Agnosticism & Atheism Sitemap - Page 11 2016-09-26

Mormons Believe God is Married and Maybe Polygamous
Mormons generally believe that God is married, though this doctrine isn't mentioned specifically in Mormon scripture. Nevertheless, this belief does follow necessarily from most Mormon teachings about God.

Mormons Believe There are Multiple Heavens, Not Just One Heaven
Mormons believe that there are multiple heavens: a Celestial Kingdom, a Terrestrial Kingdom, and a Telestial Kingdom. In orthodox Christianity, there's just one heaven for everyone. In Mormonism, the highest heaven is for devout Mormons.

Abusive ad hominem Fallacy - Fallacy of Insulting a Person to Dismiss their Arguments
The abusive ad hominem is a fallacy that occurs whenever a person resorts to personal attacks in order to argue that some conclusion should not be accepted. Mere insults are not an ad hominem fallacy because insults are not arguments. The key is the use of insults as a reason for rejecting a conclusion.

Tu Quoque Fallacy - Ad Hominem Fallacy That You Did It Too!
The logical fallacy known as 'tu quoque' is an ad hominem fallacy which occurs whenever someone tries to justify what they've said or done by insisting that another person has done the same thing. The truth is, no argument can be justified by the fact that another person has used it; arguments must stand or fall on their own.

Introduction to the Book of Numbers - Fourth Book of the Bible & of the Pentateuch
Numbers returns the Pentateuch to story telling: the Israelites travel to the promised land, but God denies them entry because they are scared. The Israelites had been promised Canaan, land originally given to Abraham, but when they learn about the strength of the current occupants, they are too scared to enter. So God tells them to march in circles until everyone over 20 is dead, thus giving the promised land to their children instead.

Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy - Fifth Book of the Bible & of the Pentateuch
Deuteronomy is basically Moses' farewell speech to the people of Israel before he dies and they enter the land of Canaan. Actually, it's three farewell speeches: one recapitulating the previous forty years of wandering, one reminding them to obey God, and finally one promising that even if they are so unfaithful that they lose everything, repentance will let them get it all back again.

What is Apathetic Agnosticism? Not Knowing & Not Caring About Gods
Apathetic agnosticism is not knowing if any gods exist or not and also not caring if any gods exist or not. An agnostic can not know if any gods exist but think the question is very important. Another agnostic can not know if any gods exist and think the question isn't important at all. That's apathetic agnosticism.

How to Tongue-Tie a Theist - Questions to Ask Theists To Prevent Preaching
Atheists frequently encounter theists who are more interested in sermonizing or lecturing than in conversation. You can prevent this from happening before it starts, though. You can tongue-tie a theist in ways that can make discussion possible if that's what they want while preventing preaching if that's their intention. Life is too short to waste it being preached at. Here are questions that make it hard for theists' preaching and lecturing to continue.

What is Monolatry? Definition & Explanation of Monolatry
Monolatry is the worship of a single god while acknowledging the existence of other gods - and usually and appropriateness of other people worshipping those other gods. Monolatry must be distinguished from monotheism, which is the belief that only one god exists at all. Monolatry is thought to have been a stage of transition between polytheism and monotheism. Even the ancient Jews passed through a monolatrous stage.

Introduction to the Book of Leviticus - Third Book of the Bible & of the Pentateuch
The Book of Leviticus is perceived by many as one of the most boring books in the Bible - it has no real story and is just a long list of laws, rules, and regulations. The Book of Leviticus is the collection of all the laws which God wants the Israelites to follow and they are still followed today, to one degree or another, by modern Jews. How many one follows and how closely depends on which branch of Judaism one belongs to.

Introduction to the Book of Joshua - Sixth Book of the Old Testament
The Book of Joshua may be one of the most violent books of the Bible, even given Old Testament standards. The Book of Joshua is about the Israelite invasion of Canaan, an invasion that requires the Israelites to slaughter every person living there. Under Joshua's leadership, the Israelites take the land away from those living there because they believe Yahweh promised it to them.

Introduction to the Book of Judges - Seventh Book of the Old Testament
The Book of Judges finds the Israelites living in Canaan, the land God promised them, but they aren't doing a very good job at obeying the laws God demands in exchange for blessing them. Instead of remaining separate from other people, the Israelites are mixing with the locals and even starting to worship their gods. So God calls prophets to show the Israelites the right way to live - prophets that are called Judges.

Introduction to the Book of Ruth - Eighth Book of the Old Testament
The Book of Ruth is one of the shorter and simpler books of the Bible. The focus of the Book of Ruth is one woman, Ruth, and her conversion of Judaism. Ruth was originally a Moabite who married into an Israelite family in Bethlehem. According to later biblical texts, her descendants include David and Jesus.

Introduction to the Books of Kings - First & Second Kings in the Old Testament
The Books of Kings pick up where the Books of Samuel ended. The Books of Kings describe the descent of the kings of Israel and Judah into apostasy and idolatry. The Books of Kings were written from the perspective of religious zealots living in Judah and they condemned everything done by the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. They especially hated how people were allowed a measure of religious freedom.

Joshua & Genocide - Book of Joshua as a Manual for Genocide
The Book of Josua describes little more than a genocidal campaign against the unsuspecting inhabitants of Canaan. The Canaanites never attacked the Israelites, never enslaved the Israelites, and aren't described as ever having done anything to warrant mistreatment of any sort. Their only crime was living in the wrong place at the wrong time — land promised to the Israelites by God at the time when God decided to make good on that promise.

Deuteronomist History - Old Testament History by the Deuteronomist Writer
A single person, group, or school known as the Deuteronomist Editor was probably responsible for several Old Testament books, now called the Deuteronomist History. The Deuteronomist History was created independently of the Torah and its purpose was to explain the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Exile. Most of the Deuteronomist History is focused on expounding Deuteronomist Theology: prosperity and suffering are caused by God based on whether your obedient or disobedient.

Deuteronomist Theology (Deuteronomism) & Blaming the Victims
Deuteronomist theology is a theological version of blaming the victim for their suffering: whatever your problems in life, you must deserve them. The reverse is also used: if you're prosperous and doing well, it must be because you are doing something right. The theological part comes when God is described as the ultimate source of your suffering or prosperity. Suffering means you're cursed by God for your disobedience; prosperity means you're blessed by God for your obedience.

Jesus’ Authority to Forgive Sins & Heal the Sick (Mark 2:6-12) - Analysis and Commentary
If God is the only one with authority to forgive people's sins, then Jesus assumes a great deal in forgiving the sins of a man who came to him to have his palsy healed. Naturally, there are a few who wonder about this and question whether Jesus should do it.

Soren Kierkegaard Biography: Kierkegaard, Abraham, and the Nature of Faith
Kierkegaard explained his ideal of religious faith through the story of Abraham, the Jewish patriarch was ordered by God to kill his only son. On the one hand, Abraham knew that this was a violation of God’s law; on the other hand, Abraham knew that he had clear orders to kill. What rational, abstract 'knowledge' about the world could Abraham rely upon to arrive at the correct decision? Page 2.

Civil Marriage & Civil Law: Gay Marriage Determines the Future of Civil Law; Will Civil Law be Secular and Just or Religious, Oppressive, and Unjust?
The debate over gay marriage is about more than just the status of gay couples. It’s also about the future of American civil law. Either civil law is defined by the needs and rights of citizens and gay marriage will be legalized or civil laws will be placed under the dominion of religious laws and gay marriage will remain banned. Opponents of gay marriage try to offer legal and social reasons for their position, but it always comes back to religion and faith-based animosity towards gays.. Page 12.

Defining Marriage: Definition & Nature of Marriage Has Changed Dramatically - Why Do Religious Conservatives Want to One Definition of Marriage?
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?. Page 2.

