Whether you’re of a religious bent or you favor a more naturalist view of the world, these resources are well worth the effort to review. For the religiously inclined, exploring supposed flaws and inconsistencies in your faith can either help you to better understand and concretize your world views or it can allow you to honestly evaluate those views against new criteria.
Those who are not religiously inclined will find that understanding some of the myriad religions, especially those prevalent where you live, gives you new perspectives. I have personally found it very enriching to actually read the bible and to be able to recognize its influences on other literature and media.
There are a few problems with using the word “atheist” to identify one’s religious affiliation. Strictly speaking everybody’s an atheist. It really just depends which god(s) you choose not to believe in. Most Christians could be considered atheists where Thor is concerned for example.
Another issue is that the word is so very charged. Every word has a degree of charge, ranging on a spectrum from Positive, through Neutral to Negative. Calling someone a “Freethinker” or a “Humanist” brings about subtle, yet important connotations versus labeling them as “atheist” even though we may understand rationally that they all imply the same things.
The other really big problem with the word “atheist” is that it defines someone, who has no stake or attaches no significance to religion, in religious terms. So the label is misleading.
Being a-theist or non-theist is very different from being anti-theist. This can be a subtle distinction, but it is one that most people get wrong.
Regardless of your religious leanings, developing your skeptical toolkit is paramount and so these skeptic resources are very useful. I believe that skepticism and religious faith can and do coexist well together. Whether traditional religions can withstand skeptical inquiry is perhaps another question, but if skepticism leaves your faith intact but not the institution representing it, well you can decide what to make of that…
Some of my favorite resources:
The Institute for Humanist Studies – Humanism, per their website, is “a philosophy of life inspired by humanity and guided by reason. It provides the basis for a fulfilling and ethical life without religion.” They have a pretty good monthly podcast if you want to keep abreast of developments or if you’re simply interested in hearing folks discuss Humanist topics. They have several links on their site that may also be of interest but I have not perused these.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation – A major objective of this group is to maintain the separation of Church and State. This is something that is in everybody’s interest as, with so MANY religions including sects within these religions, if any one were to gain authority as the state religion what do you suppose would happen to all the others? And what do you suppose are the odds that your religion would emerge victorious? No, the freedom to practice your religion, or to not practice any religion at all, rests with ensuring that no group, not even humanists / atheist / freethinkers, gets into a position to dictate how the citizens of this country may pursue their faith.
I enjoy listening to their weekly podcast – also on Air America – it can be a bit corny at times (I’m not a real fan of their brand of music) and sometimes one of the show’s co-hosts, Annie Laurie Gaylor, can seem a bit strident at times. But they do have a lot of relevant things to say.
An added bonus is that the other co-host, Dan Barker, is actually a former minister. His knowledge of the bible and Christian teachings is extensive and gives him a solid background for when he conducts interviews or offers editorials.
American Freethought – I have only recently started listening to their podcast and have not had a chance to thoroughly check out their website. The podcast seems to come out every 2-3 weeks. Right out of the gate it was professionally done and obviously carefully prepared. They seem to focus more or less on a single issue per episode and I find them to be quite appealing. The background of one of the hosts involves a fair amount of activity in this realm (non-theism) and he brings some good insights to the show. I don’t know about the other host’s background as I don’t see much about him on the site, but he is also very engaging and they make a solid duo.
There are a plethora of freethinker, humanist and other non-theist resources available. Probably you can find most of them through the links in the sites above. But, with a day job and other interests, these are the ones that I’ve had the chance to check out and would recommend.
Oh, and no list would be complete without including Mr. Deity. This video series (they are still producing new shows) pokes fun at some of the inconsistencies or perceptions of the Judeo-Christian faith and expand on them. Apparently a number of religious groups show these at their gatherings to use as talking points, so they can’t be all that offensive. But they are entertaining.