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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.
Atheism for Beginners
An overview with links to lots of resources about atheism, including refutations of many popular myths about atheism.
What Are Barack Obama's Religious Beliefs?
Barack Obama's mother was raised by non-practicing Christians; his father was raised a Muslim but was an atheist by the time he had married Obama's mother. Neither Obama nor his mother were ever atheists, but she raised him in a secular household where he learned about religion.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Agnosticism for Beginners
There are a lot of resources here about agnosticism for beginners: what agnosticism is, what it isn't, and refutations of many popular myths about agnosticism. I've discovered, though, that it isn't always easy to direct people to all of the information they need. That's why I've collected here some of the basics about atheism for beginners that I find myself linking to most often.
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.
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.
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.
Popes of the 15th Century
Here is a list of all of the popes who reigned during the fifteenth 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.
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.
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.
Atheism vs. Agnosticism: What's the Difference?
Many who call themselves agnostic think that agnosticism is a more 'reasonable' than atheism and thus reject the label of atheist. Their believe that atheism is more 'dogmatic,' and indistinguishable from theism is incorrect.
Karl Marx on Religion: The Opiate of the Masses?
This quote is reproduced a great deal and is probably the only Marx quote that most people are familiar with. Unfortunately, if someone is familiar with it they are likely only familiar with a small portion that, taken by itself, tends to give a distorted impression of what Marx had to say about religion.
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.
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.
Affirming vs. Swearing Oaths in Court
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Declaration of Independence and Christianity Myth
Many argue that the Declaration of Independence endorses the idea that the United States was founded upon religious, if not Christian, principles, and therefore church and state must remain intertwined in order for this nation to continue properly. They are wrong.
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!
Divorce Rates for Atheists Lower Than Christians
Conservative Christians of all types, evangelical as well as Catholic, tend to link their conservative brand of their religion with proper moral behavior. By far the most popular context is marriage: they claim that a good, solid marriage is only possible when people acknowledge conservative Christianity's claims about the nature of marriage and gender roles. So why is it that Christian marriages, and especially conservative Christian marriages, end in divorce more often than atheist marriages?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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 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 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.
What Pope John Paul II Believed About...
Official Catholic doctrine describes homosexuality as a 'disorder' even though the Catechism also insists that gays 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.' Pope John Paul II agreed with this, but what is the reason for this duality? According to Catholic doctrine, sexual activity only exists for the purpose of procreation, and obviously homosexual activity cannot produce children. This was also Pope John Paul II's position on gays and homosexuality.
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 Agnosticism? A Short Explanation
So, what is the definition of agnosticism? Some imagine that agnosticism represents an alternative to atheism, but those people have typically bought into the mistaken notion of the single, narrow definition of atheism. Strictly speaking, agnosticism is about knowledge, and knowledge is a related but separate issue from belief, the domain of theism and atheism.
Quotes on Religion - George Washington
Freethought Quotations: George Washington.: r laurence moore george seldes religious correctness religious controversies secaucus new jersey
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.
Quotes on Religion - Thomas Paine
Freethought Quotations: Thomas Paine.: thomas paine the age of reason professional belief thomas paine paine thomas names of christ
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.
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.
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
Arguments Against Gay Marriage: It Would Be a...
Although rarely offered as an explicit argument against gay marriage, the idea that marriage is a sacred religious sacrament is one of the most important arguments for opponents and underlies much of the vehemence which motivates them in a way that the other arguments fail to explain. Indeed, if it weren't for the idea that marriage is sacred, it seems unlikely that the debate would be as rancorous as it is.
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.
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.
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.
Arguments Against Gay Marriage: Marriage is for...
The idea that gay couples can't marry because of the disconnect between homosexuality and procreation cuts across many arguments against gay marriage. Gay marriage would be 'unnatural' because it can't produce children, the natural end of marriage. Gay marriage would undermine marriage because it is a legal and moral institution designed to promote and protect procreation and raising of children. Gay marriage would desecrate God's mandate that heterosexual couples have to mate and procreate.
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.
What's The Point of Marriage, Gay or Straight?