Back of the Bus: Gays Demand Equal Rights & Dignity, Not Special Rights - Being Treated with Equality & Dignity Should Not Be for a Privileged Few
So-called 'gay rights' aren’t about special rights or special privileges for gays; instead, they’re about ensuring that gays have the same fundamental rights as everyone else. The focus on talking about 'gay rights' obscures this fact and allows others to misrepresent the subject. Gay marriage, correspondingly, is really just about marriage generally and ensuring that it is treated as the fundamental right which the Supreme Court has declared it to be.. Page 6.

Gay Marriage & Freedom: Protecting Marriage is No Reason for Discrimination - Even a Threat to Marriage Cannot Justify Banning Gay Marriage
Supporters of legalized gay marriage insist that there is no threat to marriage and, hence, that the arguments of opponents are ill-founded. Even if one concedes the truth of at least some threat on the margins of marriage, that isn’t enough to justify opposing gay marriage because bans on gay marriage devalue same-sex couples and hold gay citizens in a second-class status. You can't protect a social institution through bigotry, injustice, and discrimination.. Page 8.

Why Isn't Divorce a Threat to Traditional Marriage? Opponents of Gay Marriage Should Focus on Liberalized Divorce Laws First
Opponents of gay marriage say they are defending the institution of marriage, but if that were really true why aren't they spending at least as much time and vigor attacking divorce? Divorce is far more common than gay marriage ever could be. Divorce ends marriages while gay marriage doesn’t. The arguments used against gay marriage could, with little alteration, be directed against divorce instead. In fact, they once were but today liberal divorce laws are accepted almost without question. Why? Page 5.

Gay Marriage & Church/State Separation: Civil Marriage Must Be Secular; Secular Government Can Only Authorize Secular Marriages, Not Religious
If the separation of church and state means anything, it must include the idea that people cannot be forced by the state to live according to the dictates of others’ religion. Just because one or many groups consider something sacred doesn’t mean that everyone must be forced by the state to do so. Just because one or many religious groups consider same-sex marriage a sacrilege doesn’t mean that civil marriage laws must be restricted to exclude that which some regard as sacrilegious.. Page 14.

Marriage is not Sacred or a Sacrament: Religion Cannot Define Civil Marriage - Churches Cannot Use Theology & Dogma to Define Marriage for Others
Many argue that marriage is essentially and necessarily a religious rite. These Christians conceive of marriage in almost exclusively religious terms and conclude that therefore legalizing gay marriage constitutes a type of sacrilege — an unjustified intrusion of the state into what is necessarily a religious matter. Because of religion's traditional role in sanctifying marriages and presiding over wedding ceremonies this is understandable, but it's also incorrect.. Page 13.

Homosexual Sin: Christian Nationalists Obsessed with Homosexuality & Sexual Sin
The 'sin' of homosexuality is important to conservative Christians because it’s a sin they can complain about without being concerned that they might commit it themselves. Everyone and anyone might be guilty sins like gluttony or pride (which receive little attention), but homosexuality can always be framed as a sin which others commit. Even if one represses same-sex desire, one isn’t 'really' homosexual unless they engage in same-sex activity - and, even then, they can repent and feel clean.. Page 3.

A Fundamental Civil Right: Marriage is Regulated by Civil, Secular Law - Religion Cannot Regulate or Define Civil Marriage in a Secular Society
Are there secular reasons for thinking that gay marriages might undermine the institution of marriage? If there are, they should be taken seriously. If society’s goal is to support and encourage marriage, then of course it shouldn’t do anything that would harm marriage in the long run. Unfortunately for opponents of same-sex marriages, there are no valid secular reasons for thinking that allowing gay couples to marry will have any deleterious effects on marriage generally.

Baptism of Contantine into Christianity: Painting of the Baptism of Constantine by Raphael
According to Christian tradition, Constantine himself was baptized in the Baptistery of Constantine by Pope Sylvester. The truth is that Constantine was not baptized until he was near death (common at the time) and even then it was by Eusebius elsewhere. Page 3.

Joseph of Arimathea: Image of Joseph of Arimathea, drawing c. 1927
Joseph of Arimathea might pass through the gospels very briefly, but he enjoyed a lively role in later Christian legends. According to various accounts, Joseph of Arimathea traveled to England where he founded the first Christian Church, was the protector of the Holy Grail, and became an ancestor of Lancelot or even of King Arthur himself.

Joseph of Arimathea: Image of Joseph of Arimathea helping lower the body of Jesus Christ from the Cross
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. Page 10.

Understanding & Criticizing Islam & Muslims - Islam's Holy Days, Holy Sites, Beliefs
Many Muslim beliefs are similar to Christian and Jewish beliefs, but not all. Any basic understanding of Islam requires first understanding what Muslims believe, why Muslims believe those things, and how Muslim beliefs differ from beliefs in other religions.

Jesus on Ritual Purity: What Defiles a Man? (Mark 7:14-23) - Analysis and Commentary
Previously, we read about Jesus allowing his disciples to ignore a tradition of ritually washing their hands before eating despite the complaints of the Pharisees. At the time, Jesus responded to the complaints by arguing first that the Pharisees were hypocrites for worshipping Jesus in words but not in their hearts and second that at least some of the Pharisees made a habit of placing human traditions over God's laws.

Jesus and the Law: Establishing a New Covenant (Mark 7:14-23) - Analysis and Commentary
The mission of Jesus was at least in part to create a new covenant which did not rest upon strict obedience to ritual laws: what matters most is what is one's heart, not one's adherence to traditions and rules. Of course, there is a lot of danger in such a position because a person can readily come to believe that obedience to any laws is irrelevant. Page 2.

The Syro-Phoenician Woman's Faith in Jesus (Mark 7:24-30) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus' fame is spreading beyond the Jewish population and on to outsiders -- even beyond the borders of Galilee. Tyre and Sidon were located to the north of Galilee (in what was then the Province of Syria) and were two of the most important cities of the ancient Phoenecian empire. This was not a Jewish area, so why did Jesus travel here?

About Opus Dei
About Opus Dei: selected and annotated documents and essays about Opus Dei, a right-wing Cathoic organization.

Mormon Discrimination Against Blacks & African-Americans
Mormonism - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Why and how has the Mormon church discriminated against blacks? What does the church think about atheists?

Mormonism and Discrimination
Mormonism and Discrimination - how the Mormon church has dealt with atheists, gays, women and blacks.

JWs & Science
Some Comments on how the Jehovah's Witnesses relate to science - in particular, official positions on science and evolution.

Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses
How to leave the Jehova's Witnesses, what leaving is like, and how ex-witnesses interact with current members.

Jehovah's Witness Prophecy
History of the group, how they portray their own history, and how prophecies keep going wrong.

Book of Abraham - History and Critiques
Mormonism - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Read about the Book of Abraham - is it reliable?

Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University - what is life like at this Mormon university? Is there any academic freedom?

Islam & Violence - Offsite Links
Offsite Links: Some of the best sites from around the internet addressing the problematic issue of Islamic violence around the world. Isseus covered include terrorism, the treatment of apostates, slavery, the Taliban and others.

Jesus Christ's Resurrection
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Did Jesus really rise from the dead, as believers claim and as the biblical stories proclaim? Read more about skeptical and critical looks at this key Christian story.

Atheism Blogroll: Blogs for Atheists, on Atheism, by Atheists
Blogs are a great way for people to express themselves and communicate their ideas. Naturally, there are quite a few blogs out there which not only deal with atheism and agnosticism, but also provide interesting critiques of religion and religious beliefs. Listed here are the blogs in the Agnosticism / Atheism blogroll.

Origins of the Universe
Does the universe require a god to explain its existence? Or could the universe have originated by purely natural means?

Shroud of Turin
Shroud of Turin - the burial cloth of Jesus or a medieval forgery?

Promise Keepers
All about the Promise Keepers - who are they? what do they want?

Bible Codes
Select annotated links about the infamous Bible Codes of Michael Drosnin.

