A Load of Bright
An atheist's views on religion and the supernatural

A Tribute to Ebon Musings

Previously I have posted tribute articles to The Skeptic’s Dictionary and Derren Brown. I now intend to develop this theme into an ongoing series in which I will show my gratitude to the people who have inspired me and humbled me by greatly influencing my thinking, and the course my life has taken.

This edition will look at the website Ebon Musings, which is the parent site of the popular blog Daylight Atheism. When Christians hand me fliers in the street, I always stop to talk to them and try to get them to agree to a quid pro quo; I’ll read something of yours, but please read something of mine. I always accept their literature whether they agree to it or not, but if they consent, I give them two websites: this one, so that they can email me via the ‘contact’ link as much as anything else, and Ebon Musings.

The site was introduced to me by my friend, the author of Evanescent, at a time when I was seriously re-examining my views on religion. I had come to realise that I was spectacularly ill-informed on the subject, and as I developed an interest in the relevant issues, I began to crave knowledge to fill the vacuum. He referred me to Ebon Musings, and I read every last article (around 100) in just over a month. It was like taking a crash course. I was intrigued by the absence of an “about the author” section, and was endeared by the modesty that omission portrayed. Assuming him to be someone with a near lifetime of reading and education behind him, perhaps a professor, I was truly astounded when I later learned that he was, in fact, six months my junior. I can honestly say that I know of no other resource offering such a detailed and wide ranging collection of essays on so many issues relating to monotheistic religion, written in such a lucid and concise manner. I will give a brief overview of the site and mention some articles that particularly spoke to me, and then ask you kindly to see for yourself (if you haven’t all ready).

The site is split into two sections – The Evolution Pages and The Atheism Pages. The Evolution pages are split in to two sections again, one on Evolution and one on Creationism. The Evolution section is compiled of seven articles explaining what evolution is and how it works, and just as importantly what it is not. This was a definite grey spot for me, and I was fascinated to learn about one of the most important discoveries in our history. The commonly circulated myths like evolution is just a theory and astronomer Fred Hoyle’s junkyard tornado are truly busted here. Ebonmuse goes on to critique creationism with ten articles explaining why intelligent design is not science and why we should fight against it, among other things.

The Atheism Pages are split into three sections of the author’s own writings, as well as offering other resources, such as guest essays and deconversion stories (including, I’m proud to say, my own). The Foundational Essays are described as the ‘core’ of the site. Seven articles here “refute theistic belief, justify atheism from the ground up, and lay out the foundation for an atheistic worldview”. I particularly recommend A Ghost in the Machine, which is a powerful rebuttal against the existence of a human soul; The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick, which offers an atheistic system of morality and Unmoved Mover, where the so called logical arguments for God’s existence are sent packing.

The next section, Building Blocks, consists of articles which “critically examine more specific tenets of religious belief and present additional arguments in favor of atheism”. Of particular note here, Infinite Punishment for Finite Sins which demonstrates how the doctrine of Hell cannot be reconciled with a benevolent creator; God is Love where Ebonmuse highlights the intellectual redundancy of liberal theism; and Let the Stones Speak, a meticulously researched argument that archaeology does not confirm, but is actually at considerable discrepancy with the Old Testament.

The third section, Meditations, is introduced thus: “Miscellaneous writings on a variety of topics, most related to atheism and theism, some not. Rants, humorous pieces, and general odds and ends”. From a large section of captivating essays, I advise allowing these to jump the queue: Red Crimes, which debunks the frustrating, ever reoccurring accusation that Stalin’s communist Soviet Union was a demonstration of atheistic atrocity; The New Ten Commandments, which featured in Richard Dawkins bestseller The God Delusion; and In Awe of Everything, which shows that far from being a dark and pessimistic view of life, atheism entails a deep sense of spirituality.

Ebon Musings also offers a section of book reviews on apologetic authors. Michael Behe, C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel are among the writers discussed. As Ebonmuse rightly points out, it is important to keep an open mind, and the arguments from Christians should not be dismissed out of hand, but properly and fairly evaluated. That task is carried out with devastating efficiency in this section.

