McGill Symposium on Islam and Evolution webcast

The McGill Symposium on Islam and Evolution, where I was one of the panelists, is now available as a webcast.The first half-hour lecture is mine. If you want to get a comprehensive picture of the creation/evolution wars in the Muslim world, watch them all. … [Read more...]

When superstition gets dangerous

I do run into this reasoning from religious right circles: "God promised he wouldn't wipe us out in quite that way, so global warming can't be happening (or harmful)." It's infuriating to see its potential to influence public policy. I'm sorry, but these particular superstitions are dangerous. Unless by some wild stroke of luck they're correct, they threaten to take the saner part of the population down with them. … [Read more...]

ARIS 2008

The American Religious Identification Survey 2008 results are online.One interesting note. In terms of "belonging," or self-identification, 0.9% of Americans describe themselves as agnostic, 0.7% as atheist. But when asked about actual beliefs, 2.3% of Americans take an atheist position, while the "hard" and "soft" varieties of agnosticism add up to 10.0%.Interestingly, there is an additional 12.1% who have a deist, "there is a higher power but no personal God" view. There has been slight growth … [Read more...]

New Chick Tract

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They say that everything here in Texas is bigger. One thing that sure is bigger here is right-wing Christian hypocrisy. A rider to a finance bill in the Texas State Senate would outlaw any procedure that would result in the destruction of an embryo, effectively reinstating the Bush ban on stem cell research for Texas scientists. This is bad enough, but to really savor the irony, you have to consider that here in Texas we lead the nation in the number of citizens with no health insurance, … [Read more...]

Fake diversity

[ Some notes based on a book I'm reading. I want to see how much any of this makes sense, and writing it out might help. ]In America, belonging to a religion—a community of worship, defined by individual faith commitments—is the only acceptable way to be different. We have, especially in the past, been eager to look for racial differences, but we have also seen race as a matter of inferiority and superiority. We pretend class does not exist. We tend to think of gender differences as … [Read more...]

Is it possible to be a Muslim atheist?

It's possible to be a Christian atheist, a Jewish atheist, a Buddhist atheist—in the sense of identifying with a religious tradition while disagreeing with its supernatural doctrines.It's especially possible to be a Jewish atheist. My wife is Jewish, and I'm a physicist, both which mean I get to hang around secular Jews a lot. More than half of the Jews of my acquaintance have no supernatural beliefs. Now, that is certainly not a representative sample, but nontheistic Jews are still common … [Read more...]


Last night I was on a panel discussing religion, as the token skeptic. For me, such events often highlight differences in mentality and temperament, as much as differences in ways of describing the world.There was a Hindu and a Buddhist on the panel, both Westerners following Westernized versions of their traditions. So predictably enough, their views of spirituality came across as a form of therapy mixed in with magical beliefs about minds. Their pronouncements on peace and happiness weren't … [Read more...]