An Incident in the Senate

The U.S. Senate traditionally opens each day's session with a prayer, and today's was a first: the invocation was given by Rajan Zed, a Hindu priest who was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. This was the first time a representative of Hinduism has ever been invited to do this.However, there was an ugly incident that disrupted the occasion. As Zed began to speak, he was interrupted by three Christians in the visitors' gallery shouting at the top of their lungs, calling Zed's prayer … [Read more...]

The Eisenhower Test

The campaign of Mitt Romney, a Mormon, for the Republican presidential nomination has caused rifts within the party's base, as evangelical Christians agonize over whether they could support a candidate who believes slightly different things about God than they do. The latest spat in this conflict comes in a post by Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who argues that Mormons are not Christians. Sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card, himself a Mormon, fires back. … [Read more...]

America the Paradox

On this Fourth of July, I've been giving careful thought to what this day signifies. For Americans, this is a date that means more than barbecue grills in the backyard or colorful stars blossoming in the night sky, more even than patriotic music and red-white-and-blue flags rippling in the breeze. These are time-tested symbols, but if we do not look closely and remember, we risk seeing the symbols only and not the underlying reality at which they point.America's history is far more than … [Read more...]

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 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...]