The Suicide of Reason

I recently read The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam's Threat to the Enlightenment, by conservative commentator Lee Harris. It's pretty worthless, except as evidence that anyone seems to feel free to write a book on Islam, without the benefit of research or experience.Some of Harris's points are sane enough. Liberal Enlightenment-based politics is different. It's a historical accident, not some kind of natural default state. Neither is it a way of life that's automatically appealing to people … [Read more...]

Women, feminism, and religion

A short while ago I asked, Why is skepticism primarily a male thing?, and speculated on how traditional gender roles inclined women toward religiosity. There's an interesting post on the feminist blog Pandagon, called "Feminism helps collapse religion," that addresses some of the same questions. The comments on it are also interesting.Still, there's no convincing answer that I've come across. For example, in many situations (the US is an exception in this regard), women tend to be more … [Read more...]

Religion as a social good

On the Touchstone web site, there's an article by Logan Paul Gage, "Staying Power", that is an interesting current example of the argument that religion is socially beneficial. Presumably this means that religion deserves public support of some kind.Some of the article is basic conservative spin. But it's not entirely so easy to dismiss. The social science research Gage mentions is quite mainstream, as far as I can make it. There is real (if ambiguous) evidence that religiosity is associated … [Read more...]

Atheist web site blocked in Turkey

A Turkish-language atheist web site has been rendered inaccessible to Turkish readers, due to a court order obtained by a leading Muslim creationist movement. I've received a plea for help, in the form of protests against Turkish institutions. The full text of the plea has also been posted on a blog page.Here are some highlights:Ateizm.org, the most prominent non-profit Turkish web site on atheism and religions was closed for the second time in December 2007, under orders from a Turkish court. … [Read more...]

Catholicism and science

Catholicism is interesting in the way it can be such a big tent. Protestants go their separate ways when they disagree, which I guess gives them some clarity at the expense of unity. But especially the way Catholics respond to science in so many different ways is fascinating.There are plenty of Catholic conservatives who strenuously oppose a modern scientific picture of reality. Many conservative Catholics reliably support distortions of science that promise to restore a God-centered view of the … [Read more...]

Moral certitude in politics

Religious studies professor Ira Chernus has an interesting article, "Is Religion a Threat to Democracy?," in which he says:In itself, faith in politics poses no great danger to democracy as long as the debates are really about policies -- and religious values are translated into political values, articulated in ways that can be rationally debated by people who don't share them. The challenge is not to get religion out of politics. It's to get the quest for certitude out of politics.He also says … [Read more...]

The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality

I recently noticed, on the new books stand in a Borders bookstore, a small book called The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. By French philosopher André Comte-Sponville, it looked like a user-friendly popular book designed to cash in on the improbable success of some recent atheist books. Indeed, I picked it up to browse, expecting to encounter something more akin to New Age "spirituality" literature—entertaining, but in an eye-rolling sort of way.It turned out to be much better, which … [Read more...]

“Teen atheist” newspaper story

I'm in Chicago at the moment, and in the Chicago Tribune, I noticed a story about a 14-year old Illinois atheist fighting a "Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act."It seems to treat nonbelief as a curiosity rather than as a menace, though there's the "lawsuit-happy infidel being a nuisance for the community" media stereotype as a subtext through the story as well. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. … [Read more...]


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