The Contributions of Freethinkers: Wole Soyinka

I wasn't familiar with Wole Soyinka, the first African author ever to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, until I got a Google alert for his name the other day. You can probably guess why - it turns out he's an atheist, as I learned from this article in the Nigerian Tribune grousing about it:Although I might not be able to quote him verbatim, Professor Soyinka had replied thus. "The reason why I don't believe in God is simple. I simply cannot imagine that somebody (emphasis mine) will be … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on Penn’s Libertarianism

The last thread about Penn Jillette's book sparked some debate, so I'd like to revisit the topic. This is what Penn says is his view of the legitimate powers of government:If I had a gun, and I knew a murder was happening... I would use that gun to stop that murder. I might be too much of a coward to use a gun myself to stop murder or rape or robbery, but I think that use of a gun is justified. I'm even okay with using force to enforce voluntary contracts. I would use a gun to protect the … [Read more...]

Take Action: Speak Out on “Conscience Clauses”

The other day, I got this action alert from FFRF that I thought was worth passing along:As you may know, on August 1st, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services jointly announced new guidelines for access to preventative care. The new regulations greatly expand access to preventative care under the new health care act, particularly for women. One of the most significant changes is the provision that all FDA-approved contraceptives … [Read more...]

Theocracy Causes Famine

Recently, I got an e-mail from the Foundation Beyond Belief, which is working with USAID to raise awareness of the continuing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. The toll in lives is already appalling, including over 29,000 deaths from starvation and outbreaks of measles and cholera, and hundreds more dying every day. The crisis has produced almost a million refugees, including over 400,000 at the Dadaab camp in Kenya.I have to admit that my first reaction to this news was a feeling of … [Read more...]

His Noodly Appendage, Now in Yarn Form

I'm inordinately pleased by this. :)Earlier this summer, I threw in for a fundraising contest for Camp Quest, pitting a team of us lowlier bloggers against the Dark Overlord himself. The over $30,000 we collectively raised was reward enough for me, but I just received a completely unexpected thank-you gift in the mail: a hand-crocheted Flying Spaghetti Monster, crafted by Sue Henry and Kelley Freeman of the Secular Student Alliance. Thanks, Kelley and Sue! I shall display it with pride, and … [Read more...]

The Foo Fighters Outsmart Fred Phelps

Last week, the Westboro Baptist Church (which is choosing increasingly random and bizarre protest targets, including a Swedish vacuum cleaner store) decided to picket a Foo Fighters concert in Kansas City, Missouri. As is their usual strategy, they were no doubt hoping to provoke police or counterprotesters into assaulting them or otherwise violating their constitutional rights, so that they can win a legal settlement to support their continued spreading of hate.But instead, the WBC was on … [Read more...]

Why the Anti-Science Creationist Movement Is So Dangerous

This essay was originally published on AlterNet.A few weeks ago, Jon Huntsman torpedoed his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by making the following announcement:To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.It's a pathetic commentary on the anti-intellectualism rampant in American politics that this is newsworthy: a major-party candidate announces that he doesn't deny a foundational theory of modern science! In fact, given … [Read more...]

The Duty of External Obedience

While I was doing research for "The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium", I came across some amazing passages in the New Advent Catholic encyclopedia's article on infallibility. Since it can be safely assumed that these still represent the Catholic church's viewpoint, I thought it was worth calling some wider attention to them.The article starts out by making the same threats that are endemic to all forms of Christianity: the ominous proclamation that the church is infallible, and if you don't … [Read more...]

Near-Death Experiences Without Being Near Death

I've written before about near-death experiences and what they can prove about the existence of the soul. Now another study has come to my attention, one that has an even more potent conclusion. (HT: Boing Boing)It's long been known that the content of NDEs is influenced by religion and culture. People who have them consistently encounter the kind of afterlife they expect and meet the religious figures they've been taught to believe in. For example, while Christian NDEs often include Jesus or … [Read more...]

The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium

Although many sects of Christianity consider their own beliefs to be infallible, Catholicism has a formal, bureaucratic process for adding new inerrant teachings to its canon. When the pope speaks "ex cathedra", officially defining a new dogma, it's becomes something that all Catholics are required to profess. (I like to think he has a special "infallible hat" hanging in his wardrobe.) As the church thoughtfully explains, an ex cathedra statement must be true "independent of the fallible … [Read more...]


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