Tuesday, February 07, 2012 1:27 PM
A diamond is a girls’ best friend—because that’s what the diamond industry has decided.
Ten ironic ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Example A: “Wait in the park, and when couples pass by in horse-drawn carriages, spatter them with glue, yelling, ‘No one cares where last year’s horse went, do they?!’”
Illegal baby names from around the world.
“You are an idiot and a disgrace.” The Believer writes about the flood of outrage that is the result of saying absolutely anything on the internet.
Be inspired by this story of an actress who was propositioned by a famous casting director. When she refused to sleep with him, he told her “You’re never going to get anywhere in this business. You should go home and marry a Jewish dentist.” (Hint: She got somewhere.)
Is godlessness is the last big taboo in the US?
French parenting is like French cooking: It comes in smaller portions.
Could cyber-gardening be the new urban-gardening?
Factory farming is creating a new breed of hellacious superbugs.
On the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, Slackbridge, Gradgrind, and Jarndyce still have something to say about contemporary society and politics.
Manufacturers have found a new way to appeal to eco-friendly consumers: Brown it.
Image by AMagill, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 4:38 PM
When Albert Einstein turned 50 in 1929, an interviewer asked him point-blank Do you believe in God?Big Questions Online, a publication of the John Templeton Foundation,recounts his answer:
“I am not an atheist,” he began. “The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”
In a recent video posted on The Browser, Jonathan Pararajasingham, a medical doctor based in the UK, collects footage of 50 renowned academics talking about God. The speakers come from philosophical and scientific fields like physics, chemistry, astronomy, and anthropology and include Noam Chomsky, Steven Hawking, Richard Feynman, and Peter Singer, among others—all atheist or temperately agnostic in their views. (“Most scientists don’t think about God enough to know whether they believe in him or not,” says physicist Lawrence Krauss.)
The similarities between many of the academics’ thoughts—ranging from evidence-based belief to a focus on human suffering and justice to vague disinterest—are striking. What is also striking, though, is the homogeneity of the speakers. Would the discussion change if more female or culturally diverse academics were represented? How would it transform if it expanded to include individuals in the fields of art, literature, and music? What would Mozart, whose “Requiem Mass in D Minor” accompanies part of the film, tell us about God?
Sources: The Browser, Big Questions Online
Image by Marcel Oosterwijk, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, May 23, 2011 11:24 AM
Liberals, atheists, and Satan’s henchmen are trying to remove God from our schools, our government, and even our private lives, goes the frequent Christian conservative complaint. Well, author A.C. Grayling has gone a step further and taken God out of the Bible.
The Good Book: A Humanist Bible is Grayling’s attempt to create an inspirational book without a supernatural being at the center, writes Matthew Adams in New Humanist’s May-June issue.
“The way I made it,” Grayling tells Adams, “was to plunder from the great traditions texts on which I had performed redaction, weaving them together, editing them, interpolating other texts and sometimes my own, just as the Bible makers worked on their texts. It was tremendous fun.”
Writes Adams in “The Man Who Would Be God”:
The inclusion of a scientifically coherent creation story is probably the most markedly irreligious aspect of The Good Book, and might well end up, when the creationists get to hear about it, being the most controversial. But the work as a whole has none of the combativeness that one might expect. [Grayling says:] “This book is not against religion, it just ignores religion, and by ignoring it shows that there is as much if not more of a resource already in our hands.”
Like the Bible, The Good Book is organized by book, chapter, and verse and laid out in double columns. But the Bible never sang the praises of nonprocreative sexual love, described Newton’s discovery of gravity, or incorporated the ideas of great thinkers from Thucydides to Kant to Darwin.
Here are some verses:
• “Let us help one another, therefore; let us build the city together. Where the best future might inhabit, and the true promise of humanity be realized at last. —The Good, Chapter 9, Verses 10-11
• “Do I love you for the fine soft waves of hair That fall about your neck when you undress? Or that ivory pillar of your neck, or your breasts Soft and fair with rosy nipples crowned?” —Songs, 108
• “This is the final consolation: that we will sleep at evening, and be free for ever.” —Consolations, Chapter 26, Verse 31
Source: New Humanist
Thursday, May 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Are you Andy the Atheist, Jenna the Jew, or Willow the Wiccan? If so, be prepared for someone—let’s call her Chrissie the Christian—to chat you up about her close personal friend, Jesus.
