Atheists and Self-Censorship

Re “Atheists Must Not Self-Censor” by Edward Tabash (FI, December 2013/January 2014): the issue may revolve around the definition of the word aggressive, but I side with those who have questioned the “aggressiveness” of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and others. Self-censoring is not the opposite of aggressive. We can present our positions in a calm and reasonable manner without censoring ourselves, and I believe we must do so for the following reason: our targets are not the Far-Right fundamentalist and evangelical believers but the much more numerous everyday believers, who are themselves more calm and reasonable. We can never expect to sway the fundamentalists by any means whatsoever; they are beyond help. But in attacking their position, we risk alienating those who may be or may become amenable to our rational arguments. After all, the fundamentalists share a basic faith with the everyday believers, and in attacking them, we are attacking the faith of these everyday believers. I have seen much evidence among my friends (who are literally all “everydays”) that the fundamentalists are alienating them. But if we end up causing the everydays to link arms and circle the wagons with the fundamentalists, we have gained nothing and lost much.

On another topic, I enjoyed the review by Tom Flynn of the book Life on the Brink (“Speaking—at Last!—of Forbidden Things”) in the same issue. It reminded me that several years ago I read an op-ed in FREE INQUIRY in which the author minimized the threat of overpopulation, using the argument that technology would come to our rescue and solve any problems caused by overpopulation. At the time I was irritated by this attitude and had hoped that the editors would make some comments discrediting this irresponsible position. Thank you for revisiting this issue, if only in a book review.

Jim Flechtner
Findlay, Ohio

I have greatly appreciated the last issue of FREE INQUIRY—up to your usual high level—and would like you to convey to Edward Tabash that I fully share his point of view. Atheists must not self-censor.

Arturo Schwarz
Milan, Italy

(See Mr. Schwarz’s article, “Why I Am Not an Observant Jew,” on page 18 of this issue.—Eds.)

Edward Tabash states: “This is why university debates on the existence of God are so crucial to causing doubt in the minds of students.” As a former physics teacher, I understand the difficulty of unraveling preconceived, erroneous concepts in the minds of students in order to replace them with ones that closer mirror physical reality. Unlearning to relearn correctly is much more difficult than learning correctly from the start. Having gone through this process on my own as a sixth-grade student in a Catholic school when I first began to reason, I would contend that the atheist community needs to start earlier than the university level to begin to sow the seeds of truth, because the theist community begins propagandizing their youth from birth.

Bob Senk
Burlington, Connecticut



Perfection? Yawn

Ophelia Benson in “Doctoring the Script” (FI, December 2013/January 2014) has hit the nail on the head with her question “Have you ever noticed how fundamentally boring God is?” and her comment “Church is boring, religion is boring, perfection is boring.” God, church, religion, and perfection are stereotypes. They’re cookie cutter. They’re boilerplate. They’re generic.

I once asked ten mentally ill prisoners to draw the devil they were hallucinating about. The images were surprisingly similar. They showed a rodent-like creature with large eyes, big menacing teeth, and a long tail. Later, when I was asked to distinguish between paranoid schizophrenics with religiosity and religious normal people with religion, I kept finding that they held similar stereotyped images. At times strikingly, antipsychotic medication took away the religious preoccupation of those with paranoid schizophrenia within days. Their God and devil delusions were still present but were much more in the back of their minds and had no bearing on their behavior. In fact, they acted bored with them. My bias had been that normal religion was distinct from psychotic religion, but as my treatment experience grew, it became more and more difficult to make that distinction.

The act of boring another to death often has unconscious hate motivating it. In “Cremation and Religiosity” in the same issue, Richard Dumont points out the correlation between extreme religiosity and hate. Behind the religiously boring there may be some unconscious truly ungodly intent lurking.

Fritz Kinzel
Canaan, New York



The Importance of Women’s History

Re “Women’s History: A Core Secular Issue” by Susan Jacoby (FI, December 2013/January 2014): it often amazes me that so many young feminists take their freedoms and opportunities for granted, as if things could never have been any other way. There are some exceptions, of course, but they are usually considered extremist or just too radical for mainstream politics. This is a gross mistake that is already taking a severe toll on the progress of women’s equality. Here in Texas, the legislature recently passed a law severely restricting the availability of safe and legal abortions under color of “protecting women’s health.” Unfortunately, it was supported by many conscientious female voters who apparently could not see beyond the deceitful rhetoric promoting the law. Convincing misguided women to support their own oppression is a tactic frequently used by antifeminist forces. It was used in the nineteenth century to thwart the suffragist movement and in the 1920s following the passage of women’s right to vote. Even during the general elections of 2012, certain Republican elements were encouraging women to “get involved” to “defeat” laws that would “offend their religious freedoms” by promoting artificial birth control and pressuring them into a government-sanctioned lifestyle. This is tantamount to asking women to get involved in the short run so that they may oppress themselves in the long run. It is an error that a diligent study of women’s history might have prevented.

