Book Review: The Quantum Mechanic

Summary: A compelling atheist thought experiment, wrapped inside a cleverly plotted and fast-paced tale of transhumanist fiction. This isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed a book written by a fellow blogger, but it’s always a pleasure for me to do, and this one was particularly pleasurable to read. The Quantum Mechanic is a novel written by the blogger D – you may know her as the author of She Who Chatters – for 2009’s National Novel Writing Month. The hero… Read more

In Which I Am Not Filled With Optimism

Via Ophelia Benson, this unwelcome news: the Center for Inquiry’s podcast Point of Inquiry, which I listened to regularly until now, is seeing a change in hosts. D.J. Grothe, who formerly conducted the interviews, is leaving to serve as the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. He’ll be replaced by a rotating series of hosts, and the most important of which, who’s expected to conduct approximately half of Point of Inquiry’s new interviews, is Chris Mooney. On its face,… Read more

Strange and Curious Sects: Chabad Messianism

You get all kinds of weird and amusing religious literature on the New York subways, and here’s the latest proof: Click to enlarge. Also see interior and back cover. If you’ve attended a college with a significant Jewish population, you’re probably familiar with Chabad House, an organization that runs community centers and programs for observant Jews. What you may not know is who runs these centers – or one of this group’s stranger and more curious offshoots, the subject of… Read more

From the Mailbag: Atheists in the Closet

As much effort as we freethinkers put into making atheism a viable and socially accepted option, it’s important to remember that it’s still a difficult feat to extricate oneself from religion when one’s family and social life are bound up with church attendance. Consider this e-mail I received a few days ago, whose author’s personal information I’ve omitted: I just wanted to say thanks for your sites, which I’ve been reading for about a year now. I’m a 49 year… Read more

Weekly Link Roundup

I’m happy to report that there’s quite a lot of good news this week: • The U.K. government recommends that primary school religious education classes should teach about “secular beliefs such as humanism and atheism”, in addition to learning about major world religions like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. This is just one more symptom of how far ahead of us our European friends are in some respects – can you imagine the religious right frenzy that would ensue if a… Read more

The Case for a Creator: Complexity Is Scary!

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 8 In the previous installment, I discussed how creationists steer well clear of doing any real science. We can see another example of this in, ironically, the way Strobel falls all over himself lauding Michael Behe as a Real Scientist: He has authored forty articles for such scientific journals as DNA Sequence, The Journal of Molecular Biology, Nucleic Acids Research, Biopolymers, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Biophysics, and Biochemistry… He is… Read more

Bloody-Handed Evangelicals

In the U.S., the cause of gay and lesbian rights has made major advances in the last few decades. Anti-discrimination laws are in wide effect, including a recently passed federal hate-crime law; marriage equality is already an established reality in several states; and despite setbacks, the now overwhelming tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians among younger generations heralds further progress in the future. But in spite of these hopeful signs, the hatemongers and bigots of the religious right aren’t… Read more

The Poisoned Cup of Theodicy

The world has seen and heard enough about the misery and destruction in Haiti this past week that I don’t think I need to dwell on it. But I do want to take some time to address the perennial question of theodicy, which comes up in the aftermath of every disaster like this. To an atheist, for whom the Haiti quake was nothing more than the result of tectonic plates slipping – a disaster caused by impersonal natural forces and… Read more

Photo Sunday: Parabola

This photo is from my trip to St. Louis last weekend, taken from the base of the famous Gateway Arch. Besides the sheer scale of the structure, I was attracted to its stark, geometrical shape – almost like a mathematical equation in the form of a building. In the enlarged version, you can see the windows of the observation deck at the apex. Gateway Arch, St. Louis, January 2010. Photo by the author. Camera details: Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS. Click… Read more

Geert Wilders on Trial

This week, the Dutch politician Geert Wilders appeared in court in his home country to face charges of “inciting discrimination and hatred”, which could carry a two-year prison sentence on each count. Wilders is, of course, the bomb-throwing right-wing populist whom I wrote about in 2008, made infamous by his short film Fitna (caution: some disturbing images). When Wilders’ blunt criticisms of Islam caused fury among Muslims, the nation of Jordan – of which Wilders is not a citizen, and… Read more

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