Agnosticism & Atheism Sitemap - Page 13 2016-09-26

Buy, Buy, Buy this Commercial Holiday Season: Fight the Terrorists by Spending Too Much & Going Deeper Into Debt
This image is based upon a World War II poster that simply contained a generic Christmas message. Since the Magi, or Three Wise Men, are best known for bringing three very expensive gifts to Jesus, I thought that they would be great to represent the message that people need to keep buying and spending in order to keep the terrorists from winning. Then again, weren't the magi from the Middle East? Who says they shouldn't be treated as terrorist suspects? What are they hiding in their packs? Page 8.

Keep Christ Out of X-Mas: Christ Doesn't Belong in Christmas Anymore, A Secular Christmas is a Christ-less X-Mas
This image is taken from a World War II poster exhorting soldiers to take good care of their boots - it has no direct bearing on the war itself or the causes at issue in the war. In this context, however, it seemed an appropriate image to depict how Christian Nationalists seem to perceive the alleged threats to their treasured religious symbols. Should the government merely allow private religious groups to erect and maintain such displays? Page 10.

World Peace vs. Christmas: Save us from the Christian Savior by Boycotting Christmas and Christmas Celebrations
Is Christmas at all contrary to world peace? That seems unlikely, but there are certainly good arguments for the idea that Christianity is a hinderance to world peace. Christians celebrate Christmas as the date of the birth of their savior, the focal point of their religion. In a sense, then, while Christmas is a date for Christians to celebrate the start of their religion, it may also be a date for non-Christians to mourn the loss to peace for the entire world. Page 13.

Christmas as Mass Consumer Feeding Frenzy: Undermining Christian Christmas Through Commerce
One of the best ways to fight Christian Nationalists in the War on Christmas is to encourage people to continue viewing it through the lens of economics. This image is based upon a World War II poster encouraging soldiers to buy war bonds as Christmas gifts, but here Santa is holding up a

Christmas Lights & Saudi Oil: Fight Christmas Because it Wastes Energy and Keeps America Dependent
This image is taken from a World War II poster of a soldier dying on a beach because 'Loose Talk' got their first, thus warning the enemy and allowing them to prepare an ambush. Americans were advised to keep quite about troop movements and military operations in order to keep American soldiers safe. Perhaps if we reduced our dependency on energy sources in the Middle East, we wouldn't have to send them into places where they would be in danger. Page 3.

Crush a Creche & Keep Christmas Free from Christianity: War on Christmas Means Destroying Christmas Symbols
This image is taken from a World War II poster exhorting soldiers to take good care of their boots - it has no direct bearing on the war itself or the causes at issue in the war. In this context, however, it seemed an appropriate image to depict how Christian Nationalists seem to perceive the alleged threats to their treasured religious symbols. Should the government merely allow private religious groups to erect and maintain such displays? Page 2.

The War on Christmas is Your Duty: We Can't Destroy Christianity Until We Destroy the Christian Christmas
Those who haven't already bought into the Christian Nationalist rhetoric should think two or three times before doing so. Some day they may have to answer questions about whether they joined with those who worked on behalf of liberty for everyone or on behalf of an agenda that would give Christians special, favored status in society. This image is based upon a World War I poster asking the reader what they will tell their children when asked what they did during the war. Page 11.

We Have to Stop Christmas: Christian Nationalists Use Christmas to Divide, Assert Dominion Over America
This image is taken from a World War I poster depicting a British soldier standing over the body of a dead German, demanding that the reader 'Come On' and do their part in the war against the Huns. This image also demands that people do their part in the War on Christmas because the Grinch was, after all, right in this criticisms. Maybe more children should listen to the Grinch and stop reading that book about half way through. Page 5.

Material Excesses of Christmas are a Moral Problem: Objecting to the Extreme Spending, Borrowing, Materialism
This image is based on a World War I poster imploring people to buy more Liberty Bonds in order to help fund -- and therefore speed -- the war because women and children are dying in Europe. I chose this image because some of the money spent on Christmas wrapping paper, decorations, and unwanted gifts might do some good feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and tending the sick. Page 12.

Santa Claus is a Lie: We Can Destroy Christmas if we Destroy Myths like Santa Claus and Jesus
Some believe indoctrinating children into believing in Santa effectively prepares the ground for belief in other myths, other supernatural beings, and other nonsense. It is thus argued that atheists shouldn't teach their children to believe in Santa Claus at all and instead to tell them the full truth as soon as they begin to ask. This image is based upon a World War I poster of a child who is happy that her father bought her a war bond. Page 6.

Satanic Santa & Christmas: Should We Discourage Kids from Believing in Santa?
This image is taken from a World War I poster depicting a meeting between two devils, one wearing a German army helmet. They are reading a list of all the women, children, and others killed in the past month with one telling the German devil that he's doing good work. Some Christian groups to renounce any use of Santa in their own religious celebrations of Christmas -- an entirely reasonable decision, given their perspective and values. Page 7.

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.

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.

Sidon, Lebanon: Photograph c. 1920s of Sidon, Lebanon Showing the Sidon Fortificatgions
Sidon's real golden age seems to have started in the 6th century BCE. Around this time, Sidon began providing Persia with both ships and sailors to help the fight Egypt and Greece. Sidon's most important product was domestic glass -- so much so, in fact, that some believed glass to have been invented in Sidon. Purple dye came as a close second for exports -- this same purple dye was the biggest export of Phoenician traders generally, though it was most closely associated with the city of Tyre. Page 4.

Sidon, Lebanon: Late 19th Century Illustration of Sidon, Lebanon, Showing the Lebanon Mountains
Although residents numbered a mere 10,000 in 1900, a 2000 census put the population of Sidon at around 200,000. Today the city continues to be an important commercial port with significant agricultural areas in the surrounding region. As Lebanon's third largest city, Sidon is the political center for all southern Lebanon. Just outside of Sidon is the Temple of Echmoun, the most important Phoenician temple discovered thus far and probably constructed during the 6th century BCE. Page 8.

Sidon, Lebanon: Late 19th century Illustration of Sidon, Lebanon, Showing the Ancient Fortifications
Sidon's advantages over other Phoenicians cities like Tyre seems to have rested with its access to the fertile Beqa and north-south overland trade routes. Sidonian forces are even able to march south and harass Tyre's connection to the shore, preventing them from establish secure access to the resources there. Page 2.

