Category : Atheism

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews Landscapes of Communism: A History through Buildings by Owen Hatherley

I’ve noticed before the strange tendency of hateful buildings to become almost lovable after the passage of decades. Not all of them, of course. Some, like the 1960s highrise clones lining Moscow’s New Arbat (Kalinin Prospekt) become more annoying as they get shabbier. But the Moscow State University building on Lenin Hills, one of Moscow’s seven late-Stalinist wedding cakes, has definitely undergone a metamorphosis in my mind. When I lived there in the late 1960s, I regarded it as an anti-people monster, guarded by dragons who, if you had lost your pass, would throw you out to die in the snow. (According to Hatherley, they now use swipe cards to protect the building against invasion.) But I noticed a while back that I had started regarding the wedding cakes with something like affection; apparently the passage of time has naturalised them.

But Hatherley is young, and so are the Poles who like the Palace of Culture; their reassessment must come from somewhere else. Actually it seems to come from two different places. One is the Western pop/youth phenomenon that might be called Soviet ruin chic ”“ a fascination with Soviet imperial ghosts or, as Hatherley puts it, ”˜tourism of the counter-revolution’. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, with its memorable imagery of the Zone, is a reference point here, as is real-life Chernobyl, now a tourist destination for those with a ”˜ruin chic’ sensibility. Hatherley distinguishes his own position from that of the admirers of Totally Awesome Ruined Soviet Architecture, and his ideological and personal baggage is definitely not counter-revolutionary. But there’s some family ”“ or perhaps more accurately, generational ”“ resemblance.

The other place this re-evaluation comes from is Eastern Europe, specifically young people who grew up in the Soviet bloc at the end of the communist era, and don’t share their parents’ bad memories.

Read it all from the LRB.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Architecture, Atheism, Europe, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Russia, Theology

(RNS) Arian Foster: Can you be an atheist in the NFL?

Professional football isn’t known for being a place that encourages deep intellectual reflection. With its history of silence on head injuries, locker-room harassment, and macho culture, the NFL would be the last place you would expect to find a philosopher and a poet”“and an atheist to boot. But all of those things come together in Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who was the subject of an ESPN feature yesterday in which he revealed that he didn’t believe in God. That’s unusual in a league where players regularly point to the sky (nevermind the questionable theology behind the assumption that heaven is somewhere up in the sky) and meet for regular Bible studies.

Foster, raised in New Mexico and San Diego, played for the University of Tennessee Volunteers before entering the NFL in 2009. His father was Muslim, and Foster grew up in that tradition, praying five times a day and asking God for help when he was in a difficult situation. He eventually garnered the courage to tell his father that he didn’t believe in God, and instead of a lecture, Foster’s father told him to ” Go find your truth.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports

(Globe and Mail) Atheist minister fighting United Church of Canada’s effort to fire her

[The Rev. Gretta] Vosper, 57, who was ordained in 1993 and joined her east-end church in 1997, said the idea of an interventionist, supernatural being on which so much church doctrine is based belongs to an outdated world view.

What’s important, she says, is that her views hearken to Christianity’s beginnings, before the focus shifted from how one lived to doctrinal belief in God, Jesus and the Bible.

“Is the Bible really the word of God? Was Jesus a person?” she said.

“It’s mythology. We build a faith tradition upon it which shifted to find belief more important than how we lived.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Canada, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Molly Worthen–Wanted: A Theology of Atheism

Today, nonbelievers often seem inclined to describe atheism and secular humanism as an “identity” whose claimants should focus on winning cultural acceptance rather than intellectual debates. Here, they are taking their cues from the civil rights movement, particularly the rhetoric of gay liberation. Some organizations, for example, declared April 23 the first “Openly Secular Day,” “a celebration of secular people opening up about their secular worldview, and an opportunity for theistic allies to show their support for secular friends and family.”

“Many atheists are still in the closet,” said Nichelle Reed of Sunday Assembly. Nonbelievers like her hope that if they emphasize good works over grand argument, they can convince the bigots that atheists are decent human beings. Kelly Damerow, the interim executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, said that there is little discussion of moral philosophy among the activists she works with. “We get it. We know we’re good to each other,” she told me. “We would rather show people that we’re good.”

