Militant atheism, militant Christianity

In South Carolina, where I live, the Confederate flag is prominently displayed on the grounds of the State Capitol. Many of us want it moved to a museum that contains artifacts of the Civil War (also referred to as “The War of Northern Aggression”). That’s why I’m somewhat conflicted about whether the cross-shaped steel beam found in the rubble of 9/11 should be placed in a museum that memorializes the event. The courts might have to decide whether this cross would be in a museum simply to commem … [Read more...]

The Meaning of ‘miracle’ – Part 1

I just finished reading Richard Swinburne's chapter "Arguments from History and Miracles", Chapter 12 in The Existence of God (2nd ed., 2004), about the same time Taner Edis did his post "Natural miracles?" (, this seems like a good time to revisit the topic of 'miracles'.Back in 2008, I did a series of posts on the definition of 'miracle' proposed by Richard … [Read more...]

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...]


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...]