It would be a gross understatement to call it “revisionism,” so let’s call it what it is: “war propaganda.” The war is against women’s rights. Under the guise of protecting women, female voters are being manipulated into opposing mandatory vaccination of teenage girls against the HPV virus—a virus reputed to cause cervical cancer. They claim that vaccination against HPV encourages promiscuity. This is biological warfare against women in order to control sexuality. For similar reasons, the same political factions argue against teaching contraception in public schools and oppose public funding for Planned Parenthood.

Women are kept in line by a false presentation of history. Because there can be no question that a true picture of women’s history would place organized religion in a very bad light, I don’t think we can count on local school boards to teach accurate women’s history any time soon. Our only recourse is to use electronic media and private educational resources as much as possible. Confrontation with antifeminist forces will be inevitable. But that is what we need, especially in public forums. As we confront our opponents with intelligence, we usually find them disarmed.

John L. Indo
Houston, Texas



Liberalism, Libertarianism, and Secular Humanism

This letter refers to three articles in the special section “The Secular Right and Its Discontents” (FI, December 2013/January 2014): “Why I Am Not a Liberal” by Robert M. Price, “Progressive vs. Liberal” by Glade Ross, and “Why Secular Humanism and Libertarianism Are Incompatible” by Dan Davis. Price is a total nut case. He enthuses that “Capitalism . . . demonstrates that we can enlarge the pie of wealth, not just . . . keep the whole pie for a tiny elite” and that at a time of massive inequality of income distribution. Ross should cite previous literature regarding the distinction between natural resources and value created by man. Two authors that come to my mind are Henry George (“Progress and Poverty”) and Garrett Hardin (“The Tragedy of the Commons”). He does not appreciate that our laws are too often influenced by wealth and function to accumulate more wealth, natural and man-made, to the already wealthy.

I do agree with Davis. He points out what I did not realize before, that private corporations can do good and be beneficial to society even in the presence of big government. So what is keeping them back?

Ernst Kallenbach
Gainesville, Florida

As a left-leaning libertarian, I read with great interest the special section. I noticed that all three discussed only economic or foreign policy. I would guess that there are very few, if any, secular humanists that are truly conservative socially, e.g., who support a breakdown of church-state separation, complete prohibition of abortion or birth control, or prohibition of homosexuality. Therefore, I would classify Price as a libertarian rather than a true conservative.

Three authors made at least some valid points. In particular, Price is correct that most liberals believe that government can solve any economic problem, whereas Davis is right about the other extreme, that most libertarians and conservatives believe that the market can solve any problem. The answer is somewhere in the middle: a government that supports a sane tax structure (as suggested by Ross), regulation as needed, and some form of income redistribution.

Price is also right that people tend to vote based on one issue, but I believe that this is because both major parties are actually so much alike. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have essentially been statist presidents, being socially conservative, economically liberal, and hawkish on foreign affairs. A utilitarian view of the country would support a somewhat more libertarian government, and this would be consistent with humanist values.

Mark Zacharias
Langhorne, Pennsylvania

Robert Price failed to fully disclose his philosophy in his article. Given that he is antichoice (anti-abortion), it is easy to see why he would vote Republican. I could never vote for a party that is: anti–women’s rights; pro-war; full of religious fanatics; antiscience (evolution and science that says that the earth is more than ten thousand years old are “lies from the pit of hell”); denies the poor the right to health care and even food; denies people the right to contraception; tries to suppress the vote; and thinks that corporations are people. Republicans support the National Rifle Association, whose president calls the Civil War the “war of Northern aggression” while it uses its influence to keep reasonable gun laws from being enacted in order to protect the profits of the gun industry.

Price calls the Affordable Care Act (ACA) an “Obama health-care fiasco” when that is far from clear at this point. Like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the ACA will become a success but must eventually be a single-payer system.