Agnosticism & Agnostics - Offsite Links
Offsite Links: the best sites and pages from around the internet dealing with agnosticism and agnostics. Topics covered include the history of agnosticism, agnostic philosophy, and the relationship between agnosticism and atheism.

Humanist Groups and Organizations
Humanist Groups and Organizations - groups and organizations devoted to promoting humanism and humanist philosophy.

Transhumanism
Transhumanism - what is it? what is its philosophy? what political goals? From your About.com Guide

Christian Historicity: Are Christian Historical Claims True?
Critique of Christianity - are the historical claims made about Christianity believable?

Pleasures of Atheism - Freedom: The Ultimate Pleasure
Personally, I consider the pleasures of atheism to be far more effective as teaching tools than the 'seven deadly sins' associated with conservative and fundamentalist religions. The words kindness, knowledge, happiness, choice, power, health and tolerance reflect a far more positive outlook on life than the negative thoughts associated with 'deadly sin.' To atheists and secularists around the globe, they come together to shine on the most important pleasure; freedom. Page 2.

The Fate of John the Baptist & Salome's Dance (Mark 6:14-29) - Analysis and Commentary
When we last saw John the Baptist back in chapter 1, he was on a religious mission similar to that of Jesus: baptizing people, forgiving their sins, and exhorting them to have faith in God. In Mark 1:14 we learned that John was put in prison, but not informed by whom or for what reason. Now, we learn the rest of the story (though not one that is consistent with the account in Josephus).

The Meaning of Fate of John the Baptist for Jesus (Mark 6:14-29) - Analysis and Commentary
When Herod learns about Jesus, he thinks this person may be John risen from the dead. This is curious for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that Jesus' identity was not well known, at least among those with political power in the region. If Jesus were well known based upon his miracles and teachings, Herod's misidentification should not have happened. Page 2.

Pleasures of Atheism: Why Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics Find Joy in a Godless Existence
It's impossible to count how many times atheists, agnostics, secularists and freethinkers are told by religious folks of various faiths that we will regret our 'godless' or 'sinful' life sooner or later. I can honestly say I haven't had any regrets for my decision to trade in what I perceived to be the miseries of traditional Catholicism for the pleasures of freethinking.

Creationist Organizations
About Creationism: selected and annotated documents about major creationist organizations.

Debating Creationism
Debating Creationism - tactics of creationists, advice, hints, and answers to common challenges.

Islam and Islamic Theology
Critiques of Islamic religious theology - including the hajj, jihad, apostates, hell and other concepts.

Baal: Phoenician, Canaanite, and Semitic God
Baal is the most famous Phoenician and Canaanite god. The name Baal comes from the Semitic root for owner, husband, or lord. As such it appears as the name of a god, a title for any one of several other gods, the names of Phoenician rulers, and even as a common noun. Because of this there is some confusion, especially in the biblical texts, about what exactly is being referred to when we encounter Baal. Page 13.

Lebanese Cedars for Solomon's Temple: Phoenician Tyre Worked Closely with Israel under kings David and Solomon
King Hiram of Tyre not only helped David build his palace, but also sent to Solomon (961-922 BCE) famous Lebanon cedars and cypress wood for the construction of his famous temple (1 Kings 9:11, 2 Chronicles 2:3). Both the chief architect and the master workers for the First Temple, constructed under Solomon's rule, were Tyrians. It's possible, in fact, that the Temple was designed in the same style as the temples of the Phoenicians. Page 7.

Saint James (the Lesser) the Apostle: Why Was St. James 'Less'? Was James the Apostle Martyred in Egypt?
Christian tradition says that James the Lesser was martyred in Egypt; specifically, that he was crucified for having violated the Torah despite having been one of the apostles who tended to stick most closely to traditional Jewish laws. This is an implausible story because Jews sentencing someone to death would have used stoning; crucifixion was a Roman method of execution and they wouldn't have cared about some random religious person violating a Jewish religious law. Page 8.

Book Review - Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society, by Diane Wilson
Most people have had the experience of Jehovah's Witnesses coming to the door and offering to share their religious beliefs, but just who are these Jehovah's Witnesses, really? Are they simply another Protestant denomination of Christianity? Are they a dangerous cult? What is the truth about their organization and doctrines? One way to learn more about groups as insular as this is through reports and experiences of former members.

Book Review - Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism, by Neil J. Kressel
Anyone studying religion is immediately and unavoidably faced with a difficult dilemma: believers report that their religion is a source for morality and values in their lives - and there are many examples of religion inspiring good behavior - but at the same time religion is also demonstrably a source for violence, terrorism, war, and evil. What is it about faith that it can inspire so much negative behavior even while being promoted as a force for good? What is the connection?

Book Review - Being Good, by Simon Blackburn
This is a very good introduction to the entire range of ethical issues. Very rarely will you find a short, easy-to-read book that covers ethical challenges, ethical issues and ethical solutions in a way that even non-philosophers can enjoy and learn from.

Book Review - Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, by James Waller
Humans have committed great evil against each other over the course of millennia, often in the name of religion but also often in the context of secular ideologies - especially during the 20th century. Such evil is not the standard means by which people relate to one another because we are usually quite a bit more civil and kind to one another. How is it that kindness is left behind and heinous barbarism develops - especially among those whose religion ostensibly promotes kindness as a virtue?

Book Review - Beyond the Veil, by Fatima Mernissi
How are women really treated in Islam? Many Muslims argue that Islam gives women a good status and even that Islam was an improvement for women over what they experienced previously. But many others argue that women are treated badly by Islam and have an inferior status. Who is right? According to Fatima Mernissi in her book 'Beyond the Veil,' both are right to a certain degree.

Book Review - The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, by David Callahan
It may have occurred to you that there seems to be a lot more cheating and dishonesty in American society today than there was in the past. If so, you aren't simply imagining things - there is strong evidence for a decline in people's willingness to be honest and this does not bode well for America's future. If we are to prevent things from getting worse, however, we need to figure out what exactly is going on and why the change has occurred.

Book Review - Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment?, edited by Hugo Adam Bedau and Paul Cassell
Debates about the death penalty sometimes take a back seat to those over matters such as abortion, but they don't really end and they rarely seem to arrive at any sort of conclusion. This probably shouldn't be a surprise - capital punishment has been in regular use in the West for thousands of years, and no one started to question it in a serious and systematic manner until just a couple of centuries ago.

Book Review - Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson, Christian Smith
Both religion and race have played important - and sometimes deeply interconnected - roles in American history. Religion was used to justify both slavery and abolition; likewise it was used to justify both segregation and desegregation. Today even conservative Christians support equality between the races, but that doesnt mean that everything is settled or peaceful. In truth, evangelical Christianity continues to reinforce racial divides.

Book Review - Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans, by Vivien Spitz
Most people are aware that one of the fundamental moral principles for all doctors is to 'do no harm,' a principle which can be traced back to Hippocrates and the very beginnings of the Western medical tradition. Unfortunately, not all doctors heed this precept: the worst and most extreme examples can be found in the history of Nazi Germany, where not only doctors, but the entire medical profession, appears to have become a twisted mirror image of what it should have been.

Book Review - Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, by Thomas E. Kida
If you care about truth, then you have to care about being able to reliably differentiate between truth and falsehood. Figuring out how to do that, however, isn't always easy. A major problem with this is the fact that many of our normal habits of thinking which appear to serve us well in day-to-day matters don't really work when it comes to more complicated issues. There is little in modern culture which encourages people to do a better job with this task, and this harms us all.

Book Review - Dworkin and His Critics: With Replies by Dworkin, edited by Justine Burley
Ronald Dworkin is one of the most important figures in the 20th century for moral, legal, and political philosophy. His ideas have spread widely and have had a profound influence on debates over basic issues in all those fields. Those ideas have not, however, been uncontroversial and he has had quite a few critics over the years. What have those critics had to say?

