Light and Dark

Greta Christina recently wrote a wonderful review of the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), an analysis of the unconscious defense mechanisms people use to rationalize their bad decisions. She's absolutely right that this is a book everyone ought to read (I need to find a copy myself), and her review makes some points that I think are important enough to justify shining a spotlight on.I'm no anthropologist or psychologist, but I like to think of myself as at least an amateur observer of … [Read more...]

On the Possibility of Perfect Humanity

Last month, in "An Impoverished Infinity", I wrote about the strange limitations that many Christian believers impose on God. These theists believe that God was not wise or powerful enough to create a world with intelligent beings that did not also include earthquakes, diseases and other disasters - as if the infinite space of possible worlds was somehow foreclosed.The discussion in the comments thread centered largely around the issue of free will, which is the most common example of these … [Read more...]

A Response to the Theist's Guide

I first posted "The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists" on Ebon Musings in June 2001. At that time, I promised that I would cite any theist who prepared an equivalent list and posted it on the internet. In the six and a half years since, I've had a total of two responses to that offer. One was discussed in June of last year.Last month, I got a second reply from a theist calling himself Quixote. He told me that if he had heard of my essay earlier, I wouldn't have had to wait this long, and I … [Read more...]

Is Sex for Procreation?

"Contraception is wrong because it's a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as 'natural law.' The natural law purpose of sex is procreation....sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation."— Christian religions, it is a common teaching that the … [Read more...]

Book Update

I've finished chapter 8 of my book. (It's considerably longer than the last few chapters, which is why it's taken so long.) The chapter is titled "Universal Utilitarianism" and addresses the basis for an atheist's morality and the flaws in divine command ethics, drawing on my essays "The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick" and "The Roots of Morality".As in the past, I'm making this chapter available to regular commenters on this site for editorial review and critique. If you fit that … [Read more...]

On the Character of Jesus

One of the most common tenets of Christian faith, believed by denominations across the spectrum, is that Jesus Christ taught and displayed some kind of unique, superlative moral virtue, unmatched by any other individual from myth or history. I've also heard this belief advanced as a counter to the argument from religious confusion, claiming that we should consider Christianity to stand out from all other religions because of the obvious superiority of its founder's moral teachings.I do grant … [Read more...]

Wolves in the Fold

In February of 1906, Pope Pius X issued an encyclical titled "Vehementer Nos", which denounced France for its passage of a revolutionary law establishing the separation of church and state. This document contained a blunt insight into the Catholic view of the relationship between religion and government:That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.Happily, France ignored this musty blast from a figure who - then, as now - serves as … [Read more...]

Heaven at the Price of Hell

In my essay "Those Old Pearly Gates" on Ebon Musings, I raised what is, to my mind, one of the strongest moral arguments against the traditional monotheist conception of the afterlife:The point is this. How can anyone enjoy Heaven, knowing that while you have eternal bliss there are people experiencing eternal suffering? Unless you belong to an insular religious community or a cult, it's almost certain that you know someone - a friend, a relative, a loved one, an idol who inspires you - whose … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions VIII: Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

In all of human history, the invention of vaccination should be classed as one of our greatest medical triumphs. This innovation has saved millions of lives and prevented untold suffering and misery; it has brought many once-epidemic diseases under control, and eradicated others altogether. Tragically, our era has seen a dangerous new strain of pseudoscience emerge, one that threatens all of these gains.The theory behind vaccines is conceptually simple. Human beings possess an exquisitely … [Read more...]

Crazy for God: The Apostasy of Frank Schaeffer

Ask any observer of American politics today to name the most influential figures of the religious right, and some familiar names are likely to come up - Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, James Dobson, John Hagee, Tony Perkins, Roy Moore, and others. But one name that's not as likely to appear is Francis Schaeffer. That is a regrettable oversight, because even though Schaeffer died in 1982, he is possibly the one person most responsible for the existence of the religious right as we know it … [Read more...]