Agnosticism & Atheism Sitemap - Page 10 2016-09-26

Polls & Other Surveys on American Attitudes Towards Atheists
The 2006 University of Minnesota study made a lot news about its revelation of how atheists are the most despised minority in America, but this wasn't news to atheists — it was just the most recent in a long series of surveys showing that Americas are very bigoted and prejudiced against atheists. For as long as organizations have been asking Americans about atheists, Americans have been responding that they wouldn't treat atheists as equals to theists and Christians.

Is Atheism a Religion?
Many Christians seem to believe that atheism is a religion, but no one with a fair understanding of both concepts would make such a mistake. Because it's such a common claim, though, it's worth demonstrating the depth and breadth of the errors being made. Presented here are the characteristics which best define religions, distinguishing them from other types of belief systems, and how atheism utterly fails to even remotely match any of them.

Christianity & Violence: Justifying Killing for Religion
Christians present their religion as a religion of love and peace, but Christian history is filled with violence justified via Christianity. Why is this? How and why does religion become a source of justifications for violent behavior?

Who Is Chac in Mayan Religion and Mythology?
Chac (Chaac, Ah Tzenul, Ah Hoya, Hopop Caan) was the Mayan god of rain, lightning, and thunder. Chac was one of the more benevolent of the Mayan gods, responsible for life and fertility across the world. Eventually, though, human sacrifice came to be associate with Chac. To worship Chac, you can either offer prayers to Chac during a drought, you can get together with four friends and cut the heart out of a sacrificial victim, or you can just toss someone down a sacred well.

Christian Privileges in American Society
The concept of 'nonconscious ideology' was created to describe those ideologies whose implicit, unreflective, and uncritical acceptance help maintain their dominance in society. Sexism and racism are nonconscious ideologies in which the inferiority of one group is reinforced through a multitude of assumptions and interactions that occur outside our conscious consideration. The same is true with Christian Privilege: Christians are continuously told that they are special and deserve privileges.

Profile and Biography of Catholic Saint Agnes of Rome
We have no reliable information about the birth, life, or death of Agnes. Despite this, she is one of Christianity's most popular saints. Christian legend has it that Agnes was a member of Roman noble family and raised to be a Christian. She became a martyr at the age of 12 or 13 during the persecution of Christians under the reign of emperor Diocletian because she would not give up her virginity.

Barack Obama on Religion, Atheism, and Secularism
Over the course of his political career, Barack Obama has made a number of comments about secularism, church/state separation, religion, and the role of religion in the public square. Unfortunately, some of these comments have been contradictory - one time he'll say something which appears to support strict separation and secular government, then he'll turn around and say something which supports weak separation and weakened secularism. What does Barack Obama believe, and why?

Barack Obama on Religion, Atheism, and Secularism
Over the course of his political career, Barack Obama has made a number of comments about secularism, church/state separation, religion, and the role of religion in the public square. Unfortunately, some of these comments have been contradictory - one time he'll say something which appears to support strict separation and secular government, then he'll turn around and say something which supports weak separation and weakened secularism. What does Barack Obama believe, and why?

Introduction to Theology: What is Theology? Origins, Nature, Crisis in Theology
Theology describes the study, writing, research, or speaking on the nature of gods, especially in relation to human experience. Typically the concept includes the premise that such study is done in a rational, philosophical manner and can also refer to specific schools of thought - for example, progressive theology, feminist theology or liberation theology. The study of theology is usually done in religious institutions where the promotion of religious beliefs is part of the mission.

Alphabetical List of Catholic Popes
This list of popes is arranged in alphabetical order. It starts with Adrian and ends with Zosimus. Alternative names are given, years of reign are listed, and all names are linked to short biographies that describe major dates in their papacy, controversies, and important events at the time.

Alphabetical List of Catholic Popes: History and People of the Catholic Papacy
This list of popes is arranged in alphabetical order. It starts with Adrian and ends with Zosimus. Alternative names are given, years of reign are listed, and all names are linked to short biographies that describe major dates in their papacy, controversies, and important events at the time. Page 2.

Profile of Luke the Evangelist, Author of a Gospel & Acts
The name Luke comes from the Greek Loukas which may itself be an affectionate form of the Latin Lucius. Luke is mentioned three times in New Testament letters attributed to Paul (Philemon, Colossians, 2 Timothy), only one of which was likely written by Paul himself (Philemon). The inauthentic passages describe Luke as 'the beloved physician.' The authentic passage describes him as someone working with Paul. This same Luke is usually identified as the author of the gospel of Luke and Acts.

What Is the Roman Catholic Pope?
The title pope stems from the Greek word papas, which simply means 'father.' Early in Christian history it was used as a formal title expressing affectionate respect for any bishop and sometimes even priests. Today it continues to be used in Eastern Orthodox churches for the patriarch of Alexandria.

Dar Al-Harb vs. Dar Al-Islam: War and Peace in Islam
To put it most simply, dar al-harb (territory of war or chaos) is the name for the regions where Islam does not dominate, where divine will is not observed, and therefore where continuing strife is the norm. By contrast, dar al-islam (territory of peace) is the name for those territories where Islam does dominate, where submission to God is observed, and where peace and tranquility reign.

Shame and Fear of Muslims Who Drink Alcohol
It is forbidden for Muslims to drink alcohol, but as with any religion not everyone perfectly follows all the rules — especially when Muslims live in a

What Was Donatism? What Did Donatists Believe?
Donatism was a heretical sect of early Christianity, founded by Donatus Magnus, which believed that sanctity was a requisite for church membership and administration of sacraments. Donatists lived primarily in Roman Africa and reached their largest numbers in the 4th and 5th centuries.

Terri Schiavo's Medical Facts & History
In the debate over what should happen to Terri Schiavo, many lose sight of the facts and background of Terri’s medical history. Terri Schiavo had bulimia which produced a potassium imbalance which in turn caused a cardiac arrest. This shut off blood flow to her brain, much of which then died. Today her cranium is largely filled with spinal fluid, not brain matter.

Jesus Calls the First Disciples (Mark 1: 14-20) - Analysis
This passage of Mark describes the calling of the first disciples (literally: “learners”), people who would come to play an important role in stories about Jesus. These disciples constituted the core group of Jesus’ eschatological community - people who believed his message and would be there to lead in the new order that would follow the apocalypse. Page 2.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 2 Analysis
In chapter 2 of Mark's gospel, Jesus is involved with a series of controversies that are arranged thematically. Jesus disputes various aspects of the law with opposing Pharisees and is depicted as besting them on every point. This is supposed to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus' new approach to understanding God over that of traditional Judaism.

Supreme Court Decision: Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
Should all children be required to attend public schools, even if the parents have religious objections to what is being taught or schooling in general beyond a certain point?

Wisconsin v. Yoder - Supreme Court Decisions on Religion
Summary and analysis of Wisconsin v. Yoder: Should all children be required to attend public schools, even if the parents have religious objections to what is being taught or schooling in general beyond a certain point? Amish and Mennonite Christians, for example, don’t believe in formal schooling after a certain age - and the Supreme Court ruled that their objections were valid. Page 2.

Jesus Predicts His Death Again (Mark 10:32-34)
With all of these predictions of death and suffering that would occur at the hands of political and religious leaders in Jerusalem, it's interesting that no one makes much of an effort to get away - or even to convince Jesus to try and find another path. Instead, they all just keep following along as if everything would turn out alright.

Texas v. Johnson (1989): Can Flag Burning Be a Crime?
Does the state have the authority to make it a crime to burn an American flag, even as part of a political protest and as a means for expressing a political opinion? Most states have banned flag burning as part of statutes generally outlawing flag desecration. The Supreme Court had to rule on such the Texas law when a man was convicted for burning an American flag at the Republican National Convention.