Like many Republicans, Price is a “global warming denier,” believing it to be a false “scientific creationism.” Only someone with their head in the sand could deny the facts disclosed by climate scientists and documentaries. His opinion that “the middle class thrives under capitalism” is absurd to anyone who is paying attention. The income of the middle class is constantly eroded while billionaires see their wealth increasing by leaps and bounds.

I hope that in the future you will spare us the words of an ideologue like Robert Price.

Jim Osborne
Jacksonville, Florida

As a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party, I have on the rear bumper of my truck (yes, I drive a “good ol’ boy” pickup truck) a sticker that says “Libertarian—More Freedom, Less Government.” It does not say “No Government.” It seems that the authors conflate today’s libertarians with the anarchists of the late nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and with the idea that under communism, government would fade away to create one happy international family. In their excellent book Why Nations Fail, authors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson show that for free markets to flourish and nations to create wealth, a strong central government is necessary. It is needed to provide basic services (infrastructure, police, etc.), recognize property rights, enforce contracts, settle disputes, and ensure that exchanges are not coerced by one party. The concept of a free market that libertarians promote is that in voluntary transaction, both parties gain.

Vic Arnold
Westerly, Rhode Island

Robert Price seems to have no problem with our government’s involvement in the overthrow of duly elected governments in Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, Haiti (et al.) and the efforts by the United States to assassinate the elected leaders of other countries and to, without justification, attack any country in the world (only small and weak countries of course—Grenada, Panama, Iraq) whose leaders we disapprove of. He ignores the fact that when George W. Bush was elected in 2000, the GOP controlled all three branches of government and was left with a balanced budget. This gave them the opportunity to show what a capable party could achieve under ideal circumstances. Alas, within seven years, they took us into the worst economy of seventy years, two unpaid-for and unjustified wars, unwarranted tax breaks for the richest among us, and the worst reputation the United States has had worldwide of all time. Do we need further proof that today’s greed-inspired and power-hungry GOP is incapable of governing our country?

Gerry Long
Newport Beach, California

I have learned a lot about the history of religion from Professor Robert M. Price, but I’m afraid he has little to teach about politics in America. In his diatribe against liberalism, he sets up a gang of straw men and, like Don Quixote, flails away at phantoms. To justify his distortions, he conflates liberals with radical leftists and anarchists. According to him, liberals believe “All [political orders], especially capitalism, are no damn good; each is radically evil because it cannot achieve paradise for all.” In other words, liberals, who seek to lessen inequities in our society by progressive politics, despise America because it will never be paradise. Really? That doesn’t sound like me or any liberal I’ve ever known.

“Rightly compassionate toward the poor,” Price concedes, “liberals, however, want to cut to the chase and act as if everyone has had equal preparation.” The result, he says, is affirmative-action quota systems. This is also a straw man, for no one contends that students involved in affirmative action are equally prepared. On the contrary, the policy is designed to give a boost to those who otherwise would not qualify for admission due to a background of poverty or racial injustice. Reasonable argum
ents can be made against the policy, but Price does not offer one.

Concern over global warming, Price charges, “is only the latest example of the hysterical apocalyptic fervor of liberalism.” What does he offer as evidence of this outlandish allegation? He ridicules the notion that “spraying deodorant” can ruin the atmosphere. Duh.

Liberals are not truly skeptics, Price proclaims, because “if I am right,” liberals are “believers in sacred dogmas of pacifism, martyrdom, and self-hating asceticism.” With all due respect, professor, you are wrong on all counts.

Price so despises liberalism that he’d like to see it disappear from the American scene. A far more astute thinker on the politics of democracy, John Stuart Mill, had a better idea. “A party of order or stability,” he wrote, “and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.”

Walter Balcerak
Brooklyn, New York

Many humanists try to evaluate human influence on global warming using information from the 2013 IPCC report, The Weather Channel’s recent docu-series Tipping Points, and other sources.

But global warming is no longer a “plausible hypothesis,” according to Robert Price. No, “it’s all pseudoscientific fraud, like pyramidology.” Liberal believers simply base their conclusions on “futile liberal dogmatic faith.” By dismissing the issue as some sort of bogus conspiracy, he concludes that only faith remains and conveniently purges the need to challenge contrary data.