Andy, Jenna, and Willow are three types of non-Christians profiled on a website run by Dare 2 Share Ministries, an evangelical youth ministry organization. The group’s resources page offers tips on ways to “share your faith” with 14 different kinds of people, from Mo the Muslim to Sid the Satanist, by getting inside their spiritual space.
Given the source, the basic information about each “worldview” is surprisingly fair-minded, breaking down, for example, even the dark abyss that is Satanism into bite-size bits. But things steer quickly out of hand when it comes to the proselytizing tips, which are presented under the innocuous-sounding “things to remember” heading. Because apparently the only reason evangelical Christians would try so hard to understand another spiritual belief system is so they can tear it down—slyly and strategically, that is.
Here are some of the more eyebrow-raising passages:
Willow the Wiccan: “Whether Willow knows it or not, she is in the grips of Satan, so like Sid the Satanist, be sure and cover your relationship and conversations with her in a ton of prayer.”
Jenna the Jew: “Jenna has been raised with little knowledge about Jesus Christ, so when you feel it could be appropriate, talk about how Jesus literally and perfectly fulfilled over 300 prophecies made about the coming Messiah. … Your main goal is not to persuade Jenna that Jesus is the Messiah—it is a means to an end, and that end is that she needs to see that she fails to keep God’s Law. It is not good enough for her to do her best; God requires perfection, so you need to get Jenna to the point where she knows that God will not overlook her failures or forgive her on the basis of their mitzvot (good deeds).”
Alisha the Agnostic: “Bottom line with an agnostic: remember you cannot argue someone to faith in Christ, but you can (and should) live such a Christlike life that those around you sense something different, which opens the door for you to explain the ‘evidence.’ ”
Nicole the New Ager: “When talking to Nicole, remember that you are entering a huge spiritual battle, so put on the full armor of God, and remember that the enemy is Satan, not Nicole (Ephesians 6).”
Source: Dare 2 Share Ministries
I Don’t Know, Maybe.
Friday, October 01, 2010 3:18 PM
Lots of Americans say they’re religious, but a new poll finds many of them don’t actually know that much about world religions—their own included. The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey by the Pew Forum found that U.S. atheists and agnostics, along with Jews and Mormons, are actually more conversant than Christians in many faith-related facts.
While that basic takeaway is rich with irony—some of the least religious people know the most about religion—it confirms what some atheists have long suspected, and a few of them are bursting with pride about the results (which for them is not a sin, of course). Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists, told Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times:
“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people. Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”
That’s not to say that believers don’t know anything about their own faiths, but rather that atheists and agnostics are well versed in a wider range of religious topics. Mormons and evangelical Protestants, for example, are very knowledgable on questions specifically relating to the Bible and Christianity, and atheists and agnostics aren’t far behind. According to the survey results:
On questions about Christianity—including a battery of questions about the Bible—Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average). Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
Jeffrey Weiss at Politics Daily quibbles with the survey’s approach—“Too many [of the questions] read to me as if they were taken from a religion version of Trivial Pursuit,” he writes—but he notes that the results line up in a way with previous surveys that reveal a related phenomenon:
Academics call it the Religion Congruence Fallacy: In survey after survey, year after year, Americans who say they belong to a particular religious tradition tend not to act like it.
To take an easy set of examples: Conservative Protestants are no less likely than other Protestants to have been divorced, to have seen an X-rated movie in the last year, or to be sexually active even if they aren’t married. Even though their church teaches strongly that all three practices are wrong.
Maybe that’s because many of us don’t know all that much about the faith tradition we say we profess—or what makes it distinctive from any other.
Ignorance about our own or other religions is not necessarily an American tradition: As Ted Widmer recently reminded us in the Boston Globe, even the men who wrote the Constitution were quite familiar with the Koran:
As usual, the Founders were way ahead of us. They thought hard about how to build a country of many different faiths. And to advance that vision to the fullest, they read the Koran, and studied Islam with a calm intelligence that today’s over-hyped Americans can only begin to imagine. They knew something that we do not. To a remarkable degree, the Koran is not alien to American history — but inside it.
Meanwhile, Steve Thorngate at the Christian Century suggests that atheists, agnostics, and Jews shouldn’t get too uppity about their good marks on the religion exam:
Atheists/agnostics and Jews didn’t actually do better on the Christianity questions than Christians did, just nearly as well—and considerably better on all the others. This is perfectly intuitive: minority groups know more about the majority than vice versa, because majority culture tends to define what counts as general knowledge. So most Jews know where Jesus was born, even though few Christians know much about Buddhism. Jesus makes the cover of one general-interest magazine or another ever month or so, and it only takes a couple shopping trips between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to accidentally memorize the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
What do you know about religion? Take the Pew Forum’s 15-question religious knowledge sample quiz and find out.
