Posted by Kendall Harmon

Catherine Dunphy came to seminary in her mid-20s, full of passion to work in the service of the Catholic Church. By the time she left, for many reasons, she had lost her faith.

“I had this struggle where I thought, ‘I don’t believe this anymore,’” said Dunphy, now 40 and living in Toronto. “I felt I had no space to move or breathe. I felt like an outcast.”

Now, 10 years later, she is part of a new online project aimed at helping others like herself who are isolated by doubt in a sea of believers. Called Rational Doubt: The Clergy Project Blog, it debuts this week on Patheos, an online host of religion and spirituality blogs.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* Theology

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Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Atheists should drop their easily dismissed scientific, philosophical or historical arguments against Christianity, and instead quiz believers about Old Testament violence and hell, writes John Dickson.

As an intellectual movement, Christianity has a head start on atheism. So it's only natural that believers would find some of the current arguments against God less than satisfying.

In the interests of a more robust debate this Easter, I want to offer my tips for atheists wanting to make a dent in the Faith. I've got some advice on arguments that should be dropped and some admissions about where Christians are vulnerable.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEaster* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

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Posted April 20, 2014 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A group of nonbelievers held its first secular Sunday service here earlier this month. These meetings fill a need that area atheists say wasn’t being met: Weekly get-togethers for like-minded people in a family-friendly environment.

he group is called Kansas City Oasis, and it’s modeled after Houston Oasis in Texas. But don’t call it an “atheist church” — they prefer “secular community,” or “humanist community.”

These Oasis communities aren’t the only Sunday meetup. Another secular Sunday meeting model, Sunday Assembly, has spread throughout England, the U.S. and Australia.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

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Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Would you ever explore the idea that this other that you’ve experienced could be God?

I would not explore monotheistic religions. The religions that impress me are those which involve ecstatic communion with a deity or spirit–like voodoo. I like that much better than belief. I have respect for that. But as I said, I’m not looking for anything, and I’m not going to church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted April 10, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Travis Wiseman and Andrew Young, the two economists who wrote this study, found that the more Christians there are in a state, the lower the level of entrepreneurship for that state.

For some, this may come as a surprise. Yet many of us have come to the realization that the Protestant work ethic has all but disappeared.
- See more at: http://blog.tifwe.org/the-atheist-work-ethic/#sthash.QilmokYV.dpuf

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Barbara Ehrenreich is known for her books and essays about politics, social welfare, class, women's health and other women's issues. Her best-seller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, explored the difficulties faced by low-wage workers. So fans of Ehrenreich's writing may be surprised at the subject of her new memoir — the mystical visions she had as a teenager.

To make her new book an even more unlikely subject, Ehrenreich describes herself as a rationalist, a scientist by training, and an atheist who is the daughter of atheists. Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything draws on her journals from 1956-'66, and on the extensive reading she's done in the past decade about the history of religion. She never discussed these mystical experiences before writing the book — and she suspects she's not the only one keeping such things to herself.

"People have these unaccountable mystic experiences," Ehrenreich tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Generally they say nothing or they label it as 'God' and get on with their lives. I'm saying, 'Hey, no, let's figure out what's going on here.' "

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureTeens / Youth* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“We came to accept and to understand that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.”

Six men who admit they are “powerless over alcohol” recited these words from Step 2 of a Canadian-created, secular Twelve Step program at the beginning of a recent meeting in West Vancouver.

Alcohol has devastated their lives; the impact extending to their partners and children. Yet over many years these men of various ages have got back on their feet — with the help of fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Not, they believe, with the help of God.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAlcoholismReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

3 Comments
Posted April 6, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[My friend] Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I'd happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.

By Valentine's Day, I began to believe in God. There was no intellectual shame in being a deist, after all, as I joined the respectable ranks of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.

I wouldn't stay a deist for long. A Catholic friend gave me J. Budziszewski's book Ask Me Anything, which included the Christian teaching that "love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person." This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

1 Comments
Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The atheist writer S. T. Joshi, 55, born in India, raised in Indiana and now living in Seattle, has written or edited more than 200 books, including a novel of detective fiction, a bibliography of writings about Gore Vidal and numerous works about H. L. Mencken.

He edits four periodicals, including Lovecraft Annual, the major review of scholarship about the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft; The American Rationalist, a journal for unbelievers; and The Weird Fiction Review, which is what it sounds like. He once spent years scanning into his computer — and typing what could not be scanned — every word ever written by Ambrose Bierce, about six million total.

And this month Mr. Joshi got a call from a friend who works for Barnes & Noble, asking if he could edit a new edition of “The King in Yellow,” the 1895 collection of supernatural stories by Robert W. Chambers. It seems that the book was a major inspiration for “True Detective,” the popular HBO series. “I am one of maybe three people in the world who knows anything about Robert W. Chambers,” Mr. Joshi said, by way of explanation. His new edition will be out in April.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted March 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Punters who attended the Oxford Tavern before it was retrofitted told the Telegraph that the pub had a real “community spirit”. Tamara, one of the strippers, said “it’s like the loss of my second home”. Two demolition workers would come from across Sydney to have lunch there every Thursday. “There goes my social life,” a third bloke joked of the takeover. This was in some sense a religious place, and now it’s gone, without even having been paid the complement of a bit of violent iconoclasm. No, the sketchy places, the sacred places, are slowly being ground out of the world by a force that sees them as neither holy nor profane, but as novelties to spice up the next round of drinks or the next sing-along.

“I don’t expect much objection from religious communities. They are happy for us to use their church model”, Jones told Salon magazine in 2013. Only someone who already feels entitled to the Christian “model”, and who doesn’t understand why it might be a sacrilege to appropriate those forms and gestures, would assume as much. The churches should think very carefully about how they will relate to the growth of organised atheism. At the very least, they should not collaborate in their own desacralisation.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 12, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I expected to be pained by Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker essay on atheism and belief, but I didn’t expect to be quite so … puzzled by his depiction of contemporary belief. Gopnik clearly has sympathy for the religious side of the argument he’s describing — or at the very least he’s straining to be sympathetic. But given the premises he’s working from, that sympathy manifests itself in a peculiar and telling misreading of what theists actually believe.

That misreading follows from the fairly stark distinction that Gopnik tries to establish between the God of popular belief — the God of miracles and commandments, signs and wonders, heaven and hell — and the God of more intellectually-minded modern believers. The former sort of almighty, he writes, is simply impossible for serious minds to believe in any more...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

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Posted February 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Virginia Tech group contains a broad spectrum, from life-long atheists who grew up in sceptical families to home-schooled Baptists, evangelical Catholics and even a young man who was brought up in a Dominionist cult dedicated to establishing a Theocracy in America.

Caroline - not her real name - is a graduate research chemist who is about to hit the job market and is afraid that her atheism will be held against her.

“I’m more concerned about getting a job than losing one,” she said. “I know they Google you and while I can’t hide my atheism, I don’t really want to advertise it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted February 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A controversial billboard paid for by atheists near the site of Super Bowl 48 takes jabs at organized religion just as a recent survey showed more than half of football fans believe supernatural forces influence the big game.

The 14 feet by 48 feet billboard paid for by American Atheists is on one of the major highways around MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It shows a priest with a football and says ‘A ‘Hail Mary’ only works in football. Enjoy the game!’

This isn’t the first religion-based advertisement linked to the Super Bowl. A now-infamous anti-abortion television ad during Super Bowl 45, in 2010, featured then-college football star Tim Tebow and his mother.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & CultureSports* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted January 31, 2014 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Leslie Zukor was a 19-year-old student at Reed College studying prison rehabilitation programs when something jumped out at her.

While there were programs tackling drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, technical training and more, all of them were offered by faith-based organizations. Where were the options for those behind bars who are atheists, like her?