Book Review - The Ecumenical Cruise and Other Three-Legged Chicken Philosophy Tales, by Walter Benesch
Most books on philosophy and theology either take the historical approach by explaining ideas as they developed chronologically, or take a topical approach by explaining ideas in specific groups. Both approaches have a tendency towards being dry, as can be the case in any attempt to explain or explore abstract ideas. Every once in a while, though, someone comes along who does things differently.

Book Review - The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life, by Eviatar Zerubavel
Sometimes people talk about things they shouldn't; far too often, though, people keep quiet about things which should be discussed and brought out into the open. Whether done individually or collectively in a 'conspiracy of silence,' the denial of uncomfortable or embarrassing truths appears to be a common aspect of human social relationships. Because such silences can do so much damage, we should learn more about them in order to understand how to counter the impulse.

Book Review - The Erotic History of Adverstising, by Tom Reichert, Ph.D.
Sex sells - at least, that is the general perception that most people have. But is it true? And, if it is true, how and why does 'sex sell' - everything from lingerie to soap to coal? What is it about sex and sensuality that they attract our attention, hold our interest, and actually get us to buy the associated products?

Book Review - Fire and Roses: The Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834, by Nancy Schultz
The United States of America likes to pride itself on its religious tolerance; although that is often true, such assumptions should not be made in a context of historical ignorance. It has been a long road to get to where we are, and a long road lies ahead of us yet. Nancy Schultz brings to life one particularly violent and hateful stop along our historical path: the attack on and burning of a convent of Ursuline nuns in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Book Review - The First Crusade: A New History, by Thomas Asbridge
For years, scholars and historians focused on material or economic factors behind the Crusades. People argued that the Crusades were caused by nobles seeking land, wealth, and conquest. Today this has shifted and historians are focusing more on ideological causes: the Crusades were launched because people sincerely believed in the cause. That sort of attitude is completely foreign to us today, but the arguments are sound.

Book Review - Flat Broke With Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform, by Sharon Hays
Welfare reform in the United States has been hailed as a great success, reducing the number of people on the welfare rolls from 4.4 million families in 1996 to 2.1 million in 2001. But is the number of people on welfare really the only appropriate measure of 'success,' and if not, how do the efforts at reform measure up against other criteria?

Book Review - Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, by Jonathan Rauch
The debate over gay marriage hasn't existed for very many years at this point, but already it seems that we have covered just about all the ground that exists. The arguments may get more rancorous, but new ideas are few and far between. It's unusual, and thus also especially gratifying, to find a book which raises new issues and thereby promises to alter the nature of the debate - and for the better.

Book Review - Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich, by David Clay Large
Adolf Hitler was born and raised in Austria. After he became Chancellor of Germany, the capitol of the nation remained in Berlin. The capital of his Nazi movement, however, was neither in Austria nor Berlin -- it was in Munich, the capitol of conservative, Catholic Bavaria. Neither the region's traditional Catholicism nor the city's avant garde, bohemian atmosphere appear to be conducive to the rise of Nazis, but that's precisely why the connections must be studied.

Book Review - Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. by Mahmood Mamdani
The American government says that we are engaged in a war against terrorism, not a war against Islam. Of course, all of he terrorists being targeted happen to be Muslim, leading to the attempted distinction between 'good Muslims' and 'bad Muslims.' Upon what is this distinction based, and is it a valid way of viewing the Middle East?

Book Review - It's Been A Good Life, by Isaac Asimov
Who was Isaac Asimov, really? Where did he come from, what did he do and why did he do it? In short, what sort of life did he lead? According to Asimov himself, he lead a very good life - something he explains in some depth in a new one-volume autobiography.

Book Review - 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia, by Molefi Kete Asante
African Americans, the descendants of slaves forcibly brought to America, have long played an important role in the cultural, scientific, and economic life of this country. Unfortunately, most people have little awareness of this history, despite the large gains made in recent years. What people need is ready way to learn more.

Book Review - Hinduism: Origins - Beliefs - Practices - Holy Texts - Sacred Places, by Vasudha Narayanan
Hinduism is one of the worlds great religions. Its one of the oldest continuing religious and cultural traditions still in existence (though of course it has evolved over time) and provides context for the lives of a significant proportion of the worlds population. Nevertheless, it remains something of a mystery to many in the West. Its really something that people should learn more about.

Book Review - Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, by Ian Kershaw
The importance of Adolf Hitler for the history of the 20th century is undeniable. People see him as the personification of evil rather than as a human being, though, and this creates a problem because it allows us to treat him as separate from the rest of humanity, as a 'thing' or force which cannot be explained in human terms. This is just an excuse, however, to avoid the fact that as a human being who can be discussed in human terms, Adolf Hitler is closer to us than we would like to admit.

Book Review - The 'Hitler Myth': Image and Reality in the Third Reich, by Ian Kershaw
Hitler enjoyed more personal popularity in Germany than perhaps any other world leader in history. Many scholars have sought to understand why he was so popular and thus why so many people in a modern, industrialized nation were willing to follow him into madness, barbarism, and self-destruction. Was there something special about Hitler that allowed him to control and manipulate the German people?

Book Review - Hitler's Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany, by Nikolaus Wachsmann
When most people think of imprisonment in the Nazi Germany, they probably imagine concentration camps - and they are justifiably an icon of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. At the same time, though, far more people were held in regular prisons than in concentration camps, so their significance in German life was far greater. Too much attention on the concentration camps and too little attention on the prisons has obscured important aspects of law and justice in Nazi Germany.

Book Review - The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-Gall
A popular belief is that Nazism was the polar opposite of Christianity: in Germany, the Nazis planned to eliminate Christian churches while devout Christians opposed the Nazi agenda. Is this perception accurate? No. Some Nazis were anti-Christian and some Christians were anti-Nazi, but the majority were equally at home in both camps.

Book Review - Homeopathy: How It Really Works, by Jay W. Shelton
Homeopathy is one of the most popular of the various alternative medical treatments, bringing in around USD $1.5 billion a year. It's also one of the oldest, having been created by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the mid-19th century. Considering its age and popularity, is there anything at all to the treatments? Do they work?

Book Review - How Democratic Is the American Constitution? by Robert A. Dahl
Americans are proud of their democracy and the Constitution - so much so, in fact, that they often act as though both were the best examples of their species in the entire world. Is this justified or merely hubris? America may have created the first democratic constitution of the modern era, but isn't there something to be said for more recent developments?

Book Review - Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press, by Kristina Borjesson
Borjesson's book will likely make you very angry, but perhaps that is the only way things will change. It may be time for you to start asking your news sources why they aren't doing a better job and what sorts of pressures they labor under when attempting to investigate and report.

Book Review - John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father, by Francis J. Bremer
One of the more obscure figures in American history, John Winthrop may be one of the least famous people every American should know something about. Winthrop was part of the transition from the Old World to the New. With religious worldviews rooted in the more radical wing of the English Reformation, he came to embody attitudes which would be considered uniquely American.

Book Review - The Just War and Jihad: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, edited by R. Joseph Hoffmann
Most religions usually preach peace and brotherhood. Most religions have also become deeply involved with war and violence - at times even becoming a motivating ideology behind the violence. Given the violent propensities of human beings this isn't surprising, and neither is fact that religions have tried to come to grips with this by outlining the ways in which warfare can be initiated and waged in as just a manner as possible. How successful have they been, though?

Book Review - Madness: A Brief History, by Roy Porter
Mental illness has a checkered past in the history of Western culture. Even today, some argue that there is no such 'illness' at all - it is instead simply a label we apply to those who for whatever reason don't fit in with the culture's prevailing notions about proper behavior. It is arguable that a better understanding of how we've treated madness will reveal much not only about medicine, but the broader culture as well.

Book Review - The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation, by Ian Kershaw
The Nazi dictatorship under Adolf Hitler is the most significant event of the 20th century and ranks as one of the most significant events in all of human history - though not for any positive reasons. Given this important role, it's not surprising that more is written about the Nazis than most other historical subjects, but what may be surprising to many is just how many significant debates and problems exist for historians. There's a lot which we simply don't know - and may never know.

