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Agnosticism / Atheism: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
Is Easter a Christian or Pagan Holiday?...
Easter is the oldest Christian holiday, but how much of the most public and common celebrations of Easter today remain Christian in nature? Many people go to church - far more than go the rest of the year - but what else? Easter candy isn't Christian. The Easter bunny isn't Christian. Easter eggs aren't Christian. Most of what people commonly associate with Easter is pagan in origin; the rest is commercial. Just as American culture secularized Christmas, it's secularizing Easter.
What’s the Difference Between Atheists...
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.
What is Easter? History of Christian Celebratio...
Like pagans, Christians celebrate the end of death and the rebirth of life; but instead of focusing upon nature, Christians believe that Easter marks the day that Jesus Christ was resurrected after spending three days dead in his tomb. Some argue that the word Easter comes form Eostur, the Norse word for spring, but it's more likely that it comes from Eostre, the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess.
State of the Law for Good Friday Holidays
Where does the law currently stand with regards to official government observances of the Christian holy days of Good Friday and Easter? What are governments allowed and not allowed to do? What are schools allowed to do and what rights to students have? It's helpful to know the answers to these questions as well as what the case law is because you might confront constitutionally suspect actions by local school boards, school administrations, and city councils.
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.
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.
Jesus' Resurrection and the Empty Tomb (Mark...
After the Jewish sabbath, which occurs on Saturdays, women who were present at Jesus' crucifixion come to his tomb to anoint his corpse with spices. These are things his close disciples should have done, but Mark portrays Jesus' female followers as consistently showing more faith and courage than the men.
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.
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.
Crucifixion of Jesus: Contradictions in Gospel...
Crucifixion may be one of the most horrible methods of execution ever invented. A person is nailed to a cross or stake and hangs there until their own weight suffocates them. The horrors of crucifixion are glossed over by the gospel authors, however, in favor of the deeper theological meanings behind these events. Perhaps that is why the gospel authors are inconsistent in describing what happened.
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.
Good Friday, Great Friday
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Good Friday, Great Friday
Should Government Observe Good Friday & Easter?
Do state and local laws or policies which create holidays on Good Friday violate the separation of church and state? Is making Good Friday a public or school holiday is unconstitutional, or can there be a secular purpose behind making Good Friday an official holiday? Indeed, is Good Friday still a religious holiday anymore or has it become a secular holiday? Some Christians want government should to make Good Friday an official public holiday, but others are pushing back.
Virtue Ethics: Morality and Character
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.
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.
Karl Marx on Religion
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.
Quotes on Religion - Carl Sagan
Freethought Quotations: Carl Sagan.: baloney detection sagan carl carl sagan ocean of confusion bamboozle
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42)
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Why Do We Need Epistemology, the Philosophy of...
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.
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.
Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday
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.
Days of Easter Season: Easter is a Season of...
In Christianity, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe happened three days after he was buried. Easter is not an isolated holiday: it is the culmination of the season of Lent, which lasts 40 days, and begins the season of Pentecost, which lasts 50 days. Because of this, Easter is a holiday which stands at the center of the Christian liturgical calendar and serves as a focal point for numerous other celebrations, commemorations, and vigils.
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?
What is Metaphysics? Philosophy of the Nature...
What is Metaphysics?: In Western philosophy, metaphysics has become the study of the fundamental nature
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?
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.
Religion as Opium of the People
Karl Marx wrote that religion is the opium of the people, but few understand what he really meant. Marx was criticizing society more than religion. Marx didn't regard religion as a primary enemy, though he did argue that the hopes offered by religion are illusory.
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.
Government Observance of Good Friday & Easter:...
Supreme Court Decisions on Religious Observances, Good Friday & Easter: summary and analysis of Metzl v. Leininger. Is it an establishment of religion when a religious holy day like Good Friday becomes an official state holiday?
Analysis and Commentary of Mark 16:1-8
Who is this young man at Jesus' empty tomb? Apparently hen is there solely to give information to these visitors because he doesn't do anything and he doesn't seem to plan on waiting - he tells them to pass the message along to the others. Page 2.
