Poetry Sunday: Stopping by Woods

There's just enough time for one final Poetry Sunday in 2007, and this one will feature another famous American poet with skeptical leanings: Robert Frost, the New Englander and national Poet Laureate whose work has become so iconic of the American experience.Frost's views on God are complex. In some of his letters, he calls himself "an old dissenter", "secular till the last go down", and said there were "no vampires, no ghouls, no demons, nothing but me". In others, he expresses belief in and … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically V

Double-Blind TestsIn a post back in October, I dissected the claims of a spam e-mail that landed in my inbox to promote the "Detox Box", an expensive piece of snake oil claimed to be able to cure any disease through the power of pseudoscience. As is usual in these matters, an offended true believer showed up in the comments to proclaim her faith in the device:The Detox Box works for me and I wouldn't go without it. It is my personal results. I don't need a double blind study to know that it … [Read more...]

On the Morality Of: Cloning

In today's post on atheist morality, I'll consider the permissibility of two types of human cloning, therapeutic and reproductive. Both types involve implanting a person's genes into an egg cell and stimulating it to grow. If the resulting embryo is allowed to grow to maturity and be born as a person, that is reproductive cloning; if the embryo is used to harvest stem cells and destroyed before it can grow into anything like a conscious being, that is therapeutic cloning.I see no intrinsic … [Read more...]

Do You Really Believe That? (IV)

The Zombie SaintsAccording to all three of the New Testament's Synoptic gospels, miracles attended Jesus' death: a mysterious midday darkness over all the land and the veil of the Jewish temple torn in half. (The Gospel of John omits these miracles, differing with the Synoptics in this point as in others.) However, there's one miracle that only one gospel records."And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, … [Read more...]

How Not to Fight the War on Christmas

Lately, there have been some encouraging signs that believers of conscience are more willing to stand up to the religious right than they once were. But this effort, though well-intentioned, is not the right way to do it.It's time for a ceasefire in the Christmas culture wars....We invite Messrs. O'Reilly, Gibson and Donohue to join us in a new campaign of civility and conscience that restores our focus on the common good during this holy season.This letter, signed by a number of liberal … [Read more...]

A Solstice Sermon

Today is - at least to my northern hemisphere readers - the winter solstice, shortest day of the year. For three months now, we've seen the sun set and the night fall progressively earlier each day. But this date marks the terminus of that trend, and though the heart of winter still lies ahead, from now on the days will start to grow longer again.The solstice has always been a date invested with great importance. In the bitter depths of winter, our ancestors surrounded themselves with all the … [Read more...]

The Default

Back in March, I commented on a Beliefnet debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan. In part 4 of that debate, Andrew Sullivan made what I thought was an astonishing concession:But I can say that [this experience] represented for me a revelation of God's love and forgiveness, the improbable notion that the force behind all of this actually loved us, and even loved me. The calm I felt then; and the voice with no words I heard: this was truer than any proof I have ever conceded, any … [Read more...]

The Real Enemies of Christmas

As the holiday season approaches, the partisans of the religious right are ramping up their annual "war on Christmas" rhetoric, which seems to grow more disproportionate with every passing year. The latest example is this absurdly ignorant column, whose author apparently has never heard of separation of church and state (she wonders if the reason government buildings do not display Christian symbols is to punish Christianity for the Inquisition). She seems to think that banning religious … [Read more...]

Open Thread: The Internet Infidels Situation

In light of the continuing, and in fact worsening, fiasco at the IIDB discussion forum, I'm creating an open thread to document the continuing misuses of power. The Internet Infidels Board of Directors is now engaged in a full-scale effort to rewrite history, shuttering feedback forums, deleting countless threads on IIDB that have been critical of their recent actions, and banning numerous members without warning as punishment for dissent. (The stated reason for those bans is "useless … [Read more...]

The Witch Children of Nigeria

I've written on several past occasions about how belief in malignant supernatural forces causes real harm to real people. There are examples of this from every region of the world, but some of the most wrenching are from Africa, where Biblical beliefs about demons and evil spirits still run rampant.In January, I wrote about the witch camps of Ghana, where people suspected of using black magic to harm their neighbors are exiled as if they were lepers. In April, there were the Pentecostals of … [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X