Saudi Arabia's Biblical Justice

Lately in the news, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has pardoned a rape victim who had been sentenced to prison and 200 lashes. This brutal sentence was handed down because the woman in question was meeting a male friend in public without an escort - violating the country's repressive sharia laws - when she was attacked and raped by a gang of men. Although the rapists were also arrested and sentenced, the punishing-the-victim ethic of Saudi Arabia's antiquated and backward laws had caused an … [Read more...]

Blogroll Meme

I don't normally do these things, but Greta Christina started this one, and it seemed the least I could do was to participate.The idea of this meme is to pick three sites from your blogroll that, together, form a combination that no one else has, and that you think says something about the unique nature of your own blog.I choose these three:A Load of Bright: Toby may be taking a break from blogging, but I have little doubt that he'll be back sooner or later. Since he consistently writes … [Read more...]

On Torture and "Tribulation Saints"

"What if she doesn't flip? How long do you give it?" "If you can't get to 'em somehow in the first forty-eight hours, more of the same isn't going to be any more effective." "Starvation isn't a motivator?" "Would be for me, but I guess they've proved it with prisoners of war. The ones who can survive that first round of psychological and physical torture aren't likely to ever break, no matter how long you keep it up."—from Armageddon, book 11 of the Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and … [Read more...]

Pat Robertson's Pathetic Predictions

At the beginning of last year, I mentioned a prediction made by Pat Robertson:As reported by Americans United, Pat Robertson has joined in the fun, predicting "mass killings" to occur on American soil due to a terrorist attack sometime this year. (Robertson said he expected this to come in the form of a nuclear attack, but emphasized that this was only his educated guess - as opposed to the rest of this prophecy, which was clearly straight from God's mouth and not at all just made up.)The … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Stopping by Woods

There's just enough time for one final Poetry Sunday in 2007, and this one will feature another famous American poet with skeptical leanings: Robert Frost, the New Englander and national Poet Laureate whose work has become so iconic of the American experience.Frost's views on God are complex. In some of his letters, he calls himself "an old dissenter", "secular till the last go down", and said there were "no vampires, no ghouls, no demons, nothing but me". In others, he expresses belief in and … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically V

Double-Blind TestsIn a post back in October, I dissected the claims of a spam e-mail that landed in my inbox to promote the "Detox Box", an expensive piece of snake oil claimed to be able to cure any disease through the power of pseudoscience. As is usual in these matters, an offended true believer showed up in the comments to proclaim her faith in the device:The Detox Box works for me and I wouldn't go without it. It is my personal results. I don't need a double blind study to know that it … [Read more...]

On the Morality Of: Cloning

In today's post on atheist morality, I'll consider the permissibility of two types of human cloning, therapeutic and reproductive. Both types involve implanting a person's genes into an egg cell and stimulating it to grow. If the resulting embryo is allowed to grow to maturity and be born as a person, that is reproductive cloning; if the embryo is used to harvest stem cells and destroyed before it can grow into anything like a conscious being, that is therapeutic cloning.I see no intrinsic … [Read more...]

Do You Really Believe That? (IV)

The Zombie SaintsAccording to all three of the New Testament's Synoptic gospels, miracles attended Jesus' death: a mysterious midday darkness over all the land and the veil of the Jewish temple torn in half. (The Gospel of John omits these miracles, differing with the Synoptics in this point as in others.) However, there's one miracle that only one gospel records."And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, … [Read more...]

How Not to Fight the War on Christmas

Lately, there have been some encouraging signs that believers of conscience are more willing to stand up to the religious right than they once were. But this effort, though well-intentioned, is not the right way to do it.It's time for a ceasefire in the Christmas culture wars....We invite Messrs. O'Reilly, Gibson and Donohue to join us in a new campaign of civility and conscience that restores our focus on the common good during this holy season.This letter, signed by a number of liberal … [Read more...]

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...]


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