“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...]

Science and Nonbelief paperback available!

The paperback edition of Science and Nonbelief is out! I don't expect it will be overflowing the shelves of small bookstores, but it's there (and very cheap) on amazon.com at least.$12.89 makes Science and Nonbelief my most introductory, most accessible, and most affordable book on science and religion. Click and get one, or give it as a holiday gift. Hell, it's about the price of a movie in California these days... … [Read more...]

Political Responses to Islam

I just read avery good article by Andrew F. March, "Reading Tariq Ramadan: Political Liberalism, Islam, and 'Overlapping Consensus'". It's the best short piece I've run into that addresses what political demands can be made of conservative Islam if it is to be accommodated in an Anglo-American style liberal multicultural system. Here are March's basic demands that he thinks we can ask of Muslims living in the West:that Islamic conceptions of morality can only be cultivated and encouraged within … [Read more...]

Why is skepticism primarily a male thing?

Looking at survey data sociologists present about religion and secularity, I find the gender differences that show up to be rather striking. Among skeptics of religion, men invariably outnumber women. A typical statistic might have that in a given population of people identifying themselves as religious nonbelievers, 60% are men and 40% women. Interpreting such data is always difficult. On one of the articles I just read, I ran into a comment tying this gender imbalance to males being more … [Read more...]


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