Blogging Better Angels: The Bad Old Days

Back in May, I reviewed Steven Pinker's hugely ambitious new book The Better Angels of Our Nature, about the decline of violence through history. I couldn't do justice to all the ideas in this book with a single post, so I promised to return to it and write about Pinker's argument in more detail. It's taken me a while, but I'm getting back to that promise now. I plan to write several posts exploring some of the major ideas put forth in the book, which I intend to eventually collect into an essay … [Read more...]

Boycott the Boy Scouts

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America, as a private membership-based organization, had the right to discriminate against gay people by expelling them or barring them from joining. Since then, the BSA has been enforcing that policy with gusto, expelling gay and lesbian scouts and scout leaders all over the country. (They're equally prejudiced against atheists, as atheist Eagle Scout Darrell Lambert found out when he too was kicked out as punishment for being honest about … [Read more...]

One-Half of One Cent

As I'm writing this post, NASA's latest Mars mission - the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity - is just hours away from its destination. By the time you read this, we'll know if it touched down safely on the surface of the red planet. Curiosity is a robot rover about the size of an SUV, much larger than previous Mars rovers, and carries more scientific equipment. That makes it too big and too heavy to drop to the surface and bounce to a stop protected by airbags, the way that its … [Read more...]

Phone-Spam Evangelism

On Friday afternoon, I got a call on my cell phone from an 800 number I didn't recognize. I let it go to voicemail, and I'm glad I did, because that means I had a recording of this wonderfully bizarre call so I could transcribe and share it with you: God bless you, this is [unintelligible, but sounds like "Tom from NASA"]. I'm calling you because I know that you are going through one of the most toughest times of your life [sic], and this is why I'm calling you because prayer does bring … [Read more...]

How Religious Liberals Harm Their Own Cause: A Response to James Rohrer

Last month, AlterNet published a column by James Rohrer, a history professor and self-identified progressive religious believer who had some unkind words for the New Atheists. I'd like to take the opportunity to respond here and to show how his essay partakes of many of the same fallacies that have ensured the religious right's dominance in the American culture wars for the past several decades. Rohrer begins: Lately the progressive blogosphere has been filled with pieces by humanists who … [Read more...]

Book Review: Nonbeliever Nation

Summary: A solid, informative history of the rise of the American secular movement. Books like Jennifer Michael Hecht's Doubt: A History or Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers show how brave nonbelievers have always existed, even in theocratic societies that were implacably hostile to their views. In most cases, persecution prevented those isolated sparks from joining together into a brighter light. But what happens when they do join together? In the past two decades, observers of American politics … [Read more...]


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