Your Assistance Is Requested

Help the secular community out! Two fellow bloggers have requests that some of you fine people may be able to fulfill: • Greta Christina is writing a new book about coming out of the closet, and she's collecting stories about how you told other people that you were an atheist. If you've got one to tell, please read her guidelines for what she's looking for and contribute! • Also, over at Unequally Yoked, Leah is running a sequel to her ideological Turing test, and needs atheists to … [Read more...]

Will Life Extension Mean the End of Religion?

I've been thinking in speculative directions lately, and nothing is more speculative than the question of whether we'll one day be able to extend the human lifespan. The notion of living longer is certainly pleasant to contemplate personally, but I'm not convinced it would be positive for humanity as a whole. As I wrote in "Who Wants to Live Forever?", the invention of anti-aging therapy could be a disaster, if it freezes the human race's moral opinions exactly as they are now: imagine North … [Read more...]

How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages

This article was previously published on AlterNet. For the vast majority of human history, the only form of government was the few ruling over the many. As human societies became settled and stratified, tribal chiefs and conquering warlords rose to become kings, pharaohs, and emperors, all ruling with absolute power and passing on their thrones to their children. To justify this obvious inequality and explain why they should reign over everyone else, most of these ancient rulers claimed that … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: The Contributions of Freethinkers

My latest column has been posted on AlterNet, 9 Great Freethinkers and Religious Dissenters in History. Based on my series "The Contributions of Freethinkers", it's a listing of some famous and influential men and women who achieved great things for humanity while living lives free of superstition. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest: To hear religious apologists tell it, the triumph of atheism would mean a swift descent into selfishness and chaos. The defenders of the … [Read more...]

The Prophet of Bayside

During my last trip to San Francisco, I reported on my discovery of a woman who receives messages from God in his actual handwriting. I'm amused to report that I've just found out about another holy prophet I thought I'd share with you all, and this one is a local! Her name is Veronica Lueken, and she lived in Bayside, Queens, not far from where I live now. Although most of her prophetic activity took place in the late 70s and early 80s, and she died in the 90s, she still has a cadre of devoted … [Read more...]

The Importance of Drawing Mohammed

As you may be aware, this past Sunday was Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, in which freethinkers are exhorted to draw pictures of Mohammed to reaffirm their right to free expression in the face of Islamist demands for censorship. I grant that there's room for debate over how much good this accomplishes directly, and some online commenters derided it as a waste of time, a juvenile attempt at provocation, or an act of pointless slacktivism. And if nothing had happened in response, they might have had … [Read more...]

Discovering Electromagnetism

In Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, there's a chapter titled "Maxwell and the Nerds" about James Clerk Maxwell, the Scottish physicist who discovered the four equations that govern electricity and magnetism. There's a passage in this chapter that I think perfectly sums up the moment that all scientists strive for. Many renowned ancient and medieval thinkers believed that light didn't travel at all, or that if it did, its speed was infinite. Aristotle, for example, argued that light "is not … [Read more...]

Music Saturday: Satellite

I love this new song, "Satellite", by the folk singer Anna Dagmar, from her upcoming album of the same name. It's a (I assume) autobiographical account of growing up in a home with a scientist father and a religious mother - "the Story of Creation meets the Big Bang", as her website says. I first heard her perform it at a concert a few months ago, and I've been eagerly waiting for the video to be released:Image credit: AnnaDagmar.com … [Read more...]

On The Morality Of: Treating Psychopaths

Earlier this week I caught a post on Lindsay Beyerstein's blog Duly Noted, highlighting a horrifying NYT story wrestling with the question of whether children can be psychopaths, and if so, whether they're doomed to grow up into adult psychopaths or whether there's any intervention that can be effective. "Psychopath" isn't a general term for an unpleasant person, but a term with a specific psychological meaning. Psychopaths score highly on indexes of what's called callous-unemotional behavior … [Read more...]

The Religious War on Women Continues

It must be a terribly confusing time to be a member of the Vatican hierarchy. In an effort to stem the accelerating exodus of Catholic laypeople, they've been cracking down on suspected heretics left and right - on nuns who help the poor too much, on priests who want to change the rules of ordination, on politicians who don't vote the way the bishops tell them to, on groups that fight bullying of gay teenagers, on ordinary churchgoers who've been divorced or who don't attend Mass every week - … [Read more...]


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