1. Religion & Spirituality

Agnosticism/Atheism: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Should the Pledge of Allegiance say 'Under...
Ever since the 1950s, the Pledge of Allegiance has included the phrase 'Under God.' Some have challenged this, arguing that the addition of those words was unconstitutional. Others say that they simply acknowledge the nation's religious heritage. What do you think?
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.
The Real Reasons People Believe in God
Some religious theists think it is appropriate to presume to inform atheists about why they really don't believe in any gods rather than simply listen to atheists in order to learn something. Perhaps atheists should instruct theists why they actually believe in gods. Theists offer all sorts of reasons for why they believe in a god but the only respectable reason is one which, if proven false, would at the very least cause them to seriously reconsider their belief and perhaps drop it entirely.
What Are Virtue Ethics?
Virtue-based ethical theories place much emphasis on rules for people to follow; virtue ethics focus instead on developing good character traits such as kindness and generosity. Virtuous character traits allow a person to make good ethical decisions later in life.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quotes on Religion - Carl Sagan
Freethought Quotations: Carl Sagan.: baloney detection sagan carl carl sagan ocean of confusion bamboozle
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.
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?
Tracing The Origins of the Old Testament...
The Canaanites play an important role in the story of the Israelites' conquest of their
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.
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.
Separation of Church and State: Is It Actually...
The phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the Constitution, but the absence of this phrase does not mean that it is an invalid concept or that it cannot be used as a legal or judicial principle.
What is 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
10 Common Arguments Against Gay Marriage
The debate over the legalization of gay marriage in America is about not just the status of gay couples; it's also about American civil law. Either civil law is defined by the needs and rights of citizens, or civil laws are placed under the dominion of religion.
What 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.
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.
Introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis
Did Moses really write the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible? Not according to the Documentary Hypothesis! Biblical scholars developed the Documentary Hypothesis to explain all the problems that exist in the texts if we assume one person writing over the course of one lifetime. Scholars have concluded that many different, anonymous writers and editors produced the Pentateuch over the course of many centuries.
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.
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.
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.
Vestigial Organs - What Vestigial Organs Say...
Most of the obvious anatomical homologies are between anatomical structures which are in active use by the species in question, but some anatomical homologies involve structures which are no longer needed but which also haven't disappeared entirely. A vestigial organ or structure is any organ or structure found in a species which is not being used as it is in other species. Contrary to popular belief, vestigial organs and vestigial structures aren't necessarily useless or functionless.
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?
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.
Using AD vs CE & BC vs BCE - Is It Better...
There is a trend among scholars towards using BCE and CE as year markers rather than BC and AD. As abbreviations for Before the Common Era and Common Era, they do not specifically privilege Christianity; instead, they simply make reference to the fact that we are living in an era shared in common between Christians and other religions - though Christianity and Judaism are the two religions usually in mind. Some regard this as anti-Christian or an atheist conspiracy against Christianity.
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.
Affirming vs. Swearing Oaths in Court
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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.
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 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.
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.
Quotes on Religion - Stephen Hawking
Freethought Quotations: Stephen Hawking.: stephen hawking a brief history of time brief history of time beginning of the universe expanding universe physical necessity
Religion vs. The Paranormal: Are Paranormal...
Is there a real connection between religion and belief in the paranormal? Some, particularly adherents of various religious faiths, will often argue that the two very different types of beliefs. Those who stand outside of religion, however, will notice some very important similarities which bear closer consideration.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Sunni Islam vs. Shia Islam: Islam Cannot be...
There is plenty in both the theology of Islam and the behavior of Muslims which outsiders can legitimately criticize or disagree with. Any serious, sustained critique, however, must be based on what Muslims actually believe and this in turn requires understanding just how diverse Islam is. Comments from both Muslims and critics can give the impression that Islam is a single, united, monolithic religion but this is false. There's more to Islam than most seem to realize, even among atheists.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Let He Who...
If it's not bizarre enough that traditional, religious patriarchy reduces to little more than "God gave
What an Atheist Might Say About the Story of...
The story of how Jesus fed five thousand men (were there no women or children there, or did they just not get anything to eat?) with just five loaves of bread and two fishes has always been one of the most popular gospel tales. It is certainly an engaging and visual tale - and the traditional interpretation of people seeking
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Ethics of Organ Transplants
Ethics of Organ Transplants - how do we get organs? Who should pay? Who should be allowed to have them, and why? There are more ethical dilemmas than you may realize...