A common question in the debate over gay marriage is: what the point is for gays to marry? Aside from property and legal issues that could, in theory, be solved by other laws, what point are gays trying to make in attempting to get married? Why is it so important to be able to hold up a marriage certificate and say ‘we're married‘ instead of simply saying ‘we're a couple‘ without a certificate?
How to Get Excommunicated from the Catholic...
If you are an atheist who was once a Catholic, you should consider getting excommunicated. Excommunication is a definitive and public step of rejecting religion. Unless and until you are excommunicated, you're still counted as a Catholic. Why would you allow them to regard you as even provisionally Catholic? What are you afraid of?
What is 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
Quotes on Religion - Carl Sagan
Freethought Quotations: Carl Sagan.: baloney detection sagan carl carl sagan ocean of confusion bamboozle
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.
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.
An Atheist's Analysis of the Seventh Commandment
The problem here lies with the meaning of the word 'adultery.' People today tend define it as any act of sexual intercourse outside of marriage or, perhaps a bit more narrowly, any act of sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not their spouse. That is appropriate in contemporary society but it isn’t not how the word has always been defined.
What 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.
Is it Wrong to Mock Religious Beliefs,...
The Danish publication of satirical cartoons of Muhammad generated a lot of heated discussion about the moral and political legitimacy of satirizing or mocking religion, but this issue has generated heated debate for a long time. Muslims weren't the first to seek censorship of images or words which offended them, and they won't be the last. Religions may change, but the basic arguments remain fairly constant and this allows us to more quickly respond when the issue arises again (and again).
Tax Exemptions Available to Churches
America’s tax laws are designed to favor non-profit and charitable institutions which presumably benefit the community. Churches benefit the most from tax exemptions because they qualify for many of them automatically, whereas non-religious groups have to go through a more complicated application and approval process. Why?
Tracing The Origins of the Old Testament...
The Canaanites play an important role in the story of the Israelites' conquest of their
Christianity and History: Bible, Race & Slavery
Christianity and History Bible, Race & Slavery We are now in what many consider "National Bible Week"
Gay Rights & Marriage vs. Religious Liberty
Opposition to equal civil rights for gays comes in many forms. Religious conservatives are losing the argument that there is something necessarily wrong with homosexuality, so they appear to be turning to a new one: treating gays like fully equal citizens and human beings is incompatible with conservatives’ religious liberty. Since when did the preservation of religious liberty require treating members of a minority like second-class citizens?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Equal Rights vs. Special Privileges
A common Christian Right argument against protecting gays' basic civil rights is that gays are seeking 'specia' rights unavailable to others. This is untrue, but it's rhetorically powerful and sounds convincing. It's also hypocritical because if any group in America is benefiting from and defending special rights for themselves, it's religious believers. Why do Christians favor restrictions on gays which they would never accept for themselves?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Quotes on Religion - James Madison
Freethought Quotations: James Madison.: leonard w levy edward livingston impas madison james civil matters
Alphabetical List of Catholic Popes
This list of popes is arranged in alphabetical order. It starts with Adrian and ends with Zosimus. Alternative names are given, years of reign are listed, and all names are linked to short biographies that describe major dates in their papacy, controversies, and important events at the time.
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.
Gay Marriage Will Undermine the Institution of...
There don’t appear to be valid secular reasons for thinking that allowing gay couples to marry will have any deleterious effects on marriage generally.
Gay Marriage vs. Interracial Marriage: Why is...
A lot of people oppose the legalization of gay marriages because they believe that it poses a serious threat to the institution of marriage itself. What is most disturbing about this position, and what should be disturbing for them as well, is just how similar their arguments are to the ones which were used to oppose interracial marriages and to support anti-miscegenation laws. Both sets of arguments also tend to be religious. What really separates them from the racists of the past? . Page 7.
Religious Beliefs & Religious Acts: Religously...
Conservative Christians are failing to convince enough people that homosexuality is abhorrent enough to justify restricting gays' civil liberties. Their new tactic is to argue that substantively recognizing the equality of gays would require violating the First Amendment. Christians' belief in God's condemnation of homosexuality is claimed to be so important that forcing them to treat gays equally means forcing them to violate their religious beliefs.
America, a Christian Nation - Supreme Court...
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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.
