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...]

Putting Away Childish Things

This month, I will be posting a new essay series that is somewhat different from the ones I have written before. Rather than a series of numbered sequels, each one following the previous in a linear fashion, this new series will be more like a branching bush, with different essays all growing out of the same central idea. That idea, as expressed by the title of this post, is "putting away childish things". In the Bible, the Apostle Paul says the following:When I was a child, I spake as a … [Read more...]

Happy Ingersoll's Birthday!

As far as most people are concerned, the 11th of August has no special significance. But atheists, freethinkers and skeptics everywhere should recognize it as a very special and significant date indeed. For on this day, we commemorate the birth of the most famous freethinker that most Americans have never heard of, the most fearless and possibly the most eloquent defender of nonbelief in our nation's great and storied history - the illustrious Robert Green Ingersoll.Ingersoll's name is little … [Read more...]

The Errors of Faith

In midtown Manhattan yesterday, I happened to notice the following breathtakingly arrogant slogan on a church's bulletin board: "The errors of faith are better than the best thoughts of unbelief." —Thomas Russell This quote is probably of ancient vintage (both Thomas Russells listed on Wikipedia lived during the 1700s), which explains, though it does not excuse, its repulsive, hate-laden attitude. But what I find truly amazing is that a church in the year 2006, in liberal New York City, would o … [Read more...]

Atheism as a Positive Worldview

In a previous post, Shattering Stereotypes, I discussed ways in which atheists can clear away the noxious stereotypes about us that are spread by religious groups and that hinder our ability to get our message across. That is the vital first step in speaking effectively on behalf of atheism. But once we have cleared that ground of the thorns and thistles of stereotypes, we must decide on what to build there. Again, we nonbelievers will achieve more if we speak in unison - if we agree on a plan … [Read more...]

Why Do We Care?

"I'm unsure where I really stand on this book or the ideas in it, but would really love to know your true motives for writing the review. It seems so obvious, but if you actually believed (or didn't believe) what you claim, you would spend your energy elsewhere. Why do you care?" --from a recent feedback received on Ebon Musings "Doubt, like faith, has to be learned. It is a skill. But the curious thing about skepticism is that its adherents, ancient and modern, have so often been proselytizers. … [Read more...]


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