A Response to Peter Hitchens, Part II

After our last go-round, Peter Hitchens has posted a further reply. I encourage you to read it in full before reading my response, which follows below: Once again, Peter Hitchens has utterly failed to address the point that even religious moral codes, allegedly based on the will of a perfect and changeless deity, have changed dramatically over time - in virtually all cases for the better. We no longer own slaves, as the Bible permits us to do; we no longer stone disobedient children or require … [Read more...]

A Response to Peter Hitchens

My previous post quoted Peter Hitchens, the conservative Christian brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, to criticize some of his views on divine command morality. To my surprise, it drew two comments that were signed Peter Hitchens. I have no way to be sure they were actually written by him, but the e-mail and IP addresses are plausible, and it's not an extraordinary claim, so I'll accept provisionally that the author is who he says he is. That being the case, I'd like to extend Mr. … [Read more...]

There Is No Non-Human Moral Authority

While reading some remembrances of Christopher Hitchens, I came across a column which quoted this statement from his brother Peter, who was a believer: Like Einstein, he viewed ethics as "an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it," a position that sparked conflict with his journalist brother, Peter, who has argued that, "For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a nonhuman source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to … [Read more...]

‘Tis the Season for Holy War Nostalgia

Most atheist writers in America have encountered the phenomenon of "fatwa envy", where Christian apologists sneer that we wouldn't dare criticize Islam in the same way we criticize Christianity. (This is false, for the record.) Evidently, they're jealous of Islamic extremists' willingness to commit violence in an attempt to silence their critics. Sometimes, it almost comes across as wishing they had more people on their side who were willing to be violent, so they could make us sorry. This isn't … [Read more...]

Atheism and Unitarian Universalism: An Interlude

Apropos of my recent posts on whether Unitarian Universalism is welcoming to atheists, I just got the winter 2011 issue of UU World magazine. And guess who wrote the blurb in this book ad I saw on the front page (click the image on the left to enlarge and read the whole thing). It says:"Secularists, individuals, please take note! Encounters and dialogue between religiously motivated radicals and more secular activists remain important. America, 'the nation with the soul of a church,' cannot … [Read more...]

Can an Atheist Be a Unitarian Universalist? (Part 3)

In my previous post in this series, I quoted a shockingly anti-atheist letter written by Rev. John Buehrens, former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. This letter repeated all the worst falsehoods and prejudices of fundamentalist proselytizers: failing to draw any distinction between peaceful activism and violent coercion, accusing all outspoken atheists of collective guilt for the atrocities of totalitarian regimes while airily saying that "real" religion never commits evil … [Read more...]

Intelligence Squared: Would the World Be Better Without Religion?

On Tuesday night, I attended a debate at NYU's Skirball Center that was part of the Intelligence Squared debate series, "Resolved: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion". Supporting the atheist side were Matthew Chapman and A.C. Grayling, while Dinesh D'Souza and David Wolpe were arguing on behalf of religion. You can read the NYT's recap here, or watch the video. I was furiously scribbling notes throughout the debate, so these are my thoughts on how it went down. (My wife Elizabeth … [Read more...]

Can an Atheist Be a Unitarian Universalist? (Part 2)

In my previous post, I quoted the letter I wrote to John Buehrens, Unitarian Universalist minister, to ask if he stood behind the anti-atheist denunciations in his book A Chosen Faith. The same evening I sent it, I got a response. I regret to report that not only did Buehrens not express regret for his language; he doubled down on it, with more insults and accusations even worse than what's in the book. His reply is reproduced in full below:Dear Adam, The relationship between religion and … [Read more...]

Can an Atheist Be a Unitarian Universalist? (Part 1)

As I've mentioned in the past, my wife and I have for several years been attending a Unitarian Universalist church in the New York area. Unitarian Universalism is officially a religion without faith or creed: its foundational seven principles are only about acting morally, and none of them specify belief in God as a requirement. By some estimates, as many as 46% of UUs are atheists, and the church as a whole supports marriage equality, secularism and other progressive causes, which makes it the … [Read more...]

More Christians Defending Genocide

The professional debater William Lane Craig has been putting on a great show of offense lately that Richard Dawkins won't debate him, complete with silly stunts like leaving an empty chair on the stage. Dawkins concisely explains why he refused: first, he gets numerous invitations to debates like this; and second, Craig is a morally repugnant individual who doesn't deserve to share a stage with him: But Craig is not just a figure of fun. He has a dark side, and that is putting it kindly. Most … [Read more...]