“Not all prisoners are religious, and I wanted them to know that to turn your life around and be a good and productive member of society does not require a belief in God,” she said. “I just thought, wow, it is time to see about getting other perspectives in there.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted January 23, 2014 at 11:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In response, the founders of Sunday Assembly [for nonbelievers] — Ms [Pippa] Evans and fellow comedian Sanderson Jones — have travelled across the US seeking to implant new “assemblies” in coastal cities, in Chicago and even in Nashville, deep in America’s Bible Belt. Jonathan Tobert, 67, a semi-retired research physician, was appointed to serve as a sort of archbishop for this vast new diocese.

Like the Pilgrim Fathers, they have met with controversy and schism. There was even a solitary protester who stood outside one meeting declaring Mr Jones — who has a luxuriant red beard — to be an agent of the devil.

The New York congregation endured what Mr Tobert called “a healthy split”. “One group wanted a more edgy thing, in bars. We called them the hawks. We, the doves, wanted to have it more churchy. Sanderson agreed that was more his vision.” The hawks split off into a separate movement called “The Godless Revival” which meets in a bar near Times Square. “This has always been a problem for secular people,” said Mr Tobert. “They are by definition free thinkers. It can be like herding cats.”

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

2 Comments
Posted January 3, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For all of my cockiness about non-belief when I was young, I had a sneaking suspicion that as I grew older and the prospect of Crossing the Rainbow Bridge grew ever closer, I would start moving back to belief. Better take out an insurance ticket just in case God exists, although if He exists and turns out to be a Jehovah’s Witness then all bets are off. At least I will have the compensation of seeing the Pope trying to dig himself out of an even deeper hole than mine. The funny thing, however, is that as I grow older (I am now in my seventies), if anything my feeling that non-belief is right for me grows ever stronger. I am sure that at least in part it is psychological. Having had one headmaster in this life, I don’t want another one in the next. But I think my feeling is also bound up with what my work on the books on atheism have taught me, together with the insights of Clifford about the morality of belief. I truly don’t know if there is anything more, but that is okay. What would not be okay, morally, would be pretending that there was something more even though I didn’t really think there was adequate evidence, or conversely pretending that there is nothing more, perhaps rather pathetically trying to win the approval of today’s very public atheists.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* Theology

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Posted December 18, 2013 at 11:19 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On November 11, 2013, Religion News Service reprinted an Associated Press story by Gillian Flaccus on the development of “atheist mega-churches”....

How then is one to understand the phenomenon described in the story? I think there are two ways of understanding it. First, there is the lingering notion of Sunday morning as a festive ceremony of the entire family.

[Also]...there is a more important aspect to the aforementioned phenomenon: Every community of value, religious or otherwise, becomes a denomination in America.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

1 Comments
Posted November 21, 2013 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

ot faith? Peter Boghossian says get rid of it.

Boghossian is a philosophy instructor and author of a wildly popular new book, “A Manual for Creating Atheists,” that seeks to equip nonbelievers like him with the skills to convince believers to abandon their faith.

And while the book is sure to upset many religious people and even some atheists, it may signal a change in the way atheists engage believers. Unlike previous best-selling atheists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, Boghossian wants his readers to refrain from high-decible attacks against God and, instead, home in on faith.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More and more atheist groups are replacing antagonism with civility, motivated by human reason to do charitable work rather than spite against all things religious, said Greg Epstein, humanist chaplain at Harvard University and author of “Good without God.”

“We're really not that interested in tearing people down anymore. We're trying to tear down bad beliefs, but not the people who believe them,” he said. “What's going to emerge from this is a more powerful and influential secular humanist community. There really are millions and millions of us. It was easier to dismiss us when they pigeon-holed us as anti-religious. We're not. We're millions of good people, working to build a better society for everyone.”

Declining membership and the graduations of Atheist Agenda leaders last semester precipitated the change, Schmidt said. Former leaders did not return repeated requests for comment. But former members, now active with the Secular Student Alliance, said the old guard encountered resistance last semester to its over-the-top methods.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted November 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.

Nearly three dozen gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the U.S. and Australia — with more to come — after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

On Sunday, the inaugural Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles attracted several hundred people bound by their belief in non-belief. Similar gatherings in San Diego, Nashville, New York and other U.S. cities have drawn hundreds of atheists seeking the camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual.

Read it all from the AP.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

3 Comments
Posted November 15, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Like lots of college students, Lauren has a smartphone loaded with some of the most popular apps around — Facebook, Twitter and eBay. And like a lot of unbelievers, she asked to not use her full name because her family doesn’t know about her closet atheism.

One of the apps she uses most regularly is YouVersion, a free Bible app that puts a library’s worth of translations — more than 700 — in the palm of her hand. Close to 115 million people have downloaded YouVersion, making it among the most popular apps of all time.

But Lauren, a 22-year-old chemistry major from Colorado, is not interested in the app’s mission to deepen faith and biblical literacy. A newly minted atheist, she uses her YouVersion Bible app to try to persuade people away from the Christianity she grew up in.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

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Posted November 6, 2013 at 11:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What was supposed to be a touchy-feely, one-on-one interview by Oprah Winfrey with long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad has morphed into a broader, sometimes angry exchange about what it means to be an atheist.

Earlier this month Winfrey, 59, hosted Nyad on “Super Soul Sunday,” her weekly talk program on cable’s Oprah Winfrey Network. Nyad, 64, recently completed a 53-hour solo swim from Cuba to Florida.

During the hourlong segment, Nyad declared herself an atheist. She then explained, “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity. All the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt and suffered. So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaMovies & TelevisionReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted November 4, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Reader question from John Blaxland: Given how little we know about the universe, how can we possibly be sure there is no God?

There are all sorts of things we can't be sure of--we can't be sure there are no leprechauns and fairies. Science in the future is going to be revealing all sorts of things which we have no idea of at present, but it's extremely unlikely that it would happen to home in on an idea from a Bronze Age tribe in the desert.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted October 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Perhaps what we’re seeing is a schism in the atheist church between the crushers and the appeasers. Prof. Dawkins loathes my own brand of happy-clappy, can’t-we-all-just-get-along atheism, which sees room in the world for the believer and the non-believer alike. “These vicarious second-order believers,” he writes in The God Delusion, “… their zeal pumped up by ingratiating broad-mindedness.” If you want to infuriate him, just say, “I’m an atheist, but …”

The thing is, if the crushers want to draw people to a life based on reason and not faith, you’d think they would learn from religion’s mistakes – contempt and recrimination are not great seduction techniques. Much better to take a lesson from the Sunday Assembly, the atheist congregation in London, which wants people to “live better, help often and wonder more.” As long as they show up on time, that is: “Latecomers go straight to hell!” Now those are people I wouldn’t mind having over for dinner.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted September 25, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...[His] passionate eloquence suggests something else, something that smacks of the religious zeal that Dawkins says he so detests. In the opening paragraph of chapter one, which Dawkins reprints, he says: “Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over 3,000 million years before the truth finally dawned. His name was Charles Darwin.’’ Replace the words ''Charles Darwin’’ with ''Jesus Christ’’, and you will see how strongly, in temperament, Dawkins resembles the preacher rather than the cool-headed thinker. He is Darwin’s St Paul. His anger against God seems to arise not so much from His non-existence as from His effrontery in disagreeing with Messrs Darwin and Dawkins.

Nothing reveals Dawkins’s self-absorption more tellingly than his moments of strategic modesty. This book concludes with a comparison of his own writings with those of Darwin, purportedly to prove Darwin’s superiority, but really establishing a subliminal link between the two great men. As he approaches his last page, Dawkins suddenly bursts out against Darwin’s lack of public recognition: he was ''never Sir Charles, and what an amazing indictment of our honour system that is’’.

Indeed, and it is notable that, despite strong lobbying in that direction, he is not yet Sir Richard. I feel he is trying to tell us something.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Organized Atheism is now a franchise.

