Theocratic Doin’s A-Transpirin’

The Houston Chronicle (7/31) has an interesting report by writer Joe Holley on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s upcoming “Day of Prayer and Fasting,” officially called “The Response,” scheduled for August 6. Now I’m a bit skeptical about the “fasting” part of this. Take a look at any crowd of Texans, and you can tell that they are not really into the fasting thing. In Texas, “Caution: Wide Load” signs have to be worn by pedestrians. “A Day of Prayer and Bar-B-Q” will probably be more like it. But I’m … [Read more...]

Ramadan

I'm visiting Turkey right now, and two days of my stay will overlap with Ramadan, starting tomorrow.It's a country where it's very hard to get away from religion in the best of times. (Plus everyone always assumes everyone else is Muslim.) Now, on the eve of Ramadan, it's all Islam all the time. I've already had enough. At least I'm in a big city, so I expect I'll still be able to get some food and drink during the daytime in areas tourists are likely to hang around in. … [Read more...]

A conservative Christian engaged in a Christian war

I need to confess that I have a somewhat loose connection to Anders Behring Breivik, who recently killed 76 people in Norway. You see, he lifted words for his manifesto from the manifesto of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. I never met Ted, but he and I were in the same research field of geometric function theory, and I published some joint papers with Kaczynski’s dissertation advisor. When Kaczynski was caught, a slightly paranoid math colleague of mine became unnecessarily concerned that there might … [Read more...]

Creeping conservatism?

I've been asking around, and many of my religiously liberal and secular Turkish friends are convinced that Turkish society has become more conservative.Possibly. The common examples they give show that a more orthodox religiosity has become more of a default assumption in public. One obvious sign is not just that many more women are visible with headscarves, but that headscarves have become expected in many situations. Another example a friend gave had to do with the imminent arrival of Ramadan. … [Read more...]

The Myth of American Religious Freedom

I highly recommend David Sehat's The Myth of American Religious Freedom (Oxford UP, 2011).It has long been evident that the secular liberal story told about the history of the First Amendment and how the US has historically granted individuals free religious expression is dubious. Not to put too fine a point on it, it's mixed in with a lot of bullshit. (Maybe not as bad as Religious Right conceptions of US history, but if that's the competition...)Sehat's book is the best one that I've … [Read more...]

Gay marriage violates freedom of religion?

I was reading a collection of essays by religious intellectuals and theologians, and a couple of them described the recent trend toward allowing gay marriage as the state interfering with the freedom of religion.On the face of it, this seems absurd. After all, if the state recognizes a certain status for gay couples, including accompanying legal rights, how does this impede the freedom of religion? No one is forcing any religious community to perform marriage ceremonies for gay people. No … [Read more...]

Imagine atheist politicians

As an atheist, I just about always vote for political candidates who say they believe in God. Not because I’m impressed by their professed god beliefs, but because I have no other choice—unless I cast a write-in vote. Of course, in reality atheist politicians have received hundreds of thousands of votes, though their constituents likely didn’t know they were voting for closet atheists. Currently, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Cal) is the only uncloseted atheist in Congress, but I’m hoping we will see many m … [Read more...]

First Response to my Hell Article

Well, things happen fast in our hyper-connected world and there is already a review of my chapter “Hell: Christianity’s Most Damnable Doctrine” in John Loftus’ new anthology, The End of Christianity. Someone called “jayman 777” (I’ll call him “Jayman”) reviews it at this site:http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/review-of-chapter-10-of-the-end-of-christianity/In my essay I argue that the traditional doctrine of an eternal, punitive hell is morally indefensible. Could a just God cre … [Read more...]


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