December 23, 2013
Yes, I know that quite a few secular humanists and other freethinkers celebrate the Solstice, HumanLight, Newton's Birthday, or even a bowdlerized form of Christmas this time of year. Even so, a new PRRI/RNS survey (click the link beliow full text) indicates that the number of Americans who tell pollsters that they celebrate no holiday in December has reached 5 percent. 5 percent? That's more than double the usual figure for the size of the American Jewish community (2.2 percent). Who knows, this year that figure may include a large number of American Jews, given that Hanukkah unfolded mostly in November.
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October 02, 2013
Way back in the October/November 2011 FREE INQUIRY, I sounded the alarm about the danger of unintended consequences from the drive for humanist chaplains in the military. Since then, the issue has only mushroomed. Now (partly but not solely by way of Harvard's humanist chaplaincy) tearing down the fences between humanism and religion has become a game almost anyone can play. Today even Peter J. Reilly, an online tax columnist (!) for Forbes, has weighed in with an essay asking "Should Humanist Groups Seek Church Status?"
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September 24, 2013
The U. S. Supreme Court has a "link rot" problem, and how -- according to one study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks cited in Supreme Court decisions point nowhere. These include not only links to other sites, but even links to former postings on the Court's own Web site. This casts fresh light on an issue I've written about before -- if you're writing something whose references just might be of interest to future scholars, Internet citations are far too emphemeral to rely on.
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September 19, 2013
The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) has accepted an invitation from the White House to take part in a Department of Education interfaith panel to help plan campus service projects, and most of the movement is happily abuzz about that. I’d like to offer an alternative view. Speaking personally, I think that to accept that invitation was most unfortunate – and I think that is true on several levels.
July 26, 2013
By a 253 to 173 vote, the U. S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to H. R. 2397, the defense authorization bill, that will block the appointment of humanist chaplains in the military. Most in the movement have been outraged. I follow a different drummer. By forbidding humanist chaplains, the House majority has reminded us of something important about chaplaincy -- and about religion itself -- something that I fear too many humanists have been willing to overlook in their recent "Ooooh, we want to be chaplains too!" enthusiasm.
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July 17, 2013
"Friendly Atheist" blogger Hemant Mehta wasn't too friendly to use the Freedom of Information Act to shake loose bombshell data on the religious affiliations of inmates in the Federal prison system. This pierces (but does not completely shatter) what I believe has been a six-decade embargo by prison administrators to hold back information on how many prisoners are or aren't religious.
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June 24, 2013
In a TIME cover story on community service, columnist Joe Klein observed that one never sees secular humanist groups handing out hot meals at disaster sites. Many in the atheosphere, including Hemant Mehta, Amanda Knief, and our own Paul Fidalgo, took umbrage at this "nasty crack," But you know what? So long as we're talking strictly about secular humanists, not about atheists/freethinkers generally, Klein was right. And there's a good reason why.
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May 08, 2013
Usually when I blog here, I argue for something with great confidence and bluster. This time I'm just posing a question -- an uncomfortable question, but one that I'm amazed no one else seems to be asking. There's a vast sex abuse crisis in the U. S. military, with incident rates skyrocketing year to year. Might this mean that America's great experiment in creating a gender-neutral military has failed?
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April 19, 2013
There's been much passionate commentary about the recent Boston interfaith service excluding humanist, atheists, and other freethinkers. It's not for lack of effort; Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein and other heavy-hitters in the movement strove mightily for a place on the altar -- pardon me, stage -- and were coldly stonewalled. But what are we asking for when we seek inclusion in such events? While it may make sense for Epstein, whose work skews religious-humanist, to want a place at an interfaith event, should atheists and more secular humanists be seeking to stand by his side? I don't think so. On my view, those of us in the movement who are not comfortable with the "religious humanist" identifier should not be seeking entry to interfaith events. Instead, we should be boycotting them, then demanding something more inclusive in their place.
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April 16, 2013
Making the rounds on Facebook is an announcement that yet another humanist/atheist charity has started a fund drive for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. It's a fine cause, but I wonder whether its organizers have considered the implications when nonbelievers -- normally quick to revile sectarianism when religious people indulge in it -- conduct a blatantly sectarian appeal for aid. Perhaps it's overdue to review the full meaning of the word "secular."
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