Yesterday, The Sunday Assembly—the London-based “Atheist Church” that has, since its January launch, been stealing headlines the world over—announced a new “global missionary tour.” In October and November, affiliated Sunday Assemblies will open in 22 cities: in England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the United States and Australia. “I think this is the moment,” Assembly founder Sanderson Jones told me in an email last week, “when the Sunday Assembly goes from being an interesting phenomenon to becoming a truly global movement.” Structured godlessness is ready for export.

The Assembly has come a long way in eight months: from scrappy East London community venture (motto: “Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More;” method: “part atheist church, part foot-stomping good time”) to the kind of organization that sends out embargoed press releases about global expansion projects. “The 3,000 percent growth rate might make this non-religious Assembly the fastest growing church in the world,” organizers boast.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

1 Comments
Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In his new book, Dawkins relates for the first time the full story of his schoolboy break-out as an atheist. In the chapel at Oundle, he helped lead a small insurgency of boys who refused to kneel. The school’s headmaster was in Oxford on the day that the young Dawkins took his university entrance exam and drove him back. During this lift, Dawkins writes, the headmaster ‘discreetly raised the subject of my rebellion against Christianity. It was a revelation,’ he says, ‘to talk to a decent, humane, intelligent Christian, embodying Anglicanism at its tolerant best.’

I ask him about this. ‘I’m kind of grateful to the Anglican tradition,’ he admits, ‘for its benign tolerance. I sort of suspect that many who profess Anglicanism probably don’t believe any of it at all in any case but vaguely enjoy, as I do… I suppose I’m a cultural Anglican and I see evensong in a country church through much the same eyes as I see a village cricket match on the village green. I have a certain love for it.’ Would he ever go into a church? ‘Well yes, maybe I would.’

But at this point he turns it back around again. I try to clarify my own views to him. ‘You would feel deprived if there weren’t any churches?’ he asks. ‘Yes,’ I respond. He mulls this before replying. ‘I would feel deprived in the same spirit of the English cricket match that I mentioned, that is close to my heart. Yes, I would feel a loss there. I would feel an aesthetic loss. I would miss church bells, that kind of thing.’

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

6 Comments
Posted September 13, 2013 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States military chaplaincy program has a proud heritage that stretches all the way back to the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

"They are rabbis, ministers, imams and priests who serve our nation's heroes and their families as committed members of the U.S. Army," according to one video produced by the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps.

But are they ready for an atheist chaplain?

Read or listen to it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed ForcesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

They were trying to prove a simple point: That nonbelievers are a bigger and more diverse group than previously imagined.

"We sort of woke a sleeping giant," says Christopher F. Silver, a researcher at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "We're a bit overwhelmed actually."

Silver and his project manager, Thomas Coleman, recently released a study proposing six different types of nonbelievers – from strident atheists to people who observe religious rituals while doubting the divine.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted July 20, 2013 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How many ways are there to disbelieve in God?
At least six, according to a new study.
Two researchers at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that atheists and agnostics run the range from vocally anti-religious activists to nonbelievers who nonetheless observe some religious traditions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

1 Comments
Posted July 16, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I know there are some non-believers in particular who find this debate uncomfortable or frustrating. But my impression is that there are a far larger number who find it rewarding, having felt for some time that the discussion needs to go beyond the ‘Is it true?’ rut. As the Chief Rabbi shows, the place the ‘new atheists’ have taken the discussion to is not the end of a discussion but really just the beginning.

Read it all, also from The Spectator.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted June 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Some people get religion; others don’t. Why not leave it at that?

Fair enough, perhaps. But not, I submit, for readers of The Spectator, because religion has social, cultural and political consequences, and you cannot expect the foundations of western civilisation to crumble and leave the rest of the building intact. That is what the greatest of all atheists, Nietzsche, understood with terrifying clarity and what his -latter-day successors fail to grasp at all.

Time and again in his later writings he tells us that losing Christian faith will mean abandoning Christian morality. No more ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’; instead the will to power. No more ‘Thou shalt not’; instead people would live by the law of nature, the strong dominating or eliminating the weak. ‘An act of injury, violence, exploitation or destruction cannot be “unjust” as such, because life functions essentially in an injurious, violent, exploitative and destructive manner.’ Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite, but there are passages in his writing that come close to justifying a Holocaust.

This had nothing to do with him personally and everything to do with the logic of Europe losing its Christian ethic....

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted June 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After years of fights over religious monuments on public land, a county courthouse in Northern Florida will soon be the home of the nation’s first monument to atheism on public property.

On June 29, the group American Atheists will unveil a 1,500-pound granite bench engraved with secular-themed quotations from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and its founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, among others, in front of the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Fla.

Read it all.

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Posted June 9, 2013 at 11:34 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is more reasonable to me, as it is to any atheist, to believe in things that are in accord with what we know are natural laws, than to believe in things that contradict them....[but] unless you’re raised atheist, people become atheists just as I did, by thinking about the same things Augustine thought about. Certainly one of the first things I thought about as a maturing child was “Why is there polio? Why are there diseases?” If there is a good God why are there these things? The answer of the religious person is “God has a plan we don’t understand.” That wasn’t enough for me. There are people who don’t know anything about science. One of the reasons I recommend Richard Dawkins’s book, The God Delusion, is that basically he explains the relationship between science and atheism. But I don’t think people are really persuaded into atheism by books or by debates or anything like that. I think people become atheists because they think about the world around them. They start to search out books because they ask questions. In general, people don’t become atheists at a late age, in their 50s. All of the atheists I know became atheists fairly early on. They became atheists in their adolescence or in their 20s because these are the ages at which you’re maturing, your brain is maturing, and you’re beginning to ask questions. If religion doesn’t do it for you, if, in fact, religion, as it does for me, contradicts any rational idea of how to live, then you become an atheist, or whatever you want to call it – an agnostic, a freethinker.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPhilosophyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* TheologyApologetics

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Posted April 16, 2013 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As I set off in 2008 to begin my freshman year studying government at Harvard (whose motto is Veritas, "Truth"), I could never have expected the change that awaited me.

It was a brisk November when I met John Joseph Porter. Our conversations initially revolved around conservative politics, but soon gravitated toward religion. He wrote an essay for the Ichthus, Harvard's Christian journal, defending God's existence. I critiqued it. On campus, we'd argue into the wee hours; when apart, we'd take our arguments to e-mail. Never before had I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions: How does one understand the Bible's contradictions? Could an omnipotent God make a stone he could not lift? What about the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God declared it so, or does God merely identify the good? To someone like me, with no Christian background, resorting to an answer like "It takes faith" could only be intellectual cowardice. Joseph didn't do that.

And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

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Posted April 8, 2013 at 7:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was billed as the moral equivalent of an Ali v Foreman title fight. The world’s best known atheist arguing with the man who until a few weeks ago was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Last night, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, took on Rowan Williams, the new master of Magdalene College, in a debate on religion at the Cambridge Union. And Williams emerged triumphant.

The motion for debate was big enough to attract the very best speakers to the Cambridge Union: Religion has no place in the 21st century.

But the key factor in persuading Professor Richard Dawkins to agree to take part in last night’s setpiece was something else – an admiration for his principal opponent.

“I normally turn down formal debates,” he said. “But the charming Rowan Williams was too good to miss.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams* Culture-WatchEducationPhilosophyReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

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Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As [Arif] Ahmed recited figures on Anglicanism’s decline Rowan Williams grew restless, causing Ahmed to ask the master of Magdalene pointedly: “Do you want a point of information?” The room broke out in laughter as Williams responded by motioning for Ahmed to ‘bring it on’.

The Spectator columnist Douglas Murray, arguing for the relevance of religion in the 21st century despite the “awkward position” of being an atheist, finished the debate by declaring that “no rational person could agree with this motion". Religion, alongside humanism and secularism, has “a contribution to make”, Murray argued, telling students that without religion you may end up “with something like a perpetual version of The Only Way is Essex”.