Sidon Sarcophagus: Illustration of the Sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II Found Near Sidon, Lebanon
Discovered in 1855 at a site near Sidon, the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II bears an inscription in Phoenician Canaanite with the Phoenician alphabet. Now located in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the sarcophagus was created in the early 5th century BCE. The inscription identifies the king inside and warns people not to disturb him. Page 5.

Sidon, Lebanon: Late 19th century Illustration of Sidon, Lebanon with Sea Castle Connected to the Mainland
Sidon appears in a number of place in the Bible: it was the mother city of Tyre, it was home to the Phoenicians, and Solomon formed an alliance with them by marrying a woman from the city. The New Testament describes Jesus preaching in the region and Paul sailing to Rome from here. Page 3.

Astarte, Phoenician Goddess: Statue of Astarte, Phoenician Goddess found near Beirut, Lebanon
Going back to the 2nd millennium BCE, Sidon's chief deities were Astarte and Eshmun. The root of Eshmun, smn, means 'oil' and Eshmun was primarily revered as a god of healing. Like Melqart in Tyre, Eshmun was also venerated as dying and being reborn every year. These names appear throughout Semitic texts over the course of several hundred years and appear to be traditional deities among Semitic peoples in the region. Page 6.

Sidon Sea Castle: Photograph of the Crusader Sea Castle, Off Shore of Sidon, Lebanon
Sidon's famous Sea Castle is one of the most prominent archaeological cites in the city. Built by the Crusaders in the 13th century, the Sea Castle was an impressive fortress on a small island connected to the shore by a narrow causeway. The current causeway is of later construction; the original was heavily fortified to help protect the fortress itself. Crusaders used Sidon's Sea Castle to protect the city's harbor and ensure that troops from Europe could land safely.. Page 7.

Changes in the Pantheon: Photograph of the Pantheon in Rome, Showing the Bell Towers Designed by Bernini
Some lament the architectural incoherence in the Pantheon. We see, for example, a Greek-style colonnade on the front with a Roman-style interior space. What we see, however, is not how the Pantheon was originally constructed. One of the most significant changes was the addition of two bell towers by Bernini. Called

Constantine Officially Receives the Work of the Council of Nicaea
Perhaps the most significant feature of Constantine's effort to enforce orthodoxy among Christians is the Council of Nicaea, recognized as the First Ecumenical Council in Christianity. Pope Sylvester did not call the council to deal with the growing heresy of Arianism, Constantine did. Here the Nicene Creed was created and mandated for all Christians. Dissenters suffered political and social consequences alongside religious ones. Page 17.

Constantine Presents the Work of the Council of Nicaea to Jesus Christ
Constantine was ruthless in his enforcement of his brand of orthodoxy among various Christian groups - there was no way he would allow them to be weakened as a political force through internal strife or dissent. Constantine appropriated this authority for himself by declaring that he was a 'bishop, ordained by God.'. Page 15.

Victory Arch of Constantine in Rome, 1922, with the Colosseum to the Right
Elements that we know for sure were created specifically for this monument are the horizontal friezes up at the top and above the side arches. This photograph shows the west facade with friezes depicting victory processions on the left and Constantine addressing his troops after the battle and participating in a pagan sacrifice on the right. The east facade shows other scenes from Constantine's life... Page 4.

Victory Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum and the Meta Sudans in Rome
To the left of the Arch of Constantine (which is technically in front of the Arch) and in front of the Colosseum in the above photo you can see the Meta Sudans. This was a conical brick fountain built by emperor Titus some time around the end of the 1st century. Tradition has it that gladiators washed and drank here after the games in the Colosseum. Page 5.

Diagram of the Victory Arch of Constantine in Rome
The Arch of Constantine was dedicated in 315 by the senate and people of Rome along the triumphal route after Constantine's defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in 312. It was also designed to commemorate Constantine's tenth anniversary of rule. The current state of conservation of the arch is particularly good and provides people with an excellent way to experience what Roman monumental architecture is like.. Page 2.

Victory Arch of Constantine in Rome: 19th Century Engraving
Official records tell us that over fifty arches of triumph were constructed in and around Rome; today, only a handful survive and they represent some of the best-known examples of ancient Roman architecture and art. These arches were dedicated either to members of imperial households or to especially famous individuals whose great deeds merited public honor. The function of the arches was first to serve as public propaganda and, second, to communicate information about military victories.. Page 7.

Vicotry Arch of Constantine and the Meta Sudans in Rome, c. 1922
In this photograph from the early 20th century, the Meta Sudans can still be seen clearly in front of the Arch of Constantine. This was a conical brick fountain built by emperor Titus some time around the end of the 1st century. Tradition has it that gladiators washed and drank here after the games in the Colosseum. Page 6.

Victory Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum in Rome, 1911
Quite a lot of the marble and artwork in the arch was taken from older structures and reused here (known as spolia). For example, there are bearded statues above the columns which were taken from Trajan's forum and the rounded reliefs over the side arches are recut from a lost Hadrian monument. Archaeologists think that the foundation of the arch dates back to the time of emperor Antoninus Pius (Lived: September 19, 86 - March 7, 161, Ruled: 138 - 161). Page 3.

The Kaaba, the Black Stone, and Muslim Sins: Drawing of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, c. 1911
The Black Stone was a gift to Adam when he and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and later became a symbol of God's covenant with Abraham, Ismail, and thus the Muslim community. By saluting the Black Stone as they pass, Muslims renew their covenant with God. Muslims call to it the

Where is the Basilica of Constantine? Photograph of the Basilica of Constantine, from the Side
This view from the Palatine hill begins to show the size of the basilica. The last of the monumental civilian basilicas created for the Roman Forum, the ruins today can be found between the Temple of Amor and Roma and the Temple of Divus Romulus along the Via Sacra. Building projects like this were common for many emperors of ancient Rome. Page 3.

Basilica of Constantine and the Temple of Romulus
Just to the left of the basilica here is the Temple of Divus Romulus, built by emperor Maxentius in 307 in order to honor his deified son who had just died. Romulus is not buried here, however - his tomb is located on the Appian Way.. Page 4.

Architecture of the Basilica of Constantine: Diagrams of the Basilica of Constantine
Located in the west of the basilica in a semi-circular apse was a massive statue of Maxentius, but of course that was not allowed to remain after his defeat by Constantine. The new emperor of Rome had the head of the statue replaced with his own; today, that's just about all that's left of the original, and even that wasn't located until 1486. Today it is kept in the Capitoline Museums.. Page 2.

