Here an Ist, There an Ist, Everywhere an Ist-Ist

The other day I got a subscription offer from a magazine called Free Inquiry, a publication of  the Council for Secular Humanism. I’d been thinking about ordering the magazine. Well, here was my chance:  a “special introductory offer for blasphemers only.” Got to love the marketing department. That’s no magazine for me. Though I am [Read More...]

The ABCs of Extortion

A. Thucydides–that Greek telling his story, human doings with nary a nod to the gods–said   the powerful extort what they can;   the weak pay what they must.   True enough to make a bon mot.   The powerful take, the weak give.   Person to person; city to state; and the empires the [Read More...]

Swimming in the Christian Waters (or: Beware, You May be a Humanist)

Let’s say you find yourself living in, oh, let’s say the United States. It’s a country where something on the order of seventy-five percent of the population claims to be Christian. Let’s say you don’t believe in any other religion, either: you aren’t Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, or any other of the myriad religions [Read More...]

Seeing, from the Cheap Seats

There are gifts that come of breathing, that come of blood driving through veins,   no charge. Just being.    One is the noise of existence.  Another is when the noise stops.   After the theater  of the self has closed;  after the season of the self  goes to reruns, music    begins, slow, silent.  [Read More...]

Autumn Light, Surprise

So, evening fell on you, didn’t it? And you did not know   what day. Did not know what had broken. You had   not expected it to have gone so far, the year. Did not   expect to have rounded again from light to dark on   this day. And it’s surely some saint’s [Read More...]

Who’s In and Who’s Out of Institutions (and the immigrants between)

The British social anthropologist Mary Douglas had this to say about institutions: Inside a religious body you get sects and hierarchies, inside an information network you get bazaars and cathedrals, it is the same, call them what you like. They survive by pointing the finger of blame at each other. That about sums it up, [Read More...]

Bombing Again? But It’ll Work This Time!

There’s really no need to refer to specifics. When you’ve been a citizen of the United States as long as I have, you’ve heard it all before: national security; stopping this or that madman; ending drugs or terror or Communism; honor. Whatever. The point is always the same: now, in this situation, violence will actually [Read More...]

Dancing The Real

  You danced once, there, in those rocks. It meant something. It all did—you, your love, the beautiful stones. You danced there, happy. It meant something.   Those things, they were as real as the cotton in the threads of your scarf.   You danced there again, there, in those rocks. Many things meant something— [Read More...]

Naming the Ultimate, Part Two

A quick peek at www.godchecker.com gives some indication of the sheer number of times humanity has attempted to name The Ultimate. At this point philosophers–and even most theologians–have given up on a proof of god and left the battlefield. For some, a god or gods is there, for others, not so much. We can debate [Read More...]

Naming the Ultimate, Part One

I suspect that we think about the ultimate because we can’t manage to see ourselves as ultimate. Or infinite. Or eternal. Or all-knowing. And that hurts! It hurts to be a too, too solid, limited, fragile creature. So, we think about the Spirit of Life. God. The gods. The Ultimate Concern. Search the internet for [Read More...]


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