The Road Not Taken

It was one day several months ago, while I was still in graduate school in New York City, I went to Manhattan's Union Theological Seminary to check out some books from their library to review for Ebon Musings. As I passed through the doors, I felt the momentary flash of irrational anxiety that I sometimes feel when entering such places - will they realize who I am? what will they say if they do? - but of course no such thing happened; the woman on duty at the front desk glanced at my ID and … [Read more...]

Memorial Day

In the United States, this Monday is Memorial Day, established by Congress to commemorate America's war dead. Across the nation, the day is marked by parades and solemn ceremonies, 21-gun salutes, roll calls of the names of the fallen, and flags, wreaths and ribbons placed on the graves of veterans. These ceremonies are familiar to us; we repeat them every year. And yet, those flags seem to have a special poignancy this year. Against the green grass, their colors seem especially bright. … [Read more...]

What Are You, Stupid?

There seems to be a perception among religious people that atheists believe all religious people to be stupid, ignorant, or deluded. (Witness a recent question on the Yahoo Answers service.) Where this perception comes from is something of a mystery - given how severely underrepresented atheists are in the media, it is almost certain that it does not actually come from anything we have said. Nevertheless, there is no question that a large number of theists take the statement "Hello, I'm an … [Read more...]

Sacred Ponds, Sacred Cows

In a recent post, A World in Shadow I, I wrote about how religious superstition was hindering the efforts of health workers to eradicate several treatable Third World diseases. For example, one village in the remote region of Ogi, Nigeria refused permission to treat their local "sacred pond" with a mild pesticide that would wipe out the parasitic guinea worms infesting it, on the grounds that doing so would anger their deceased ancestors.However, if I left it at that, Christians might accuse … [Read more...]

Little-Known Bible Verses: The Sin of Sodom

One of the biblical stories from which the modern-day religious right draws the most inspiration is the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The religious right has assumed that the sin for which they merited this fate was rampant homosexuality, to the point that "sodomite" has become a derogatory synonym for homosexuals. (Consider the Jack Chick tract "Doom Town", which contains a variety of grossly offensive antigay caricatures.)However, there is some evidence that this is jumping to … [Read more...]

Onward Christian Soldiers

The Bible has always presented a schizophrenic view of the Christian god's attributes. On one hand, he is styled the "Prince of Peace" who exhorts his followers to resist not evil, to turn the other cheek, to love one's enemies, and to put up the sword lest one perish by it. On the other hand, he is repeatedly called the "Lord of Hosts" - or to use modern terminology, the "Lord of Armies" - who commands his followers to slaughter their enemies unmercifully, who is jealous and vengeful and whose … [Read more...]

A World in Shadow I

The New York Times recently ran a series, titled "Diseases on the Brink", that surveyed five diseases - polio, measles, dracunculiasis (also known as guinea worm), blinding trachoma and lymphatic filariasis - that it may be possible to eradicate, if the political will of the world community is up to the task. All these diseases can be treated with relatively simple measures, and have been wiped out or nearly so in industrialized nations thanks to improved sanitation and vaccination, but remain … [Read more...]

Loose Marbles III

Shanksville / Flight 93The last of the four planes hijacked on 9/11 was Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after the passengers apparently attempted to storm the cockpit and regain control of the plane. Here it is somewhat difficult to tell what the filmmakers' hypothesis is, other than their certainty that Flight 93 did not crash in Pennsylvania as reported.00:57:15 The film extensively cites a video clip from 9/11 where a reporter from a local Fox affiliate at the … [Read more...]

Loose Marbles II

The World Trade CenterThe second part of this series deals with claims made in Loose Change about the collapse of the World Trade Center. Unlike the Pentagon, there is video evidence explicitly showing the two planes crashing into the Twin Towers, and so LC does not deny this (although other conspiracists have explained this away by appealing to secret Star-Trek-like holographic technology). Instead, the film asserts that the proximate cause of the Twin Towers' collapse was not the plane … [Read more...]

New on Ebon Musings: The Pilgrim’s Progress

A new essay has been posted on Ebon Musings, a review of the famous Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress. The review follows the book's format in chronicling the journey of the main character, "Christian", from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, commenting on the trials and tribulations he experiences along the way, and concludes by summing up what the allegory teaches us about the nature of Christianity itself.This is an open thread. Comments and feedback are welcome. … [Read more...]


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