An Address to Hispanic Freethinkers

This year, I made a New Year's resolution to learn Spanish. In a world of many cultures, I've always felt somewhat embarrassed that I never learned to speak another language, and with the increasing influence of Hispanic people and culture in the United States, Spanish was a rational choice. Both while going to graduate school and working in multicultural New York City, there have been times it would have helped me to speak it, and the next time the opportunity comes, I intend to be prepared. So … [Read more...]

Through a Glass, Brightly

In past posts such as last December's "The Theodicy of Narnia", I've called attention to some of the unintentionally revealing comments that famous theists have made about their own belief systems. C.S. Lewis, for example, wrote whole books to defend the thesis that God's existence is compatible with pain and suffering, but when it came to creating his own fictional world, he took pains to point out that its history was overwhelmingly blissful and peaceful so as not to cast doubt on the goodness … [Read more...]

Book Update

I'm pleased to announce that I've finished the first chapter of the book I've been working on. (Actually it's been finished for over a week - my apologies for procrastinating on the announcement.) Although this chapter has taken almost a month to write, it will probably end up being the one with the most original material in the entire book. My plan is for subsequent chapters to incorporate substantial parts of my Ebon Musings essays, so I expect them to take considerably less time to put … [Read more...]

Et Tu, Chris Mooney?

Last year, I read and greatly enjoyed Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science as an invaluable exposition of the harm that ideologically driven antiscience has done to the state of scientific knowledge in this country. But to my great distress, he has taken a turn toward the dark side. In a column published this week in the Washington Post, along with his colleague Matthew Nisbet, Mooney advocates that atheists who want to support science education should stop defending or speaking about … [Read more...]

The Root of All Evil

One of the more bizarre offshoots of fundamentalist Christianity that has been making headway in recent years is the "prosperity gospel", also called the "Word of Faith" movement. Devotees of this theology believe that God, far from the dour, gloomy Puritan deity who expected people to deprive themselves in this life to be rewarded in the hereafter, is actually more like a rich uncle who can't wait to shower us with riches and grant us financial prosperity. In this movement, wealth and fame in a … [Read more...]

Bright Machines

One of the more important consequences of our society's biblical illiteracy is that many people continue to believe in the Bible only because they think it is a far better book than it actually is. For example, consider this comment from Greta Christina's Blog, in which an offended Christian denies that the New Testament says anything about Hell. In truth, the Bible has a great deal to say about the horrors and torments of Hell. In the gospels, Jesus repeatedly speaks of eternal punishment, … [Read more...]

Book/Movie Review: The Secret

Lately, The Secret - a movie and its companion book produced by Rhonda Byrne - have been burning up the bestseller lists and have attracted endorsements from influential celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey. Marketed in the self-help genre, it promises viewers the key to achieving all their life goals through the power of positive thinking. (The name is a misnomer, since The Secret's teachings are hardly a secret but have been a prominent part of New Age belief systems for decades, dating back at … [Read more...]

Announcing the Humanist Symposium

Welcome, friends, well-wishers and regular readers! I have something to tell you all about which I'm very excited. There's an issue that I've been mulling over for some time, and tonight I intend to announce its resolution. Specifically, I've been thinking about carnivals. The Carnival of the Godless, founded in March 2005 by Brent Rasmussen of Unscrewing the Inscrutable, is a wonderful forum for atheist writing and is still going strong. However, since that time there's been a proliferation of … [Read more...]

The Bible Is Not a Book of Love

I have been thinking lately about the Christian symbol of the crucifix. It is almost always seen in settings that attempt to create a mood of peace, calm and serenity: on the walls of churches, in the patients' rooms in Catholic-run hospitals, in funeral parlors and cemeteries, to name a few. The ubiquity and familiarity of this icon, I think, often blinds people to what a brutal thing it is. What the cross merely suggests, the crucifix makes explicit. Look at one, or imagine it, and see … [Read more...]

Rebuking the Devil

I have written several times in the past about how religious superstition, when it is taken seriously, causes harm and suffering to real people by dissuading them from seeking the evidence-based treatments they need. But a new story from the March 31 edition of Newsday, Trying to change minds in the Congo, is one of the most horrifying illustrations of this principle I have yet seen. The African Republic of the Congo, a country of 3.7 million people, has only one clinical psychiatrist. Dr. … [Read more...]