The Sociology of Belief

When I was still a Christian, I would often bristle whenever someone tried to analyze my faith from a scientific point of view. The tools of the scientist, I argued, could not reliably detect the things of the spirit because they are only discernible by those with the right organs of perception (see 1 Cor. 2:6-16). You must have “ears to hear,” Jesus would often say, and in a manner befitting both evangelicals and fundamentalists (I contend the differences between the two groups are… Read more

When Other People’s Fear of Hell Rubs Off on You

I seem to have a lot of friends who are in what we call “mixed faith” marriages, meaning pairings in which one partner still believes all the same things they did when they first began their new life together while the other one has since changed their views. This may happen more than you think, and it makes perfect sense considering how many of us entered adulthood with its accompanying romantic commitments before we had a chance to rethink our… Read more

September 11 and the Birth of New Atheism

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the day a group of radicalized Islamic extremists attacked us with our own commercial airliners, hijacking multiple planes and flying them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, plus one more that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania thanks to a group of passengers unwilling to allow their plane to be used as a weapon to take thousands more lives. The students I’m currently teaching wouldn’t be born for another couple of years, but… Read more

What Praising God in the Storm Reveals About Faith

Nothing puts the cognitive dissonance of faith on display like a destructive storm system ripping through a religious community. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” –Amos 3:6 “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.” –Isaiah 45:7 This week people all over the southeastern United States are bracing themselves for another potentially disastrous storm, thanks to a significant uptick in oceanic… Read more

How Do You Deal with Your Own Fear of Death?

A friend wrote me a couple of days ago and posed a question every formerly religious person has to wrestle with at some point or another. I’ve been having a mini freakout at the reality of consciousness ending when I do. I KNOW there’s no life after death, but for some reason the finality of that just hit two days ago. I’m feeling grief and a kind of existential terror at this reality becoming real to me in a cogent manner… Read more

Yes, I Know, Your Christianity Is Better

Whenever people who never truly bought into the hype about Jesus cast their gaze upon his most vocal fan clubs, what they see there alternately amuses and enrages them. They find the claims of Christianity implausible at best and emotionally manipulative at worst, but that in itself is no skin off their backs. What really irks them the most, however, is when people within this one religion presume to tell the rest of the world how to live regardless of… Read more

Being an Atheist Doesn’t Make You a Better Person

In case you weren’t aware, there is a thing called the “atheist movement,” and it is a subculture of its own kind. Like most subcultures made possible by the Information Age, most days out of the year this community exists only online. Periodically, though, it manifests itself and assumes physical form when a conference date rolls around, as in fact it is doing this very weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. Right now my newsfeed is filled with pictures of friends… Read more

Why Losing God Hits Some of Us Harder

I wasn’t active in the skeptic movement long before I discovered how different my perspective on religion was from that of other atheists. In time I came to understand that people who have never been religious come to the subject as outsiders who cannot always sympathize with those who formerly were. But I most definitely was religious. Except I never would have used that word to describe myself. In fact, I would have recoiled from that word as I had… Read more

After God, Then What?

This summer I’ve been trying to work my way through outlining a book I’ve been wanting to write for several years now, but didn’t feel ready to begin. The biggest holdup, I think, was that I wasn’t sure which of two or three directions I wanted to go with the book. Truth be told, I probably have at least three or four books in me trying to get out. But for now, I’d prefer to start with the one that… Read more

Maybe Belief Is a Matter of Choice for Some

I’ve gotten into more than my fair share of interchanges with people on the internet arguing over whether or not faith is a matter of personal volition. Can you simply choose to believe in God or Jesus if you don’t already? And do people who leave the faith of their youth do so by choice? Or does it happen in a way that is beyond their control? I “came out” as an atheist four years ago by participating in something called… Read more

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