Optimistic Populism

In the comments of my recent post "On Atheist Janitors", I was accused of being naive for my belief in the possibility of a truly just and prosperous state:I wasn't even going to address Ebon's utopian comments on how we should ensure a minimum income for everyone on a full time job sufficient to travel for leisure and all. Clearly Ebon's not an economist, but a dreamer. I guess that's his own variety of opium. Heaven not in heaven, but here on Earth... I ask you, is that any less of a … [Read more...]

I Don’t Like to Brag…

...and I also wouldn't normally use this blog to inflict personal photos on you all, especially vacation photos.But today I'm going to make an exception to both rules.Anyone care to guess where I was last week?Yes, you guessed it: after a three-hour plane flight and a two-hour drive along narrow, winding backcountry roads, I arrived at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the largest radio telescope in the world.Here's me at the observatory complex's front … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions VII: Alien Abduction

Back in August, in "Some Thoughts on Fermi's Paradox", I proposed some explanations for why there's no evidence of intelligent alien species. But I left out what seems like the most obvious explanation of all: they do exist, and they're already here.This may well be the most popular answer. To judge by polls like this one from 2002, almost half of American adults believe that intelligent aliens have visited the Earth. (Ironically, The Onion actually gets this percentage right in its deadpan … [Read more...]

A World in Shadow V

A while back, I came across the moving story of an individual calling himself Real Live Preacher, whose faith was shattered when he saw a young mother die while working as a hospital chaplain:30 something. Cute. New mother with two little kids. Breast cancer. Found it too late. Spread all over. Absolutely going to die.Jenny had only one request. "I know I'm going to die, chaplain. I need time to finish this. It's for my kids. Pray with me that God will give me the strength to finish … [Read more...]

On God’s Goodness

It has often been pointed out, by myself and by other atheists, that the traditional monotheistic religions depict God as acting in shockingly violent and cruel ways on numerous occasions. Despite the texts that say this, every week millions of believers attend church where they pray prayers and sing hymns that praise God's infinite love, benevolence, and goodness. Yet when atheists point out that religious texts and tradition attribute actions to God that seem anything but good, these same … [Read more...]

The Cure for Cancer! (Cure Not Included)

The other day, I received a jaw-dropping piece of spam e-mail:The Detox Box is a remarkable device that uses frequencies to destroy toxins in the body. It's similar to how a singer can hit a note and shatter a wine glass.According to the e-mail, this marvelous machine is based on the ideas of one Dr. Royal Rife, who lived in the 1930s and claimed to have developed the world's first "virus microscope". (It is physically impossible to resolve the average virus with a light microscope, … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Dirge Without Music

Today's edition of Poetry Sunday features another freethinking poet of the 20th century, the American playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay. Joseph Parisi's 100 Essential Modern Poets calls her "glamorous and bold", and notes that she was known "as much for her unconventional lifestyle as for her gift for poetry". Millay was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, the second to win the Frost Medal, and the English novelist Thomas Hardy called her poetry one of America's two greatest creations (the … [Read more...]

Is America a Christian Nation?

A frequent refrain among the religious right is that the United States of America is a "Christian nation", or that this country was founded on Christian principles. However, I've never seen any religious apologist explain what exactly this is supposed to mean beyond making the mere statement. If this nation was founded on Christian principles, which principles are those? If Christianity played such a major role in our nation's founding, then what specific contributions did it make?In an … [Read more...]

A Change in the Wind

Via Orcinus, a truly incredible story about the latest survey to come out of the Barna Group, whose title is "A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity".Over the last decade or so, the religious right has exercised virtually untrammeled power in America. They've commanded the allegiance of a majority of the population and have enjoyed tremendous influence and near-unchallenged power in popular culture, in the media, and especially in government. They have had … [Read more...]

Inexplicable Justice

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mold me Man? Did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me, or here place In this delicious Garden? As my will Concurred not to my being, it were but right And equal to reduce me to my dust, Desirous to resign and render back All I received, unable to perform Thy term too hard, by which I was to hold The good I sought not. To the loss of that, Sufficient penalty, why hast thou added The sense of endless woes? Inexplicable Thy justice … [Read more...]


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