Court Decisions on the Ten Commandments
Should displays of the Ten Commandments be allowed in public buildings? Should large monuments be erected on the grounds of courthouses or legislative buildings? Should there be posters of the Ten Commandments in schools and other municipal buildings? Some argue that they are part of our legal history, but others contend that they are inherently religious and, therefore, cannot be allowed.
What an Atheist May Say About Jesus Healing...
Before Jesus unknowingly healed the woman who had been suffering for twelve years, he had been on his way to attend to the daughter of Jarius, a ruler of a local synagogue. Every synagogue at the time was managed by a council of elders which was in turn presided over by at least one president. Jarius would thus have been an important man in the community.
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.
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.
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.
An Examination of the 10th Commandment: Thou...
Of all the commandments, the Tenth Commandment has a tendency to be the most contentious. Depending upon how it is read, it can be the most difficult to adhere to, the most difficult to justify imposing upon others, and in some ways the least reflective of modern morality.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair and School Prayer...
O'Hair is blamed for the elimination of state-sponsored prayers and Bible readings in public schools. But she played no role in one, minimal in the other.
Pantheon in Rome and Western Religion
It's possible that the Pantheon has had an impact on Western religion: the Pantheon appears to be the first temple built with general public access in mind. Temples of the ancient world were generally limited only to specific priests; the public may have taken part in religious rituals in some fashion, but mostly as observers and outside the temple. The Pantheon, however, existed for all the people — a feature which is now standard for houses of worship in all religions of the West. Page 13.
Expression vs. Speech, Flag Burning vs. Flag...
Despite a spate of court decisions against them, some people continue to insist that there is no speech interest in flag burning, and therefore flag burning should not be protected by the First Amendment. One has to wonder, then, whether something like flag waving is a speech act? If flag burning doesn't qualify as speech, then flag waving can't; if flag waving is protected as free speech, then flag burning should be as well.
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.
Influence of the Pantheon in Rome on Western...
As one of the best surviving structures from ancient Rome, the influence of the Pantheon on modern architecture almost cannot be underestimated. Architects from all over Europe and America from the Renaissance through the 19th century studied it and incorporated what they learned into their own work. Echoes of the Pantheon can be found in numerous public structures: libraries, universities, Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda, and more. Page 12.
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.
Gay Marriage & Church/State Separation: Civil...
If the separation of church and state means anything, it must include the idea that people cannot be forced by the state to live according to the dictates of others’ religion. Just because one or many groups consider something sacred doesn’t mean that everyone must be forced by the state to do so. Just because one or many religious groups consider same-sex marriage a sacrilege doesn’t mean that civil marriage laws must be restricted to exclude that which some regard as sacrilegious. . Page 14.
Adolf Hitler on Tradition: Hitler Quotes on...
Adolf Hitler is often used as an example of what happens to a society when traditional Christian moral and social values are abandoned. In reality, one of the reasons why Hitler was so popular with conservative Christians in Germany was precisely because he promised to restore traditional morality. He opposed abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and just about everything else conservative Christians complained were ruining modern Germany.
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.
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.
Ten Commandments: Basis for American Law?
Many argue that the Ten Commandments are the basis for American law and this justifies the creation of of Ten Commandments plaques, monuments, or displays on government property. Having the Ten Commandments displayed is thus supposed to be a way of acknowledging the roots of our laws and our government. But is this argument valid?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Introduction to the Pentateuch
If you want to understand the Bible, you need to understand the Pentateuch. Here in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, you'll find most if not all of the major themes that recur throughout the Bible as well as important characters and stories that continue to be important.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy: Index
Glossary of religion and philosophy terms: amp philosophy agnosticism atheism jargon words philosophy index religion and philosophy
Astrology and Psychology: Why Do People Believe?
Astrology and Psychology: Why do people believe in astrology? Belief in astrology has a lot to do with the psychological benefits it provides: it makes people feel important, it makes them feel connected to the universe, and provides reassurance about the future.
Introduction to 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 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.
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.
What is Marriage Between a Man and a Woman?
Defining marriage in terms of sex (one man and one woman) begs the question of how we define the sexes - how we define who is a 'man' and who is a 'woman.' Deciding who can marry whom isn't always a simple matter of determining what sorts of internal organs a person has.