To this day, I still enjoy revisiting Ebon Musings and picking out an essay at random to read. There isn’t one there that can’t stand a second visit, and although I have only highlighted a handful here, there are many, many more that I would strongly recommend. I have previously said that Daylight Atheism is the best atheist blog available, but I would hate to see Ebon Musings residing in its shadow. It is just as important, if not more so, to our message. I offer it as the first port of call for any theist who is prepared to question his beliefs, and for any atheist who feels strongly about religion but lacks the background of knowledge to complement his passion. Having said that, even the most widely read and clued up of atheists could learn a thing or two, at the very least. Its impact on me was massive, and the reverberations, I hope, will continue for many years to come. One thing I am certain of, is that were it not for Ebon Musings, this blog would not exist.

Other posts in this series:

A Tribute to Derren Brown

A Tribute to The Skeptic’s Dictionary

5 Responses to “A Tribute to Ebon Musings”

  1. Huzzah! Warmly seconded.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I was already an atheist (mostly thanks to Douglas Adams) when I discovered the Ebon Musings atheism pages, but they were, in a way, my inspiration to change the direction of my philosophical blog towards atheism, and it was that change, and the fact that I began to read other atheist blogs, that made me think of Planet Atheism, a couple of years later.

    I also loved the mention of Ebonmuse’s new 10 Commandments in “The God Delusion”. It was fun to be reading them, and to think to myself, “hey, I know these!”. 🙂

  3. On another newsgroup some time ago, we (a few like minded atheists and many theists) had a long discussion about something called the “Atheist Narrative”. Seems that many feel that atheism as a world view has a problem capturing the hearts and minds of the populace unless it can come up with a proper narrative to live by. Christians have theirs, Republicans have theirs, etc. It, as I understood it, includes the basics upon which you see yourself living in the world. It includes your personal philosophy, your sense of right and wrong, how you react to the world, etc. It’s sort of like the software that runs you.

    After discovering the Ebonmuse site (from the reference in “The God Delusion”), I felt that contained within all the articles and “musings” therein, I had found a working framework for the Atheist Narrative we had been discussing months before. I printed out most of the essays, and still have them in a folder on my night table next to my bed. I especially found the Carrot and the Stick essay apropos. That site and his blog are in my Blogroll. I really think that his essays comprise the most cohesive articulation of atheism, in one place, that I’ve been able to find.

  4. Thank you, my friend! I’m humbled by your kind words, but I’m truly overjoyed to hear my writings have been a helpful guide to you. I can’t claim too much credit, though: I think that at most, I set you a little earlier on a path that you would have found for yourself sooner or later. The clarity and eloquence of your writing convinces me that you had a seed of freethought inside you just waiting for a chance to blossom.

    In the years I’ve been writing for Ebon Musings (six years this summer, believe it or not!), I’ve met a large number of amazing and brilliant people, some theist, some atheist and some still trying to decide. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to interact with them and the many ways they’ve shaped my thinking in return. I think the idea of an isolated genius working alone is largely a myth; most of our greatest insights come from interactions with each other. In that respect the site is more like a collected series of conversations than a monologue, which probably made it only natural that I’d sooner or later create a site like Daylight Atheism and the even greater interactivity it offers.

    Truth be told, Ebon Musings began life as a private site. Hence the name, which (at least to me) was evocative
    of ideas one only dares to explore while lying in bed late at night, the best time for cosmic thoughts. At first I wanted to write down my thoughts and opinions just for my own sake, to render them more solid and better defined.

    For that reason, the absence of an “about the author” page was deliberate. At first it was because I wanted to be completely anonymous. Later on, as I felt more grounded in my beliefs and more comfortable about speaking to the world and not just to myself, it evolved into a way to get visitors to focus on my arguments rather than on me personally. I knew that if I talked in detail about my own life, I’d get theist visitors who would sidestep every fact I presented and instead try to psychoanalyze me to determine the “real” cause of my atheism. (Granted, some try to do that anyway.) But over the years I’ve become more convinced than ever that we should put ourselves before the world and speak what’s on our minds. If I’ve convinced even one person to do that, then I think that is the achievement I’m most proud of.

  5. I’ll chime in and say that I am especially glad that Ebonmusings contained so much great thinking on non-theistic morality. I may or may not have become a full-fledged moral relativist, but I would definitely have taken much longer to form my ideas about a coherent morality in the absence of divine dictates.
    Also, the information about the OT archaeology and some of the other thoughts on the Bible’s (in)accuracy are really helpful. I haven’t read Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens, yet, but if/when Adam comes out with a book, it’ll immediately be at the top of my to-read list.

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