Repost: The Guardians of Tone

[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from January 2011.] I was tipped off to this excellent essay by a reader (thanks, bbk, even if it was unintentional!) and since it got buried in the comments on the other thread, I wanted to call special attention to it. It's about the virtues of anger, specifically with reference to the feminist movement, but it contains some valuable lessons that are applicable to atheism … [Read more...]

The Perils of Scriptural Morality

AcaciaTree

I was cheered by a story I saw last week about about heroic activist groups working to end the barbaric custom of female "circumcision", aka female genital mutilation, that's practiced in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. FGM isn't unique to Christianity or to Islam, but is found across a range of traditional societies that fetishize female virginity and purity and view girls as unfit for marriage if they aren't cut. The harm to women is immense: death from infection and blood loss, … [Read more...]

New on IHEU: Atheists Aren’t That Terrifying

Tonight, I'm very pleased to announce that I've had an essay published on a new forum: the website of IHEU, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, an umbrella organization representing humanist groups all around the world. It's titled We're not that terrifying - A response to "Atheism Has Failed", and in it I respond to Jonathan Sacks, the chief Orthodox rabbi of the U.K., who frets that atheism is destroying Western civilization as we know it. A big thanks to IHEU for offering me this … [Read more...]

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...]

Why the New Atheism Isn’t Islamophobic

Kaaba

In the past few weeks, there's been a barrage of attacks on the so-called New Atheists, accusing them of inciting bigotry against Muslims or of fostering irrational hatred for Islam. This charge has been laid by Murtaza Hussein on Al Jazeera, Nathan Lean on Salon, and Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian, among others. Now, it's true that some high-profile New Atheists have made serious missteps when speaking about Islam. But it's equally true that New Atheism is a freewheeling, disputatious, … [Read more...]

A Reply to James Croft

Chessboard

My new Patheos colleague, James Croft, has written a post welcoming me to the site and inviting me to a rhetorical face-off. I'm never one to pass up an invitation to a cordial debate, so let's have at it! James' post concerns my speech at the 2012 SSA conference, where I laid out my strategy for effective atheist activism. He has responses to several of the points I made, which are under the headings below: The Importance of Anger I spoke about why anger is a valid and important … [Read more...]

Both Billboards and Soup Kitchens

AAHolidaySign

What strategy should the atheist movement adopt during the holiday season? Should we focus on doing good works as a visible proof that we're caring and moral people, or should we redouble our efforts to be loud and uncompromising in the face of an onslaught of religious schmaltz? That's the subject of the latest Deep Rift(TM) in the secular community, being debated in an article by Dan Merica on CNN as well as a rather caustic post by Andrew Tripp (whom you may remember from his recent … [Read more...]

Why Is America’s Most Progressive Voting Block Often Overlooked?

This article was originally published on AlterNet. The renowned physicist Max Planck once said, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." And this isn't just true of science: the same principle holds true in the political arena. Most progressive advances don't come about because vast numbers of people are persuaded to drop their … [Read more...]

Winning the Culture War on Two Fronts

The big news this week, as well it should be, was a new survey from Pew showing that America's religious "nones" continue their demographic ascent: The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. [That works out to 46 million people! —A.L.] In the last five years … [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...]