Book Review - Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles, by Raymond Arroyo
Anyone who has flipped through the cable channels over the past couple of decades has probably come across Mother Angelica's Eternal World Television Network. A cloistered Franciscan nun, Mother Angelica expressed an unapologetic and uncensored Catholic traditionalism which rankled not only liberal Catholics in America, but quite a few Catholic bishops as well. That she was able to achieve such a position of power and influence is remarkable to say the least.

Book Review - The Palestine-Israeli Conflict: A Beginner's Guide, by Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Dawoud El-Alami
Few people are unaware of the violence which is currently plaguing the Middle East today, especially the violence which keeps occurring between Israelis and Palestinians. At times, it threatens to engulf not only the surrounding nations, but the rest of the world as well. Yet why is this happening - what are the causes, and are there any solutions?

Book Review - Preacher: Billy Sunday and Big-Time American Evangelism, by Roger A. Bruns
When televangelists came upon the American scene in the 1980s, they had an enormous impact upon not only American culture, but also upon the wider public perception of Christianity. This was not, however, the fist time religion appeared on television, but it was the beginning of evangelistic revivalism broadcast across the nation and around the world. Even so, neither their methods nor their acts were original - they can in large part be traced back to Billy Sunday.

Book Review - The Psychology of the Psychic, by David Marks
Does ESP exist? Are some people telepathic? Can your mind by read by someone else? These are all interesting questions, and many would be inclined to answer 'yes' to them. But why? David Marks is a professional psychologist at Middlesex University and the head of the Health Research Centre in London. In 1980, he joined Richard Kammann to publish a book exploring parapsychological beliefs and experiments -- a book which has become a classic.

Book Review - The Reformation: A History, by Diarmaid MacCulloch
The Reformation is one of the most important things to happen in the history of Christianity. More than an event, it is better understood as perhaps an era that lasted from 1400 through 1700, causing Christianity to change in unpredictable ways that continue to resonate in modern religion, culture, and politics. No one can honestly claim to understand modern Christianity or even the modern West without also some understanding of the Protestant Reformation.

Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East, by Rashid Khalidi
America isn't the first Western nation to enter the Middle East, attempting to transform its politics and social institutions for ostensibly good reasons. Although most Americans realize this in the abstract, they are unaware of the details and consequences of earlier excursions. This is unfortunate because those excursions not only failed, but are partially responsible for the problems we see today.

Book Review - The Supreme Court, by William H. Rehnquist
Just what is the Supreme Court - what does it do, how does it work and what role does it play in American society? Considering how the Supreme Court has shaped both political and social life in the United States, these are very serous questions. Understanding the Supreme Court's role in America is vital to understanding America itself.

Book Review - Why the Religious Right is Wrong About the Separation of Church and State. by Robert Boston. Published by Prometheus Books.
Book Review: Why the Religious Right is Wrong about the Separation of Church and State. by Robert Boston. Published by Prometheus Books. Is the separation of church and state really just a myth, something the founders never actually intended? Was the United States founded as a

Book Review - School Prayer: the Courts, the Congress and the First Amendment, by Robert S. Alley.
School Prayer: The First Amendment says that

Book Review - Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion. by Daniel S. Greenberg.
Science, Money, and Politics: Scientific research consumes billions of taxpayer dollars each year. Ideally, this money would be allocated based upon which research projects are the most promising and beneficial. Ideally, allocation would be a matter of science, not politics. But is that how things actually are?

Book Review - Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, by Mark Abley
Everyone knows about language - the ability to use language is, in fact, one of the defining characteristics of the human species, something glimpsed only in rudimentary forms in other animals. Humans have developed an incredible variety of languages over the millennia, but something rather disturbing is occurring: a great many languages are dying out and may soon disappear.

Book Review - Stalin's Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953, by Jonathan Brent, Vladimir Naumov
Everyone is at least vaguely aware of the fact that Joseph Stalin's brutal policies caused the arrests and deaths of untold numbers of innocent people during his dictatorial reign. The extent of his crimes are still coming to light, though, and we may never know all the details. One attempted purge, which fortunately did not go as far as planned, was the 'doctor's plot,' an alleged conspiracy of Jewish doctors working on behalf of Western imperialists and Zionists to kill the Soviet leadership.

Book Review - Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt, by Christine Leigh Heyrman
What is the American 'Bible Belt' and how did it originate? Why did the most conservative strains of Christianity moved from New England down to the South? Much has been written about Southern evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity in America, but not a lot has been written about its very earliest origins: how a mostly Anglican region based upon money and commerce was converted to the Baptist and Methodist denominations based on authoritarianism and masculinity.

Book Review - The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI: An Introduction to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger, by Aidan Nichols
Joseph Ratzinger may now be Pope Benedict XVI, but for over 40 years he has been a Catholic theologian. Ratzinger's writings have covered a tremendous amount of territory and his opinions have even seemed to change on a couple of points, but there are a number of common themes that run through all of Ratzinger's arguments. The cardinals who elected Ratzinger knew those themes when they chose him as pope; the rest of us would be well advised to better understand those themes as well.

Book Review - Tortured Subjects: Pain, Truth, and the Body in Early Modern France, by Lisa Silverman.
Tortured Subjects: People may understand that torture was once used as a normal part of the legal process in Europe, but do people really understand how and why? Is it because the system had so little regard for human suffering? Is it because the system was simply sadistic? Or was there perhaps a better reason, one which appeared reasonable at the time?

Book Review - Travels in Four Dimensions: The Enigmas of Space and Time, by Robin Le Poidevin
Space and time are the foundations of our existence, our experiences, and our lives. Nothing is more fundamental than they, and probably because of that, nothing is more capable of producing paradox and confusion than attempted reflection on their nature. Just what are space and time, how do they operate, and do they even 'really' exist?

Book Review - The Triumph of Sociobiology, by John Alcock
Is sociobiology a science or an ideology? Does it provide important insights into the evolutionary development and biological bases for human and animal behavior, or is it merely a tool for the elite to justify social inequalities? Such questions can reveal just how polarized the debate over sociobiology can be: the subject has received quite a lot of criticism, but to what degree is any of it true and justified?

Book Review - The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith, by Irshad Manji
Is there something wrong with Islam today? Many people think so - including not a few Muslims. Not too long ago criticisms of Islam would not have been well tolerated, even coming from outsiders; but in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, we have seen a small wave of books by Muslims who are reexamining their faith and asking others to do so as well.

Book Review - Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know
Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' is one of the most popular fiction books of recent memory, but its just that: a work of fiction. How many readers who are supposed to know this also fully appreciate what this means? Just how much of the purportedly 'true' documents and history in the book are really fiction? Most readers dont know, but they should.

Book Review - The Vatican Exposed: Money, Murder, and the Mafia, by Paul Williams
There is no disputing the fact that the Vatican, the clerical bureaucracy which controls and leads the Roman Catholic Church, is a very powerful and secretive organization. There is also little disputing the fact that great power and great secrecy typically help an organization to become corrupt. Has the same occurred with the Vatican? Many believe so and there is quite a bit of evidence through the centuries of corruption at the Vatican which would rival that in any government or corporation.

Book Review - Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade, by James Reston
Of the nine official Crusades to the Holy Land, only the first was a real military success; yet in many ways, the third was perhaps the most interesting. The reason for this was, as in so many cases, the personalities involved: Richard the Lionheart from England and Saladin the Kurdish sultan. They were among the most fascinating and heroic figures of their time, and while they never met in person, their interactions were the stuff of high drama.

Book Review - Women and the Conquest of California, 1542-1840: Codes of Silence, by Virginia Marie Bouvier
The Spanish missions in California are an important part of the state's history - important enough that many want the government to pay for restoring the missions, even if they continue to be used as active churches. At the same time, though, people aren't being completely honest about many of the awful things that religious leaders did to natives in those missions.