Texas v. Johnson Dissents: The Government Can Ban Burning and Desecrating the American Flag
The Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson was not unanimous. Four justices - White, O'Connor, Rehnquist, and Stevens - disagreed with the majority's argument that the personal liberty interests of a person to use a flag to communicate a strong, political message outweigh any state interests in protecting the physical integrity of the flag in order to prevent it from becoming less respected and preserve its meaning for the majority of the population. Page 2.

Quetzalcoatl, Feathered Serpent God in Aztec Religion
Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec god of priests and rulers. Worship of Quetzalcoatl tended to involve animal rather than human sacrifice and there are traditions that Quetzalcoatl actually opposed human sacrifice - despite his importance, however, this didn't affect the sacrifices done for other gods. So, if you want to hedge your bets with Quetzalcoatl, you don't have to find a child or warrior to sacrifice like you do with so many other Aztec gods.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 1 - Analysis
Unlike the other synoptic gospels, Mark does not open with Jesus’ birth or childhood. The Jesus we find in chapter 1 of Mark’s gospel is already an adult and is already capable of powerful actions: healing, exorcisms, etc. Jesus’ fame also begins to spread, despite his requests that people remain quiet about him and his activities.

Saint Valentine: Christian Martyr & the Basis for Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day, a popular secular and commercial holiday, was originally a Christian feast day celebrating the martyrdom of a Christian saint named Valentine. Unfortunately, his life has been largely lost to history and it's no longer clear precisely what he did. In fact, it's not clear who exactly he was because there were at least three different Valentines in the early Christian church, any or all of whom could have been the original object of Valentine's Day

Contradictions in Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension
Christians point to Jesus' resurrection as one of the things which distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. After all, the founders of other religions (like Muhammad and Buddha) are all dead; Jesus conquered death. Or did he? For something so important and central to the message, theology, and very nature of Christianity, it's curious that the gospel authors would all have such radically different stories about what happened.

Ah Puch, God of Death in Mayan Religion, Mythology
Ah Puch (Hun Ahau, Cum Hau, Hunhau, Hunahau, Yum Cimil, 'Lord of Death') was the Mayan god of death, disaster, and destruction. Ah Puch ruled Mitnal, the lowest level of the Mayan underworld. The Mayans believed that Ah Puch stalked them like a hunter stalks his prey. You can't worship Ah Puch so much as try to keep him at a great distance, so to hedge your bets you should mourn with loud wailing in order to scare him away and prevent him from taking anyone else to Mitnal.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 3 - Analysis
In the third chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees continue as he heals people and violates religious rules. He also calls his twelve apostles and gives them specific authority to heal people and drive out demons. We also learn something of what Jesus thinks about families.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-9)
At the end of chapter 6, we saw Jesus feeding five thousand men (just men, not women and children) with five loaves and the two fishes. Here Jesus feeds four thousand people (women and children get to eat this time) with seven loaves.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 10 - Analysis
In the tenth chapter of Mark's gospel, Jesus appears to be focusing on the issue of powerlessness. In the stories about children, the need to abandon material wealth, and in his response to the request of James and John, Jesus emphasizes that the only way to properly follow Jesus and get to heaven is to be receptive to powerlessness rather than seeking personal power or gain.

Roman Catholic Papacy 101
Doctrinally, the pope is regarded as the successor of St. Peter, leader of the apostles after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is an important factor in the tradition that the pope is believed to have jurisdiction over the entire Christian church in matters of faith, morals and church government. Reviewed here are basic questions about how the papacy developed, whether popes are infallible, debates about who has been pope, and more.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 13 - Analysis
In the thirteenth chapter of Mark's gospel, Jesus is depicted as providing his followers with an extended prediction of a coming apocalypse. This Marcan Apocalypse is complicated by the presence of a fundamental tension in the narrative: even while exhorting his followers to be aware of the coming events, he also tells them not to get too excited over possible signs of the End Times.

Who Was Joseph of Arimathea?
The role and behavior of Joseph of Arimathea is one of the few things discussed in all four gospels. According to the gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin who disagreed with Jesus' conviction. John and Matthew even say that he was a disciple of Jesus. Joseph took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in linen, and buried it in a tomb that he may have prepared for himself.

Lexical Definitions: How a Word Is Used in General Contexts
Most of the time when encountering a definition, we are looking at a lexical definition. A lexical definition (sometimes also called a reportive definition) is any definition which explains how a word isactually used - it is thus distinct from stipulative definitions which simply propose a possible way to use a word and which may or may not be accepted. Therefore, lexical definitions are capable of being true or false, of being accurate or inaccurate.

The Oracle of Delphi - Ancient Greek Mythology
Delphi is one of the most well-known spots in ancient Greece, made famous by the Delphic Oracle which was believed to have the power to tell the future. It was designed by Trophonius and Agamedes. Dedicated to the god Apollo, Delphi was a revered and sacred spot to people all over Greece. Many believed it to be the omphalos, or center of the entire universe.

How Are People or Things Anointed According to the Bible?
To anoint means to touch, rub, or smear with oil - the subject of anointing may be a person or an object and the oil involved is holy from having been sanctified by a religious cleric at some point. The use of oil in this manner stems from the fact that scented oils were a luxury in the ancient world, so they were only used for special occasions - including especially religious ones. They were also used for their medicinal qualities.

Was Peter the First Pope? How the Papacy Originated
Catholics believe that the bishop of Rome inherits the mantle of Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ who was entrusted with the administration of his church after he died. Peter travelled to Rome where he is believed to have established a Christian community before he was martyred. All popes are, then, successors of Peter not only as leading the Christian community in Rome, but also as leading the Christian community in general, and they maintain a direct connection to the original apostles.

Baptism and Temptation of Jesus (Mark 1:9-13) - Analysis and Commentary
This is the first appearance of Jesus in the earliest gospel account - full-grown and ready to begin his ministry. We have nothing here about Jesus’ conception, birth, or childhood - all very popular stories which play important roles in Matthew and Luke. If these were known events, why did Mark skip them?

On Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness (Mark 1:9-13)
Page 2. Immediately after baptism, Jesus is driven into the wilderness for forty days where he is tempted by Satan. It's not clear what it means to say that Jesus was 'driven.' Did he not want to go? Did God force him? Was he simply overcome with an irresistible urge after hearing voices?

Jesus' Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree (Mark 11:20-26)
Jesus explains the power and importance of faith - it is faith in God that gave him the power to curse the fig tree and make it wither overnight and similar faith on the disciples' part will give them the power to work other wonders. They may even be able to move mountains, though that is arguably a bit of hyperbole on his part.

Chronology of Events in Evolutionary Theory
The development and events surrounding the theory of evolution can be as interesting as the progress of evolution itself. From the life of Charles Darwin to the various legal battles in America over teaching evolution in public schools, few scientific theories have been associated with as much controversy as the theory of evolution and the idea of common descent. Understanding the timeline of background events is important to understanding evolutionary theory itself.

Roth v. United States (1957) - Supreme Court Decision
What is obscenity? This is an important question because, if the government can ban something

Was Manichaeism a Christian Heresy?
Manicheism is an extreme form of dualistic gnosticism. It is gnostic because it promises salvation through the attainment of special knowledge of spiritual truths. It is dualistic because it argues that the foundation of the universe is the opposition of two principles, good and evil, each equal in relative power. Manichaeism is named after a religious figure named Mani.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 6 Analysis
In the sixth chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus continues his ministry, his healing, and his preaching. Now, though, Jesus also sends out his apostles to try to do the same things on their own. Jesus also visits his family where he receives something less than a warm welcome.

Mary Magdalene: Profile of the Female Disciple of Jesus
Mary Magdalene is mentioned in lists of Jesus' female companions in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Some think Mary Magdalene was an important figure among female disciples, perhaps even their leader and a member of Jesus' inner circle of disciples.

