sell enough subscriptions to even pay for itself, has accomplished much since Cliff began working independently -- on the day y'all were enjoying the first annual Oregon Atheist Symposium.
Positive Atheism takes on atheists as well as theists: nobody is special around here. We took on the brilliant author Michael Shermer and published his rebuttal to our criticism. We have publicly challenged United States Atheists, but they chose not to respond. We have called American Atheists to the mat several times, and on each occasion save one, they have printed or posted our criticism of their position. On a few occasions, American Atheists ended up agreeing with us and changing its position. Most importantly, American Atheists is, with us, shunning the caustic style popularized by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, in favor of working toward Separation of State and Church, striving for atheist dignity, and quietly defending the atheistic position against its critics. In fact, Positive Atheism is the only outside publication that American Atheists has recommended since the demise of O'Hair, and we are regularly asked to comment on controversial material before it goes to publication.
To supplement this little two-bit publication, Positive Atheism has a small website that recently registered over 45 megabytes of material online, and has logged over 55 thousand hits during the past 12 months. This includes such works as the entire 800-page Rationalism In Europe by William Lecky, and almost all the works of Joseph Lewis, including the 640-page The Ten Commandments. We also boast the only official web presence of Atheist Centre, in Vijayawada, India. Most importantly, though, during the past 22 months, we have added over 425 files to our letters and discussions forum, totaling well over a thousand different letters to and from, from around the world -- including a kind letter by one Dan Barker from almost two years ago.
Most importantly, though, Positive Atheism is a philosophy, consisting currently of four elements:
At first, Positive Atheism was modeled after Gandhi's philosophy of satyagraha, which sets truth and truthfulness as the supreme ethic. Since atheism, by its very nature, calls theism falsehood, it is important for atheists to be truthful in all their affairs.
Over the months, many readers have mistaken the term Positive Atheism to mean uplifting or cooperative or the like. This is fine with us, and has since been incorporated into our definition of Positive Atheism. We recognize that all believers think they have valid reasons for believing that gods exist, and we actively ally ourselves with various religious people and organizations: most recently our move to join the Center for Progressive Christianity. Positive Atheism Magazine even has an official pastor, a seminary student who overviews some of our material for us.
Thirdly, Positive Atheism Magazine advocates the so-called weak definition for the word atheism, meaning the lack of theism, rather than the so-called strong definition which asserts that there are no gods. We have discovered many reasons why it is advantageous for atheistic activists to popularize this definition for the word atheism, even if one is an atheist of the "strong" variety.
Finally, I can remember many times as a boy standing in awe of nature, and of the universe, and of life. But I was raised an atheist, so none of these feelings were ever interpreted within a religious perspective. During a discussion with a Scientific Pantheist, I suggested that he come up with some non-religious language to express the awe and reverence toward the universe that prompted him to become a pantheist -- acknowledging that about half of the Scientific Pantheists are atheistic pantheists in that they shun the religious language of the other pantheists. I recognized that greater thinkers than I have felt this way and become creationists, and then admitted that the religious concepts, applied to the universe, are inadequate to express the feelings I have toward nature. Since then, we have toyed with the idea of including, as an option, this sense of awe and wonder and respect for nature within the framework of the philosophy of Positive Atheism.
And all this is taking place not five miles from here.
Finally, I have not announced it formally, but my decision is to commit to doing the print edition of "Positive Atheism" for at least another five years, and to keep it as the main point of the website. At the ten-year mark, I will again decide what to do with it -- unless something fantastic comes up in the meantime. When I first started with "Critical Thinker," I set five years as a point were I will sit back and decide which directions, if any, I will take this project. The only thing I am thinking of doing right now is purchasing a laser printer to do my own printing. I am also hoping that someone in Europe will be able to distribute copies of the magazine there, as postage costs prohibits me from doing it from here. I also wish to get a 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service so that individuals and organizations may contribute and then deduct those contributions from their income when their taxes are assessed. This would also open the door to getting grants from various philanthropic organizations.
Cliff Walker "Positive Atheism"
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.