Assumption of Mary Magdalene, by Jusepe de Ribera, 1636
Mary Magdalene doesn't have anything directly to do with the Holy Grail legends, but some authors have claimed that the Holy Grail was never a literal cup at all. Instead, the repository of the blood of Jesus Christ was actually Mary Magdalene, Jesus' wife who was pregnant with his child at the time of the crucifixion. She was taken to southern France by Joseph of Arimathea where Jesus' descendants became the Merovingian dynasty. Supposedly, the blood line lives on to this day, in secret. Page 9.

Jesus is anointed by Mary Magdalene
Western tradition has identified Mary Magdalene both as the sinful woman who anoints Jesus' feet in Luke and as Mary, sister of Martha, who anoints Jesus in John. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, there continues to be a distinction between these three figures. In the Roman Catholic tradition Mary Magdalene's feast day is July 22 and she is regarded as a saint representing the important principle of pentitence. Visual representations portray her as the pentitent sinner, washing Jesus' feet. Page 2.

Mary Magdalene Washes Jesus' Feet With Her Hair
Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all four of the canonical gospels, but nowhere is she described as a prostitute. This popular image of Mary comes from confusion between here and two other women: Martha's sister Mary and an unnamed sinner in Luke's gospel (7:36-50). Both of these women wash Jesus' feet with their hair. Pope Gregory the Great declared that all three women were the same person and it wasn't until 1969 that the Catholic Church reversed course. Page 3.

Mary Magdalene, drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci
Mary Magdalene is mentioned in the lists of Jesus' female companions that appear in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Some believe that Mary Magdalene may have been an important figure among the female disciples, perhaps even their leader and a member of Jesus' inner circle of disciples -- but not, apparently, to the degree of the 12 apostles. There is no textual evidence to allow for any definitive conclusions, though. Page 6.

Mary Magdalene Vists Jesus' Empty Tomb
Mary Magdalene's age is unknown; biblical texts say nothing about when she was born or died. Like Jesus' male disciples, Mary Magdalene appears to have come from Galilee. She was with him at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee and continued after his execution. The name Magdalene suggests her origin as the town of Magdala (Taricheae), on the Sea of Galilee's western shore. It was an important source of salt, an administrative center, and the largest of ten major towns around the lake. Page 5.

Mary Magdalene Weeps at Jesus' Empty Tomb, 1927
Mary Magdalene's role in the canonical gospels is small; in noncanonical gospels like Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Acts of Peter, she plays a prominent role -- often asking intelligent questions when all the other disciples are confused. Jesus is depicted as loving her more than any of the others because of her understanding. Some readers have interpreted Jesus

Mary Magdalene with a Skull, by Gustave Dore
Mary Magdalene is usually portrayed in one of the various gospel scenes that have been associated with her -- for example anointing Jesus, washing Jesus' feet, or discovering the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene is also frequently painted with a skull. This isn't referenced in any biblical text and the symbol is probably supposed to represent either her association with Jesus' crucifixion (at Golgotha, the

Holy Grail: Image of the Chalice Well in Galstonbury, Somerset, England
According to some traditions, Joseph of Arimathea travelled to Britain and buried the Holy Grail in Glastonbury hillside. A spring appeared on that very spot where the waters run red because they first flow through the grail, becoming colored by Christ's blood. Today a monastery is located at the top of the hill and there is a Chalice Well, protected by an elaborately decorated lid with a Vesica Pisces on it. The waters are red, but because of the heavy amounts of iron oxide in the soil. Page 4.

Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor: Photo of the Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset, England
Archaeological excavations suggest Christian structures dating to the 5th century and the site may have been sacred to pagans before that. While the origins of Glastonbury Abbey are shrouded in mystery, the end is not: Henry VIII dissolved the abbey in 1539 and hung the last abbot, Richard Whiting. After being owned by the crown briefly, it was sold to and kept in private hands to be used as a quarry until little remained. In 1908 the Church of England bought it and preserve it today. Page 5.

Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor: Photo of the Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset, England
The origins of the Christian community in Glastonbury are unknown. Christian monks were there already in 658 when Saxon invaders arrived and that's as far back as reliable records go. As a result, people have relied on their imagination to fill in the blanks and the most popular belief is that Joseph of Arimathea brought Christianity to England and founded a Christian community in Glastonbury. There is no evidence of such a trip or of a Christian community that old, though. Page 4.

Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey: north door of St. Mary's chapel; image frames the site where the monks are believed to have found Arthur's grave in 1191.
The region around Glastonbury has long been associated with King Arthur and his Round Table. In 1191 monks at the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have found the tombs of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in the cemetery. The remains were reburied at the foot of the altar, but they were then lost again during the Reformation. Archaeologists have found evidence of the monks' excavations, but whose bones they may have found is open for speculation. Page 2.

Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor: Painting of the Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset, England
Some believe that Glastonbury Abbey is the site of the oldest above-ground Christian church in the world, dating back as far as 63 or even 37 CE. The first recorded church to be built here was in 712 on the orders of King Ine of Wessex, but a community of monks had already been living here for some time -- at least since 658, when the Saxons arrived. The age of the Glastonbury Christian community is popularly attributed to Joseph of Arimathea visiting here while in possession of the Holy Grail. Page 2.

Peter the Hermit Kneels Before Pope Urban II: Peasant's Crusade Gallery
In 1096 Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens in France, led 20,000 commoners out of Cologne on the Peasants' Crusade. Made up of poorly organized groups led by Peter the Hermit and Walter the Pennyless, the Peasants' Crusade was not an official response to Constantinople's request for aid against the Muslims. It was, instead, a popular religious uprising that led to the deaths of most of those involved. Page 3.

Peter the Hermit with the Patriarch of Jerusalem: Peasant's Crusade Gallery
In 1096 Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens in France, led 20,000 commoners out of Cologne on the Peasants' Crusade. Made up of poorly organized groups led by Peter the Hermit and Walter the Pennyless, the Peasants' Crusade never actually made it to Jerusalem. Most died and later, in 1098, Tancred found Peter the Hermit attempting to flee to Constantinople. Tancred made sure that Peter returned to continue the fight. Page 4.

Knights Templar: Image of a Knights Templar Church in Luz, France
The Templars' banking wealth and power contributed to their downfall once the Muslims regained control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Jealousy inspired the King of France to attack them; he was supported by Pope Clement V, who just happened to be a childhood friend of Philip's. This attack which resulted in the disbandment of the Templars and the death of most of the members. Other military orders, like the Hospitallers, quickly gave up their banking interests lest the same happen to them. Page 3.