In the short term, this is a smart strategy. The language of tolerance and personal identity has particular appeal to millennials, who account for 40 percent of the atheist and agnostic population, according to the Pew Research Center’s latest study. August E. Brunsman IV, who directs the Secular Student Alliance, said that “nowadays you’re seeing a whole lot of people for whom it’s more important that they’re understood and valued by fellow citizens, not seen as being too weird.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(RNS) After death threats, Bangladeshi atheist relocates to US

An internationally renowned atheist activist has relocated from India to the U.S. after receiving death threats from an extremist group that has claimed responsibility for at least one of three machete killings of South Asian atheists this year.

Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi gynecologist, novelist and poet, arrived in New York state last Wednesday (May 27). The move was orchestrated by the Center for Inquiry, an organization that promotes secularism and has been working with atheist activists in countries where atheism is unprotected by blasphemy laws.

“Extremist groups have been pretty public that they want Taslima killed,” said Michael de Dora, CFI’s director of public policy and president of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. “In the last couple of weeks this has been ramping up and that’s why we were so concerned.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Atheism, Bangladesh, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(Barna) The 2015 State of Atheism in America report

For reporting purposes at Barna, we often combine atheists and agnostics into one group, which we call skeptics….

[There]..are five demographic shifts among skeptics in the past two decades.

They are younger. Skeptics today are, on average, younger than in the past. Twenty years ago, 18 percent of skeptics were under 30 years old. Today that proportion has nearly doubled to 34 percent””nearly one-quarter of the total U.S. population (23%, compared to 17% in 1991). By the same token, the proportion of skeptics who are 65 or older has been cut in half, down to just 7 percent of the segment.

They are more educated. Today’s skeptics tend to be better educated than in the past. Two decades ago, one-third of skeptics were college graduates, but today half of the group has a college degree.

More of them are women….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(National Post) Conrad Black: The shabby, shallow world of the militant atheist

Religious practice can certainly be targeted as a pursuit of the hopeful, the faith-based and the uncertain. But they badly overreach when they attack the intellectual underpinnings of Judeo-Christianity, from the ancient Judaic scholars and the Apostles to Augustine to Aquinas to Newman; deny the existence of any spiritual phenomena at all; debunk the good works and cultural creativity and conservation of the major religion; and deny that the general religious message of trying conscientiously to distinguish right from wrong as a matter of duty and social desirability is the supreme criterion of civilization. The theists defend their basic position fairly easily and only get into heavy weather when they over-invest in the literal truth of all the scriptures ”” though the evidence for veracity of the New Testament is stronger than the skeptics admit, including of Christ’s citations of God himself: “And God said ”¦”

It is in the nature of the world that we don’t know, but the decline of Christianity is much more of a delusion than God is and even more wishful, and the serious defenders of a divine intelligence such as the delightful John Lennox almost always win the argument, as he did with Dawkins and the rest. There is a long way between these two poles, and agnosticism is a much more rigorous position than the belligerence of the proselytizing atheists, but that is not a stance that stirs serious people to militancy. They have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Inter-Faith Relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) John Gray–What scares the new atheists

If religions are natural for humans and give value to their lives, why spend your life trying to persuade others to give them up?

The answer that will be given is that religion is implicated in many human evils. Of course this is true. Among other things, Christianity brought with it a type of sexual repression unknown in pagan times. Other religions have their own distinctive flaws. But the fault is not with religion, any more than science is to blame for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or medicine and psychology for the refinement of techniques of torture. The fault is in the intractable human animal. Like religion at its worst, contemporary atheism feeds the fantasy that human life can be remade by a conversion experience ”“ in this case, conversion to unbelief.

Evangelical atheists at the present time are missionaries for their own values. If an earlier generation promoted the racial prejudices of their time as scientific truths, ours aims to give the illusions of contemporary liberalism a similar basis in science. It’s possible to envision different varieties of atheism developing ”“ atheisms more like those of Freud, which didn’t replace God with a flattering image of humanity. But atheisms of this kind are unlikely to be popular. More than anything else, our unbelievers seek relief from the panic that grips them when they realise their values are rejected by much of humankind. What today’s freethinkers want is freedom from doubt, and the prevailing version of atheism is well suited to give it to them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Apologetics, Atheism, History, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Being an atheist in the Middle East

These are bad times for outspoken sceptics in countries where religion is brutally enforced, either by governments or fanatics with a self-appointed mission. Last week the atheist blogger Avijit Roy, who was of Bangladeshi origin but lived in the United States, was hacked to death at a book fair in Dhaka. It has been reported in Saudi Arabia that a young man in his twenties has been sentenced to death after he posted a video of himself ripping up a copy of the Koran.

