The Godless Constitution and the Ratification Battle

Over the weekend, JT linked to this post on Patheos by Ben Witherington, an evangelical Bible scholar, opining about the legal basis for separation of church and state in America.But what about those founding documents— the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Didn't they set up a secular society for America? Didn't they set up 'a separation of church and state'? Look hard— can you find any clause that uses that phrase in our founding documents? Basically this … [Read more...]

Blogging Better Angels: The Bad Old Days

Back in May, I reviewed Steven Pinker's hugely ambitious new book The Better Angels of Our Nature, about the decline of violence through history. I couldn't do justice to all the ideas in this book with a single post, so I promised to return to it and write about Pinker's argument in more detail. It's taken me a while, but I'm getting back to that promise now. I plan to write several posts exploring some of the major ideas put forth in the book, which I intend to eventually collect into an essay … [Read more...]

Apocalypse Soon: Why Are Christians So Obsessed With the End Times?

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. In the summer of 2010, I saw him several times a week: a portly, dark-skinned gentleman, leaning against a pillar in Penn Station and holding out two fistfuls of pamphlets to the disinterested commuters. He wore glasses and earbuds connected to an MP3 player in his coat pocket, and always had a serene, almost bored expression that was in sharp contrast to the urgency of his message:He was, of course, one of the devotees of … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Better Angels of Our Nature

I've just finished reading Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, an extraordinary book that I think deserves wider attention. I want to write a full review, but this book is far too vast (696 pages!) and too broad in scope to do it justice in a single post, so I plan to split my review up into several installments over the coming weeks. This post is just to serve as a brief overview of the book and a few of its more startling data points. The book's thesis is that humanity is … [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...]

Book Review: Letters From an Atheist Nation

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.) Summary: A surprising, welcome reminder that atheism has a long and storied history in the U.S. Letters from an Atheist Nation, edited by Thomas Lawson, is a compilation of reader letters printed by the Blue Grass Blade, a pro-atheist, pro-freethought newspaper published in, of all places, Kentucky in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Its editor, Charles Chilton Moore, was a … [Read more...]

Is America a Christian Nation?

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. In a campaign speech in September, Rick Perry hit upon some familiar Republican themes:Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, in an appeal to evangelical voters, said "Christian values" and not "a bunch of Washington politicians" should be the touchstone guiding how Americans conduct their lives. ..."America is going to be guided by some set of values," Perry told a crowd of 13,000 students and faculty members yesterday at a sports … [Read more...]

American Secularism and Christian Tolerance

My recent post on the godlessness of the Constitution has attracted some attention. Over the weekend, I came across a reply from another of Big Think's bloggers: Peter Lawler, a professor of government and international studies at Berry College and a former member of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, whose blog is Rightly Understood.Prof. Lawler writes about the "complacently atheistic tone" of my article (I wish I could afford to be complacent! I like to think of myself as … [Read more...]

Is America a Christian Nation?

My latest article has been posted on AlterNet, Conservatives Want America to be a "Christian Nation" -- Here's What That Would Actually Look Like. In it, I analyze the "Christian nation" rhetoric of the American religious right, illuminating the historical reality they'd love to forget - that their ideological predecessors fiercely criticized the Constitution for being a godless document. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest: But America's Constitution is more than just a … [Read more...]

Photo Sunday: Valencia

We saw a lot of churches and cathedrals in Spain, but the Cathedral of Valencia could claim one mark of distinction that some of the much larger and more impressive ones couldn't. Namely, it's the final resting place of that most precious Christian relic, the Holy Grail itself. To see that and more, click to continue... … [Read more...]


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