Do Intentions Matter? On Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky


I just read a fascinating email exchange between Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky. You can read the exchange here, and commentary on it here and here.In sum, Harris refused to back down from his claim that Chomsky has never thought about the ethical import of intentions, even when Chomsky made it very clear that he has, often, for decades. But what came across extremely clearly was how differently the two feel about whether and how intentions matter.As Harris put it: Ethically speaking, in … [Read more...]

I Have Never Seen a Supernatural Entity Create a Universe


As my regular readers will know, I don't believe in the supernatural. I don't think there is a god, or gods, or supernatural forces out there. As an atheist, I have heard the arguments for religion many times. There is one argument I find particularly annoying, because it is so completely nonsensical that I can't believe it's even used. I heard it articulated like this the other day: A Christian man whom we'll call Peter had an atheist friend named Dave who was very interested in astronomy and … [Read more...]

Why I Take My Kids to the UU Church


Earlier this spring I spoke with my kindergarten-age daughter about holidays and stories. I explained that many different religions and cultures have holidays that celebrate spring, and that Easter is our culture's spring holiday. I also talked about the history of Easter, and the religious significance the holiday has for Christians. I explained that we as humans create stories about the world around us, and drew parallels to other religions and other cultures."Can you think of any stories w … [Read more...]

What Kind of Atheist Parent Are You?


Some months ago I mentioned Temperance Brennan in a blog post on atheist parenting, and my readers had a lot to say. To be specific, many of my readers argued that it was unfair that Brennan, an atheist, felt the need to defer to her Catholic partner, Booth, and let their daughter, Christine, be baptized. I did not write a followup post at the time, but my thoughts have been percolating and I think I'm ready to put them on paper. Or rather, in pixels, I suppose.Let's turn to an analogy for a … [Read more...]

You Can Count Me out of Atheist Tribalism


When I left evangelicalism I thought I was leaving back-patting fence-drawing tribalism behind. How very naive I was.In an Al Jazeera article published today, Usaid Siddiqui writes the following:The Feb. 10 killing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, of three Arab-American students, allegedly by atheist Craig Stephen Hicks has led some to compare militant atheism to Islamic militancy. Atheists are not happy with the comparison. “The deluge of claims of equivalence between this crime and th … [Read more...]

What Makes a Person an “Atheist” Parent?


I was going back through my feed reader lately, and came upon a post on the Friendly Atheist from December. In it the author, Kate Cohen, writes about her interest in how atheists are represented in TV shows and movies shown on TV. She focuses especially on the representation of atheist parents.She leads with this: I found one! I found one! I found an atheist mom on TV! She goes on to explain that she is talking about Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street. I've never seen Miracle on 34th … [Read more...]

Does Atheist Parenting “Work”?


I recently came upon an interesting comment (screenname Angellius) on a scholarly post titled "Does Homeschooling Work." The post addressed whether homeschoolers with religious motivations are successful in producing religious children.You could put the question this way: A lot of atheist parents are highly concerned that God not be mentioned in school: No prayers, no overt professions of faith by teachers, no prayer meetings during school hours, etc. Is anybody asking, “Do atheist efforts … [Read more...]