David (Old Testament King): Profile and Biography
David is revered as the most powerful and important king of Israel during biblical times. There are no records of his life or reign outside the Bible - odd, if he was that important. He is said to have begun his career playing the lute in the court of King Saul, but eventually proved to be very skillful on the battlefield. Saul became jealous of David’s popularity but the prophet Samuel, who originally made Saul king, sided with David and anointed him as God’s chosen one.

Mictlantecuhtli, God of Death in Aztec Religion
Mictlantecuhtli was the Aztec god of death and the underworld. To honor Mictlantecuhtli, Aztec sacrificed an impersonator of Mictlantecuhtli at night and at a temple named Tlalxicco, which means 'navel of the world.' When Hernan Cortes landed, Aztec ruler Moctezuma II thought that it was the arrival of Quetzalcoatl, signalling the end of the world, so he stepped up human sacrifices to offer the skins of victims to Mictlantecuhtli in order to placate him.

How Embryonic Homologies Support Evolution
Most anatomical homologies, whether active or vestigial, are present in the adult members of a species. A few anatomical homologies, however, only appear briefly during the embryonic stage of an animal's development. These short-lived anatomical homologies are referred to as embryonic homologies and serve as evidence that the species in question is related to other species where the organs or anatomical structures persist past the embryonic stage and through adulthood.

Origins of Blue Laws in America
Blue laws, or sabbath laws, are attempts by some Christians to enforce a traditional Christian sabbath as a legally mandated day of rest for everyone. Courts have permitted this, but it violates church-state separation for laws to give Sundays to those churches which treat it as special - priests have no business calling upon our government to give them and their religious sects privileged status. Sundays, like every other day of the week, belong to everybody - not just to Christian churches.

What is the Fallacy of Accent?
The fallacy of accent occurs when the meaning of a word or sentence is ambiguous and dependent on where the spoken stress is placed. It's not common to find the fallacy of accent in modern English; it's much more common in ancient Greek, the language of the philosopher who first described it: Aristotle. Loosely defined, though, the fallacy of accent can still crop up

Jesus' Last Supper With His Disciples (Mark 14:22-25)
It is not without good reason that Jesus' 'last supper' with his disciples has been made the subject of so many artistic projects over the centuries: here, at one of the last gatherings attended by all, Jesus delivers instructions not on how to enjoy the meal, but how to remember him once he is gone. Much is communicated in just four verses.

Does the Bible Predict the Apocalypse?
The term apocalypse technically refers to writings about secret teachings and the end times, but in popular vernacular it has also come to describe actual cataclysmic events themselves, in which good and evil battle each other for the last time - and of course the forces of evil lose and everyone is judged for a final time. It may also be used to describe any devastating event generally, such as an apocalyptic war.

Introduction to the Book of Exodus
Exodus is the continuation of the historical narratives begun in Genesis. Exodus starts with slavery in Egypt and ends with liberation. Exodus also ends with the creation of the first priests, which is arguably another form of oppression. The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Bible, the second book of the Pentateuch, and the second book of the Torah.

An Overview of Baptism for Non-Christians
In Christianity, baptism is a religious sacrament which is marked by the symbolic use of water and results in admission to the community of believers. The practice of baptism is based upon the story of John the Baptist's practice of baptizing people, including Jesus and his immediate followers. Later Christian beliefs seem to have included the idea that baptism effectively created a unity between the individual believer and Christ.

Should Atheist Parents Raise Their Children As Atheists?
Christians raise their children as Christians, so doesn't it make sense that atheists raise their children as atheists? Not really, no. Here's why.

What's the Priory of Sion? (Link to The Da Vinci Code?)
Also known as the Prieure de Sion or the Priory of Zion, the Priory of Sion is commonly used in works of fiction as a powerful, secretive organization that has been behind important events throughout Western history. Even some works purporting to be factual have included this claim and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code blends both: a work of fiction claiming to be based on historical fact, incorporating the claim that the Priory of Sion has been behind such things as the Knights Templar.

Atheism and Satan: Do Atheists Worship Satan?
Although it's not as common as it once was, there are still people who believe that atheists both believe in and worship Satan, the evil opponent of God. This is an almost literal demonization of atheists, since the primary servants of Satan are always depicted as literal demons. Describing atheists in this manner makes it easy to dismiss them and whatever they say - after all, it would be wrong for a true and faithful follower of God to pay any attention to the lies of Satan's minions.

What Is Humanism and Humanist Philosophy?
Humanism involves any concern with humans (including human needs, human desires, and human experiences) first and foremost. This often means giving human beings a special place in the universe on account of their abilities and faculties. Humanism is less a philosophical system, a set of doctrines, or even a specific system of beliefs, than it is an attitude or perspective on life and humanity. This perspective in turn influences various philosophies and belief systems.

Jesus & the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-27) Analysis and Commentary
Among the ways Jesus challenged or defied religious tradition, his failure to observe the Sabbath in the manner expected seems to have been one of the most serious. Other incidents, like not fasting or eating with disreputable people, raised some eyebrows but didn't necessarily amount to a sin. Keeping the Sabbath holy was, however, commanded by God - and if Jesus failed to that, then his claims about himself and his mission could be questioned.

How Did Muhmmad Use the Kaaba to Promote Islam?
The Kaaba is Islam’s holiest site and, as such, knowing more about it is critical to knowing more about Islam itself. The history of the Kaaba is intertwined with the origin of Islam because it appears that Muhammad used the Kaaba for political purposes, promoting new stories about the Kaaba's history in order to connect his new created religion with ancient Judaism. Knowing more about the Kaaba thus means knowing that not everything Muslims believe about Islam and Muhammad is true.

Jesus Begins His Ministry (Mark 1: 14-20) - Analysis
Only now does Jesus’' ministry begin. The story of John the Baptist has been framed by references to the gospel - first with the introductory line that this text presents the gospel and now here again where Jesus actually begins to preach the gospel. This framing pattern, also called a chiastic device, is used frequently by Mark because it allows him to use both the internal passages and the framing passages to explain and interpret each other.

Why Are Atheists So Angry All the Time?
There are many things which can cause atheists to be angry. Some were raised in very religious homes and, over time, they came to discover the things they were taught by family and clergy were all wrong. Some atheists come to view religion or even just theism as being deceptive - and, hence, harmful to society. Still other atheists experience ongoing discrimination because of their disbelief in gods. They have to hide their atheism from family, friends and coworkers.

Jesus and Pilate (Mark 15:1-5) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus' appearance before Pontius Pilate presents the reader with at least as many historical problems as did Jesus' appearance before the Sanhedrin. Almost nothing here is historically plausible, but historical accuracy was probably not Mark's goal: there were larger theological and political objectives to pursue.

The Region of Galilee - History, Geography, Religion
Galilee (Hebrew galil, meaning either 'circle' or 'district') was one of the major regions of ancient Palestine, larger even than Judea and Samaria. The earliest reference to Galilee comes from Pharaoh Tuthmose III, who captured several Canaanite cities there in 1468 BCE. Galilee is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament (Joshua, Chronicles, Kings).

The Essenes Profile - Dead Sea Scrolls Creators
The name Essenes comes from the Greek for 'holy ones.' The Essenes were a Jewish sect that broke away from mainstream Judaism because of a dispute over who was qualified to be high priest. After the Maccabean revolt, the Hasmoneans claimed the office of high priest as part of the spoils of war. Some argued that the Maccabees couldn't be priests because they didn't come from the tribe of Levi, and some of these critics joined a group called the Hasideans which, it is thought, became the Essenes.

What Is Temptation in the Bible?
In the Bible, temptation is a test or trial designed give a subject the opportunity to do evil and sin against God. Sometimes the point is to confuse the subject about what good and evil really are. Sometimes the point is to simply see if they truly understand what good and evil are in the first place. Sometimes God does the tempting, sometimes Satan is given this task.

