Pennsylvania atheist/humanist conference in September

From September 28-30, in Harrisburg, PA, there will be a gathering of non-believing heretics and other good folk in good ol’ central PA (AKA Pennsyltucky).  Not far from the Amish (which, for some reason get conflated with the Quakers, with whom I am much more familiar and which have a very different history), these conference-goers will get a chance to mingle with such luminaries as Dan Barker, Dave Silverman, Herb Silverman, Jamila Bey, Michael Newdow, Sharon Hill, and Sam Singleton!

In short, it’s the 2012 Atheist Conference in Pennsylvania at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harrisburg, PA.

In recent years, more states have organized local conferences, and it is a sign that the larger community of reason is becoming more complex.  There have long been such conferences, but most have been on the national level (or international level, in the case of AAI), with  fewer at the local/state level.  There has been, of course, the United Coalition of Reason (COR), with it’s local chapters (including the PhillyCoR led by my friend Staks Rosch).

And, having been an activist for a number of years, having lived in PA for the vast majority of that time, I of course should be going, right?

Well, probably not.  Since I have been unemployed for a few months (I will be starting work within the next couple of weeks, but not in time to have money for the conference, most likely), I have not had extra money for such endeavors, and so it looks like I will not be able to make this conference.  I had considered doing just Saturday, but since I no longer own a car I will be relying on a bus, which I may end up doing anyway if I decide to go.

But if you are in the area and you have the means to go, I encourage you to do so.  And if you have an extra seat for me, I’ll come along!

Meh, worth a try….


Opinion and objective reality; abortion


If there is any topic more charged than religion (even though it is usually so charged due to religious ideas), that is it.

So, this was posted today on my lovely girlfriend’s blog ( about a facebook discussion which was itself about some PA legislation which will create problems for women’s health in the state.

I’m mobile, so I want to keep this short.  Everyone is legally entitled to their opinions ad beliefs, but we are not logically or rationally entitled to them.

The reason this is the case is that there is an objective world out there (ok, there is an inter-subjective world which we share and of which we have no direct knowledge–but I risk envoking Kant here so I shall return to the question at hand).

In any case, we share access to empirical facts about the real world, and any proposition, fact, and value we have access to is subject to that world.  We have to test those things againt our empirical methodologies.  We have to test our opinions against reality.

And this is true for all subjects of consideration.  It is true of religious beliefs, moral declarations, facts about the nature of reality, etc.  The certainty we can have about a fact is relative to the amount of empirical information we have about it.

And with abortion, we have access to a lot of information.  Fetuses are not sentient.  They have not conscioussness nor conscience.  They have no souls (whatever those things are supposed to be).  They are not people.  They might become people, but they are not people. 

Adult women are people.  They are sentient, conscious, and their consciences are usually in full swing when they are contemplating such a heavy proposition as getting an abortion.  Until the thing growing in them approaches any level of sentience or awareness, she has every right to get rid of it as she would any parasite, bacteria, etc.

There is no reason—moral, rational, or religious—to be anti-choice.