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Dr. Mumford

Good Dr. Mumford was an atheist;He didn’t really understand the Creed.But as a cautious-minded scientist,He thought it would be very wise indeedTo make completely sure (per Pascal’s Wager)That there was nothing in this Catholic bosh;And so he locked his doors, turned off his pager,And settled . . . . Continue Reading »

​Ye of Brittle Faith

On December 15, 2011, Christopher Hitchens died of esophageal cancer. Some remember him as a man of the left who, after 9/11, converted to a kind of neoconservatism; others remember him as an atheist provocateur and serial blasphemer. For me, Christopher Hitchens was much more than either of these . . . . Continue Reading »

Secular Pilgrims in America

Atheists have long been a vocal minority in America, their relations with the dominant Protestant culture defined by consistent, unresolved antagonism, unexpected ideological affinities and interdependencies, and the back-and-forth movement of individuals between atheism and belief. Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

Faith, Fiction and Force in Medieval Baptismal Debates by marcia colish cua, 384 pages, $69.95 B aptism seems so simple: water and the formula “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But like so many religious practices, it can be celebrated in different ways, with . . . . Continue Reading »

Spiritual Literature for Atheists

To say, as people do from time to time, that science is the only source of meaning available to human beings is to consign large swaths of everyday experience to insignificance. (And to offer an open goal to any quick-footed apologist for religion who may be passing.) The implication of the maximal . . . . Continue Reading »

​Some Correspondence With an Atheist

Seated next to me at dinner was a man about my age. Like me, he’d retired to Maine. We hit it off, and after our dinner, we began an email correspondence. At the dinner, my friend said he admired a book I didn’t like, so I sent him a copy of a review of the book I’d written. The review tipped . . . . Continue Reading »

Chicken Soup for the Soulless

Buzzy Jackson is dismayed by “inspirational” books. Not so much because they exist, but because she “never encountered a single one that spoke directly to those of us with a secular outlook.” “Where was the motivating quote of the day for nonbelievers?” she asks. What she wanted was a Chicken Soup for the Soulless, depressing as that sounds on its face, for that one-fifth of Americans who claim no religious affiliation. She wanted a source of hope and comfort for “the atheists, the skeptics, the agnostics, and the ‘spiritual-but-not-religious’ among us.” Yet, on going to the bookstore, she found a void. If Chicken Soup for the Soulless didn’t exist, would it be necessary to invent it? Yes, apparently. Continue Reading »

An Exercise in Begging the Question

The world was a dark and gloomy place until the Enlightenment came along, after which people began to think for themselves and break free from the shackles of religious authority. So we are told, once again, in The Moral Arc, a book by journalist Michael Shermer. For him, the Enlightenment did not merely accelerate humanity’s moral progress, but rather it reversed the moral regress characteristic of pre-Enlightenment human history. Since then, science and reason have been guiding humanity on a path toward justice, truth, and freedom. Continue Reading »

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