Weekly Link Roundup

I've got plenty of goodies in the bag for this post. Frankly, more has been happening lately than I can write about - but that's okay, because there are lots of other fantastic atheist bloggers who've said it all!• First, there's this outrageous story out of Washington, D.C., where the Catholic church has threatened to completely shut down all the social services they provide to local homeless people if they're forced to obey laws forbidding discrimination against same-sex couples.I may … [Read more...]

A Dialogue with Quixote, Part VII

Hello Quixote,Considering your last letter to me was some time ago, I apologize for the lateness of my reply. To tell the truth, this was the hardest one for me to write. It's not that I couldn't think of anything to say. Much the opposite: If I had said everything I wanted to say, this post would have been too long! Cutting it down to a reasonable length was more of a struggle than writing it. I've endeavored to edit in a way that does justice to your points and to mine.I also want to say … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Tor House

This month's Poetry Sunday features another poem by Robinson Jeffers, an American poet of the early twentieth century. Born 1887 in Pennsylvania, Jeffers was the son of a Presbyterian minister who taught his son Latin and Greek. Nevertheless, Jeffers did not follow in his father's footsteps. Rather than theology, he became enthralled at a young age with the natural world, and became an avid outdoorsman and follower of scientific discoveries in biology, astronomy, and other areas.Jeffers found … [Read more...]

Moving Beyond Awe

The nineteenth-century German theologian Rudolf Otto, in his book The Idea of the Holy, popularized the term "numinous", an adjective describing the sense of mystery and wonder that purportedly stems from the presence of a deity. According to Otto, the sense of the numinous had two main characteristics: the mysterium tremendum, the sense of fear and trembling that comes from the presence of that which is wholly other, and the mysterium fascinas, the sense of fascination and curiosity that such … [Read more...]

Epicurus' World

The story goes that the renowned physicist Richard Feynman was once asked to summarize the most important finding of modern science in a single sentence. Feynman replied, "The universe is made of atoms."Although there are many other scientific discoveries that are arguably of equal importance, Feynman's choice makes a lot of sense. The discovery of atoms is so familiar to us that it's easy to overlook its breathtaking significance. We know, at the smallest scale where it still makes sense to … [Read more...]

The Age of Wonder

If you search the internet, it's not hard to find New Agers and others who think that the dawning of the age of reason was a mistake. They envision a more "holistic" approach, one that properly pays heed to the mystery and complexity of existence, and castigate science for being cold, unfeeling, heartless in its probing, reductionist scrutiny of the natural world. For example:The reason things are advancing so slowly... is that science has neglected the (spiritual) indications necessary for … [Read more...]

On Atheist Janitors: Followup

Around this time last year, I wrote a post titled "On Atheist Janitors", addressing an e-mail from reader Serban Tanasa that asked whether atheism has something to offer to people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. The other day he wrote back to me with a follow-up post addressing some of the issues first discussed here, and I wanted to offer some further thoughts.Atheist forces and their agnostic coalition members have launched devastating artillery barrages against the veracity of … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality

(Editor's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: A quiet, thoughtful, non-polemical book. At times Comte-Sponville comes close to conceding more than he should, but his positive evocation of atheism is a much-needed effort and may be appealing to theists grappling with the first stirrings of deconversion.Andre Comte-Sponville's The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality is a unique book. Though written by an … [Read more...]

This World Is My Home

A famous Christian gospel hymn titled "This World Is Not My Home" sums up how religious views of an afterlife shape believers' views of this life:This world is not my home,     I'm just a passing through, My treasures are laid up     somewhere beyond the blue; The angels beckon me     from heaven's open door, And I can't feel at home     in this world anymore.For millions of people, this verse is more than a … [Read more...]

Immanence

Last month, while I was on vacation in Puerto Rico, I had a chance to visit the great radio observatory at Arecibo. That was one of the highlights of my trip, but there was another.Puerto Rico has the only tropical rainforest in the United States national park system. On the northeast coast of the islands, at the foot of the Luquillo Mountains, is the 28,000-acre preserve of El Yunque National Forest. Set aside in 1876 by the Spanish king Alfonso XII, El Yunque is one of the oldest nature … [Read more...]


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