Atheism Is a Civil Rights Issue

Back in April, I noted with dismay when science writer Chris Mooney urged atheists to be silent and not voice their views, lest they provoke negative reactions from religious people. Now his partner in that effort, Matthew Nisbet, has written a far worse post along the same lines which has stirred up a hornet's nest among some prominent atheist bloggers.Nisbet seems to bear some irrational personal animus against Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens which has colored all his views on … [Read more...]

Theocracy Watch XI: A Dark Day for Separation

I'm sorry to report some bad news for allies of church-state separation everywhere. Back in February, I wrote about a momentous case before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Freedom from Religion Foundation argued that George W. Bush should not have the right to unilaterally use money appropriated by Congress to fund religious organizations. That case, Hein v. FFRF, has been decided, with the court ruling 5-4 in the administration's favor. This is a sad outcome, though not terribly shocking, … [Read more...]

Not Knowing the Enemy

The Christian site Crosswalk.com has published an article by Tony Beam, director of the "Christian Worldview Center" at North Greenville College in South Carolina. Reporting on a talk given by ex-Watergate felon and current prison minister Charles Colson, Beam discusses what in his eyes are the two greatest threats facing Christians today: fundamentalist Islamic radicals who blow up buildings and kidnap and murder innocent bystanders with the intent of establishing a fascist, patriarchal … [Read more...]

Christian Terrorism

On July 29, 1994, a religious fundamentalist named Paul Hill attacked a Pensacola, Florida family planning center, murdering abortion provider Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett with a single blast from a pump-action shotgun. With numerous eyewitnesses, Hill surrendered peacefully and confessed to his crime at the scene. Hill was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, convicted by a jury, and given the death sentence. On September 3, 2003, he was executed by lethal … [Read more...]

What Is Christianity Good For?

What is Christianity good for?I ask this question in all seriousness, not as an insult. I genuinely want to know. Eternal life in Heaven is usually held out as the greatest benefit of becoming a Christian, but that reward is said to be in the next life and is impossible for us to verify. Does Christianity have any benefits in this life, any evidence that can be offered now as partial substantiation of its grander promises later on?I'm not looking for personal testimonies about how … [Read more...]

Be Hot or Cold

As atheists continue to make inroads into the media and our message becomes more widely noticed, we are attracting attention from all quarters. Some of the responses consist of delighted praise and relief that rationalists and freethinkers are finally making our voices heard. Some responses consist of the furious but ineffectual sputterings of religious fundamentalists. But then there is a third group, smaller than the other two but quite possibly overrepresented in the media: the … [Read more...]

The Selective Wall

Last December, I wrote about a controversy in Albemarle County, Virginia, where right-wing Christians who sued for and won the right to distribute literature through the public schools' "backpack mail" program were shocked - shocked! - to find out that there were other religions which then wanted to use that program for the same thing. At the time, the example I cited was a local Unitarian church which invited students to a pagan-inspired celebration of the winter holidays.Now there's a new … [Read more...]

The Golden Mean

When the history of our era is written, there is much that will be said about the failures of traditional, mainstream media organizations. One of the most disappointing is the media's ritualized exaltation of "balance", which in practice means giving equal time and attention to both sides of a debate regardless of whether one side's views are more in agreement with the facts. I wrote about the harmful effects of this ignorant and lazy practice last year, in "The Illusion of Balance".There's … [Read more...]

Banning the Bible

A very entertaining story has come out of Hong Kong recently. After the Hong Kong goverment's "Obscene Articles Tribunal" censored a Chinese student magazine as "indecent" for publishing a sex column asking if readers had ever fantasized about incest or bestiality, over 800 residents protested by calling on the government to classify the Bible as indecent also. (Such material is not outright barred from publication, but must be sold in sealed bags with a legal warning and can only be sold to … [Read more...]

Religious Earmarks

An article in the New York Times this week, "Religious Groups Reap Federal Aid for Pet Projects", gives some troubling details about the growing trend of religious groups seeking - and receiving - no-strings-attached federal grants disbursed by a direct act of Congress, usually called "earmarks", to fund their pet projects. Sometimes these grants are for secular purposes, such as ministries that fund job training programs or religious colleges studying how best to reduce gang violence. However, … [Read more...]


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