Witches, Women, and Witchcraft
Witches have long been feared and hated in Christian circles. Even today, pagans and Wiccans remain a target of Christian persecution - especially in America. It seems that they long ago took on an identity which reached far beyond their own existence and became a symbol for Christians - but a symbol of what? Maybe an examination of the events will give us some clues.
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.
How to Counter Gideon Bibles in Hotels &...
The Gideons International distribute Bibles all over the world. They don't do this to educate people about the Bible or even to provide Bibles to those who otherwise can't afford to purchase one themselves. The purpose of the Gideons is, in their own words, to 'win men, women, boys and girls to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.' They exist solely to evangelize Christianity and convert people to Christianity. You can take a stand against the Gideons when their actions break the law.
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.
Astrology: Is Astrology a Pseudoscience?
Astrology: Is Astrology a Pseudoscience? Many practitioners and followers of astrology are certain that it is scientific - but are they right? When examining astrology for many standards traits of pseudoscience, a different conclusion becomes apparent.
Quotes on Religion - Thomas Paine
Freethought Quotations: Thomas Paine.: thomas paine the age of reason professional belief thomas paine paine thomas names of christ
Muslim Holy Sites & Holy Cities: Connecting...
According to Hector Avalos, religions might preach peace, love, and harmony, but establishing a textual canon or sacred site which only some have privileged access to also establishes an illusory “scarcity” which causes people to fight. This is the intent of religious leaders, but it’s an inevitable outgrowth of their actions — and we can see this occurring in the context of Islam with its holy sites and cities: Mecca, Medina, the Dome of the Rock, Hebron, and so on.
The Similarities Between Religion and Philosophy
Is religion just a type of philosophy? Is philosophy a religious activity? There seems to be some confusion at times over just whether and how religion and philosophy should be distinguished from each other - this confusion is not unjustified because there are some very strong similarities between the two.
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.
Religious Rituals, Festivals, Sacrifices:...
Although it may be common to speak of a Greek 'religion,' in fact the Greeks themselves didn't use such a term and might not have recognized it had someone else attempted to apply it to their practices. It's difficult to accept the idea that the Greeks where completely secular and irreligious, however. This is why a better understanding of Greek religion helps illuminate the nature of religion generally as well as the nature of religions which continue to be followed today. This, in turn, is critical for anyone who wants to engage in a sustained critique of religion and religious beliefs.
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.
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.
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?
Renaissance Humanism
The title 'Renaissance Humanism' is applied to the philosophical and cultural movement that swept across Europe from the 14th through 16th centuries, effectively ending the Middle Ages and leading into the modern era. Pioneers of Renaissance Humanism were inspired by the discovery and spread of important classical texts from ancient Greece and Rome which offered a different vision of life and humanity than what had been common during previous centuries of Christian domination.
Who Was Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus? Was She...
The synoptic gospels (but not John) identify Mary as the mother of Jesus. Mark describes Jesus as the 'son of Mary.' In Jewish tradition, a man is always identified as the son of his father, even if the father is dead. Mark may not have done this because Jesus' birth wasn't legitimate - that his parents weren't married and, therefore, his biological father wasn't also his
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?
Conspiracy Theories: Masons and the New World...
Conspiracy Theories Masons and the New World Order •  Related Resources •  Psychology of Conspiracies
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.
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.
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.
Observing Evolution - How Evolution Has Been...
The most basic direct evidence of evolution is our direct observation of evolution occurring. This is also the most basic lie which creationists tell about evolution because they constantly claim that evolution has never been observed when, in fact, it's been observed both in the lab and the field repeatedly. Creationists count on this lie getting traction because they lie about what evolution is and repeat the lies often enough that they are believed through sheer, dishonest repetition.
Origins of the Israelites
The Israelites are the focus of the Old Testament. Who were the Israelites and where did they come from? The Pentateuch and Deuteronomist give explanations, but extra-biblical sources and archaeology produce different conclusions.
Apostles of Jesus: Images of Jesus' 12...
Apostle is an English transliteration of the Greek apostolos, which means 'one who is sent out.' In ancient Greek, an apostle might be any person 'sent out' to deliver news -- messengers and envoys, for example -- and perhaps carry out other instructions. Via the New Testament, apostle has acquired a more specific usage and now refers to one of the elect original disciples of Jesus. Apostolic lists in the New Testament all have 12 names, but not all the same names.
What is Humanism?
At its most basic, humanism involves any concern with humans (including human needs, human desires, and human experiences) first and foremost. Often, this also translates into giving human beings a special place in the universe on account of their abilities and faculties.
Was There Really a Female Pope Named Joan?
There is a persistent and popular legend that a woman once managed to rise to the office of pope. This tale got its start some time during the Middle Ages and continues to be repeated today, but there is little if any evidence supporting it.
