Do You Really Believe That? (Xenu/Thetans)

Although past installments of "Do You Really Believe That?" have skewered absurd beliefs from other sects, I doubt any religion has doctrines as laughably ridiculous as Scientology's beliefs about "space opera". Today's post will explore the most infamous of those.According to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Xenu was an alien overlord who, 75 million years ago, was in charge of a "Galactic Confederacy" consisting of 76 planets, including Earth (which, according to Hubbard, was then … [Read more...]

All Things in Moderation

In last month's post "Down to Earth", I discussed Thomas Jefferson's ideal of rich simplicity, what Buddhism calls the Middle Way. Rather than the vain pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of power or material possessions, the true source of contentment lies in the simple pleasures of life that are available to everyone, regardless of social status.Some of the comments mentioned Epicurus, a person I should write about more often. Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who taught a … [Read more...]

The 30th Humanist Symposium

In the fireplace, the flames are burning down to embers, casting flickering patterns of light and shadow on the walls and the wreaths of holly and evergreen that hang there. Outside the windows, the last snowstorm of the year is flurrying down, burying the slumbering earth in a peaceful carpet of white. The falling snowflakes glitter in the dark like tiny stars as they fly past and catch the light from the dying fire.Most of the guests from the day's gathering have already departed, leaving … [Read more...]

The Humanist Symposium Needs Hosts

The next edition of the Humanist Symposium will appear tomorrow, Dec. 28, right here at Daylight Atheism (because I haven't hosted since the first one, and I don't see why you lot should have all the fun).But starting in the new year, our hosting schedule is wide open, and we need volunteers! If you have a blog of your own, please consider stepping up and doing your part to support the atheist and humanist community. First-time hosts are especially welcome, and it can be an excellent way to … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically: Testimonials

The testimonial is the favorite tool of pseudoscientists everywhere. Search the internet far and wide, and you'll have trouble finding a cancer-curing scam machine, thermodynamically impossible engine-conversion kit, or obscure psychic website that doesn't feature glowing testimonials from true believers. Eshu of Bridging Schisms gives many more examples, in his post "Testimonials and Research", like this gem from a satisfied client singing the praises of a psychic claimant:"I came to Philena … [Read more...]

What I Want For Christmas

In 1897, Robert Ingersoll wrote "What I Want for Christmas". This short essay was a holiday wish list for humankind in the coming year, one that showcased both the great freethinker's wit and his compassion.All well and good, but we can now look back at this piece from a century later and see how it's fared. Happily, some of Ingersoll's wishes have been fulfilled, but others are still awaiting fruition. This being so, I think it would be worthwhile to update Ingersoll's wish list, to highlight … [Read more...]

New Post on Dangerous Intersection

I've put up a new post on Dangerous Intersection, a review of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.This is an open thread. Comments and discussion are welcome. … [Read more...]

On Gift-Giving

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Hanukkah's prominence was the plan of reformist rabbis, seeking to create a Jewish holiday to compete with Christmas just as Christmas was created to compete with pagan solstice festivals. In an ironic sense, this campaign has been both a success and a failure: although the cause of Hanukkah was eagerly taken up by marketers, it failed to dislodge Christmas from public consciousness and has simply contributed further to the commercialization of the holiday … [Read more...]

A Solstice Sermon

In past years, I've used the occasion of the winter solstice to deliver a brief homily on an issue of moral importance. This year, I'd like to do so again.Although nearly every society has put its own religious or cultural gloss on it, the solstice is an event marked and commemorated by all of humanity. In Japan, the solstice festival is Amaterasu, the reemergence of the sun goddess. To ancient Romans, it was Brumalia, the feast of the wine god Bacchus, and to Germanic pagans, it was Yule. To … [Read more...]

The Roots of the War on Christmas

This year, as they do every year, the religious right is engaging in its annual bout of paranoia and conspiracy-mongering over the supposed secular plot to ban Christmas. Fox News, Christian-right groups, and other outlets in the culture war publish TV segments like "Christmas Under Siege", books like John Gibson's The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought, and websites such as Defend Christmas.Judging by their hysteria, one would … [Read more...]


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