The Uncomfortable, but Necessary Question: Should We Have Six Catholic Justices on the Court?

June 30, 2014

In its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court has decided that the religious beliefs of employers, including closely held corporations, take precedence over the rights of employees to necessary medical care. The specific medical care to which the employers objected was certain forms of contraception. The five justices who decided that these employers’ objections were entitled to deference are all Catholics. (One Catholic justice, Sotomayor—a woman—dissented from the majority ruling.)

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Religion Has No Answer for Sectarianism

June 23, 2014

In Iraq, we are witnessing yet again the tremendous harm caused by religious fanaticism.  One interesting aspect of the present conflict is that it largely pits Muslim against Muslim, with some fanatics in the Sunni tradition battling devoted adherents of the Shia tradition.  Both traditions, of course, rely on the Qur’an as the ultimate authoritative text.  So why the conflict? 

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Secularism and Health Care

June 04, 2014

Secularism is about more than keeping religious mottoes off our coins or crèches off the courthouse steps. Secularism insists that our public polices be based on reason and evidence, not religious dogma.

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Saints and Sexuality

April 26, 2014

As the whole world knows by now, former pontiffs John XXIII and John Paul II are about to be officially recognized by the Catholic Church as saints. According to Catholic doctrine this means, among other things, that these persons are worthy of being venerated as models of heroic sanctity. Also, they can intercede for you before God. You know, you can’t just walk into God the Father’s office to ask for something. He’s the chairman of the board! No, you get a saint to slip him a note so you can get a couple of minutes of the boss’s time.

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The Embarrassment of Noah

March 31, 2014

One of the persistent criticisms of the so-called New Atheists—Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, et al.—is that many of their arguments, although directed against religious belief in general, are really relevant only for fundamentalists. Sure, if you interpret the Bible literally, God comes across as a homicidal, genocidal, misogynistic monster, but this crude understanding of scripture is held only by ignorant believers, who, at most, constitute a substantial minority of the faithful.  Therefore, the New Atheists present a distorted view of religion and show little understanding of the mindset of “moderate” religionists.  The moderate religionists do not believe the Bible provides us with a literally true history of ancient times, nor do they regard the Bible, in particular the Old Testament, as providing an accurate conception of God and God’s relationship to humanity. 

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God, Incorporated: Observations on the Hobby Lobby Argument

March 25, 2014

Today, I attended the Supreme Court argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The case is a complex one, with several distinct issues that need to be resolved. In this post, I will briefly address one of those issues, namely whether a for-profit corporation can claim a religious identity and an entitlement to an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

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Evidence-Based Reasoning: Comments on a Blog Post

February 27, 2014

Evidence-Based Reasoning. This is a phrase you hear skeptics use a lot. We at CFI use it. We firmly believe in the importance of evidence-based reasoning and critical thinking. This is one reason I’m disappointed in Ben Radford’s recent post. Ben has done some good work for this organization over the years, but I’m afraid this latest post may have been written in some haste.

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Should Catholic Judges Recuse Themselves from the Contraceptive Mandate Cases?

December 26, 2013

I believe Catholics can be good citizens. I also think Catholic judges and justices can fulfill their obligation to respect and enforce the Constitution and laws of the United States. However, I’m not sure the Catholic Church considers a judge’s oath of office to take precedence over the judge’s obligation to avoid being complicit in evil. This is troubling—because the Church has a very broad understanding of what it means to be complicit in evil.

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Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty

November 19, 2013

Hawaii recently became the fifteenth state to legalize same-sex marriage. As more and more states recognize same-sex marriage, there’s been some noise about how legalization of same-sex marriage may infringe on freedom of conscience and violate the rights of some religious believers. As far as I can tell, this is a needless worry.  In fact, the lack of any legitimate basis for concern makes one suspect this hand-wringing over the supposed threat to religious liberty is merely a veiled attempt to derail the movement to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Negligent Homicide, Not Murder

November 13, 2013

I have received a number of comments on my blog post the other day re the oral argument in Town of Greece v. Galloway. Some have agreed with my assessment. (And some who wrote about the argument independently made a similar assessment.) Others have said my judgment was far too harsh or unfair. Critics have focused on my assertion that the plaintiffs’ counsel threw atheists under the bus. These critics have insisted that the attorney didn’t have much choice when he indicated the concerns of atheists did not have to be considered in shaping a remedy because he could not have argued that prayer should be eliminated entirely—not if he wanted to win the case.

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