In the far more comfortable environment of the United States, meanwhile, religious believers and sceptics denounce one another as though they were the greatest banes of one another’s lives. Atheists claim, perhaps correctly, that they face huge societal pressure not to declare their position, especially if they have any hopes of running for public office. Some religious believers say they face a liberal-humanist conspiracy to deny them the freedom to act out their beliefs, whether as employers, employees or in places of education.

But a physically courageous atheist from a Muslim-majority land says that a few months in America have reinforced his belief that believers and sceptics can and should deal courteously with one another and work together for freedom in places where it is dreadfully violated. Maikel Nabil Sanad, a young Egyptian blogger and protest leader, spent nearly a year in prison, enduring physical abuse and a hunger strike, before his release in January 2012.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Inter-Faith Relations, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(RNS) Leaving your religion? Now, there’s a hotline to help

A new crisis hotline for those struggling between faith and atheism [was] launched [this past] Friday (Feb. 27).

Called “The Hotline Project,” the 24-hour free service will match volunteers with people who are considering leaving religion. It is a project of Recovering From Religion, a Kansas City, Mo.-based nonprofit that aids those transitioning out of faith.

“When people are reconsidering the role religion plays in their lives, they risk losing their families, their spouses, their jobs,” said Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering From Religion. “These people are isolated, excluded, shunned. It rocks these people to the bottom of their hearts. It is heartbreaking.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(RNS) Losing their Faith: More women join the 'no religious identity' category

Nadia Bulkin, 27, the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, spends “zero time” thinking about God.

And she finds that among her friends ”” both guys and gals ”” many are just as spiritually disconnected.

Surveys have long shown women lead more active lives of faith than men, and that millennials are less interested than earlier generations. One in three now claim no religious identity.

What may be new is that more women, generation by generation, are moving in the direction of men ”” away from faith, religious commitment, even away from vaguely spiritual views like “a deep sense of wonder about the universe,” according to some surveys.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology, Women

([London] Times) Atheists and proud of it … young Britons lose faith in God

Almost one in five Britons is now an atheist as a generational shift away from religion gathers force, a poll for The Times has found.

Experts said that the country was becoming more comfortable with atheism than with faith after the data revealed that public figures win approval for questioning the existence of God, while Christians are more than twice as likely as atheists to say that they struggle to speak openly about their beliefs.

A marked divide has opened up between young and old. Almost one in three under-24s declare themselves to be atheists, compared with one in ten over-60s.

The YouGov survey of 1,550 adults is one of the first studies to give a clear impression of the extent of atheism in modern Britain.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sociology, Theology

Mona Eltahawy–Egypt’s War on Atheism

The contradiction in Mr. Sisi’s aim of keeping the heterosexual, conservative Muslim man at the top of Egypt’s moral hierarchy is glaring. You can’t trump the Islamists in their piety and lead a campaign against minorities like atheists and gay men even as you condemn extremist violence and show solidarity for free speech and free thinking.

This week we mark the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution. Although it has not delivered the political freedoms it called for, it did begin an unraveling of authority that has left Egypt’s self-appointed moral guardians disconcerted and scrambling. Armed with social media, more people are insisting on asking and telling ”” about personal belief and sexual identity. A reckoning is long overdue in a country where religion and morality have so often been bent to suit the political expedients of its rulers.

Despite the clampdown, atheists are openly challenging such hypocrisy. Social media has allowed those who “deviate” from the authoritarian template to find one another and express themselves in ways that the regime, its men of religion and its media otherwise deny them. A religious revolution has begun, but not on Mr. Sisi’s or the clerics’ terms. We all stand to gain if fathers no longer testify against sons, and families no longer feel the need to prove their loved ones are “real men.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(RNS) After living without God for a year, former pastor no longer believes

Q: This weekend you told NPR: “I don’t think that God exists.” Can you elaborate?

I think the best way I can explain the conclusion I’ve come to ”” and conclusion is too strong a word for the provisional place I now stand and work from ”” is that the intellectual and emotional energy it takes to figure out how God fits into everything is far greater than dealing with reality as it presents itself to us.

