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Agnosticism/Atheism: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
What's the Difference Between Atheists and...
The difference between being an atheist and being an agnostic should be pretty clear: atheism is about belief. Agnosticism is about knowledge. Atheists don't believe in any gods. Agnostics doesn't know if any gods exist or not. These can be the exact same people, but need not be. Every agnostic is also either an atheist or a theist because any given belief is either present or not - there is no alternative to those two options.
Atheism for Beginners
An overview with links to lots of resources about atheism, including refutations of many popular myths about atheism.
What Are Barack Obama's Religious Beliefs?
Barack Obama's mother was raised by non-practicing Christians; his father was raised a Muslim but was an atheist by the time he had married Obama's mother. Neither Obama nor his mother were ever atheists, but she raised him in a secular household where he learned about religion.
Agnosticism for Beginners
There are a lot of resources here about agnosticism for beginners: what agnosticism is, what it isn't, and refutations of many popular myths about agnosticism. I've discovered, though, that it isn't always easy to direct people to all of the information they need. That's why I've collected here some of the basics about atheism for beginners that I find myself linking to most often.
Can Deontology Teach You to Be Ethical Without...
Deontological moral systems are focused on adhering to moral duties. When we follow our duty, we are behaving morally. When we fail to follow our duty, we are behaving immorally. Duties, rules, and obligations are usually determined by God. Being moral thus means obeying God.
Deductive and Inductive Arguments: What's the...
Arguments can be deductive or inductive and you need to know the difference in order to properly create or evaluate an argument. In deductive arguments, it's impossible for the premises to be true but the conclusion false. In inductive arguments, the premises are supposed to support the conclusion in such a way that if the premises are true, it is improbable that the conclusion would be false.
Simple and Easy Procedure to Become an Atheist
So, do you want to be an atheist? Now you can learn the simple and easy way to become an atheist. If you follow these steps, you'll be an atheist in no time at all!
Atheism vs. Agnosticism: What's the Difference?
Many who call themselves agnostic think that agnosticism is a more 'reasonable' than atheism and thus reject the label of atheist. Their believe that atheism is more 'dogmatic,' and indistinguishable from theism is incorrect.
Karl Marx on Religion: The Opiate of the Masses?
This quote is reproduced a great deal and is probably the only Marx quote that most people are familiar with. Unfortunately, if someone is familiar with it they are likely only familiar with a small portion that, taken by itself, tends to give a distorted impression of what Marx had to say about religion.
Why We Need Epistemology to Understand Knowledge
Epistemology is fundamental to how we think. Many debates between atheist and theists revolve around basic epistemological principles. Without understanding this and understanding the various epistemological positions, people will just end up talking past each other.
How Do Atheists Explain Religion?
Religion is difficult to define. Everyone has a different idea of what it is. Most people simply look in the dictionary or use something else equally simplistic. That might be fine for everyday conversations, it isn’t sufficient for the sort of discussions that appear here. Religion is a human creation and as such can vary as widely as human imagination allows.
What You Should Know About Idealism as a...
Idealism is a category of philosophical systems which argue that reality is somehow dependent upon the mind rather than independent of the mind. The most extreme versions of Idealism deny that a 'world' even exists outside of our minds. Narrower versions of Idealism argue that our understanding of reality reflects the workings of our mind first and foremost - that the properties of objects have no standing independent of the minds perceiving them.
8 Moral and Social Arguments for Gay Marriage
It's not true, or at least not demonstrable, that gay marriage would be harmful. On the contrary, there are good reasons to think that legalized gay marriage would benefit us all.
The Real Reasons Why People Believe in God
Theists offer all sorts of reasons for why they believe in a god but the only respectable reason is one which, if proven false, would at the very least cause them to seriously reconsider their belief and perhaps drop it entirely.
Why Don't Atheists Believe in Gods? 10 Common...
Atheists are often asked 'why don't you believe in God?' Well, there are many reasons why atheists might not believe in any gods. In fact, most atheists can probably cite multiple reasons and every atheist is different. But here are some of the most common reasons why atheists don't believe in any gods.
Is It Moral or Immoral to Have an Abortion? 9...
The legality of abortion is debated more than the morality of abortion, so fundamental ethical questions aren't given the attention they deserve. Some believe that the law shouldn't legislate morality, but all good law is based upon moral values. A failure to openly discuss those values can obscure important discussions.
Lexical Definitions
Most of the time when encountering a definition, we are looking at a lexical definition. A lexical definition (sometimes also called a reportive definition) is any definition which explains how a word isactually used - it is thus distinct from stipulative definitions which simply propose a possible way to use a word and which may or may not be accepted. Therefore, lexical definitions are capable of being true or false, of being accurate or inaccurate.
Ethics: Deontological, Teleological and Virtue
Ethics FAQ: Deontological, Teleological and Virtue Ethics. How do these three type of normative ethical systems differ? What are their different approaches and how do they arrive at different or even similar answers to ethical questions?
Affirming vs. Swearing Oaths: What's the...
Court scenes in American movies, television, and books typically show people swearing an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Usually they swear an oath
10 Common Arguments Against Gay Marriage
The debate over the legalization of gay marriage in America is about not just the status of gay couples; it's also about American civil law. Either civil law is defined by the needs and rights of citizens, or civil laws are placed under the dominion of religion.
What Are Virtue Ethics?
Virtue-based ethical theories place much emphasis on rules for people to follow; virtue ethics focus instead on developing good character traits such as kindness and generosity. Virtuous character traits allow a person to make good ethical decisions later in life.
