Tag Archives | Freethinking

The Blessings of Atheism

Susan Jacoby, author of the forthcoming book The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought, celebrates non-belief in the New York Times:

In a recent conversation with a fellow journalist, I voiced my exasperation at the endless talk about faith in God as the only consolation for those devastated by the unfathomable murders in Newtown, Conn. Some of those grieving parents surely believe, as I do, that this is our one and only life. Atheists cannot find solace in the idea that dead children are now angels in heaven. “That only shows the limits of atheism,” my colleague replied. “It’s all about nonbelief and has nothing to offer when people are suffering.”

This widespread misapprehension that atheists believe in nothing positive is one of the main reasons secularly inclined Americans — roughly 20 percent of the population — do not wield public influence commensurate with their numbers. One major problem is the dearth of secular community institutions.

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Dancing On Pinheads

Many people have at some point heard, or are at least vaguely familiar with the question, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” – a reference to the pointless theological debates that consumed much of European academia during the latter half of the Middle Ages.  Although it turns out this particular phrasing was most likely never actually discussed (not appearing in print until hundreds of years later as a retroactive jab at Thomas Aquinas and his “scholastic” brand of philosophy) it continues to serve as a handy metaphor for any dubious intellectual endeavor lacking in apparent practical value and without any foreseeable means of resolution.

Questions of this sort, while no longer at the forefront of serious scholarly inquiry, haven’t completely subsided in the modern age, especially in the United States where we have the unusual distinction of being by far the most religious of any advanced, industrial nation.  As the so-called “culture wars” rage on unabated in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election (with back and forth volleys ranging from Rick Santorum’s failed candidacy to President Obama’s recent declaration of support for gay marriage), the subject of religious belief and its role in American politics has been pushed to the forefront of national discourse, and with it has come a revival of interest in a wide range of formerly obscure ideas relating to God and his role in the universe.… Read the rest

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Slandering the Heretics

Heretics“There is a war going on for your mind;” a war being fought on battlefields and on billboards, in universities and Sunday schools, in blogs and boardrooms, capitol buildings and city parks. From Wall Street to Main Street, from Kabul to Kansas City, the combined facts of seven thousand years of civilization and seven billion human beings struggling to eat, breathe, live and believe are all coming to a head. It has many names and many forms, running the gamut from Terror to Women to Drugs to Christmas—all inextricably linked by the immense power of ideas and the belief systems that propagate them.

In the United States, as we move unsteadily into the second decade of the new millennium, there are two reigning champions vying for supremacy over the American soul. These sometimes united, sometimes conflicting ideologies are called Christianity and Consumerism—the Pillars of Hercules for the modern age—shakily supporting the fading glory of the last of the global superpowers.… Read the rest

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