Priyanka Kulkarni, Pembroke first year, said: “Tonight's debate was highly anticipated, the queue spanning for what seemed to be miles was an indicator that this was going to be a highlight of the union this term.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams* Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

1 Comments
Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You may find the preliminary video here (it lasts a little over 1 1/2 hours).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams* Culture-WatchEducationPhilosophyReligion & CultureScience & TechnologyYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* Theology

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Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.

For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.

One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted January 23, 2013 at 6:34 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While there may be no precedent for this kind of church in England, Americans have been playing with idea of church without God for generations. Perhaps best known, and most durable, among these experiments is the Society for Ethical Culture. Founded in 1877 by Felix Adler, the society did not actively embrace atheism. It simply pursued “deed over creed” and assumed that both theist and atheist beliefs were entirely personal and largely irrelevant.

That the society was founded not only by a Jew, but by the son of noted Reform rabbi Samuel Adler, also fits within a tradition in which arguing against the very right of God to be God goes back to the Genesis story of Abraham. Not to mention the fact that according to recent studies of the American spiritual landscape, Jews are the most highly secularized religious group in the nation. They would eschew the term religious, but functionally, that is what it is. They are part of a community of meaning, values and practice which draws on a shared past and identifies with a collective present and future.

Like their predecessors, the newly founded atheist church of England, seeks to create meaning and offer a sense of belonging for those who lack what one of its founders describes as “the good stuff of religion.”

Read it all

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Posted January 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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. But the most powerful force holding us back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at moments of high national drama and emotion, with the combination of reason and passion needed to erase the image of the atheist as a bloodless intellectual robot.

Read it all.

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Posted January 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For Julie Drizin, being an atheist parent means being deliberate. She rewrote the words to “Silent Night” when her daughters were babies to remove words like “holy,” found a secular Sunday school where the children light candles “of understanding,” and selects gifts carefully to promote science, art and wonder at nature.

So when she pulled her 9- and 13-year-olds together this week in their Takoma Park home to tell them about the slaughter of 20 elementary school students in Newtown, Conn., her words were plain: Something horrible happened, and we feel sad about it, and you are safe.

And that was it.

“I’ve explained to them [in the past] that some people believe God is waiting for them, but I don’t believe that. I believe when you die, it’s over and you live on in the memory of people you love and who love you,” she said this week. “I can’t offer them the comfort of a better place. Despite all the evils and problems in the world, this is the heaven — we’re living in the heaven and it’s the one we work to make. It’s not a paradise.”

This is what facing death and suffering looks like in an atheist home.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted December 24, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a handful of majority-Muslim countries atheists can live safely, if quietly; Turkey is one example, Lebanon another. None makes atheism a specific crime. But none gives atheists legal protection or recognition. Indonesia, for example, demands that people declare themselves as one of six religions; atheism and agnosticism do not count. Egypt’s draft constitution makes room for only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences.

In reality such punishments are rarely meted out. Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for inciting hatred....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismIslam

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Posted November 28, 2012 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, Chris Stedman coordinates its “Values in Action” program. In his recent book, “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious,” he tells how he went from a closeted gay evangelical Christian to an “out” atheist, and, eventually, a Humanist.

On the blog NonProphet Status, and now in the book, Stedman calls for atheists and the religious to come together around interfaith work. It is a position that has earned him both strident -- even violent -- condemnation and high praise. Stedman talked with RNS about how and why the religious and atheists should work together.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

1 Comments
Posted November 26, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An atheist group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison seems on track to receive nearly $70,000 in student fees for staffing and programming next year, in what appears to be a first for the university and student atheist groups nationally.

The Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics, or AHA as it's called, said it will provide support services for students struggling with doubts about their faiths and offer a safe place where they can discuss religious issues without fear of recrimination.

"Religious groups have been receiving this type of funding for years," said Chris Calvey, president of the organization, which helped stage a three-day Freethought Festival that drew hundreds of nonbelievers and skeptics from around the country to Madison this year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

2 Comments
Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is a fact that few people become atheists either in foxholes or philosophy class. But having seen the minor outcry against criticism of the New Atheist position by their adherents, I have come to the conclusion that Ruse and Berlinerblau are right: the new atheism is a danger to American intellectual life, to the serious study of important questions, and to the atheist tradition itself.

I have reasons for saying this. Mostly, they have nothing to do with the canonical status of a few books and speakers who draw, like Jesus, multitudes of hungry listeners. At this level, emotion comes into play, celebrity and authority come into play. Perhaps even faith comes into play. The bright scarlet A of proud atheism as a symbol of nonbelief and denial becomes an icon in its own right: The not-the-cross and not-the-crescent. And again, as we reach beyond not believing into symbolism and the authority of speakers who can deliver you from the dark superstitions of religion, without having to die on a cross, we have come a long way from simply not believing. That is what Professors Ruse and Berlinerblau have been saying....

But the real disaster of the new atheism is one I am experiencing as a college teacher. Almost three decades back I faced opposition from students who denied that history had anything to teach them about their strong emotional commitment to a belief system or faith. Today I am often confronted with students who feel just the same way–except they are atheists, or rather many of them have adopted the name and the logo.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted October 15, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the national spotlight Thursday night introducing Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee for president, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) showed all of America why the country’s national motto – In God We Trust – must be abandoned. Exhibiting stunning insensitivity to the millions of Americans who do not profess a belief in any deities, Rubio declared: “Our national motto is In God we Trust, reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.”

Thus, Rubio was brazenly shouting out what many proponents of the religious motto have pubicly denied: the religious wording of the motto validates the idea that only believers are first-class citizens. Nonbelievers, while tolerated by the true believers (sometimes begrudgingly), clearly hold a second-class status.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

13 Comments
Posted September 1, 2012 at 9:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Clergy Project is a magnet for charlatans and cowards who, by their own admission, openly lie to their congregations, hide behind beliefs they do not hold, make common cause with atheists, and still retain their positions and salaries. Is this how atheists and secularists groups intend to further their cause? They are getting publicity from the media to be sure, but do they think it will win them friends?

Ministers struggling honestly with doubts and struggles are in a different category altogether. Doubt will lead to one of two inevitable consequences. Faithful doubt leads to a deeper embrace of the truth, with doubt serving to point us into a deeper knowledge, trust, and understanding of the truth. Pernicious doubt leads to unfaithfulness, unbelief, skepticism, cynicism, and despair. Christians — ministers or otherwise — who are struggling with doubt, need to seek help from the faithful, not the faithless.

Christianity has little to fear from the Clergy Project. Its website reveals it to be a toothless tiger that will attract media attention, and that is about all. The greater danger to the church is a reduction in doctrine that leaves atheism hard to distinguish from belief. And the real forces to fear are those who would counsel such a reduction.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted August 31, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Earlier this year, NPR told the story of Teresa MacBain, a United Methodist pastor who had stopped believing in God. In March, when she just couldn't keep it to herself anymore, she told the American Atheists Convention that she was one of them.
Coming out as an atheist felt good. But when she got home to Tallahassee, Florida, she discovered that a video of her coming-out speech had gone viral. Her church and community shunned her.
I was saddened but not surprised. Many people attend seminary because they are seeking answers to serious questions about the faith. When they do pastoral care, those questions become sharper.
What really caught my attention about MacBain's story was this: "I miss the music," she told NPR. "Some of the hymns, I still catch myself singing them," she said. "I mean, they're beautiful pieces of music."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMusicReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

9 Comments
Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Late one night in early May 2011, a preacher named Jerry DeWitt was lying in bed in DeRidder, La., when his phone rang. He picked it up and heard an anguished, familiar voice. It was Natosha Davis, a friend and parishioner in a church where DeWitt had preached for more than five years. Her brother had been in a bad motorcycle accident, she said, and he might not survive.

