Our Science Wedding

Posted on 21st March 2011 by Ryan Somma in Ionian Enchantment - Tags: ,
Mad Scientist Groom and His Lovely Bride
Mad Scientist Groom and His Lovely Bride

Atheist, agnostic, humanist, secularist, skeptic, empiricist, Ockhamist, and Patafarianist are all different flavors of the philosophy of life my wife and I share, but Vicky and I prefer the term “Spiritual Naturalist” to describe the deeply fulfilling sense of wonder we get from engaging the natural world around us. This ionian enchantment, as it’s known, emerges from an understanding that our reality is comprehensible through natural scientific laws, and just as members of the plethora of diverse religions of the world celebrate their spiritualism in sanctifying their marriages, we wanted to celebrate our sense of wonder for the world on our wedding day.

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Evolution Sunday

Posted on 10th February 2008 by Ryan Somma in science holidays - Tags: ,

Today more than 618 Congregations across America and five nations will participate in Evolution Sunday. More than 10,000 ministers have signed the letter supporting the idea that science and religion are not incompatible, and support for Evolution Sunday grew 13 per cent to 530 congregations in 2007.

Several years ago, I was married to a very open-minded and warm-hearted Born Again Christian woman. Despite our differing perspectives on theology, me being an Atheist, we did work perpetually to understand one another’s point of view. I read the Bible cover to cover and began attending my wife’s church, Christ and Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk VA, an incredibly ornate church, hundreds of years old, which provided an unlikely place to find Enlightenment values.

While I still disagreed with many of the church’s teachings, I was willing to entertain them in order to challenge and refine my own ideas. Similarly, this church regularly entertained the ideas of other theologies, hosting representatives of spiritual philosophies that were completely incompatible with Christian teachings, such as Buddhists and New Age spiritualists. When the theologian Huston Smith gave a talk at the church, the Reverend followed it with the statement, “While you all know I disagree strongly with many things Mr. Smith has said…” he then proceeded to emphasize only those things they agreed on.

Many Creationists have stong criticisms for churches that take part in today’s activities, and many scientists have strong criticisms of the whole idea too. Such criticisms reduce debate to a zero-sum game, where one side can only win through the complete and utter defeat of their opponents. My message to the folks on both sides of the aisle who take such a perspective: enjoy pushing your boulder up the mountain forever.

Meanwhile, those of us with a bit more political savvy know that disputation is a game of inches, like American football, where we all work to nudge the ideal mean a bit closer toward our goal. I’m an atheist, and it’s doubtful many religious people read my blog, so my nudging is for what I think my fellow Brights need to take from Evolution Sunday, which will ultimately nudge the ideal mean in direction better for everyone. I think Michael Zimmerman put it best himself:

[Evolution Sunday] is designed to provide an opportunity for congregations around the world to discuss the compatibility of religion and science, to investigate why religion and modern science need not be at war with one another. The event is designed to demonstrate that those shrill fundamentalist voices that assert that people must choose between religion and science are simply incorrect, that they are presenting a false dichotomy, that no such choice needs to be made.

Got that? False Dichotomy, and that goes for us atheists too. It is possible for person who looks at Evolution without an invisible hand guiding it and a person who believes in that invisible hand to have a healthy conversation about the science of evolution without their pro or con invisible hand positions entering the conversation in any way, shape, or form. Why alienate each other over something so trivial?

Despite our many quibbles, human beings of all faiths, politics, and none of the above all overwhelming believe in and work to ensure our common welfare. Religious and non-religious people need to remember that, if all the members of one side were to vanish tomorrow, the other would be in a world of hurt without their fellow humans’ daily altruistic contributions to our common society.

The Clergy Letter Project has a large collection of sermons written by clergy and religious leaders across the U.S.

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Flying Spaghetti Monster on My Desk (Shhhh… Let’s see if they notice.)

Posted on 28th January 2008 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior - Tags: ,

A friend gave me this ultra-nifty handy-dandy spifferific crocheted FSM for the Winter Solstice Holiday Season, and since FSM is my co-pilot, I’ve placed it on my desk for all to appreciate.

FSM is My Co-Pilot
FSM is My Co-Pilot

Here’s the thing. I work for the Federal Government on a Coast Guard Base. We are prohibited from religious displays, so I’m officially breaking the rules. The people I work with are not allowed to hang up crosses, stars of davidzes, etc on their desks. This has come up before, and management asserts that it is a Federally-mandated no-no.

But here’s the other thing. Nobody knows what the heckskies FSM is, so they don’t know it’s religious. Dig?

But here’s another other thing! Even if they did know what it is, by asking me to take it down, they’d be acknowleding Pastafarianism as an actual religion! Thus derriding their own religion!!!

And here’s another other other thing!!! Pastafarianism isn’t really a religion, it’s a mockery of religion; therefore, the FSM on my desk is actually a symbol of secularism!!!

Bwa-Ha-Ha!!! Somebody call the Supreme Court in to figure this one out. I’m not afraid to face SCOTUS!!! First thing I’d do is kick Justice Scalia in the balls!!!

I have absolutely no idea if I’m breaking the Federal rules or not, and I’m chasing logical loopdeeloos around in my head trying to figure it out, and now I… I… I’m feeling kinda dizzy and seasick…

Okay… bye now.

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Atheist Sunday School

Posted on 16th December 2007 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior - Tags:

Secularists are realizing more and more the importance of organization. Religious folk propagate and reinforce their beliefs with weekly gatherings at formal institutions called “churches,” where they develop an extended social network of other human beings sharing the same beliefs. It’s a fantastic tool for community building and providing a support group that helps to ensure the health and well being of its members.

That’s why I support the idea of Atheist Sunday Schools, recently covered in Time Magazine.

There are all ready many communities online and off, like Atheist Parenting Groups and the American Humanist Association.

The American Founding Fathers can provide guidance on how to conduct such a weekly community-building exercise. Many of them were Deists, who believed that god’s word was found in the natural world, not in books written by men. Secularists don’t need to find god in nature, but there’s nothing wrong in finding meaning and purpose in the appreciation of the natural world.

I could imagine Atheist Sunday Sermons beginning like this:

Let us now read from the Jurassic period, where the fossil record describes a time when…

Let us now read from the field of Quantum Theory, where experiments reveal to us a world where…

Let us now read from the Hubble Telescope, and appreciate the unfathomable enormity of the cosmos and quintillions of possibilities available within its scope…

Where religious Sunday schools are an exercise in imaginative fantasy, atheist Sunday schools should be an exercise in appreciating measurable, quantifiable, and reproducible reality, fostering the virtues of free inquiry and healthy skepticism.