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...]

A Memo to Fence-Sitting Agnostics

In the Guardian last week, Tracy Quan had a column titled Agnostic about atheism. It strikes a note we've heard before: Quan, though a nonbeliever herself (she describes herself as a "'cafeteria' atheist and secular Catholic"), is embarrassed and uncomfortable to hear atheists speaking out forthrightly and wishes we would stop.Some of my fellow atheists are to non-belief what being nouveau riche is to the traditionally rich. It's as though they've just discovered God doesn't exist, and they … [Read more...]

Think for Yourself

In one of his "My Answer" columns, Billy Graham replies to a correspondent who doesn't see the need for organized religion:Don't make up your own ideas about God, but understand from the Bible who He really is, and commit your life to Christ."Don't make up your own ideas" - this is Billy Graham's advice to the seeker. Instead, presumably, we should read the Bible and believe exactly what it says, without bringing any of our own imagination or independent thought to the subject.My friend … [Read more...]

On Nihilism and Satanism

I'd like to write today about two stereotypes of atheism that are common among some quarters of religious apologists: that we are moral nihilists, recognizing no such concepts as right and wrong; and that we are Satanists who worship, or at least admire, the adversary power of monotheism. The atheists who advocate these concepts, rare though they are, are exploited by fundamentalists who use them to tar the rest of us.Is what I just wrote a contradiction? I don't think so. I find no … [Read more...]

Wind and Water

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it."—Matthew 16:18 (RSV)The biblical metaphor of the church built on rock is interwoven throughout Christianity, used as a metaphor for the presumed stability and eternality of the faith. The Catholic church points to two thousand years of continuous tradition as proof that they are the rock in question, while other denominations cite their alleged correct … [Read more...]

A Reflection on Hope

Last year, around the time I inaugurated my Poetry Sunday series, I contacted Prof. Philip Appleman to ask for permission to reprint some of his work which I'd seen in Freethought Today. He graciously assented to my request, and even said a few kind words about "The Gods", my own brief foray into free verse, which I had the brashness to ask for his opinion on.He called my poem "hopeful," which was an honor to me, but there was one other thing he said which I've been dwelling on - that he was … [Read more...]

An Atheist in Church

This past Sunday, I went to church and had a wonderful time.No, I haven't converted, nor am I thinking of doing so. I was there to accompany my girlfriend, who's a lapsed Catholic and is seeking a new church to attend. We went to a Unitarian Universalist church on Long Island. That Sunday there was a relatively small congregation, I'd guess between thirty and fifty people. The church itself was a pleasant modern building with a high, sloping ceiling and tall picture windows in the back. There … [Read more...]