Belaboring the Obvious

When it comes to theist-atheist debates, one sentiment I hear frequently is that there's no point arguing either side of the controversy, because no one's mind is ever changed by such arguments. Last summer, in "Be Hot or Cold", I pointed out two reviewers who both dragged out exactly this same assertion in response to two different atheist books.There's no doubt that conversions are rare, on both sides. And I also don't think there's any doubt that rational persuasion is usually ineffective. … [Read more...]

De-Mystification

Inspired by a good post on Spanish Inquisitor, as well as a similarly good post by Greta Christina (the atheistic stars have aligned!), I had some thoughts about the role of mysticism in religion, especially as it relates to sex.Freethinkers should be working to disseminate accurate information about sex, of course - information on how to choose a sexual partner, how to use birth control effectively, how to get an abortion if need be, how to be respectful and responsible toward one's partners, … [Read more...]

Expanding the Secular Community

In a world of hostile religious believers, a lone atheist is a target. Vjack of the always superb Atheist Revolution provides a chilling example, an atheist family in rural Pennsylvania who incurred severe harassment and reprisal from their believing neighbors after they complained about blatant religious indoctrination in the local public school, culminating with them being driven out of town.But there's an important lesson to be learned from this sad story: if an isolated atheist is a target … [Read more...]

We Need Nothing More

I recently received an e-mail from an atheist asking for advice:I've always been afraid of death, and usually I tell myself that it's pointless. But lately, I've started thinking about my existence and ultimately, my death. I was, and still am to some extent, horribly afraid of losing myself forever, which is quite irrational I suppose. I've cheered myself up, worked through this fear several times. I've made myself realize that life is short and that I should look at death as a reminder to … [Read more...]

Living the Humanist Life

In the past, I've written much about the philosophy of humanism and how it offers a transcendent, spiritual view of life's purpose that is at least as appealing as anything offered by religion (and in fact, is superior - at least in my opinion).Well and good, but I've been thinking lately that what we need is a set of practical guidelines for living life as a humanist. Holding this lofty view in moments of deep reflection or contemplation is one thing, but how does the humanist philosophy … [Read more...]

The Religion of Humanity

He was a worshiper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: "For Justice all place a temple, and all season, summer." He believed that happiness is the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest.The above passage is an excerpt from a eulogy given by the famous American freethinker Robert Ingersoll for his brother, Ebon. It's one of my favorite passages from Ingersoll, … [Read more...]

Wolves in the Fold

In February of 1906, Pope Pius X issued an encyclical titled "Vehementer Nos", which denounced France for its passage of a revolutionary law establishing the separation of church and state. This document contained a blunt insight into the Catholic view of the relationship between religion and government:That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.Happily, France ignored this musty blast from a figure who - then, as now - serves as … [Read more...]

A Profile in Atheism

The Washington State Tri-City Herald ran a lovely story last month profiling a local atheist: Atheism - A belief in the here and now. Fernando Aguilar, the story's subject, is the kind of person every atheist should strive to be like: a dedicated and courageous humanitarian, an outspoken activist, and a loving family man.When mortar shells were exploding near Fernando Aguilar in Iraq, he didn't pray to God for help.He doesn't believe God exists. And his long-held conviction didn't change … [Read more...]

On Varieties of Moderation

The rise of the atheist movement is drawing attention in popular society, even from bastions of the traditional press. However, most of the media organizations paying attention to atheism show little interest in why atheists are finding a voice, instead preferring to repeat the usual stereotypes. A recent column in Newsweek, "Moderates Storm The Religious Battlefield", is no exception. I've criticized them before; it's time to do so again.The article opens with an acknowledgement that atheists … [Read more...]

A Solstice Sermon

Today is - at least to my northern hemisphere readers - the winter solstice, shortest day of the year. For three months now, we've seen the sun set and the night fall progressively earlier each day. But this date marks the terminus of that trend, and though the heart of winter still lies ahead, from now on the days will start to grow longer again.The solstice has always been a date invested with great importance. In the bitter depths of winter, our ancestors surrounded themselves with all the … [Read more...]


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