Morality Is Not By Fiat

A few weeks back, I came across a charmingly nasty site called "Christian Cross Talk" whose author devoted his every entry to explaining in depth how and why he hates atheists and blames us for every problem in society. (Sadly, the site has apparently disappeared in the interim, or I'd give a link.) One of his posts presented itself as a point-by-point refutation of my atheist's creed. Quoted below are some of his responses to various points of the creed:Through the use of reason and … [Read more...]

Words That Burn

The winter of 1777-1778 was a bad time for the American revolutionary army. General George Washington had encamped his army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania - an excellent position tactically, but a source of terrible misery and suffering for his weary, poorly equipped troops. The Continental Army was assailed by bitter cold and plagued by chronic shortages of food, shelter and warm clothes. Almost a fifth of the soldiers died of frostbite and disease, and the survivors' morale sank to its lowest … [Read more...]

Strange and Curious Sects: Sabbatai Zevi

Past editions of Strange and Curious Sects have explored religious splinter groups that came into existence relatively recently. Today's edition will focus on an older cult that still has lessons to teach us: the bizarre story of the would-be Jewish messiah, Sabbatai Zevi.Sabbatai Zevi was born in 1626, supposedly on the anniversary of the Roman destruction of the Temple, to a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family in Smyrna, modern-day Turkey. In his youth, he studied the Talmud and especially the … [Read more...]

Little-Known Bible Verses X: Don't Trust Your Heart

I first came across today's little-known Bible verse while reading The Pilgrim's Progress, and it was so amazing to me that I had to set the book aside and look it up on the spot. Search on the internet, and you'll find volumes of Christian apologetics seeking to justify the author's belief in God by claiming that they just know he exists because they can feel his presence in their heart:The imagination knows God and the heart knows God, but the conscience silences the whole person because of … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Forgiveness

Today's post on morality takes up the topic of forgiveness for wrongdoing. In superstitious times, forgiveness was obtained through magical rituals. Most of these assumed that guilt could in some fashion be transferred to an animal or other being, which was then killed or driven off to provide a symbolic expiation. Leviticus 4 explains:Say to the people of Israel, If any one sins unwittingly in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is … [Read more...]

Do You Really Believe That? (Abrogation)

Today's installment of "Do You Really Believe That?" will leave behind Judaic and Christian mythologies to examine a doctrine specific to Islam, the doctrine of abrogation. This belief holds that Allah originally revealed certain practices and rules to Mohammed, only to later issue new revelations which canceled the earlier ones and instituted different practices in their place. In Arabic, this is usually called al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh ("the Abrogator and the Abrogated").It should be said that … [Read more...]

Book Review: Infidel

Summary: Brilliant, brave, inspiring. Read this book.In 2004, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in the street by a Muslim fanatic, Mohammed Bouyeri, who was enraged by van Gogh's production of a film titled Submission which criticizes the mistreatment of women in Islamic societies. Van Gogh's murderer shot him eight times, cut his throat, and left a letter pinned to his body with a butcher knife.The letter was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It said, in essence, "You're next."If … [Read more...]

The Bible's Broken Promises

In their endless quest to evangelize the world, Christian apologists like this one are prone to making grandiose claims about the supposed perfect accuracy of biblical prophecy:Unique among all books ever written, the Bible accurately foretells specific events - in detail - many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter — no errors.Needless to say, this claim r … [Read more...]

The Hopelessness of Life Without Cupid

Inspired by an analogy invented by Daniel Dennett, I have some thoughts for the benefit of those who believe that an atheist's life must necessarily be meaningless and nihilistic.Imagine that there's a society which, instead of God, believes in Cupid. This is the Cupid of Greek mythology, as co-opted by greeting card companies: the rosy-cheeked cherub with tiny wings, who flutters around firing magical arrows into people's hearts that make them fall in love. Imagine that people in this society … [Read more...]

Tainted Icons

More than most other belief systems, organized religion emphasizes tradition and continuity with the past. The historical figures who founded today's prominent churches are considered larger-than-life and thought of as possessing uncommon character and virtue. This is probably because religion is widely equated with morality; given this mistaken assumption, it follows that very religious people must also be very moral.But in fact, the opposite is true. Just as with the character of Jesus, many … [Read more...]


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