Sources: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, New York Times, Politics Daily, Boston Globe, Christian Century
Utne Reader editorial intern Will Wlizlo contributed to this post.
Image by dottorpeni, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 2:16 PM
On Sunday, November 8, atheists will launch a coordinated prayer attack against God. Nonbelievers around the world will hurl a bevy of meaningless prayers at God, coordinated by Facebook, in an effort to inundate God’s prayer receptors and force them offline. The offensive is based on the DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that have been staged against Iran, Georgia, and the Global Atheist Convention website.
In true nonbeliever fashion, athiest blogger PZ Myers responded, “I won't be able to join in, because whatever I have planned for that time, whatever it may be, will be far more interesting and productive than babbling to an invisible man.” A commenter on the Facebook page gave his RSVP as, “i'm probably gonna forget, but if i don't, sure.”
If any prayers go unanswered on November 8, this coordinated attack could be the reason why.
(Thanks, Net Effect.)
Image by gruntzooki, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, September 24, 2009 3:32 PM
Why are increasing numbers of Americans declaring themselves as having “no religion”? Don’t automatically assume that a new wave of godlessness is sweeping the land, writes Christopher McKnight Nichols in the Fall 2009 issue of Culture magazine. Nichols attributes the trend to three different factors, none of them having to do with humanism, paganism, socialism, or Satanism taking over:
“First, over the past few decades there has been a marked trend toward sharper polarization among religious outlooks.” Nichols cites the rise of evangelical Christian influence under the George W. Bush presidency, but also the more recent emergence of polemic “new atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris.
“Second, diverse changes on the geopolitical stage have had profound impacts on images of public religion.” Americans’ common enemy used to be the godless powers of Europe and Asia. Now we are chilled by the specter of Islamist extremists driven by a deep religiosity—and suddenly it’s not so clear whose side God is on. “No doubt there will be important consequences for American civic culture,” he writes, “now that affirming America’s godliness no longer servers to distinguish ‘us’ from ‘them.’ ”
“Finally, alienation from organized religion is growing for other reasons.” While Nichols is hard pressed to speculate on these reasons, he notes that while fewer of us are calling ourselves “religious,” more of us are calling ourselves “spiritual,” indicating a growing acceptance that the two are not synonymous—and that “one can believe in God and yet have no religion.”
Source: Culture (article available in PDF)
Image by *BGP*, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 5:09 PM
Listening to a mortar attack in Iraq, Army journalist and avowed atheist Spencer Case felt the urge to kneel down and pray. Later, staring at the stars in the dead of night, he offered this prayer:
Dear God, I have come to the conclusion you probably don’t exist, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that any one view I hold may turn out to be mistaken, however unlikely the odds seem. So if you are there, if I am wrong, you know where to find me.
In an article for The Humanist, Case explores his impulse to pray, in spite of his nonbelief. He concludes that “every serious nonbeliever must take a good hard look at what he or she is walking away from.”
, licensed under
Friday, July 10, 2009 1:10 PM
Parents, does the overt (and sometimes covert) Christianity of many summer camps give you pause? Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, feels your pain. According to a report in the UK current affairs site First Post, The Richard Dawkins Foundation is funding an atheist summer camp, and it sounds rather fantastic:
Alongside the more traditional activities of tug-of-war, swimming and canoeing, children at the five-day camp in Somerset will learn about rational scepticism, moral philosophy, ethics and evolution. Camp-goers aged eight to 17 will also be taught how to disprove phenomena such as crop circles and telepathy. In the Invisible Unicorn Challenge, any child who can prove that unicorns do not exist will win a £10 note - which features an image of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory—signed by Dawkins.
Wait, are we talking invisble unicorns or just plain unicorns? A challenge indeed.
Source: First Post
, licensed under
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:01 AM
Religious fundamentalists and modern atheists have something in common: Neither one can take a joke. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and the other heirs to the enlightenment are not funny, Giles Fraser writes for the Philosopher’s Magazine, “And that’s as sure a sign as any that the Enlightenment is as creatively dead as the proverbial parrot.”
