How Much Good Do Religious Charities Really Do?

I just finished reading Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book on what we can do to improve the status of women worldwide. One of the book's major arguments is that, despite their opposition to abortion and contraception, religious groups often do more good than secular liberals give them credit for:Religious conservatives... have also saved lives in vast numbers by underwriting and operating clinics in some of the neediest parts of Africa and Asia. When you travel in the … [Read more...]

The Widening Vortex of Catholic Scandal

Lately, it seems that no matter how often I write about the ever-widening story of Roman Catholic bishops and the Pope protecting child molesters, new details keep bubbling up that demand another update. Well, I'm happy to oblige.Here's what we know so far. Pope Benedict XVI, back in the late 1970s when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and archbishop of Munich, had authority over a priest, Rev. Peter Hullermann, who was known to be a child molester. At least three sets of parents had come to … [Read more...]

No Payment For Prayer: Christian Science and Health Care Reform

With the historic passage of sweeping health insurance reform, Americans have reason to rejoice this week. For the first time, and despite hysterical opposition from the party of conspiracy nuts and theocrats, our government has enshrined in law the idea that every citizen has a right to affordable health care. Even if the law is far from perfect, it's still a huge advance over the alternative of doing nothing - and history shows that most major pieces of progressive social legislation, … [Read more...]

Meet a Foundation Beyond Belief Member

Editor's Note: Earlier this month, I wrote an essay encouraging atheists to join the Foundation Beyond Belief, a new charitable group doing good for human beings and the world in the name of freethought. I also offered to write a front-page post interviewing anyone who agreed to join the Foundation as a result of hearing about it on my site. This is the next in that series of interviews, which will be posted each weekend. Please welcome Steve Bowen!Tell us a little about yourself. Who are … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Information Wars

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 9How likely is the spontaneous origin of life? In chapter 9, Stephen Meyer likens it to one of those tornado-in-a-junkyard scenarios that creationists love so much:"Imagine trying to generate even a simple book by throwing Scrabble letters onto the floor. Or imagine closing your eyes and picking Scrabble letters out of a bag. Are you going to produce Hamlet in anything like the time of the known universe?" [p.229]Obviously, the answer is no. Almost as … [Read more...]

Crafting a Rational Theology

As atheists, we're well acquainted with the irrationalities of the world's religions. We've seen it all before: the absurdities in holy books, the convoluted twists of logic used by professional apologists, the self-contradictions and incoherent definitions that the faithful swallow without a qualm. All that can safely be taken for granted. Now let's see if we can do theology better.I'm not speaking of ways that the world could be made better; we covered that ground in "Improving on God's … [Read more...]

Book Review: Half the Sky

Summary: A wrenching chronicle of the injustices and preventable evils committed against women around the world. The bright spots are few and far between, but that should only instill readers with a greater sense of urgency to do something about all this. I felt intense pangs of conscience while reading this book; you probably will too.In January, I reviewed Michelle Goldberg's book The Means of Reproduction. That was an outstanding work of consciousness-raising, one which enlightened me to … [Read more...]

Meet a Foundation Beyond Belief Member

Editor's Note: Earlier this month, I wrote an essay encouraging atheists to join the Foundation Beyond Belief, a new charitable group doing good for human beings and the world in the name of freethought. I also offered to write a front-page post interviewing anyone who agreed to join the Foundation as a result of hearing about it on my site. This is the next in that series of interviews, which will be posted each weekend. Please welcome ANTLink!Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

• It's about time! The SEC has charged a psychic with securities fraud for claiming to be able to supernaturally foretell the direction of the market.• The staff of IslamOnline, a Cairo-based journalism website that offers a platform for liberal and reformist views, have gone on strike over plans by the Qatari owners to impose stricter editorial controls and force a more conservative viewpoint.• I'm very glad to report that Ireland's government is now backtracking on the … [Read more...]

What Is Humanism?

I've written on the meanings of freethought and secularism, and in the third entry of this series, I want to discuss humanism. More so than the other two, humanism is a complex and fully formed life philosophy, so it'll take the most effort to adequately define.Most concisely stated, humanism is the worldview which treats human beings - our lives, our needs, and our concerns - as of supreme importance. Humanism recognizes our deep and profound interconnection with the natural world and with … [Read more...]


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