William Dembski on Faith Healers

Most of you have probably heard the name of William Dembski, one of the prominent advocates of intelligent-design creationism. Like all ID advocates, Dembski claims vehemently that his work is scientific and not in any way motivated by his religious beliefs, which is why he's currently a professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.But never mind that; today, somewhat surprisingly, I come to praise Dembski rather than bury him. That's because I've … [Read more...]

Losing Their Religion

I recently finished Daniel Radosh's Rapture Ready!, a book exploring Christian pop culture and some of its stranger manifestations, from theme parks like Florida's Holy Land Experience to the Ultimate Christian Wrestling pro circuit (no joke). But one event that he paid special attention to was Cornerstone, a Woodstock-like Christian music festival held each year in Illinois that routinely draws hundreds of acts and tens of thousands of people. According to Radosh, Cornerstone had a more open, … [Read more...]

When Prayer Fails

Dave Schmeltzer's book Not the Religious Type has many examples of what he calls "napkin stories" (i.e., short enough to write on a napkin), brief anecdotes from people who claim to have experienced miraculous events in their lives when they trusted in God. Here's a typical one:I found out that my aunt and uncle's marriage was unraveling due to an affair. I fasted and prayed for them. After thirty-eight days, I was contacted by my uncle. He was about to sign a lease on an apartment to move in … [Read more...]

Christian Missionaries Are Doing God's Work

By Sarah BraaschI leaned over to one of my teammates. "Why are there so many fat, white people on the plane? We're going to Ethiopia. We're flying Ethiopian Airlines.""They're missionaries," she responded, completely uninterested."What?" I gasped. It had never occurred to me. I was not pleased.Everything became so obvious. The Texas drawls. The recitations of Bible verses. The prayers. The seasoned braggarts recounting their prior trips to the Horn of Africa. The newbies airing out their … [Read more...]

Theocratic Horror in Uganda

Back in January, I alluded briefly to the events in Uganda, where Christian abstinence-only programs have reversed the success of comprehensive sex ed and led to a rise in HIV infection rates. At the time, I mentioned Martin Ssempa, a pastor in the country's booming Pentecostal Christian movement, and his involvement in a campaign to criminalize homosexuality.But this news has taken an even more ominous turn. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, but a bill currently being discussed in … [Read more...]

Too High a Price to Pay for Comfort

Religion inspires billions of people around the world today to live honest, decent, law-abiding lives. Faith-based charities of every religious tradition have brought comfort, hope, and healing to millions of people who would otherwise starve, lay homeless, and be left to fend for themselves. Religion gives comfort and consolation to so many who have faced adversity in their lives, whether it be suffering from illness, natural disaster, or the loss of someone whom they … [Read more...]

Mr. T Tackles the Problem of Evil

It's not only professional philosophers and theologians who have an opinion on matters touching the sacred. Sometimes, gold-jewelry-wearing, mohawk-having, former '80s television and movie action stars have words of wisdom to express on these weighty matters. Like, for instance, Mr. T, who recently gave an interview to Bizarre magazine in which he made a very interesting, and unintentionally revealing, comment.The interviewer asked T if he'd ever seen a UFO, to which he responded:I'm a … [Read more...]

The Moral High Ground

It's common for fundamentalist Christians to think of themselves as the moral guardians of our culture, a bulwark against the rampant sex and violence in the mass media. But this self-flattering caricature runs up against inconvenient reality: there is plenty of evidence which shows that Christians as a whole are every bit as drawn to sex and violence as everyone else.One of the best examples of this is Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. This movie had a worldwide gross of over $600 … [Read more...]

The Price of Abstinence

A much-heralded study in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics has concluded that the premarital "abstinence pledges" so beloved by evangelical Christians are ineffective. Teenagers who sign up for religious programs such as True Love Waits or Silver Ring Thing, in which participants pledge to remain abstinent until marriage, are just as likely to have premarital sex as nonpledgers, and significantly less likely to use contraception when they do. They also contract STDs at the same rates … [Read more...]

No Holy Ground

The world's attention has been riveted these past few days by Israel's assault on Gaza, in an attempt to oust the Hamas-run government and put a stop to rocket attacks on southern Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians were reported killed in a wave of airstrikes, over a thousand wounded, and as of this writing, a ground invasion looms as a continuing possibility. Although the conflict began after a six-month ceasefire expired and Hamas refused to renew it, it's now Israel that's rejecting calls for a … [Read more...]