Knights Templar: Image of Knights Templar Insignia
According to legend, the move against the Templars was on a Friday 13th, thus leading to the superstition that this day is unlucky. More popular legends involve the activities of the Templars in the Holy Land, for example the claim that while occupying the Temple Mount they discovered the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant and brought it back to Europe to hide for themselves. The Templar's records were evidently never recovered, thus leading to wild speculations about what they really owned. Page 5.

Knights Templar: Image of Knights Templar Palace in Paris, France
Many Templars in France were killed under the authority of King Philip. Other monarchs in Europe followed suit -- even if they weren't jealous of Templar power, the opportunity to acquire their lands was too good to pass up. Some Templars were taken in by other monastic military orders, like the Hospitallers. A few escaped to areas outside papal control, like Scotland which was at the time under excommunication. Most simply disappeared; their large fleet also vanished without a trace. Page 12.

Templar Knights being Burned at the Stake in France. Illustration from the anonymous Chronicle, 'From the Creation of the World until 1384.'
King Philip the 'Fair' of France and Pope Clement V accused the Templars of atheism, sodomy, blasphemy, and worse. Templars were tortured into forced confessions before being executed in large numbers. Scholars have debated whether any charges were true, but it is believed that they were innocent of the accusations and the process against them was solely for gaining access to their wealth and to ensure they could not become a political threat. Even the Catholic Church has apologized. Page 11.

Holy Grail: Image of the Chalice Well in Galstonbury, Somerset, England
According to some traditions, Joseph of Arimathea travelled to Britain and buried the Holy Grail in Glastonbury hillside. A spring appeared on that very spot where the waters run red because they first flow through the grail, becoming colored by Christ's blood. Today a monastery is located at the top of the hill and there is a Chalice Well, protected by an elaborately decorated lid with a Vesica Pisces on it. The waters are red, but because of the heavy amounts of iron oxide in the soil. Page 7.

Holy Grail: Image of King Arthur's Grail Vision, 1903
Arthurian legends say that a vision of the Holy Grail appeared at King Arthur's court, inspiring Arthur to send out his knights in search of the true Grail. Only three took up the challenge: Lancelot, Percival, and Galahad. Only Galahad was truly pure of heart and thus he was the only one who was ultimately worthy of reaching the Holy Gail. Page 5.

Holy Grail: Image of Lancelot with the Holy Grail
Lancelot had always been King Arthur's favorite knight, pure of heart loyal to the end — or at least until a woman came between them. Lancelot fell in love with Guienivere, Arthur's wife, and this eventually drove them apart. Because Lancelot became an adulterer, he was no longer pure enough to be worthy of the Holy Grail and was thus prevented from even entering room where it was kept. Page 6.

Holy Grail: Image of Percival Holding the Holy Grail while a dove descends
Parsifal, or Percival, is the original Holy Grail hero. In a poem written but not completed by Chrétien de Troyes, Percival spends the night in the castle of the Fisher King where he witnesses a procession of youths bearing a graal, or Grail — it's not yet

Holy Grail: Image of Percival with the Holy Grail
Parsifal, or Percival, is the original Holy Grail hero. In a poem written but not completed by Chrétien de Troyes, Percival spends the night in the castle of the Fisher King where he witnesses a procession of youths bearing a graal, or Grail — it's not yet

Holy Grail: Image of the Holy Grail in Christian Mythology, Literature, and Fiction
In order for the Holy Grail to have a history, it couldn't have simply been tossed aside like the rest of the dishes form the Last Supper — it needed at protector who recognized its value and was pledged to keep it safe. This task falls to Joseph of Arimathea in Christian legends. Some stories have him travelling to southern France and settling down there; other stories take him all the way to Britain. As a consequence, many different sites claim to be the burial place of the Holy Grail. Page 2.

Holy Grail: Image of the Holy Grail in Christian Mythology, Literature, and Fiction
Today, a 'holy grail' is any distant but important goal in some pursuit — thus people talk about a 'holy grail' of medical research or of computer chip design. The term was originally religious, though, and has been used in religion and literature to refer to the cup of Jesus Christ, used during the Last Supper and/or to catch Jesus blood during the crucifixion. References have been made even more popular by its central role in Dan Brown's fictional book The Da Vinci Code.

Christians & Gay Marriage: Faith-Based Bigotry Against Gay Marriage & Equality - Conservative Christians Should Offer Their Real, Religious Arguments
I think that the real reason why most (if not all) conservative believers oppose gay rights and gay marriage has nothing to do with the arguments they are trying to offer. Their anti-gay animus stems from religion, religious traditions, religious doctrines, and religious scripture. They cannot offer any of that in debates about secular law, though, so they are forced to rely on arguments which never convinced them in the first place.. Page 11.

Equal Dignity & Love of Gay Relationships: Gay Couples Have a Right To It; Recognized Kinship is The Point of Gay Marriage & Equality for Gay Couples
The most important reason for legalizing gay marriage can be found in the very nature of marriage itself. What truly differentiates civil marriage from other contractual relationships is not

Future of Gay Marriage: Will Gays Achieve Equality or Will Theocracy Win? Prospects for Legal Gay Marriage to Better than Conservatives Admit
It's plausible that conservatives' efforts will slow the advance of gay rights, but that's hardly a noble goal or something that anyone will ever be able to look back upon with pride. Are there any conservatives who are willing to boast about their success in delaying civil rights and desegregation? I certainly hope not. In the long run, however, it's likely that gay marriage will move in the same direction that racial civil rights and interracial marriage have moved.. Page 15.

Gay Marriage vs. Interracial Marriage: Why is One a Threat & Other a Right? Arguments Against Gay Marriage are same as Against Interracial Marriage
A lot of people oppose the legalization of gay marriages because they believe that it poses a serious threat to the institution of marriage itself. What is most disturbing about this position, and what should be disturbing for them as well, is just how similar their arguments are to the ones which were used to oppose interracial marriages and to support anti-miscegenation laws. Both sets of arguments also tend to be religious. What really separates them from the racists of the past?. Page 7.