Is Worship Central to Human Existence? Does Everyone Worship Something? Even Atheists Who Deny They Have a God Must Worship Something in Their Lives
This myth runs along lines very similar to the claim that all atheists have faith like theists, and sometimes this idea is also expressed by claiming that 'atheism is a religion.' Since some theists cannot imagine living their life without worshipping their god, they also cannot imagine atheists living without worshipping something, like money or themselves.

Easter Challenge: Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Are the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first Easter, found in several places of the New Testament, true and historical? If so, it should be possible to bring them all together and tell the story of the first Easter - without omitting a single detail. That's the Easter Challenge presented by Dan Barker. Unfortunately, no one seems able to successfully do this.

The Popularity of Islamic Extremism
Why are the ideas of Islamic extremists so popular? The Arabic world suffers from an extreme case of an inferiority complex - Islam was once

What Can We Do About Islamic Extremism?
Is there a solution to the problem of the popularity of Islamic Extremism in the Arab Muslim world? Well, yes - sort of. It involves a combination of increased reliance on secular education and a decreased reliance on oil exports. But are nations like the United States interested in achieving such goals? Page 3.

The Invasion of Iraq, Islamic Extremism, & Terrorism
Will the invasion of Iraq produce more terrorists, or are Islamic extremism and Arab Muslim terrorism so closely linked to the religious traditions of Islam that it doesn't matter what others do? Both are right to a certain degree - to understand why, you need to understand why Islamic extremism is so popular. That, in turn, helps show how to solve the problem of Arab Muslim terrorism.

When Did God Create Animals? Contradictions in Genesis on When God Created Animals
Genesis has contradictory accounts of when animals were created by God. The Bible's first creation story says animals were created first and humans were created second. The Bible's second creation story, though, says that the first man was created first and all the animals were created later. So when were animals created relative to humans: before humans or after humans?

What are we, who produce 'art'? Art, Technology, and Humanity
The creation of human art has always been deeply intertwined with questions about technology, in part because technological development has helped drive the sorts of art possible, and in part because it causes us to reconsider just what we think art is supposed to be. But at every stage there has continued to be a human element to the production of 'art' - technology's role, as medium or mediator, has remained only partial. What happens when the human element is removed?

What is 'art'? What is 'humanity'? Art, Technology, and Humanity
Many contemporary theories of art - for example that art is a means of expressing social or political ideas - assume the involvement of humans. But can a few thousand rat neurons tell us something about politics? Can the fruit of rat brain cells' electrical firings be employed as a basis for examining society in a new way? When it comes to art produced by humans, it isn't difficult to answer

What is Philosophy? Overview of Philosophical Resources and Information
Philosophy is not the same as

Myth: Atheism is Anti-Religion, All Atheists Hate Religion, Say Religion's Evil - Do Atheists Want to Ban Religion? Do Atheists Hate Believers?
Atheists often criticize religion, so a perception develops that atheism must be anti-religious - but this is not quite true. Atheism is just the absence of beliefs in gods and can thus occur inside or outside the context of religion. Thus, an atheist might be devoutly religious, devoutly anti-religious, or completely apathetic with regards to religion - exactly as with theists. It all depends on the individual and what ideas, beliefs, or principles they have aside from atheism.

For God So Loved the World, that He Was Completely Indifferent to It & Us
Christians like to link their god with love - indeed, they will go so far as to insist that their god is love, making the link as absolute as possible. It's one thing to claim that a god is loving or even that it is love, but quite another to have good reasons for doing so. The question which non-believers must ask, then, is whether the Christian claims about their god have any merit - indeed, whether the Christians themselves are able to make any sort of case that is reasonable or rational.

Myth: Atheists Have No Reason to Fear Death or Punishment - Are Punishment and Death Meaningless with God, Heaven, and Afterlife?
The myth that atheists have no reason to fear death or punishment is one of the oddest and most difficult to understand myths I've ever encountered - but it is a real one which I've seen expressed by Christians. Not only is this myth basically the opposite of what reality is, but it doesn't even appear at first glance to contain an expected criticism like these myths usually do. So what if atheists don't fear death of punishment? Why is this a problem?

Myth: Atheists Have a God-Shaped Hole in their Hearts, Desperately Need God - Do Atheists Secretly Long for God and Christianity?
The idea that we all have a 'God-shaped hole' in our hearts or lives which can only be filled by God's eternal love, but which many try to fill with temporary and material things, has become popular with Christians. Ultimately, though, it's just a rephrasing the traditional argument from instinct: we all have an instinctual need or desire to believe in God, but this instinct wouldn't exist if God didn't also exist. Therefore, God exists and we should believe. This is not a sound argument.

Atheism vs. Theism: Who has the Burden of Proof?
The concept of a burden of proof is important in debates - whoever has a burden of proof is obligated to prove their claims in some fashion. If someone doesnt have a burden of proof, then their job is much easier: all that is required is to either accept the claims or point out where they are inadequately supported.

Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism: What’s the Difference?
Atheism is commonly divided into two types: strong atheism and weak atheism. Although only two categories, this distinction manages to reflect the broad diversity which exists among atheists when it comes to their positions on the existence of gods.

Pressure from Religious Families to Baptize Your Child: Atheists and Religious Ceremonies
Although it shouldn't be too much of an imposition to accept an invitation to someone else's baptism or christening, matters are very different when you are expected to actively participate in such a ceremony by having your own child baptized. Whether the pressure comes from your own family, your in-laws, or even your spouse, you are being put in a very difficult position where no easy choice is obvious. But you have to choose something, so what do you do?

Pressure from Religious Spouses to Baptize Your Child: Atheists and Religious Ceremonies
If your spouse believes that a baptism is necessary, then you face an entirely different set of problems and choices than if the pressure only comes from your families. The two of you probably should have discussed this before you had children and before you were even married. If you did and this represents an attempt by your spouse to alter the earlier agreement, your feelings of discomfort will be understandably increased.

Should Atheists Attend Someone Else's Baptism? Atheism and Baptisms
Questions about christening and baptism ceremonies are pretty common, perhaps because the ceremonies themselves are so common. There are two different situations where an atheist might be faced with attending them: either they are invited to attend the baptism of an infant, or they are invited to attend the baptism of an adult.

Should You Attend a Religious Funeral If Invited? Atheism and Religious Ceremonies
Funerals are a difficult time for all involved. The loss of a loved one takes a terrible toll on those left behind, and often the funeral service plays an important role in people being able to say goodbye and move on with their lives. Very often, religious ceremonies are incorporated into funerals - ceremonies which might be a problem for atheists. Should atheists therefore refuse to attend?

God Can't Be Proven Scientifically - Should Atheists Not Apply Science, Scientific Method to Religion & Theism
A popular argument from religious theists involves, in some manner, the claim that their god is beyond scientific proof, evidence, testing, experimentation, or what have you. The purpose of such an argument is to somehow demonstrate that atheistic attempts to use science to criticize theism are all sorely misguided. If God is beyond the ability of science to evaluate, then efforts to do so are worthless, thus invalidating atheists' conclusion that belief in God is unreasonable or irrational.

Myth: Atheists Believe in a Random Universe, Not an Ordered & Orderly Universe - Does the Absence of a God Entail that the Universe be Disordered?
It's difficult to know whether to categorize this claim as a myth or not because atheists do commonly describe the universe as

Do You Tell Religious In-Laws You're An Atheist? Atheists And Marriage
So, you've decided that you cannot rationally or reasonably continue with the religion which you used to follow and to which your spouse's family continues to belong. Indeed, you can't even continue to call yourself a theist anymore - you find belief in the existence of God to be unreasonable for one reason or another have to abandon the label altogether. Your in-laws, however, are believers - perhaps even devout believers - and you don't know how they will react to your atheism.

