The Contributions of Freethinkers: Frances Wright

Although the success of the feminist movement has secured equal legal rights for women virtually everywhere in the West - a guarantee de jure, if not always de facto - there are still pockets of institutionalized sexism that survive. The Catholic church is the most obvious example, but other Christian denominations also deny the equality of women, such as when over 100 Southern Baptist bookstores refused to display a magazine about female pastors.By contrast, the freethought movement has … [Read more...]

Obama's Inaugural Cavalcade Continues

Following up on my earlier post about Obama's choice of the disgraceful bigot Rick Warren to preside at the inauguration, this news: In a response to progressive anger, the transition team has announced that V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, has agreed to appear as well. (Obama's spokespeople said this was not a new decision but had been in the works all along. If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.)On one level, this is a good thing. It shows that progressives … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Patriotism

With the American presidential inauguration soon to arrive, this seems like an opportune time to say some words on patriotism. Is love of country an emotion that can be felt by a freethinker? Is this an allegiance as irrational as the tribalisms of human prehistory, or can there be something about one's country that makes it worth loving, even fighting or dying for?I've written in the past about tribalism, the irrational loyalty to arbitrarily defined groups of people, and the havoc and … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: This Is Just A Place

For today's Poetry Sunday, I'm featuring the American poet A.R. Ammons, who was first showcased last year for his poem "Gravelly Run".Born in North Carolina in 1926, Ammons grew up on his family's farm during the Great Depression and attended a Pentecostal church, whose hellfire sermons terrified the young man. He first began to write poems while serving on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he pursued a postgraduate education and served in a variety of jobs before … [Read more...]

The Price of Abstinence

A much-heralded study in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics has concluded that the premarital "abstinence pledges" so beloved by evangelical Christians are ineffective. Teenagers who sign up for religious programs such as True Love Waits or Silver Ring Thing, in which participants pledge to remain abstinent until marriage, are just as likely to have premarital sex as nonpledgers, and significantly less likely to use contraception when they do. They also contract STDs at the same rates … [Read more...]

Enemy of Faith

It seems that the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, which apparently exists, has released a list of the top ten instances of "Christian-bashing" in America in 2008 (HT: PZ). Taking a bold stand, this group has announced, "It is time for... Christians to no longer be treated like second-class citizens".Perusing the list, you'll soon discover that the people who wrote it can't grasp the difference between being criticized and being persecuted. Forget that at least three-quarters of the U.S. … [Read more...]

On Cryonics

Last summer I wrote a post, "Why I'm Skeptical of the Singularity", which gave some reasons for doubting that godlike machine intelligences will ever come into being. Today I'll discuss another idea popular among enthusiasts of transhumanism, namely life extension through cryonics. Here, too, I intend to offer a qualified skepticism.Overcoming Bias presents a strong case for cryonics, in a post which pleads with readers to sign up for the process. I'll use them as my foil. My own viewpoint, … [Read more...]

The Story of Atheism

In my previous post, I wrote some thoughts on the power of storytelling and how atheists can use it to our benefit. In this post, I intend to apply those principles to tell a story: the story of atheism.Because gods are fundamentally human creations, this is also a story of humanity. It opens in the time when the human race was newborn, when we had first come of age as conscious beings who could look around and conceptualize the world. I don't know the exact nature of the beings in whose minds … [Read more...]

On Storytelling

Back in November, Greta Christina wrote about how to overcome religious influence in politics, specifically in relation to Prop 8 and gay rights. At the time, I left some thoughts in a comment, which I think is worth developing into a full post.I wrote back in 2006 about The Da Vinci Code, noting that although the movie was a bit of fantasy fluff that took major liberties with historical fact, it drew incensed reactions and paranoid denunciations from Christian religious leaders all around the … [Read more...]

No Holy Ground

The world's attention has been riveted these past few days by Israel's assault on Gaza, in an attempt to oust the Hamas-run government and put a stop to rocket attacks on southern Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians were reported killed in a wave of airstrikes, over a thousand wounded, and as of this writing, a ground invasion looms as a continuing possibility. Although the conflict began after a six-month ceasefire expired and Hamas refused to renew it, it's now Israel that's rejecting calls for a … [Read more...]


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