No Uniquely Religious Values are Required For Marriage - Civil Marriage is Not Founded on any Religion, Religious Text, Religious Values
What religious values should the state take into account when sanctioning marriage? Well, perhaps we should first ask what religious values the state currently, right now, takes into account when sanctioning marriage. I can't think of any uniquely religious values that are involved in typical marriage licenses. When I look at the various reasons a state uses when denying a marriage license (the people are already married, for example), I see nothing religious in the reasons.. Page 4.

Smash the Patriarchy: Gay Equality Means Fighting Patriarchy & Male Privilege - Gay Liberation Depends Upon Opposition to Patriarchal Religion
It's difficult to argue that bans on gay marriage are a form of sex discrimination because no one gender is being singled out for inferior treatment. However, it is a form of discrimination which relies upon the same assumptions about gender and gender roles which also lie behind more common and direct examples of sex discrimination. Attacks are gay marriage are thus an effort to defend traditional heterosexual gender roles and patriarchal conceptions of marriage.. Page 9.

Tyranny of the Majority: Christian Right Fights Limits on Government Power; Liberal, Secular Democracy Requires Court Protection for Personal Liberty
Anti-gay bigots often claim that it's anti-democratic for courts to rule that gays should be treated as equals when voters and legislatures have decided to treat gays as inferior. Saying that it is

Book Review: The Happy Heretic, by Judith Hayes.
Why do people see images of the Virgin Mary in their food, like waffles? Why do people pray - and why don't they do other, equally effective things, like rubbing a small stuffed animal? Why has Mother Teresa been so popular - and does that popularity have anything to do with the reality of the things she did?

Book Review: Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at the Century's End. by Katie Roiphe.
In contemporary America, dialogue about sex has become characterized by an attitude of caution and fear - something which would have been unthinkable when the sexual revolution began in the '60s. Why and how this has happened is the subject of Roiphe's book, and anyone who wonders about why sexuality is treated as it is will benefit from her discussions.

Huitzilopochtli: Huitzilopochtli, God of War & Supreme Deity in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Huitzilopochtli was the Aztec god of war and the Aztecs' supreme deity. Huitzilopochtli was worshipped by having slaves were killed during fake battles to commemorate the launch of a new season of military endeavors. Victims were dragged up the temple steps, stretched across the stone altar, their chests cut open with an obsidian knife, and hearts ripped out. The corpse was skinned, dismembered, and the pieces sent down to the rulers and nobility for consumption.

Why Do Atheists Debate Theists? Why Do Atheists Care What Others Believe?
People might legitimately wonder why atheists debate religious theists over the validity of both theism and religion. Atheism is only the disbelief in gods; this means that some atheists may themselves be religious while others may not care about either theism or religion. In practice, though, atheists are interested in both theism and religion, commonly regarding both as not only false but harmful to people and society. Atheists care because religion and theism affect them as well.

Godless Marriage, Families, Children: Atheist Families Don't Need Religion, God for Family Values
America's Christian Right invests a lot of effort arguing for a connection between family values and their religion, but what basic family values require their religion or belief in their god? Godless families exist because values like love, respect, and sacrifice don't depend upon theism. You don't even have to be a theist to oppose abortion or support sexual abstinence until marriage. None of the positive family values necessary for raising healthy children are undermined by being godless.

Huehuecoyotl: Huehuecoyotl, God of Trickery in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Huehuecoyotl was the Aztec god of trickery, singing, dancing, and indulgence. Huehuecoyotl liked to play tricks on both gods and humans; tricks played on gods usually backfired while tricks played on people usually led to people getting hurt. Huehuecoyotl liked to encourage people to sing, dance, and indulge themselves at parties so you can honor him by living it up at your next party - just take care that he doesn't decide to play a trick on you after you've passed out.

Itzpapalotl: Itzpapalotl, Goddess of Fire and Birds in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Itzpapalotl was the Aztec goddess of paradise, birds, and fire. Itzpapalotl was not a very pleasant goddess - although she ruled over an important paradise and was an earth mother figure, she embodied all the darker aspects of the earth. She was depicted with the wings of a butterfly, but also with the claws of a jaguar - claws that came out from all over her body. Muhammad Ali had nothing on her.

Mayahuel: Mayahuel, Goddess of Alcohol, Pulque, and Agave in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Mayahuel, Aztec goddess of alcohol and pulque, is the mother of Centzontotochtin. This innumerable group of rabbit gods of drunkenness whom she fed through her 400 breasts, all delivering the alcoholic drink made from agave. Each of the Centzontotochtin are responsible for a different sort of drunkenness.

Mixcoatl: Mixcoatl, God of War in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Mixcoatl, the Aztec god of war and hunting, is thought by some to have originally been a great Toltec warrior who was eventually deified and then eventually adopted into the Aztec pantheon. Priest sacrificed a man and a woman to Mixcoatl at his main temple in October. The woman would be slaughtered like a game animals; the man would be killed in the traditional Aztec practice of cutting out his heart, but only after he showed the woman's head to the crowd.

Tlaltecuhtli: Tlaltecuhtli, Earth Goddess in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Tlaltecuhtli, the monstrous Aztec earth goddess, was thought to swallow the sun every night and regurgitate it back out in the morning. She was also thought to swallow the hearts of victims sacrificed to her, so it was common to carve images of her on the bottom of stone boxes in which the hearts and blood of sacrificial victims where placed after being ripped from their bodies.

Tlazolteotl: Tlazolteotl, Goddess of Purification in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Tlazolteotl was the Aztec goddess of filth, childbirth, and fertility. While in training, Aztec warriors were provided with prostitutes who dedicated themselves to Tlazolteotl, but their services made them unclean so the Aztecs ritually sacrificed the women and dumped their bodies in marshes. Other Aztecs would purify themselves in front of images of Tlazolteotl by cutting themselves and offering up their blood. To be safe, you should confess your sins to Tlazolteotl after sex.

Tonatiuh: Tonatiuh, Sun God in Toltec, Maya, and Aztec Religion, Mythology
The Aztec sun god, Tonatiuh was responsible for the sun moving through the sky, and since the sun is so important, the Aztecs wanted to keep Tonatiuh as happy as possible. Tonatiuh demanded many human sacrifices in order to keep the sun moving and the Aztecs obliged. Priests took victims to a temple where they would cut out their heart while they were still alive. The Aztecs paid close attention to the movement of the sun and their calendar is second only to the Mayan in accuracy.