Religion as Opium of the People
According to Karl Marx, religion is like other social institutions in that it is dependent upon the material and economic realities in a given society. It has no independent history; instead it is the creature of productive forces. As Marx wrote, ‘The religious world is but the reflex of the real world.‘. Page 4.
Atheism & Anti-Theism: What's the...
Atheism and anti-theism so often occur together at the same time and in the same person that it's understandable if many people fail to realize that they aren't the same. Making note of the difference is important, however, because not every atheist is anti-theistic and even those who are, aren't anti-theistic all the time. Atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods; anti-theism is a conscious and deliberate opposition to theism. Many atheists are also anti-theists, but not all.
Separation of Church and State: Is It Actually...
The phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the Constitution, but the absence of this phrase does not mean that it is an invalid concept or that it cannot be used as a legal or judicial principle.
What is Monotheism? Belief in a Single,...
What is Monotheism? Belief in a Single, All-Powerful God. One of the most common types of theism in the world today is monotheism: belief in a single deity and denying the existence of all other alleged gods in the world.
Hillary Clinton's Religious Background &...
Hillary Clinton grew up in a Methodist household, she taught Methodist Sunday school like her mother, is a member of a Senate prayer group, and regularly attends the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. Hillary Clinton can be placed in the moderate to liberal wing of American Christianity, but she appears to share a number of attitudes with more conservative American Christians. Clinton's liberalism is a relative matter
How to Get Excommunicated from the Catholic...
If you are an atheist who was once a Catholic, you should consider getting excommunicated. Excommunication is a definitive and public step of rejecting religion. Unless and until you are excommunicated, you're still counted as a Catholic. Why would you allow them to regard you as even provisionally Catholic? What are you afraid of?
What is Logic? What is Critical Thinking?
Logic is the science of how to evaluate arguments and reasoning. Critical thinking is a process of evaluation which uses logic to separate truth from falsehood, reasonable from unreasonable beliefs. If you want to better evaluate the various claims, ideas, and arguments you encounter, you need a better understanding of basic logic and the process of critical thinking. These aren't trivial pursuits; they are essential to making good decisions and forming sound beliefs about our world.
Freedom From Religion vs. Freedom of Religion...
This claim is common, but it rests on a misunderstanding of what real freedom of religion entails. The most important thing to remember is that freedom of religion, if it is going to apply to everyone, also requires freedom from religion. Why is that? You do not truly have the freedom to practice your religious beliefs if you are also required to adhere to any of the religious beliefs or rules of other religions.
What is an Infidel? What Does it Mean to be an...
Infidel is defined literally as 'one without faith.' Today the label infidel is technically an archaic term referring to anyone who doubts or denies the tenets of whichever religion is most popular in a society. According to this definition, an infidel in one society may be a True Believer in a neighboring society. Being an infidel is thus always relative to whatever religion possesses the most social, cultural, and political power in one's society at any given time.
Quotes on Religion - Carl Sagan
Freethought Quotations: Carl Sagan.: baloney detection sagan carl carl sagan ocean of confusion bamboozle
A Look at the Authorship Behind the Gospel of...
The text of the Gospel According to Mark does not identify anyone as the author. Not even 'Mark' is listed as the author. 'Mark' could have simply related a series of events and stories to someone else who collected them, edited them, and set them down in the gospel form. It wasn't until the second century that the title 'According to Mark' or 'The Gospel According to Mark' was affixed to this document.
Religion-Free Wedding Options for Atheists
Yes! There are quite a few options available for people who are uninterested or unwilling to have any of the traditional religious wedding ceremonies. Some are both nonreligious and without any real ceremony. Some include ceremony and ritual, but without religious elements. Finally, there are options which are religious in name, but not really in act.
What is Agnosticism? A Short Explanation
So, what is the definition of agnosticism? Some imagine that agnosticism represents an alternative to atheism, but those people have typically bought into the mistaken notion of the single, narrow definition of atheism. Strictly speaking, agnosticism is about knowledge, and knowledge is a related but separate issue from belief, the domain of theism and atheism.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien: Why They Argued...
Many fans are aware of that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were close friends. Tolkien helped convert Lewis to Christianity, whereas Lewis encouraged Tolkien to expand his fictional writing; both taught at Oxford, both were interested in literature, and both wrote fictional books which propagated basic Christian themes and principles. At the same time, though, they also had serious disagreements - in particular, over the quality of Lewis' Narnia books.
Last Supper, painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, 1498
The Lord's Supper, which was the final meal of Jesus with his disciples and the time when he is recorded as having instituted the communion celebration, has been the subject of innumerable artistic interpretations. Perhaps the most famous is the painting Last Supper, created by Leonardo Da Vinci in 1498 for Duke Lodovico Sforza and painted in the Dominican church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the duke's family chapel and burial place. Page 3.
What is Belief? What Does it Mean to Say "I...
Atheists are frequently challenged to explain why they are so critical of religious and theistic beliefs. Why do we care what others believe? Why don't we just leave people alone to believe what they want? Why do we try to
Atheism 101: Introduction to Atheism &...
I see a lot of misunderstandings and errors about atheism and atheists all over the net. People don't understand what atheism is, what the definition of atheism is, or the difference between atheism and agnosticism. People claim that atheism is a religion, that it requires faith, that it's a form of denial, that there are no real atheists, and that there are no atheists in foxholes. This introduction to atheism answers most of the most common questions and mistakes about atheism.
Why You Should Care About Metaphysics, the...
Atheists typically dismiss the existence of the supernatural, so they may dismiss metaphysics as pointless. Because metaphysics is technically the study of all reality, and thus whether there is any supernatural element to it, metaphysics may be the most fundamental subject for irreligious atheists to focus on. Our ability to understand what reality is, what it is composed of, what
What is Religion? Defining the Characteristics...
Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: they are either too narrow and exclude many belief systems which most agree are religions, or they are too vague and ambiguous, suggesting that just about anything and everything is a religion. A better way to explain the nature of religion is to identify basic characteristics common to religions. These characteristics may be shared with other belief systems, but taken together they make religion distinct.
Who Are the Atheists? What Does Being an...
There are a lot of misunderstandings about who atheists are, what they believe, and what they don't believe. People become atheists for many different reasons. Being an atheist isn't a choice or act of will - like theism, it's a consequence of what one knows and how one reasons. Atheists are not all angry, they aren't in denial about gods, and they aren't atheists to avoid taking responsibility for their acts. It's not necessary to be afraid of hell and there are advantages to being an atheist.
Albert Einstein Quotes on Life After Death
Albert Einstein's denial of the existence of life after death suggests that he didn't believe in any gods and is part of his rejection of traditional religion.
What is Marriage? Gay Marriage Can’t Be a...
Some argue that marriage is defined narrowly as only being between a man and a woman, so gays can't possibly marry. The fact is, though, that the nature of marriage has changed in definition and make-up many times over the centuries. Marriage today isn't at all like what it was two millennia or even two centuries ago. The changes in marriage have been broad and fundamental, so what are traditionalists really trying to defend? What is 'traditional' about modern marriage?
Who Were the Canaanites?
The Canaanites play an important role in the story of the Israelites' conquest of their
Are there any Spiritual Atheists?
Spirituality is a vague concept without much cognitive content. It does, however, carry emotional content. When a person is using the term, they are more likely trying to convey something about their emotions and their emotional reactions to things than a coherent set of beliefs and ideas.
Apostles of Jesus: Images of Jesus' 12...
Apostle is an English transliteration of the Greek apostolos, which means 'one who is sent out.' In ancient Greek, an apostle might be any person 'sent out' to deliver news -- messengers and envoys, for example -- and perhaps carry out other instructions. Via the New Testament, apostle has acquired a more specific usage and now refers to one of the elect original disciples of Jesus. Apostolic lists in the New Testament all have 12 names, but not all the same names.
Freedom of Religion Requires Freedom From...
Conservatives insist that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, and argue against strict separation of church and state. Too often, though, conservatives seem to have a flawed understanding of what freedom from religion really entails and fail to realize that freedom from religion is crucial to religious liberty in general.
Was Pope Benedict XVI Once a Nazi?
The question of Joseph Ratzinger’s involvement with Nazi Germany and the Hitler Youth is important. Neither Ratzinger nor any member of his immediate family joined the NSDAP (Nazi Party). Ratzinger’s father was critical of the Nazi government and as a result the family had to move four times. None of this is remarkable, however, because the same happened with other German Catholic families. There is reason to think that Joseph Ratzinger has been less than fully candid about his past, though.
11 Ways to Kill a Conversation With an Atheist
Atheists and theists frequently get into debates over the existence of gods, the nature of religion, whether religions do more harm than good, etc. Every atheist and theist are different, but a lot of these conversations hit the same topics and run into the same problems. Both sides can be at fault, but there are errors which theists make that kill any chance at having a productive, interesting, and substantive discussion. These errors can be avoided if theists know about them in advance.
What is Agnostic Theism?
Agnostic theism is explored, as well as its relation to agnosticism, and how these two views differ in terms of spiritual belief and doubt in god(s).
Theism 101: What is Theism? Who are Theists?
Theism 101: What is Theism? Who are Theists? Understanding atheism and atheists requires some understanding of theism and theists - but just what is theism? What are its primary characteristics?
The Matrix and Christianity: Is the Matrix a...
The Matrix and Christianity: Is the Matrix a Christian Film? Some believe that the Matrix movies are Christian in nature - and there are indeed many Christian allegories and themes. Neo, for example, seems to be a reference to Jesus Christ. But are these movies really Christian - or even religious at all?
State Laws on Flag Desecration, Burning, Abuse,...
Why do some state laws ban publicly desecrating the flag instead of banning it in private as well? Why do some specify that it doesn't matter if you deface your privately owned flag? What does it mean to make it a crime to 'cast contempt' upon or 'speak evilly' about the American flag? Why do some state that a crime occurs only when an act outrages the 'sensibilities' of those watching? Why do some states make it a crime to deface or cast contempt upon the Confederate flag?
Scientifically, God Does Not Exist
It is possible to say that, scientifically, God does not exist - just as science is able to discount the existence of a myriad of other alleged beings.
Last Supper, Detail from the Left
The source used by Leonardo Da Vinci is John 13:21 and is supposed to represent the exact moment when Jesus announces to his disciples that one of them would betray him: 'When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.' Thus the reactions of all the disciples are the reactions to hearing that one of them is a traitor to Jesus who would cause the death of their teacher. Each reacts in a different way. Page 4.
When Does a Fetus Become a Person with Rights?
Abortion is the focus of some of the most intense social, cultural, political, religious, and ethical debates in modern American society.
10 Quotes by Albert Einstein on Personal Gods...
Did Albert Einstein believe in God? Many religious theists cite Einstein as an example of a smart scientist who was also a religious theist like them. This supposedly rebuts the idea that science conflicts with religion or that science is atheistic. However, Albert Einstein consistently and unambiguously denied believing in personal gods who answered prayers or involved themselves in human affairs - exactly the sort of god common to religious theists claiming that Einstein was one of them.
Pascal's Wager: Is It Safer to Bet on God or Not?
Someone who offers Pascal's Wager is arguing that to believe in God is a better bet than not believing in God. If you believe and God exists, you’ll go to heaven and avoid hell; if you believe and are wrong, you lose nothing. If you don’t believe in God and God does exist, you’ll lose heaven and go to hell; if you’re right, then you gain nothing. There are a lot of problems with this argument.
Religion and God: Comforting or Challenging?
Does it make more sense to think that if a god exists, our belief in it is something that should comfort us and make us feel better about ourselves, or that if a god exists, our belief in it should challenge us and force us to reconsider what we value and want?
Married Catholic Priests: Why are Some Catholic...
Opposition to ending the requirement of celibacy for Catholic priests is strong - but isn't it strange that, despite this requirement, there are so many married Catholic priests who seem to be doing as good a job as unmarried priests? If celibacy is so vital, why do married Catholic priests exist at all? This isn't something that the Roman Catholic Church is anxious to advertise. They'd much rather keep the matter quiet in order not to 'confuse' rank and file Catholics. Page 2.
Why Does Religion Exist?
There have been as many theories as theorists and all offer important insights on the nature of religion and possible reasons why religion has persisted through human history.
What Would an Atheist Say About Jesus Calming...
During Jesus' trip across the Sea of Galilee, a large storm threatens to sink his boat. According to traditional commentaries on the passage he deliberately remained asleep to test the faith of the apostles. If that is the case, then they failed.
Existence Precedes Essence
Originated by Jean-Paul Sartre, the phrase 'existence precedes essence' has come to be a classic, even defining, formulation of the heart of existentialist philosophy. It's an idea which turns traditional metaphysics on its head because throughout Western philosophy, it was always assumed that the essence or nature of a thing is more fundamental and eternal than its mere existence. Thus, if you want to understand a thing, what you must do is learn more about its essence.
What You Should Know About Pragmatism as a...
Pragmatism is an American philosophy from the early 20th century. According to Pragmatism, the truth or meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences rather than anything metaphysical. It can be summarized by the phrase 'whatever works, is likely true.' Because reality changes, 'whatever works' will also change - thus, truth must also be changeable and no one can claim to possess any final or ultimate truth.
Agnostic Atheist - Dictionary Definition
An agnostic atheist is someone who does not know for sure if any gods exist or not but who also does not believe in any gods. This definition makes it clear that being an agnostic and being an atheist are not mutually exclusive.
Varieties of Theism: Monotheism, Polytheism,...
Theism doesn't come in just one flavor - there are monotheists, polytheists, pantheists, and several others you may not have even heard of. Understanding the differences between these types of theism is necessary not only for understanding the religious systems in which they appear, but also for understanding the variety and diversity which exists for theism itself.
Are there Any Atheistic Religions?
People can be adherents of some religions without bothering to believe in any gods, thus allowing for a person to be a religious atheist.
Dating and Origins of Mark’s Gospel
Because the Gospel of Mark refers to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE (Mark 13:2), scholars conclude that Mark was written during the war between Rome and the Jews (66-74). Most early dates for the writing of Mark fall around 65 CE and most late dates fall around 75 CE.
More People Have Been Killed in the Name of...
A common criticism which atheists raise against religion is how violent religion and religious believers have been in the past. People have slaughtered each other in large numbers either because of differences in religious beliefs or because of other differences which are further justified and intensified through religious rhetoric. Either way, religion has a lot of blood on its hands. Can the same be said for atheists and atheism? Haven't atheists killed more people in the name of atheism?
Aren't Weddings Religious Events? Why Would...
There is a common perception that marriage is a fundamentally religious institution - that it is based upon religious values and exists to serve religious ends. Thus, if a person is not religious, then it might seem natural for that person to avoid entering into marriage - and that would include many atheists as well.
Different Versions of the Ten Commandments
One interesting difference occurs in how Catholics translate the Deuteronomy verses into actual commandments. In the Butler Catechism, verses eight through ten are simply left out. The Catholic version thus omits the prohibition against graven images. The Protestant versions of the commandments retain the prohibition against graven images, but it seems to be ignored since statues and other images have proliferated in their churches as well. Page 3.
Microevolution vs. Macroevolution: What's the...
'Microevolution' and 'macroevolution' are two terms often used by creationists when trying to attack evolution, but few creationists understand what microevolution and macroevolution really are. The fact is, there isn't any fundamental difference.
An Atheist's Guide to Peter the Apostle
There are two reasons why Peter is important for understanding Christianity. First, he is treated as a model for Christians to follow. In theory, Christians are expect to act as Peter is described as acting - for better and for worse. Second, the gospels describe Jesus as calling Peter his 'rock' upon which the future church would be built. After his martyrdom in Rome, traditions developed which led to the belief that the most important Christian church organization was located in Rome.
Da Vinci's Last Supper: Where is the Holy Grail?
Analyzing the Painting To Jesus' immediate right are Judas, Peter , and John in another group of three.
Quotes on Religion - Thomas Paine
Freethought Quotations: Thomas Paine.: thomas paine the age of reason professional belief thomas paine paine thomas names of christ
Weighing Out the Religious and Civil Undertones...
Many argue that marriage is essentially and necessarily a religious rite; therefore, legalizing gay marriage constitutes a type of sacrilege and an unjustified intrusion of the state into what is necessarily a religious matter.
Introduction to Logic & Arguments
The term 'logic' is used quite a lot, but not always in its technical sense. Logic, strictly speaking, is the science or study of how to evaluate arguments and reasoning. Logic is what allows us to distinguish correct reasoning from poor reasoning. Logic is important because it helps us reason correctly - without correct reasoning, we don't have a viable means for knowing the truth or arriving at sound beliefs.
Why Do People Become Atheists?
This is a very good question; unfortunately, it isn't very easy to answer. There are perhaps as many reasons for being an atheist as there are atheists. What I mean by this is that the road to atheism tends to be very personal and individual, based upon the specific circumstances of a person's life, experiences, and attitudes.
Objective Truth: Are Things True Regardless of...
The idea of objective truth is the idea that no matter what we believe to be true, some things will always be true and other things will always be false. Beliefs have no bearing on the facts of the world around us. That which is true is always true - even if we stop believing it and even if we stop existing at all.
Punishing the Seven Deadly Sins
Gregory the Great created the definitive list of seven deadly sins: pride, envy, anger, dejection, avarice, gluttony and lust. Each can inspire troubling behavior, but not always. Anger, for example, can be justified as a response to injustice and as a motivation to achieve justice. Christianity's seven deadly sins fail to address behaviors which harm others and instead focus on motivations: torturing and killing isn't a deadly sin if one is motivated by love rather than anger.
How Extremist Wahhabism Differs from Peaceful...
Wahhabi Islam, the primary religious movement behind extremist Islam, includes beliefs and doctrines not found elsewhere. It would be a mistake and unethical to criticize all of Islam on the basis of doctrines particular to Wahhabi Muslims. This means that it's important from an ethical and an academic perspective to understand what Wahhabi Islam teaches, what's so dangerous about it, and why those teachings differ from other branches of Islam.
Exorcism: What is Exorcism? What does an...
The English word exorcism comes from the Greek exorkosis, which means 'out-oath.' It is an attempt to evict demons or spirits from the body of a (normally living) human being. Belief that demons can be evicted follows automatically from belief in demons capable of possessing people. So long as there is a belief that demons can possess a person, there will be belief that some people have power over those demons, forcing them to cease their possession.
God or god?
How should you spell the word 'god' - should it be capitalized or not? Which is correct, god or God? Many atheists use a lowercase 'g' while theists, particularly Jews, Christians, and Muslims, always capitalize the 'G'. Who is right?
Using AD vs CE & BC vs BCE - Is It Better...
There is a trend among scholars towards using BCE and CE as year markers rather than BC and AD. As abbreviations for Before the Common Era and Common Era, they do not specifically privilege Christianity; instead, they simply make reference to the fact that we are living in an era shared in common between Christians and other religions - though Christianity and Judaism are the two religions usually in mind. Some regard this as anti-Christian or an atheist conspiracy against Christianity.
Religion vs. Spirituality
It's popular, especially in America, to distinguish between spirituality and religion. It's true that there are valid distinctions between the two, but there are also a number of problematic distinctions which people try to make. In particular, supporters of spirituality tend to try to argue that everything bad lies with religion while everything good can be found in spirituality. This is a self-serving distinction which only masks the nature of religion and spirituality. Page 2.
An Atheist's Analysis of the Seventh Commandment
The problem here lies with the meaning of the word 'adultery.' People today tend define it as any act of sexual intercourse outside of marriage or, perhaps a bit more narrowly, any act of sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not their spouse. That is appropriate in contemporary society but it isn’t not how the word has always been defined.
What's the Difference Between Atheism &...
The difference between atheism and agnosticism is the difference between belief and knowledge: atheists cannot say that they believe that any gods exist and agnostics cannot say that they know for sure (or perhaps that anyone can know for sure) if any gods exist or not. Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive; instead they are orthogonal because they are about separate issues
Ethics of Reality TV: Should We Watch?
Ethics of Reality TV: Should We Watch? Reality TV commonly involves putting people in humiliating, painful, and embarrassing situations. Is it ethical to do this - especially for a profit? Is it ethical to find such situations entertaining? What do such shows say about us?
Ethics and Morality FAQ: Teleology and Ethics
Ethics FAQ: Teleology and Ethics. What are teleological ethical systems? What are some problems with judging ethical decisions based upon their consequences?
What is a Fallacy?
Fallacies are defects in an argument that cause an argument to be invalid, unsound or weak. Fallacies can be separated into two general groups: formal and informal. A formal fallacy is a defect which can be identified merely be looking at the logical structure of an argument. Informal fallacies are defects which can be identified only through an analysis of the actual content of the argument.
Faulty Causation Fallacies: Oversimplification...
Logical Fallacies FAQ - Faulty Causation Fallacies: Oversimplification and Exaggeration. The causation fallacies known as oversimplification and exaggeration occur whenever the series of actual causes for an event are either reduced or multiplied to the point where there is no longer a genuine, causal connection between the alleged causes and the actual effect.
Audience of Mark's Gospel
For whom was Mark writing? It is easier to make sense of the text if we read it in light of what the author intended, and that in turn would be heavily influenced by the audience he wrote for. Mark likely wrote for one specific Christian community, the one he was part of. He certainly can’t be read as if he were addressing all of Christendom down through the ages, centuries after his own life ended.
Quotes on Religion - George Carlin
Freethought Quotations: George Carlin.: cardinal hayes high school in the bronx cardinal hayes high school catholic grammar school image and likeness hayes high school
What Is an Argument?
Lots of people argue, but few understand what an argument is and is not. You need to know what an argument is in order to construct a sound, valid argument or to evaluate another person's argument.
Why is Logic Important?
Why bother to learn about logic and arguments? There are several good reasons to take the time to learn more about both logic. The most immediate and obvious benefit is that it helps you improve the quality of the arguments you use.
Adolf Hitler on God: Quotes from Adolf Hitler...
If Adolf Hitler was an atheist, why did he keep saying that he believed in God, had faith in God, and was convinced that he was doing God's work? Adolf Hitler was not just certain that his attacks on Jews were divinely mandated, but also his efforts to clamp down on society by restoring traditional morality. Christian apologists only seem to claim that Hitler was an atheist because they cannot handle the idea that a Christian theist would cause so much evil in the name of their God.
Elijah: Profile & Biography of Elijah, Old...
Elijah was an important Israelite prophet whose name in Hebrew means 'my Lord is Jehovah.' Accounts of Elijah’s life and actions are recorded through 1 and 2 Kings. Aside from coming from the village of Tosabe in Gilead (about which nothing is known), nothing is recorded about his background before he appears suddenly to promote traditional, orthodox Jewish beliefs.
Alphabetical List of Catholic Popes
This list of popes is arranged in alphabetical order. It starts with Adrian and ends with Zosimus. Alternative names are given, years of reign are listed, and all names are linked to short biographies that describe major dates in their papacy, controversies, and important events at the time.
Ethics: Descriptive, Normative and Analytic
Ethics FAQ: Descriptive, Normative and Analytic Ethics. What are the differences between the three categories of studying ethics and morality?
Declaration of Independence and Christianity Myth
Many argue that the Declaration of Independence endorses the idea that the United States was founded upon religious, if not Christian, principles, and therefore church and state must remain intertwined in order for this nation to continue properly. They are wrong.
Executing Witches and Eliminating Witchcraft
Burning and hanging were the most popular forms of execution for accused witches in medieval Europe. Burning seems to have been most common in continental Europe while hanging was more common in Britain -- and thus also in the American colonies later as well. The death penalty was imposed on a wide variety of crimes in this era, but witchcraft in particular was punished by death on the basis of Exodus 22:18. Page 10.
Submission & Obedience to Husbands
Carefully structured and clearly organized hierarchies of power appear to be very important not only to Christian Nationalists, but conservative and fundamentalist religious believers of all types. This concern extends along the entire spectrum of power relationships, including most especially the power relationships within the smallest social unity of society: the family. This image was taken of a World War I poster depicting a woman reporting for duty to the nation to assist in the war. . Page 21.
Ethics, Morals, and Values: How do they relate?
Ethics FAQ: Ethics, Morals, and Values. What is the relationship between our values and the ethics or morals we have? What sorts of things can we value and why?
What is Humanism?
At its most basic, humanism involves any concern with humans (including human needs, human desires, and human experiences) first and foremost. Often, this also translates into giving human beings a special place in the universe on account of their abilities and faculties.
Tax Exemptions Available to Churches
America’s tax laws are designed to favor non-profit and charitable institutions which presumably benefit the community. Churches benefit the most from tax exemptions because they qualify for many of them automatically, whereas non-religious groups have to go through a more complicated application and approval process. Why?
Punishing Lust and the Lustful
Condemning lust and physical pleasure is part of Christianity's general effort to promote the afterlife over this life and what it has to offer. It helps lock people into the view that sex and sexuality exist only for procreation, not for love or even just the pleasure of the acts themselves. Christian denigration of physical pleasures generally, and sexuality in particular, have been among some of the most serious problems with Christianity throughout its history. Page 4.
What Do Religions Say About Birth Control?
When religious positions on birth control are discussed, we usually hear how contraceptives are forbidden. Religious traditions are more pluralistic and varied than that, however, and even within the religions most publicly opposed to birth control we find that there are traditions which would permit the use of contraceptives, even if only in limited circumstances. It’s important to understand these traditions because not every religion regards birth control as a simplistic issue.
Absurd and Absurdity in Existentialist Thought
An important component of existentialist philosophy is the portrayal of existence as being fundamentally irrational in nature. Whereas most philosophers have attempted to create philosophical systems that produce a rational account of reality, existentialist philosophers have focused upon the subjective, irrational character of human existence.
Agnostic Theism - Dictionary Definition
Agnostic theism is defined as believing in the existence of a god but not claiming to know for sure that this god definitely exists. This definition makes it clear that agnosticism is not incompatible with theism.
Astrology and Psychology: Why Do People Believe?
Astrology and Psychology: Why do people believe in astrology? Belief in astrology has a lot to do with the psychological benefits it provides: it makes people feel important, it makes them feel connected to the universe, and provides reassurance about the future.
Introduction to the Pentateuch
If you want to understand the Bible, you need to understand the Pentateuch. Here in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, you'll find most if not all of the major themes that recur throughout the Bible as well as important characters and stories that continue to be important.
Atheism Myths: Is Atheism a Religion?
Atheism Myths: Many people operate under the mistaken idea that atheism is itself a religion, but they are very wrong.
Last Supper, Detail from the Right
As our eyes move across the painting, shifting from one apostle's reaction to the next, one thing which may become evident is how human the depiction of each figure is. There are no halos or any other marker of holiness - not even any symbols of divinity around Jesus. Every person is a human being, reacting in a human way. It is thus the human aspect of the moment which Leonardo Da Vinci was trying to capture and express, not the sacred or divine aspects usually focused on in Christian liturgy. Page 6.
Curses & Cursing: What is a Curse? Why are...
A curse is the opposite of a blessing: whereas a blessing is a pronouncement of good fortune because one is initiated into God's plans, a curse is a pronouncement of ill fortune because one opposes God's plans. God may curse a person or a whole nation because of their opposition to God's will. A priest may curse someone for violating God's laws. In general, the same people with the authority to bless also have the authority to curse.
First Crusade, 1095 - 1100 - Timeline of the...
Launched by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095, the First Crusade was the most successful. Urban gave a dramatic speech urging Christians to swarm towards Jerusalem and make it safe for Christian pilgrims by taking it away from the Muslims. The armies of the First Crusade left in 1096 and captured Jerusalem in 1099.
Do Religious Believers Deserve Respect?
An increasing source of conflict in the world today is centered around religious believers' demands for respect. Muslims demand 'respect' that would forbid criticism, satire, or mocking of their religion. Christians demand 'respect' that would amount to something very similar. Nonbelievers are caught in a bind when it's not clear what 'respect' is supposed to entail and how it is supposed to be achieved. If respect is so important to believers, they need to be clear about what they want.
How Atheists are Singled Out for Their Beliefs...
Every study that has ever looked at the issue shows that atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority in America. Atheists are the least likely people that Americans would vote for in a presidential election. It's not just that atheists are hated, though, but also that atheists seem to represent everything about modernity which Americans dislike or fear.
Atheism & Satan: Do Atheists Worship Satan?...
Although it's not as common as it once was, there are still people who believe that atheists both believe in and worship Satan, the evil opponent of God. This is an almost literal demonization of atheists, since the primary servants of Satan are always depicted as literal demons. Describing atheists in this manner makes it easy to dismiss them and whatever they say - after all, it would be wrong for a true and faithful follower of God to pay any attention to the lies of Satan's minions.
How to Critique an Argument
Assuming that we have established that we have an actual argument, the next step is to examine it for validity. There are two points on which an argument might fail: its premises or its inferences. Because of this, it is necessary to distinguish between valid arguments and sound arguments.
What an Atheist Might Say About the Story of...
The story of how Jesus fed five thousand men (were there no women or children there, or did they just not get anything to eat?) with just five loaves of bread and two fishes has always been one of the most popular gospel tales. It is certainly an engaging and visual tale - and the traditional interpretation of people seeking
hypothetical proposition
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - hypothetical proposition
Conspiracy Theories: Masons and the New World...
An overview of what conspiracy theories are, why they are popular and some of the more popular targets of conspiracy believers on America's religious right.
Should You Reveal Your Atheism to Family,...
Many atheists struggle with deciding whether they should reveal their atheism to their family or not. Especially if a family is very religious or devout, telling parents and other family members that one not only doesn't accept the family's religion anymore, but in fact rejects even belief in a god, can strain familial ties to the breaking point. In some cases, the consequences can include physical or emotional abuse and even having all family ties cut off.
Introduction to the Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments are a set of ten basic rules of behavior, mostly negative in construction, that appear in the ancient Hebrew scriptures and are directed at the Hebrews as God’s chosen people. Tradition holds that these rules were delivered to them by God via Moses, who climbed to the top of Mount Sinai during the Hebrews’ journey through the desert from Egypt to Canaan. They are, then, God’s requirements for how the Hebrews are supposed to behave.
Nietzsche and Nihilism
There is a common misconception that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a nihilist. You can find this assertion in both popular and academic literature, yet as widespread as it it, it isn't really an accurate portrayal of his work. Nietzsche wrote a great deal about nihilism, it is true, but that was because he was concerned about the effects of nihilism on society and culture, not because he advocated nihilism.
Theism 101: What is Theism? Who are Theists?...
To put it simply, theism is a belief in the existence of at least one god - nothing more, nothing less. Theism does not depend upon how many gods one believes in. Theism does not depend upon how the term 'god' is defined. Theism does not depend upon how one arrives at their belief. Theism does not depend upon how one defends their belief.
Divorce Rates for Atheists Lower Than Christians
Conservative Christians of all types, evangelical as well as Catholic, tend to link their conservative brand of their religion with proper moral behavior. By far the most popular context is marriage: they claim that a good, solid marriage is only possible when people acknowledge conservative Christianity's claims about the nature of marriage and gender roles. So why is it that Christian marriages, and especially conservative Christian marriages, end in divorce more often than atheist marriages?
What is the Separation of Church and State?
What is the separation of church and state? That is a very good question - the separation of church and state is perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented and maligned concepts in today's political, legal and religious debates. Everyone has an opinion, but unfortunately, many of those opinions are woefully misinformed.
Branches of Philosophy
Philosophy is not usually treated as a single, unified subject. It is typically broken down into several specialties and it is common for contemporary philosophers to be experts in one field but know little about another. Philosophy addresses complex issues from all facets of life - being an expert on all of philosophy would entail being an expert on all of the life’s most fundamental questions.
The Similarities Between Religion and Philosophy
Is religion just a type of philosophy? Is philosophy a religious activity? There seems to be some confusion at times over just whether and how religion and philosophy should be distinguished from each other - this confusion is not unjustified because there are some very strong similarities between the two.
How to Counter Gideon Bibles in Hotels &...
The Gideons International distribute Bibles all over the world. They don't do this to educate people about the Bible or even to provide Bibles to those who otherwise can't afford to purchase one themselves. The purpose of the Gideons is, in their own words, to 'win men, women, boys and girls to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.' They exist solely to evangelize Christianity and convert people to Christianity. You can take a stand against the Gideons when their actions break the law.
Descriptive, Normative and Analytic Ethics:...
Ethics FAQ: Descriptive, Normative and Analytic Ethics. Examples of the different ways in which descriptive ethics, normative ethics, and analytic ethics (metaethics) all address the same moral issues.
Secularism 101 - History, Nature, Importance of...
Secularism is one of the most important movements in the history of the modern West, helping differentiate the West not only from the Middle Ages and more ancient eras, but also from other cultural regions around the world. The modern West is what it is largely because of secularism; for some, that is a reason to cheer, but for others it is a reason to mourn. A better understanding of the history and nature of secularism will help people understand its role and influence in society today.
James the Apostle: Profile & Biography of...
James, the son of Zebedee, was called along with this brother John to be one of Jesus' twelve apostles who would accompany him on his ministry. James appears in the lists of apostles in the synoptic gospels as well as Acts. James and his brother John were given the nickname 'Boanerges' (sons of thunder) by Jesus; some believe this was a reference to their tempers.
Was There Really a Female Pope Named Joan?
There is a persistent and popular legend that a woman once managed to rise to the office of pope. This tale got its start some time during the Middle Ages and continues to be repeated today, but there is little if any evidence supporting it.
10 Things You Probably Don't Know about...
Some atheists enjoy debating religion with theists and have a lot of experience with traditional Christian doctrines, but they may find themselves unprepared for that Jehovah's Witness who comes knocking at their door. This is because the views of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society are different from those of most Protestants. If you are going to discusses Watchtower Society doctrines and Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs, you need to understand what those differences are and what they mean.
What an Atheist May Say About Jesus Healing...
Before Jesus unknowingly healed the woman who had been suffering for twelve years, he had been on his way to attend to the daughter of Jarius, a ruler of a local synagogue. Every synagogue at the time was managed by a council of elders which was in turn presided over by at least one president. Jarius would thus have been an important man in the community.
Fallacy of Amphiboly
The fallacy of amphiboly occurs whenever a sentence is ambiguous because the grammar allows for multiple interpretations. Usually, this is because of defects in how the sentence is structured. Amphiboly tends to be found in humor, but there are some serious situations and arguments where the fallacies of amphiboly can be found.
Punishing Greed and the Greedy
Religious authorities today seem to rarely condemn how the rich in the capitalist (and Christian) West possess much while the poor (in both the West and elsewhere) possess little. This may be because greed in various forms is as basis for modern capitalist economics upon which Western society is based and Christian churches today are thoroughly integrated into that system. Serious, sustained criticism of greed would ultimately lead to sustained criticism of capitalism. Page 6.
Adolf Hitler on Christianity: Quotes from...
Adolf Hitler often proclaimed his Christianity, how much he valued Christianity, how important Christianity was to his life, and even how much he was personally inspired by Jesus - his 'Lord and Savior.'
Many Religions, One God? Jews, Christians, and...
Many Religions, One God? Some Jews, Christians, and Muslims claim that all three religions follow the same god, but in different ways. Other Jews, Christians, and Muslims argue that this is wrong - that they really follow different gods. Who is right? Are they multiple religions with one god, or multiple religions with multiple gods?
Leprosy: What is Leprosy? What Does the Bible...
Also known as Hansen's disease, leprosy is a skin infection caused by a mycobacterium. Leprosy was at one time incurable and lepers were segregated into colonies; today the infection is readily cured - it's just a matter of reaching victims of the disease and fighting the social taboos surrounding it. Leprosy is rare in the West yet widely known through biblical references. Biblical references to leprosy, however, are to a wide array of skin diseases, few if any of which are Hansen's disease.
Religious Rituals, Festivals, Sacrifices:...
Although it may be common to speak of a Greek 'religion,' in fact the Greeks themselves didn't use such a term and might not have recognized it had someone else attempted to apply it to their practices. It's difficult to accept the idea that the Greeks where completely secular and irreligious, however. This is why a better understanding of Greek religion helps illuminate the nature of religion generally as well as the nature of religions which continue to be followed today. This, in turn, is critical for anyone who wants to engage in a sustained critique of religion and religious beliefs.
How Fossil Evidence Supports Evolution
When you hear talk of evidence for evolution, the first thing that frequently comes to mind for most people are fossils. The fossil record has one important, unique characteristic: it is our only actual glimpse into the past where common descent is proposed to have taken place. As such it provides invaluable evidence for common descent. The fossil record is not
Pragmatic Theory of Truth
An American philosophy developed during the early and mid twentieth century. Pragmatists identified the nature of truth with the principle of action.
Einstein Quotes on Ethics & Morality:...
A selection of quotes on ethics, morality, humanity and universal causation from Albert Einstein: Humans, not Gods, define morality.
Seven Deadly Sins in Theory & Practice
Christians' Seven Deadly Sins fail to provide useful guidelines of behavior in both theory and practice. In practice, religious authorities rarely apply the seven deadly sins against the behaviors of the rich and powerful; instead, they have been more useful in keeping the poor in their place and thus maintaining the status quo. The theory isn't much better because these sins focus on people's inner, spiritual state to the exclusion of outward behavior.
Punishing Anger and the Angry
Angry people, those guilty of committing the deadly sin of anger, will be punished in hell by being dismembered of alive. I don't see any connection between the sin of anger and the punishment of dismemberment, unless it's that dismembering a person is something an angry person would do. It also seems rather strange that people will be dismembered 'alive' when they must necessarily be dead when they get to hell. Don't you still have to be alive in order to be dismembered alive? Page 5.
Abortion & Religion: Diverse Religious...
When religious positions on abortion are discussed, we usually hear how abortion is condemned and regarded as murder. Religious traditions are more pluralistic and varied than that, however, and even within those religions most publicly opposed to abortion, we find that there are traditions which would permit abortion, even if only in limited circumstances. It's important to understand these traditions because not every religion regards abortion as a simplistic, black & white decision.
Biogeography & Evolution - How Biogeography...
Biogeography is the study of the the distribution of life forms over geographical areas. Biogeography not only provides significant inferential evidence for evolution and common descent, but it also provides what creationists like to deny is possible in evolution: testable predictions. Biogeography is split into two areas: ecological biogeography which is concerned with current distribution patterns and historical biogeography which is concerned with long-term and large-scale distributions.
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