That probably sounds very nonrational, and I want people to know that I have read several dozen books and understand a good many of the arguments. I’d just say that the existence of God seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn’t necessary. The world makes more sense to me as it is, without postulating a divine being who is somehow in charge of things.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(RNS) Atheist parents take on Christian ”˜Good News Club’ with ”˜Better News Club’

A group of atheists in Rochester, N.Y., has bad news for the Good News Club, a Christian after-school club for children.

The group, consisting of atheists, humanists and skeptics, announced its own after-school program: a Young Skeptics club featuring science, logic and learning activities.

Young Skeptics is being sponsored by a volunteer-led group calling itself “The Better News Club.” Its members come from the Atheist Community of Rochester ”” the same group that offered the first atheist invocation before a town meeting in Greece, N.Y., after the Supreme Court ruled in May that public meetings could begin with sectarian prayers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Irreverent ”˜Satanist’ Decorations Aim to Counter Nativity Displays

In celebration of the holidays a new display went up this week in the Florida Capitol building: a diorama depicting an angel falling into the flames of hell, courtesy of an organization called the Satanic Temple.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based secularist group had sought to place a similar installation in Florida last year, but state officials rejected it as “grossly offensive.” This year, after the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened to sue on Satanic Temple’s behalf, the diorama was approved.

The display is one of several irreverent decorations aimed at countering a Nativity scene in the Capitol. Others include a pile of noodles from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a stack of beer cans by blogger Chaz Stevens honoring the parody holiday Festivus from the TV show “Seinfeld.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(ABC Aus.) John Dickson on another article denying Jesus existed, this time from Raphael Lataster

[Raphael] Lataster has also written a book entitled There Was No Jesus, There is No God, a rather unsubtle contribution to the growing “new atheist” genre. And he is on his way to completing his PhD at Sydney University – notably in religious philosophy, not in history. His thesis, I understand, critiques the American philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig.

But my concern is not with atheism, religious philosophy, or even Christian apologetics. It is with history. As his former lecturer, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Raphael’s 1000 words on Jesus would not receive a pass mark in any history class I can imagine, even if it were meant to be a mere “personal reflection” on contemporary Jesus scholarship. Lataster is a better student than his piece suggests. But the rigours of academia in general – and the discipline of history, in particular – demand that his numerous misrepresentations of scholarship would leave a marker little choice but to fail him.

First, Lataster has offered an academic contrivance, as he seeks to give respectability to what is known as “mythicism” – the view that Jesus started out as a purely celestial figure revealed in dreams and visions to prophetic figures like the apostle Paul and only later written into history-sounding texts like the Gospels. There is a potential model for this theory, of course. Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, were somewhat historicised over the course of about 300 years. But somehow this is meant to have happened to Jesus in the space of 10-20 years: from celestial deity to crucified Palestinian peasant in half a generation!

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Atheism, Books, Christology, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Atheism, belief and persecution–The cost of unbelief

Across the world, people who reject all religious belief or profess secular humanism are facing ever worse discrimination and persecution, but the existence and legitimacy of such ideas is becoming more widely known and accepted. That is the rather subtle conclusion of the latest report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, an umbrella body for secularist groups in 40 countries, which in 2012 began making annual surveys of how freedom of thought and conscience are faring worldwide.

In common with lots of other reports on the subject, it noted that many countries still prescribe draconian penalties for religious dissent, through laws that bar blasphemy against the prevailing religions or “apostasy” from Islam. Some 19 countries punish their citizens for apostasy, and in 12 of those countries it is punishable by death. In Pakistan, the death sentence can be imposed for blasphemy, for which the threshold is very low. In all, 55 countries (including several Western ones) had laws against blasphemy; the perceived offence could lead to prison terms in 39 countries and execution in six.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

In Seven States, Atheists Push to End Largely Forgotten Ban

A bookkeeper named Roy Torcaso, who happened to be an atheist, refused to declare that he believed in God in order to serve as a notary public in Maryland. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1961 the court ruled unanimously for Mr. Torcaso, saying states could not have a “religious test” for public office.

But 53 years later, Maryland and six other states still have articles in their constitutions saying people who do not believe in God are not eligible to hold public office. Maryland’s Constitution still says belief in God is a requirement even for jurors and witnesses.

