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...]

On Atheist Fundamentalism

There has been something of a spat lately in the atheist blogosphere, due to an announcement from Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard. Epstein and the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy are sponsoring an event to, in their own words, "take on... atheist 'fundamentalists'" such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and promote the value of humanism and inclusiveness. The Associated Press has run an article on Epstein's announcement.These comments have drawn a sharp response from those who feel … [Read more...]

A Passionate Atheism

The new generation of bold and outspoken atheists, including Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, are making waves in society with numerous media appearances, a welcome change of pace from the media's previous policy of steadfast refusal to cover freethought and nonbelief. (Some things are slower to change than others - despite Time Newsweek's praiseworthy coverage of a debate between Sam Harris and Rick Warren, the conversation was a clear example of the "Gish Gallop", where the theist throws out as … [Read more...]

Book Review: The God Part of the Brain

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: Contains many interesting ideas, but the informed reader will find much to take issue with.Atheist Matthew Alper's The God Part of the Brain seeks to explain the religiosity of humankind in terms of human evolution and the biology of conscious experience. Alper's hypothesis is that the increased intelligence that gave human beings an evolutionary advantage also … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically I

Extraordinary ClaimsIn the Popular Delusions series, I have explored just a few varieties of the vast number of nonsensical beliefs which afflict humanity. From the belief that astronomical bodies millions of light-years distant control our destiny here on Earth, to the belief that water remembers what substances were once dissolved in it, to the belief that reality is just a construct of the mind and can be altered by wishing hard enough, it seems there is no kind of absurdity a skeptic could … [Read more...]

The Congressional Prayer Caucus

I wrote recently about an attack on nontheist Congressman Pete Stark by a right-wing group calling themselves the Christian Seniors Association. The CSA's spokesman James Lafferty, incensed by the idea that atheists think they have a right to be represented in Congress as if they were human beings like everyone else, complained at length about the campaign of persecution waged against the hundreds of believing members of Congress by the single nonbelieving member:That would be the day that … [Read more...]

The Virtues: Be Just

The seventh and last of the Virtues is the imperative toward justice. In general terms, the virtue of being just entails treating others as their actions merit - neither withholding from people what they deserve, nor giving them what they do not deserve. Acting justly is also a core part of the ethical system of universal utilitarianism, since the guarantee that justice will be done is a major component in ensuring the happiness of all people.Like most of the Virtues, the ideal of justice is … [Read more...]


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