May 29, 2006

In the United States, this Monday is Memorial Day, established by Congress to commemorate America’s war dead. Across the nation, the day is marked by parades and solemn ceremonies, 21-gun salutes, roll calls of the names of the fallen, and flags, wreaths and ribbons placed on the graves of veterans. These ceremonies are familiar to us; we repeat them every year. And yet, those flags seem to have a special poignancy this year. Against the green grass, their colors seem… Read more

May 28, 2006

There seems to be a perception among religious people that atheists believe all religious people to be stupid, ignorant, or deluded. (Witness a recent question on the Yahoo Answers service.) Where this perception comes from is something of a mystery – given how severely underrepresented atheists are in the media, it is almost certain that it does not actually come from anything we have said. Nevertheless, there is no question that a large number of theists take the statement “Hello,… Read more

May 26, 2006

In a recent post, A World in Shadow I, I wrote about how religious superstition was hindering the efforts of health workers to eradicate several treatable Third World diseases. For example, one village in the remote region of Ogi, Nigeria refused permission to treat their local “sacred pond” with a mild pesticide that would wipe out the parasitic guinea worms infesting it, on the grounds that doing so would anger their deceased ancestors. However, if I left it at that,… Read more

May 24, 2006

One of the biblical stories from which the modern-day religious right draws the most inspiration is the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The religious right has assumed that the sin for which they merited this fate was rampant homosexuality, to the point that “sodomite” has become a derogatory synonym for homosexuals. (Consider the Jack Chick tract “Doom Town”, which contains a variety of grossly offensive antigay caricatures.) However, there is some evidence that this is jumping to conclusions. The… Read more

May 23, 2006

The Bible has always presented a schizophrenic view of the Christian god’s attributes. On one hand, he is styled the “Prince of Peace” who exhorts his followers to resist not evil, to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies, and to put up the sword lest one perish by it. On the other hand, he is repeatedly called the “Lord of Hosts” – or to use modern terminology, the “Lord of Armies” – who commands his followers to slaughter… Read more

May 22, 2006

The New York Times recently ran a series, titled “Diseases on the Brink”, that surveyed five diseases – polio, measles, dracunculiasis (also known as guinea worm), blinding trachoma and lymphatic filariasis – that it may be possible to eradicate, if the political will of the world community is up to the task. All these diseases can be treated with relatively simple measures, and have been wiped out or nearly so in industrialized nations thanks to improved sanitation and vaccination, but… Read more

May 20, 2006

Shanksville / Flight 93 The last of the four planes hijacked on 9/11 was Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after the passengers apparently attempted to storm the cockpit and regain control of the plane. Here it is somewhat difficult to tell what the filmmakers’ hypothesis is, other than their certainty that Flight 93 did not crash in Pennsylvania as reported. 00:57:15 The film extensively cites a video clip from 9/11 where a reporter from a local Fox affiliate… Read more

May 18, 2006

The World Trade Center The second part of this series deals with claims made in Loose Change about the collapse of the World Trade Center. Unlike the Pentagon, there is video evidence explicitly showing the two planes crashing into the Twin Towers, and so LC does not deny this (although other conspiracists have explained this away by appealing to secret Star-Trek-like holographic technology). Instead, the film asserts that the proximate cause of the Twin Towers’ collapse was not the plane crashes, but a controlled demolition… Read more

May 18, 2006

A new essay has been posted on Ebon Musings, a review of the famous Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. The review follows the book’s format in chronicling the journey of the main character, “Christian”, from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, commenting on the trials and tribulations he experiences along the way, and concludes by summing up what the allegory teaches us about the nature of Christianity itself. This is an open thread. Comments and feedback are welcome. Read more

May 16, 2006

It seems to be part of human nature that any event of great scale or significance will inevitably engender conspiracy theories. The Kennedy assassination and the moon landing are two recent events that have spawned some of the most durable and complex examples, but there are many more, swirling around nearly every major world event and ranging from the nearly plausible to the outright ridiculous. (An example of the latter category would be the assertion that Hurricane Katrina was caused… Read more

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