Kings David and Solomon are said to have ruled over a huge kingdom that stretched from the Euphrates River to as far as the border of Egypt (according to the Bible). Archeological confirmation of the existence of such an expansive kingdom is inconclusive, however. Some apologists hold that evidence for their reign would not have survived some three millenia later. In this essay, however, Robert Shaw considers a similarly sized civilization, contemporaneous with that of David and Solomon, to explore what remnants of a three-thousand-year-old polity can reasonably be expected to be discovered today.
In this largely autobiographical account of why he is now an apostate, James McCartney reflects on the difference between a mere skeptic and former believer who undergoes a kind of deconversion over time. McCartney recounts how his first school teacher, his diligence at Presbyterian Sunday School, and a poem by Robert Burns led him to reject the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and those of other churches like it.
A popular advocacy video on YouTube attempting to rebut arguments from evil has been disseminating among Christian religious organizations for about a decade. In an attempt to show that arguments from evil for the nonexistence of God fail, the video likens them to arguments from (human) longhairs to the nonexistence of barbers. In this article, James R. Henderson refutes the suggested theodicy that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God allows apparently gratuitous evils to occur because God wants more human beings to come to Him of their own free will.
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.
Ritual is one of the most universally enjoyed human experiences, but it is often tangled up in supernatural claims that are insulting to our intelligence. Hiram Crespo, founder of the Society of Friends of Epicurus, discusses how the contractarian theory of Epicurean philosophy may be applied to the creation of rites of passage that retain their utility while being purged from superstition.
The story of Moses and the Exodus continues to be seen as a historical fact by many Americans, and its events are commemorated with a ‘Seder’ meal in over a million households every year. In this article, Robert Shaw considers whether or not the story can be placed comfortably into the timeline of Egyptian history as we currently understand 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.
Most people (whether they are religious or not) either assume or were taught that the Israelites were, and had always been, monotheistic: that they believed in only one God and thus worshiped Yahweh only. Is this idea based on truth, tradition, or maybe assumption? In this paper, Jason Gibson attempts to uncover the truth–a truth that most people are unaware of, and one that, were it common knowledge, could signal the end of all of the Abrahamic religions. Were the ancient Israelites henotheistic? If acknowledged, the answer could change the world as we know it.
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 Bible has long been lauded as a moral guidebook for humankind. In this article, Robert Shaw asks whether the Bible offers any guidance to help us deal with the more complex issues that we face in the modern era. At a time when many minds are focused on the forthcoming US presidential election, Shaw also considers whether the Bible gives any counsel as to how countries should be governed, and what types of political leaders are biblically preferred.
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?
In this article explaining why he self-identifies as a humanist, Leslie Allan first explains what he found attractive enough about humanism to adopt its label. Then he outlines what he takes to be humanism’s three guiding principles. Finally, he explores a humanist view of what gives our lives meaning and purpose.
Skeptics sometimes describe religion as a parasite on the human mind. In this article, Anthony Campbell looks at some of the implications of this way of thinking for understanding religion. He then considers whether biological parasitism may literally play a part in the formation of religious belief before bringing out some of the implications of these ideas for our understanding of why religion exists.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has led many, whether believers or not, to consider how widespread suffering can be reconciled with a belief in a loving God. In this article, Shaw considers the arguments advanced by people of faith to square this circle, such as the idea that the novel coronavirus has been sent by God as a punishment.
In this article, H. J. van der Meer points out that although much of the world believes in some sort of divine being/s, believers seem perfectly happy to use scientific creations like modern medicines, artificial fertilizers, or mobile phones. He points out that these products could only have arisen from a manner of thinking that has also led us to understand the natural world as a product of evolutionary processes. Although this scientific (or naturalistic) view of the world is incomplete and the world is not fully comprehensible, the worldview is the logical consequence of the methodology. Nevertheless, many Christians believe in a ‘god of the gaps’ that is called upon when scientific explanations fail, and they may even advocate Intelligent Design creationism. At least traditional (young-earth) creationists, Jews, and Muslims, he notes, are less hypocritical in their rejection of scientific theories about the evolution of life and the universe: they stick to their belief in a divine Creator in the teeth of the evidence. But what is it that causes people to cling so firmly to their religion, and become so suspicious of science, in the first place?
In this article, Floyd Wells provides a legal challenge to the indictment of mankind by the Abrahamic religions, which hold that we will all come back as zombies at the end of the world to stand trial for our misdeeds. Using logic and reason, as well as national and international law, Wells attacks the basic premise that mankind is guilty due to an infraction committed by the first generation of humans in the Garden of Eden. What results is a legal brief to be litigated on Judgment Day in the unlikely event that such a day should ever arrive, a showdown in which humans hold the moral high ground.
Many claims for miraculous cures concern recovery from cancer. These are highly impressive and dramatic, and to many people they seem to provide incontrovertible evidence for a miracle. But how often does cancer remit spontaneously outside a religious context? And how do such spontaneous remissions come about? While medical events that could not be accommodated within the realm of the natural can easily be imagined, such as the regrowth of an amputated limb or the restoration of sight lost through glaucoma, in this article Anthony Campbell divulges that he is unaware of the documentation of any such case.
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.
In this article Robert Shaw examines some of the successes attributed to the authors of the Bible, and compares them to those of other secular prophets such as Nostradamus, in being able to precisely tell the future. Shaw looks at a number of ways in which these prophecies are given the appearance of fulfillment by those that advocate their validity. He then argues that the skill of being able to predict the future accurately is scientifically impossible.
