What's New Archive ● 2007 ● November
What's New on the Secular Web?
See also: Events & The News Wire
November 28, 2007
From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of God Is Not Great, a provocative and entertaining guided tour of atheist and agnostic thought through the ages--with never-before-published pieces by Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Whether you are an atheist, a believer--or uncertain--The Portable Atheist will speak to you and engage you every step of the way.
November 27, 2007
In Kingdom Coming Michelle Goldberg lets America's "Christian Reconstructionists," who openly advocate making the Bible the basis of a shari'a-type religious law, speak for themselves. Though considered extreme even within the religious right, an offshoot called dominionism, or Christian Nationalism, openly advocates theocracy and is rapidly gaining ground among "mainstream" right-wing Christians. Those swept away in this fundamentalist counterculture live in a universe that they have created, separate from and parallel to the one that the rest of us live in. The immediate danger they pose is not their impact on social issues, but the subversion of rationality itself, which has been achieved to an alarming extent. Today the best established scientific conclusions are routinely undermined and derided, and even the mainstream media feel that they have to offer "balance" on scientific issues by giving equal time to cranks and crackpots. The religious right is motivated, organized, and well-funded, and they are not going away. We ignore them at our peril. Goldberg has done us a service in giving us a beautifully crafted statement of why we fight.
November 26, 2007
In this radical critique of his own academic specialty, biblical scholar Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion. First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings. Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today's world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.
November 25, 2007
As long as people have been on earth, they have constructed various explanations of what happens after death. Hereafter combines an overview of the history of these theories and a survey of the current attitudes toward immortality. "Without giving anything away ... Schweid suffered an important loss while writing this book, and he manages to integrate his experience into the text in a way I've never seen before, but that I found profoundly moving. There can be no doubt that this is a man who writes from the heart." - A reader review.
November 22, 2007
"We face a profound choice: either to stay forever in our limited humanist world, constricted by ourselves and society from fulfilling our purported affirmations, or enter the broader world of political engagement, empowering ourselves in the process and making Humanism a living, working philosophy in our country." - Hugh Giblin
November 16, 2007
New developments and discoveries are noted in this Second November Update.
November 14, 2007
Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity (with no question mark in the title) aims to rebut the "new atheists" on their own ground. Its most evident goals include convincing the reader that there is justification for a theistic world view and demonstrating the cultural superiority of Christianity. In service of the first goal he covers many of the standard arguments, but with little originality, except perhaps for his use of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. His general procedure, illustrated in this case and in a number of others, is to present background material and then make an unjustified transition that purports to establish his case. This triumphant style of reasoning is not likely to convince atheists, or even doubters. Beyond this, almost nothing he says in favor of the truth of Christianity would be persuasive to someone with a different religious view. The book's principal defect is that it presents too many different reasons for its theistic conclusion, rather than treating a few decisive arguments in depth. This suggests that the book is ultimately political, with its implicit goal to reassure those already leaning toward Christianity that they are on the right side.
Updated the Events page with a chart of select forthcoming major freethought events within the United States and links on where to find further information.
November 12, 2007
God is propaganda. And to narrow the term, God is a rhetorical device of propaganda. "Godisms" are the rhetorical use of God to justify a claim, affect cheap profundity, or instill instant importance to any bit of trash.
November 7, 2007
On Sunday, November 4, the New York Times exposed Antony Flew's new book as a ghostwritten treatise not written by Flew, with contents Flew could not even recall when interviewed. More on this story in this November Update.
November 1, 2007
"Have you ever seen those nature documentaries where the narrator describes how perfectly designed, say, the cheetah, the polar bear, or the chameleon is for its environment? Of course, calling an animal perfectly designed is just shorthand for saying that the slow processes of evolution have led to that animal's well-adapted features. Yet evolution hasn't always generated the best designs, or at least not the best from an engineering perspective. In fact, some features seem downright poorly designed. This should come as no surprise when we understand a little about how evolution works."
Book-of-the-Month: Doubting Darwin?: Creationist Designs on Evolution (2007) Sahotra Sakar
The debate about what to teach as science in our schools has the reached boiling point, both inside and outside the classroom. From Young Earth to Intelligent Design creationism, the intrusion of political and religious ideals is damaging the integrity of our public education system. Doubting Darwin? puts the dispute into its scientific and historical context, illuminating the intellectual debate that is shaping educational policy.