Wallace v. Jaffree - School Prayer & Silent Meditation
Can public schools endorse or encourage prayer if they are endorsing and encouraging 'silent meditation' as well? Some Christians thought this would be a good way to smuggle official prayers back into the school day, but courts rejected their arguments and the Supreme Court found the practice unconstitutional.

Argument From Miracles: Do Miracles Prove God Exists?
The Argument from Miracles is based first and foremost on the premise that there exist events which must be explained by supernatural causes, i.e. God. Probably every religion has had miracle claims and so the promotion and apologetics for every religion has included references to allegedly miraculous events.

Argument from Miracles: Evaluating Miracle Claims
When assessing claims about miracles, it is important to first consider how we judge the likelihood of any reported event. When someone tells us that something happened, we need to weigh three general possibilities against each other: that the event happened exactly as reported; that some event happened, but the report is somehow inaccurate; or that we are being lied to. Page 2.

Status of Women in the Old Testament Laws
If a god created humanity, then it created half of all that humanity as one gender (male) and half of another gender (female). And how was the latter half treated by the former half through history? Pretty badly, for the most part. It isn't surprising to find this trend continued among the ancient Hebrews, but should we expect an all-loving God to support and reinforce such misogyny?

Bible Contradictions & Inconsistencies Overview
Bible contradictions are a frequent topic of debate between atheists and Christians. Atheists argue that there are numerous contradictions, errors, and inconsistencies in the Bible; conservative evangelical Christians argue that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and the Word of God - therefore, it can have no contradictions, errors, or inconsistencies. The existence and nature of biblical contradictions is an important factor when evaluating the validity of Christianity itself.

Adolf Hitler on Christianity: Quotes
Adolf Hitler often proclaimed his Christianity, how much he valued Christianity, how important Christianity was to his life, and even how much he was personally inspired by Jesus - his 'Lord and Savior.'

Abiogenesis & Evolution - Biology Myths
As if evolution and evolutionary theory were not already confusing enough, many creationists complicate matters even further by promulgating the mistaken idea that evolution is the same as abiogenesis. One common way this is done is to argue that evolution cannot explain how life began while creationism can and, therefore, creationism is superior to evolution.

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists
One tactic used by opponents of church/state separation is to discredit the origin of the phrase 'wall of separation,' as if that would be very relevant to the importance and value of the principle itself. Roger Williams was probably the first to articulate this principle in America, but the idea is forever associated with Thomas Jefferson because of his use of the phrase 'wall of separation' in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. Just how important was that letter, anyway?

Hillary Clinton's Religious Background and Beliefs
Hillary Clinton grew up in a Methodist household, she taught Methodist Sunday school like her mother, is a member of a Senate prayer group, and regularly attends the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. Hillary Clinton can be placed in the moderate to liberal wing of American Christianity, but she appears to share a number of attitudes with more conservative American Christians. Clinton's liberalism is a relative matter

Are Religious Beliefs Necessary for Children?
Religion and gods play an important role in how many parents raise their children. Even parents who aren't very ardent in their faith and don't go to religious worship services very often seem to believe that religion is a vital component in any upbringing. This is not justified, however. A child can be raised without religion and without gods and not be any worse off for it, though. In fact, a godless upbringing has advantages because if avoids so many of the dangers that accompany religion.

Anti-Atheist Discrimination in America
Bigotry against atheists is not limited to theory and harsh language - anti-atheist bigotry can also lead to anti-atheist discrimination. After all, if bigots are convinced that atheists are immoral, untrustworthy, and perhaps even evil on some level, then it's only to be expected that they will treat atheists unequally and as inferiors. Unfortunately, the reasons behind anti-atheist discrimination are no better than discrimination against Jews and racial minorities in the past.

God Is Eternal: Timeless vs. Everlasting
God is commonly portrayed as being eternal; however, there is more than one way to understand the concept of

Jesus Anointed at Bethany (Mark 14:3-9) - Analysis
Jesus being anointed with oil by an unnamed woman is one of the more interesting passages during Mark's passion narrative. Why does she choose to do it? What do Jesus' comments say about his ultimate feelings about the poor and destitute?

What Is Agape Love and How Is It Used in the Bible
Agape (ah-gah-pay) is the main word used for 'love' in the New Testament. There are three principal Greek words which can be translated as 'love' in English, each with different connotations. The two most common were eros, which refers to sexual love, and philos, which means friendship or brotherly love (eros does not appear in the New Testament, but philos does). Agape was the least used in Greek and least specific in its meaning.

Mark the Evangelist: Profile and Biography
A number of people in the New Testament are named Mark and any could, in theory, have been the author behind the gospel of Mark. Tradition has it that the Gospel According to Mark was written by Mark, a companion of Peter, who simply recorded what Peter preached in Rome (1 Peter 5:13), and this person was in turn identified with 'John Mark' in Acts (12:12,25; 13:5-13; 15:37-39) as well as the 'Mark' in Philemon 24, Colossians 4:10, and 2 Timothy 4:1.

Jesus Heals Simon’s Mother-In-Law and Leaves Capernaum
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is the first person to be healed of something other than possession by an unclean spirit. She has a fever which Jesus takes away; later he would also heal the lame, blind, and deaf, demonstrating increasing power over physical ailments.

The Morality of Euthanasia - Arguments for and Against
There are very good articles defending the morality of euthanasia: for example, James Raches does a good job explaining the common argument how passive euthanasia (refraining from extreme measures to save someone) is no more moral than active measures (hastening death when someone is suffering). Page 2.

Book Review - Euthanasia: The Moral Issues, edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum
Euthanasia is a thorny medical and legal dilemma. As the population of the West ages, the debate about it will continue to grow more important and the problem more divisive. Should some form of euthanasia be permitted, or should it be treated as murder? Is it a moral act to aid a suffering person, or is it a selfish and immoral deed?

What's So 'New' About 'New Atheism'?
If there were anything about 'new atheism' that was neutral or objective, then it would be possible to point to something genuinely 'new' which is common to all those who qualify as 'new atheists' and which cannot normally be found among 'old' atheists. The people using this label shouldn't have any trouble citing to the qualities, behaviors, or attitudes they think are new - but thus far, none have managed. Indeed, few if any have even tried.

C.S. Lewis and the Argument That Morality Proves God
A very popular argument with Christian apologists, including C.S. Lewis, is the argument from morality. According to Lewis, the only valid morality that can exist is an objective one -- all subjective conceptions of morality lead to ruin. Furthermore, an authentic objective morality must be grounded in a supernatural reality beyond our own world, thus he rejects all naturalistic conceptions of an objective morality as well. Does his argument succeed?

Is Religion Just Organized Superstition?
Is there a real connection between religion and superstition? Some, particular adherents of various religious faiths, will often argue that the two are fundamentally different types of beliefs. Those who stand outside of religion, however, will notice some very important and fundamental similarities which bear closer consideration.

What Does It Mean to Be a Humanist?
Knowing about humanism isn't necessarily the same as understanding humanism - in particular, it doesn't tell you what is necessary for being a humanist. So what does it mean to be a humanist - is there a club to join? Is there a church that you attend? What does being a humanist require?

Baptist Churches, Beliefs, and Divisions
Baptists have traditionally been suspicious any ecumenical movements designed to mediate theological differences between denominations, even when it comes to other Baptists. Because of this Baptists have fractured into numerous divisions, sects, and groups. They may agree on many things, but their differences are enough to keep them apart. Page 5.

C.S. Lewis, Christian Apologist
Best known as a Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis argued for a reason-based Christianity rather than a faith-based Christianity. This is a curious decision on his part because, first, traditional Christianity is unquestionably faith-based, and second, Lewis' own conversion had more to do with his longing for myths that tell higher truths, and his conclusion that Christian myths tell the highest sort of truth there is.

Nature Religions - Characteristics, Beliefs & Practices
Nature religions are considered among the most primitive of religious beliefs. Primitive here means that nature religions were probably the earliest sort of religious system developed by human beings.

