Dreams of a Better World

As I've written in the past, I'm an optimist when it comes to human progress: I'm confident that we can overcome the problems that beset us. This isn't to say that I think our triumph is inevitable, or even that optimism is the only possible position for a rational person to take. There are plenty of reasons to despair, for those who seek them out. Nevertheless, I think there's one major, counterbalancing reason for hope, and that reason is this.Simply stated, our greatest dangers are not … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: A.E. Housman

Today's Poetry Sunday introduces another renowned, classic author who was also an atheist: the English poet and scholar A.E. Housman.Housman was born in Worcestershire in 1859. His personal life was marked by tragedy: his mother died while he was young, as did four of his six siblings, and his father squandered much of the family fortune. A homosexual, he fell in love with a fellow student while attending Oxford, but was rebuffed. The rejection left Housman emotionally scarred for life, and … [Read more...]

Take Action: Tell Obama to Prosecute Bush's Torturers

Under pressure from the ACLU, the Obama administration has finally released a set of four Bush-era memos from the White House Office of Legal Counsel. Written by assistant attorney general Jay Bybee and acting assistant attorney general Steven Bradbury, these memos detailed the torture techniques which the Bush administration believed could be used on captured terrorists and terror suspects.These techniques included "walling" (slamming a prisoner into a wall by swinging them from a collar … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Paging Dr. Provine

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 1At the close of the first chapter, Lee Strobel scales to an incredible height of lunacy:I knew intuitively what prominent evolutionary biologist and historian William Provine of Cornell University would spell out explicitly in a debate years later. If Darwinism is true, he said, then there are five inescapable conclusions:there's no evidence for God there's no life after death there's no absolute foundation for right and wrong there's no ultimate … [Read more...]

Taxation Is Not Theft

In last August's post "Spread the Wealth", I talked about the justifications for redistributive taxation. I felt that some of the issues raised in the comments deserved to be revisited - and since it's tax time here in the U.S., it's worth a reminder of why we pay them and what we get out of it.The centerpiece of the libertarian rhetorical strategy is to refer to taxation as theft, robbery, slavery. I've heard these epithets and others like them many times. It's easy to see what purpose this … [Read more...]

Thoughtful Iconoclasts: A Response to Madeleine Bunting

I last mentioned Guardian columnist and Templeton Foundation fellow Madeleine Bunting in 2007, in "On Being Uncontroversial". She's recently written another column attacking atheism, alleging that the New Atheists are drowning out, in her words, "real debates" about religion and faith.Personally, I don't see the basis of her complaint. I think we've been provoking some very good debates - about the proper role of religion in society, how much influence it should have, whether and to what … [Read more...]

Bus Ads and Atheist Visibility

If you're an American freethinker who's envious of the success of the atheist bus campaign in Europe, this is your chance. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is launching its own campaign to put pro-atheist messages on buses and trains in America, with six ads already designed that feature quotes from famous freethinkers both historical and modern. The ads are already up on buses in Madison, and if enough donations come in, the FFRF plans to take the campaign to major cities like New … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Facts About VD

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 1We pick up where we left off, with self-proclaimed former skeptic Lee Strobel interviewing a rural Appalachian community whose inhabitants were violently resisting the teaching of evolution. As we'll see, Strobel believes a person can be fully justified in advocating creationism. Yet it seems improbable that these isolated, deeply religious communities were thoroughly acquainted with the complicated philosophical and scientific arguments he deploys later in the … [Read more...]

The Twisted Moral of Passover

This week is the holiday of Passover, one of Judaism's high holy days which commemorates the ancient Israelites' deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Although the archaeological evidence for captivity and exodus is lacking, this story has become a fundamental part of Jewish cultural consciousness, as well as a symbol and an inspiration to others. In pre-Civil War America, for example, the Exodus mythology played a role in the abolitionist movement, as African slaves and their allies looked to … [Read more...]

Congratulations, Iowa!

Last week, friends of equality had some very welcome news: the Supreme Court of Iowa has unanimously struck down a ban on gay marriage in that state. No blue state this, no liberal haven like California or Massachusetts that is so often demonized by conservatives and religious right bigots: Iowa is part of the mythologized "American heartland", a midwestern swing state whose electoral votes went to George W. Bush in 2004 (although Barack Obama won it in 2008, and Democrats currently control both … [Read more...]


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