Curiosity as a Purpose of Life

One of the most common questions religious believers ask atheists is where we find purpose in life, what makes our existence meaningful and worthwhile. I've written about this subject on Ebon Musings, but I want to add to my answer. Both atheists and theists can give the usual answer of wanting to do good in the world, helping our fellow human beings and so on, but I've realized that atheists can offer another answer, something that believers genuinely can't say: atheists are inspired to go on … [Read more...]

There Is No God-Shaped Hole

In A Shattered Visage, a book-length emotional rant against atheism, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts forth the following assertion:The words of Augustine are most appropriate: "You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." Or, as Pascal put it, "There is a godshaped vacuum in the heart of every man, and only God can fill it." [p.89]Although they probably don't realize it, apologists who say this have committed themselves to a … [Read more...]

Getting a Philosophy Under Your Feet

I recently read a Christian book that's more interesting than the usual anti-atheist apologetics: Not the Religious Type, by Dave Schmelzer. Its author is a theologian and self-proclaimed former atheist who now pastors an evangelical church, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, in the Boston area.This book is in large part about the New Atheist movement, and unlike most Christian authors, who have nothing but anger and scorn for outspoken atheists, Schmelzer actually shows our viewpoint a measure of … [Read more...]

To Those Who Doubt Their Religion

This post isn't for confirmed atheists, nor for confirmed theists. It's not for people who've already made up their minds, one way or the other.No, this post is for the seekers, the in-betweeners, the tormented doubters. It's for the uncertain agnostics, people who aren't certain what they believe; it's for people who feel like they no longer belong in their church, but don't know of an alternative; and it's for people who are experiencing a full-blown crisis of faith and don't know where to … [Read more...]

Thoughtful Iconoclasts: A Response to Madeleine Bunting

I last mentioned Guardian columnist and Templeton Foundation fellow Madeleine Bunting in 2007, in "On Being Uncontroversial". She's recently written another column attacking atheism, alleging that the New Atheists are drowning out, in her words, "real debates" about religion and faith.Personally, I don't see the basis of her complaint. I think we've been provoking some very good debates - about the proper role of religion in society, how much influence it should have, whether and to what … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Atheist's Way

(Editor's Note: This review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: A worthy effort, but at best a shallow draught from a spring that can sustain much deeper drinking.I've often said that atheism, to succeed as a movement, needs to do more than just criticize belief in gods: it needs to offer a positive, appealing alternative to religion, a depiction of the happiness and fulfillment that can be obtained by living a superstition-free life. … [Read more...]

All Things in Moderation

In last month's post "Down to Earth", I discussed Thomas Jefferson's ideal of rich simplicity, what Buddhism calls the Middle Way. Rather than the vain pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of power or material possessions, the true source of contentment lies in the simple pleasures of life that are available to everyone, regardless of social status.Some of the comments mentioned Epicurus, a person I should write about more often. Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who taught a … [Read more...]

On Gift-Giving

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Hanukkah's prominence was the plan of reformist rabbis, seeking to create a Jewish holiday to compete with Christmas just as Christmas was created to compete with pagan solstice festivals. In an ironic sense, this campaign has been both a success and a failure: although the cause of Hanukkah was eagerly taken up by marketers, it failed to dislodge Christmas from public consciousness and has simply contributed further to the commercialization of the holiday … [Read more...]

Down to Earth

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Alexander Donald, 7 February 1788What should we seek to get out of life? To a secular humanist, what is the goal toward which our labors should point?As atheists, we don't believe in a heavenly reward, so that path is … [Read more...]

On Atheist Janitors: Followup

Around this time last year, I wrote a post titled "On Atheist Janitors", addressing an e-mail from reader Serban Tanasa that asked whether atheism has something to offer to people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. The other day he wrote back to me with a follow-up post addressing some of the issues first discussed here, and I wanted to offer some further thoughts.Atheist forces and their agnostic coalition members have launched devastating artillery barrages against the veracity of … [Read more...]


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