DeWitt knew what she wanted: for him to pray for her brother. It was the kind of call he had taken many times during his 25 years in the ministry. But now he found that the words would not come. He comforted her as best he could, but he couldn’t bring himself to invoke God’s help. Sensing her disappointment, he put the phone down and found himself sobbing. He was 41 and had spent almost his entire life in or near DeRidder, a small town in the heart of the Bible Belt. All he had ever wanted was to be a comfort and a support to the people he grew up with, but now a divide stood between him and them. He could no longer hide his disbelief. He walked into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “I remember thinking, Who on this planet has any idea what I’m going through?” DeWitt told me.

As his wife slept, he fumbled through the darkness for his laptop. After a few quick searches with the terms “pastor” and “atheist,” he discovered that a cottage industry of atheist outreach groups had grown up in the past few years. Within days, he joined an online network called the Clergy Project, created for clerics who no longer believe in God and want to communicate anonymously through a secure Web site.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingPsychologyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

4 Comments
Posted August 24, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

David Silverman, president of New Jersey-based American Atheists, atheists.org, unveiled the organization’s newest billboard campaign, which mocks religion in the political landscape. The billboards feature perceived aspects of Christianity and Mormonism that, according to American Atheists, have no place in politics.

In the billboard on Christianity, for instance, God is called "sadistic" and Jesus a "useless saviour." Christianity is said to promote hate but call it "love." In the billboard on Mormonism, God is called a "space alien" and the faith is accused of baptizing dead people.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsAtheismMormons

4 Comments
Posted August 23, 2012 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Higgs boson has been dubbed the “god particle” much to the dismay of many physicists, including Peter Higgs and Lawrence Krauss. Yet the latter, perhaps unintentionally, gives a new twist to the “god particle” epithet in his Newsweek article: “Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step towards replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge. The Higgs particle is now arguably more relevant than God.” Krauss has not taken that giant step himself, since his statement, far from being a statement of science, is another metaphysical speculation — a mixture of hubris and an inadequate concept of God.

What does Krauss mean by “more relevant than God?” Relevant to what? Clearly the Higgs particle is more relevant than God to the question of how the universe works. But not to the question why there is a universe in which particle physics can be done. The internal combustion engine is arguably more relevant than Henry Ford to the question of how a car works, but not for why it exists in the first place. Confusing mechanism and/or law on the one hand and agency on the other, as Krauss does here, is a category mistake easily made by ignoring metaphysics.

Krauss does not seem to realise that his concept of God is one that no intelligent monotheist would accept. His “God” is the soft-target “God of the gaps” of the “I can’t understand it, therefore God did it” variety. As a result, Krauss, like Dawkins and Hawking, regards God as an explanation in competition with scientific explanation. That is as wrong-headed as thinking that an explanation of a Ford car in terms of Henry Ford as inventor and designer competes with an explanation in terms of mechanism and law. God is not a “God of the gaps”, he is God of the whole show.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* TheologyApologetics

1 Comments
Posted August 21, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There were no red carpets, no paparazzi, no celebrities and definitely no God at the recent annual Atheist Film Festival.

Instead, there were more than a dozen films, long and short, about separation of church and state, freedom of religion (and no religion), the conflict between science and religion in public schools and a couple hundred people eager to see them.

“If we don’t do this, who will? said festival organizer Dave Fitzgerald, as people picked up atheist-themed books and T-shirts at the Aug. 10-11 festival. “Atheists are not well-represented by Hollywood, and a lot of people don’t get any exposure to real atheist thought except through things like this.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMovies & TelevisionReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

3 Comments
Posted August 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Faith, in the Christian life, has nothing to do with a subjective belief that does not admit rational justification (not even Kierkegaard quite said that), because faith begins not with the subject of faith but its object—the Trinitarian life of God. It consists not of assent to some proposition but the entrustment of one’s being to God’s providence. Faith does not originate in the individual believer’s own efforts, but is rather a gift of grace to the believer, usually received in baptism, as one means among many of participating in God’s own life.

Far from posing a threat to one’s faith, knowledge reinforces it: the more reason one has to believe in God’s providence, the more readily the believer entrusts himself to God. Faith likewise facilitates a more intimate knowledge of the plans God has set in store for the believer. As recent scholarship has demonstrated, “faith” in the Bible is often better rendered “faithfulness”; one has faith, therefore, less by belief than by piety. Faith is—at least in the order of time—primarily performative and only secondarily reflective. Recall St. Irenaeus’ dictum: “to believe in God is to do his will.”

The naive concept of faith as blind assent arose from an equally naive and philosophically disreputable theory of knowledge, according to which one knows a thing best by detaching oneself from its use and setting aside personal biases in order to form an idea that corresponds to the thing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPhilosophyPsychology* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* Theology

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Posted August 8, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Chris Mulherin, featured here on Eureka Street TV, similarly has a foot in both camps; an Anglican clergyman with a substantial academic background studying and lecturing in science and the philosophy of science.

He is now doing his doctorate on the relationship between scientific and theological ways of knowing. He argues they are different but complementary ways of understanding, and summarises the difference by saying that while science deals with mechanics, religion deals with meaning....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted July 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How much money does the U.S. government forgo by not taxing religious institutions? According to a University of Tampa professor, perhaps as much as $71 billion a year.

Ryan Cragun, an assistant professor of sociology, and two students examined U.S. tax laws to estimate the total cost of tax exemptions for religious institutions — on property, donations, business enterprises, capital gains and “parsonage allowances,” which permit clergy to deduct housing costs....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxes* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

5 Comments
Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Richard] Holloway’s powerful account [in His book Leaving Alexandria] mirrors the progressive loss of belief which we see across Britain and Europe today, and it comes hard on the heels of Alain de Botton’s latest book Religion for Atheists, which advertises itself with the question “Even if religion isn’t true, can’t we enjoy the best bits?” It assumes that the supernatural claims of religion are false, but suggests that we hang on to the communal ritual and cultural elements. Holloway makes a similar plea when he says “I don’t any longer believe in religion but I want it around, less sure of itself and purged of everything except the miracle of pity”.

These books leave me with the question: Does this work? Can you have the gilt without the gingerbread? Isn’t there something fundamentally dishonest about those wistful atheists who have taken leave of God and who yet continue to use theological concepts and cling on to religious practices?

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesScottish Episcopal Church* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Scotland* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

5 Comments
Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Teresa MacBain has a secret, one she's terrified to reveal.

"I'm currently an active pastor and I'm also an atheist," she says. "I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday's right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that's totally false."

MacBain glances nervously around the room. It's a Sunday, and normally she would be preaching at her church in Tallahassee, Fla. But here she is, sneaking away to the American Atheists' convention in Bethesda, Md.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyPastoral Theology

15 Comments
Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Abroad, Christians are facing persecution and even death in many countries; the Arab Spring is threatening to turn into winter for Christian communities and the conflict in Syria is fraught with menace for a minority that is being driven out of parts of the Middle East it has inhabited for two millennia. The Coptic Christians in Egypt are suffering murderous attacks and the Lebanese patriarch is warning of dire consequences as a result of revolution across the Middle East, with militant Islamists now looking like the main beneficiaries rather than secular democrats. The courage of the embattled Christian communities in those areas is the most eloquent embracing of the Easter message that could be imagined. For the Easter drama illustrates the worst and the best of human behaviour: Judas’s betrayal, Peter’s craven denial, Pilate’s abdication of responsibility, contrasted with the humility, sacrifice and forgiveness of Christ. Christianity is no soft option.

In Britain, the tide may be turning. There is a sense that the Dawkins years are coming to an end. Richard Dawkins and the militant secularists are confronting the inevitable limitations of their atheist creed: how do you energise a crusade around a vacuum? Even when competing religions historically clashed, they had rival narratives to proclaim. “There is nothing” is not a message to which people in our stressful, increasingly fragmented society will warm. It is cold comfort to bring to a recession-hit household, a hospital ward or a deathbed. Yet to all those forums of human misery the Christian faith has a more consoling message to take: that of the empty tomb, the risen Christ, the joy that is to come. We wish all our readers a very happy Easter.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEaster* Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

1 Comments
Posted April 12, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.

Organizers said they hoped the "Rock Beyond Belief" event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

2 Comments
Posted April 3, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Thousands of people are expect to descend on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to celebrate not believing in God. It's being called a sort of "Woodstock for Atheists," a chance for atheists to show their power in numbers and change their image.

