In Defense of Radical Individualism

Conservative Christians are still grappling with the Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage this summer. It's sinking in that Obergefell was just the starkest example of how they no longer enjoy the absolute cultural power they once held, and that, as younger generations become more secular, their influence will keep dwindling. Some are reaching for apocalyptic rhetoric - Franklin Graham, for example, has said in response to the ruling, "I believe the end is coming... we are in the … [Read more...]

The Astounding Hypocrisy of Anti-Refugee Christians


With the Syrian civil war plodding through its fourth year, the country is being hollowed out as everyone who has the means to escape flees from the bloodshed. Ordinary Syrians are trapped in a vise between the indiscriminate brutality of Bashar al-Assad's military and the sadistic terror of ISIS. The United Nations estimates that over four million of them are now refugees. The vast majority have gone to neighboring states like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and even Iraq, but tens of thousands are … [Read more...]

The Mormons’ Great Leap Backward


Earlier this year, I wrote about about how the Mormon church laudably apologized for its past racism, yet its leaders were repeating the errors of history by continuing to insist on anti-LGBT discrimination. Well, the next chapter of that story has just been written:In a major policy announcement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says children living in a same-sex household may not be blessed as babies or baptized.... "A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a … [Read more...]

Dangerous Ideas Welcomed Here


In September, Bernie Sanders made a campaign appearance at Liberty University, the Jerry Falwell-founded college and incubator for the religious right. Sanders' speech emphasized themes of social justice in the Bible and other religious traditions, although without downplaying the obvious differences in how he thinks they should be applied. By all accounts, the response from Liberty's students and staff was tepid, but polite:"Calling on us to help the neediest, that resonates with me as a … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: Atheists Fighting for Choice


You may detect a theme this week. My latest column on the Guardian is up: "Abortion opposition is a religious stance. Atheists must help fight for choice".Under an onslaught of anti-choice legislation, abortion rights in the U.S. are threatened as never before. But an ally is beckoning from an unexpected quarter: in spite of our image as a male-dominated and sometimes obliviously sexist community, atheists are by far the most pro-choice demographic in the nation, and some large secular … [Read more...]

The Stingless Sting: The Absurd Attack on Planned Parenthood


The latest religious-right attack on abortion rights is a set of undercover videos made by an anti-choice group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress. Posing as potential buyers for a medical research firm, they tried to get Planned Parenthood officials to accept illegal payments in exchange for tissue samples from aborted fetuses. (Profiting from fetal tissue or organ sales is against the law, but accepting payments to cover the costs of storage and transportation is legal.) But they … [Read more...]

The Graying of the Priesthood, Continued

Pope Francis's visit to the U.S. this week is generating reams of breathless, anticipatory coverage. But all the media excitement can't change that there are severe, long-run problems for the church that are already having an impact, and that a papal red-carpet tour isn't going to fix.One of those big problems is the aging and dwindling of the priesthood. Simply stated, priests and nuns are growing old and dying, and there's nowhere near enough new recruits to replace them. I've written … [Read more...]

Sam Harris’ Indefensible Views on Racial Profiling

As PZ brought to my attention, Sam Harris is still arguing for racially profiling airline passengers. His argument in the video is that security is a "zero-sum game", that our screeners have limited time and resources, and so they should focus on the people whom we know are more likely to be terrorists, by which he means Islamist fundamentalists (he never considers any other kind of terrorism).The fullest expression of Harris' views is in a 2012 article on his blog, "In Defense of … [Read more...]

Kim Davis’ Multiple Marriages Are Fair Game

Although the vast majority of American local officials are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, there are a few stubborn bigots determined to hold out. In the state of Kentucky, 3 out of 120 county clerks are still refusing to comply, including the most notorious, Rowan County clerk Kim Davis.After repeatedly losing her appeals and then defying a direct court order - claiming she answered only to "God's authority" and not the courts or the Constitution - Davis was jailed for … [Read more...]

Is Religion Inherently Authoritarian?


This article was originally published on AlterNet.Human history is a story of gradual moral enlightenment. Over the ages, we've become less violent, less xenophobic, more tolerant, more committed to the ideals of democracy and equality under the law. Of course, moral progress is painfully slow, with many holdouts and local reversals, and we have a very long way left to go. But it's hard to deny that the world we live in today is less prejudiced and more peaceful than the world five hundred … [Read more...]