Announcing the Humanist Symposium

Welcome, friends, well-wishers and regular readers! I have something to tell you all about which I'm very excited. There's an issue that I've been mulling over for some time, and tonight I intend to announce its resolution.Specifically, I've been thinking about carnivals. The Carnival of the Godless, founded in March 2005 by Brent Rasmussen of Unscrewing the Inscrutable, is a wonderful forum for atheist writing and is still going strong. However, since that time there's been a proliferation of … [Read more...]

Parenting Beyond Belief

I have the privilege tonight of telling my readers about a wonderful project that's gotten me feeling very excited. The author Dale McGowan has edited a book of essays for parents on the topic of raising a child without religion, titled Parenting Beyond Belief, to be released next month.This is a particularly important gap in atheist literature, which is why I'm so glad to see a serious effort being made to bridge it. Although some books, like the FFRF's Just Pretend, have addressed this … [Read more...]

The Secular Islam Summit

I've recently been reading Karen Armstrong's A History of God, an enormously informative though often irritatingly naive account of the evolution of monotheism in the Abrahamic faiths. One thing that struck me while reading it is how religious grievances dating back centuries or even millennia continue to cause hatred, bloodshed, and violence today with virtually unabated intensity.For example, Armstrong discusses the roots of the Sunni-Shiite split in Islam, a dispute over who would succeed … [Read more...]

A Freethinkers' Yule Sermon

Throughout the Western world, the end-of-the-year holidays are a time for celebrating and making merry. Our most time-honored traditions encourage us to come together at this time in commemoration and gratitude for the blessings that life has to offer and the good fortune we have enjoyed during the year.But even as we are encouraged to rejoice over the good things in life, the holiday season brings with it no shortage of reminders that there are many others who are not so fortunate. We are so … [Read more...]

The Gospel of Consumerism

In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is often called Black Friday, both because of the chaos it engenders and because it is the day when many businesses are "in the black", in other words able to show a net profit, for the first time of the year. Both reasons are because Black Friday marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It is becoming increasingly common for retailers to open in the very earliest hours of the … [Read more...]

Season of Light

As the end of 2006 draws within sight, the annual holiday season is upon us. This year, I have noticed an interesting pattern in these familiar rituals. It is striking how many of the holidays that fall around this time of year involve the ceremonial kindling of light as an element of the celebration.Chief among them, of course, is the Christian/pagan holiday of Christmas, when evergreen trees and buildings' eaves are adorned with strings of glowing lights, and the traditional Yule log is … [Read more...]

The Least We Can Do

by Alexander WeaverI drove from Sacramento to Portland (Rancho Cordova to Wilsonville, technically) last night (as of the original writing on 11/08/06), over mountains and through rain and what I would characterize as "pea soup fog." This is important in other contexts, but for our purposes the main relevance is that it got me to Portland. I got in at 05:30, slept for 6 hours and then booked a flight back to Sacramento, departing at 16:50. The flight was fully booked, and for a change everyone … [Read more...]

What Will Replace Religion?

One argument for theism that I have always found interesting is the argument that humans do not have desires for which there exists no corresponding object in the real world. For example, we desire water, and water exists; we desire food, and food exists; we desire love and friendship, and those things exist. Similarly, this reasoning goes, human beings innately desire fellowship with God, and this strongly suggests that God exists.This argument is clever, but naive. A straightforward … [Read more...]

An Atheist Dinner Benediction

Back in April, the post "Out of Respect" inspired a discussion about what an atheist host could say at a meal as substitute for a prayer. This is, I think, an important question, and one worthy of an answer. I have written before about the importance of spirituality, even to a nonbeliever. Just because we are atheists does not mean that we cannot find symbolic significance and meaning in the small rituals that we all undertake every day. Indeed, I would argue that human life in a sense needs … [Read more...]

The Third World

We live today in a divided world. More so than lines based on race, religion or nationality, there is a fundamental distinction that partitions human society, and that distinction is wealth. The wealthy, prosperous, industrialized nations of North America, the European Union and Japan, the ones that have the greatest influence on world affairs and shape the development of human civilization, are often called the First World. By contrast, there are a far greater number of nations, harboring a far … [Read more...]


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