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.
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.
free will vs. determinism
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Free Will vs. Determinism
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.
Ninth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Bear False...
There is a question of just what 'bearing false witness' is supposed to entail. It seems as though it might have been originally intended to prohibit lying in a court of law. For the ancient Hebrews, anyone caught lying during their testimony could be forced to submit to whatever punishment would have been imposed upon the accused - even including death.
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.
Philosophy of Education: Philosophy of...
For many religious theists, religious education is an indispensable part of the learning process because religions is necessary for instilling values and morals. Many would like to see this happen in public schools, believing that their religion should be taught as a basis for social order. Atheists typically oppose such measures, but this can be done on a firmer basis if one has a better understanding of what education is all about.
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.
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.
What is an Explanation?
An explanation is not an argument. Whereas an argument is a series of statements designed to support or establish the truth of an idea, an explanation is a series of statements designed to shed light on some event that is already accepted as a matter of fact.
How Atheists are Singled Out for Their Beliefs...
Every study that has ever looked at the issue shows that atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority in America. Atheists are the least likely people that Americans would vote for in a presidential election. It's not just that atheists are hated, though, but also that atheists seem to represent everything about modernity which Americans dislike or fear.
Atheism Myths: Is Atheism a Religion?
Atheism Myths: Many people operate under the mistaken idea that atheism is itself a religion, but they are very wrong.
What is the Separation of Church and State?
What is the separation of church and state? That is a very good question - the separation of church and state is perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented and maligned concepts in today's political, legal and religious debates. Everyone has an opinion, but unfortunately, many of those opinions are woefully misinformed.
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?
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.
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 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.
How Fossil Evidence Supports Evolution
When you hear talk of evidence for evolution, the first thing that frequently comes to mind for most people are fossils. The fossil record has one important, unique characteristic: it is our only actual glimpse into the past where common descent is proposed to have taken place. As such it provides invaluable evidence for common descent. The fossil record is not
Varieties of Theism: Monotheism, Polytheism,...
Theism doesn't come in just one flavor - there are monotheists, polytheists, pantheists, and several others you may not have even heard of. Understanding the differences between these types of theism is necessary not only for understanding the religious systems in which they appear, but also for understanding the variety and diversity which exists for theism itself.
What is Materialism? History of Materialism,...
Materialism is the idea that everything is either made only of matter or is ultimately dependent upon matter for its existence and nature. It is possible for a philosophy to be materialistic and still accord spirit a (secondary or dependent) place, but most forms of materialism tend to reject the existence of spirit or anything non-physical.
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.
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 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.
Jesus Heals the Blind Bartimeus (Mark 10:46-52)
I wonder why, at the beginning, people tried to stop the blind man from calling out to Jesus. I'm sure that he must have had quite a reputation as a healer by this point - enough of one that the blind man himself was obviously well aware of who he was and what he might be able to do. If that is the case, then why would people try to stop him? Could it have anything to do with him being in Judea - is it possible that the people here are not happy about Jesus?
Christianity and History: Bible, Race & Slavery
Christianity and History Bible, Race & Slavery We are now in what many consider "National Bible Week"
Meaning: Denotation and Connotation
Understanding the difference between denotation and connotation is important to understanding definitions and how concepts are used. Unfortunately, that is complicated by the fact that these terms can be used in two different ways: grammatical and logical. Even worse, both uses are worth keeping in mind and both uses are relevant to project of logical, critical thinking.
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.
Biogeography & Evolution - How Biogeography...
Biogeography is the study of the the distribution of life forms over geographical areas. Biogeography not only provides significant inferential evidence for evolution and common descent, but it also provides what creationists like to deny is possible in evolution: testable predictions. Biogeography is split into two areas: ecological biogeography which is concerned with current distribution patterns and historical biogeography which is concerned with long-term and large-scale distributions.
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.
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...
Sixth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill
Many believers regard this as perhaps the most basic and easily accepted of all the commandments. After all, who would object to the government telling people not to kill? Unfortunately, this position relies upon a very superficial and uninformed understanding of what is going on. This commandment is, in fact, much more controversial and difficult that it appears at first.
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).
Ottoman Empire on the Offensive, 1300 - 1600 -...
Although the Crusades themselves were long finished, Christian Europe continued to be under pressure from the expanding Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans would make impressive victories, including the capture of Constantinople, last outpost of the Roman Empire and spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity. Eventually Western Christians would mount effective counter-attacks and keep Ottoman forces out of central Europe, but for a long time the Turkish Menace would haunt European dreams.
