The Contributions of Freethinkers: Albert Einstein

In 1999, Time magazine named Albert Einstein its "Person of the Century". The choice was understandable: In a global society increasingly underpinned by science and technology, perhaps no one person has had a greater individual impact on humanity's understanding of the cosmos. Among his many scientific contributions, he discovered the special and general theories of relativity, proved light's quantized nature by means of the photoelectric effect, and offered important support to atomic theory … [Read more...]

Imaginary Crimes

One of the defining attributes of all the world's religions through history is that they create imaginary crimes; that is, arbitrary rules the obeying of which helps no person, and the breaking of which hurts no person. In the beginning, many religions start off as simple, humble affairs; some even have the audacity to insist that our only duty is to love one another. But as time goes by, those simple faiths inevitably become complex and elaborated.Clergy and theologians, who'd have a tough … [Read more...]

Is Evangelicalism On the Wane?

Is the power of the religious right declining in America? Several lines of evidence would seem to indicate so.Heading into the 2008 election, the evangelical movement is fragmented and leaderless, lacking a clear sense of enthusiasm or a preferred candidate to rally behind. Several important figures, including Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy, have recently died. Atheists and nonbelievers are growing in influence. And the religious right's public brand is badly damaged, viewed as … [Read more...]

The Uses of Pre-Scientific Cosmology

Before the dawn of the scientific age, humankind had only its unaided senses to examine the universe. Certainly, there were awe-inspiring sights, but those alone give little insight into natural phenomena. At night we saw the stars and the planets circle overhead; each season we felt the rains fall and the wind blow; and in moments of terror, we saw lightning split the sky and the earth shake under our feet. But none of these things gave any clue to what the true nature of the heavens might … [Read more...]

Strange and Curious Sects: Sabbatai Zevi

Past editions of Strange and Curious Sects have explored religious splinter groups that came into existence relatively recently. Today's edition will focus on an older cult that still has lessons to teach us: the bizarre story of the would-be Jewish messiah, Sabbatai Zevi.Sabbatai Zevi was born in 1626, supposedly on the anniversary of the Roman destruction of the Temple, to a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family in Smyrna, modern-day Turkey. In his youth, he studied the Talmud and especially the … [Read more...]

Noises in the Night

In the first chapter of her autobiography Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali recounts some of the Somali folktales her grandmother taught her when she was a child. One was a story of a nomad, searching for a home for his wife and child, who mysteriously finds an oasis with a fine grass hut already built in the middle of the desert, and a smiling, friendly stranger who invites them to live there. Alas for the trusting nomad, the stranger was really "He Who Rubs Himself with a Stick," a monstrous … [Read more...]

Vignette from the New York Subway

Presented without further comment:Last night, when I got on the subway, I noticed an older, balding white man wearing a white T-shirt. The front of his shirt read, in multicolored block letters, "I'm so happy I'm saved," and the back read, over a backdrop of flames, "I won't have to spend eternity in the lake of fire. P.S.: There won't be a drink of water there!"As the train pulled away from the station, a young black man entered the car. He announced that he was down on his luck, was trying … [Read more...]

Little-Known Bible Verses X: Don't Trust Your Heart

I first came across today's little-known Bible verse while reading The Pilgrim's Progress, and it was so amazing to me that I had to set the book aside and look it up on the spot. Search on the internet, and you'll find volumes of Christian apologetics seeking to justify the author's belief in God by claiming that they just know he exists because they can feel his presence in their heart:The imagination knows God and the heart knows God, but the conscience silences the whole person because of … [Read more...]

An Exercise in Empathy

In 1967, Mildred Loving and her husband Richard, an interracial couple, were arrested at their Virginia home for violating that state's anti-miscegenation law. At trial, Judge Leon Bazile offered his explanation for why the state of Virginia had chosen to ban interracial marriage:"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact … [Read more...]

Doubting the Sun

Imagine, in some medieval monarchy or modern-day oligarchy, that the government passed a law which made it a crime to deny that the sun exists.No country either ancient or modern has ever done this, and it's easy to see why. Who would ever be tempted to deny the existence of the sun? The evidence to the contrary is undeniable. It's large, it's obvious, it's blindingly brilliant - it's just there. There are no rational grounds for claiming the sun does not exist; only a fool or a madman would … [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X