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
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.
Government Observances of Good Friday & Easter
Although making Christian holy days like Good Friday an official government holiday is a practice often accepted as a matter of course in the past, recently more and more people have begun to object to what they perceive as unfair favoritism being shown towards Christianity and Christian beliefs. Because of this, they are challenging the practice of accommodating Christian beliefs in ways not generally accepted for the beliefs of other religions - but with mixed results.
Judas Iscariot: Profile & Biography of Judas...
Every story needs a villain and Judas Iscariot fills this role in the gospels. He is the apostle who betrayed Jesus and helps the Jerusalem authorities arrest him. Judas may have enjoyed a privileged position among Jesus' apostles - John describes him as the band's treasurer and he is often present at important times. John also describes him as a thief, but it seems implausible that a thief would have joined such a group or that Jesus would have made a thief their treasurer.
Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday
Top 11 Conversation Killers for Atheists
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.
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.
Why is Peter the Apostle (Simon Peter) Important?
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.
Jesus' Burial & Empty Tomb: Contradictions in...
Jesus' burial is important because without it, there can be no tomb from which Jesus can arise in three days. It's also historically implausible: crucifixion was intended as a shameful, horrible execution which included allowing the bodies to remain nailed up until they rotted off. It's inconceivable that Pilate would have agreed to turn the body over to anyone for any reason. This may have something to do with why the gospel authors all have different stories about it.
Easter: Christian, Pagan, Jewish Holiday Season...
A very popular spring holiday, Easter has roots not only in Jewish and Christian traditions, but also in ancient pagan beliefs. Although Easter is ostensibly viewed as a Christian holiday today, much of it is arguably more pagan than Christian - and many of the Christian elements have pagan parallels as well.Some Christians don't celebrate Easter, believing that the Christian takeover of this pagan holiday resulted in an unacceptable adoption of pagan themes, beliefs, and practices.
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.
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.
Arguments for Gay Marriage: Moral and Social...
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.
Jesus' Entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11)
After much traveling, Jesus arrives at Jerusalem. Mark structures the Jerusalem narrative carefully, giving Jesus three days before the passion events and three days before his crucifixion and burial. The entire time is filled with parables about his mission and symbolic actions referring to his identity.
Seventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Commit...
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.
Death of Jesus (Mark 15:33-41)
Jesus' death was not only foretold, but depicted as a necessary step in God's plan for humanity. There was never any choice in the matter - Jesus didn't choose to take on this task and didn't choose to die. It was God's will, not his own, that all of this happen. This is the essence of the 'good news' of Christianity: if God wants you to suffer horribly and die for the sake of some greater cause that you'll never be able to understand, then that's exactly what you are going to do.
Biography: Pope John XXIII
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Short Biography of Pope John XXIII
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?
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.
Affirming vs. Swearing Oaths in Court
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What is Pragmatism? History of Pragmatism,...
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.
What is Idealism? History of Idealism, Idealist...
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.
Jesus' Last Supper with his Disciples (Mark...
It is not without good reason that Jesus' 'last supper' with his disciples has been made the subject of so many artistic projects over the centuries: here, at one of the last gatherings attended by all, Jesus delivers instructions not on how to enjoy the meal, but how to remember him once he is gone. Much is communicated in just four verses.
Scientifically, God Does Not Exist: Science...
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.
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.
Veneration of the Cross
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Veneration of the Cross
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.
Separation of Church and State Myth: Is It In...
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.
Barabbas: Profile & Biography of Barabbas
Barabbas was a criminal whom the gospels say was released by the Romans instead of Jesus. Bar-abbas means 'son of the father,' thus a false 'son of the father' was chosen by the Jews to be released while the true 'son of the father' was delivered to the Romans for crucifixion. Some early manuscripts of Matthew give Barabbas a surname: Jesus. This may have been a copyist error because the Greek words for 'to you' ('release to you Barabbas') could have looked like an abbreviation for Jesus.
What is Crucifixion?
