Thirsting for Persecution

In the United States of America today, Christianity, and specifically right-wing fundamentalist Christianity, is enjoying a resurgence. The religious right controls all three branches of the federal government, commands the allegiance of tens of millions of followers, broadcasts their message constantly on TV channels and radio stations that they exclusively control, and operates thriving tax-free megachurches across the land that draw thousands of worshippers every week. They possess enormous … [Read more...]

Cathedral of Suns: A Humanist Sermon

In my encounters with religious proselytizers, I have occasionally been told that atheism robs the world of the sense of awe and wonder, that my lack of belief in a god who miraculously created us all must mean that my life is lacking in the intangible qualities that makes it worth living. I have been told, as well, that I reject the possibility of a god too great for me to understand. This is my reply to those claims.There is a famous photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of a region … [Read more...]

The Apocalypse Cheerleaders

As many others have observed, the right wing in modern American politics subsists in a near-perpetual state of frothing rage. This situation serves the purpose of leaders of the religious right, since after all, angry people are more easily led and less likely to think coherently; and to encourage it to continue, they whip their followers into a frenzy with inflammatory accusations and keep their rage alive through the constant creation of new scapegoats. This pattern has recently repeated, and … [Read more...]

On Free Will V: Moral Responsibility

The last and arguably most important question of free will, one that is closely intertwined with the nature of choice, is the issue of moral responsibility. What is it that makes us responsible for what we do?Most traditional views, especially dualist views, hold that for a person to be morally responsible for an action they commit, they must have been able to choose a different course of action at the time. This belief is commonly held, but has rarely been examined. In this, the final part … [Read more...]

Hello, Beautiful


It has been a hundred and twenty-five years since Charles Darwin passed away, but his legacy is alive and well. The theory of evolution which he was first to propose has become the unifying pillar of modern biology, drawing together a vast array of evidence from genetics, paleontology, biochemistry, ecology and other scientific fields. Contrary to the creationists who are perpetually (and wrongly) forecasting its imminent demise, today evolution is in better shape than it has ever been. And one … [Read more...]

Filth-Based Initiatives

The claim is often bandied about that atheists are "angry". The implication, presumably, is that life without God offers only a life of constant frustration and unhappiness (and, one imagines, damnation thereafter - wrath being one of the seven deadly sins), whereas belief in God is the road to tranquility and peace.However, if this is the message that apologists intend to convey, they should look to their own flocks before accusing others of the sin of anger. Even casual acquaintance with our … [Read more...]

On Free Will IV: The Nature of Choice

What does it mean to make a choice? This question is at the heart of many of the debates over free will, and justifiably so. It may seem simple initially, but the more deeply one considers it, the knottier it becomes.The basic dilemma seems to be this: Every event that occurs either had sufficient cause to occur or it did not. If it did, then it seems choice has no part to play: the event happened because of that cause, and could not have failed to happen. But if it did not, then choice … [Read more...]

Out of Respect

A recurring topic of debate among atheists is just how much respect we should pay to people's religious beliefs. A substantial number of nonbelievers, I am certain, would unabashedly proclaim that religion is all so much superstitious rubbish, and we should not pay other people's ridiculous superstitions any respect, regardless of the esteem in which they themselves hold them. The opposite position (more common among liberal theists, probably, than among atheists) is that all religious beliefs … [Read more...]

On Free Will III: Outsmarting the Prediction Machine

Clearly, what is immaterial in the human mind can influence the physical world, or our acts of will and understanding would be without effect. If our will is free these physical effects are not wholly predictable. — merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market. The servant returned, trembling and frightened. The servant told the merchant, "I was jostled in the market, turned around, and saw Death.""Death made a threatening g … [Read more...]