The "Reason Rally" could attract up to 30,000 people; organizer David Silverman says it marks a coming-of-age for nonbelievers.

"We'll look back at the Reason Rally as one of the game-changing events when people started to look at atheism and look at atheists in a different light," Silverman says.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

9 Comments
Posted March 25, 2012 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The greater New York City area (including Brooklyn, and central and northern New Jersey) is home to millions of atheists, including many who still engage in religious activities, including Jewish and Muslim rituals. While we have little interest in arguing against cultural affirmations, we are eager to question the false foundations for religious ideas – and to call out atheists who're helping keep irrationality alive.

Atheism needs the involvement of atheists, deserves the support of atheists – and that's every bit as true of atheists who read Hebrew or Arabic, as it is of anyone else.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismIslamJudaism

1 Comments
Posted March 19, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"What concerns us is the message that it sends," said Atheist of Florida member Rob Curry. "A very chilling message that, if you're not a Christian, if you don't believe as we do, then you're not welcome."

Curry's referring to a road-anointing performed on CR 98 last year as part of the "Polk Under Prayer" campaign, where Christians poured olive oil on the asphalt and prayed over it, calling for a revival in the area.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureRural/Town LifeTravel* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

7 Comments
Posted March 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Alain de Botton, the British pop philosopher whose new book Religion for Atheists has made him the friendly face of modern godlessness....said if you walked into a modern university and asked to study the humanities in order to find meaning in life, “the people in charge would immediately dial the number of the insane asylum, and you would be taken away.”

He said the message of the secular world is that life is simple, and the only people who need help are stupid people who read self-help books.

He set his own views against the “virulent strain” of atheism that sees religion as “not just false but wrong, ridiculous, malign and corrupt,” epitomized by Christopher Hitchens’ claim that “religion poisons everything.”

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchArtHistoryMusicPhilosophyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanadaEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

1 Comments
Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The march of secularism means Britain may no longer be a Christian country in just 20 years, a report said yesterday.
If trends continue, the number of non-believers is set to overtake the number of Christians by 2030.
Christianity is losing more than half a million believers every year, while the count of atheists and agnostics is going up by almost 750,000 annually.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismIslamSecularism

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Posted March 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

During the debate, it seemed that at the heart of Dawkins' difficulty with faith is his impoverished view of God and is failure to grasp more than the most simplistic understanding.

Towards the end he asked the archbishop: "Why don't you see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that we can explain the world, life, how it started, from nothing? ... Why clutter it up with something so messy as a god?"

Dr Williams replied that he doesn't see clutter: "I'm not thinking of God as being shoehorned in."

Dawkins then said: "That is exactly how I see God."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury * Culture-WatchEducationPhilosophyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

10 Comments
Posted February 28, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch and listen to it all; it really is worth the time.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury * Culture-WatchEducationPhilosophyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyAnthropologyApologetics

1 Comments
Posted February 26, 2012 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

He is regarded as the most famous atheist in the world but last night Professor Richard Dawkins admitted he could not be sure that God does not exist.

He told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that he preferred to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist.

The two men were taking part in a public “dialogue” at Oxford University at the end of a week which has seen bitter debate about the role of religion in public life in Britain.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

8 Comments
Posted February 25, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"Any attempt to speak without speaking any particular language is not more hopeless than the attempt to have a religion that shall be no religion in particular. . . . Thus every living and healthy religion has a marked idiosyncrasy. Its power consists in its special and surprising message and in the bias which that revelation gives to life." Its vistas and mysteries propound "another world to live in," and "another world to live in. . . is what we mean by having a religion."

De Botton's work is a laudable critique of what goes wrong in the old religions, which he seems to envy and about which he is nostalgic. "The religions" could take lessons from some of what he proposes. But it does not transcend the merely secular world, and does not appear to offer "another world to live in." We'll watch.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted February 24, 2012 at 6:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Rebecca Hensler’s infant son died in 2009, she received numerous condolences from friends, colleagues and even total strangers she met online.

She knew their intentions were good, but their words weren’t always helpful. And in the rawness of her grief, Hensler found some of them downright hurtful.

Hensler is an atheist, so when people described her three-month-old son Jude as being an angel, or part of God’s plan, or “in a better place” than in his mother’s arms, the pain sometimes overwhelmed her.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

6 Comments
Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Richard Dawkins was crossing proverbial swords with Giles Fraser, the Canon of St Paul’s, on the findings of a poll by his foundation which found that many people who describe themselves as Christian have low levels of belief and little or no practice.

Dr Dawkins claimed that self-identified Christians were “not really Christian at all” because an “astonishing number” couldn’t identify the first book in the New Testament (Matthew) during questioning for the poll.

Dr Fraser then challenged the country’s top Darwinist to name the full title of The Origin Of Species...[which Dr. Dawkins was unable to do]....Dr Dawkins later accused Dr Fraser of an “ambush”.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

9 Comments
Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Many people who describe themselves as Christian have low levels of belief and little or no practice, according to new research.
They identify as Christian because they were Baptised or because their parents were Christian rather than because they believe in the teachings of the Church, according to a poll carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation.
The poll, published today, comes the week before Dr Dawkins debates the question of human origins with the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in Oxford.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

0 Comments
Posted February 14, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Alain de Botton, probably the closest thing Britain has to a celebrity philosopher, has a Big Idea. Religion, he asserts, isn't "true", but its lack of truth is the least interesting thing about it. Instead of indulging in the dogmatic anti-theism associated with the likes of Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, why shouldn't atheists just "enjoy the best bits", as the publicity for his new book Religion For Atheists has it?

Many of us love Christmas carols, after all. Bach's cantatas are more profound and moving than anything written in the cause of atheism. Think of all those wonderful cathedrals, mosques and temples. Religion's power to transport the human spirit, to offer consolation and hope, to create a sense of belonging and inspire ethical conduct is undeniable even if you don't subscribe to the doctrines of a particular belief system. So let's work out precisely what gives religions their strength, "steal" it, bottle it and create a kind of transcendent secular humanism that will speak to people as deeply as religion does. Only without all that embarrassing dogma, not to mention the baggage of misogyny, homophobia, parochialism and intolerance with which most bona fide religions tend to come lumbered.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

7 Comments
Posted January 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Boulder Atheists announced Monday that the group has purchased space on three billboards in Denver and Colorado Springs to post messages that read, "God is an imaginary friend. Choose reality, it will be better for all of us."

Boulder Atheists co-founder Marvin Straus said billboards have proven an effective way for the organization to communicate with the public. He said recruiting more atheists isn't the goal.

"It's not like we're evangelical atheists," Straus said. "We don't care whether people are believers or non-believers. Our main goal is separation of church and state. The goal of the billboard is to encourage a dialogue."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

15 Comments
Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The elaborate Nativity scenes rose in a city park along the oceanfront here every December for nearly six decades. More than a dozen life-size dioramas depicted the Annunciation, Mary and Joseph being turned away at the inn and, of course, the manger.

This always angered Damon Vix, who worked off and on in Santa Monica and considers himself a devout atheist, so to speak. How could it be, he asked himself each year, that the city could condone such an overtly religious message?

So, a few years ago, he petitioned the city and received his own space, using it to put up a sign offering “Reason’s Greetings.” But this year, he wanted more. Mr. Vix gathered a few supporters and applied for dozens of spaces in Palisades Park, a patch of green on a bluff overlooking the sandy beaches that this city is famous for.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

25 Comments
Posted December 23, 2011 at 6:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If Dec. 10 had been an average day for Doctors Without Borders, the Swiss charity that sends medical help into crisis areas, its website would have logged 4,000 hits.

