Strange and Curious Sects: Koreshanity

Cyrus Reed Teed, a.k.a. the Prophet Koresh. Public-domain image from Wikipedia.It seems that every religion has at least one signature bizarre belief: whether it be that the messiah is an American soldier who will return from across the ocean bringing marvelous cargo, or that human beings are possessed by the ghosts of murdered aliens, or that God wants us to transform him into crackers and consume him each week. But for sheer extravagant, defiant wackiness in the face of obvious disproof, … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Leaves

Today's Poetry Sunday features the American poet Sara Teasdale. Like other female writers of the nineteenth century, she lived a quiet and reclusive life, yet was acclaimed in the wider world for compositions showing far greater skill and beauty than her seemingly limited perspective should have allowed. Unlike her predecessors, however, she lived to see the feminist movement take shape and win some resounding victories. One biographer wrote that she spoke for "women emerging from the humility … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically: Memory & Confabulation

The reliability of eyewitness accounts is one of the bedrock beliefs of our society. In ancient cultures - and in some modern cultures that still follow ancient laws - some crimes could only be proven by eyewitness testimonies. One of the most infamous examples was Pakistan's Hudood Ordinances, which mandated that allegations of rape could only be proven by four eyewitness accounts; otherwise, the woman was to be punished for making false accusations. Even in our supposedly more enlightened … [Read more...]

The Moral High Ground

It's common for fundamentalist Christians to think of themselves as the moral guardians of our culture, a bulwark against the rampant sex and violence in the mass media. But this self-flattering caricature runs up against inconvenient reality: there is plenty of evidence which shows that Christians as a whole are every bit as drawn to sex and violence as everyone else.One of the best examples of this is Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. This movie had a worldwide gross of over $600 … [Read more...]

Barack Obama and Church-State Separation

Although the first hundred days of President Barack Obama's term haven't ended yet, this seems like a good time to examine his record in office so far and see how it's lived up to his own campaign pledges and to freethinkers' expectations. These past few months have been a roller-coaster ride - from the exhilaration of Election Day to the disgraceful selection of homophobic bigot Rick Warren to preside at the inauguration. Now that the euphoria has faded and the Obama administration is getting … [Read more...]

Catholicism Kills

In January, I wrote about how the Vatican had decided to lift the excommunication of Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson. After a worldwide avalanche of criticism, the church backtracked somewhat on this decision: Williamson is still welcomed back, although he's been ordered to recant his views, which to my knowledge he has not done.But last week brought some news that eclipses even that outrage: on his first papal trip to Africa, Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI, said that … [Read more...]

The 113th Carnival of the Godless

Welcome, new visitors and regular readers, to the 113th edition of the Carnival of the Godless here at Daylight Atheism! I last hosted this gathering of the godless all the way back in July 2006, for its 44th edition, and nearly three years later, we're still going strong. In fact, the carnival has grown considerably - so much so that I decided to feature only one submission from each entrant, for the sake of brevity - but even so, the sheer scope of this post is a welcome testament to the … [Read more...]

Holier-Than-Thouism

My recent post encouraging readers to join the atheists' group on Kiva stirred some controversy in a comment thread on Reddit. One commenter, whose sentiments were echoed by several others, writes:You should give because you believe in something - not just to prove a point and rig this like it's some kind of game.With respect, I say that these are not mutually exclusive options. I believe that Kiva is an excellent idea; I wouldn't have recommended it if I didn't. But at the same time, our … [Read more...]

A World in Shadow VI

In 2006 and 2007, I wrote several entries in a series called A World in Shadow, bolstering the atheist's argument from evil by describing particularly shocking or egregious instances of natural and moral evils. However, I haven't written any new entries for this series in some time.To be honest, I stopped writing these posts because I found them too upsetting. There are more than enough - far too many - examples of tragedy and catastrophe in this world to make the case against a benevolent … [Read more...]

Evolutionary Algorithms

One of the bedrock claims of creationism is that mutation can never create new information, that random changes can only make complex systems worse and never improve them. Although there are many examples of information-increasing mutations in the natural world that prove this claim false, there's an even more potent and understandable counterexample, one that I think defenders of evolution too often overlook. That counterexample comes in the form of evolutionary algorithms.Altshuler and … [Read more...]


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