Anatomical Homologies and Evolution
Anatomical homologies are morphological or physiological similarities between different species of plants or animals. Comparative anatomy, which is the study of anatomical homologies, is the source of most traditional evidence for evolution and common descent. Anatomical homologies continue to provide many examples of deep relationships between species which are best or only explained through evolutionary theory when the similarities simply don't make sense from a functional perspective.

Analysis of the Third Commandment
What does it mean to 'take the name of the Lord thy God in vain'? That has been the subject of quite a bit of debate. Some have argued that this prohibition was limited to the use of the name of God in any frivolous manner. Others have argued that it was a prohibition against the use of the name of God in magical or occult practices.

The Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage, Refuted
There don’t appear to be valid secular reasons for thinking that allowing gay couples to marry will have any deleterious effects on marriage generally.

Jesus' Resurrection and the Empty Tomb (Mark 16:1-8)
After the Jewish sabbath, which occurs on Saturdays, women who were present at Jesus' crucifixion come to his tomb to anoint his corpse with spices. These are things his close disciples should have done, but Mark portrays Jesus' female followers as consistently showing more faith and courage than the men.

The Empty Tomb (Mark 16:1-8) - Analysis and Commentary
Who is this young man at Jesus' empty tomb? Apparently hen is there solely to give information to these visitors because he doesn't do anything and he doesn't seem to plan on waiting - he tells them to pass the message along to the others. Page 2.

Eighth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Steal - An Analysis
Another of the shorter commandments, this is one of those where the simplest and most obvious understanding may actually be the most correct one - but not necessarily. Most people read it as a simple prohibition against stealing and this is not unreasonable, but it may also not be the way that everyone understood it originally.

Seven Deadly Sins in Theory & Practice
Christians' Seven Deadly Sins fail to provide useful guidelines of behavior in both theory and practice. In practice, religious authorities rarely apply the seven deadly sins against the behaviors of the rich and powerful; instead, they have been more useful in keeping the poor in their place and thus maintaining the status quo. The theory isn't much better because these sins focus on people's inner, spiritual state to the exclusion of outward behavior.

What Is the Definition of Atheism?
What is the definition of atheism? How do atheists define atheism? How do dictionaries, standard and online, define atheism? There is some disagreement about the definition of atheism and it is interesting to note that most of that disagreement comes from theists - atheists themselves tend to agree on what atheism means. Christians in particular dispute the definition used by atheists and insist that atheism means something very different.

Jesus and the Parable of the Bridegroom (Mark 2:18-22)
Even as Jesus is portrayed as fulfilling prophecies, he is also portrayed as upsetting religious customs and traditions. This would have been consistent with the Jewish understanding of prophets: people called by God to return Jews to the

Steps to Improve Your Skeptical Thinking
It's easy to say 'be more skeptical' or 'exercise better critical thinking,' but just how do you go about doing that? Where are you supposed to learn critical thinking? Learning skepticism isn't like learning history - it's not a set of facts, dates, or ideas. Skepticism is a process; critical thinking is something you do. The only way to learn skepticism and critical thinking then is to do them... but to do them, you have to learn them. How can you break out of this endless circle?

Gospel According to Mark, Ch. 8 - Analysis & Commentary
The eighth chapter is the center of Mark’s gospel and here a couple important events occur: Peter confesses Jesus’ true nature as the Messiah and Jesus predicts that he will have to suffer and die but will rise again. From this point on everything leads directly to Jesus’ eventual passion and resurrection.

The Matrix Movie, Religion, and Buddhism
The Matrix and Buddhism: Is the Matrix a Buddhism Film? There are many important Buddhist themes throughout the Matrix films - for example, the idea that our reality is really maya, or illusion. But is that enough to call the Matrix movies Buddhist movies?

Why Atheists Object to Being Told "I'll Pray for You"
It's not unusual for me to get emails from people who say that they intend to pray for me - but as often as I hear such things, I continue to have trouble understanding why people would do so and, if they must pray, why they would feel the need to tell me about it. Neither seems to make much sense and I frequently find myself saying so to the Christian in question - explaining that whatever their reasons or intentions behind praying for me, none could be furthered by announcing it.

Baptist Christianity: Origins & Development of Baptist, Southern Baptist Beliefs
Baptist Christianity is a paradoxical and conflicted force in American religion, politics, and society. On the one hand, Baptists have historically been staunch supporters of church/state separation and freedom of conscience - and many Baptist churches remain so. Southern Baptists, however, have become the largest, most powerful force opposed to church/state separation, personal liberty, and autonomy in America. They were also a powerful defender of slavery and segregation. How did this happen?

Baptist Churches and Baptist Beliefs: Anabaptist Roots of Modern Baptist Churches
Baptist churches today can, in part, trace their roots back to the Anabaptist movement of the Protest Reformation. Radical Protestants, the Anabaptists challenged or denied many traditional Catholic beliefs. So radical were they that even mainstream Protestants, like the followers of Luther, often persecuted them just as fiercely as they were persecuted by Catholics. Page 2.

Baptist Churches and Baptist Beliefs: Persecution and Revolution of Anabaptists
Because the Anabaptists were viciously persecuted wherever they were and often had to flee their homes, many came to regard the baptism rite not simply as an initiation into the Christian faith, but also as an initiation into Christian suffering. The persecution only backfired, however, because it served to increase the spread of their ideas through more towns and cities. Page 3.

Baptist Churches and Beliefs: Basics & Origins
Although Baptist churches have been continually fractured and divided over the centuries, there are a number of broad characteristics which are common to most if not all. These characteristics include adult baptism through full immersion, evangelism, pietism, and sectarianism. All of these are intimately related to another characteristic: radical volunatrism and the independence of local churches. Page 4.

Is Marriage for Having Children?
The idea that gay couples can't marry because of the disconnect between homosexuality and procreation cuts across many arguments against gay marriage. Gay marriage would be 'unnatural' because it can't produce children, the natural end of marriage. Gay marriage would undermine marriage because it is a legal and moral institution designed to promote and protect procreation and raising of children. Gay marriage would desecrate God's mandate that heterosexual couples have to mate and procreate.

Peter Denies Jesus (Mark 14:66-72) - Analysis
As Jesus predicted, Peter denies his association with him. Jesus also predicted the same for all his other disciples, but Mark doesn't narrate their betrayals. Peter's is interwoven with Jesus' trial, thus contrasting true confessions with false ones. Peter's actions are first described at the beginning of the trial, making this a 'sandwich' narrative technique employed so often by Mark.

Tolerance and the Christian Double-Standard
More and more, religious theists are objecting to what they call 'intolerance' on the part of irreligious atheists who are critical of religion, religious beliefs, and theism. Religious theists insist that atheists are being intolerant and rather than criticizing or mocking religion, atheists should become more tolerant of religion. Liberal democracies place a high value on tolerance, so this sounds at first like a reasonable request but it's not because of how

Muslim View of the Ten Commandments
Islam does not accept the absolute authority of the Bible, teaching that it has become corrupted over the years, and therefore it does not accept the authority of the listing of the Ten Commandments that appears in the Bible.

How to Teach Religion to Children of Atheistic Parents
When children are raised in a religious environment, what they are taught about religion is relatively obvious and organized - but what about kids raised in a non-religious environment? If you aren't specifically teaching your kids to believe in any gods or to follow any religious systems, then it may be tempting to just ignore the topic entirely.

Who Qualifies Being Elected the Next Pope?
Technically, any Catholic male who has reached the age of reason, is not a heretic, is not in schism, and is not “notorious” for simony can be elected pope — there is no other requirement for election (although there are several requirements before a person can actually assume the papacy once elected). It might even be technically possible for them to elect a non-Catholic male, if they had reason to believe that he would immediately convert to Catholicism.