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?
Dancing as a Sin: Christian Fundamentalism in...
Fundamentalist and evangelical Christians today see themselves as battling a wide variety of sins: abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and so forth. Their counterparts of a century ago also battled a wide variety of sins - and one of the most serious, which in their eyes led to many other sins, was the nasty behavior of dancing.
What Do Atheists Think About Islam?
Many Muslim beliefs are similar to Christian and Jewish beliefs, but not all. Any basic understanding of Islam requires first understanding what Muslims believe, why Muslims believe those things, and how Muslim beliefs differ from beliefs in other religions.
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.'
America a Christian Nation - Is the United...
Even some ostensible supporters of church/state separation think America is or was founded as a Christian Nation and this belief is very poplar among Christian Nationalists, Christian Supremacists and all opponents of church/state separation. The central problem with this claim is its ambiguity: what does
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.
Religious Tax Exemptions: Overview
Tax laws are more complicated than the average person can readily understand; tossing into the mix various things tax-exempt organizations might or might not be allowed to do threatens to make the task of understanding superhuman in nature. In reality, however, the issue isn't all that complicated and the restrictions on what churches and religious organizations can do aren't hard to adhere to.
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?
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.
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, 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?
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.
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 in a monotheistic religion - preferably Christianity or Judaism. This is incorrect. Not only is there nothing contradictory about pursuing politics and law from a godless perspective, but the results are not obviously worse, less moral, or less humane than the alternatives. Indeed, it's possible to argue that godlessness has advantages.
Why Do People Become Atheists?
This is a very good question; unfortunately, it isn't very easy to answer. There are perhaps as many reasons for being an atheist as there are atheists. What I mean by this is that the road to atheism tends to be very personal and individual, based upon the specific circumstances of a person's life, experiences, and attitudes.
Flaws in Reasoning & Arguments: Learning to...
This page has moved: Flaws in Reasonin
Loving v. Virginia (1967)
Marriage is an institution created and regulated by the law; as such, the government is able to set certain restrictions on who can get married. But just how far should that ability extend? Is marriage a basic civil right, even though it is not mentioned in the Constitution, or should the government be able to interfere with and regulate it in any manner that it wants?
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?
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.
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.
How an Atheist Might Analyze the First...
The first, most basic, and most important commandment is 'Thou Shalt Not Have Any Gods Before Me' Or is this first two commandments? That's the question. The First Commandment isn't treated by all Christians and Jews as the First Commandment.
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?
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.
Should You Reveal Your Atheism to Family,...
Many atheists struggle with deciding whether they should reveal their atheism to their family or not. Especially if a family is very religious or devout, telling parents and other family members that one not only doesn't accept the family's religion anymore, but in fact rejects even belief in a god, can strain familial ties to the breaking point. In some cases, the consequences can include physical or emotional abuse and even having all family ties cut off.
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.
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 Are the Bible's Biggest Scientific and...
The Bible is filled with errors and mistakes. Other ancient texts also have errors and mistakes, but this isn't a problem because people don't expect the authors of those texts to be perfect. The Bible, in contrast, is claimed by many believers to be infallible, inerrant, perfect, etc. Many base their entire religious ideology around the presumption that the Bible is free from errors or mistakes, so demonstrating the presence of errors is key to rebutting their religious claims.
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.
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.
Deism & Humanism
Deism is not generally thought of as a type of humanism, but it did play an important role in the development of humanist thinking in Europe. For deists, the universe was believed to be rational and ordered because that is how God wanted it to be; God, in turn, is also a rational being with rational desires, rational goals, and rational methods which are understandable through human reason. It is perhaps obvious why such a god would be appealing to Enlightenment rationalists.
Elijah: Profile & Biography of Elijah, Old...
Elijah was an important Israelite prophet whose name in Hebrew means 'my Lord is Jehovah.' Accounts of Elijah’s life and actions are recorded through 1 and 2 Kings. Aside from coming from the village of Tosabe in Gilead (about which nothing is known), nothing is recorded about his background before he appears suddenly to promote traditional, orthodox Jewish beliefs.
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