Stained glass

I was in Europe earlier this month, adding to the list of Gothic cathedrals I've visited. I like the stained glass windows the best. Here is a small sample: a window from Chartres, a detail from Bourges, and a single pane from Bern:You'll notice I especially like the hell or judgment themed ones. Most windows are more pedestrian; I like more of an element of the fantastic. And even if hell, devils, and the day of judgment are damnable doctrines, they're pretty good for fantastic and fearsome … [Read more...]


Freedom is to act as one's real and true nature demands and so only the true exercise of that choice which is of what is good can properly be called 'free choice'. A choice for the better is therefore an act of freedom . . . Whereas a choice for the worse is not a choice as it is grounded in ignorance . . . it is then also not an exercise in freedom because freedom means precisely being free of domination by the powers of the soul that incites to evil.A statement by a conservative Catholic, … [Read more...]

(Not) Defending the Quran

I read way too much apologetic literature, of both the Christian and the Muslim kind. It's always hard to be confident I'm getting a representative sample; after all, I also ignore a lot that seems boring to me when I flip though a few pages. Still, I'll risk a broad-brush comparison.The Christian stuff I run into tends to be either not overly concerned with the Bible, or, if it's fundamentalist in character, will often at least gesture toward detailed reasons why the Bible is completely … [Read more...]

Why moral absolutism requires the transcendent

In my last piece, I mentioned that moral absolutists cannot be satisfied with any secular account of morality, and in particular, no naturalistic account of morality. I should clarify why this is so.The issue is not moral relativism, moral pluralism, or error theory, or any similar godless account of morality that explicitly denies objective moral realities. I think that if you want to have an accurate picture of the place of morality in the natural world, you should go in that direction, but … [Read more...]

Moral absolutists

Reading defenses of religion, I often encounter the complaint that the modern, secular world is caught up in moral relativism. What we need, however, are moral absolutes. We have to have a secure direction by which to orient our lives. Monotheistic religion is attractive to such moral absolutists, because conservative monotheism proclaims absolutes. It may do so in the form of divine law, but it also presents ideals such as stories of saints—images of lives oriented toward an unshakable … [Read more...]

The French way, or the Anglo-American way?

Some French politicians are indicating their displeasure with ultra-Islamic women's coverings again. Nicolas Sarkozy just said that "The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic."From an Anglo-American liberal point of view, this can easily come across as an example of the state overstepping its bounds, interfering with individual practices in order to impose a notion of the good. The liberal state should be … [Read more...]

The Hell You Say!

Fellow unbelievers: I don't think we rip on hell often enough or stronly enough. The disgusting dogma of eternal punishment is still accepted doctrine for most "mainstream" denominations, and certainly for all the fundamentalist ones. Below is what I say back to two recent defenders of hell, Peter Kreeft, S.J. and Ronald Tacelli, S.J. It is slightly modified from my essay "Why I am not a Christian" on the Secular Web: Many modern Christians have cooled the fires of hell, often interpreting … [Read more...]

European legacy

Found in Slavoj Zizek's Violence, page 139:A couple of years ago a particular debate raged in Europe: should Christianity be mentioned as the key component of European Heritage in the preamble to the draft of the European constitution? A compromise was reached in which Christianity was listed along with Judaism, Islam, and the legacy of Antiquity. But where was modern Europe's most precious legacy, that of atheism? What makes modern Europe unique is that it is the first and only civilization in … [Read more...]