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...]

Donate Organs, Save Lives

The other day I came across this article from Bloomberg News, from which I learned something that surprised me: a large black market exists for human organs, in spite of international laws banning the practice. This isn't organ trafficking in the "waking up in a bathtub full of ice missing a kidney" sense. More commonly, the organs are obtained by organized crime syndicates targeting the desperately poor, promising thousands of dollars in quick cash. Naturally, this requires the cooperation of … [Read more...]

Is America a Christian Nation?

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. In a campaign speech in September, Rick Perry hit upon some familiar Republican themes:Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, in an appeal to evangelical voters, said "Christian values" and not "a bunch of Washington politicians" should be the touchstone guiding how Americans conduct their lives. ..."America is going to be guided by some set of values," Perry told a crowd of 13,000 students and faculty members yesterday at a sports … [Read more...]

American Secularism and Christian Tolerance

My recent post on the godlessness of the Constitution has attracted some attention. Over the weekend, I came across a reply from another of Big Think's bloggers: Peter Lawler, a professor of government and international studies at Berry College and a former member of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, whose blog is Rightly Understood.Prof. Lawler writes about the "complacently atheistic tone" of my article (I wish I could afford to be complacent! I like to think of myself as … [Read more...]

Is America a Christian Nation?

My latest article has been posted on AlterNet, Conservatives Want America to be a "Christian Nation" -- Here's What That Would Actually Look Like. In it, I analyze the "Christian nation" rhetoric of the American religious right, illuminating the historical reality they'd love to forget - that their ideological predecessors fiercely criticized the Constitution for being a godless document. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest: But America's Constitution is more than just a … [Read more...]

The Delusion of a Just World

You've probably heard religious apologists assert that if God didn't exist, the world would be an unjust place where some people were never rewarded or punished as their behavior deserved. (They usually hold back from explicitly stating the conclusion, "Therefore, God must exist, because it would make us very sad if he didn't," probably out of subconscious recognition that this would make the fallacy too obvious.) As prominent a religious figure as Pope Benedict has endorsed this … [Read more...]

We Don’t Need Religion to Have Morality

This essay was originally published on AlterNet.The most common stereotype about atheists, the most common reason why religious people fear and distrust us, is the belief that people who don't believe in God have no reason to behave morally. In the view of the planet's major religions, the way we know what's right and what's wrong is that God tells us so, and the reason we follow the rules is because we fear divine retribution if we break them. This worldview is simple and emotionally … [Read more...]