The Compliment of Taking Religion Seriously

FaithVsReason

Tanya M. Luhrmann, an anthropology professor at Stanford, wrote an op-ed last month titled "Belief Is the Least Part of Faith", arguing that belief in the supernatural doesn't play the pivotal role in religion that secularists think it does. This, she claims, makes philosophical debates about God's existence largely irrelevant. (Unmentioned in the piece, Luhrmann has been a beneficiary of the Templeton Foundation, which explains a lot.)Why do people believe in God? What is our evidence … [Read more...]

The Catholic Church Is Not a Democracy

Pope Benedict's surprise resignation has set off a frenzy of speculation as to who the next pope will be and what changes he might bring to Catholicism. Benedict was well-known as an enforcer of orthodoxy, cracking down harshly on nuns, supporters of same-sex marriage and other progressive factions within the church, and the beleaguered liberals in Catholicism are hoping that the next pope will bring a change of direction.However, the odds of this are slim. All of the cardinals who'll elect … [Read more...]

How Influential Is the Religious Right?

My latest column on Alternet, about the failed predictions of the religious right, has gotten a reply from a writer calling himself suburbXn who identifies himself as a liberal Christian, and who thinks I'm vastly exaggerating the influence of the people whose prophecies I cited:You can find extremists and crazies behind ANY belief who will take things to the edge. But please don't write off millions of Christians because of a few extremists, not even if you still disagree with those … [Read more...]

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Summary: A personable, good-humored example of the liberal-theist cherry-picking ethic. I recently wrote about the evangelical writer Rachel Held Evans and whether her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, can undo Christianity's entrenched ideals of patriarchy. I still don't think that's likely, but I've read the book now, so I'd like to offer some more thoughts. Evans lives in Tennessee and describes herself as an evangelical Christian, but as evangelicals go, she's hardly typical. She belongs … [Read more...]

How Religious Liberals Harm Their Own Cause: A Response to James Rohrer

Last month, AlterNet published a column by James Rohrer, a history professor and self-identified progressive religious believer who had some unkind words for the New Atheists. I'd like to take the opportunity to respond here and to show how his essay partakes of many of the same fallacies that have ensured the religious right's dominance in the American culture wars for the past several decades. Rohrer begins:Lately the progressive blogosphere has been filled with pieces by humanists who … [Read more...]

The Blinding Fog of Religious Moderation

The author Sam Harris was, to my knowledge, the first of the New Atheists to make a novel and important observation about the way religious privilege operates in our society. Religious moderates talk a good game about peace, democracy, freedom of conscience, equal rights for women and minorities, and so on. But when push comes to shove, they almost always side with their fundamentalist brethren in arguing that faith is a good thing and shouldn't be criticized, even when faith is directly … [Read more...]

Strategically Supporting Religious Charities

Are there any circumstances under which an atheist can support a religious group doing social work, even if doing so may advance a religious message we disagree with?This is on my mind because of the post I wrote last month about the Foundation Beyond Belief supporting a Quaker charity, and because I just finished reading Nomad, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's excellent second book, which serendipitously touches on similar ideas. Nomad is about the closing of the Muslim mind: the way that Islamic immigrants … [Read more...]

Anarchy in the U.K.: The Anglican Crackup Continues

I've written before about the ongoing schism within the Episcopal church, but those posts only concerned the goings-on in America. Now that battle has spread across the Atlantic and into the heart of Anglicanism, and it's looking more and more likely that the church will be cloven in two at its roots. As reported by the Telegraph, the Anglican General Synod has rejected a last-ditch compromise brokered by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and nominal head of the Anglican church, to … [Read more...]

Why Won't You Atheists Just Go Away?

The Newsweek/Washington Post blog On Faith has posted a series of responses from panelists to the American Humanist Association's new holiday ad campaign (HT: An Apostate's Chapel). Here's the question they asked:What do you think of the American Humanist Association's new "Godless Holiday" campaign? The ads, displayed on transit systems in five major U.S. cities, will say: "No God? ...No Problem! Be good for goodness' sake. Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God." … [Read more...]

The God of Shadow and Vapor

In April, I wrote a piece chastising Madeline Bunting for her willful invocation of the Courtier's Reply, in which she attacks atheists for criticizing the beliefs actually held and practiced by billions of people, rather than the beliefs of a tiny minority of theologians and pundits like herself.But let it not be said that we shy from a challenge. In this post, I'll take up the issue of religion as it is held by Bunting and others of like mind.Here's how she defines her own … [Read more...]


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