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July 14, 2015
"Being raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, 'doing the right thing' was a simple equation, one in which the result was always predictable: either I obeyed and measured up to the standard of right--or I did not. Having the rules simplified and the choices limited allowed a sense of security and a false confidence so that whether or not I measured up I could point to exactly which steps or missteps were responsible."
June 17, 2015
If any of a number of the universe's physical constants had been even slightly different, then life as we know it could not exist. According to the fine-tuning argument, the extreme improbability of the actual constants having, by chance, their uniquely life-permitting values suggests that they were "fine-tuned" by God to allow life to exist. But there are at least two fatal problems with the fine-tuning argument. First, if the fine-tuning argument's premises hold, then its conclusion does not, since a parallel "divine-pruning" argument yields the opposite conclusion using the exact same line of reasoning. Second, the fine-tuning argument wrongly assumes that the extreme improbability of a unique outcome's occurrence by chance in this lottery-like context implies that that outcome did not occur by chance. Both problems show that the fine-tuning argument does not justify theism or even supernaturalism more generally.
June 16, 2015
The freedom of our schools to teach well-established science and to instill an appreciation for independent critical thinking is under attack by religious fundamentalists. To the extent they succeed, our children and our society will suffer.
May 30, 2015
Karen Stollznow's God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States teaches us quite a bit about fundamentalist Mormonism, Amish and Mennonite Protestantism, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity, Afro-Caribbean religions, exorcism and Satanism, Scientology, New Age spirituality, and Quakerism. But it also has countless substantive, stylistic, and even grammatical flaws, and it is doubtful that she succeeds in providing her intended "sensitive but factual" and appropriately critical portrayal of the groups that she discusses. But despite these flaws, it is informative enough, interesting enough, and occasionally perceptive enough to be worth reading.
May 25, 2015
The argument that 20th century atheist regimes are responsible for the worst massacres in history is often put forth, especially by Christian apologists bent on showing what happens when we "turn away from God." But what are the facts?