What is Price’s evidence? The “data-suppressing e-mails” sent by certain global-warming scientists who were hell-bent on “fudging evidence” to “reinforce propaganda.” But look into the issue, and you find that neither the e-mail writers nor the IPCC suppressed any findings (Nature). You also learn that e-mail material was mined for words and phrases used to distort the matters being discussed. Several investigations cleared the scientists of wrongdoing, though some e-mails showed poor judgment. But does Price question the judgment or motives of the accusers? Hardly! Like creationists who dismissed the entire field of paleontology when Piltdown Man was discovered to be a hoax, he dismisses the entire study of human-caused global warming; yet he has no hoax.

Astute readers of the Skeptical Inquirer will notice how well Kendrick Frazier’s November/December 2013 article, “The Fox News Effect: Media Use and Global Warming Denial,” frames Price’s assertions. Frazier lists “five main ways … that conservative media create distrust in scientists,” and Price is no stranger to them. Still, everyone can agree with Price when he derides the idea that we will “ruin the atmosphere” by “spraying deodorant.” Smelly armpit management will not lead to disaster. Even the IPCC report agrees that aerosol droplets reflect light and promote cooling—not warming.

Dean Schramm
Key Largo, Florida

Robert M. Price’s editorial was a disappointing screed of generalities, rants, and discourse that alienates instead of enlightening or educating. Unfortunately, this is what I have come to expect from conservatives of today. Otherwise the issue included many excellent articles, and I thank you for a stimulating and excellent publication.

Kate Blane
Athens, Georgia

Robert M. Price begins his rant badly by titling it “Why I Am Not a Liberal, and You Shouldn’t Be Either” (emphasis added), almost immediately contradicting that with “I am not trying to change your mind”(emphasis added). He goes downhill from there. Liberals, Price asserts, “act as if those who benefit from affirmative action are competent and know what they are doing,” obviously implying that they are not and do not. He rightly notes “minority candidates’ lack of academic preparation” but ignores the fact, supported by an abundance of evidence, that the political and economic conservatives whose philosophy he extols are staunchly opposed to improving such preparation, that they are, in fact, committed to destroying public secular education in the United States, replacing it with private schools that prominently include those whose purpose is to indoctrinate students with fundamentalist Christianity. (See “Attack of the Education Pseudo-Reformers” by Edd Doerr in the same issue of FREE INQUIRY.)

Price accuses liberals of being committed to a “dogma” of progressive improvement. Does he really think that the free-market capitalism that he espouses is not dogma?

Noting that “there was no such thing as a middle class in the pre-capitalist world,” Price then ignores the indisputable fact that insufficiently regulated free-market capitalism in the United States is now destroying it: due to stagnant or declining real wages, the middle class is continuing to shrink. Most of the growth in income in the United States is going to the wealthiest 1 percent, and particularly the wealthiest 0.1 percent, of the population. Economic inequality in the United States is at an historic level, is greater than that in any other developed democracy, and is still increasing. (The solution, according to conservatives, is to further deregulate the free-market capitalism that has created the inequality.)

Price notes that “capitalism leaves some—relatively few—behind in poverty.” “Relatively few” means, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16 percent of the population of the United States, including almost 20 percent of American children, or more than forty million Americans. The number of poor Americans, including poor children living in homes where there may not be enough food to eat, has reached a record high level. If conservatives have their way in cutting food stamps, the number of hungry children will be increased. Dismissing the millions of American poor and more than a billion poor around the world as “relatively few” is disgusting.

Price claims in the piece to be “a humanist,” but the positions he espouses are inconsistent with the definition of humanism published by the American Humanist Association and the “Affirmations of Humanism, A Statement of Principles” published by the Council for Secular Humanism. He rejects science when it conflicts with his conservative ideology. He asserts that he embraces a philosophy of pessimism rather than optimism, and he evidences a commitment to selfishness over compassion. Aside from the issue of theism, concerning which Price states no clear position, the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium just issued by Pope Francis indicates that he subscribes to the Affirmations of Humanism more than Price does.

The publication of Price’s article in FREE INQUIRY has severely shaken my confidence in the intellectual integrity of the Council for Secular Humanism. I will continue to subscribe to FREE INQUIRY, but I do not want any closer association with an organization in which a person who espouses the positions that Price does can be a Fellow.