Xochiquetzal: Xochiquetzal, Goddess of Female Sexuality in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Xochiquetzal, the Aztec goddess of sex, love, and prostitutes, was honored at a festival every 8 years. A young woman was chosen by artisans to impersonate the goddess; she was sacrificed, flayed, and her skin given to a man to wear while pretending to weave. Artisans would dance around the scene and then confess their sins to a statue of Xochiquetzal through bloodletting. If you're trying to hedge your bets with Xochiquetzal, you'll need a bunch of people to help you worship her.

Marriage: What is Marriage? What Does the Bible Say About Monogamy, Polygamy?
Marriage is an institution which can be found in every human culture. Although the forms and rules differ, marriages always involve some form of legally legitimized sexual relationship. Traditionally, marriages have had a religious basis. In the modern, industrialized West, marriage is based on a legal contract. In the Bible, women occupied an inferior social position to the nearest male relations - fathers, brothers, or husbands. Marriages were usually arranged in the Bible by the parents.

Passion: What is the Passion of Jesus? What does the Bible say about Jesus' Passion and Passion Narratives?
The usual meaning of 'passion' is an aroused or intense emotion, but in the context of the Bible it is typically used to denote the suffering and death of Jesus. Thus we read in Christian literature about the Passion narratives or the Passion of Jesus. The only place in the Bible where the word is used this way is Acts 3:1, which refers to 'his Passion.'

Resurrection: What is a Resurrection? What Does the Bible Say About Jesus and the Resurrection?
The concept of resurrection refers to the idea of dead people who have found special favor with their deity such that they rise from the dead, restored to bodily form. Through most of the Old Testament, the concept of resurrection was applied to the whole of Israel in its renewal after returning from exile and not at all to individuals after their death. Only in later apocalyptic literature (like Daniel) do we read about the physical resurrection of individuals for a new existence with God.

Herodians: Profile of the Herodians, a New Testament Group Described as Opposed to Jesus
The Herodians appear to have been a Jewish political faction active around the time Jesus would have been alive. Not much is known about them, but based upon the name they would have primarily been a political rather than religious group interested in maintaining the power and authority of the Herodian Dynasty of rulers.

Family & Families: What is a Family? How does the Bible Describe the Family?
Everyone is or has been part of a family, but defining the boundaries of a family is difficult to do. In modern America, 'family' is used almost exclusively in reference to the nuclear family of a father, mother, and their biological children. In the Bible, however, 'family' has much broader overtones. In the Bible, the family might include as little as the household, but it might further refer to a clan or tribe - even an entire nation.

Sin: What is Sin? How is Sin Described in the Bible & Christian Tradition?
The concept of sin is, at its most basic, a transgression of religious or divine law. Disobedience to god can be either deliberate or accidental. Augustine defined sin in Christianity as 'any word or deed or thought against the eternal law,' making it essentially a religious or theological category. In Christianity, sin may usually overlap moral categories, but some sins do not - for example, idolatry.

John the Baptist: Profile & Biography of John the Baptist, New Testament Prophet
John the Baptist (also: John the Baptizer) appears in each of the four gospels as a figure preaching the immediate coming of a Messiah. John is depicted in a manner consistent with Jewish eschatological expectations: dressed and acting like Elijah, John is preparing the way for the Messiah as well as the 'last days.' Gospel stories suggest that John's ministry was popular and successful. According to Luke, he was born into a priestly family.

Pontius Pilate: Profile & Biography of Pontius Pilate, Roman Prefect of Judea in Gospel Times
Pontius Pilate was prefect (not procurator, as some sources say) of Judea during the reign of emperor Tiberius Caesar. He was the fifth Roman appointed to govern Judea and held that office for the second-longest time: 26-36 CE. This was the same time during which John the Baptist and Jesus would have been active. As prefect, he was responsible for Tiberius' estates, collecting taxes, and maintaining order. His rank was equestrian and thus he was subordinate to the senate legate of Syria.

Arch of Titus: Profile of the Arch of Titus in Rome - History, Geography, Religion
The Victory Arch of Titus commemorates Titus' victorious conquest of Judaea, leading the sacking of Jerusalem and ending the Jewish wars. The arch was constructed after Titus's death in 81 CE, after his becoming a god. It was probably built by this brother and successor, emperor Domitian, but some believe that it was actually built by emperor Trajan because of similarities to the Arch of Trajan located at Benevento.

Bethlehem: Profile of the City of Bethlehem in Palestine - History, Geography, Religion
The earliest human habitation in Bethlehem (today: Bayt Lahm, Arabic for 'house of meat') dates back to the Paleolithic era, but the earliest reference to Bethlehem appears in Egyptian diplomatic correspondence from the 14th century BCE. Jewish tradition has it that Ruth, great-grandmother of David, moved to Bethlehem. The village became his family home and this may be part of the reason why the prophet Micah says that a new king (Messiah) would one day come from Bethlehem.

Gadara: Profile of Gadara - Where Did Jesus Cast Out Demons? History, Geography, Religion
Gadara is the site where Jesus exorcised demons from a man and sent them into a herd of swine which then proceeded to jump into the sea. The exact name of the place is a matter of dispute among the gospel authors. Mark says it happened Gerasa, Matthew says it happened Gadara, and Luke says it happened in Gergesa.

Judea: Profile of the Region of Judea in Palestine - History, Geography, Religion
Judea is the Greco-Roman form of Judah, the region in Palestine named (according to Genesis) after the fourth son of Jacob and his first wife, Leah. Political authority over Judea was often located in Jerusalem, but Roman rulers were typically based in Caesarea on the coast. It was economically dependent on Jerusalem and provided little agriculturally aside from olives and grapes.

Nazareth: Profile of Nazareth - Did Jesus' Mother Mary Come From Here? History, Geography, Religion
Nazareth was a small agricultural village of no importance and which would have disappeared from all memory if not for its associations with Jesus in the gospel traditions. If it was occupied on a permanent basis, it wouldn't have held much more than 1,000 people and possibly only as many as 500. Luke describes it as a 'city' rather than 'village,' which is inconsistent with what little we know.

Saint Patrick: Profile and Biography of Saint Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland
Bishop and apostle to Ireland, Patrick came from a highly religious family in Britain (his father was a deacon, his grandfather a priest) who spent time as a slave among pagan raiders. After his ordination, he dedicated himself to evangelize northern Ireland from Armagh, where he may have run a school. He is sometimes portrayed as a monk, but while he advocated monasticism he never became a monk himself. St. Patrick is given the credit for essentially converting all of Ireland to Christianity.

