Remembering Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens has died. I never personally met the man, but I want to say a few words in tribute. Of all the popular figures commonly styled as the New Atheists, he was the hardest to pin down. He could be caustic, crude, witty, and brilliant by turns. He was a dauntless defender of free speech who never hesitated to aim a dart at the powerful or smash a sacred idol. His book about Mother Teresa, The Missionary Position, was and is the trailblazer in debunking the myths that have become … [Read more...]

Never Quote Discworld to an Atheist

The other day, I found this article from a Google alert: an essay on the religious website First Things by the author and Catholic apologist Elizabeth Scalia (who also blogs as The Anchoress).The post was about Terry Pratchett, the celebrated fantasy author and secular humanist. Since his personal beliefs come through clearly in his writing, I was surprised to find out that Scalia's a fan of his Discworld series. She quotes with approval the following passage from one of the Discworld books, … [Read more...]

How to Create (Not Find) the Meaning of Your Life

Guest post by Samantha Eliza BentenA friend recently paraphrased a statement from The Nature of Existence (the documentary, I believe, though I haven't seen it) as follows: "People should spend more time thinking about the meaning of their own lives, than the meaning of life in general." This strikes a chord with a notion I've held since at least my senior year of high school. (That was when I came up with the BLT theory of the purpose of life, which is to say that a purpose is a goal that's … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

Some scattered thoughts to contemplate on a Saturday morning:• Earlier this year, my post on urban agriculture drew some spirited disagreement. Now there's a study from Ohio State University which concludes that Cleveland could supply all its own produce, poultry and honey if the many vacant lots in the shrinking, post-industrial city were converted into gardens.• A Missouri high school, in response to a complaint from a homeschooling parent who doesn't even have kids in the … [Read more...]

An Atheist’s Confession

By Sarah Jane Braasch-JoyIn loving memory of my baby brother, Jacob Michael Braasch (01/28/86 – 02/02/10)My beloved baby brother, Jacob, hung himself last year in my parents' basement. I wouldn't wish my pain on my worst enemy. It's been a year and a half, and, sometimes, I still can't get out of bed or stop crying. I'll be in public, and I'll inexplicably, to anyone else, burst into sobbing, jagged tears. I blame a lot of people for his death, especially my parents. But, mostly, I blame m … [Read more...]

Grieving Without Religion

Recently, a long-time reader (thanks, Stacey!) sent me an e-mail with a link to this wrenching story, about a married couple chronicling the grief and anger they've been feeling since their daughter was stillborn in late 2009. By their own account, this tragedy happened in part because they put their trust in irrational thinking and home-birth woo [see below —Ebonmuse], rather than medicine, and didn't go to the hospital until well after it became obvious that they should have. The father, … [Read more...]

The Value of Autonomy

I've been following this debate between Ross Douthat and Kevin Drum about the morality of assisted suicide. In his latest post, Douthat made a telling, though apparently unintentional, statement:The slippery slope that I discussed in the column doesn't amount to much if you don't disapprove at all of people deciding to take their own lives. Absent that disapproval (and an accompanying, even-stronger disapproval of the people who assist them), you won't be bothered by... people taking lethal … [Read more...]

On Religious Right Grave-Robbers

I realize this is the season for Christmas trees, candy canes and presents, not for jack-o'-lanterns, black cats and witches, but I can't help pointing out that a rotting ghoul has crawled out of its grave and is sitting around leering at us. Unfortunately this isn't the kind of creature that goes away if you politely ignore it, so a little house-cleaning is, I think, in order.You may have heard that Elizabeth Edwards died recently after deciding to forego further treatment for metastatic … [Read more...]

How Much Comfort Does Religion Really Provide?

In past posts, I've argued that we shouldn't specifically target the beliefs of people in dire straits who rely on their religion for comfort. But there's an underlying assumption that at the very least deserves examination: Does religion actually comfort people in desperate circumstances? Does it make them feel better than they otherwise would?This seems like it should be obvious, but things that are obvious aren't always true. Take this study reported on Science Daily, which examined the … [Read more...]

The Language of God: Ultimate Meaning

The Language of God, Chapter 2By B.J. MarshallIn this section, Collins poses the questions of whether the near-ubiquity of the search for the existence of a supernatural being represents "a universal but groundless human longing for something outside ourselves to give meaning to a meaningless life and to take away the sting of death" (p.35). The search for meaning in one's life is an important question, but I don't think the search for the divine stops there. We have a curious approach to … [Read more...]


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