Electing the Next Pope: Election Day
Technically, any Catholic male who has reached the age of reason, is not a heretic, is not in schism, and is not “notorious” for simony can be elected pope — there is no other requirement for election (although there are several requirements before a person can actually assume the papacy once elected). It might even be technically possible for them to elect a non-Catholic male, if they had reason to believe that he would immediately convert to Catholicism. Page 2.

Lemon v. Kurtzman: Public Funding of Religious Schools
Lemon v. Kurtzman: There are a lot of people in America who would like to see the government provide funding to private, religious schools. Critics argue that this would violate the separation of church and state and sometimes the courts agree with this position.

Jesus Walks on Water: Faith During Storm (Mark 6:45-52)
Here we have another popular and visual story of Jesus, this time with him walking on water. It is common for artists to portray Jesus on the water, stilling the storm as he did in chapter 4. The combination of Jesus' calmness in the face of the power of nature along with his working another miracle that amazes his disciples has long been appealing to believers.

Jordan River Profile - History, Geography, Religion
The name 'Jordan' comes from the Hebrew word 'descender' because of the way it descends from its sources. The Jordan is the world's lowest river, flowing well below sea level for most of its course: although it starts at more than 1,000 feet above sea level, it ends at 1,300 feet below after traveling 104 miles (straight line -- the winding course is closer to 200 miles).

Philip the Apostle, Disciple of Jesus - Biography
Philip is listed as one of Jesus' apostles in all four apostolic lists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts. He plays the largest role in John and appears little in the other gospels. The name Philip means 'lover of horses.'

Pharisees Profile - Jewish Faction in Gospel Stories of Jesus
The Pharisees were an important, powerful, and popular group of religious leaders among the Jews of Palestine. Their name might come from the Hebrew for 'separate ones' or perhaps 'interpreters.' Their origin is unknown but they are believed to have been very popular with the people. Josephus identifies some Jewish priests as Pharisees, so they should be regarded as a faction or interest group not necessarily opposed to the religious leadership.

What Is Creationism? Is Creationism Scientific?
Like evolution, creationism can have more than one meaning. At its most basic, creationism is the belief that the universe was created by a deity of some sort - but after that, there is quite a lot of variety among creationists as to just what they believe and why. Some believe that a god simply started the universe off and then left it alone; others believe in a deity that has been actively involved in the universe since creation.

Contradictions in Gospel Accounts of Jesus' Tomb
Jesus' burial is important because without it, there can be no tomb from which Jesus can arise in three days. It's also historically implausible: crucifixion was intended as a shameful, horrible execution which included allowing the bodies to remain nailed up until they rotted off. It's inconceivable that Pilate would have agreed to turn the body over to anyone for any reason. This may have something to do with why the gospel authors all have different stories about it.

Analysis of Jesus' Teaching on Divorce (Mark 10:1-12)
As is usually the case wherever Jesus goes, he is accosted by large crowds of people - it's not clear if they are there to hear him teach, to watch him perform miracles, or both. As far as we know, though, all he does is teach. This, in turn, brings out the Pharisees who are looking for ways to challenge Jesus and undermine his popularity with the people. Perhaps this confrontation is supposed to help explain why Jesus stayed away from the Judean population centers for so long.

Introduction to the Books of Samuel
The Books of Samuel pick up where the Book of Judges ended. Yahweh makes Samuel a prophet but the Israelites are no longer satisfied with prophets and judges; instead they want a king so they can be strong like other nations. Yahweh is reluctant, but eventually agrees and has Samuel anoint Saul as the first king of the Israelites.

Ontological Argument for God
Ontological Argument: The Ontological Argument for the existence of God is one of the oldest arguments in Christian theology. It is also one of the most difficult to understand because it relies purely upon logical considerations and not at all upon empirical evidence.

Jesus' Entry Into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11)
After much traveling, Jesus arrives at Jerusalem. Mark structures the Jerusalem narrative carefully, giving Jesus three days before the passion events and three days before his crucifixion and burial. The entire time is filled with parables about his mission and symbolic actions referring to his identity.

Historical vs. Literary Stories (Mark 11:1-11) - Analysis and Commentary
The answer to all the problems in Mark’s description of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is that none of it happened. Mark wants it for narrative reasons, not because Jesus ever did these things. We’ll see the same literary style appear again later when Jesus orders his disciples to make preparations for the “Last Supper.”. Page 2.

What Is the Philosophy of Mind?
The Philosophy of Mind is a more recent field that deals with questions of consciousness and how it interacts with the body and the outside world. The Philosophy of Mind asks not only what mental phenomena are and what gives rise to them, but also what relationship they have to the larger physical body and the world around us.

What Are the Ten Commandments? An Introduction
The Ten Commandments are a set of ten basic rules of behavior, mostly negative in construction, that appear in the ancient Hebrew scriptures and are directed at the Hebrews as God’s chosen people. Tradition holds that these rules were delivered to them by God via Moses, who climbed to the top of Mount Sinai during the Hebrews’ journey through the desert from Egypt to Canaan. They are, then, God’s requirements for how the Hebrews are supposed to behave.

Analysis of the Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 9
The ninth chapter of Mark starts out with one of the most important pre-passion events: Jesus' transfiguration, which reveals something about his true nature to a select inner group of apostles. After this, Jesus continues to work miracles but includes further predictions about his coming death as well as warnings about the dangers inherent in giving in to temptations to sin.

Why Can't Definitions of Marriage Change for Gay Couples?
Some argue that marriage is defined narrowly as only being between a man and a woman, so gays can't possibly marry. The fact is, though, that the nature of marriage has changed in definition and make-up many times over the centuries. Marriage today isn't at all like what it was two millennia or even two centuries ago. The changes in marriage have been broad and fundamental, so what are traditionalists really trying to defend? What is 'traditional' about modern marriage?

Second Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Make Graven Images
It is believed by most theologians that this commandment was designed to underscore the radical difference between God as creator and God’s creation. It was common in various Near East religions to use representations of the gods to facilitate worship, but in ancient Judaism this was prohibited because no aspect of the creation could adequately stand in for God.

Second Commandment: Graven Images & God - Analysis of the Ten Commandments
What is a 'graven image,' exactly? This has been the subject of a great deal of controversy between various Christian churches over the centuries. Of particular importance here is the fact that while the Protestant version the Ten Commandments includes this, the Catholic does not. A prohibition against graven images, if read literally, would cause a number of problems for Catholics. Page 2.

What Vestigial Organs Say About Evolution
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.

Covenant & Testament - The Terms as Used in the Bible
The Hebrew term for covenant is berit, meaning 'to bond or fetter.' It is translated into Greek as syntheke, 'binding together' or diatheke, 'will, testament.' In the Bible, then, a covenant is a relationship based upon mutual commitments. It typically involves promises, obligations, and rituals. The terms testament and covenant can be used interchangeably, though covenant tends to be used for the relationship between Jews and God.

Jesus and the Widow's Offering (Mark 12:41-44) Analysis
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?

Valentine's Day: Religious Origins and Background
The religious origins and background of Valentine's Day: Although most popular in its secular aspects in America, Valentine's Day is becoming increasingly popular around the world. It was not, however, always a secular holiday for the celebration of love - it has roots going back through ancient Christian celebrations of martyrdom and ancient pagan celebrations of fertility. How have all of these diverse elements come together to form the Valentine's Day we know today?

Valentine's Day: Religious Origins and Background - Christians Take Over Valentine's Day
Our modern festival isn't called St. Lupercus' Day, it's called St. Valentine's Day after a Christian saint - so where does Christianity come into play? That's more difficult for historians to decipher. There was more than one person with the name Valentinius who existed during the early years of the church, two or three of whom were martyred. Page 2.

