Obama, the Prayer Breakfast, and Plato

February 06, 2012

Not much has been said in the atheist blogosphere about President Obama’s appearance and remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2. Probably a couple of reasons for this. The appearance in itself is not really news. Sadly, this is just what our presidents, Democrat or Republican, do. Also, I sense that not a few atheists think Obama should be cut some slack on church-state issues—both because he’s better than any alternative (can you imagine President Gingrich?) and because some suspect that on ceremonial occasions such as the National Prayer Breakfast, he’s just going through the motions. However, having reviewed his remarks, I think they merit some comment.

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Hosanna-Tabor and the Weird Status of Religion

January 11, 2012

Today the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Hosanna-Tabor case that there is a “ministerial exception” to the nation’s laws forbidding discrimination in employment. The Court ruled that both religion clauses of the First Amendment—the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause—effectively provide religious institutions with absolute discretion to select their “ministers.” 

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About Free Thinking

January 06, 2012

What is the cornerstone of CFI’s mission? Is it atheism or humanism? No, not really. Commitments to atheism or humanism or any other “ism” are conclusions we arrive at, presumably after consideration of the relevant evidence and arguments. The cornerstone of our mission is freedom of expression and critical inquiry. We see freedom of expression and critical inquiry as indispensable tools for arriving at an accurate understanding of just about any issue of importance, including, but not limited to, the truth of religious or fringe science claims. This brings me to the recent controversy concerning Ben Radford’s blog post on Free Thinking, as well as the related controversy about the blog Free Thinking itself.

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“Between Consenting Adults”

January 06, 2012

Many of you have probably heard about the resignation of Catholic Bishop Gabino Zavala.  You may have heard of it without even becoming aware of it, because it is the type of news that no longer attracts special attention.  Another day, another sex scandal for the Catholic Church.  Nowadays, weather reports are likely to be more memorable.

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Plantinga’s Closing Argument

January 03, 2012

Alvin Plantinga’s latest book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism, has received a fair amount of attention. Plantinga has even been written up in the New York Times. Having read most of his book, I will acknowledge that it confirms he is a clever polemicist. He can present a thoroughly fallacious argument with confidence, dressing it up so it appears superficially impressive.  God may not have a more skilled advocate. 

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Atheist Boosters?

December 12, 2011

CFI recently held a conference on the work of Daniel Dennett and the scientific investigation of religion. It may be the best conference I’ve ever attended. The presentations of the speakers were of uniformly high-quality—and I say that even for the speakers with whom I had some substantive disagreement. Interestingly, one such speaker was Gregory Paul, the independent researcher who has done some excellent work on the sociology of religious belief. Unfortunately, Paul seems to be in the camp of those who tend to inflate the number of atheists in the United States.

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Flogging God

November 02, 2011

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed overwhelmingly a resolution “reaffirming” the phrase “In God We Trust” as our national motto.  The vote was 396 to 9. The need for reaffirming of this motto was not clearly stated in the resolution, but the real motivation for this resolution is both too obvious and too unseemly to warrant acknowledgment: most politicians in this God-intoxicated country want to milk God for all the votes they can get. And, from a political standpoint, who can blame them? It’s proven to be a very successful tactic.

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Cults, Religion, and the Presidency

October 12, 2011

Reverend Robert Jeffress notoriously claimed the other day that Mormonism is a cult. From the context of his remarks I don’t think he was using the term “cult” as a term of approbation. So is Mormonism a cult, and is Romney’s Mormon faith relevant to his qualifications to be president?

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A Brief Comment on the Wyndgate Matter

October 12, 2011

As most of you are aware, CFI-Michigan, one of our branches, contracted with a club in suburban Detroit—The Wyndgate—to hold an event at which Richard Dawkins had graciously agreed to speak. (In fact, the event takes place this evening.) However, once the club owner became aware that Professor Dawkins is an atheist, the club cancelled the event, refusing to honor its contract.

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Happy International Blasphemy Rights Day

September 30, 2011

Happy International Blasphemy Rights Day! There are thousands of ways to commemorate this day—almost as many as there are prophets who have claimed the title of messenger from the gods.

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