The Stillborn God

I recently finished Mark Lilla's intellectual history of the separation of politics and political theology in Christendom, The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West. Interesting book, very illuminating in some respects. Still, I find myself ambivalent about it, overall.I thought I might write a short review to express why, but it seems Zachary Karabell, curiously enough, has written a review which I largely see eye to eye with. So read it, if you're interested... … [Read more...]

Reeves, Louisiana ditches 666 prefix

After complaints from religious villagers for forty years, Reeves, Louisiana's telephone prefix has been changed from 666 to 749. I added a smartass comment on the story that "In other news, Satan has announced that the Antichrist is now going by the number 749," but a much better response comes from Daniel Rutter on the SKEPTIC list, who points out that the new prefix suffers from a very similar numerological difficulty, which you may see for yourself by multiplying 74 by 9. Doh!Concerns … [Read more...]

Pope forming exorcist squads to wage war on Satan

I thought for a moment I was reading The Onion, but this story is from what at least sometimes purports to be a real newspaper, the UK's Daily Mail:The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism.Vatican chiefs are concerned at what they see as an increased interest in the occult.They have introduced courses for priests to combat what they call the most extreme form of "Godlessness."Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests … [Read more...]

“It only strengthens my faith”

There is a slightly irritating genre of religious writing in which a faithful person takes a superficial look at some infidel literature and emerges loudly proclaiming that the experience strengthened their faith. Michael Coren's "Their Disbelief Is My Strength," for example. Indeed, a particularly smug and clueless example.There's nothing wrong with the basic idea. If you take a serious look at arguments opposed to your own convictions, work through them, and find out why they are unpersuasive, … [Read more...]

Celebrity atheists gallery

Australia's Daily Telegraph ran a story "Christ-miss for atheist celebs" on Christmas eve which features a gallery of celebrities who are atheists (but not celebrities because of their atheism), such as Keanu Reaves, Angelina Jolie, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Branson, Bob Geldof, Bill Gates, Katherine Hepburn, Jodie Foster, Marlon Brando, Ricky Gervais, John Malkovich, and Bjork. Has anyone ever seen a story like that in a U.S. newspaper, that acknowledges that someone of prominence is an … [Read more...]

The Economist on Mormons, the Bible vs. the Koran, and New Age

The year-end issue of The Economist has three articles of interest regarding religion. One article, "The battle of the books," describes how Christianity and Islam are competing to distribute their holy books and convert followers, and how their respective demographics have changed dramatically since 1900. In 1900, Islam had about 200 million followers concentrated in the Arab world and southeast Asia, while today it has 1.5 billion followers around the globe. 80% of Christianity's followers … [Read more...]

The Problem of Niggling Inconveniences

OK, so the Problem of Evil is one of the oldest and most prominent reasons to be skeptical about a benign God. I don't emphasize it, since it says nothing about supernatural powers with an obnoxious streak, but I guess for people enculturated within a conventional monotheism it should raise a question or two.But there's another reason (among many) that I don't like wading into issues about Evil. It's an invitation to the pious to start on about the benefits of overcoming suffering. Evils spur … [Read more...]

Cubes and Cathedrals

I just read The Cube and the Cathedral, by conservative Catholic theologian George Weigel. Silly book.Normally I don't care much for grandiose theological pontifications on history and civilizations etc., but since this book seems to have made a name for itself as an example of Islamophobia and American conservative-style Europe-bashing, I thought I'd take a look. It turned out that the Islamophobia was just incidental bigotry, nothing special, and that the Europe-is-going-to-hell rant is … [Read more...]


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