Even Trolls can be Useful for Rational Discussion

Secular Outpost prides itself on hosting serious discussions about serious issues. Many other sites, atheist or religious, are more devoted to dogmatic debunking and ridicule. Over the years, I have enjoyed and benefitted from many discussions with intelligent and informed believers who share my conviction that reasonable people of good faith can differ widely in their views, even on religious questions. Sometimes, a commenter will begin by sounding abrasive, dismissive, or sarcastic, but will … [Read more...]

Thomas Friedman gets it Right on Islam and Terrorism

What is the connection between Islam and terrorism? Any answer you give will likely draw strident and intemperate criticism. If you say that there is a connection, you will be charged with Islamophobia. If you say that there is no connection and that terrorism has only political, social, and economic causes, then you will be castigated as a dupe who worships at the altar of political correctness. It is hard to articulate both a refusal to condemn the religion of 1.7 billion people and yet to … [Read more...]

After Orlando: The Uses of Anger

My previous post in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre urged an angry response that calls bigots to account, a response like the eulogy given by Dave Dennis in 1964 at the funeral of murdered civil rights worker James Chaney. Some comments on the post raised the issue of when anger is justified and what good it can do. Rather than respond in the comments section, this seems to me to be a big enough issue to deserve a second post.When is it right to be angry? Some things should make us … [Read more...]

After Orlando: We need a Dave Dennis Moment

In the "Freedom Summer" of 1964, young activists went into the Dante-esque netherworld that was the state of Mississippi to register African-Americans to vote. For a hundred years, racist goons, often wearing the uniforms of police or state troopers, had used violence and intimidation to prevent black people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Three of the activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were abducted and murdered in Neshoba County by members of … [Read more...]

Rice Chemist says that we Know Nothing about Pre-biotic Chemistry

James Tour, a synthetic chemist and nanotechnologist at Rice University, recently spoke at Waterloo University in Canada and delivered a vigorous castigation of anyone who presumes to think that we know anything about abiogenesis:http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/06/on_prebiotic_ch102902.htmlThis report is from Evolution News, which should more honestly be called Intelligent Design Theory News since it is an anti-evolution advocacy site. Needless to say, the IDers are delighted that a … [Read more...]

What Does “Supernatural” Mean?

The word "supernatural" appears in the Mission Statement for the Secular Web (emphasis added):The Secular Web is owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet. Naturalism is the “hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system” in the sense that “nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it.” As such, “naturalism implies that there are no supernatura … [Read more...]

What is a Microaggression?

OK, this is way off topic, but I asked my colleagues for clarification and have gotten almost no response. I guess (a) they do not care about the issue (odd), or (b) they think that I am just trying to stir up controversy (not on this occasion), or (c) they are, for whatever reason, hesitant to speak up on the issue (Why would this be?). One thing I know about our commentators here at SO is that they are not at all hesitant to speak up on controversial issues, so I will raise the question here: … [Read more...]

Critical Historians vs. the Dogmatists (Believers or Deniers)

Several recent discussions here at SO have addressed the perennially fascinating issue of the historical Jesus. In fact, in one guise or another, this is one of our most popular subjects for discussion. Recently, there have been abundant comments from “mythicists” who argue that the Jesus of the Gospels is a figure of myth or legend. This thesis was famously defended by G.A. Wells in a number of works. Wells argued that the evidence for the so-called historical Jesus was really no more com … [Read more...]