Photo Sunday: Peace, Light, Strength


I wanted to write about something else this weekend. Instead, I spent my Friday night sitting by the TV, watching the news from Paris, mesmerized and grief-stricken by yet another proof of human beings' capacity for inhumanity. And while it didn't get as much world notice or media coverage, there was also a deadly string of bombings in Lebanon this week.Even in the midst of awful crisis, there were heroes, as there always are: the Paris security guard who caught one of the suicide bombers … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: November 8


• A Texas homeschooling family has been taken to court after allegedly refusing to teach their children anything at all since "they were going to be raptured". Of note, the family's 17-year-old daughter ran away from home because she wanted to go to school.• Violence in the Name of the Messiah: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists aim to create a theocratic state in Palestinian territory through terrorism. An infamous rabbinic document called "Torat ha-Melekh", or "The Law of the … [Read more...]

From the Mailbag: Minds Do Change

Changing your mind about the belief system that's defined your life is a rare occurrence, one that demands an uncommon degree of courage and intellectual honesty. For obvious reasons, it's something that atheist bloggers don't expect to see too often, even if most of us would say that helping it happen is the whole purpose of our writing.But that doesn't mean it never happens. Here's an e-mail I got a few days ago, whose author, Brent, gave me permission to share it with … [Read more...]

Friday Night Music: The Shade

Following up on the theme of their last album, 2012's Synthetica, Metric delves deeper into a retro electronic-and-neon, 1980s-arcade-inspired sound and aesthetic on their new release, Pagans in Vegas. It comes off as cold and artificial on a first listen, and most of it took me a while to warm up to (especially "Cascades"). But I liked this one, the first single, immediately: … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: 10 More Lessons from Atlas Shrugged

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, "10 Things I Discovered About Ayn Rand's Addled Brain After Reading 'Atlas Shrugged'". It summarizes ten more of the very important political and moral lessons I've learned over the last year reviewing part II of Atlas Shrugged. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:If you've ever voted for politicians who passed safety regulations, or accepted any kind of loan or grant money from the government, or criticized the excesses of … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: October 11


• eBible Fellowship, a Christian group with ties to Harold Camping, predicted the world would end on October 7. Oops! After the date came and went, they put up a defiant post in which they conceded their error, yet insisted the world is still going to burn in hell anyway. (Here's a graphic of some other end-time blunders through history.)• The men trying to stop Sikh women from marrying outside their religion, using violence if necessary.• I've written about the horrible … [Read more...]

I Get Religious Mail: Bibles, Not Peace


The flow of religious junk mail in my mailbox seems to be accelerating. Here's the latest, a begging letter from the American Bible Society. (Click for larger.)The thrust of this solicitation is that American soldiers deployed abroad desperately want to read Bibles, but somehow can't get any - a near-certain falsehood to begin with, given the extreme saturation of fundamentalist religion in the military.Included in the envelope was a … [Read more...]

Friday Night Music: Sidelined

Shelley Segal is on tour in the U.S., and I got to see her perform at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan earlier this month. Here's one of the songs she played, a feminist folk anthem from her latest EP, Strange Feeling: … [Read more...]

Photo Sunday: Returning to Nature


In spite of all the damage we've done, our impact on the earth is more evanescent than you might imagine. I'm fascinated by books like Alan Weisman's The World Without Us or Jonathan Waldman's Rust: The Longest War, which describe how all the artifacts of our civilization would dissolve and disappear without human beings to maintain them. Here's a case in point: a long-abandoned pickup truck, left to peacefully rust and rejoin nature, in New York's Adirondack Mountains. Note how the wheels are … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: August 30


• Oliver Sacks has died. In his final column, "Sabbath", he talks about his humanism and his rejection of his Jewish upbringing when his mother discovered he was gay and was violently hateful towards him: "her harsh words made me hate religion's capacity for bigotry and cruelty".In his closing words, he contemplates the end with acceptance and peace:And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the … [Read more...]