On Gratitude

This Thursday, November 22, is - at least for my American readers - the holiday of Thanksgiving. Despite the religious connotations that have been attached to this day since the beginning, I think this is a good holiday for atheists. It's one of the few whose message can be rendered in entirely secular terms. Thanksgiving as traditionally practiced is a time to come together with family and friends, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life's abundance, and to give thanks for all the good that has … [Read more...]

Probing the Prosperity Gospel

I'm surprised that this story, "Going After the Money Ministries", hasn't gotten much attention on atheist blogs. Earlier this month, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, and Paula White - six notorious televangelists who preach the "prosperity gospel" - received an ominous letter from Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee, asking them to account for numerous expenditures whose tax-exempt status seems … [Read more...]

Deo Vindice!

Deo vindice!Gott mitt uns!Deus vult!Allahu akhbar!Informed readers may recognize some or all of the phrases above. In case there are any you're not familiar with, here's a quick primer on what each of them means:"Deo vindice" is Latin for "God will defend us" or "God is our vindicator". It was the motto of the slaveholding Confederate States of America, and was engraved on their official seal. The CSA firmly believed that the Christian God was on their side in the … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Church Going

Today's edition of Poetry Sunday features the English poet and novelist Philip Larkin. Born in Coventry in 1922, Larkin received a degree in literature from Oxford in 1943. Though he worked for most of his life as a librarian at the University of Hull, he was well-known and widely acclaimed for his poetry and his work as a literary reviewer and jazz critic. He received numerous awards for his writing in his lifetime, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, the German Shakespeare Prize, an … [Read more...]

Calling the Earth to Witness

According to Buddhist tradition, the final stage of Prince Siddhartha Gautama's becoming the Buddha came after he had rejected the extremes of both luxury and asceticism in his quest for enlightenment. Sitting beneath a Bodhi tree in meditation, he vowed not to stir from that spot until he had found the answer to the problem of suffering.While he sat there, he had an encounter with the demon lord Mara, who sought to keep him from enlightenment by breaking his concentration. Mara first … [Read more...]

A Particular God

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars gives us the scoop on a California school district which voted to display posters declaring "In God We Trust" in every classroom in the district. Although one board member called the display a way of "promoting patriotism", a different quote indicates what the real intention is here:The classroom displays were first suggested by the non-profit group In God We Trust -- America Inc., whose president, Jacquie Sullivan, is a Bakersfield … [Read more...]

Georgia’s Rain Prayer Farce

It may be the 21st century, but you wouldn't know it from stories like this:Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue stepped up to a podium outside the state Capitol on Tuesday and led a solemn crowd of several hundred people in a prayer for rain on his drought-stricken state."We've come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm," Perdue said after a choir provided a hymn.These past few months, the American South has been suffering from … [Read more...]

Report from the Secular Society Conference: Day Three

The final day of The Secular Society and Its Enemies had three programs. The first, a panel titled "Secularism: The Next Generation", was moderated by Derek Araujo and featured several young freethinkers: Matt LaClair, whom I discussed previously; Sarah Stone, a student freethought organizer from Indiana; Mark Antony Smith, a CFI intern from Arizona; Justin Trotter, the director of CFI Ontario; as well as Nica Lalli, the author of Nothing: Something to Believe In.The panelists discussed … [Read more...]

Report from the Secular Society Conference: Day Two

The second day of The Secular Society and Its Enemies was largely devoted to panel discussions. I mentioned yesterday that the conference site at the New York Academy of Sciences had some spectacular views of Ground Zero and lower Manhattan; here are a few of them I took that morning:Looking down on Ground Zero.Looking east across the river into Brooklyn.Looking north.The morning opened with a panel titled "Secularism Through History: From Spinoza to JFK", with … [Read more...]

Report from the Secular Society Conference: Day One

I mentioned back in October that this weekend I'd be attending The Secular Society and Its Enemies, the 2007 conference of the Center for Inquiry. I didn't get to post my report on the first day of the conference yesterday (since it finished rather late), so I'll do that now. My report on today's events will be up tomorrow, and Sunday's report will be posted on Monday.The conference was held at the New York Academy of Sciences in lower Manhattan, which is on the 40th floor of World Trade … [Read more...]


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