Saints & Sainthood: Origin and Nature of Saints in Christianity
The label saint is given to any person who is regarded as being 'holy.' Early in the history of the Christian Church, the term saint was applied only to those who were martyrs to the Christian faith. When a martyr died, the body would be placed in a special tomb which believers could continue to visit in the hopes of obtaining some blessing. Quite often groups of Christians would gather at the tomb of a martyr to celebrate the Eucharist.

Christianity in the Confederate South: Southern Nationalism and Conservative Christianity
During the Civil War, both North and South taught that God was on their side and favored their cause. For Southerners, this meant arguing that God favored preserving the institution of slavery. Southern preachers argued that the South was the last, best hope for Western civilization. It is difficult to overestimate the role of Christianity in providing the South with a religious and ideological basis for secession and nationalistic aspirations.

Christian Right & Modernity: America’s Christian Right Opposed to Modernity & the Modern World
America's Christian Right is often characterized as a reactionary movement because it is reacting to modern developments and seeks to restore older, traditional social structures. Although the Christian Right has much to say about religion and morality, a lot of its social and political program can be explained by reference to what they are against rather than what they are in favor of. Unfortunately, most of what they are against has become fundamental to the modern way of life.

Why Should Atheists Care About Establishment Clause Cases? Atheism, Secularism, and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
The First Amendment to the Constitution reads

Myths About Church / State Separation & Hostility To Religion, Religious Belief
Some of the most popular myths about church / state separation and efforts to keep civil government secular are based on the belief that this is all evidence of hostility to religion. According to many Christian Nationalists, people want to separate church & state because they hate religion or Christianity and any state that is neutral in religious matters is necessarily hostile to religion. None of these myths make any sense when subjected to careful scrutiny.

Gay Marriage & Gay Rights Resources: Why Legal Gay Marriage and Gay Rights are Civil Rights
Gay rights and gay marriage are central battles in America's culture wars for two reasons. First, the growing acceptance of homosexuality is a direct threat to the domination of traditional Christian norms for sex and sexuality. Second, marriage is not only an important cultural symbol, but an example of how heterosexuals are privileged -- and heterosexual privilege is one of the few remaining unjust social privileging systems in America.

Passion Week in Jerusalem: Contradictions in the Gospel Accounts of Jesus' Passion Narratives
During Holy Week Christians are expected to devote time to the study of the passion of Jesus Christ - his suffering, his death, and his eventual resurrection which is commemorated on Easter. For something so important, it's curious how contradictory the gospel accounts are. Did Jesus ride one or two animals into Jerusalem? Was the Last Supper a Passover meal or not? How and where was Jesus anointed? The gospels don't agree on any of these events.

Trial of Jesus: Contradictions in the Gospel Accounts of Jesus' Arrest and Trials
The trial of Jesus provides readers with a stark contrast between the figure of Jesus and the corrupt authorities, be they Jewish or Roman. This allows the gospel authors to more easily portray Jesus as a heroic figure, someone worth following. For some reason, though, the gospel authors have conflicting information about what occurred during Jesus' trial. It isn't even clear how they would have known any of the details in the first place.

Ah Mun: Ah Mun, God of Maize and Agriculture in Mayan Religion, Mythology
Ah Mun, the

Buluc Chabtan: Buluc Chabtan, God of War in Mayan Religion, Mythology
Buluc Chabtan was the Mayan god war, violence, and sudden death. It was common for people to make human sacrifices to various gods in Mesoamerican cultures; Buluc Chabtan is a bit unusual, however, in that he was actually a god of human sacrifices - as well as of war, violence, and sudden death. Worship of him thus occurred for the sake of success in war, to avoid sudden death, and just on general principles because you don't want to be on his bad side.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga: Profile of a Candidate for Pope
Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga is relatively young and, therefore, not in the forefront of Latin American cardinals who could be elected pope. Of course, being young didn’t stop John Paul II from being elected, but it is unlikely that the cardinals would want another 25-year pontificate.

Itzamna: Itzamna, Founder God of Maize in Mayan Religion, Mythology
Itzamna was a god of maize and the founder of Mayan culture. Itzamna refused to have anything to do with war, violence, or human sacrifices, so the Maya didn't kill anyone as part of their worship of Itzamna. If you want to hedge your bets with Itzamna, you don't have to find any victims to sacrifice. Itzamna's priests did at one time collect dew to use in religious rituals, so you might want to try doing that some morning soon.

Ixchel: Ixchel, Earth and Moon Goddess in Mayan Religion, Mythology
Although associated with floods and rains, Ixchel was commonly worshipped as the patron goddess of weaving and especially childbirth. There were prominent shrines for Ixchel located on Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. These shrines were so important that pregnant Maya women made long pilgrimages to visit them and get her favor for their pregnancies. Images Ixchel probably filled these shrines, but none have survived.

Ixtab: Ixtab, Goddess of Suicide in Mayan Religion, Mythology
Ixtab was the Mayan goddess of suicide. Most cultures disapprove of suicide, but the Mayans didn't — and suicide by hanging was regarded as an honorable way to day. Ixtab was the protector of all those who killed themselves by hanging, as well as warriors who died in battle and women who died in childbirth. She took all three groups to paradise and fed them under the shade of the world tree, indicating that all three were treated as moral and social equivalents among the Maya.

Tohil: Tohil, Patron God of the Fire in Mayan Religion, Mythology
The Maya are not as well known as the Aztec for performing human sacrifices, but when it comes to their fire god Tohil, they were every bit the equals of the Aztecs. Tohil demands blood offerings from his worshippers, so the Maya offered to him not only their own blood, but also the blood of captives from war. The words used to describe this is to 'suckle,' but instead of suckling milk from the breast, Tohil suckles blood by having the victims' hearts torn out.

Aztecs: Profile of the Aztec People, History, and Aztec Gods, Goddesses, Heroes
Aztec is a name given to a group of seven native tribes which migrated to and settled in central Mesoamerica. It is believed that they originated in the northwest of modern-day Mexico. The last of the seven tribes to arrive, the Mexica, are the ones whose culture and religion is generally meant when people talk about 'the Aztecs.' The Aztecs didn't call themselves Aztecs, though - Mexica was a more common name used by them.

Philosophy of Religion: Philosophy of Religious Belief, Theism, Practice - Criticism of Religion Depends upon Understanding Religion, Philosophy
The Philosophy of Religion is the philosophical study of religious beliefs, religious doctrines, religious arguments and religious history. The line between theology and the philosophy of religion and theology isn’t always sharp because they share much in common. Theology tends to be apologetical in nature, committed to the defense of particular religious positions. Philosophy of Religion is committed to the investigation of religion itself, rather than the truth of any particular religion.

