Daniel Loxton on the future of skepticism

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Daniel Loxton, editor of Junior Skeptic and friend of the blog, recently spoke to io9 about the future of the skeptic movement. I personally don't associate much with the skeptic movement, but am glad to have people like Daniel involved. I feel like many people might not realize that a person can be a skeptic and have a sense of wonder and imagination.It kind of has a reputation for being a bit of a downer topic. But I've never viewed it that way. It's always been about the opportunity to in … [Read more...]

The three marks of secular Lent

Secular Lent

There are three marks to the traditional Catholic Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. When we think of Lent, we typically tend to focus on the fasting---giving up sweets, coffee, animal products, or whatever else. Leah Libresco at the Catholic Channel explains: Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent — the season of preparation for Easter.  The whole church fasts from meat on Fridays, during this season, and individual Catholics usually make personal commitments to give something up or … [Read more...]

Atheist lent, why it matters, and also what should I (and maybe you, if you’d like) give up?


It wasn't until I started studying psychology that I began to see religion from less of a partisan stance and more from a scientific one. It's too easy to be stuck in an "atheism good, religion bad" mentality, but I started to see religion in functional terms once I was out. Why do religions promote the beliefs they do? Why do certain rituals stick and not others? How did this collection of beliefs and practices help people become the people they want to be?There's a tendency in some atheist … [Read more...]

Vox’s primer on microaggressions

Microaggressions have been getting more attention lately, and Vox, modern home of explanatory journalism, has put together a helpful primer on the topic. Jenée Desmond-Harris writes: Microaggressions are more than just insults, insensitive comments, or generalized jerky behavior.They're something very specific: the kinds of remarks, questions, or actions that are painful because they have to do with a person's membership in a group that's discriminated against or subject to stereotypes. And … [Read more...]

The hidden wisdom of anxiety

Charlie Kurth, an assistant professor in philosophy at Washington University in St Louis, has a great essay at Aeon about the benefits of anxiety. He starts with some background: [J]ust how bad is anxiety, really? Is it just an unpleasant feeling to work through, or something worse? According to a very distinguished tradition, one that stretches all the way back through the Stoics and Aristotle to Plato, it is worse. Much worse. When we’re anxious, we fret and ruminate in ways that don’t just di … [Read more...]

The New Yorker on the Chapel Hill Shootings

Philip Gourevitch at the New Yorker is skeptical about how we respond to the parking violation explanation:So there you have it. Some people are sensitive about parking. One such person stood his ground. Now three young innocents are dead, and he’s being held without bond in the county jail. A lamentable affair, but, told like that, shorn of all context, it’s not unlike a song on the radio, folkloric. Our imaginations are primed to grasp it. What’s hard to get one’s mind around is that every … [Read more...]

Responses to the Chapel Hill Shooting

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I've been following the response to Tuesday's murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC (a short 10 mile drive from where I live).German Lopez at Vox has my favorite take: In the past, prominent figures on atheism such as Bill Maher and Sam Harris have blamed violent extremism on religions and their followers, with Maher once infamously characterizing Islam as "the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing." Discussion about a lin … [Read more...]

Why Craig Hicks is our problem

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https://twitter.com/Bro_Pair/status/565594527776649217 Early yesterday evening, Craig Hicks shot Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha to death inside their Chapel Hill, N.C. home. Hicks, who identifies as an anti-theist, regularly posted vitriolic anti-religious sentiment on his Facebook page.“When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me,” he wrote. “If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I. But given that it doesn’t, and giv … [Read more...]

How anti-theism can contribute to violence against muslims

I wrote early this year about comments Richard Dawkins made about Islamophobia and racism. I think they're relevant today: [W]hat's relevant [to racism] is whether something disproportionately and negatively affects racial minorities, rather than whether the target is a racial minority, per se. It seems pretty undeniable that the U.S. drug policy makes life unjustly harder for black Americans. That’s what matters, not whether “drug user” as such is a race. So the question becomes whether new ath … [Read more...]

Police not ruling out hate-based motivation in Chapel Hill shooting

There are some update on the story that broke this morning of Craig Stephen Hicks, the Chapel Hill man accused of shooting three muslim students in their home.The Charlotte Observer reports:Chapel Hill police said Wednesday morning that a dispute about parking in the neighborhood of rented condominiums near Meadowmont may have led Craig Stephen Hicks to shoot his neighbors, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-S … [Read more...]