Today crucifixion is associated with Jesus and Christianity, but as a method of execution it enjoyed widespread popularity with tyrants and governments throughout the ancient world. It is generally considered one of the cruelest and most painful ways to kill someone, and ancient historians like Herodotus record its presence in one form or another among the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Persians, and more.
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.
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.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
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.
Atheism & Anti-Theism: What's the Difference?...
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.
Christian Privileges in American Society:...
The concept of 'nonconscious ideology' was created to describe those ideologies whose implicit, unreflective, and uncritical acceptance help maintain their dominance in society. Sexism and racism are nonconscious ideologies in which the inferiority of one group is reinforced through a multitude of assumptions and interactions that occur outside our conscious consideration. The same is true with Christian Privilege: Christians are continuously told that they are special and deserve privileges.
Conspiracy Theories: Masons and the New World...
Conspiracy Theories Masons and the New World Order •  Related Resources •  Psychology of Conspiracies
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.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Mark 11:15-19)
After cursing the fig tree, Jesus and his disciples reenter Jerusalem and proceed to the Temple where “moneychangers” and those selling sacrificial animals are doing a lively business. Mark reports that this infuriates Jesus who overturns the tables and chastises them. This is the most violent we have seen Jesus yet and is quite uncharacteristic of him thus far — but then again, so was cursing the fig tree, and as we know the two events are closely linked.
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree (Mark 11:12-14)
One of the more infamous passages in the gospels involves Jesus’ cursing of a fig tree for not having any fruit for him despite the fact that it wasn’t even the season for fruit. What sort of petulant individual would deliver a gratuitous, arbitrary curse? Why would this be Jesus’ only miracle in the environs of Jerusalem? In reality the incident is meant as a metaphor for something larger — and worse.
Microevolution vs Macroevolution
'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.
Jesus Appears Before Pilate (Mark 15:1-5)
Jesus' appearance before Pontius Pilate presents the reader with at least as many historical problems as did Jesus' appearance before the Sanhedrin. Almost nothing here is historically plausible, but historical accuracy was probably not Mark's goal: there were larger theological and political objectives to pursue.
What is Belief? What Does it Mean to Say "I...
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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.
The Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Garment (Mark...
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.
Timeline of Cloning History
Timeline of Cloning History - how the science of cloning has developed over the past century.
Quotes on Religion - Thomas Paine
Freethought Quotations: Thomas Paine.: thomas paine the age of reason professional belief thomas paine paine thomas names of christ
Who Were the Canaanites? Canaanites in the Old...
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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?
Albert Einstein Quotes on a Personal God:...
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.
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.
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.
Crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:21-32)
Crucifixion may be one of the most horrible methods of execution ever invented. A person is nailed to a cross or stake and hangs there until their own weight suffocates them. The horrors of crucifixion are, however, glossed over by Mark in favor of the deeper theological meanings behind these events.
Catholic Excommunication - How To Get...
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.
Lord, Liar, or Lunatic: C.S. Lewis and the...
Is Jesus really whom he is reported to have said he was? Was Jesus really the Son of God? C.S. Lewis believed so and also believed that he had a very good argument for convincing people to agree: if Jesus was not whom he claimed, then he must be a lunatic, a liar, or worse. He was certain that no one could seriously argue for or accept these alternatives and that left only his favored explanation.
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.
What is Authority?
The term 'authority' refers to an abstract concept with both sociological and psychological components. As a child born of a myriad of different social situations which have some rough similarities, no easy definition exists. Of particular concern throughout the literature on the topic is the entanglement of the concepts of authority, power, and legitimacy.
What Should I Tell My Kids About Religion?
When children are raised in a religious environment, what they are taught about religion is relatively obvious and organized - but what about kids raised in a non-religious environment? If you aren't specifically teaching your kids to believe in any gods or to follow any religious systems, then it may be tempting to just ignore the topic entirely.
Why Does Religion Exist?
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.
University of Minnesota Study on American...
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
Pope 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.
Are There Non-Religious Wedding Options For...
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 Aesthetics? Aesthetics is the...
