Bangladesh Is Killing Atheists

There's horrific news from Bangladesh: the atheist activist and writer Dr. Avijit Roy was murdered on the street in Dhaka, hacked to death by two assailants wielding machetes as he left a book fair at Dhaka University. His wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna was seriously wounded in the same attack. An Islamist group calling itself Ansar Bangla 7 issued a statement claiming responsibility for the murder.Dr. Roy was the author of books such as The Philosophy of Disbelief and The Virus of Faith, as well … [Read more...]

What’s Behind the Appeal of ISIS?

Amidst the steady drumbeat of grim headlines in the Middle East, the trend I've been most concerned by is the strange drawing power of ISIS, also known as Islamic State or Daesh, the brutal extremist group rampaging through Iraq and Syria, capturing cities and committing horrendous acts of violence. ISIS seems to exert an almost magnetic attraction, drawing in not just the disaffected, the disgruntled, petty thugs and criminals, but also young Muslims from middle-class Western families, people … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: February 22

• Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and science writer, has terminal cancer. Here, he writes a beautiful, elegiac, deeply humanist essay about confronting the prospect of death and what he intends to do with the time he has left.• This can't end well: In response to the increasing threat of ISIS, which is drawing Muslim extremists to its cause from all over the world, Western Christians, most with military experience, are traveling to Iraq and Syria to form an opposing Christian … [Read more...]

When the Pope Excuses Violence

Last week, Pope Francis made some startling remarks about the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Speaking to journalists, he not only said that freedom of speech shouldn't include the right to ridicule religion, but that if anyone does ridicule religion, violence is an appropriate response!Asked about the attack that killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo - targeted because it had printed depictions of the prophet Muhammad - he said: "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: January 18

• From Valerie Tarico, how religion can let loose humanity's most violent impulses. A thoughtful essay that almost perfectly captures my views on the link between religion and violence.• "Tim is patient, Tim is kind. Tim does not envy, Tim does not boast, Tim is not proud. Tim is not rude, Tim is not self-seeking, Tim is not easily angered, Tim keeps no record of wrongs. Tim does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."• Alex Malarkey, a boy who wrote a … [Read more...]

Saffron Fascism


While Western atheists are most familiar with outrages committed by monotheistic faiths, the followers of Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism can be just as violent, oppressive and xenophobic. As China, India and other developing nations become wealthier and more internationally influential, it's likely we'll hear more and more about this, as adherents of these religions begin to swagger and brandish their newly discovered power.Sri Lanka, for example, is grappling with a hardline … [Read more...]



While trying to absorb the awful, awful news out of Paris this morning, I kept thinking of this passage from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, addressed to the poet's detractors:But yours the cold heart, and the murderous tongue, The wintry soul that hates to hear a song, The close-shut fist, the mean and measuring eye, And all the little poisoned ways of wrong.Although these words were penned almost a thousand years ago, you couldn't write a more apt description of the men who … [Read more...]

Maher, Harris and Atheist Islamophobia


Last week on Bill Maher's TV show, Maher, Sam Harris and Ben Affleck sparred over Islam and whether it's prone to violence:"Freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence, freedom to leave a religion, equality for women, equality for minorities, including homosexuals, these are liberal principles that liberals applaud for," Maher continued, "but then when you say in the Muslim world this is what's lacking, then they get upset."... "How about the … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: Charisma’s Genocide Fantasies

My latest column is up on AlterNet, Some Right-Wing Christians Enthusiastically Promoting a Form of Genocide. It's about the genocidal anti-Muslim fantasies aired in Charisma magazine in a column by Gary Cass (which was subsequently pulled down with no explanation or apology), as well as the long history of Christians advocating the necessity of mass bloodshed generally, going all the way back to the bloody passages of the Old Testament. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the … [Read more...]

Religious Violence Isn’t a Mental Illness, and Neither Is Misogyny


In the wake of the mass shooting in California last month, committed by a killer who left a long, misogynist manifesto vowing to punish women for not dating him, many pundits and commenters have strained to blame something other than sexism for his rampage. The most common claim is that the shooter, Elliot Rodger, was mentally ill, that the illness was the real cause of his killing, and the misogyny is just what his disturbed mind happened to latch onto as an excuse; if not for that, it would … [Read more...]