Instead, it was bombarded with more than 10 times that amount as atheists from the user-driven news site Reddit.com participated in a fundraiser that has so far raised more than $200,000.

“It’s amazing, what’s going on,” a DWB spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency. “The amount being raised is amazing, definitely.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted December 22, 2011 at 11:23 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christmas is...a time to remember family and friends who are no longer with us. They stay with us in loving memory, and we celebrate how much richer our lives are because they were a part of us, shaping us, and making us better for knowing them....

Like many of my Christian friends, I am not overly fond of the commercialization of Christmas. I bristle at seeing decorations any time before Thanksgiving and this year I’ve been particularly annoyed with a car advert that has hijacked one of my favorite secular holiday songs. However, I let all that fall away and think about being with my family and spending time laughing, telling stories, and watching the joy of Christmas shine through the eyes of my niece Quincie.

Christmas belongs to anyone who wants it, and just because I gave up believing in a god doesn’t mean I gave up believing in the love and joy of family. I did not give up the joy of celebration with my abandonment of the absurd. So to my religious and non-religious friends, I wish them all a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah from the heart and I hope they take it with the true spirit with which I give it – that of the spirt of humanity - something we can all celebrate.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

9 Comments
Posted December 22, 2011 at 7:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I gather that many people believe that atheism implies nihilism — that rejecting God means rejecting morality....isn’t it true, as Dostoevsky said, that “if God is dead, everything is permitted”?

Well, actually — no, it’s not. (And for the record, Dostoevsky never said it was.) Atheism does not entail that anything goes.

Admittedly, some atheists are nihilists. (Unfortunately, they’re the ones who get the most press.) But such atheists’ repudiation of morality stems more from an antecedent cynicism about ethics than from any philosophical view about the divine. According to these nihilistic atheists, “morality” is just part of a fairy tale we tell each other in order to keep our innate, bestial selfishness (mostly) under control. Belief in objective “oughts” and “ought nots,” they say, must fall away once we realize that there is no universal enforcer to dish out rewards and punishments in the afterlife. We’re left with pure self-interest, more or less enlightened.

...[actually, however] many theists, like many atheists, believe that moral value is inherent in morally valuable things. Things don’t become morally valuable because God prefers them; God prefers them because they are morally valuable. At least this is what I was taught as a girl, growing up Catholic: that we could see that God was good because of the things He commands us to do. If helping the poor were not a good thing on its own, it wouldn’t be much to God’s credit that He makes charity a duty.

It may surprise some people to learn that theists ever take this position, but it shouldn’t. This position is not only consistent with belief in God, it is, I contend, a more pious position than its opposite. It is only if morality is independent of God that we can make moral sense out of religious worship. It is only if morality is independent of God that any person can have a moral basis for adhering to God’s commands.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted December 20, 2011 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christopher Hitchens will be remembered as many things: an acerbic essayist, connoisseur of Scotch and cigarettes and roguish writer whose forceful pen was fueled by an imposing intellect.

Yet his impact on American life, which will be felt long after his death at age 62 on Thursday (Dec. 15), is likely to be the unabashed atheism he championed throughout his life, and the public voice he gave to growing numbers of unbelievers.

Even his foes—whose prayers he simultaneously welcomed and rejected as he battled esophageal cancer—say his acid-tongued arguments against God sharpened their own.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksMediaPhilosophyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted December 20, 2011 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How can the United States be what some have noticed, "the first secular nation," at the same time that it is "hyper-religious" in the eyes of others, notably European visitors? Pollsters are creatively busy as they listen to and observe these populations. Do the old definitions hold? Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund caught many an eye with her scholarly papers and media appearances. Ecklund's "Atheists and Agnostics Negotiate Religion and Family" in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion gave her space to develop her case, and an important one it is. Her Science vs. Religion is a recent notable and well-noted book in this field.

What I take from her work is a caution lest citizens fall into the trap of over defining. The hyper-theistic make up a larger number than the hyper-atheistic, but both speak with similar incaution, for example between quarterback snaps in the theistic case and in most utterances of "the new atheists" on the other. Ecklund finds that one in five polled or interviewed atheist scientists with children "involve their children with religious institutions."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

2 Comments
Posted December 14, 2011 at 11:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In “Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism,” published last week by Oxford University Press, he unleashes a blitz of densely reasoned argument against “the touchdown twins of current academic atheism,” the zoologist Richard Dawkins and the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, spiced up with some trash talk of his own.

Mr. Dawkins? “Dancing on the lunatic fringe,” Mr. [Alvin] Plantinga declares. Mr. Dennett? A reverse fundamentalist who proceeds by “inane ridicule and burlesque” rather than by careful philosophical argument.

On the telephone Mr. Plantinga was milder in tone but no less direct. “It seems to me that many naturalists, people who are super-atheists, try to co-opt science and say it supports naturalism,” he said. “I think it’s a complete mistake and ought to be pointed out.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPhilosophyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

0 Comments
Posted December 14, 2011 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In his leading article in the 19 December issue of the New Statesman, which he has guest-edited, the evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Richard Dawkins launches a scathing attack on David Cameron and his government's imposition of religious tradition on society in the form of faith schools.

Dawkins's open letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, leads with a warning that we must not be distracted "from the real domination of our culture and politics that religion gets away with in (tax-free) spades"; indeed, these religious traditions are "enforced by government edict".

In a direct rebuke to David Cameron's "government, [which,] like its predecessors, does force religion on our society, in ways whose very familiarity disarms us", Dawkins lists examples, from bishops in the House of Lords and the fast-tracking of "faith-based charities to tax-free status" to the "most obvious and serious" case of government-imposed religion: faith schools.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

5 Comments
Posted December 12, 2011 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

British philosopher A C Grayling has withdrawn from attending an interreligious event to promote world peace hosted by the Vatican.

Although the professor of philosophy had originally planned to attend the third “Prayer for Peace” in Assisi, Italy, he later changed his mind on discovering that it was an event for pilgrims.

Professor Grayling told The Catholic Herald: “I thought it was originally to have a discussion with the Pope about the place of religion in society but then it turned out it was a minor event and what they wanted was these guests to accompany the Pope on a pilgrimage. So I decided to withdraw.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVIOther FaithsAtheism

2 Comments
Posted October 20, 2011 at 12:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

: In his Rite and Reason articles last July/August, Prof James Mackey’s central thesis is that the theory of evolution (which he describes as “Dawkins’s Darwinism”) is unfit to serve as a moral code for the human race.

I agree. It is not. And no atheist that I know, particularly Richard Dawkins, has ever suggested that it is or should be or even could be.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

7 Comments
Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dr Rowan Williams argued it has become difficult for the Church to convey its message because of the popularity of non-believers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

He said attempts to reverse the decline in worshippers had begun but that there will be "no quick fix".

His remarks came despite new research, released by the Roman Catholic Church, suggesting that the Pope's visit to Britain a year ago has brought a lasting rise in the level of spiritual and religious feeling in the country.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

7 Comments
Posted September 20, 2011 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Have you heard the one about the comic who took on the establishment that loves him? Frank Skinner, the comedian, has accused atheists of threatening humanity. Interviewed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Skinner, a practising Catholic, urged fellow believers to stand together against secularists who undermine religion.

Even if it had been Dr Rowan Williams issuing this call to arms, the audience at Canterbury Cathedral would have stopped fanning themselves with their programmes, sat up and taken notice: turning the tables on, rather than turning the other cheek to, atheist bullies represents a sensational departure from the script British Christians have recited for generations.

