Secular Web Reference Desk
Secular and religious scholars consult certain online tools so regularly that we decided to gather the most useful links here for Secular Web patrons. If there is an online tool not listed below that is very useful and of high calibre, please recommend it by writing to the Infidels Editors. Please note that all these resources are off-site, not under our control, and may contain material we disagree with.
Wikipedia is by far the best free online encyclopedia in the world. Its entries are generally smart, detailed, expert, balanced, well-sourced, and up-to-date.
Largest collection of free online books and references, in all fields and subjects. Enormously valuable, with several general and specialized encyclopedias, histories, and other resources.
The full Encyclopedia Britannica is one of the greatest general references available in print or online, but is available by paid subscription only. However, the Concise Britannica is free to all users.
Online version of the 1974 text of Philip Wiener’s classic reference, produced and maintained by the University of Virginia. A new 21st century edition is in development.
Religion in General
Adherent statistics and demographics for over 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures, movements, ultimate concerns, etc. Though the information provided is of varying quality, its wealth and scope makes it of interest.
A popular bulletin board, with regular columns and FAQ’s, that can sometimes be a useful place to explore different religions or religious ideas and debates.
Organized by C. Johnson, a somewhat quirky believer, this website contains a massive number of entries on numerous religions and religious ideas and beliefs. Christian sects and beliefs are primarily represented, but there is a lot on other belief systems as well. The slant is definitely pro-Christian, though the material is generally detailed and balanced enough to be worth consulting (especially if you can reinforce what you find there from other sources). Most sources cited here are around thirty years old, which is a problem, but the copious terminology and discussion makes this an excellent place at least to start an investigation.
A list of books available online compiled by the University of Pennsylvania, from the Library of Congress subject category BL, “Religion: General, Miscellaneous, and Atheism.”
Widely hailed as one of the best resources for information on all religions, including atheism. Each section is maintained by actual adherents of the religions in question, and usually provides relatively informative and mainstream information.
This site, which contains 2000+ essays, promotes religious freedom, tolerance and diversity as positive cultural values. It does not promote any one religion, rather it attempts to explain the full range of religious belief in North America, from Asatru to Christianity to Zoroastrianism. It discusses controversial religious topics, from abortion access to equal rights and protections for homosexuals and bisexuals including same-sex marriage, and attempts to do so in a fair and objective manner.
Christianity & the Bible
Ten fully-searchable online Bibles.
Annotated links to Internet resources on everything from the Greek New Testament to Jesus in Film. Maintained by Mark Goodacre at Duke University.
Provides skeptical indexes and commentary to various passages of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Older but still interesting edition of the famous, and extensive, encyclopedia of Catholic beliefs and doctrine and subjects related thereto. In its own words, “Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements” of Church views, “but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions.”
Considerable resources are available here, including the complete text of the Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, and other texts and references. Of special interest:
Early Church Fathers Online
Bible Study Reference Works
World Wide Encyclopedia of Christianity
Growing collection of ancient Jewish texts in translation, or links thereto, now including the Babylonian Talmud and most of the works of Philo.
Ultimate website on ancient and modern Gnosticism. Their Library includes Christian apocrypha and early christian literature in translation, with historical introductions. Emphasis is on Gnostic and unorthodox texts, and scope far excedes that of other sites (they have Manichaean and Mandaean writings, for example, as well as Alchemical treatises, etc.).
Islam & the Koran
A searchable English translation of the Koran provided by the University of Virginia.
Provides skeptical indexes and commentary to various passages of the Quran.
Greek and Latin Resources
World’s largest collection of primary materials useful to the study of ancient history. Includes hundreds of ancient books, in both English and original languages. Among the resources of greatest interest:
Critical Edition of the Latin Vulgate Bible (in Latin and English)
Greek and Latin Lexical Tools (including searchable dictionaries)
Antiquities of the Jews and The Wars of the Jews by Josephus (in English and Greek)
Collection of downloadable educational guides, textbooks, and grammars in Greek and Latin. In the Classical E-Books section are several downloadablke English translations of various ancient books.
Find state law codes and court decisions here, as well as dozens of other useful links pertaining to government and law.
An explanation with case illustrations of the application of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, with emphasis on the three-part “lemon test” set forth by U.S. Supreme Court precedent (from National Paralegal College).
Nonbeliever Antidiscrimination Project.
Membership, Employment, and Service Restrictions Targeting Nonbelievers.
All bills proposed in the U.S. Congress since 1973 to the present day, including valuable information such as the bill’s current status, supporters, and proposed amendments, fully searchable. There are also several valuable links on U.S. government and law, including the official U.S. federal code online, and historical documents (including the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers).
Math, Science & Philosophy
A collection of named logical fallacies and their descriptions, as well as a collection of fallacious and/or otherwise bad arguments.
This FAQ on the basics of formal and informal logic is the best on the web, and includes a large list of different kinds of informal fallacies.
A master site of science-related reference works and resources online.
Claims to be the world’s most extensive mathematics resource online. Has useful explanatory entries on every mathematics topic, with links to further resources.
Probably is the world’s most extensive mathematics resource online. Includes extensive educational links to sites on logic and all the mathematical sciences (including biology, neuroscience, and even sports).
A universal browser of an assortment of public domain online encyclopedias of philosophy, arranged by Andrew Chrucky.
Philosophy of Religion Journals
The Online Journal for Philosophy of Religion
Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion
Philo is the only professional philosophy journal devoted exclusively to criticisms of theism and defenses or developments of naturalism. To facilitate discussion and debate, Philo also publishes defenses of theism and criticisms of naturalism.
Internet hoaxes, email rumors and urban legends at about.com from David Emery.
The ultimate resource for checking up on email hoaxes and distinguishing genuine from bogus emails (such as virus alerts, for example). Includes everything found in email: all eRumors, warnings, offers, requests for help, myths, hoaxes, virus warnings, and humorous or inspirational stories that are circulated by email. Researchers ascertain in each case if it is truth or fiction.
“Snopes.com” is a nice resource funded, created, and maintained by Barbara and David Mikkelson.