Secular Web Feature Articles
Atheism in the Third Millennium by Kim Walker
A second generation atheist, Kim Walker explores the distinguishing characteristics of two common perspectives within the atheist community: that resulting from being born and bred with religion and later suffering a crisis of faith and the perspective of those who are raised as freethinkers from the onset. As a conclusion to his essay, the author proposes a new development for the nonreligious, worthy of millennial fanfare. Walker's article has inspired the Secular Web to consider possible projects for the future in this regard. Enjoy the first article to be featured on the Secular Web in our new millennium and keep an eye on the site for exciting developments.
The Secular Web revisits the subject of the Ten Commandments with a piece by David Cortesi. Cortesi addresses the issue by returning the commandments to their biblical context, showing that not even the commandments' originators would agree with what advocates of public posting are proposing.
An Enquiry Concerning the Evangelical Religion by Brian Rainey
The author, once a member of the evangelical religion, attempted to reconcile his homosexuality with his faith. In so doing he exposed several characteristics about evangelism that led to a full rejection of religious belief and an understanding of the hypocrisy that underlies fundamentalism. In the following essay Brian Rainey recounts his experiences and offers a glimpse into the many interpretations of Biblical passages that address the issue of homosexuality.
An Open Letter to the American People from Alan Hale
Alan Hale, codiscoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp, urges Americans to think critically about the upcoming Presidential Elections. In an open letter to the American public, he confronts the issues at hand, addresses the diversity of stances being made, and emphasizes the importance this election will have on the very future of human civilization. "The decision we make next week will have effects which will reverberate throughout our nation and our overall human society for many decades to come..."
Ghosts, Vampires, Pat Robertson and Other Scary Creatures by Lynne Schultz
The Halloween Hoopla is upon us once again but this season the madness isn't to be found in its usual spots (the moon, the insane asylum, the chocolate factory, ...) No, instead, all brands of crazy and gobbledygook find their source in the ranting and ravings of the self-proclaimed prophets of God. Move over Jack Chick! Lynne Schultz brings us to speed on the warnings being sent by the messengers of all that is good, decent, and holy within our universe. She examines the recent brouhaha over the hugely popular best seller series: Harry Potter , and the mountains of other books, tv programs, and games that have been branded EVIL. Could the success of fantasy, along with our nation's consistent trend to celebrate Halloween each year be a sign that our children are plunging into a mass hysterical pagan fest, being charmed into a universal declaration of Hail Satan! or do ultrafundamentalists need to get a life?
Qur'an: A Work of Multiple Hands? by Denis Giron
Biblical criticism, often applied to Judeo-Christian texts, is here applied to the Qur'an. What is often assumed by Muslims to be the word of Allah, or by many critics to be the word of Muhammad, is proposed by the author to be a compilation of variant traditions, possibly with multiple authors. Mr. Giron addresses the many contradictions and conflicting statements found within the Qur'an, the tendency of Muslim apologists' to sacrifice their intellectual integrity in order to salvage their cherished beliefs as found within other religions, and examines many multiple stories within the Qur'an itself, all which differ in detail. In conclusion, the author repeats the claim that the Qur'an is "the product of belated and imperfect editing of materials from a plurality of traditions." The Secular Web is very pleased to offer our readers the following essay, written by the moderator of our Islamic section . The rarity of submissions on Islam and the unfortunate lack of understanding on this subject within the Western world, along with the fine writing of the author, makes this feature an especially worthwhile read for scholars and laymen, both.
An irreverent, mildly satirical look at ending the clash between capitalism, communism, socialism and radical repressive fundamentalist religious theocracies; done in the style of the French philosophers, this essay will give you most of the intellectual tools you need, the author hopes, to finally put communism, socialism and repressive religious fundamentalist theocracies where they belong; in the dustbin of history. In this endeavor the author employs relentless logic, evolution, passion, common sense and an offbeat sense of humor to complete the task. Bon appetite, enjoy this intellectual banquet.
Helping God Help Us Help Ourselves by Randy McGregor
The author explores the achievements of humanity and the accompanying credit that is all too often heaped upon God. He challenges the rationale behind this process along with its utility in Biblical times and in our present day society. Indeed, the concept of God, can and does "serve as a magnifying glass through which human aspiration is focused" but it is time now to rewrite the popular Christian poem Footprints recognizing clearly who is carrying Who.
