Sometimes I peruse some of the older posts on blogs that I frequent and it leads me down some interesting rabbit holes. Going through some of PZ Myers' old stuff I came across a book review, which lead me to an apologist's blog, which lead me to a curious entry from said apologist wherein he claims that skepticism and freethought are cowardly positions to take.
I thought I would address some things about his piece:
1) I highly doubt he makes a good skeptic.
Bob, on the other hand, is making a definitive statement that he is prepared to back up.
Since Bob in this case presents the theist and is willing to make positive statements that he is prepared to back up...where is the backing up of Xianity? Why can no one put forth coherent, cogent, and compelling reasons to actually believe?
3) Um, causality does not always hold in the quantum world - so the gotcha put forth is not really a gotcha after all.
4) The big bang shows that the universe was not eternal and unchanging, not that the singularity popped out of nothingness. But, time is an element of the behavior of light in this universe, and so asking about time "before" the big bang may very well be meaningless. Causality also happens to be a concept that depends on time and the laws of physics, which the author points out break down during the big bang, thus defeating his own argument.
5) The reason for the argument that the universe must have a cause is so that the theist can seize upon the idea that goddidit. This is nothing more than a fallacious god of the gaps argument, however, and further it leads to turtles all the way down once one asks what caused god. (The theist will reply that god is uncaused which is special pleading, or that god is uncaused and eternal and therefore didn't come into being and does not need a cause, which is also special pleading and destroys usual Xian ideas that god is perfect and unchanging in the process.)
But, all that aside, the reason I wrote this is because he seriously misconstrues why it's brave to be a skeptic! Sure, in terms of the belief itself, it's a bit more brave to put oneself out there and make a claim that could be wrong. It's more rational to hold the atheist's position, and therefore safer in a way, but that completely misses the point.
Going against the herd is always difficult, especially for social animals like humans. The easy thing to do is put one's head down and simply agree with the rest of the people around you and mouth your prayers and hymns to a god that you don't believe in. Doing this at least gets you peace and quiet.
People have, throughout recorded history, been killed for the sins of apostasy, blasphemy, and heretical thought. Socrates was killed for his heretical stance that went against the political tides. But, even now people can still be killed in many parts of the world for not believing in a specific deity or conforming to the beliefs of the majority, whether it's fatwas in the Muslim world or people performing abortions in the Bible belt. Being a skeptic raises the ire of the people who fervently believe and puts the skeptic at risk simply for daring to have different thoughts and a rational standard of necessary evidence before swallowing the superstitious claims of theists.
When Madalyn Murray O'Hair stood up to protest school prayer, she was called the "most hated woman in America."
Vocal atheists like Justin Vacula routinely receive hate mail.
Webster Cook was threatened with bodily harm and death for taking a communion wafer and not eating it, which touched off the whole "Crackergate" controversy.
Damon Fowler) has received death threats, intolerance from school officials and fellow students, been thrown out of his house by his own bigoted parents and forced to move 6 hours away to a new state and live with his brother and all for skepticism.
It would be much easier for all of them and all of the rest of us to just be quiet and not rock the boat. We could sit there and watch as the majority runs roughshod all over our rights and tries to silence us all through abuse and threats of violence, but many people don't. Many people take the skeptical stance and stand up to be counted. Many people don't simply accept what's been spoon-fed to them all their lives and don't simply go with the herd. That's what's brave about it.