Piercing the Republican Epistemic Bubble

I've written some overarching thoughts about last week's presidential election, but I wanted to dwell on one of its more fascinating aspects: the extent to which the Republican party was blindsided by the outcome. Going into Tuesday, countless Republicans had predicted a solid victory for Mitt Romney, and it's clear that this wasn't just a political ploy to sway media coverage. On the contrary, Republicans at every level sincerely believed this - ordinary voters, professional pundits, and … [Read more...]

How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages

This article was previously published on AlterNet. For the vast majority of human history, the only form of government was the few ruling over the many. As human societies became settled and stratified, tribal chiefs and conquering warlords rose to become kings, pharaohs, and emperors, all ruling with absolute power and passing on their thrones to their children. To justify this obvious inequality and explain why they should reign over everyone else, most of these ancient rulers claimed that … [Read more...]

Rehabilitating the Inquisition

These days, one of the blogs where I spend the most time commenting is Leah Libresco's Unequally Yoked on Patheos. This isn't just because its author has a unique and interesting perspective unlike any I've seen elsewhere, but also because there's a lot more give-and-take between atheists and theists (mostly Catholics) than you find in the comments section of many atheist blogs. And while debating and attempting to persuade believers is a fun and worthwhile pursuit in and of itself, I also do … [Read more...]

The Radicalism of Obedience

As I mentioned in my last link roundup, I wanted to discuss in more detail the Pope's latest Easter homily, in which he directly addresses the "disobedience" of priests who are calling for the ordination of women and an end to mandatory celibacy. There are some interesting implications for how the elites of the Vatican see the future of the Catholic church. The background to this story is that Catholicism is in the grip of a slow-motion demographic crisis: their priests are growing old and … [Read more...]

The Religious Demand for Obedience

My latest column has been posted on AlterNet, How Religion's Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages. It's about the religious worldview that sees human existence as a strict hierarchy of commandments and submission, how this belief has been used by tyrants and autocrats throughout the ages to justify unaccountable power, and how it continues to oppress human beings today even as the monarchies that once enshrined it have crumbled. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the … [Read more...]

The Apologist’s Turnstile


As I've often mentioned, religion has a set of cognitive tricks - unconscious ideas, prejudices and habits of thought it tries to instill in believers - which shield their minds against contrary argument and make it less likely that they'll leave the faith. One example is the selective wall I've written about in the past, also dubbed "Morton's demon", that lets supportive evidence pass through while blocking contradictory evidence. Today, I want to discuss a different but equally common one: the … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: November 5

On my old site, I had regular link roundups for all the stories I saw that interested me, but that I didn't have the time to write about at greater length. And I've had a lot of those stories this week, so here's some things to read over your Saturday morning coffee: • I've previously reported on whether the American Cancer Society turned down a big donation because it came from atheists. Now the redoubtable Greta Christina has written a lengthy follow-up piece for AlterNet, laying out the … [Read more...]

The Duty of External Obedience

While I was doing research for "The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium", I came across some amazing passages in the New Advent Catholic encyclopedia's article on infallibility. Since it can be safely assumed that these still represent the Catholic church's viewpoint, I thought it was worth calling some wider attention to them.The article starts out by making the same threats that are endemic to all forms of Christianity: the ominous proclamation that the church is infallible, and if you don't … [Read more...]

Escaping Christian Patriarchy

Ophelia of Butterflies and Wheels has been writing some excellent posts lately about the abuse and oppression of women in Christian communities. One of them led me to an outstanding blog titled Love, Joy, Feminism. Its author, Libby Anne, grew up in an incredibly strict and fundamentalist Christian home that practiced a way of life she calls "Christian Patriarchy" (some might also refer to it as the Quiverfull movement). She and all her (twelve!) siblings were homeschooled, indoctrinated with … [Read more...]

Rebutting Reasonable Faith: The Evangelical Conspiracy Theory

In "The Aura of Infallibility", I mentioned William Lane Craig's belief in something he calls the "self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit", which he considers to be the most persuasive, crowning argument for Christianity. Basically, all it boils down to is that Craig has a really strong feeling that Christianity is true, and he believes that that feeling should be privileged above any and all evidence.As Craig himself puts it, in question #136:For not only should I continue to have … [Read more...]