But the man advocating that we “stop giving in” to atheists is a popular entertainer, the football-loving king of “laddish” humour. The issue is no longer a surprising rethink; it is a breathtaking act of subversion.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaMovies & TelevisionReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

2 Comments
Posted September 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Others learned a more lasting lesson from 9/11. Tony Blair seized the opportunity to establish the Tony Blair Foundation “to promote respect and understanding between the major religions.” Without attention to religion, politicians are hamstrung in today’s world. “We in the West tend to see people of religious faith as people to be pushed to one side,” Blair said earlier this year. “That quite aggressive secularism you see in the West does not understand what is happening in the rest of the world.” Blair wants to see religious passion harnessed to “make globalization work,” but he resists secularists’ efforts to use fears of holy terror to bludgeon believers back into their hovels.

Ten years on, all this is now obvious. Resurgent secularism is a blip on the screen, New Atheism a rearguard action in a losing battle. The ferment among Muslims and Christians continues apace, and in some places it will again turn tragically violent. We have no choice but to deal with it. The message of 9/11 was always this: The gods are still back, and they are here to stay.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

0 Comments
Posted September 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In September 2001, Sam Harris was an unknown doctoral student who didn't believe in God.

But after the World Trade Center crumbled on 9/11, he put his studies aside to write a book that became an instant best-seller -- and changed the way atheists, and perhaps Muslims, are perceived in this country.

Published in 2004, Harris's "The End of Faith" launched the so-called "New Atheist" movement, a make-no-apologies ideology that maintains that religion is not just flawed, but evil, and must be rejected.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

2 Comments
Posted August 31, 2011 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even if you believe in God, you might still be atheist. That's what Penn Jillette argues in his new book God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales.

The louder half of the magician duo Penn & Teller — of Showtime's Pen & Teller: Bull - - - - — frames his new book as the atheist's Ten Commandments. In it, he wanders from rants about the war on drugs to stories of eating shellfish and bacon cheeseburgers with Hasidic Jews....

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

3 Comments
Posted August 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A concert event organized by atheist, agnostic and other non-theist soldiers has been cleared by the Army to take place next spring at Fort Bragg, concert organizers and a spokesman for the post said Monday.

Organizers planned to hold the Rock Beyond Belief event this year, but they canceled after saying Bragg leadership was not providing the same support it gave to an evangelical Christian concert last fall.

Supporters hailed the Army’s decision.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed ForcesReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

10 Comments
Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So where does morality come from, if not from God? Two places: evolution and secular reasoning. Despite the notion that beasts behave bestially, scientists studying our primate relatives, such as chimpanzees, see evolutionary rudiments of morality: behaviors that look for all the world like altruism, sympathy, moral disapproval, sharing — even notions of fairness. This is exactly what we'd expect if human morality, like many other behaviors, is built partly on the genes of our ancestors.

And the conditions under which humans evolved are precisely those that would favor the evolution of moral codes: small social groups of big-brained animals. When individuals in a group can get to know, recognize and remember each other, this gives an advantage to genes that make you behave nicely towards others in the group, reward those who cooperate and punish those who cheat. That's how natural selection can build morality. Secular reason adds another layer atop these evolved behaviors, helping us extend our moral sentiments far beyond our small group of friends and relatives — even to animals.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 2, 2011 at 11:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three church-state activist groups criticized the Army for allowing an evangelical concert at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg but not making similar provisions for a “Rock Beyond Belief” concert for nonbelievers.

The three groups—Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina—on Tuesday (July 5) complained to the Secretary of the Army about events that appear to give “selective benefits” to religious groups.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted July 12, 2011 at 5:56 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Secularism is moving slowly in America, but the story of religious belief and practice here looks even more complex if one takes a long view. More than 60% of Americans belong to some formal religious body today. In the late 18th century, that number was less than 10%.

Any intellectually serious program in secular studies will avoid triumphalism and deal with the complexity of secularism's history. It will know that the recent history of Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand is not the history of all humanity. It will also acknowledge that there is not merely one variety of secularism—some secularists have strong beliefs in paranormal phenomena, which disgusts other secularists. A serious program will also acknowledge that some of the best work on secularism has been done by Christians, foremost among them the Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor.

A few years down the line, how can we know that secular studies at Pitzer is living up to its promise? One sign: If some of its students come in as devout atheists or agnostics and leave as religious believers.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted May 20, 2011 at 11:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An atmosphere of moral panic surrounds religion. Viewed not so long ago as a relic of superstition whose role in society was steadily declining, it is now demonised as the cause of many of the world's worst evils. As a result, there has been an explosion in the literature of proselytising atheism.

The abrupt shift in the perception of religion is only partly explained by terrorism. The 9/11 hijackers saw themselves as martyrs in a religious tradition, and western opinion has accepted their self-image. And there are some who view the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a danger comparable with the worst that were faced by liberal societies in the 20th century.

For Dawkins and Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Martin Amis, Michel Onfray, Philip Pullman and others, religion in general is a poison that has fuelled violence and oppression throughout history, right up to the present day. The urgency with which they produce their anti-religious polemics suggests that a change has occurred as significant as the rise of terrorism: the tide of secularisation has turned.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted May 11, 2011 at 5:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This Easter it seems that atheists have a lot to rejoice about. According to the latest data in the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of self-proclaimed atheists in America has nearly doubled since 2001 — from 900,000 to 1.6 million.

In a nation that once prided itself on its Judeo-Christian heritage, one out of every five Americans now claims no religious identity whatsoever; and the number of self-proclaimed Christians has declined by a whopping 15%.

Yes, those who believe in nothing seem to be winning more and more converts every year.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEaster* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted April 28, 2011 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I'm glad Jemima Khan asked me to contribute to this issue of the New Statesman as it (at last) gives me the opportunity to prove the existence of God. You may think me unqualified for a task that has baffled the finest theologians, philosophers and physicists since the dawn of time but don't worry, I've been unqualified for every job I've ever embarked on, from learning to drive to working as a postman for the Royal Mail, and both these quests were successfully completed, aside from a few broken wing mirrors and stolen letters. So, unlike the Christmas money of the residents of Ockendon, Essex, you're in good hands. Atheists are all about us, sermonising from the godless pulpit on the benefits of their anti-faith with some pretty good arguments like, oh I dunno, "evolution" and oddly, I think, given the stated nature of their motives, being incredibly reductive in their line and manipulative in their targets....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

2 Comments
Posted April 12, 2011 at 5:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Every other Wednesday, right after school at 2:45, the newest club at Rutherford High, the atheist club, meets in Room 13-211.

Last Wednesday, Jim Dickey, the president, started out by asking his fellow student atheists (there are a few agnostics, too) whether they wanted to put together an all-atheist Ultimate Frisbee team for a charity event.

“We can pay the entry fee from the club treasury,” said Michael Creamer, the atheists’ faculty adviser, who urged them to take part.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureTeens / Youth* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

2 Comments
Posted April 6, 2011 at 6:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A group of religious non-believers at Fort Bragg is pushing for the U.S. military to make sure they get the same treatment as religious groups.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed ForcesReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

5 Comments
Posted April 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A new Vatican initiative to promote dialogue between believers and atheists debuted with a two-day event on Thursday and Friday (March 24-25) in Paris.

“Religion, Light and Common Reason” was the theme of seminars sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture at various locations in the French capital, including Paris-Sorbonne University and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVIOther FaithsAtheism

8 Comments
Posted March 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bible-reading, knitting, Twitter, and atheism are among the activities Christians are being encouraged to take up for Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday next week.

The Bishop of Huntingdon, Dr David Thomson, this week issued a challenge to Christians to join him in reading the whole of the Bible during Lent, as part of the challenge, “Round the Bible in 40 Days”.

“Most people have their favourite Bible passages, but they usually read it in small chunks and often without much sense of continuity,” Dr Thom­son said. “So it’s good from time to time to get to grips with the whole of its architecture and soak ourselves in its big story of creation, redemption, and the coming of the Kingdom.”

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsLent* Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

0 Comments
Posted March 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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