The Incoherence of Original Sin and Substitutive Sacrifice by Philip Kuchar
The punishment suffered by Jesus, that of the crucifixion, gave rise to multiple interpretations to explain how and why God allowed His Son to suffer so. The concept of Original Sin became one of the central tenets of the Christian religion to explain God's actions in sacrificing His Son. Jesus is said to have born the sins of the world in an effort to cleanse humanity from sin. The author explores the concept of Original Sin, the idea of sin transferal, while questioning the notion of whether Jesus' fate was indeed a sacrifice as claimed.
In a powerful and informative essay, Tabash discusses the arguments being raised in the Secular Community for and against the election of Al Gore as President. He also comments on the growing support for Ralph Nader and how it may actually lead to increased support for George Bush. Throughout the article, Tabash paints a very frightening picture of the effects upon nontheists, and the state of affairs within the US at large, should the Republicans take the House.
1 Corinthians 15 is a biblical chapter often referred to in discussing the Resurrection of Jesus. David Friedman explores the literalist claim of a physical resurrection by presenting evidence that shows the authors of Corinthians, and the witnesses to the resurrection, were referring solely to a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one.
'No Pray No Play' What Went Wrong? by James Still
In protest against the recent Supreme Court decision against Santa Fe High School, Christian organizers at the school called for a "spontaneous prayer" to begin immediately after the school band played the national anthem. The plan fizzled and few participated in the prayer. Still gives two reason why he thinks it failed.
The Metaphysical Freedom by Claudio Lujan
Theoretical physics and philosophy join forces in this masterly crafted essay on determinism and metaphysical freedom. The author, along with many great minds throughout the centuries, is fascinated by the problem of free will, for it encourages us to ask ourselves if we are the masters of our own destiny. As science continues on the path of discovery we may be approaching our answer.
A Thought Experiment: On The Problem of Unjustifiable Suffering by Dale Proctor
Although the problem of suffering has been written about for millennia, with great detail and sophistication, and by some of our world's greatest minds, Dale Proctor revisits the issue with a simplicity that allows all to grasp the insurmountable difficulty it continues to pose to the believer.
Lowder responds to a recent Hanegraaff "Bible Answer Man" radio show segment with The Case for Christ author Lee Strobel. After a caller mentioned Lowder's book review on the Internet and asked Strobel to respond, he and Hanegraaff went to great lengths to avoid talking about it or mentioning "Lowder" or the "Secular Web" by name, claiming that it would be "free advertising" to do so. Why are these gentlemen afraid of us? What are they trying to hide from their listeners?
Second Letter on Behalf of Prof. Dr. Gerd Luedemann by Robert W. Funk
Do the theological faculties of Germany's state universities serve only the church, or do they also serve the broader needs of a pluralistic culture? This is the central question in the debate surrounding biblical scholar and George-August University faculty member Gerd Luedemann who, after announcing his nonbelief publicly last year, was then denied his academic rights in his teaching position. This second letter, provided to us by an interested third party, responds to the Dean of George-August and defends Luedemann against the charge that he is unfit to prepare students for ordination in the Lutheran Church.
The Strategies of Christian Fundamentalism
by Joseph R. Kiefer II
This article posits that the strategies employed by fundamentalist Christians to induce belief in doctrine diminishes human potential through evoking fear and guilt and promoting powerlessness in adherents. The author illustrates the untoward effects suffered by adherents through adopting the Christian fundamentalist belief of unworthiness, and he discusses the maladaptive coping strategies developed as a result of these beliefs. Examples are given of fundamentalist Christians viewing themselves as persecuted while condemning others of different religions. The author further demonstrates how circular reasoning entraps believers and leaves them ignorant of their helplessness. Finally, he describes how personal vulnerabilities are manipulated by rigid doctrine and strict authority in order to control adherents and propagate the religion.
Design Yes, Intelligent No: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory and Neo-Creationism "
by Massimo Pigliucci
A regular contributor to The Secular Web, Dr. Massimo Pigliucci continues to challenge creationism on all fronts, including the latest brand of intelligent design theory. Referring specifically to the work of William Dembski and Michael Behe, the author highlights the fatal flaws in the ID arguments and renders a crushing blow to the pseudoscience that underlies creationist claims.
