A Personal Note

As I've said in the past, I don't usually write about myself or my personal life on this blog. But every so often, something forces me to break that rule. This is one of those occasions.As of yesterday, I'm engaged to be married to the love of my life: a wonderful woman who, for the past eight years, has been my friend and companion. It's been my great good fortune and happiness to have been together with her this far, and I'm looking forward to making our commitment a formal one.I'm going … [Read more...]

Smoke on the Breeze

In May, I wrote about the freethinker Giuseppe Verdi and my experience attending a performance of his operatic masterpiece, the Requiem. At the time, I had one other thought: strange as it sounds, and despite the fact that its composer was no friend of orthodoxy, Verdi's Requiem was one of the more effective arguments for Christianity I've ever heard.I'm not a frequent attendee of sermons, but even so, I doubt few of them would match Verdi's orchestral eloquence. Even though its arias were … [Read more...]

The Child Brides of Islam

The New York Times published an article last week, Tiny Voices Defy Child Marriage in Yemen, about a stunning act of courage and feminism: in the nation of Yemen, a 9-year-old girl named Arwa Abdu Muhammad Ali, on her own initiative, sought and obtained a divorce from the abusive, violent 35-year-old man she had been forcibly married to. Her success echoes that of a 10-year-old girl, Nujood Ali, who escaped a similar arranged marriage a month earlier.Having just finished Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi … [Read more...]

Why I'm Skeptical of the Singularity

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made a famous observation: that the speed of computer hardware (to be precise, the number of transistors that can be packed onto an integrated circuit) tends to double every two years. In the four decades since, Moore's law has held true with remarkable accuracy. The technology to fabricate ever-smaller logic elements has steadily improved, leading to astounding increases in computer speed. The memory, bandwidth, and processing power available today in even … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: The New Colossus

To commemorate the Fourth of July, here's this month's Poetry Sunday. American readers will likely recognize today's poem immediately, as well they should: it's engraved on a plaque mounted on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. But what may not be as widely known are the freethought sympathies of the poet.Emma Lazarus was born in 1849 in New York City, the daughter of parents who were descended from generations of Sephardic Judaism. But according to the Jewish Virtual Library, "the Lazarus … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions X: Crystal Power

To mark the tenth installment of Popular Delusions, I'm turning my attention to one of the most common and enduring superstitions among the New Age set: the belief that naturally occurring crystals have some sort of special power to store, concentrate, or focus vaguely defined "energies".A web search readily brings up hundreds of sites discussing the magical potencies of various crystals, most of which have to do with their supposed healing powers. Here's an entirely typical … [Read more...]

A Riotous Diversity

Much head-scratching has been occasioned by the Pew Forum's latest report from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which found, among other things, that 21% of atheists claim to believe in some sort of god. I've linked to a press release from the Secular Coalition for America on this finding, and I'd like to add some comments of my own.To explain this, one could make a sarcastic quip that 21% of atheists either didn't hear the pollster correctly or else need to consult a dictionary for the … [Read more...]

A Free Speech Outrage

Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician, an elected member of that country's Parliament, infamous for his right-wing views on immigration and social policy. In 2008, he released a short film, Fitna, which criticizes Islamic radicalism by interspersing video footage of terrorist attacks with quotes from the Quran and from prominent Islamic religious authorities praising the use of violence. The film can be viewed here - caution, contains some graphic images.Now there's some news that's incredible … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Forgiveness

Today's post on morality takes up the topic of forgiveness for wrongdoing. In superstitious times, forgiveness was obtained through magical rituals. Most of these assumed that guilt could in some fashion be transferred to an animal or other being, which was then killed or driven off to provide a symbolic expiation. Leviticus 4 explains:Say to the people of Israel, If any one sins unwittingly in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is … [Read more...]

Invincible Ignorance

The number of different religions on this planet is vast, and all their associated arguments and apologetics form a library that's vaster still. No matter how well-read or well-traveled any atheist is, they're bound to run into claims every so often that they've never heard before. It happens to me at least once a month, on average. And I have to admit, when I first hear a religious apologetic or miracle claim that's new to me, often my initial response is to feel a little tremor, as I wonder, … [Read more...]


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