Published on the Secular Web
Carl Sagan's struggle against superstition.
Bigotry ruled the "moral" 1950s.
A backlash against fundamentalists in the GOP.
Religious atrocities in the daily news.
Famous people who doubted religion.
Forces of the universe don't include magical spirits.
Another fanatic thinks God said "Thou shalt kill."
Make life better, in spite of the craziness.
Crackpot militias: guns against "the Antichrist."
Planet positions don't dictate people's lives.
Cultists plant nerve gas to kill subway passengers.
As death nears, heaven fantasies are self-deception.
Once again, supernaturalism produces mass deaths.
It stemmed from a famous doomsday fiasco.
Holy-rollers and holy hucksters.
Women stoned, Ulster bombed, as faith goes bonkers.
A fundamentalist uprising against "godless" textbooks.
Criminals and psychos among ministers.
Waco was merely the latest faith disaster.
Religious killings are little noticed.
The great existentialist's atheism.
Religious slaughter through the centuries.
Saints who exterminated doubters.
Real scripture written in quarks, gravity, photons, galaxies.
Crooked evangelists fleece their flocks.
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States forbids any law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and yet conservatives have spent centuries trying to do exactly that. Freedom of speech or of the press refer to the same thing—the ability voice beliefs or ideas, however unpopular, without fear of punishment for speaking up. As a governmental right, it was a slowly-won one that lies at the heart of democracy. The right to speak up is no more and no less than the right to think freely without arrest or prosecution. Haught surveys the history of censorship from suppressing heterodoxy and nonconfirmity to sexual censorship up through our present day era of religion-driven murder for saying or doing the "wrong" things.
At a time when brutal leaders ruled according to the divine right of kings and serfs approximated slaves, intolerance fostered by the union of church and state led to the execution or jailing of heretics representing a threat to state power. But more than three centuries ago, chiefly in England and France, an epoch now known as the Enlightenment broke forth, spawning ideas that later grew into what we now call modern liberalism. The Enlightenment roused a new way of thinking: a sense that all people should have some control over their lives, a voice in their own destiny. Absolute power of authorities—either on the throne or in the cathedral—was challenged. Reformers sought to improve society and benefit nearly everyone using human reason and the scientific method. It is from this Enlightment spirit that the freedoms enjoyed across modern liberal democracies today sprouted, projecting a model for humane, safe, and fair treatment.
The long-foreseen Secular Age is arriving at a gallop. Survey after survey finds snowballing increases of Americans who say their religion is "none." The 2017 American Family Survey found that "nones" have climbed past one-third of U.S. adults—the highest ratio yet tallied. These churchless people have become the nation's largest faith category.
America is now losing religion faster than any other nation. American churches lost 20% of their members in the past two decades. Two-thirds of teens raised in church drop out in their twenties. Southern Baptists lost two million members since 2005. Mainline Protestantism is fading to a shadow. Meanwhile, churchless Americans began soaring in the 1990s and climbed past one-fourth of the population. They tend to hold compassionate social views and have become a powerhouse in "Left Coast" politics. If they continue rising as a progressive political force, America will be a better place for it.
Does God exist? Perhaps, if you mean something metaphorical by "God," you might be able to honestly answer in the affirmative. Otherwise, the most we can say is "I don't know." But honest people can go farther and say that the existence of unseen spirits is unlikely. When you get down to it, the only evidence of God's existence is that holy men, past and present, say he exists. But if their assertions about God are as valid as their assertions about witches, their trillion-dollar empires rest on fantasy.
Science's answers to the ultimate mysteries of existence are almost as baffling and logic-defying as the mumbo-jumbo of churches. They can seem nearly as absurd as the miracle claims of religion. But there's a crucial difference: science is honest. Nothing is accepted on blind faith. Every claim is challenged, tested, double-tested, and triple-tested until it fails or survives. New evidence often alters former conclusions. Honest thinkers have little choice but to trust science as the only reliable search for believable answers.
The pandemic gripping the world raises the age-old philosophical dilemma called "the problem of evil"—which asks why a supposedly all-loving God does nothing to stop horrors like diseases, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like. If there's an all-merciful father-creator, why did he make breast cancer, childhood leukemia, cerebral palsy, natural disasters, and predator animals that rip peaceful grazers apart?
The Internet provides a worldwide haven for freethought—and it also creates more freethought. If in-person meetings can't make a sanctuary for doubters, cyberland can. Religions spent centuries draining believers' resources to build a trillion-dollar global labyrinth of cathedrals, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, etc. Skeptics have only a few physical citadels. But, with little investment, the secular movement is making a worldwide intellectual home in the scientific marvel of cyberspace.
We unsure people are doomed to be seekers, always searching for a meaning to life, but never quite finding one. Both the cosmos and our biosphere seem utterly indifferent to humanity, caring not a whit whether we live or die. Only a monster would arrange the monstrosities too often found in our world, and do nothing to save the victims. So common sense proves that the beneficent modern God is a fantasy who doesn't exist. We who are not orthodox religious believers can't find any underlying reason for existence. And we know that death looms ahead. So we must make the interval as enjoyable as possible, while we're here.
The modern Islamic "cult of death baffles most Westerners. Logical minds cannot comprehend why idealistic young men, and even a few women, volunteer to sacrifice their lives to slaughter unsuspecting, unarmed folks. It makes no sense.