The Unchristian Roots of the Fourth of July by Michael E. Buckner
As we celebrate Independence Day across America it is worth publishing once again an accurate history of the philosophy of government that underlies the US Constitution. In The Unchristian Roots of the Fourth of July, Michael Buckner sets the record straight.
Dostoevsky Didn't Say It (2000) by David E. Cortesi
David Cortesi offers up the results of his research into whether or not Fydor Dostoevsky, in his brilliant novel The Brothers Karamazov, actually wrote the words: "If God does not exist, everything is permitted." Cortesi challenges the widely-propagated myth further by questioning the relevancy of attributing such a statement to the author regardless if it is, indeed, an accurate description of the belief espoused by one of the fictional characters in his novel.
Last night (June 26) on ABC, Peter Jennings hosted a two-hour special entitled "The Search for Jesus". Jennings' reporting is important because most Americans, ironically, are barely literate when it comes to the historical Jesus in particular and the New Testament texts in general.
Debate is raging through the country over the recent Supreme Court decision not to allow student-led prayer on the football field. Jeff Lowder challenges the opposition by clarifying the difference between a secular government and an atheistic one, thereby showing the fallacies of the arguments being raised.
What ever happened to Solon? An Ancient Greek who founded democracy and the concept of equality, Solon's work is the true inspiration behind America. His moral code far outshines Moses' Ten Commandments and would be a much more appropriate document to place within our public schools. It is time that the long forgotten Athenian be resurrected.
When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)--the U.S. governmental agency that regulates the airwaves--decided recently to revisit its standards for granting noncommercial educational (NCE) broadcast licenses, fundamentalist televangelists who stand to lose their subsidy attacked the agency. Now religious right allies in Congress have come to the televangelists' aid with two new bills.
The Riddle of the Four Faces: Solving an Ancient Mystery (2000) by Darek Barefoot
It seems problematic that there are four (and only four) gospels in the NT canon. Barefoot seeks to provide a more objective reason for thinking that Ezekiel's mysterious "four faces"--the man, lion, ox, and eagle--play a hand in the selection of the canonical four gospels in the early history of the Church.
How to Educate an Atheist (2000) by Michael Martin
What is a well-educated atheist? Martin distinguishes between educating someone about atheism and educating him or her to be an atheist. The question of atheistic education, he argues, is not so much how people come to be atheists, but rather what they should learn once they are atheists.
Self-Anointed Saints (2000) by T. J. McLaughlin
Some pandering presidential candidates would do well to reacquaint themselves with basic civics. In a society which values freedom of religion the last thing we need is intentional blurring of the lines between church and state.
From Where Comes Inspiration? (2000) by Kyle Kirkland
There's a bunch of stuff going on in your brain about which you know nothing. In times of need or at some critical moment, sudden knowledge and inspiration often seem to come from the spark of the divine. Kirkland explores the question, "from where comes inspiration?"
The Rationality of an Illusion (2000) by Taner Edis
We rail against supernatural faiths, not just for their palpable falsity, but for their sanctified cruelties, their crippled imaginations, and their all-too-common suspicion of human efforts to better our lives.
Open Letter on Behalf of Gerd Luedemann (2000) by Fellows of the Jesus Seminar
Pressured by the church in the wake of Professor Luedemann's deconversion, the University and the Theological Faculty have effectively barred him from offering courses or advising students. Jesus Seminar Chair Robert W. Funk and other signatories wrote this open letter on Luedemann's behalf.
Falun Gong: Ancient Wisdom or Mere Scientology? (2000) by Joshua Samuel Brown
Moving to their own inner chi, practitioners of the outlawed Chinese sect Falun Gong meditate in parks all over the world. Fresh from Beijing, Brown reports on his encounters with this controversial new movement.
House Chaplaincy Fiasco (2000)
After months of bitter fighting and accusations of religious bigotry, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has named the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest, as the new House chaplain.
Opinion Polls for School Curriculum? (2000) by J. E. Hill
Hill argues that evolution should be taught in public schools because it's the best scientific theory with the most favorable evidence on its side to explain our natural world and not because it's the most popular.