Kenneth G. Crosby
Laredo, Texas

There are so many things wrong with Robert M. Price’s essay that it’s hard to decide where to begin. He accuses liberals of secretly despising democracy. The best example I can come up with of people despising democracy is the Republican gerrymandering process to keep themselves in the majority in the House of Representatives in spite of garnering a minority of the popular vote in the last election. He says liberals hate authority (except for their own). That sounds more like a description o
f conservatives who want to get government out of everybody’s lives except when it involves a woman’s vagina. He thinks the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will kill the private-insurance industries, when, in fact, the ACA is a French kiss to the insurance industry compared to the single-payer plan we should have had. He says the middle class thrives under capitalism, when it is obvious that the form of unrestrained capitalism currently practiced shrinks the middle class, increases poverty, and enriches a small elite at the top of the pile. I’m sure you will get many additional letters addressing other nonsense in his essay.

Aloysius J. Schneider
Dayton, Ohio

This is the first time in years of reading FREE INQUIRY that I feel compelled to comment on an article. Robert M. Price so totally misrepresented what liberals believe, and why they believe it, that I at first thought it must be a nice tongue-in-cheek piece. I then looked to find the author was a professor of theological and scriptural studies and realized it must have been written solely to elicit responses from the students as an exercise in critical thinking. I would be interested in hearing from him again when he is no longer merely skeptical about religious or political beliefs.

Ginger Fite
Laguna Niguel, California

As a person with a decided leaning toward libertarianism, I was interested in reading Glade Ross’s “Progressive vs. Liberal” and Dan Davis’s “Why Secular Humanism and Libertarianism Are Incompatible.” I found both provocative and informative. Ross represents an unusual and rather elegant theory of how libertarianism should have a place in modern society.

He argues that we must distinguish between “what a human produces and what a human does not produce.” Society, he says, should not simply give handouts to the “poor” (i.e., the lazy, the disabled, the aged) after the manner of soft-hearted liberals. However, he says, we must recognize that all “natural resources” already belong to every individual in the country. Rich or poor, vigorous or slothful, all have a stake in nature—in those gifts that belong to everyone: rivers, forests, fields, etc. Ergo, if we allow the indigent to share in these, we are simply recognizing their ownership. His article suffers from a lack of illustration. In other words, he does not give a concrete picture of what his thesis entails.

Let us try to do that. Suppose there are two men, Abe and Ben, who live in the country with a fine field between them. This field, suitable for growing corn, is a “natural resource.” Therefore, it belongs to both men. But Abe is not ambitious, partially disabled, perhaps; Ben is energetic and ambitious. Unlike Abe, he works hard, and the field produces a fine harvest of corn.

Now we come to the problem. Shouldn’t Abe share in this harvest? He is needy; his family is close to starvation. Isn’t he entitled to part of this harvest? One is left wondering: what is the meaning, after all, of “charity” if it implies simply taking possession of one’s own.

Davis’s article is certainly thought-provoking. It brings up many objections as to the difference between liberal humanism, but the thoughtful reader can think of many an excellent debate concerning this.

What both Glade Ross and Dan Davis point out—or infer very positively—is that human nature will always be . . . well, human. It has had its ups and downs; it has had its quarrels and tragedies, and it will continue to have them. All of us must realize that no system is going to ensure a paradise on Earth. Each of these writers has given us some indication that men of goodwill never stop striving for that goal. Thoughtful nonbelievers, in their determination to build a viable society fair to all understand the necessity of founding it on reason and not dreams.

Abigail Ann Martin
Brandon, Florida

I appreciate Glade Ross’s noble intention to reconcile progressives and libertarians. Unfortunately, his sharp distinction between what a human produces and natural resources is false. Everything is a mixture of both. A natural resource like coal requires human labor to extract it. Human production requires natural resources as raw material. Even purely intellectual creation requires a cultural context to give it meaning—surely a “natural resource” which is the inheritance of all persons.

The real root of the disagreement is not libertarians’ conflation of human production with natural resources but rather their conflation of property rights with individual freedom. The tension between individual freedom and collective good is as old as humanity. The idea that property rights equal freedom is only a thousand years old. We get it from England. In Saxon times, the collective good was favored over individual freedom. Shires were subdivided into small Hundreds in which all inhabitants had collective responsibility for the crimes or defaults of any member. Over time, the English expanded property rights with an aim to carve out space for the individual.

Ironically for libertarians’ view of the world, it was probably not the property rights themselves that advanced individual freedom. Property rights require a higher authority to enforce an individual’s rights against local powers-that-be. It is this centralization of authority that enables freedom to flourish, because the strongest forces favoring the collective over the individual are local. That’s why small Puritan towns had a reputation of suffocating control, and why large-scale experiments with communism always fail.