Agnosticism for Beginners - Basic Facts About...
There are a lot of resources here about agnosticism for beginners: what agnosticism is, what it isn't, and refutations of many popular myths about agnosticism. I've discovered, though, that it isn't always easy to direct people to all of the information they need. That's why I've collected here some of the basics about atheism for beginners that I find myself linking to most often.
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.
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.
Kaaba in Mecca: Image Gallery with Photos,...
The Kaaba (Ka'aba, Ka'bah, 'Cube,' 'House of God') is a shrine located in a square adjacent to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest city. The Kaaba itself is Islam's holiest site. The surrounding square has been enlarged to over 16,000 square meters and can accommodate over 300,000 Muslim pilgrims. When Muslims pray the required five times each day, they face not simply Mecca, but the Kaaba in Mecca; Muslims praying in Mecca turn towards the Kaaba instead of facing just any direction.
How to Submit New Links
Submitting URLs - Criteria and Suggestions: quality suggestions note creation selective directory deep links large graphics
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.
Objective vs. Subjective in Philosophy, Religion
Distinctions between objectivity and subjectivity lie at the heart of debates and conflicts in philosophy, morality, journalism, science, and more. Very often
4 Primal Modes of Language that Enable Argument...
Although it might sound trivial or even irrelevant to bring up such basic matters as language, meaning, and communication, these are the most fundamental components of arguments - even more fundamental than propositions, inferences, and conclusions. We cannot make sense of an argument without being able make sense of the language, meaning, and purpose of what is being communicated in the first place.
Executing Witches and Eliminating Witchcraft
Burning and hanging were the most popular forms of execution for accused witches in medieval Europe. Burning seems to have been most common in continental Europe while hanging was more common in Britain -- and thus also in the American colonies later as well. The death penalty was imposed on a wide variety of crimes in this era, but witchcraft in particular was punished by death on the basis of Exodus 22:18. Page 10.
Audience of Mark's Gospel
For whom was Mark writing? It is easier to make sense of the text if we read it in light of what the author intended, and that in turn would be heavily influenced by the audience he wrote for. Mark likely wrote for one specific Christian community, the one he was part of. He certainly can’t be read as if he were addressing all of Christendom down through the ages, centuries after his own life ended.
Einstein Quotes on Atheism & Freethought:...
Albert Einstein is sometimes claimed by religious theists seeking the authority of a famous scientist for their theistic views, but Einstein denied the existence of the traditional concept of a personal god. Was Albert Einstein therefore an atheist? From some perspectives his position would be seen as atheism or no different from atheism. He admitted to being a freethinker, which in a German context is much the same as atheism, but it's not clear that Einstein disbelieved in all god concepts.
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?
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.
John the Apostle: Profile & Biography of...
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.
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.
Aristotle Biography: Biographical Profile of...
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle helped develop both Western philosophy and theology. His ideas during his early days differed from Plato's.
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.
Analysis of the Ten Commandments
Most people know the Ten Commandments - or perhaps it is better to say that they think they know the Ten Commandments. The commandments are one of those cultural products that people imagine that they understand, but in reality, they frequently can't even name all of them, let alone explain them. People who already think they know all they need are unlikely to take the time to research the subject with any great care and precision.
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?
Cathars & Albigenses: What Was Catharism?...
The Cathars came from the region west-north-west of Marseilles on Golfe du Lion, the old province of Languedoc. They were a heretical sect of Christians who lived in Southern France during the 11th and 12th centuries. One branch of the Cathars became known as the Albigenses because they took their name from the local town Albi. Cathar beliefs probably developed as a consequence of traders coming from Eastern Europe bringing teachings of the Bogomils.
Jesus and the Widow's Offering (Mark 12:41-44)
The purpose of the passage appears to be to explain what 'true' discipleship for Jesus was: being willing to give everything you have, even your livelihood, for the sake of God. Those who merely contribute from their own surplus aren't sacrificing anything, and therefore their contributions will not be considered much (or at all) by God. Which of the two do you suppose is most descriptive of the average Christian in America or the West generally today?
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!
Inductive Argument
Glossary of Religion and Philosophy - Inductive Argument
Hitler Was an Atheist Who Killed Millions in...
A popular image of the Nazis is that they were anti-Christian while Christians were anti-Nazi. The truth is that German Christians supported the Nazis because they believed that Adolf Hitler was a gift to the German people from God. Nazi Christians didn’t abandon basic Christian doctrines, like the divinity of Jesus. Germany saw itself as a Christian nation and millions of Christians enthusiastically endorsed Hitler and the Nazi Party, seeing both as embodiments of German and Christian ideals.
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