Weekend Coffee: November 8


• A Texas homeschooling family has been taken to court after allegedly refusing to teach their children anything at all since "they were going to be raptured". Of note, the family's 17-year-old daughter ran away from home because she wanted to go to school.• Violence in the Name of the Messiah: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists aim to create a theocratic state in Palestinian territory through terrorism. An infamous rabbinic document called "Torat ha-Melekh", or "The Law of the … [Read more...]

Movie Review: The Martian


Content note: Contains some spoilers.It says something about our era that so many of the most popular movies and TV shows are grim, depressing stories of disaster and dystopia. Is it a reflection of the popular mood? A sign that we've lost hope in ourselves and our ability to achieve great things? Why are there so few works of culture which make us feel optimistic, which tell us that better days are ahead?This weekend, I saw a movie that's a welcome exception to that gloomy trend: Ridley … [Read more...]

Pay Attention to the News You Don’t See


Last week, there was a powerful magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Chile near the city of Illapel. The tremors were felt as far as São Paulo, 1,600 miles away, and triggered tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific, from Hawaii to Japan to New Zealand.If you didn't hear about this quake, there's a reason for that: in spite of the widespread damage and massive evacuations, it had a tiny death toll. Just 11 people died, compared to the 525 people who died in a similar quake five years ago. That … [Read more...]

With Liberty and Justice For All


June 26, 2015 will be remembered as the day love won out in the United States of America. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, striking down all remaining bans on same-sex marriage.While waiting for the decision, I admit I had some doubts. I never seriously doubted that the Supreme Court would rule for equality; they signaled their intent months ago, when they refused to halt pro-marriage decisions by lower courts, and it was obvious that … [Read more...]

When Would You Rather Be Alive?

Reading the news is always a marathon race between hope and despair, but that conflict has been especially sharp these last few months. While every era has its doomsayers, they've lately become a lot harder to dismiss.Europe remains slumped in depression and wracked by infighting over the future of its union, with no way out in sight. America is sweltering under political stagnation, fraying at the seams from breathtaking inequality and the brutal violence of a police state, and there's a … [Read more...]

The Atheist Community Is Diversifying


I was pleased to read about a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute on millennial views about sex. It confirms our generally pro-choice and non-judgmental attitude, with a few caveats:"What we see running through the answers is that where principles of fairness come up, millennials want to see equal access to health services, abortion and contraception. They think people should have individual freedom to make decisions," said [Robert] Jones [CEO of PRRI].For the most … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: The Peaceful Side of Atheism


I've published a new column on the Guardian: "If peace on earth is our goal, atheism might be the means to that end".From the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to the disintegration of Syria, to the atrocities of Islamic State and Boko Haram, it sometimes seems as if the world is spiraling down a vortex of bloodshed and violence. But in spite of these headlines, the truth is that the world is becoming more peaceful, not less. In the new piece, I argue that the rise of atheism in America and … [Read more...]

Lee Strobel Says Atheism Is Winning


Here's some welcome news to start out 2015: Lee Strobel, the famed Christian apologist, says that atheism is winning and evangelical Christianity is "facing a crisis":"We are facing a crisis in America. Skepticism is rising. Too many young people are leaving the faith. Few Christians are able to effectively share Jesus with others," Strobel said in a statement released exclusively to The Christian Post. "At many churches, reaching spiritually lost people falls to the bottom of their … [Read more...]

The Frozen River: A Humanist Sermon


Six years ago, this nation achieved a historic milestone when its people elected a black man to be their president. For a country that was sustained by slave labor for decades after its inception and riven by racism throughout its history, this is an almost unimaginable accomplishment. It's not that Barack Obama promised to single-handedly inaugurate a new era of progressive utopianism - those of us who followed his political ascent always knew that he was a conciliatory moderate with mildly … [Read more...]

The Coming Secular Era


The most important changes don't come in the form of attention-grabbing headlines, but subtle trends that quietly gather momentum until, by the time they finally burst into public view, they're unstoppable. Such is the case with the most important, and paradoxically most underappreciated, trend in American religion today: the long-term, across-the-board decline of Christianity and the corresponding rise of atheism, which has been going on behind the scenes for more than twenty years and is now … [Read more...]