Jefferson Center

For a while now, I've been an Honorary Fellow of The Jefferson Center in Ashland, Oregon. When I was first invited to speak there, I thought of it as an ultraliberal religious organization, and soon discovered that quite a few people associated with it were at least ambivalent about supernatural beliefs.I got to know some of the very nice people involved with the Jefferson Center, particularly Robert Semes, its energetic Executive Director. He has a very interesting background, having spent … [Read more...]

New Chick Tract

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“Mini-Dajjal”

When you write skeptically on religion, you get some interesting reactions. My favorite so far is is a Muslim comment on An Illusion of Harmony:. . . that book by the enemy of Allah, and the mini-dajjal of our era Taner Edis.(I ran across it on an online forum discussing a nasty review of Illusion by some sheikh.)This is sort of like calling someone an enemy of God, a mini-Antichrist, in a Christian context. I kind of like it, actually. It's over-the-top and weird enough to be amusing. … [Read more...]

Islam and American Christianity

In Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed interpret results from a Gallup World Poll to describe what a large and apparently representative sample of Muslims think. As with any popular work by Esposito, it has an overriding concern to counter the demonization of Islam. And again typically, this anti-demonization easily shades into a kind of apologetics and mush about cultural sensitivity.Still, there is some interesting information here. I … [Read more...]

Berlinski strikes again

David Berlinski, the "agnostic mathematician" associated with the Intelligent Design movement, has just published a short piece online called "The Scientific Embrace of Atheism."It's largely a set of distortions. For example,The great physical scientists — Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Clerk Maxwell, Albert Einstein — were either men of religious commitment or religious sensibility.Well, yes and no, and of dubious relevance. All in the list except Einstein are from the 19th century or ear … [Read more...]

C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion

I just read the revised and updated edition of John Beversluis's C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion. Very interesting.I confess I hadn't paid much attention to C.S. Lewis's apologetics before. Oh, it's impossible not to know about his books, since they're so popular among conservative Christians. I've every gone through a couple. But his arguments generally struck me as, well, so weak as not to be worth spending time on.Beversluis's book surprised me. Not because of his criticism of … [Read more...]

Mecca Standard Time

According to the BBC, at recent conference in Qatar, "Muslim scientists and clerics have called for the adoption of Mecca time to replace GMT, arguing that the Saudi city is the true centre of the Earth." Indeed, "A prominent cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth; proof, he said, of the greatness of the Muslim 'qibla' - the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray."Most of this is yet … [Read more...]

What about improbable events?

In some corner of the multiverse, there exists a universe-bubble with physics close enough to our own to be recognizable, but different enough to make colonizing the stars feasible. In some point in this universes history, there was a Galactic Empire that ruled over many zillions of humans with an iron fist, imposing its religion upon all its subjects.According to the theology of the One True Faith, the gods were just. The gods cared deeply that judicial procedures and punishments be carried out … [Read more...]