Book Update

I've finished chapter 8 of my book. (It's considerably longer than the last few chapters, which is why it's taken so long.) The chapter is titled "Universal Utilitarianism" and addresses the basis for an atheist's morality and the flaws in divine command ethics, drawing on my essays "The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick" and "The Roots of Morality".As in the past, I'm making this chapter available to regular commenters on this site for editorial review and critique. If you fit that … [Read more...]

On the Character of Jesus

One of the most common tenets of Christian faith, believed by denominations across the spectrum, is that Jesus Christ taught and displayed some kind of unique, superlative moral virtue, unmatched by any other individual from myth or history. I've also heard this belief advanced as a counter to the argument from religious confusion, claiming that we should consider Christianity to stand out from all other religions because of the obvious superiority of its founder's moral teachings.I do grant … [Read more...]

Wolves in the Fold

In February of 1906, Pope Pius X issued an encyclical titled "Vehementer Nos", which denounced France for its passage of a revolutionary law establishing the separation of church and state. This document contained a blunt insight into the Catholic view of the relationship between religion and government:That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.Happily, France ignored this musty blast from a figure who - then, as now - serves as … [Read more...]

Heaven at the Price of Hell

In my essay "Those Old Pearly Gates" on Ebon Musings, I raised what is, to my mind, one of the strongest moral arguments against the traditional monotheist conception of the afterlife:The point is this. How can anyone enjoy Heaven, knowing that while you have eternal bliss there are people experiencing eternal suffering? Unless you belong to an insular religious community or a cult, it's almost certain that you know someone - a friend, a relative, a loved one, an idol who inspires you - whose … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions VIII: Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

In all of human history, the invention of vaccination should be classed as one of our greatest medical triumphs. This innovation has saved millions of lives and prevented untold suffering and misery; it has brought many once-epidemic diseases under control, and eradicated others altogether. Tragically, our era has seen a dangerous new strain of pseudoscience emerge, one that threatens all of these gains.The theory behind vaccines is conceptually simple. Human beings possess an exquisitely … [Read more...]

Crazy for God: The Apostasy of Frank Schaeffer

Ask any observer of American politics today to name the most influential figures of the religious right, and some familiar names are likely to come up - Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, James Dobson, John Hagee, Tony Perkins, Roy Moore, and others. But one name that's not as likely to appear is Francis Schaeffer. That is a regrettable oversight, because even though Schaeffer died in 1982, he is possibly the one person most responsible for the existence of the religious right as we know it … [Read more...]

On the Limits of Knowledge

A common argument made by religious apologists is that atheism is unreasonable because, to exclude the possibility of God, a person would have to have total knowledge of all that exists in the universe. Otherwise, we might overlook a deity hiding in one of the gaps in our knowledge. As one Christian put it to me in an e-mail:And certainly, unless you have visited an appreciable portion of the cosmos and whatever else, there is at least a reasonable possibility that a creator exists. In other … [Read more...]

To Be As Gods

I have to admit, I cringe when I read quotes like this:Max may be a long way from his old home, but he plans on going a lot further than America. Extropianism is a "rational transhumanism", he explains. There may not be any supernatural force in the universe, but pretty soon, suggests More, once we get our brain implants and robot bodies working, we will be as gods.The linked article is about Max More, a philosopher who advocates transhumanism - the idea that we can use technology to … [Read more...]

An Impoverished Infinity

In Christian theology, God is presented as the omnipotent creator, able to bring about literally any world it is possible to imagine. His power has no limits, he never suffers from weakness or fatigue, and he possesses the omniscient knowledge necessary to shape the world according to his overarching plan.Or so Christian apologists say, anyway. Yet when we atheists challenge them with the problem of evil, asking why a benevolent creator would bring about a world where disease and disaster … [Read more...]

Help a Fellow Atheist

I've written in the past that atheists and freethinkers, if we ever want to truly compete with religion on its own terms, have to create a secular community that offers the same kind of social support network which believers are accustomed to finding in church. I hope we can put that principle into action tonight.The atheist blogger Possummomma, happily married and mother of four children, is going through a difficult time due to health problems. She suffers from severe light sensitivity as a … [Read more...]


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