A Solstice Sermon

Today is - at least to my northern hemisphere readers - the winter solstice, shortest day of the year. For three months now, we've seen the sun set and the night fall progressively earlier each day. But this date marks the terminus of that trend, and though the heart of winter still lies ahead, from now on the days will start to grow longer again.The solstice has always been a date invested with great importance. In the bitter depths of winter, our ancestors surrounded themselves with all the … [Read more...]

The Default

Back in March, I commented on a Beliefnet debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan. In part 4 of that debate, Andrew Sullivan made what I thought was an astonishing concession:But I can say that [this experience] represented for me a revelation of God's love and forgiveness, the improbable notion that the force behind all of this actually loved us, and even loved me. The calm I felt then; and the voice with no words I heard: this was truer than any proof I have ever conceded, any … [Read more...]

The Real Enemies of Christmas

As the holiday season approaches, the partisans of the religious right are ramping up their annual "war on Christmas" rhetoric, which seems to grow more disproportionate with every passing year. The latest example is this absurdly ignorant column, whose author apparently has never heard of separation of church and state (she wonders if the reason government buildings do not display Christian symbols is to punish Christianity for the Inquisition). She seems to think that banning religious … [Read more...]

Open Thread: The Internet Infidels Situation

In light of the continuing, and in fact worsening, fiasco at the IIDB discussion forum, I'm creating an open thread to document the continuing misuses of power. The Internet Infidels Board of Directors is now engaged in a full-scale effort to rewrite history, shuttering feedback forums, deleting countless threads on IIDB that have been critical of their recent actions, and banning numerous members without warning as punishment for dissent. (The stated reason for those bans is "useless … [Read more...]

The Witch Children of Nigeria

I've written on several past occasions about how belief in malignant supernatural forces causes real harm to real people. There are examples of this from every region of the world, but some of the most wrenching are from Africa, where Biblical beliefs about demons and evil spirits still run rampant.In January, I wrote about the witch camps of Ghana, where people suspected of using black magic to harm their neighbors are exiled as if they were lepers. In April, there were the Pentecostals of … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: The Snowstorm

Compliments of the season, today's Poetry Sunday brings you "The Snowstorm" by the famous American transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was born in 1803 in Boston, son of a Unitarian minister, and at first looked set to follow in his father's footsteps. But before he was 30, he walked away from even that liberal religious viewpoint to found a movement that was entirely his own, and authentically American.The transcendentalist movement, which can best be described as rational and … [Read more...]

Movie Review: The Golden Compass

Last night I saw The Golden Compass, the movie adaptation of the first book in Philip Pullman's acclaimed fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. The movie, like the book, is set in a fantastic and richly imagined parallel universe, similar to our own world but different in many important ways. In Pullman's steampunk world, human beings' souls live outside their bodies, in the form of talking animal familiars called daemons; the icy north is ruled by fearsome armored bears and clans of flying … [Read more...]

Pro-Life and Pro-Family

Inspired by an interview on a recent episode of Freethought Radio, I want to talk about a term that greatly annoys me: "values voters". This term is used by American religious conservatives to describe themselves, and all too often, we see the media playing along and using it to describe this voting bloc as well."Values voters" is widely understood to refer to the heavily religious Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, who reliably vote Republican. This group generally supports the war in … [Read more...]

Season of Division: The Episcopal Church Splits Up

There's at least one Christian denomination that won't be singing "peace on earth" this holiday season. A diocese of the Episcopal Church has seceded and plans to align with a South American branch of the Anglican Church, the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. (For readers unfamiliar with the tedious details of church hierarchy, the Anglican Church is the global denomination; the Episcopal Church is the American branch of that church. The Episcopal Church, until this announcement, had 110 … [Read more...]

The Rules Don’t Apply to Me

Last month, Senator Chuck Grassley asked six notorious preachers of the prosperity gospel to account for some highly questionable expenditures, in light of their ministries' non-profit status. So far, it seems that only one of the six, Joyce Meyer, has complied. Three others - Benny Hinn, Paula White, and Kenneth Copeland - have yet to respond. Now the remaining two, Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long, have announced that they will not cooperate.The letter from Dollar's attorney expresses concern … [Read more...]


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