Aesthetics almost never comes up in atheists' discussions about religion, but perhaps it should. First, religious and theistic ideas are often communicated in various forms of art (including film, books, and games) rather than in formal arguments. Atheistic critiques of religion cannot ignore this and it's impact on people's religious beliefs. Second, atheists themselves can do the same: communicate criticism of religion, religious beliefs, and theism through works of art and images.
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.
Jesus Anointed at Bethany (Mark 14:3-9)
Jesus being anointed with oil by an unnamed woman is one of the more interesting passages during Mark's passion narrative. Why does she choose to do it? What do Jesus' comments say about his ultimate feelings about the poor and destitute?
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.
Mary Magdalene: Profile & Biography of Mary...
Mary Magdalene is mentioned in lists of Jesus' female companions in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Some think Mary Magdalene was an important figure among female disciples, perhaps even their leader and a member of Jesus' inner circle of disciples.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand: Loaves and...
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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.
Lent: What is Lent? When Does Lent Occur? What...
In the Christian liturgical calendar, Lent is the penitential period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Traditional Christians observances of Lent include fasting and penitence, both in preparation for Easter and as a way of spiritually 'joining' Jesus with the fasting and meditation he did in the wilderness. For early Christians and for Eastern Orthodox Christians today the rules of fasting are strict: just one meal a day, in the evening, and no meat, fish, eggs, or butter is permitted.
Jesus' Resurrection & Ascension: Contradictions...
Christians point to Jesus' resurrection as one of the things which distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. After all, the founders of other religions (like Muhammad and Buddha) are all dead; Jesus conquered death. Or did he? For something so important and central to the message, theology, and very nature of Christianity, it's curious that the gospel authors would all have such radically different stories about what happened.
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).
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.
Jesus' Preparations for Passover with his...
Was Jesus' final meal with his disciples also a Passover meal? That's been the general assumption by Christian theologians and there are some signs that this is the case. There are, however, also signs that it's not the case - the text is unclear on this point.
analogous / homologous structures
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - analogous / homologous structures
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.
Can You Name the Catholic Popes of the 5th...
Here is a list of all of the popes who reigned during the fifth century. The first number is which pope they were. This is followed by their chosen name, the starting and ending dates of their reigns, and finally the number of years they were pope. Follow the links to read short biographies of each pope and learn about what they did, what they believed, and what impact they had on the course of the Roman Catholic Church.
Jesus Calms the Storm (Mark 4:35-40)
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 test the faith of the apostles. If that is the case, then they failed.
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.
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.
John the Apostle: Profile & Biography of John...
John, the son of Zebedee, was called along with this brother James to be one of Jesus' twelve apostles who would accompany him on his ministry. John appears in the lists of apostles in the synoptic gospels as well as Acts.
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?
Matthew the Apostle: Profile & Biography of...
Matthew is recorded as one of Jesus' original disciples in all four gospels and in Acts. In the gospel of Matthew he is described as a tax collector; in parallel accounts, however, the tax collector Jesus encounters is named 'Levi.' Christians have traditionally thought that this was an example of a double naming.
Joseph of Arimathea: Who Was Joseph of...
The role and behavior of Joseph of Arimathea is one of the few things discussed in all four gospels. According to the gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin who disagreed with Jesus' conviction. John and Matthew even say that he was a disciple of Jesus. Joseph took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in linen, and buried it in a tomb that he may have prepared for himself.
Christianity and History: Bible, Race & Slavery
Christianity and History Bible, Race & Slavery We are now in what many consider "National Bible Week"
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.
Authorship of Mark's Gospel
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.
Fossils & Evolution - Fossil Evidence Supports...
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Christianity and Violence: Early History
It is being argued that religion will prevent violence - but what does history tell us? Some also argue that violence committed in the name of Christianity is actually a perversion of that religion, but tendencies and justifications for violence can be found in even the earliest stages of Chrstianity.
Religion in Iran - Index
bani sadr sunni islam iran index flag of iran islamic conquest: Religion in Iran: Religion Index.
What is the Gospel According to Mark?
