A Freethinkers' Yule Sermon

Throughout the Western world, the end-of-the-year holidays are a time for celebrating and making merry. Our most time-honored traditions encourage us to come together at this time in commemoration and gratitude for the blessings that life has to offer and the good fortune we have enjoyed during the year.But even as we are encouraged to rejoice over the good things in life, the holiday season brings with it no shortage of reminders that there are many others who are not so fortunate. We are so … [Read more...]

The War on Christmas: Here We Go Again

In a post earlier this week, I wrote about how retailers and advertisers play on the sentiments associated with the holiday season as a way to make money, and how the religious right is actually, unbelievably, accelerating this trend by demanding the commercialization of their most sacred symbols. However, I failed to note at that time that the religious right is not stopping at encouraging others to commercialize Christmas. On the contrary, they are actively taking part in it themselves. As … [Read more...]

The Reason for the Season

As the solstice holiday draws near, the annual complaints by the religious right about the alleged "War on Christmas" are ramping up in volume, as usual. Every store greeter who says "Season's Greetings" is bitterly denounced; every municipality that erects a "holiday tree" is reviled with a level of shrillness that used to be reserved for schismatics and heretics. Some religious right figures such as Jerry Falwell are actually encouraging their followers to boycott stores that do not … [Read more...]

The Gospel of Consumerism

In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is often called Black Friday, both because of the chaos it engenders and because it is the day when many businesses are "in the black", in other words able to show a net profit, for the first time of the year. Both reasons are because Black Friday marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It is becoming increasingly common for retailers to open in the very earliest hours of the … [Read more...]

Sex and Consequence

The spectacular public downfall of Ted Haggard last month continues to reverberate through the media. And now, an aftershock: Paul Barnes, founder of the 2,100-member evangelical Grace Chapel in Colorado, has resigned after admitting he had engaged in homosexual sex acts. (Predictably, Barnes' former church wasted no time in trying to erase his existence from their website, similar to the major religious right leaders who swiftly tried to downplay Haggard's importance after his resignation.)In … [Read more...]

A Christmas Carol

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face."Mercy!" he said. "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble … [Read more...]

My Ways Are Not Your Ways

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.—Isaiah 55:8-9One of the apologist replies frequently raised against atheist arguments such as the argument from evil, the argument from divine hiddenness, or the argument from incompetence, is that God is so much higher and more intelligent than human beings that it would be the … [Read more...]

Holy Water, Frail Hope

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Shivering under a tattered blanket, a young woman tries to sleep at the foot of the mist-shrouded Entoto Mountain, north of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa...."I decided to come to Entoto to seek a cure from the holy water after a doctor told me that I am HIV-positive," Abebech Alemu, 35, said."I am a follower of the Orthodox faith. I strongly believe that I will be cured by drinking the holy water rather than drugs," she added.—Tsegaye Tadesse, "Believers … [Read more...]

Season of Light

As the end of 2006 draws within sight, the annual holiday season is upon us. This year, I have noticed an interesting pattern in these familiar rituals. It is striking how many of the holidays that fall around this time of year involve the ceremonial kindling of light as an element of the celebration.Chief among them, of course, is the Christian/pagan holiday of Christmas, when evergreen trees and buildings' eaves are adorned with strings of glowing lights, and the traditional Yule log is … [Read more...]

Theocracy Watch VIII: Religious Tests

Meet Keith Ellison:Ellison is one of the new Democratic representatives elected in the November midterms, the winner of an open seat in Minnesota's 5th District. Representative-elect Ellison is also a Muslim, the first member of that religion ever to be elected to the United States Congress. As such, when he takes his oath of office, he intends to do so on a copy of the Qur'an.And there the story would end... in a world more rational than our own. In our world, the religious right, still … [Read more...]


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