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...]

A Cold and Sterile Heaven

The other day while browsing in the library, I found out that Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the Left Behind series, have also written a trilogy of prequels. (As long as Christians continue to purchase these awful books, it seems, they intend to keep churning them out.) The final installment of this trilogy is called The Rapture, and it's about just that, written from the point of view of the faithful Christians who are miraculously transported to Heaven.Much of the book is taken up … [Read more...]

Some Items of Note

I have two short announcements to bring to your attention:• Daylight Atheism commenter Eshu has started his own blog, Bridging Schisms. If the first few posts are any indication, it ought to be a fine addition to the ranks of the atheist blogosphere. Go check it out and tell him I sent you!• John Loftus of Debunking Christianity will soon be releasing a book, Why I Became an Atheist. I haven't read it yet, but he's collected some superb endorsements. It definitely ought to be worth … [Read more...]

Do You Really Believe That? (Abrogation)

Today's installment of "Do You Really Believe That?" will leave behind Judaic and Christian mythologies to examine a doctrine specific to Islam, the doctrine of abrogation. This belief holds that Allah originally revealed certain practices and rules to Mohammed, only to later issue new revelations which canceled the earlier ones and instituted different practices in their place. In Arabic, this is usually called al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh ("the Abrogator and the Abrogated").It should be said that … [Read more...]

Book Review: Infidel

Summary: Brilliant, brave, inspiring. Read this book.In 2004, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in the street by a Muslim fanatic, Mohammed Bouyeri, who was enraged by van Gogh's production of a film titled Submission which criticizes the mistreatment of women in Islamic societies. Van Gogh's murderer shot him eight times, cut his throat, and left a letter pinned to his body with a butcher knife.The letter was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It said, in essence, "You're next."If … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Fern Hill

For my northern hemisphere readers, the full flush of summer has arrived. In honor of the season, I've picked an appropriate poem for this installment of Poetry Sunday: the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas' idyllic, evocative hymn to nature and childhood, "Fern Hill", from his 1946 collection Deaths and Entrances.Born in 1914, Dylan Thomas was named in honor of his uncle, a Unitarian minister. He moved to London in 1934 and that same year published his first volume of poetry, 18 Poems, which was … [Read more...]


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