Popular Delusions: Out-of-Body Experiences

Most religious people believe in the soul, an ethereal locus of consciousness that separates from the body upon physical death and travels elsewhere to receive its reward. To people who hold this belief, it's a natural next step to guess that the soul or spirit could sometimes leave a person's body while they're still alive and travel to distant places on its own initiative. Such is the belief in out-of-body experiences, the subject of today's Popular Delusions post.Belief in OBEs is probably … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Beating a Dead Haeckel

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 3Ernst Haeckel died a hundred and fifty almost a hundred years ago [fixed - thanks, Alex!], but the creationists won't let him rest in peace. In this section, Wells again exhumes these old bones and takes a few kicks at them, and imagines that by doing so he's brought the entire edifice of modern evolutionary biology crashing down.If you're not familiar with Haeckel, here's a bit of background. Ernst Haeckel was a nineteenth-century biologist, one who lived at … [Read more...]

The God of Shadow and Vapor

In April, I wrote a piece chastising Madeline Bunting for her willful invocation of the Courtier's Reply, in which she attacks atheists for criticizing the beliefs actually held and practiced by billions of people, rather than the beliefs of a tiny minority of theologians and pundits like herself.But let it not be said that we shy from a challenge. In this post, I'll take up the issue of religion as it is held by Bunting and others of like mind.Here's how she defines her own … [Read more...]

Moving Beyond Awe

The nineteenth-century German theologian Rudolf Otto, in his book The Idea of the Holy, popularized the term "numinous", an adjective describing the sense of mystery and wonder that purportedly stems from the presence of a deity. According to Otto, the sense of the numinous had two main characteristics: the mysterium tremendum, the sense of fear and trembling that comes from the presence of that which is wholly other, and the mysterium fascinas, the sense of fascination and curiosity that such … [Read more...]

Stalin the Divine Savior

Via Making My Way (a great atheist blog, although its author doesn't update often enough!), this amazing historical fact.I wrote in "Red Crimes" about how communism, demonized by religious apologists as an atheistic ideology, was more in the nature of a political system: willing to work with anyone who supported its goals and to persecute anyone who opposed its goals, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. As evidence of this, I cited the story of Andrei Sakharov, an atheist … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Evening Without Angels

In a comment on April's Poetry Sunday, Eric suggested another post featuring Wallace Stevens. I wanted to reprint Wilfred Owen's poem last month in honor of Memorial Day, but I'm always open to requests.Today's post, like my previous selection from Stevens, highlights the poet's naturalistic, humanist views. According to Alan D. Perlis' book Wallace Stevens: A World of Transforming Shapes, this poem "eliminates angels from this world only to elevate the human soul to an angelic … [Read more...]

Winner of the 2009 3QD Science Prize

I'm thrilled to announce that 3 Quarks Daily has officially chosen the winners of their 2009 Science Prize, and their first-place award, the Top Quark, has gone to Daylight Atheism!Here's what 3QD's celebrity judge, Professor Steven Pinker, had to say:Daylight Atheism’s Bands of Iron is my top pick. He starts with an something that attracts your attention purely on aesthetic grounds – stripes in a rock. He invokes it with deep, non-obvious, yet understandable principles, at the same time ill … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Small Twigs

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 3Jonathan Wells' second "icon" is Darwin's tree of life, which he says is a "dismal failure" [p.43] as an illustration of the fossil record.With a lead-in like that, you'd expect a typical creationist jeremiad against transitional fossils. In fact, that's not what we get. The focus of Wells' complaint is about the Cambrian explosion, 550 million years ago. No transitional series more recent is treated here: not the origin of tetrapods, not the therapsids … [Read more...]

A Brief Saturday Morning Thought

Shorter John Ensign: Gay marriage is going to take away my sacred, God-given right to cheat on my wife. … [Read more...]

This Is Why There Is War in the Mideast

The Jewish magazine Moment ran an article in its latest issue asking rabbis from a variety of Jewish sects how Israel can promote peace with its Arab neighbors (HT: Pharyngula). Most of the rabbis express fairly bland, liberal views about the importance of peace and tolerance, which are fine in themselves, although few of them offer any concrete suggestions as to what Israel might do differently.However, one rabbi, Manis Friedman of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was eager to make some … [Read more...]


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