Now a coalition of nonbelievers says it is time to get rid of the atheist bans because they are discriminatory, offensive and unconstitutional. The bans are unenforceable dead letters, legal experts say, and state and local governments have rarely invoked them in recent years. But for some secular Americans, who are increasingly visible and organized, removing the bans is not only a just cause, but a test of their growing movement’s political clout.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, State Government

(RNS) Online troll or therapist? Atheist evangelists see their work as a calling

Two years ago, “Max” was a devout Catholic who loved his faith so much he would sometimes cry as he swallowed the Communion wafer.

Then came the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, where 20 schoolchildren and six adults were murdered by a troubled gunman. At that moment, a bell went off in his head, he said, ringing “there is no God, there is no God.”

Now, Max goes by his online handle “Atheist Max.” A 50-something professional artist from the Northeast, some days he now spends two or more hours online trying to argue people out of their religious beliefs in the comments section of Religion News Service.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Atheism, Blogging & the Internet, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(AI) Peter Berger–Is Atheism a Specifically Western Phenomenon?

Adam Garfinkle, the editor of The American Interest, asked me this question. He told me that he had met a Saudi who claimed to be an atheist: What does this mean? We know atheism in its Jewish or Christian context, as a rejection of the Biblical God. What would atheism mean in a Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist context?

My short answer is: Yes, Atheism, as we know it, came out of a Judaeo-Christian context. But I would slightly re-phrase Garfinkle’s question. The dichotomy is not western/non-Western. It is Abrahamic/non-Abrahamic. It is a rebellion against the monotheistic faiths that originated in the Middle East”“Judaism, Christianity, Islam. It makes much less sense in a non-monotheistic environment.

The rebellion is triggered by an agonizing problem: How can God, believed to be both all-powerful and morally perfect, permit the suffering and the evil afflicting humanity? This is the problem called theodicy, which literally means the “justice of God”; in the spirit of the rebellion it is also a demand that God has to justify himself. The most eloquent expression of this atheist rebellion in literature is by Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov rejecting God, because he allowed the cruel murder of one child.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Church History, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

An RNS article on the Court decision to rejects atheists’ demand to end tax-exempt clergy housing

A federal court of appeals rejected a case brought by an atheist organization that would have made tax-exempt clergy housing allowances ”“ often a large chunk of a pastor’s compensation ”“ illegal.

“This is a great victory for fair treatment of churches,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of pastors from several major denominations.

“When a group of atheists tries to cajole the IRS into raising taxes on churches, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows,” he said. “The court was right to send them packing.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Taxes, The U.S. Government, Theology

(WSJ) David Skeel–A New Kinder, Gentler Atheism

In his new book “Waking Up,” neuroscientist and popular atheist Sam Harris recounts that “a feeling of peace came over me” as he followed in Jesus’ footsteps on a hill by the Sea of Galilee, and it “soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self””an ”˜I’ or a ”˜me’””vanished.”

Mr. Harris doesn’t use religious terms, but his musings about meditating on a mountaintop have left some fans wondering what happened to the pugilistic author of “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” which declared that “faith is nothing more than the license religious people give to one another to keep believing when reasons fail.”

Mr. Harris isn’t the only one who has changed his tone. The atheist Richard Dawkins recently devoted an entire book, “The Magic of Reality,” to showing how scientific inquiry has made sense of the seemingly miraculous””from rainbows to the origins of the universe. The discoveries of science, Mr. Dawkins writes, offer as much wonder and life satisfaction as religious belief. The evolutionary biologist and atheist Olivia Judson calls “the knowledge that we evolved a source of solace and hope.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Musician Jeremy Messersmith wears his atheist heart on his sleeve

CS: You attended an Assemblies of God college; now you identify as an atheist. How did you get where you are today?

JM: I was homeschooled on a farm by my parents. They were really involved in our local Assemblies of God church. That was my entire upbringing: There was homeschooling and there was church. So church was my social outlet. As a kid, virtually everybody I knew was religious.

I ended up going to an Assemblies of God school””their most notable alumni include Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It wasn’t until the very tail end of my college career that I started actually questioning my faith.

It was actually based on an assignment that I had to do for a Bible class that I was taking. I had to write a paper on 1 Corinthians 11 and I just thought, “Okay, this will be easy.” So I started researching it and found out that nobody really has any idea what that passage means. Whatever the reason, that really bothered me. I thought that the Bible was 100 percent the inerrant word of God.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Music, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Atheists want you to sit down for the Pledge of Allegiance

Sit down and shut up.

