This World Is My Home

A famous Christian gospel hymn titled "This World Is Not My Home" sums up how religious views of an afterlife shape believers' views of this life:This world is not my home,     I'm just a passing through, My treasures are laid up     somewhere beyond the blue; The angels beckon me     from heaven's open door, And I can't feel at home     in this world anymore.For millions of people, this verse is more than a … [Read more...]

Advice to an Atheist

I recently received an e-mail from an atheist who's grappling with what I imagine is a common dilemma. I offered some advice, but I wouldn't presume to think that my suggestions are definitive. I'm curious to see what Daylight Atheism commenters have to say:I realize that you don't run an advice column, or anything like it, but I'm sure you have had experience dealing with people who are close to you who happen to be theists. I can't really find any resources for atheists to deal with such a … [Read more...]

Imaginary Virtues

In last month's "Imaginary Crimes", I wrote about the fictitious offenses invented by religion to fill people with guilt and shame. But there's something even worse to write about. The flip side of having imaginary crimes is having imaginary virtues - people who believe themselves to be good and decent based solely on their ability to obey arbitrary religious edicts that offer no benefit to any human being. Not only does religion cause people to feel guilty when they shouldn't, it causes them to … [Read more...]

Sunrise at Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight, The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits; on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. Come to the window, sweet is the night air!I was originally going to post the poem "Dover Beach", by the Victorian poet Matthew Arnold, as the next installment of my Poetry Sunday series. Arnold was Professor of Poetry at Oxford and was said to be one of the three great Victorian poets, … [Read more...]

Speak Boldly

This weekend, I came across an outstanding editorial by the British journalist Johann Hari, "We should never pulp books out of fear of fanatics". It opens by describing "the story of a novel you cannot read":The Jewel of Medina was written by a journalist called Sherry Jones. It recounts the life of Aisha, a girl who really was married off at the age of six to a 50-year-old man called Mohammed ibn Abdallah. On her wedding day, Aisha was playing on a see-saw outside her home. Inside, she was … [Read more...]

Imaginary Crimes

One of the defining attributes of all the world's religions through history is that they create imaginary crimes; that is, arbitrary rules the obeying of which helps no person, and the breaking of which hurts no person. In the beginning, many religions start off as simple, humble affairs; some even have the audacity to insist that our only duty is to love one another. But as time goes by, those simple faiths inevitably become complex and elaborated.Clergy and theologians, who'd have a tough … [Read more...]

Noises in the Night

In the first chapter of her autobiography Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali recounts some of the Somali folktales her grandmother taught her when she was a child. One was a story of a nomad, searching for a home for his wife and child, who mysteriously finds an oasis with a fine grass hut already built in the middle of the desert, and a smiling, friendly stranger who invites them to live there. Alas for the trusting nomad, the stranger was really "He Who Rubs Himself with a Stick," a monstrous … [Read more...]

Smoke on the Breeze

In May, I wrote about the freethinker Giuseppe Verdi and my experience attending a performance of his operatic masterpiece, the Requiem. At the time, I had one other thought: strange as it sounds, and despite the fact that its composer was no friend of orthodoxy, Verdi's Requiem was one of the more effective arguments for Christianity I've ever heard.I'm not a frequent attendee of sermons, but even so, I doubt few of them would match Verdi's orchestral eloquence. Even though its arias were … [Read more...]

A Cold and Sterile Heaven

The other day while browsing in the library, I found out that Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the Left Behind series, have also written a trilogy of prequels. (As long as Christians continue to purchase these awful books, it seems, they intend to keep churning them out.) The final installment of this trilogy is called The Rapture, and it's about just that, written from the point of view of the faithful Christians who are miraculously transported to Heaven.Much of the book is taken up … [Read more...]

Quintessence of Dust

One of the most persistent misconceptions about atheism is that, if there is no supernatural soul and human beings are made merely of atoms and molecules, then our lives would be deprived of meaning. Asserts Christian apologist Phil Fernandes:If atheism is true, then man is mere molecules in motion. He has no greater value than the animals. In fact, human life would be no more sacred than the existence of a rock.This conclusion betrays a very warped view of the nature of worth and value. … [Read more...]