What I Really Think About Islam

We've been discussing Islam a lot on this blog in the past few days, and much to my amusement, I've seen two different commenters promoting diametrically opposite distortions of my position. One says that I'm a left-wing Israel-hater who has a soft spot for Muslim violence, the other that I'm a right-wing Islamophobe spouting reflexive anti-Muslim prejudice. Seriously, don't you love this? I never fail to get a good laugh from the ignorant people who are ready to leap to conclusions about a … [Read more...]

Why I’m Not Voting Third-Party

Last week, four third-party U.S. presidential candidates had a debate in Chicago. As is usual in American politics, third-party debates tend to be all over the map: a mixture of completely loony ideas and eminently sensible ideas that no major candidate dares touch. On the surface, I probably look like the kind of voter third-party candidates would have a good chance of reaching. I'm liberal enough that Obama has disappointed me pretty often, and I live in New York, a safe Democratic state, so … [Read more...]

The Continuing Battle Over Blasphemy Laws

I'm surprised to still be writing about blasphemy laws, but it seems the idea just won't die. At the United Nations this week, the elected leaders of newly democratic Egypt and Yemen called for restrictions on free speech, in addition to similar demands from Turkey and other Islamic-majority nations. Russia, too, is advocating for laws that would criminalize criticism of religion, saying that "the feelings of the faithful must be protected by the state" (HT: IHEU). Unfortunately this doesn't … [Read more...]

Upcoming Speaking and Travel Schedule

For those who are interested, here's my schedule for the next few months. I've got a few SSA speaking events, a conference or two, and one big announcement! • On February 24, I'll be speaking at the University of North Dakota, courtesy of FUND, the Freethinkers of the University of North Dakota, as part of the school's "Seven Dimensions of Wellness" speaker series. Fitting the occasion, I plan to speak on "The Goodness of Godlessness". Should be fun! • Of course, I'm going to be … [Read more...]

The Catholic Crackdown on Feminism

In 2009, the Roman Catholic church convened an "apostolic visitation" - a sort of modern-day auto-da-fe - a rare step taken when the Vatican feels that a church-affiliated institution has gone seriously astray. The church officials in charge of the investigation conducted interviews at almost 400 religious institutions throughout the U.S., and this month, they submitted their final report, whose contents as of now are still secret. What is this pervasive evil within the church that the Vatican … [Read more...]

Why We Should Tax the Churches

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. Last November, I attended a debate in the NYU Intelligence Squared series on the topic, "Would the World Be Better Off Without Religion?" One of the audience questions concerned the enormous wealth hoarded by churches, which Christian apologist Dinesh D'Souza defended as follows:I think in the case of the Vatican, the wealth of the Vatican is in priceless treasures, tapestries, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, art. Now, let's remember... it … [Read more...]

Atheists Don’t Just Want Sex and Drugs

My latest article has been posted on AlterNet, Once Again, Believers Have it Wrong: Atheists Don't Just Want Sex, Drugs, and Lack of Morality. As you might have guessed, it's the culminating entry in my recent exchange with Peter Hitchens. In it, I discuss the absence of evidence for non-human moral authority, the fact that accusations of unbridled hedonism have always been used in an attempt to silence social reform movements, and the evidence which shows that the rise of atheism has no … [Read more...]

The Temporal Democracy of Self-Slices

Via Dangerous Intersection, I saw this TED lecture by Daniel Kahnemann, based on his book Thinking Fast and Slow, about the conflict between the "experiencing self" and the "remembering self". His thesis is that we have countless moment-to-moment experiences, most of which quickly fade from memory and leave no trace, while a few significant ones are retained and used to construct an overarching story or narrative of one's life. According to Kahnemann, many experiences which were unpleasant or … [Read more...]

Open Thread: Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday

I originally got this idea from Feministe, and I used to do it every couple of months on the old site. I think it's about time for another. This is an open thread for the purposes of self-promotion. If you maintain a blog or other site that you want to tell us about, now's the time! Feel free to post a comment telling us about yourself and your site: who you are, what you write about, and why we should be interested. Atheist-themed sites are of course preferred, though all comers are welcome. … [Read more...]

The Sphere of Permitted Ideas

This week, there's been a flurry of stories about Muslim groups trying to suppress criticism of Islam, both by law and by force. It's worth summarizing them briefly to show how these aren't isolated incidents, but parts of a larger and more disturbing trend. First up: I mentioned earlier the story of a campus secular group in London that came under pressure from Muslim students and the university union to remove this image from the webcomic Jesus and Mo from their Facebook page. (Muslims claim … [Read more...]


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