New Post on Dangerous Intersection

I've put up a new post on Dangerous Intersection, a review of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.This is an open thread. Comments and discussion are welcome. … [Read more...]

On Gift-Giving

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Hanukkah's prominence was the plan of reformist rabbis, seeking to create a Jewish holiday to compete with Christmas just as Christmas was created to compete with pagan solstice festivals. In an ironic sense, this campaign has been both a success and a failure: although the cause of Hanukkah was eagerly taken up by marketers, it failed to dislodge Christmas from public consciousness and has simply contributed further to the commercialization of the holiday … [Read more...]

A Solstice Sermon

In past years, I've used the occasion of the winter solstice to deliver a brief homily on an issue of moral importance. This year, I'd like to do so again.Although nearly every society has put its own religious or cultural gloss on it, the solstice is an event marked and commemorated by all of humanity. In Japan, the solstice festival is Amaterasu, the reemergence of the sun goddess. To ancient Romans, it was Brumalia, the feast of the wine god Bacchus, and to Germanic pagans, it was Yule. To … [Read more...]

The Roots of the War on Christmas

This year, as they do every year, the religious right is engaging in its annual bout of paranoia and conspiracy-mongering over the supposed secular plot to ban Christmas. Fox News, Christian-right groups, and other outlets in the culture war publish TV segments like "Christmas Under Siege", books like John Gibson's The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought, and websites such as Defend Christmas.Judging by their hysteria, one would … [Read more...]

Rick Warren? Shame On You, Obama!

Via multiple sources (Greta Christina, Pam Spaulding, Glenn Greenwald, Americans United, as well as others), this unpleasant news: President-elect Barack Obama has apparently chosen megachurch pastor Rick Warren to give a speech at his inauguration day.If you're not familiar with Rick Warren, or if you only know him as the author of The Purpose-Driven Life, here's a few of his greatest hits:• Warren has been a dedicated enemy of marriage equality, equating gay rights to incest and … [Read more...]

Rapture Bonds

One of the great virtues of market forces is that they consistently reward investors who can correctly predict future events. Whenever two people disagree about the plausibility of some event, you can create a financial instrument whereby the one who's right can profit at the expense of the one who's wrong.The Christian community in America, particularly that section of it aligned with the religious right, commands vast wealth and influence. Although atheists are beginning to make our mark, … [Read more...]

On Inerrancy

Pandagon's recent post on Carlton Pearson, and the comment thread there, got me thinking about the question of inerrancy.Last February, in "The Aura of Infallibility", I observed that the apologist's claim of scriptural inerrancy is really a claim of personal inerrancy. Even if I believe a book to be without error, I must rationally admit that I could be wrong about that. The only way to maintain a claim of inerrancy with absolute confidence, as many theists do, is to believe that I myself am … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Thanksgiving

I haven't featured any compositions by the freethinking poet Philip Appleman lately, so with this edition of Poetry Sunday, I intend to address that. This is an especially lovely piece by Prof. Appleman from the November 2007 edition of the FFRF's newsletter Freethought Today, one I've been wanting to reprint on Daylight Atheism for some time. Whom can an atheist thank for the good fortune in their life, if not a deity? This poem suggests an answer to that question.Philip Appleman is the … [Read more...]

A Glimpse of the Garden

By way of Pandagon, I came across this incredible story from NPR's This American Life, an hourlong report on, and interview with, the evangelical pastor Carlton Pearson.Pearson was once one of the rising stars of the religious right: a hardcore Pentecostal preacher, head of an Oklahoma megachurch, a protege of Oral Roberts and a spokesman for George Bush's faith-based initiatives who had the ear of the White House under three different presidents. He preached alongside Jerry Falwell, Jim … [Read more...]

Strange and Curious Sects: The Millerites

Today's edition of "Strange and Curious Sects" concerns a now-defunct religious group, but one which has offshoots that survive to the present day. Like the stories of John Frum and Sabbatai Zevi, it's also a lesson in the almost limitless capacity of the human mind to rationalize away disappointment.William Miller was born in 1782 in Massachusetts. A voracious reader, he converted to deism when he was young, but his belief in an intervening god would be restored in the War of 1812. Miller … [Read more...]