Fifth Commandment: Honor Thy Father and Mother
Is the Fifth Commandment something that everyone should obey? It's easy to argue that, as a general principle, honoring one's parents is a good idea. It would have been especially true in ancient societies where life could be precarious and it's a good way to ensure the maintenance of important social bonds. To say that it's good as a general principle is not, however, the same as saying that it should be regarded as a command from God and therefore must be followed in every possible instance.

Jesus Eats With the Sinners, Publicans, Tax Collectors
Jesus is depicted here preaching again and there are many people listening. It isn't explained whether this crowd also gathered in order for him to heal people or whether by this point the large crowds are attracted by his preaching alone. It also isn't explained what a 'multitude' is - the numbers are left to the imagination of the audience.

Jesus, Sinners, and Modern Day Christians (Mark 2:13-17) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus is depicted here preaching again and there are many people listening. It isn't explained whether this crowd also gathered in order for him to heal people or whether by this point the large crowds are attracted by his preaching alone. It also isn't explained what a 'multitude' is - the numbers are left to the imagination of the audience. Page 2.

Jesus Calms the Storm (Mark 4:35-40) - Analysis
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.

Weirdest Mormon Beliefs and Mormon Doctrines
It's easy to find weird beliefs in just about any religion, but Mormonism seems to have far more weird beliefs than most. Even Mormons seem to recognize this - otherwise, why is it that Mormon missionaries are taught to be vague and circumspect when it comes to many specific, particular doctrines? Why would they avoid talking about these beliefs to outsiders and in public if they aren't 'weird'?

Weirdest Mormon Beliefs about God
Mormons insist that their LDS Church is a Christian church. Compared to traditional Christianity, though, Mormon beliefs about God are downright weird. Granted, most theologies have weird ideas about gods, but Mormon theology is arguably weirder than most.

Who Are the Atheists? What Does Being an Atheist Mean?
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.

What Is Belief and Why Beliefs Are Important
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

Jesus on the Leaven of the Pharisees (Mark 8:14-21)
Throughout the gospels the primary opponents of Jesus have been the Pharisees. They keep challenging him and he keeps rejecting their authority. Here, Jesus contrasts himself with the Pharisees in an explicit manner not usually seen - and he does so with the now-common symbol of bread. In fact, the repeated use of 'bread' should by this point alert us to the fact that the previous stories were never about bread at all.

Papal Elections: Short Profiles of Leading Candidates for Pope and Successor of John Paul II
Here are short profiles of some of the leading candidates for the office of pope as successor to John Paul II. There is no guarantee that any of these men will be elected pope - John Paul II himself was not on anyone’s short list of likely successors to Pope John Paul. By reading these profiles, however, you can get some sense of what the cardinals may be looking for and what they may try to avoid.

Ash Wednesday: What is Ash Wednesday? What do Christians Do on Ash Wednesday?
In Western Christendom, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and falls between February 4th and March 11th, 6 1/2 weeks before Easter. Early in Christian history the length of Lent varied, but in the 7th century it was fixed at 40 days as a reminder of the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert. Early penitents were sprinkled with ashes, wore sackcloth, and were required to remain apart from the rest of the community until they were reconciled on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter.

Electing the Next Pope: The Conclave and Voting
Voting for a new pope occurs in what is known as a “conclave,” which literally means “with a key.” The term stems from the fact that the voting cardinals have been traditionally locked up somewhere “with a key” for the entire period of their voting. In the earliest years, the Bishop of Rome was elected by the parish priests of the city of Rome, but he also had to be accepted by the people generally (at one time some bishops were elected, not appointed).

Pope John Paul II and Homosexuality
Official Catholic doctrine describes homosexuality as a 'disorder' even though the Catechism also insists that gays 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.' Pope John Paul II agreed with this, but what is the reason for this duality? According to Catholic doctrine, sexual activity only exists for the purpose of procreation, and obviously homosexual activity cannot produce children. This was also Pope John Paul II's position on gays and homosexuality.

Cardinal Francis Arinze: Profile of a Candidate for Pope
If Francis Arinze is elected pope, he would not be the first African pope, but he would be the first African pope in more than 1,500 years. The prospect of a black pope from Africa has captured the imagination of Catholics and non-Catholics all over the world.

Electing the Next Pope: Who Votes for the Pope?
In the earliest years, the Bishop of Rome was elected by the parish priests of the city of Rome, but he also had to be accepted by the people generally (at one time some bishops were elected, not appointed). In 1059, Pope Nicholas II made a major change by restricting the vote to just the cardinals — a group which had been created only recently. Page 2.

Electing the Next Pope: Method of Voting
Naturally, there is a real desire not only to prevent cheating and tampering, but also to prevent people from knowing who has voted for whom. Election can occur via acclamation (where everyone spontaneously agrees to the same man), compromise (where the choice is entrusted to a small group) or scrutiny, where everyone votes via secret ballot. The most common form of election is via scrutiny and it is very rare that the other forms take place. Page 3.

Electing the Next Pope: Continuity vs. Discontinuity?
One question which faces every conclave and which plays an important role in every election is: do the cardinals want another pope in the same mold as the previous and who will continue the same basic policies, or do they want a pope who will break with the past and take the church on a new course? In answering this question, the cardinals go through two stages of inquiry, much of which actually occurs before the conclave. Page 4.

Electing the Next Pope: Who Will Be the Next Pope?
It seems unlikely that the elector cardinals will choose as pope someone who will continue with the exact same polices as John Paul II. Although he has been widely praised and he has made every effort to appoint conservatives to the College of Cardinals, we can’t assume that those same cardinals will be uncritical. John Paul II’s management style, for example, has disturbed quite a few people. Page 5.

Papal Resignations: Can a Pope Resign or Be Removed? History of the Papacy
Like any secular monarch, the pope is elected for life - but that does not mean that it is impossible for a pope to step down while still alive. This is not a common occurrence because it would affect people's perception of the stability of their church's hierarchy and might set a precedent for church factions to pressure popes to resign; yet the possibility of a pope resigning is very real.

Popes of the 5th Century: History of the Roman Catholic Papacy and Church
Here is a list of all of the popes who reigned during the fifth century. The first number is which pope they were. This is followed by their chosen name, the starting and ending dates of their reigns, and finally the number of years they were pope. Follow the links to read short biographies of each pope and learn about what they did, what they believed, and what impact they had on the course of the Roman Catholic Church.

Jesus' Further Healings (Mark 6:53-56) - Analysis and Commentary
Eventually Jesus and his disciples make it across the Sea of Galilee and arrive at Gennesaret, a town believed to have been located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Once there, however, they don't escape being recognized. Although we have seen before that Jesus isn't very well known among those in power, he is very popular among the poor and sick. Everyone sees in him a miraculous healer, and everyone who is sick is brought to him so that they can be healed.

Is Atheism an Ism? Atheism is No Religion, Philosophy, Ideology, Belief System
Because of atheism's long-standing association with freethought, anti-clericalism, and dissent from religion, many people seem to assume that atheism is the same as anti-religion. This, in turn, seems to lead people to assume that atheism is itself a religion - or at least some sort of anti-religious ideology, philosophy, etc. This is incorrect. Atheism is the absence of theism; by itself, it isn't even a belief, much less a belief system, and as such cannot be any of those things.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio: Profile of Pope Francis I
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a strong supporter of helping the poor. Bergoglio has not, however, spent a great deal of time preaching about social justice. He instead preached about the importance of spirituality and assumed that a correct understanding of God would naturally lead people to care more about the poor.

What Is Lent? When Does Lent Occur?
Learn about the traditional Christian observances of Lent, including its origins, length of time, fasting practices, and more.

Mark 10:13-16 Biblical Analysis and Commentary
Modern imagery of Jesus commonly has him sitting with children and this particular scene, repeated in both Matthew and Luke, is a primary reason why. Many Christians feel that Jesus has a special relationship with children because of their innocence and their willingness to trust.