Do you meditate? If so, why? Is it because you are spiritual? Do you hope that it may lead to enlightenment? What is enlightenment anyway? Does it even exist? In this article Anthony Campell considers these questions in the light of his experience of two methods of meditation, Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Buddhist insight meditation (mindfulness).
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.
An embellished and creatively written history of the origins and development of a Canaanite tribe underlies Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. None of the myriad of documents from ancient Egypt ever mention hundreds of thousands of foreign slaves leaving following a series of catastrophes, for example, nor has any archaeological evidence of the movement of a supposed half a million refugees from the Sinai peninsula ever been uncovered. Nevertheless, the Jesus of the Gospels seems to concur with this erroneous version of history, affirming the Genesis creation myth, the existence of the mythological Noah and Abraham, and the historicity of Moses’ exodus, among other things. The Qur’an and Islamic exegesis subscribe to the historicity of such people and events no less. The arbitrary selection of Yahweh—the Canaanite god of metallurgy—from the vast Canaanite pantheon of gods over 2,500 years ago has had a profound effect on the belief systems of billions of people who have lived since.
I share with my friend Peter the idea that organized religion and contemporary beliefs about God are not credible, but I think he still possesses some of the elements of a “seeker.” He recently expressed excitement after learning about neuroscientist David Eagleman’s “possibilianism.” After listening to one of Eagleman’s talks, it seemed to me that he made an argument from ignorance when he concluded that “our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism.” What does “ignorance of the cosmos” have to do with atheism? I think he does not understand what atheists actually think. Simply stated, we think that there is no evidence to support the supernatural in general or God in particular. It seems that Dr. Eagleman has created a straw man, but unfortunately many people, including my dear friends, are impressed with his presentation. Nothing about the astronomical information he cites refutes the idea that there is no evidence for God or the supernatural. Indeed, if anything, that information reinforces that science and reason offer the only possible hope that we will ever understand the cosmos.
As far as we know, the natural world is all there is. If there are realms that we cannot know, then there is no use in speculating upon them. Weak naturalism limits itself to what we know. Just as a weak atheist simply disbelieves in God given the lack of evidence, weak naturalism disavows the supernatural for the same reason.
In only asserting the existence of the natural world, the burden of proof is transferred to the “supernaturalist.” Proposing weak naturalism does not require positive evidence showing why it’s probable that nothing transcends nature. Rather, it appeals to the lack of evidence for anything supernatural, period. It’s not scientism to expect knowledge-claims to be verifiable or testable. The scientific method has become the accepted method for ascertaining which empirical claims are true or not for a reason.
Christianity has brought many people to believe that those who behave badly face permanent torture in the afterlife. In this article, Robert Shaw argues that the historical Jesus envisaged a rather different fate for such individuals, and that the very idea of Hell as pictured by many Christians today was in fact an invention of the later Church.
In this article, Robert Shaw explores the crucifixion of Jesus and how the Gospel narratives of this event were embellished with allusions to Old Testament passages. In addition, Shaw shows that early Christians developed an interpretation of Jesus’ death as part of a premeditated divine plan that was at odds with contemporary Jewish expectations of the Messiah.
Christian psychologist Justin Barrett argues that belief in immaterial minds is similar to and justifies belief in God. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates that Barrett’s concept of mind is outmoded. Moreover, Barrett does not distinguish between innate beliefs in other people’s mental abilities and the cultural concept of mind, which is learned, not innate. The belief that other people think, have emotions, and so forth is supported by evidence, but there is no evidence for the existence of God.
Barrett presumes that “atheism” is difficult to maintain because innate ways of thinking promote belief in spirits. In response, Reynolds provides some of the reasons for nontheism and refutes Barrett’s arguments that having moral principles and confidence in one’s beliefs pose special problems for nontheists. Reynolds concludes that, to the contrary, living as a nontheist is not difficult and does not require social and cultural segregation to sustain it.
It’s that time of the year when the story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth begins to pervade the everyday lives of people in the West. In this article, Robert Shaw looks at the origins of the story in first-century Palestine. Neither the earliest Gospel nor the earlier letters from St. Paul to fledgling Christian churches around the Mediterranean make any mention of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, but later embellishments are weaved together with contrived reinterpretations of Old Testament passages to bolster Jesus’ messianic credentials.
Deepak Chopra operates a business that offers “life-changing retreats” and courses instructing clients in meditation and “alternative medicine,” especially Indian techniques. In How to Know God he postulates seven responses of the brain to God. From this notion he constructs a detailed theistic scheme. A prominent theme of the book is an attempt to relate his ideas to quantum physics. Readers and reviewers have heaped praise on the work, but it contains numerous errors of fact and logic. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates some of the errors in the foundational first chapter of the book.
The president has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Full legal equality for nonbelievers hangs by a thread even now. The Court has already gone very far in providing special privileges for the religious. In addition to generally favoring belief over nonbelief, Kavanaugh has let stand the Navy’s preferential treatment of Catholics over Protestants, argued to exempt religious claimants from following laws applicable to everyone else, argued to allow proselytizing on elementary school grounds, written that keeping government ceremonies neutral in matters of religion shows hostility to religion and establishes atheism, and ruled in a way that obstructed government efforts to combat global warming, among other things.
Please immediately contact your two United States senators and urge them to vote against Kavanaugh. Urge everyone you know in other states to contact their senators, too. Kavanaugh is a clear and present danger to the separation of church and state.