Podcast #14 – Pi Day

Pi Day – March 14 is Pi Day, a celebration of that irrational and transcendental number.  Pi Day has grown to become a celebration of all things mathematical.  For more check out Mike Keith’s cool page, including a mnemonic poem which captures nearly 4,000 digits of pi.  March 14 also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday.

We also talk about the documentary film Article VI: Faith * Politics *America.

We discuss Daniel Dennett’s suggestion that comparative religion classes be compulsory for American schoolchildren.

Finally, a California man stored a dead woman on dry ice “for religious reasons”.

Visit us online at www.AmericanFreethought.com.

Email us at contact@americanfreethought.com – attach voicemail in mp3 or wav format.

Join us for chat at the American Freethought Yahoo Group.

Theme music by Body Found.

Hosted by John C. Snider and David Driscoll.  Recorded 3/31/2008.

To listen to this episode click here.

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5 Responses to Podcast #14 – Pi Day

  1. (Anonymous) says:

    So here’s a general, rather than podcast-specific, comment on your show. In my opinion, usage of the term “freethinker” or “Freethought Society” is contrary to your mission. The term implies that only a non-religious individual can think freely, which while perhaps often the case, is not a fact. I have met plenty of balanced, open-minded, intelligent, and reasonable people of faith. More importantly, it smacks of the same marketing tactics so often employed in politics as well as religion. An obvious example is the naming of the Patriot Act, which by many accounts, including my own, was anything but patriotic. Perhaps I am an anachronism, but I believe that in situations demanding credibility, a name should reflect that which it represents, rather than a marketing opportunity. Use of “freethinker” may ultimately undermine your credibility with those who oppose your views (imagine a Christian organization calling itself “enlightened thought” – you’d scoff). You (we) are atheists – own it.

  2. admin says:


    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    I think I mentioned in the very first podcast that while I certainly own being an atheist, I consider the term to be inadequate as a proactive description of my views. “Atheist = Don’t Believe in God” which says nothing about my overall views on ethics, or anything else. I could be an atheist and be completely intellectually dishonest otherwise, or the kind of person who wishes to force my views on others, or who is utterly intolerant of those who have differing viewpoints. Stalin, for example, was an atheist, but he was no freethinker.

    The word freethinker is a fairly well-defined term that’s been around for the last couple hundred years. The dictionary defines a freethinker as “one who has rejected authority and dogma, esp. in religious thinking, in favor of rational inquiry and speculation”. I mean, I didn’t come up with the word, but at the end of the day, I have to call myself something. I thought about “rationalist” but “freethinker” is generally more recognized and (I thought) well understood.

    Now, I won’t state categorically that a religious person can’t be a freethinker, but it’s hard to imagine your typical Southern Baptist (“God wrote it, I believe it, and that settles it”) fitting into that dictionary definition. Similarly for Catholics, who are, if nothing else, completely bound up in an authoritarian system. If we consider the case of those who might be “spiritual” as opposed to “religious”, they may actually reject authority and dogma, but they can’t talk about “faith without evidence” and at the same time hold that they favor “rational inquiry and speculation”.

    I agree with you that there are plenty of “balanced, open-minded, intelligent, and reasonable people of faith”. But they aren’t freethinkers by (dictionary) definition. I welcome them into the conversation so long as they don’t want to kill me or force me to adhere to their views.

    You make a good point that there are a great many freethinkers who are bigoted pinheads. I make no excuses for them. I agree that I would scoff at Christians claiming to be “enlightenedthinkers”, just as I scoff at the ridiculousness of the name “Catholic” (meaning “Universal”) Church. And if you think about it, the word “Protestant” falls into the same negative-definition trap as the word “atheist”. Protesting, against what?

    Thanks again for the stimulating comments!


  3. Rob Jones says:

    I’ve watched TV specials on Daniel Tammet, while amazing, he doesn’t think the same way the average human does. He learned one of the hardest languages in the world in seven days.

  4. David says:

    Very good point. The way to describe non belief or how to label non believers is always a hot topic. One group is put off by the word atheist, and are now pushing to call non believers Brights. I think the word Freethought is very descriptive as it denotes thinking without the burden of a personal god overlooking your shoulder and is generally less offensive than some of the other labels (like Brights) but it certainly isn’t perfect. I have met many intelligent people of faith as well, but when pushed many will still fall back and reveal the filter that they view life through. We talked about cognitive dissonance in one of our shows and I don’t see how you can be a person of faith without having a lot of cognitive dissonance and intellectual dishonesty. Just to pick on Christians, either they believe I am going to be tortured in hell for eternity because of my lack of faith or they don’t. It really is that simple according to the Dogma. I am a freethinker because I can look at all people without that kind of filter and live life for this lifetime without worry about the next one.

  5. Rob Jones says:

    It’s 3/15, that’s Pi+.1, or is it?

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