“Whenever laughter is absent,” Fraser writes, “the heavy drumbeat of political control is never very far behind.” Humor is the most effective way to speak truth to power (see: Steven Colbert), and without humor, political views become too serious, too certain. Laughter promotes understanding, and Fraser writes, “whereas understanding leads to peace, certainty leads to conflict and violence.”
Some people laugh at the dry humor of Christopher Hitchens, but his “vitriolic attacks upon Islam as something backward and ignorant” make Fraser anxious. Though Fraser doesn’t mention them, Hitchens’ recent attacks on women’s humor are decidedly not funny. And most of the other new atheists don’t even try to find humor in their attacks on religion and their defense of science. “Without laughter,” Fraser writes, “all this is smug and dangerous.
, licensed under
Sources: The Philosopher’s Magazine
Tuesday, March 03, 2009 12:48 PM
You’ve got to hand it to atheist champion Christopher Hitchens for going out and engaging with his ideological foes. Ever since the 2005 release of his best-selling book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens has been publicly debating Christian speakers on the existence of God. In advance of his latest bout—a March 3 face-off with Oxford University professor John Lennox at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama—Hitchens spoke about his atheistic, er, crusade with Greg Garrison at the Birmingham News.
Hitchens is in fine, feisty form in the interview. Here a few highlights:
On the God question: “There is not another greater topic. It’s the first question humanity began to ask itself. Religion was our first attempt to make sense of things.”
On Mother Teresa: “I was invited by the Vatican to testify against her, and did. I’m the only person who’s represented the devil pro bono.”
On the sincerity and depth of Christian belief in America: “A lot of people go to church for reasons that are not strictly theological.”
On the success of his book: “There’s a big thirst for a reply to the theocratic bullying that’s been going on. There are a lot of people of faith buying it on a ‘know your enemy’ basis.”
(Thanks, Religion News Service.)
Image by ensceptico, licensed under Creative Commons.
Source: Birmingham News
Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:42 AM
Washington D.C. buses are the front lines in a new kind of religious conflict: ad wars.
The American Humanist Association threw the first punch by running an ad on 200 city buses reading: “Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness’ sake,” On Faith's Under God blog reports. The ad is part of the group’s “godless holiday campaign,” aimed at raising humanism’s profile and connecting non-believers through whybelieveinagod.org.
“Humanists have always understood that you don’t need a god to be good,” said AHA executive director Roy Speckhardt in a statement posted on the association’s website. “Morality doesn’t come from religion.”
The D.C. Examiner reports that one woman is leading a grassroots effort to counter the AHA with an ad saying, “Why believe? Because I created you and I love you, for goodness’ sake. –God.”
While Under God calls the back-and-forth, “a light-hearted joust,” some are taking the campaign quite seriously. The Dakota Voice reports that Christian groups calling the ads “another attempt by those waging a war on Christmas to ban God from the public square.” In a more aggressive response, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, David Hankins, attacks humanism in the Baptist Press:
We do have some recent examples of societies that do not believe in God nor recognize a mandated divine value on human beings. They are associated with names like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, and Saddam Hussein. Devoid of any sense of God or godliness, they created a social order of mayhem and evil that destroyed millions of lives. So much for the morality of godlessness.
Thursday, November 13, 2008 10:42 AM
Barack Obama’s faith was the subject of a lot of analysis on the campaign trail, and many are pondering the effect that his victory will have on religions in America. Jeff Sharlet at the Revealer wonders whether Obama’s election signals the demise of the Religious Right, but some think that reports of the movement’s death are premature. Sharlet quotes conservative scholar D. Michael Lindsay who predicts that an Obama Administration will give the movement something rally against: “Political movements like the Religious Right don’t need a ‘god’ to succeed, but they do need a devil. Nothing builds allegiances among a coalition like a common enemy.”
The Religious Right might make an enemy of Obama, even though he is a Christian, because his faith is moderate and measured, and because he’s prone to seek out different opinions and shun absolutism.
This measured worldview could be why Obama will present a problem the New Atheists, too. As Frank Schaffer wrote for the Huffington Post the day after the election that Obama’s victory is drawing the curtain on an era on spiritual certitude and intolerance at both extremes:
Into the all or nothing culture wars, and the all or nothing wars between the so-called New Atheists and religion the election of President elect Obama reintroduces nuance. President elect Obama’s ability to believe in Jesus, yet question, is going to rescue American religion in general and Christianity in particular, from the extremes.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!