Ross suggests libertarians should accept that use of natural resources is a privilege, and I agree. But progressives and libertarians won’t be reconciled until libertarians have a broader conception of individual freedom than just “get your hands off my stuff.”

Mark Gibb
Kernersville, North Carolina

Robert Mr. Price responds:

I rest my case.

Glade Ross responds:

To Mark Gibb: there is beauty in basing one’s moral, political and economic judgments, first, within the bedrock of intelligent principle. As the complications of reality intrude, well-framed principles provide superior guidance by which to engineer pragmatic accommodations.

So, though it’s true many goods are the combined product of human-plus-natural input, it does not dilute the fact any portion as produced by a person may rightly be claimed as that person’s contribution, and any portion not so produced may not be so claimed. In fact, human institutions are perfectly capable of recognizing where products are mixed and framing policies accordingly.

Beyond this clarification, Gibb severely overreaches when claiming “Everything is a mixture of both.” Consider one of the most important of our resources: the capacity of Earth’s air, rivers, and oceans to absorb our effluents. These vast and critical resources exist with virtually no augmentation by human hand. Even Gibbs’s example of coal is off. Yes, post-harvested coal is a mixed product (partly human in its genesis and partly natural). However (and by contrast), coal that still resides within undisturbed ground remains wholly natural yet is a commodity for which there is large interest in ownership, trade, and taxation. The same is true for oil, natural gas, and gold. It is also true (with but minor exception) for fish in the sea. Undeveloped land is likewise not a mix. Even for developed land, the underlying and inherent available square footage (as offered by Earth’s surface) is not the product of any human manufacture.

From the opposite
perspective, Gibb again overreaches, claiming “even pure intellectual creation” cannot be claimed as belonging exclusively to its author. I see this as indeed a collectivist view and strongly object. Certainly, I recognize I am personally the product of many antecedent ingredients, and, beyond that, the natural, political, and cultural environments in which I currently live and breathe all contribute to any product I may produce. However, I am by definition the culmination of all that comes together to form me. This culmination is who and what I am. It is what forms me—and, indeed, is me. If I cannot claim title to this encapsulation (that is defined as me), it would seem I can claim title to nothing at all. It would further follow, if I do not own me, others must, and we are indeed living in a very collectivist (and I would insist unprincipled) world.

If anything, I think Gibb’s objections provide vivid demonstration of why the distinction between human-made, versus not, is so critical—for as seen, in the very process of deprecating the distinction, Gibbs creates perfect confusion between what humans should rightly claim full title to and what they should not.

By contrast, I urge for a moral foundation that respects self-ownership as an unalienable and self-evident right, while distinguishing natural resources as something we must responsibly share. For the most part (indeed, almost entirely), communal sharing fails. But that failure does not mean pragmatic accommodations (such of limited private ownership of real property) should not be structured in such a way as to recognize a larger and common ownership by all—over natural resources as opposed to the personal.

Regarding Ernst Kallen­bach’s comment, certainly, our laws are frequently engineered for the benefit of particular moneyed interests (sadly, this is likely more the rule than the exception). It’s the very reason I urge for a clearer and more coherent basis by which to judge and guide policy choices. A coherent and moral-based standard would better expose the bad as bad, illuminate the good as good, and show the reasons why. It is, more fully, a standard I believe both the progressive and libertarian wings of humanism might be happy to agree upon. I think, indeed, both wings should be delighted.



Spotting an Error

In reviewing Loren Collins’s book Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation, William Harwood (“Of Facts and Fictions,” FI, December 2013/January 2014) mentioned that Collins “echoes Carl Sagan’s warning not to be ‘so open-minded that your brain falls out.’” However, Sagan, on page 187 of his book The Demon-Haunted World (Random House 1995) duly attributes the comment to a space engineer named James Oberg.

Raymond Reese
Catonsville, Maryland




Professor Daniel Boyarin’s response to the review of his book The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (Letters, FI, December 2013/January 2014) seemed reasonable until he got to the last paragraph. He claims earlier that he makes no claims regarding the truth of the New Testament, yet he uses the terms BC and AD. He can argue that BC only acknowledges that it is a Christian era, ignoring that it assumes that Christ actually existed, but AD is a little different. Using AD (the year of Our Lord) says a lot more. If Jesus is his Lord, that seems to affirm the truth of the New Testament.

John Worsley
Lenoir, North Carolina

Letters in response to the December 2013/January 2014 issue of FREE INQUIRY.

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