Free Speech Under Siege

Since the Enlightenment, fundamentalist religious leaders the world over have railed against the idea of free speech, for understandable reasons. By permitting other people to point out the fallacies in their arguments and dispute their claim to be the infallible voice of God, the right of free speech is the single most effective countermeasure to prevent theocracy and tyranny from taking hold. Religious extremism can be found in many places, but it rarely becomes truly dominant unless it can … [Read more...]

The Asch Conformity Experiment

Solomon Asch. "Opinions and social pressure." Scientific American, vol.193, no.5 (1955), p.31-35.Back in April, I wrote about the classic Milgram experiment and what it shows about how disturbingly willing people are to submit to authority, even in the presence of strong countervailing reasons. What about when the pressure to obey comes not from an authority figure above us, but from our peers? How will people fare then?A classic study was done on this question in 1955 by Solomon Asch. In … [Read more...]

Atheists Meek and Mild

Do you, readers, remember the golden age of American secularism, where freethinkers stood on every corner preaching that they believed one thing and Christians believed another, and that we should all ignore these differences and do our best to get along without attacking each other's beliefs?I don't either. But convicted Watergate felon and current prison evangelist Charles Colson does, and in a recent column, he bemoans the aggressive stance today's most prominent atheists have taken when it … [Read more...]

A Legal Development

I've said on previous occasions that Daylight Atheism is a weblog devoted to commentary and analysis, not breaking news. However, I've heard of a case sufficiently noteworthy that I think it merits an exception.Last month, the indomitable P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula posted a review of Stuart Pivar's book Lifecode, which purports to explain the embryonic development of organisms through topological manipulation of an initially fluid form. Myers' review, though sympathetic to the principles … [Read more...]

On Literal Interpretation

"I've written before about one variety of mirror-opposites of these illiteralist believers... those who I call 'sectarian atheists.' These are usually folks who start out like Marshall Hall, fully indoctrinated in the all-or-nothing illiteralism of American fundamentalism. They start out believing, like Hall, that the Earth must be fixed or else the Bible is false and there is no God and life is meaningless despair. And then they catch a glimpse of the moons of Jupiter or of an eclipse or of a … [Read more...]

Some Remarks on Biblical Prophecy

Recently, Greta Christina of Greta Christina's Blog invited me to comment on a post of hers in which a theist mentioned my article "The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists". This person claimed that the fulfillment of prophecies in the Bible should be sufficient reason for atheists to believe in Christianity. That comment can be viewed here.Below is the text of my reply:* * *Hi all,Greta Christina invited me here, since Mr. Cawley was commenting on an article of mine. I'd like to … [Read more...]

AU Under Attack!

Despite the serious-sounding title, I'm laughing as I write this post. Yes, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is under attack. Yes, the perpetrators are a group of radical Christian dominionists who want to turn this country into their own vision of theocracy. Yes, their aim is to cause great harm and possibly even death to members of Americans United. So why am I so unconcerned?Because the attack is being waged through prayer.In light of the recent attack from the enemies … [Read more...]

Morality Without Humanity

A shocking story has recently come out of Texas. It seems that High Point, an Arlington megachurch, abruptly canceled a planned funeral after finding out the deceased was gay, and that his family planned to mention that fact:The pastor said that he could imagine a similar situation involving a different sin. Perhaps a mother who is a member of the church loses a son who is a thief or murderer, Mr. Simons said. The church would surely volunteer to hold a service, he said."But I don't think … [Read more...]

Claiming the Mantle of Victimhood

The Roman Catholic church is the oldest, largest, and very likely the richest denomination of any organized religion on the planet Earth. It has over 1 billion believers worldwide; controls its own sovereign country ruled by the Pope; is the only religious denomination with permanent observer status at the United Nations; has its own radio broadcasting service, its own official newspapers, and numerous TV channels; owns hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and property worldwide; and still … [Read more...]

Nurturing Virtue

Earlier this year, I wrote a post series titled "The Virtues", which proposed a secular reinvention of the seven cardinal virtues of theology. But I now realize that with this series, I was making an additional, implicit point: that it is possible for human beings to be consistently virtuous.This was made clear to me in a recent e-mail correspondence with a Christian visitor:One of the things that convinces me of my need for a savior is a long hard look at myself. In particular my absolute … [Read more...]


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