December 16, 2016
As some readers know, I’m a longtime advocate of humanists, atheists, and other secular folks conspicuously sitting out that Christian observance of Jesus’s birthday that monopolizes the last six weeks of every year. I’m hardly the only one, but clearly “going Yule-free” is a minority stance among nonreligious Americans. From time to time, seculars who enjoy the holiday in whatever form – and who may resent my suggestions that by doing so, they might be harming our community – pose a question along the lines of, “But I like exchanging gifts with my loved ones. I like the decorations and the songs. Hell, I like eggnog. What evidence do you have that nonreligious people celebrating the holiday in some form is harmful?”
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March 24, 2016
Yesterday a member of the public asked me, "What could secular humanism have done to prevent today's slaughter in Brussels?" Here is how I answered:
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June 29, 2015
First, I join in the general jubilation that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. It's a great step forward for same-sex couples who want to marry. But not all do. Come to think of it, not all opposite-sex couples want to marry. Civil-rights landmark that it undeniably is, the same-sex marriage victory has left some of us behind.
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June 01, 2015
Molly Worthen's Sunday New York Times op-ed on the Sunday Assembly phenomenon ("Wanted: A Theology of Atheism," May 30) demonstrates, if nothing else, how badly we need to educate the media about the humanist movement -- and about atheism, for that matter.
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April 01, 2015
First Indiana, now Arkansas have passed "religious freedom" bills that will protect Christians who discriminate on religious grounds. This is a predictable result of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a regrettable law whose beneficiaries are now (in the wake of the disastrous Hobby Lobby decision) free to unleash all the unconstitutional mischief that this ill-considered legislation always portended.
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January 02, 2015
What's the top church-state un-story of 2014? I'd have to nominate the close cooperation between the United States and the Holy See in the diplomatic negotiations that led to the change of U. S. policy toward Cuba. The pope is the head of a church; he is a head of state only by dint of a huge and archaic legal fiction. For the White House to work that closely with a single church on a geopolitical issue violates the separation of church and state in the most literal way imaginable, and I'm amazed that none of the usual church-state watchdogs raised an objection to it.
December 24, 2014
In a post from yesterday, my esteemed colleague David Koepsell, one of my predecessors as executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, suggests that he is doing more than I am to give Kirk Cameron nightmares. David good-naturedly suggests that by keeping a more-or-less traditional Christmas with zero religious or supernatural content, he and his thoroughly secular family are doing more to undermine Christianity’s role in the culture than I am when I urge atheists, humanists, and freethinkers to spurn the Christians’ birthday festival altogether. I respectfully disagree. Equally respectfully, I hope, I would warn David that his chosen path carries a very real risk of being co-opted, and of inadvertently helping Christianity to achieve the best future it can hope for in a world that’s secularizing out from under it.
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December 23, 2014
In today’s New York Times, David Brooks offers his obligatory annual column of holiday woo. In “The Subtle Sensations of Faith” he plumps for faith as a near-universal human experience. He depicts it as the response to genuine “glimmering experiences … of wonder and mystery,” “magical moments of wonder and clearest consciousness, which suggested a dimension of existence beyond the everyday.” Clearly, Brooks accepts without question that these are experiences of something genuine – that is to say, that there factually is “a dimension of existence beyond the everyday.” Sorry, Mr. Brooks, I don’t buy it.
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December 17, 2014
In my Dec/Jan Free Inquiry op-ed "Thirty Years Yule-Free" I mentioned my 1992 Secular Humanist Bulletin article, "Confessions of an Anti-Claus," the inadvertent beginning of my personal war on Christmas. Apparently there are some readers out there who haven't saved their Bulletins from 1992, who want to see that article -- but it's not archived anywhere online. Okay, if you're terminally curious, here is a PDF scan of the article that started it all.
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December 08, 2014
Todd Stiefel and the Openly Secular project have announced a bold plan to lobby legislators to repeal unconstitutional "legacy" language in seven states' constitutions that bars atheists from holding public office. It bespeaks the growing prominence of unbelievers and "nones" in public discourse that someone now imagines that these unenforceable, but repellent, constitutional provisions might finally be swept away. The unbelieving community has long recognized that these hateful provisions exist, and that they are problematic. What is new, and welcome, is the possibility that our community finally has the muscle to demand that something be done about them.