College of Charleston Mathematics Professor Dr. Herb Silverman has contributed funds to establish an endowed student scholarship at the school.
In a new nationwide poll on the subject of evolution, commissioned by People For the American Way Foundation, 83% of Americans say Darwin's theory of evolution belongs in the nation's science classes.
The Appeal of Incarnation (2000) by Paul McRandle
Of the many mad destinies we create in our mythologies, McRandle explores the notion of incarnational thinking whereby we separate the mind from the body. When this happens, religious and political exploitation of the body cannot be far behind.
Pope John Paul II will soon request forgiveness for the conduct of the church over the centuries. It reportedly takes 50 pages to lay it all out--things like the papal pogroms against the Jews, the crusades against Islam, and the Inquisitions against its own people. Will 50 pages be enough?
Robertson taped a telephone message in support of candidate George W. Bush, warning Michigan voters that John McCain was pro-labor, against the First Amendment, and that a McCain victory would destroy the Republican Party. But Michigan voters didn't go for it. Is this the beginning of the end for Pat Robertson?
Is Anybody Out There? (2000) by Paul M. Pfalzner
With the decentralized SETI program now running quietly on thousands of PCs, futurists think that we'll discover extraterrestrial intelligence in our lifetimes. Is the whole "first contact" crowd little more than a cargo cult of lonely island peoples or is there something to this whole SETI thing?
When Cupid's arrow strikes, is it mere molecules in motion or have we finally found our soul mate? Carrier explores nature's greatest mystery--amore!--as well as the notion of physical beauty, impulse, biology, and Hollywood's obsession with sex.
Proposed Legislation Encourages Christian Bigotry (2000) by Steven Schafersman
After two years, the Baptists who rent out a summer camp have decided they now want the legal right to deny the use of their camp grounds to the secular humanists who have rented from them the past two seasons.
Death and the Meaning of Life (2000) by Keith Augustine
If a sentient God existed, Augustine argues, then the value that he would attribute to our lives would not be the same as the value that we find in living and thus would be irrelevant. Therefore, we must create our own meaning for our lives regardless of whether or not our lives serve some higher purpose.
Afterlife and Meaning (2000) by Kevin D. Huddleston
Huddleston questions Still's philosophical assault on the notion of life after death. If one understands this life as a time of soul-making, then our earthly life is neither purposeless nor overshadowed by the afterlife to come.
In this revision of an earlier essay, Lowder explores two widely-held assertions, namely, that all nonbelievers are freethinkers and that no believers can be freethinkers.
Double-Talk in Defense of the Dubious (2000) by Philip Kuchar
The existence of both hell and God's love and mercy cannot easily be justified, and neither can the appropriateness of substitutive sacrifice. In wanting to hide or soften the repugnant ideas of hell and human sacrifice, the theologian resorts to "double-talk".
We tumble into the world without purpose and when we leave it we are gone forever. But I still believe that, rightly examined and understood, we can experience eternal life.
On January 15, after five years of building the Secular Web from the ground up, Internet Infidels President Jeffery Jay Lowder will retire. Jeff has decided it is time to move on and is interested in going back to school to study philosophy. He also looks forward to finishing several papers and other projects.
Dial a Psychic (2000) by Reginald V. Finley
One day in August, Mr. Finley decided to answer an ad in the paper and to become a psychic. When you guess whether someone is married or single, has children, or is ill, you've got a fifty-fifty chance--so what have you got to lose? No special powers are needed to be a psychic: just reason, probability, and luck.
Out-of-Body Experiences (2000) by Ian Williams Goddard
Paranormal experiences that transcend the perceived confines of the body, such as out-of-body experiences, may be seen as evidence of the existence of a "spiritual body" that can exceed the confines of the physical body. Goddard argues, however, that there is a simple neurological explanation for such paranormal experiences.
The increase in the power of computers over the past thirty years has brought us to the point where a cheap desktop computer can perform over a million floating point calculations every second. Complicated simulations that were unthinkable ten years ago can now be performed by the computer you're staring at right now. In fact, we can go beyond simulation--we can show evolutionary principles applied to real situations, in new fields such as genetic programming and artificial life.