Papal Resignations: Which Popes Have Resigned?
Determining just which popes have resigned is actually difficult because the records of church history are in such disarray for so many centuries. Some place the number as high as 10, some as low as four - it all depends upon how one defines a 'resignation' and how the data is interpreted. Page 2.

Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:1-8) - Analysis
Jesus appears here with two figures: Moses, representing Jewish law and Elijah, representing Jewish prophecy. Moses is important because he was the figure believed to have given the Jews their basic laws and to have written the five books of the Torah - the basis of Judaism itself. Connecting Jesus to Moses thus connects Jesus to the very origins of Judaism, establishing a divinely authorized continuity between the ancient laws and Jesus' teachings.

Jesus Heals the Leper - Analysis and Commentary
(Mark 1:40-45) Jesus heals here a specific illness which had caused fear and loathing for centuries: leprosy. Or it might have been some other skin disease that was mistaken for leprosy. Or perhaps it was many skin diseases at the time that were all categorized as leprosy.

Days of Easter Season: Easter is a Season of Holy Days, Not a Single Holiday
In Christianity, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe happened three days after he was buried. Easter is not an isolated holiday: it is the culmination of the season of Lent, which lasts 40 days, and begins the season of Pentecost, which lasts 50 days. Because of this, Easter is a holiday which stands at the center of the Christian liturgical calendar and serves as a focal point for numerous other celebrations, commemorations, and vigils.

Profile & Biography of Andrew the Apostle
Andrew, whose Greek name means 'manly,' was one of Jesus' twelve apostles. The brother of Simon Peter and son of Jona (or John), Andrew's name appears on all of the lists of apostles, and his being called by Jesus appears in all three synoptic gospels as well as Acts. Andrew's name comes up multiple times in the gospels - the synoptics show him at the Mount of Olives and John describes him as a one-time disciple of John the Baptist.

Connecting the Holocaust to Book Burning
Two of the actions which Nazi Germany is most infamous for are probably the burning of books and the burning of people. Are the two connected? Curiously, the idea that the former would lead to the latter was famously predicted more than 100 years before the Nazi takeover of Germany by German author Heinrich Heine. What did he understand that others do not? What is the connection between burning books and burning people?

Do Atheists Have No Reason to Be Moral?
For most religious theists, their religion and their god provide the basis for their entire understanding of morality and moral values. They thus find it inconceivable that atheists who don’t believe in any gods and who have no religion could possibly have a basis for morality or even understand what true moral behavior is. Many go further and argue that this is a good reason to reject atheism, saying that it leads to immoral behavior, that it cannot account for the existence of morality, etc.

Jesus' Identity: Hidden or Public? (Mark 5:10-20) - Analysis and Commentary
One curious aspect of the story about freeing the demon-possessed man is the way it ends. Usually Jesus admonishes people to keep silent about who he is and what he has done - it's almost as if he prefers to work in secret. In this instance, though, that is ignored and Jesus not only doesn't tell the saved man to be quiet, but actually commands him to go forth and tell everyone about what happened, despite the fact that the man really wants to stay with Jesus and work with him. Page 2.

Jesus Punishes the Swine With Demons (Mark 5:10-20)
Because this event occurs in 'country of the Gadarenes,' which means near the city of Gadara, we are probably dealing with a herd of domestic swine owned by Gentiles because Gadara was a part of the hellenized, Gentile cities of the Decapolis. Thus, Jesus caused the death of a large number of pigs that were someone else's property.

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath, Pharisees Complain (Mark 3:1-6)
Jesus' violations of Sabbath laws continue in this story of how he healed a man's hand in a synagogue. Why was Jesus in this synagogue on this day - to preach, to heal, or just as an average person attending worship services? There's no way to tell. He does, however, defend his actions on the Sabbath in a manner similar to his earlier argument: the Sabbath exists for humanity, not vice-versa, and so when human needs become critical, it is acceptable to violate traditional Sabbath laws.

Peter's Confession About Jesus as the Christ - Analysis
In the previous verses Jesus is depicted as helping a blind man to see again - not all at once, but gradually so that the man first perceives other people in a distorted manner ('as trees') and then, finally, as they truly are. That passage is commonly read as an allegory for people's spiritual awakening and growing to understand who Jesus really is, an issue thought to be made explicit here.

Three Synoptic Gospels - Compare and Contrast
The first three gospels - Mark, Matthew, and Luke - are very similar. So similar, in fact, that their parallels cannot be explained by mere coincidence.

Jesus on Paying Taxes to Caesar Analysis and Commentary
In the previous chapter Jesus bested his opponents by forcing them to pick one of two unacceptable options; here they attempt to return the favor.

Evidence for the Theory of Creationism
Creationism is not supported by any direct or inferential evidence. A legitimate scientific theory must make specific, testable predictions.

Southern Baptists: Creation of the Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptists Convention may be very vocal and public, but they do not represent the only face of Baptism in America - indeed, the history of Baptism is much more liberal and tolerant than you might imagine. Key to understanding that is understanding how the Southern Baptist Convention first developed.

Southern Baptists: Not All Baptists Are the Same
We need to keep in mind that “Southern Baptists” are not representative of all Baptists in America. Too often that basic fact gets lost. Page 2.

Southern Baptists: Converting Jews and Mormons
Converting Jews and Mormons is an important goal for the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. These two groups represent major challenges to Southern Baptists. The Jews, of course, have long resisted the truth-claims of Christian salvation while the Mormons challenge the Southern Baptists’ claims to represent family values and conservative Protestant Christianity. Page 3.

Southern Baptists on Disney & Politicians: Influencing Society & Politics
Southern Baptists on Disney and Politicians: Influencing Society & Politics. Why do Southern Baptist leaders work so hard to extend the influence of their fundamentalist agenda to the private sector (companies like Disney) and public sector (the government). Page 4.

Abington School District v. Schempp & Murray v. Curlett (1963)
Both Abington School District v. Schempp and Murray v. Curlett dealt with state-approved reading of Bible passages before classes in public schools.

Profile & Biography of Thomas the Apostle of Jesus
Thomas was one of Jesus' twelve apostles and is included in each of the four apostolic lists. Thomas is also called Didymus (the twin).

Religion & Belief in Supernatural Beings:
Belief in the supernatural, especially gods, is one of the most obvious characteristics of religion. Some people mistake mere theism for religion itself.

Can Godless Atheists Have Moral Values?
Debunking the popular claim among religious theists that atheists have no basis for morality — that religion and gods are needed for moral values.

Einstein Quotes on Ethics & Morality
A selection of quotes on ethics, morality, humanity and universal causation from Albert Einstein: Humans, not Gods, define morality.

Transitional Fossils and Evolution
Fossils that show intermediate characteristics are transitional fossils - they have characteristics of organisms that existed both prior to and after it.

What Does Original Sin in the Bible Mean?
If Original Sin is a doctrine created by Christianity and imposed upon Jewish scriptures, what reason is there to take it seriously?

What is a Nontheist? Who are Nontheists?
Nontheist is defined as covering a wide range of people, all characterized by lacking belief in any gods, rejecting of belief in gods, or deny the existence of any gods. The definition of nontheist is effectively the same as the definition of atheist — the prefixes

Logical Fallacy Composition
The Fallacy of Composition involves taking attributes of part of an object or class and applying them to the entire object or class. The argument being made is that because every part has some characteristic, then the whole must necessarily also have that characteristic. This is a fallacy because not everything that is true about every part of an object is necessarily true of the whole, much less about the entire class that the object is part of.

America as God's Chosen Nation & America's International Image
There is more resentment around the world towards America's actions than there is towards the actions of other nations. One important factor is Americans' attitude towards America. Unlike most other nations, Americans tend to treat America as unique, special, and 'chosen' by God.

Religion, Terrorism, Violence, and Power
Terrorism and religion have become closely linked and part of the problem is that the absolutism of religion makes religious terrorism more extreme, dramatic, and dangerous than most political terrorism.