That’s the message of a campaign launched Monday (Sept. 8) by the American Humanist Association, asking Americans to refrain from standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance until Congress removes the phrase “under God.”

The 29,000-member humanist activist group, which also advocates on First Amendment issues, holds that the phrase “under God” is an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, History, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Time Magazine) Atheist “Churches” Gain Popularity””Even in the Bible Belt

On a clear, Sunny July morning, as churchgoers all around Houston take to their pews, dozens of nonbelievers are finding seats inside a meeting room in a corporate conference center on the city’s west side to listen to a sermon about losing faith. But first there’s the weekly “community moment””“remarks on a chosen topic delivered by the group’s executive director, this time focused on how we’re hardwired to read sensationalized news”“as well as announcements about an upcoming secular summer camp. In between, a musician sings softly of Albert Einstein.

The men speaking before the assembled gathering”“executive director Mike Aus, who regularly leads the group, and Jerry DeWitt, a visitor who heads a similar gathering in Louisiana”“are both deeply familiar with the idea of Sunday ritual. Just a few years ago, they were Christian ministers active in the pulpit. Today they’re both nonbelievers leading secular Sunday services.

This is Houston Oasis, a church that’s not a church. It was started in September 2012…

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Eric Metaxas–Learning from Young Atheists: What Turned Them off from Christianity

My friend Larry Taunton of the Fixed Point Foundation set out to find out why so many young Christians lose their faith in college. He did this by employing a method I don’t recall being used before: He asked them.

The Fixed Point Foundation asked members of the Secular Students Associations on campuses around the nation to tell them about their “journey to unbelief.” Taunton was not only surprised by the level of response but, more importantly, about the stories he and his colleagues heard.

Instead of would-be Richard Dawkins’, the typical respondent was more like Phil, a student Taunton interviewed. Phil had grown up in church; he had even been the president of his youth group. What drove Phil away wasn’t the lure of secular materialism or even Christian moral teaching. And he was specifically upset when his church changed youth pastors.

Whereas his old youth pastor “knew the Bible” and made Phil “feel smart” about his faith even when he didn’t have all the answers, the new youth pastor taught less and played more.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Atheism, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology, Youth Ministry

(AP) Atheist To Open New York Town Meeting After Supreme Court OKs Prayers

An atheist is set to deliver the invocation in a western New York community whose town board won a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding its right to open meetings with a prayer.

Dan Courtney, 52, a mechanical engineer, said he asked the town of Greece right after the 5-4 decision in May for an opportunity to deliver the “non-theist” message.

The court’s conservative majority declared the prayers in line with national traditions and said the content is not significant as long as the prayers don’t denigrate non-Christians or try to win converts. The town argued persons of any faith were welcome to give the invocation.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, City Government, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life

(CEN) Interview: American Atheist Todd Stiefel talks with Peter Menkin about religion and God

Q. What is an Atheist? Not everyone knows that an atheist is a believer of a kind and that he or she has views about religion””in this case for our interview, Christianity. Will you speak to this?

A. An Atheist is someone who is often misunderstood. It is a person who does not believe in God or Gods. It does not mean we believe in Satan. We do not believe in him either. We are not claiming that we know that God does not exist. Atheism is not a knowledge claim. Atheism is simply a belief claim. Where other religions do not believe in millions of Gods, we do not believe in millions of Gods plus one.

Our beliefs are based on reason, logic, and evidence. Our values include love, compassion and honesty. In terms of views about Christianity, different Atheists have different views about Christianity. Almost all of us share, there is not a God and Jesus was not a God. We believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead. We would agree, most of us would agree, in his methods of having the Golden Rule and loving your neighbor….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(NYT's The Stone) Philip Kitcher's Case for Soft Atheism

To sum up: There is more to religion than accepting as literally true doctrines that are literally false. Humanists think the important achievements of religions at their best ”” fostering community, articulating and supporting values ”” should be preserved in fashioning a fully secular world. That secular world ought to emerge from a dialogue between humanism and refined religion, one in which religion isn’t thrown on the rubbish heap but quietly metamorphoses into something else.

I’m a humanist first and an atheist second. Because I’m more sympathetic to religion than the prominent new atheists, I label my position “soft atheism.” But perhaps I’m a more insidious foe than Dennett and Dawkins. For instead of ignoring important species of religion, I want to prepare the way for their gradual disappearance.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Atheism, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology