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Agnosticism/Atheism: Most Popular Articles

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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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Epistemology: Theories in Epistemology
Philosophy FAQ: Theories in Epistemology. What sorts of theories exist about how our knowledge of the world is related to the world itself? Just how reliable are our perceptions, anyway?
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.
The Real Reasons People Believe in God
Some religious theists think it is appropriate to presume to inform atheists about why they really don't believe in any gods rather than simply listen to atheists in order to learn something. Perhaps atheists should instruct theists why they actually believe in gods. 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Georgia State Laws on Flag Burning, Desecration...
In Georgia, it's a crime to use the American flag or the flag of Georgia 'for the purpose of advertising, selling, or promoting the sale of any article of merchandise.' Included in this is 'any flag or emblem used by the Confederate States of America or the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America at any time within the years 1860 to 1865, both inclusive.'
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
10 Common Myths About Atheism
There are many myths about what atheism is and who atheists are - even the definition of atheism is misunderstood. These myths need to be identified as the fallacies they really are because that is the only way genuine arguments and dialogues can be made possible.
Ah Puch: Ah Puch, God of Death in Mayan...
Ah Puch (Hun Ahau, Cum Hau, Hunhau, Hunahau, Yum Cimil, 'Lord of Death') was the Mayan god of death, disaster, and destruction. Ah Puch ruled Mitnal, the lowest level of the Mayan underworld. The Mayans believed that Ah Puch stalked them like a hunter stalks his prey. You can't worship Ah Puch so much as try to keep him at a great distance, so to hedge your bets you should mourn with loud wailing in order to scare him away and prevent him from taking anyone else to Mitnal.
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.
If Flag Desecration is a Crime, What is...
Attempts to ban flag desecration, either through statute or through constitutional amendment, would ban much more than most people seem to realize. Usually people only think about trying to stop burning the American flag, but the truth is that past and current laws against flag desecration cover far more than just burning the flag. Perhaps if people thought more about just what they are outlawing, they wouldn't be so quick to support flag desecration bans.
Affirming vs. Swearing Oaths in Court
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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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Arguments Against Gay Marriage: Gay Couples are...
The idea that gay marriage is wrong because gay couples are somehow unnatural is not often stated openly, but this premise influences other arguments and lies behind many people's negative opinions about homosexuality in general. For most people, heterosexual relationships are the norm, both in society and in nature. Homosexual relationships are thus abnormal and unnatural; therefore, they shouldn't be validated by the state nor recognized as a form of marriage.
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 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.
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.
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.
What is Agnosticism?
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.
Third Crusade & Aftermath 1187 - 1197- Timeline...
Launched in 1189, the Third Crusade was called because of the Muslim recapture of Jerusalem in 1187 and the defeat of Palestinian knights at Hittin. It was ultimately unsuccessful. Frederick I Barbarossa of Germany drowned before he even reached the Holy Land and Philip II Augustus of France returned home after a short period of time. Only Richard the Lion Heart of England stayed long. He helped capture Acre and some smaller ports, only leaving after he concluded a peace treaty with Saladin.
Quotes on Religion - Carl Sagan
Freethought Quotations: Carl Sagan.: baloney detection sagan carl carl sagan ocean of confusion bamboozle
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.
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.
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?
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.
History of American Religion: Timeline 1600 -...
When did the first Catholics arrive in America? When did Pentecostalism first develop? When was Jerry Falwell's church was finally desegregated? When did Televangelist Oral Roberts announce that God would 'call him home' if he did not raise USD $8 million? All of these and more listed here.
American Foreign Policy, Democracy, and...
Some believe that the neoconservative perspective on foreign policy is, if nothing else, animated by important moral principles. This is probably one of the reasons why neoconservatives are able to make common cause with religious conservatives. Perhaps those alleged moral principles are in fact a mask being used to disguise simple, pragmatic desires that animate most of politics.
Tracing The Origins of the Old Testament...
The Canaanites play an important role in the story of the Israelites' conquest of their
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.
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
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.
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?
Agnosticism for Beginners - Basic Facts About...
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.
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?
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.
Engel v. Vitale (1962) - Prayers in Public...
What authority does the government have over religious rituals like prayer? Can the government write specific prayers for public school students to recite every day?
How to Be an Atheist: Simple and Easy Procedure...
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!
God is Omniscient: What does it mean to be...
Omniscience, also sometimes known as being all-knowing, refers to God's ability to know absolutely everything. This characteristic is usually treated as a consequence of one of two ways in which God exists: either because God exists outside of time, or because God exists as part of time. Unfortunately, the most absolute sense of omniscience has been found to be incoherent.
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.
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.
Should the Pledge of Allegiance say 'Under...
Ever since the 1950s, the Pledge of Allegiance has included the phrase 'Under God.' Some have challenged this, arguing that the addition of those words was unconstitutional. Others say that they simply acknowledge the nation's religious heritage. What do you think?
Why Does Religion Exist? Explaining Religion...
Religion is a pervasive and significant cultural phenomenon, so people who study culture and human nature have sought to explain the nature of religion, the nature of religious beliefs, and the reasons why religions exist in the first place. There have been as many theories as theorists, it seems, and while none fully captures what religion is, all offer important insights on the nature of religion and possible reasons why religion has persisted through human history.
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.
Albert Einstein Quotes on Life After Death:...
Belief in an afterlife and souls is a fundamental principle not only to most religions, but also most spiritual and paranormal beliefs today. Albert Einstein denied any validity to the belief that we can survive our physical deaths. According to Einstein, there is no punishment for misdeeds or rewards for good behavior in any afterlife. 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.
Is Creationism Science? Creationists Claim that...
Creationists commonly argue that their position is not only scientific, but even that it is more scientific than evolution. That is a pretty dramatic claim, especially since it has been established that evolution is very scientific, and it deserves closer consideration. This article will explain how and why creationism isn't science or scientific according to the standards of science.
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.
Perspectives and Religion in the Crusades
Most histories of the Crusades tend to focus on the Crusaders themselves and the perspectives of European Christians seeking conquest and plunder in the Holy Land. But what about the Muslims whose lands were invaded and cities sacked? What did they think about these religious armies marching out of Europe? Page 2.
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.
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.
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.
God Does Not Exist Scientifically
A popular objection to atheists' arguments and critiques of theism is to insist that one's preferred god cannot be disproven - indeed, that science itself is unable to prove that God does not exist. This position depends upon a mistaken understanding of the nature of science and how science operates. In a very real and important sense, 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
analogous / homologous structures
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - analogous / homologous structures
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Supreme Court Decisions on Privacy
United States Supreme Court Decisions the right to privacy.
Causes, History, and Violence of the Crusades
Why were the Crusades launched? There is a wide variety of opinion on this matter. Some argue that they were a necessary response by Christendom to the oppression of pilgrims in Muslim-controlled Jerusalem. Others claim that it was political imperialism masked by religious piety. Still others argue that it was a social release for a society that was becoming overburdened by landless nobles. There's a bit of truth in all of this. Page 3.
Contraception, Birth Control, and World...
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.
Pantheon in Rome: History, Architecture of the...
Today a Christian church, the Pantheon is the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings and has been in near-continuous use since Hadrian's reconstruction. From a distance the Pantheon is not as awe-inspiring as other ancient monuments - the dome appears low, not much higher than surrounding buildings. Inside, the Pantheon is among the most impressive in existence. Its inscription, M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT, means: Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, built this.
Ethics and Morality FAQ: Normative Ethics
Ethics FAQ: Normative Ethics, or the study of how we should behave and the sorts of moral standards we should employ in our lives.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Abraham Lincoln on God and Politics
It's rare for politicians in America to not try linking their policies with religion and God, at least when it comes to anything important or major. Since this happens on both sides of any issue, the upshot is that God is invoked as both favoring and opposing whatever is being debated.
Leonardo Da Vinci - Profile & Biography of...
Leonardo Da Vinci is usually thought of first and foremost as an artist but he was also a very important humanist, scientist, and naturalist in the Renaissance. These aspects of Leonardo's life and work may not always be clear because he was an original Renaissance Man: Leonardo's art, scientific investigations, technological inventiveness, and humanistic philosophy were all bound together — and all were often integrated in a life dominated by the Christianity and Church of his age.
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.
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.
What is Religion?
Many scholarly and academic attempts to define or describe religion can be classified into one of two types: functional or substantive. Each represents a very distinct perspective on the nature of function of religion. Although it is possible for a person to accept both types as valid, in reality most people will tend to focus on one type to the exclusion of the other.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
Read an Atheist's Commentary on Jesus's Healing...
The first verses introduce the story of Jarius' daughter (discussed elsewhere), but before it can finish it is interrupted by another story about a sick woman who heals herself by grabbing Jesus' garment. Both stories are about Jesus' power to heal the sick, one of the most common themes in the gospels generally and Mark's gospel specifically. This is also one of many examples of Mark's 'sandwiching' two stories together.
Renaissance Humanism
One consequence of the development of humanist philosophy during the Renaissance was the increased emphasis on the importance of education. People needed to learn ancient Greek and Latin in order to even begin to understand the ancient manuscripts. This, in turn, led to further education in the arts and philosophies which went along with those manuscripts. Page 2.
Godless Politics: A Political Manifesto for...
America's Christian Right complains often about godless liberals and godless liberalism, presuming that neither politics nor law can be pursued without a basis
Flaws in Reasoning: Pedantry - Details at the...
Very often, debates become embroiled over what appear to be very minor issues. Sometimes this may be appropriate and sometimes it may not - when it is not,
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.
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.
Philosophy of Religion: Karl Marx's Analysis of...
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
Was God Pleased or Displeased with Creation?
Genesis has inconsistent depictions of how God feels about his creation -- the earth and its inhabitants. Immediately after creation, Genesis says that God
Does Strong Atheism Imply or Require Certainty?
It is not true that strong atheism in any way implies or depends upon certainty. A strong atheist who asserts that no gods exist is not simultaneously
Quotes on Religion - Thomas Paine
Freethought Quotations: Thomas Paine.: thomas paine the age of reason professional belief thomas paine paine thomas names of christ
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.
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.
Second Crusade, 1144 - 1150 - Timeline of the...
Launched in response to the capture of Edessa by Muslims in 1144, the Second Crusade was accepted by European leaders primarily due to the tireless effort of St. Bernard of Clairvaux who travelled across France, Germany, and Italy to exhort people to take up the cross and reassert Christian domination in the Holy Land. The kings of France and Germany answered the call but the losses to their armies were devastating and they were easily defeated.
Weighing Out the Religious and Civil Undertones...
Many argue that marriage is essentially and necessarily a religious rite -- they conceive of marriage in almost exclusively religious terms. Therefore, legalizing gay marriage constitutes a type of sacrilege and an unjustified intrusion of the state into what is necessarily a religious matter. Because of religion's traditional role in sanctifying marriages and presiding over wedding ceremonies this is understandable, but it's also incorrect.
God is Dead: Killing God
God is Dead - when he wrote those words, Nietzsche didn't mean the death of a literal god, but the death of the shared cultural belief in a god in Europe. Find out more...
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Myth about School Prayer
That's right, students should be allowed to pray in school - and they are! Some people act and argue as though students were not permitted to pray in school, but there is no truth to this. At best, they are confusing the difference between official, state-sponsored, state-mandated prayers led by school officials and personal, private prayers initiated and said by the student. At worst, people are being deliberately deceitful in their claims.
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?
Ethics: Antiwar Arguments that War is Immoral...
War and Morality: Antiwar Arguments that War is Immoral and Unethical. Explanation and critiques of various arguments used against wars; includes arguments used against specific wars and arguments against wars generally. How successful are any of them? Can pacifism be defended?
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.
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.
Torture & Sexual Repression
Interrogations of witches followed many standard Inquisition procedures, but with some added bonuses. Accused witches were all stripped naked, had all of their body hair shaved of, and then pricked. Red-hot tongs were applied to womens' breasts and genitalia. Researcher Nancy van Vuuren has written that 'The women's sex organs provided special attraction for the male torturer.'. Page 7.
Method of Sacrifice in Ancient Greece: Images...
The nature of a sacrificial ritual as well as that which was to be sacrificed could vary somewhat, but the most basic sacrifice was that of an animal - usually a steer, pig, or goat (with the choice depending upon cost and scale). In contrast to Jewish tradition, the ancient Greeks did not regard the pig as unclean.
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.
Sayyid Qutb: Father of Modern Islamic Extremism
Sayyid Qutb, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who promoted the idea of violent revolution against non-Muslim rulers, created a new way for modern Muslims, dissatisfied with their condition, to look at society. He provided an ideological framework to the use principles of Islam, rather than Western categories like capitlaism, socialism, democracy, in order to fight against unjust government.
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.
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.
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.
Hillary Clinton on Religion, Religious Faith,...
Whether she is elected president or not, Hillary Clinton is and will remain for some time a leading figure in the Democratic Party. Her views on matters like religion, the role of religion in government and public life, church/state separation, secularism, faith-based initiatives, reproductive choice, atheists and atheism, religion in public school, and related issues should matter to atheists. Secular atheists need to know where she really stands on religious and secular issues.
Myth: Atheists Have No Reason to Be Moral
The idea that atheists have no reason to be moral without a god or religion may be the most popular and repeated myth about atheism out there. It comes up in a variety of forms, but all of them are based on the assumption that the only valid source of morality is a theistic religion, preferably the religion of the speaker which is usually Christianity. Thus without Christianity, people cannot live moral lives. This is supposed to be a reason reject atheism and convert to Christianity.
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.
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
Lemon v. Kurtzman: There are a lot of people in America who would like to see the government provide funding to private, religious schools. Critics argue that this would violate the separation of church and state and sometimes the courts agree with this position.
Scientific Theories - The Criteria for Science,...
Scientific observations are the fuel which power scientific discoveries and scientific theories are the engine. Theories allow scientists to organize and understand earlier observations, then predict and create future observations. Scientific theories all have common characteristics which differentiate them from unscientific ideas like faith and pseudoscience. Scientific theories must be: consistent, parsimonious, correctable, empirically testable/verifiable, useful, and progressive.
Supreme Court Decisions on Privacy: Griswold v....
Supreme Court Decisions on Privacy: summary and analysis of Griswold v. Connecticut. Should people be allowed access to drugs or devices designed to stop contraception? Do people have a right to privacy that includes whether or not they buy, learn about, and use contraception?
Witch Hunts & Persecution in America
As most Americans know, witch hunts also affected the American colonies. The Salem witch trials pursued the Massachusetts Puritans have entered American consciousness as being much more then just the killing of witches. They, like the trials of Europe, have become a symbol. In our case, the witch trials have become a symbol of what can go wrong when mobs of ignorant people go crazy, especially when egged on by just as ignorant and/or power hungry leaders. Page 11.
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?
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.
Witches, Women, and Witchcraft
Witches have long been feared and hated in Christian circles. Even today, pagans and Wiccans remain a target of Christian persecution - especially in America. It seems that they long ago took on an identity which reached far beyond their own existence and became a symbol for Christians - but a symbol of what? Maybe an examination of the events will give us some clues.
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.
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.
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?
Suppressed Evidence Fallacy
When true and relevant information is left out for any reason, the fallacy called Suppressed Evidence is committed. The fact that all included premises have to be true also means that all true premises have to be included.
What is Materialism? History of Materialism,...
Materialism is the idea that everything is either made only of matter or is ultimately dependent upon matter for its existence and nature. It is possible for a philosophy to be materialistic and still accord spirit a (secondary or dependent) place, but most forms of materialism tend to reject the existence of spirit or anything non-physical.
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.
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.

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