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...]

Pro-Life and Pro-Family

Inspired by an interview on a recent episode of Freethought Radio, I want to talk about a term that greatly annoys me: "values voters". This term is used by American religious conservatives to describe themselves, and all too often, we see the media playing along and using it to describe this voting bloc as well."Values voters" is widely understood to refer to the heavily religious Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, who reliably vote Republican. This group generally supports the war in … [Read more...]

Building a Secular Community

A recent column by Katha Pollitt, The Atheist's Dilemma, laments how atheists would like to take away what people value and offer nothing in return:But if all you can offer people is reasons to quit their religion—which also often means their community, their family, their support system and their identity—you're not going to have many takers. For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt, there's a mosque- or churchful of people who'll choose the old-time religion if … [Read more...]

Immanence

Last month, while I was on vacation in Puerto Rico, I had a chance to visit the great radio observatory at Arecibo. That was one of the highlights of my trip, but there was another.Puerto Rico has the only tropical rainforest in the United States national park system. On the northeast coast of the islands, at the foot of the Luquillo Mountains, is the 28,000-acre preserve of El Yunque National Forest. Set aside in 1876 by the Spanish king Alfonso XII, El Yunque is one of the oldest nature … [Read more...]

On Gratitude

This Thursday, November 22, is - at least for my American readers - the holiday of Thanksgiving. Despite the religious connotations that have been attached to this day since the beginning, I think this is a good holiday for atheists. It's one of the few whose message can be rendered in entirely secular terms. Thanksgiving as traditionally practiced is a time to come together with family and friends, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life's abundance, and to give thanks for all the good that has … [Read more...]

Advice to an Atheist

A few days ago, I had an e-mail query from an atheist looking for advice. I answered him as best as I was able, but his was a question that I think could benefit from some additional perspectives. With my correspondent's permission, I'm reprinting his query below. If you were in his situation, what would you do?My wife is a Christian and I am an Atheist. We have two small children. She knows how I feel about religion and doesn't like it, but we have basically agreed to disagree. I do not try … [Read more...]

Fragile Trappings

I stepped out of my house today on a chilly fall afternoon. After an unseasonably late warm spell, as if summer had lingered this year past its appointed time, autumn had arrived at last. The feel of the season was in the air: the misty cool, the forests defiantly ablaze with fiery color, the smell of fallen leaves, wet black and rusty gold, in the grass. There was a sense of hunkering down, of quiet activity in the stillness, as nature prepares for the coming winter foreshadowed in the bare … [Read more...]

On Branding

There's been another kerfuffle in the atheist community, and for once, it wasn't caused by someone telling us that we need to pipe down and stop attacking religion. This time, surprisingly, the instigator was Sam Harris - who argued at the Atheist Alliance International Convention 2007 that we should stop calling ourselves "atheists". Hemant of Friendly Atheist has been reporting on this controversy from the beginning, and has collected responses to Harris, including from Ellen Johnson of … [Read more...]


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