The Gospel According to Mark is anonymous, undated, and has no direct information about the historical, social, or political context in which it was written. Because specific and direct information about where this gospel comes from is absent, scholars have had to act like detectives in order to figure out what, if anything, might be said about it with some authority.
C.S. Lewis and Faith: Defending Faith in God by...
Christian apologist C.S. Lewis had a curious relationship with faith. On the one hand, he couldn't very well deny the importance of faith because it has been a core component of Christianity since the very beginning - both Jesus and Paul praise it as vital. At the same time, however, his overall goal was to provide a rational apologetic that justified acceptance of Christianity on intellectual grounds. This would make faith superfluous.
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.
Columns of Greek Temples: Secular and Religious...
One of the most prominent features of Greek temples is their columns - although columns appear in architecture all around the world, they appear here in an especially significant form. The ancient Greeks constructed their temples along very specific lines, and that included their columns. Over the centuries three different styles (also called Orders) of column were used: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
free will vs. determinism
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Free Will vs. Determinism
What is Parapsychology?
Defining parapsychology is not an easy task. The researchers who would have been expected to clarify things have actually contributed to the problem. Most definitions of parapsychology tend to emphasize negative aspects, defining it according to what it is not rather than what it is. The absence of a substantive definition is one of the things that prevents parapsychology from being taken more seriously.
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...
Religion vs. 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.
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.
Dating Easter: Religious Origins and Background
Although the dating of Easter is a little complicated, it still seems like it should be a rather straightforward process. Appearances can be deceiving, however - because this date is supposed to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians have always placed a high emphasis on getting it right...
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.
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-52)
With his betrayal and arrest, Jesus' active ministry is over. Jesus' passion technically began with the mental anguish he experienced in Gethsemane, but the physical torture he is about to experience at the hands of Roman authorities constitutes the 'passion' most people may have in mind when they hear the word.
If Jesus Rises from His Tomb & Sees His Shadow,...
There's an old joke about kids confusing the nature of Easter and Groundhog's Day, but these two holidays have far more in common than most probably realize. Easter may be Christianity's oldest holiday, but not much of the popular celebrations have anything to do with Christianity and most of the Christian aspects can be traced to more ancient pagan celebrations. Groundhog's Day, occurring a couple of months earlier, is related to some of the same pagan cycles of life, death, and rebirth. . Page 12.
Wahhabism and Wahhabi Islam: How Wahhabi Islam...
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.
Who Was Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus? Was She...
Was Jesus and Illegitimate Child of Mary?: The synoptic gospels identify Mary as the mother of Jesus.
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.
Jesus Heals Jairus' Daughter (Mark 5:35-43)
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.
Analysis and Commentary of Mark 15:33-41
The last three hours of Jesus' life are set up in a dramatic manner. From the sixth hour (noon) to the ninth hour (3 P.M.), darkness covers the land in preparation for Jesus' end - and in accordance with Amos 8:9, 'And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.'. Page 2.
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.
Islam vs. the West: Why is there Conflict?
Islam vs. the West: Why is there Conflict? As the saying goes, can't we all just get along? One should wonder why Islam and the West cannot simply find a way to get along peacefully and without so much violent conflict. Unfortunately, one of the reasons for the conflict is not their differences, but actually their similarities. They are, in many ways, too similar to just get along easily.
Barack Obama on Injecting Religion into...
Barack Obama has declared that his religion has an important place in politics - but apparently only on his terms and in the way he wants. As has become common with the so-called 'Religious Left,' religion used the way he wants is good; religion used differently is not. According to Barack Obama, religious faith must be used to 'tackle moral problems' but not 'divide the nation.' Since when have 'moral problems' not divided the nation?
Using AD vs CE & BC vs BCE - Is It Better to...
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.
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.
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus (Mark 14:10-11)
In contrast with the great faith of the woman in the previous verses who wasted expensive oil in anointing Jesus, Mark presents us with Judas Iscariot, the villain of Jesus' passion narrative. Every story needs a villain and Judas fills this role well, although it's unclear whether he should be condemned for this because he was, after all, simply carrying out the tasks God needed.

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