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...]

Firebrands

I've been watching the "Four Horsemen" video, a two-hour conversation among four of today's leading atheists: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. Right at the beginning, Dan Dennett brings up a point that's also been on my mind. Speaking about his pre-publication editing of Breaking the Spell, in an effort not to offend religious readers:"...it's a no-win situation, it's a mug's game. The religions have contrived to make it impossible to disagree with them … [Read more...]

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...]