What Happens When Your Family Pushes Religion On Your Kids? Atheism and Children
If you are trying to raise your children without also forcing them to adopt a particular religious faith, there can be a lot of conflict with other family members who honestly believe that religion and God are key factors in a good and moral upbringing. Resolving that conflict is necessary not only for your relationships with your family, but also to ensure that your child doesn't become confused or torn between loved ones.

What Happens When Your Family Pushes Religion On Your Kids? Conflict Over Children
Conflict may not be pleasant, but raising your child and supporting your spouse is your responsibility. It's not something you can avoid just because you don't want to rock the boat. That's why your spouse must remain by your side - confronting family members is much easier when you have strong emotional and psychological support. Page 2.

We Disagree Over Having a Religious vs. Secular Wedding: Atheists and Weddings
If two people have very different ideas about the way a wedding should be planned, there will likely be a lot of arguments. Usually these disagreements involve the number of guests, the colors, etc. - but when it involves something so fundamental as religion and religious rituals, it can be very difficult to reach an amicable solution.

Prayer and Bible Meetings at the Office: Atheists at Work
Because religion is an important part of people's lives, it will play a role for them at work. They cannot 'turn off' their religion when they punch a time clock at the start of the day, so the sight of people praying, of people's religious symbols, and of people reading from religious scriptures should not be neither surprising. What can you do if your boss or supervisor also runs religious events at the office? Should you complain? What if you feel pressured to attend?

Religious Discussions at Work - Does it Bother You? Atheism at Work
Relationships at work cannot be completely impersonal. Humans are social animals and they will develop social relationships alongside professional relationships. This a good thing because it is easier to work with people with whom you have some social connection. Unfortunately, some topics of discussion can make a person feel uncomfortable. Religion and politics in particular are well known for causing division and strife among people who probably should have avoided such discussions.

Ministry of John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8) - Analysis and Commentary
Mark does not open with Jesus' birth or childhood; instead, in Mark he is already an adult and is already capable of powerful acts: healing, exorcisms, etc. Jesus' fame also begins to spread, despite his requests that people remain quiet about him and his activities.

John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8) - Analysis and Commentary
The opening of Marks gospel says more about John the Baptist than Jesus. Johns depiction is consistent with Jewish eschatological expectations: dressed and acting like Elijah, John prepares the way for the Messiah as well as the 'last days.' The existence of John the Baptist is disputed by some. The only extra-biblical mention of him is found in Josephus Antiquities and is arguably an interpolation a later addition by someone else. Page 2.

Jesus in Capernaum: Healing and Casting Out Spirits (Mark 1:21-28) - Analysis and Commentary
Capernaum is a city in Galilee often referenced in the gospels. Jesus is described as having spent enough time in and around Capernaum that it came to be known as Jesus own city. There are verses referring to Jesus healing and teaching here in all four gospels. Despite all of this, however, Jesus is also depicted in Matthew and Luke as having felt rejected by the towns inhabitants and cursing them.

Jesus Casts Out His First Demon (Mark 1:21-28) - Analysis and Commentary
Healing people generally and casting out evil spirits specifically played an important role in Jesus ministry. Its almost as if that were expected of him - he didnt perform other miracles that might have helped people, like creating new sources of water, ending droughts, or fixing broken equipment. Surely miracles like these would have benefited many more people than just healing a few individuals here and there. Page 2.

Was Jesus Crazy? The Unforgivable Sin (Mark 3:20-30) - Analysis and Commentary
Here again Jesus is portrayed as preaching and, perhaps, healing. His exact activities are not made explicit, but it's clear that Jesus just keeps getting more and more popular. What isn't as clear is the source of popularity. Healing would be a natural source, but Jesus doesn't heal everyone. An entertaining preacher is still popular today, but so far Jesus' message has been depicted as very simple - hardly the sort of thing that would get a crowd going.

Jesus Sows Seeds by the Sea Shore (Mark 4:1-9) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus' popularity has continued to grow. By this point, the crowds that gather to hear him speak are so large that he has to get into a boat on the water to address them. Jesus would have been considered a very good public speaker for his time in order to keep drawing such large groups to hear him, regardless of the actual content of his presentations.

Jesus is Without Honor Among Kin: Was Jesus a Bastard? (Mark 6:1-6) - Analysis and Commentary
Here Jesus returns to his home - perhaps his home village, or perhaps it merely signals a return to Galilee from more Gentile areas, but it isn't clear. It also isn't clear whether he went home very often, but the welcome he receives this time suggests he didn't. He preaches once again in the synagogue, and just as when he preached in Capernaum in chapter 1, people are astonished.

Jesus' Family, Jesus' Illegitimacy: Was Jesus a Bastard? (Mark 6:1-6) - Analysis and Commentary
It appears that people had trouble taking Jesus seriously because they knew his family and his background. When a stranger comes to do wonderful things, it is easy to take that as an indication of who they 'really' are; when someone you know well does amazing things, however, there may be more of an inclination to be suspicious and cynical. Page 2.

Demands for a Sign from Jesus: Pharisees (Mark 8:10-13) - Analysis and Commentary
In this famous passage, Jesus refuses to provide a 'sign' to the Pharisees who are 'tempting' him. Christians today use this in one of two ways: to argue that the Jews were abandoned because of their unbelief and as a rationale for their failure to produce 'signs' themselves (like casting out demons and healing the blind). The question is, however, just what is meant by 'signs' in the first place?

Jesus Foretells His Passion & Death (Mark 8:31-33) - Analysis and Commentary
In the previous passage Jesus acknowledges that he is the Messiah, but here we find that Jesus refers to himself again as 'Son of man.' If he wanted news of his being Messiah to remain just among them, it would make sense if he used that title when out and about. Here, however, he is alone among his disciples. If he really acknowledges that he is the Messiah and his disciples already know about it, why continue to use a different title?

Jesus on Children, Power, and Powerlessness (Mark 9:33-37) - Analysis and Commentary
Some theologians have argued that one of the of the reasons why Jesus did not make things plainer to his disciples in the past can be found here in their prideful concern over who would be 'first' and 'last.' Basically, they couldn't be trusted to put the needs of others and the will of God before their own egos and their own desire for power.

Miracles in Jesus' Name: Insiders vs. Outsiders (Mark 9:38-41) - Analysis and Commentary
According to Jesus, no one qualifies as an 'outsider' so long as they sincerely act in his name; and if they are successful when it comes to performing miracles, they you can trust both their sincerity and their connection to Jesus. This sounds a lot like an attempt to break down the barriers that divide people, but immediately thereafter Jesus builds them up higher by declaring that anyone who is not against him must be for him.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 11 - Analysis and Commentary
In the eleventh chapter of Mark's gospel, Jesus finally enters Jerusalem - the goal of his recent travels and the end stage of his entire ministry. Jesus' time is marked by conflict, prophecy, and curses and Jesus assumes the authority to tell everyone that the time for traditional Judaism is coming to a close.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 12 - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus' time in Jerusalem is short, but in the twelfth chapter of Mark's gospel he has time to deliver a few lessons. Jesus tells a parable which appears designed to condemn the Temple authorities and predict an end to the Jews' place as God's chosen people, explains what the greatest commandment is, and explains the importance of sacrificing for God.

David's Son and Jesus (Mark: 12:35-37) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus lectures people on the nature and identity of the Messiah. Mark's audience, of course, thought of Jesus as the Messiah, so they would have seen more levels of meaning to this. Traditionally Jews believed that the Messiah had to be a son of David - someone born from the lineage of David's family. Jesus, however, appears to be arguing that this makes no sense because the scriptures describe David as referring to the Messiah as 'Lord' rather than 'son.'

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 14 - Analysis and Commentary
In the fourteenth chapter of Marks gospel, Jesus passion is set up by having people plot against and betray him, then having him arrested and brought before a council where he is to be judged. All of this is in preparation for the final events that are to occur in the next chapter.

