Every city skyline is graced by stately steeples, spires, bell towers, domes, minarets, and other outlines of cathedrals, temples, mosques, synagogues, and sacred edifices of many sorts. The array seems majestic—until you realize that it represents an extravaganza of lies. The holy architecture proclaims a supernatural realm of gods, devils, heavens, hells, miracles, prophecies, angels, …
The wide array of current religions, plus the many that died in the past, are impossible to count. As a blind guess, I estimate the grand total at perhaps 50,000. Alongside major world faiths are hundreds of branches and thousands of small sects, cults, and tribal folk groups in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. “There are …
Nobody Dares Say It
For much of my newspaper career, I was West Virginia’s only full-time investigative reporter. I wrote about political corruption. (Two of our governors and numerous top politicians went to prison.) I exposed consumer frauds. (Various roofers, exterminators, baldness-curers, weight-salon operators, and other fly-by-night entrepreneurs were jailed.) I revealed stock frauds. (Some local brokers were convicted …
Living with Absurdity
Existentialists see that life is profoundly absurd. Here’s why: People search for a meaning to it all, but the universe has no discernible purpose, no moral code, and no cosmic guidelines. Honest thinkers feel adrift, floundering on their own, lacking sure rules. Biology and evolution put us here, but that’s all we can know. We …
Believers Kill Skeptics
Throughout history, a clear pattern is visible: Religious believers sometimes kill doubters or throw them in prison as criminals. It began in ancient Greece, the first known place where scientific-minded thinkers questioned supernatural claims. Socrates was sentenced to death for “refusing to recognize the gods” of Athens. Aspasia, beloved mistress of Pericles, was tried for …
Prodding Nones to Vote
Progressives hope for an America where health care is a human right for everyone, women’s right to choose remains secure, gays are safe from cruelty, people of all sorts are welcome equally in a multicultural society, college is affordable without crushing debt, marijuana no longer brings jail terms, safety measures curb gun massacres, sensible steps …
The West now is firmly in the Secular Era, when supernatural religion fades to a discredited fringe.
One-Fourth of Christians ‘Speak in Tongues’
Jerking, howling, swooning Pentacostalism is the fastest-growing style of Christianity.
Now there’s proof that supernatural claims of religion hardly suit.
Atatürk Triumphed Over Religion
Under the right circumstances, a brave freethinker can rescue a fundamentalist society and lead it away from oppressive religion. That’s what Mustafa Kemal Atatürk did for Muslim Turkey in the 1920s and 1930s.
A sense of purpose is available to all, no faith required.
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
“In past centuries, religious wars, persecutions, and cruelties were common.”
The ‘Nones’ Weren’t Strong Enough
“The prospect of returning America to the ugly era of illegal back-alley butchers is horrifying. What made it possible?”
“Jehovah’s Witnesses say that any day now, Jesus will descend from heaven with an army of angels to clash with Satan and an army of demons in the long-foreseen Battle of Armageddon.”
America’s Strange Satanist Scare
America’s great satanism scare has faded to a footnote of history, but we must not forget its lessons.
The Birth of Doubt
A review of Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, by Tim Whitmarsh.
Revelations, Visitations, and All That
Alleged encounters with the miraculous aren’t simply common; they’re way too common.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar unlocked the secrets of dwarf stars and black holes, but never needed the belief in God.
Slip Slidin’ Away
America is riding the secular wave that previously swept Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, and other advanced democracies.
The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of
Considering the wonders that science reveals, why does anyone need the supernatural?
States of Faith
“Legal challenges to the motto and Pledge produced court decisions calling the affirmations mere ‘ceremonial deism’ that have ‘lost through rote repletion any significant religious content.’”
Theology and Honesty
I’ve decided that there is no such thing as sophisticated theology.
I am quite aware that my turn is approaching. The realization hovers in my mind like a frequent companion.
Secular Humanists Are Winning, Winning
When I came of age in the 1950s, deep in Appalachia’s Bible Belt, narrow-minded sanctimony prevailed. It was a crime for stores to open on the Sabbath. It was a crime to buy a cocktail or a lottery ticket any day. Bootleggers and “numbers” runners were nailed by cops. You could be jailed for looking …
Existentialism: A Philosophy for Secular Humanists
When I came of age in the 1950s and slowly began to think about life, I developed a strange feeling that the world is senseless, irrational, and chaotic. Forty million people had just been killed in World War II, and everyone said how noble and heroic it was. The “Big One” was only the latest …
More Evidence of Fading Faith
Some American cities are suffering a new problem: abandoned churches. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that officials in the City of Brotherly Love can’t cope with once-stately temples that “decay into neighborhood eyesores.” “There are now so many shuttered houses of worship – at least 300 estimated across the Philadelphia region – that anxiety over …
Rediscovering a Lost Treasure
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011, ISBN 978-0-393- 06447-6) 356 pp. Hardcover, $26.95. Distinguished Harvard University professor Stephen Greenblatt contends that rediscovery of the lost Lucretius poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), helped trigger the Renaissance, the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment, and …
Another Holy Horror: The Taipings
Historical awareness is woefully spotty. Everyone knows that World War II killed perhaps forty million people. But few have ever heard of a bizarre religious war that inflicted similar slaughter. China’s Taiping Rebellion in the mid-1800s was the bloodiest civil war in human history and possibly the worst conflict of any type, depending on whose …
Creeping Secular Humanism
Few people notice, but a profound shift is discernible in history and current trends. Secular humanist values—rooted in improving people’s lives without supernaturalism—are gaining ground, decade after decade, century after century. They’re becoming the standard of civilization, overcoming past ugliness. Evidence confirms that wars are diminishing, democracy is spreading, dictatorships are fading, health is improving, …
The sea of faith Was once, too, at the full, and round Earth’s shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating. . . . — Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach” A historic transition is occurring, barely noticed. Slowly, quietly, imperceptibly, religion is shriveling …
A French Revelation, or The Burning Bush
Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse. Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops …
Nikos Kazantzakis (1885–1957)
In 1988, fundamentalist Christians in several nations vented rage and violence because a movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, portrayed Jesus as a wavering human who lusted for the prostitute Mary Magdalene. A Paris theater showing the film was firebombed, sending thirteen people to hospitals. Another, at Besancon, France, suffered a similar attack. Tear gas …