Christians Persecute Atheist Teacher

The next time you hear Christians complaining about being persecuted in America, remember this story.You probably know Hemant Mehta, author of the blog Friendly Atheist. What you may not know, and what I didn't know, is that by day he's a math teacher at a public high school in Illinois. And it seems that a right-wing Christian group, outraged by the thought of an atheist being a teacher and potentially a role model, is now trying to get him fired.You can read the story in Hemant's own words … [Read more...]

Thoughtful Iconoclasts: A Response to Madeleine Bunting

I last mentioned Guardian columnist and Templeton Foundation fellow Madeleine Bunting in 2007, in "On Being Uncontroversial". She's recently written another column attacking atheism, alleging that the New Atheists are drowning out, in her words, "real debates" about religion and faith.Personally, I don't see the basis of her complaint. I think we've been provoking some very good debates - about the proper role of religion in society, how much influence it should have, whether and to what … [Read more...]

Atheists, Show Some Respect!

(This essay was originally published in issue #1 of the AHS newsletter, Secular Future.)As the New Atheist movement grows in size and influence, we've been assailed by pundits and theologians who say we ought to be more respectful - that we need to choose our words carefully and afford religious believers the courtesy they are due. And I couldn't agree more. Respect is a moral imperative for all people, and I think it's especially vital that we, as the vanguard of a reform movement seeking to … [Read more...]

Atheist Action Items

If we're going to create a world more friendly to reason, we need to raise our voices and speak out for the atheist viewpoint. This week, there are several ways in which you can help:• Two Texas state legislators have been courageously fighting back against creationism by proposing legislation to increase oversight and disclosure of the creationist-dominated State Board of Education. Take a moment to sign this petition and thank them.• The city of Ottawa has rejected the … [Read more...]

The Liberty to Blaspheme

Considering how often I've written about this topic in the past, I had some reluctance to return to it, fearing I wouldn't have anything new or unique to say this time around. But the right of free speech is once again under assault, and whenever that happens, I believe friends of liberty around the world have a moral duty to man the barricades and raise our voices against the barbarous fanatics who would take it away.So, here's the story in a nutshell (HT: Andrew Sullivan). Johann Hari, the … [Read more...]

Enemy of Faith

It seems that the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, which apparently exists, has released a list of the top ten instances of "Christian-bashing" in America in 2008 (HT: PZ). Taking a bold stand, this group has announced, "It is time for... Christians to no longer be treated like second-class citizens".Perusing the list, you'll soon discover that the people who wrote it can't grasp the difference between being criticized and being persecuted. Forget that at least three-quarters of the U.S. … [Read more...]

Speaking Truth to Popularity

When the great freethought orator Robert Ingersoll died in 1899, the New York Times eulogized him thusly:...there is something more in the orator's art than the power of expression. There must also be sympathy in the sense of an electrical connection which is set up between speaker and hearers. And eminently Ingersoll had this. He never misjudged, more properly, he never misfelt his audience....He held the keys of laughter and of tears, and there are many passages, mostly, indeed, detached … [Read more...]

Getting Our Message Out

As atheists grow in political power and begin to exert our influence, we should expect to draw attention from religious bigots who will try to silence us. Three stories from the past three days illustrate this principle, showing not just atheism's increasing assertiveness, but the arrogance of religious groups and individuals who think they can prevent us from getting our message out.First is Rancho Cucamonga, California. The Freedom from Religion Foundation had placed an "Imagine No … [Read more...]

The Real Enemies of Free Speech

Liberty magazine, a publication of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, has recently published "Faith Attack", a polemic by Clifford Goldstein against the New Atheists. The entire article is little more than repetition of the modern equivalent of the medieval blood libel: that atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett want to take over the world and outlaw religion.I'll offer some more specific criticisms, but what should be noted is that Goldstein presents no evidence … [Read more...]

Speak Boldly

This weekend, I came across an outstanding editorial by the British journalist Johann Hari, "We should never pulp books out of fear of fanatics". It opens by describing "the story of a novel you cannot read":The Jewel of Medina was written by a journalist called Sherry Jones. It recounts the life of Aisha, a girl who really was married off at the age of six to a 50-year-old man called Mohammed ibn Abdallah. On her wedding day, Aisha was playing on a see-saw outside her home. Inside, she was … [Read more...]