In the World in Shadow series, I have written about some of the terrible natural evils that afflict humans. My primary purpose in writing this series is to illustrate the strength of the atheist's argument from evil, that the existence of vast amounts of undeserved and random suffering disproves the existence of a powerful, benevolent deity.However, there is another reason I write this series, and that is so I am not accused of excessive optimism. I am, as I will readily admit, an optimist, … [Read more...]

Theocracy Watch XI: A Dark Day for Separation

I'm sorry to report some bad news for allies of church-state separation everywhere. Back in February, I wrote about a momentous case before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Freedom from Religion Foundation argued that George W. Bush should not have the right to unilaterally use money appropriated by Congress to fund religious organizations. That case, Hein v. FFRF, has been decided, with the court ruling 5-4 in the administration's favor. This is a sad outcome, though not terribly shocking, … [Read more...]

A Threefold Anniversary

When I look back on my life, it seems sometimes that significant events tend to cluster around certain dates. This is almost certainly a product of the law of large numbers and the selective memory of the mind, as opposed to some cosmic kismet, but we can still recognize and commemorate these dates for what they mean to us and what they have brought into our lives.Today's date, June 25, is an anniversary of threefold significance. First, as I noted on this date last year, June 25 is the … [Read more...]

On Magic(k)

Throughout history, groups such as the Puritans have railed against what they see as the overly elaborate and ostentatious ceremony and ritual surrounding religious events. But despite the fulminations of religious reformers, ceremony and ritual are not superfluous add-ons to faith, but very much at the core of it. Belief in the supernatural is usually intended to give the believer a sense of control over events, and a highly elaborate, ritualized ceremony is often more effective at this than a … [Read more...]

Why I Am Not a Libertarian

I: The Dilemma of the CommonsI don't usually post purely political essays on Daylight Atheism, as opposed to posts that touch on religion in some way. But the new series beginning with this post is personally important to me, and deserves an exception.Though I only have anecdotal evidence, it's my experience that the majority of atheists hold a politically liberal view. The second largest group, a substantial minority, takes a libertarian stance. (Classic conservativism is a distant third.) … [Read more...]

Futile Good Will

In the recent post "Atheist Charity", I quoted one example of a charge often laid against atheists: that we have not done nearly enough to help the needy among humanity, as opposed to religious groups that build hospitals, run soup kitchens, and so on.I have a counterclaim: in terms of actual good done, rather than the narrow measure of dollars donated to charity, atheists can rightly claim credit for a great deal. Since the dawning of the Enlightenment, atheists and humanists have played a … [Read more...]

Not Knowing the Enemy

The Christian site has published an article by Tony Beam, director of the "Christian Worldview Center" at North Greenville College in South Carolina. Reporting on a talk given by ex-Watergate felon and current prison minister Charles Colson, Beam discusses what in his eyes are the two greatest threats facing Christians today: fundamentalist Islamic radicals who blow up buildings and kidnap and murder innocent bystanders with the intent of establishing a fascist, patriarchal … [Read more...]

Christian Terrorism

On July 29, 1994, a religious fundamentalist named Paul Hill attacked a Pensacola, Florida family planning center, murdering abortion provider Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett with a single blast from a pump-action shotgun. With numerous eyewitnesses, Hill surrendered peacefully and confessed to his crime at the scene. Hill was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, convicted by a jury, and given the death sentence. On September 3, 2003, he was executed by lethal … [Read more...]

Ancient Atheism

In my last post, I wrote about the explosive growth of atheism in recent decades. As the menace of the religious right has become increasingly clear, atheists have been increasingly driven to speak out in response and have become more visible. Viewing this trend, some commentators have erroneously concluded that atheism is a modern movement. But this is not so. Atheism is not a recent innovation. If we travel back into history, we can find clear evidence of atheists in many cultures and many … [Read more...]

What Is Christianity Good For?

What is Christianity good for?I ask this question in all seriousness, not as an insult. I genuinely want to know. Eternal life in Heaven is usually held out as the greatest benefit of becoming a Christian, but that reward is said to be in the next life and is impossible for us to verify. Does Christianity have any benefits in this life, any evidence that can be offered now as partial substantiation of its grander promises later on?I'm not looking for personal testimonies about how … [Read more...]