Archives for May 2009

Headscarf politics

I often have occasion to complain about the nasty politics of the religious right in the United States. Still, to keep things in perspective, I should also be grateful it's not an Islamic religious right, and that our political culture, as corrupt as it is, is at least not a Middle Eastern political culture.Here's an example from a Turkish Islamist newspaper, Vakit. It's old news, from last month, and Türkan Saylan, the woman pictured, just died a week or two ago. But the level of nastiness is … [Read more...]

The Constitutional Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of the American People

I have not contributed any blog to the Secular Outpost for quite some time. And a decent respect for the opinions of humankind requires an explanation. The truth is that I have been very occupied with writing a book about the general theory of the constitutional rights of the American people. I am pleased to annouce that my book has been just been published. So here's the citation: The Constitutional Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of the American People: The Selective Incorporation of the … [Read more...]

New Chick Tracts

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Allen’s Fatuous Screed

I see that Taner has already had a crack at at Charlotte Allen's particularly inane and virulent diatribe against atheists, but I think it deserves a bit more comment. Actually, "deserves" is not the right word, because that implies that her effusions possess respectable intellectual content, worthy of reasoned riposte. They do not. Her remarks deserve contemptuous dismissal, and, after all, doesn't such a screed serve as its own best refutation? What a colleague of mine said about the … [Read more...]

“Whining atheist” stereotype

Charlotte Allen of the right-wing Manhattan Institute has an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, "Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining." (Thanks to Eddie Tabash for the heads-up.)It's not much worthy of attention except for its airing of some common stereotypes about nonbelief the wave of "new atheism" seems to have activated. Allen describes atheists, represented by Dawkins, Hitchens & Co., as angry, whiners, suffering from a persecution complex, intellectually shallow, etc. etc. Thing … [Read more...]

Why atheist activism?

Take a look at the most recent cartoon by Ted Rall, comparing people getting together based on nonbelief in God to "non-fans of golf com[ing] together around their common non-interest." (I don't know how relevant it is to the cartoon, but Rall believes in some sort of God, though he is not conventionally religious.)Rall has a point. Shared nonbelief is not much of a basis for even a very thin form of community. And nonbelievers are notoriously impossible to organize.On the other hand, Rall also … [Read more...]

Not fully human?

There's a fuss going on in places like (excellent site for nonbelief-relevant news!) about this statement on BBC radio by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, that "atheists are not fully human."I'm not sure I agree with the fuss. In the context of his religious beliefs, O'Connor's statements are reasonable. Most theists, liberals as well as conservatives, think that there is something important lacking in people who do not believe. Most also think that atheists are closed … [Read more...]

Book on benefits of religion?

I recently got a question, asking me what book I would recommend to read up on arguments for the social and personal benefits of religion.I had to admit, I don't know of any single book that fits the description, but it would be mildly surprising if some such book didn't exist. There is a sizable social science literature on the benefits of religion, but my acquaintance with it is limited: brief discussions in other books, the occasional article, and so forth. It would be nice to have some … [Read more...]