Jesus' Preparations for Passover with his Disciples (Mark 14:12-16) - Analysis and Commentary
Was Jesus' final meal with his disciples also a Passover meal? That's been the general assumption by Christian theologians and there are some signs that this is the case. There are, however, also signs that it's not the case - the text is unclear on this point.

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial (Mark 14:26-31) - Analysis and Commentary
Bracketing the important scenes of the Last Supper are two passages where Jesus foretells of his disciples betraying him. The first involves the 'worse' of the disciples: Judas, who would betray Jesus for his execution. The above passage, the second, involves the rest of the disciples, including Peter, who would deny his connection to Jesus out of shame or embarrassment and despite the profound meal of union which they had just shared.

Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-52) - Analysis and Commentary
With his betrayal and arrest, Jesus' active ministry is over. Jesus' passion technically began with the mental anguish he experienced in Gethsemane, but the physical torture he is about to experience at the hands of Roman authorities constitutes the 'passion' most people may have in mind when they hear the word.

Jesus Before the Senhadrin (Mark 14:53-65) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus' first trial takes place before the Temple priests. They have been plotting against him for some time and finally have him - but can they convict and execute him? Their plan nearly falls apart because of the unreliability of witnesses.

Jesus or Barabbas? Jesus is Sentenced to Die (Mark 15:6-15) - Analysis and Commentary
The historically inaccurate image of an indecisive Pilate is continued when he offers to release either Jesus or Barabbas to the crowds of Jews. Pilate is depicted as almost desperate to find an excuse to let Jesus go, but the blood lust of the Jews forces him to execute an innocent man.

Crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:21-32) - Analysis and Commentary
Crucifixion may be one of the most horrible methods of execution ever invented. A person is nailed to a cross or stake and hangs there until their own weight suffocates them. The horrors of crucifixion are, however, glossed over by Mark in favor of the deeper theological meanings behind these events.

Death of Jesus (Mark 15:33-41) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus' death was not only foretold, but depicted as a necessary step in God's plan for humanity. There was never any choice in the matter - Jesus didn't choose to take on this task and didn't choose to die. It was God's will, not his own, that all of this happen. This is the essence of the 'good news' of Christianity: if God wants you to suffer horribly and die for the sake of some greater cause that you'll never be able to understand, then that's exactly what you are going to do.

Jesus' Last Hours (Mark 15:33-41) - Analysis and Commentary
The last three hours of Jesus' life are set up in a dramatic manner. From the sixth hour (noon) to the ninth hour (3 P.M.), darkness covers the land in preparation for Jesus' end - and in accordance with Amos 8:9, 'And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.'. Page 2.

Burial of Jesus (Mark 15:42-47) - Analysis and Commentary
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.

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 16 - Analysis and Commentary
The exact length of the sixteenth chapter of Mark's gospel is a matter of debate. The oldest manuscripts end awkwardly after just eight verses. Most Bibles today present us with a Mark that is twenty verses long. Which is the 'correct' version and why?

What is Crucifixion? Execution in the Ancient World through Crucifixion
Today crucifixion is associated with Jesus and Christianity, but as a method of execution it enjoyed widespread popularity with tyrants and governments throughout the ancient world. It is generally considered one of the cruelest and most painful ways to kill someone, and ancient historians like Herodotus record its presence in one form or another among the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Persians, and more.

Selling Organs for Transplants: Commodification and Ownership of Bodies
Should people be allowed to sell their organs? Currently, selling organs for money or other valuable considerations is illegal, but some members of the medical and business communities want to change that. There are two arguments offered: a person's organs belong to them (so they should be able to do with them as they wish) and the shortage of available organs means we need radical solutions.

Selling Organs for Transplants: Exploiting the Poor for the Sake of the Rich
In addition to case that the selling of organs would create an inappropriate commodification of the human body, there are also very strong arguments for the idea that buying and selling organs would lead to the exploitation of the poorest segments of society. Selling an organ is dangerous, so why should people be pressured into doing it? Page 2.

A Solution to the Insanity Plea? Insanity Pleas & Capital Punishment
Neither of the two ways to defend the insanity plea - absolutist nor relativist - appear to be sound. We need to find a way out of this because it seems intuitively true that there are people out there who are, well, insane. It would appear monstrous to punish them for actions when they are certainly so far gone that they shouldnt be held morally culpable for practically anything. Page 4.

Religion and the Insanity Plea: Insanity Pleas & Capital Punishment
There appears to be a decent solution to the defense of the insanity plea, but that solution is not as clean and neat as it might initially appear. It certainly gives us a better foundation for deciding whether or not a person might be insane because most people can agree that when a person experiences not reality but rather some strange un-reality, then there is something wrong with them. Page 5.

Insanity Pleas & Capital Punishment: Knowing Right from Wrong
Sometimes, when one person kills another, the defense offered in court is that although the accused did commit the crime, they should not be held legally culpable because they were insane. How is such a person deemed insane? Before we decide that a person is legally insane, we first have to determine what it means to be sane, much less insane.

Absolutist Defense of the Insanity Plea: Insanity Pleas & Capital Punishment
The absolutist position is rather straightforward and presents the fewest possibilities for contradiction. According to the absolutist, there exists an absolute moral code which a person can know, but which some people (for whatever reason) dont know. When a person doesnt know or understand the principles of this moral code, they dont know right from wrong and can be declared legally insane. Page 2.

Relativist Defense of the Insanity Plea: Insanity Pleas & Capital Punishment
The relativist defense of the insanity plea, naturally enough, does not posit an absolute moral code from which to judge the actions of the accused killer. Instead, a non-absolute moral code must be employed - but which one? This is a critical decision which should receive some attention and debate, but does not. Rather, the general moral code of society is adopted as the standard, without discussion as to how or why, much less the manner in which it is to be used. Page 3.

Roman Catholicism & Homosexuality: History, Doctrines & America
The Roman Catholic Church has an unusual relationship with homosexuality in human beings. Traditionally, the Church position on homosexuality has been one of total rejection - sexuality is supposed to be a matter for men and women only. That, however, began to change in the 20th century as behavioral research revealed that sexual orientation was not necessarily a matter of choice.

Roman Catholicism & Homosexuality: The Contraception Connection
Official Catholic doctrine describes homosexuality as a disorder even though the Catechism also insists that gays must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. What is the reason for this duality? The duality is created by the Catholic Churchs reliance on Natural Law as a basis for their teachings about morality and human nature - the same Natural Law that is the basis for Catholic teachings on matters like birth control. Page 2.

Roman Catholicism & Homosexuality: The Vatican’s Heart Hardens
Although the Vatican has never accepted any of the arguments offered by those who wish to change Catholic policy on homosexuality, it did make a number of statements throughout the 1970s which were regarded as significant. Although they of course reaffirmed the traditional teachings, they also began to stake out new ground. Under Pope John Paul II, however, matters began to change. Page 3.

Roman Catholicism & Homosexuality: Vatican vs. American Catholics
In 1986 a Vatican statement described homosexuality as objectively disordered and a 1992 statement argued against laws which prohibited discrimination against gays. These statements outraged both Catholics and non-Catholics in America, especially since the statements seemed directed especially at America. The statements did not, however, have the desired consequences because support for gays and gay rights did not diminish, even among Catholics. Page 4.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act - RFRAs Redefine Religious Freedom
Does everyone remember the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Enacted by the US Congress in 1993 and quickly signed into law by President Clinton it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Boerne v. Flores. This didn't end the matter because several states enacted their own versions of the RFRA, all attempting to give religious institutions the ability to ignore generally applicable laws which secular organizations would have to continue adhering to.

Memorial & Remonstrance - History of James Madison's Memorial & Remonstrance
As the author of the First Amendment, James Madison's views on religious freedom and church/state separation are as important as those of Thomas Jefferson. Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance was his most decisive and important explanation of his views about religious freedom. Aimed directly at the collecting of taxes for the purposes of underwriting teachers of 'Christian education,' Madison was against even one cent being collected for such purposes.