What is Science: Profile of Science, the Scientific Method, and How Science Works
Distinguishing modern science from other endeavors requires focusing in particular on its methodology - the means by which it achieves results. Fundamentally, then, science can be characterized as a method of obtaining reliable - though not infallible - knowledge about the universe around us. This knowledge includes both descriptions of what happens and explanations of why it happens.

Philosophy of Politics & Law: Philosophy of Governance, Justice, Society, Force - Debating Atheism, Secularism, Role of Religion in Civil Government
Most atheists recognize that the separation of church and state are important to their ability to be free of having religion imposed upon them. Not all realize that separation is based upon a more fundamental political and legal philosophy which theocrats on the Christian Right don't accept. Debates over church/state separation are thus debates over political and legal philosophy

Godless Constitution: Constitutional Law without Gods or Religion
The Christian Right regularly claims that America is a 'Christian Nation' and was founded on Christian principles. If this is the case, then those principles should be identifiable in America's founding legal document, the Constitution. If the Constitution explicitly reflects Christian principles and doctrines, then the Christian Right is correct that America was founded on Christianity; otherwise, their claims are wishful thinking at best. So where are God and religion in the Constitution?

Goals of Liberation Atheology - What Should Liberation Atheology Strive For? Criticism of Religion & Theism Involves Many Smaller Steps
It's tough to describe definitive goals for liberation atheology because atheists are so individualistic. For some the goals will be moderate while others seek to push them to what appears to be their logical conclusion. This might allow us to describe a continuum of goals: a minimum without which liberation atheology makes no sense and further goals which are the logical consequence of the principle that human liberation requires first liberation from religious and theological systems.

What is Implicit Atheism?
Implicit atheism is defined as the absence of theism or the absence of belief in gods without the conscious rejection of it. The definition of implicit atheism comes from George H. Smith who described it as 'the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it.' Implicit atheism is thus a type of atheism based on the reason why a person doesn't believe in any gods.

What is an Implicit Atheist? Who are Implicit Atheists?
Implicit atheist is defined as one who lacks theism without consciously rejecting it. The definition of implicit atheist comes from George H. Smith who described it as 'a person who does not believe in a god, but who has not explicitly rejected or denied the truth of theism.' An implicit atheist is thus a type of atheist based on the reason why a person doesn't believe in any gods.

What is Atheistic? What Does it Mean for Something to be Atheistic?
Atheistic is defined narrowly as: involving, advocating, or spreading atheism; concerning, relating to, or characteristic of atheists or atheism. Atheistic can also be defined more broadly as anything in which gods or belief in gods play no role at all.

What is Atheism? How is Atheism Defined?
Atheism is defined as without theism, without belief in god or gods, the absence of theism, the absence of belief in gods. This is the most basic and general definition of atheism, the definition which accurately describes all atheists, and the definition which encompasses all forms of atheism.

Abortion, the Bible, and Personhood: What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?
Christian Right opposition to abortion frequently includes numerous references to the Bible; according to them, the only valid Christian position on abortion must be based upon what the Bible says. The Bible, in turn, unequivocally condemns abortion and endorses the idea that a fetus is a person endowed with rights. Why, then, are so many Christians conflicted about abortion and/or support abortion rights? Why doesn’t Judaism condemn abortion unequivocally? Because the Bible is ambiguous.

Undermining Abortion: How the Christian Right Undermines the Right to Abortion
The most important issue for the Christian Right is criminalizing abortion. There is disagreement on the penalties for abortion (few want to treat it as murder, despite the rhetoric) and whether there should be exemptions (like for rape, incest, or the health of the mother), but there is agreement that abortion must end. There is no prospect of a total ban any time soon, so in the mean time they work on undermining it and hindering women's ability to actually obtain an abortion.

Atheists & Religion: Do Atheists Hate Religion? Are Atheists Anti-Religion?
There are frequent debates not only between atheists and theists, but also among atheists on the subject of religion. Why? Because there is no unanimity among atheists on religion. Different atheists believe different things about the value, nature, and future of religion and religious beliefs. It’s impossible to ascribe one overarching position about any aspect of religion to all atheists or even most atheists. Atheists are as diverse on this issue as are theists.

Blogging About Atheism: How to Blog More Effectively About Atheism, Philosophy, and Religion
Blogging has become very popular and anyone can start a blog to write about the things that interest them. Not every blog is created equal, however, and there are strategies you can use which will improve the quality of what you write, attracting more readers and attention to your ideas. This advice focuses on blogging about atheism, but the key to writing a better blog about atheism or anything else may simply be to avoid doing the same things everyone else does. Create something different.

Atheists & Political Issues: What Do Atheists Believe Regarding Important Political Issues & Questions?
It's popular to imagine that atheists all share common views on various political issues. Since this assumption is frequent with those who think the same thing about all 'true' Christians, perhaps this is not a surprise - but it's still wrong. The only thing all atheists share in common is an absence of belief in the existence of gods. Beyond that, atheists may hold any position on any political issue, and in fact atheists often disagree strongly in political debates.

Godless Children vs. Religious Families: How Can Atheist Parents Balance Them?
Of all of the problems that atheists might experience with their families, those involving their own children are perhaps among the most emotional and difficult to resolve. Many people honestly believe that children require religion and God in order to be raised morally and properly - if atheist parents don't offer that, they will feel compelled to intervene and replace what they believe the parents are failing provide. Atheist parents, though, should do what they think is best for their kids.

Myth: Atheism is a Denial of God That Requires Faith | Why Do So Many Misunderstand Atheism, Atheists, and Disbelief?
The most common misunderstanding about atheism involves the definition. Many people insist that atheism is really the denial of the existence of God, but there are two errors here. First, it pretends that atheism is exclusively about their god, the god common to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Second, it focuses on a narrow sub-set of atheism and atheists to the exclusion of all others. Standard dictionaries list 'disbelief in god or Gods' as the first and primary definition of atheism.

The Temple in Jerusalem: Profile of the Temple in Jerusalem - History, Geography, Religion
For millennia, the Jerusalem Temple was the focal point of Jewish religious practices. The first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians who then carried many Jews off to captivity. It was rebuilt about 70 years later and ritual sacrifices resumed, but after the Jews rebelled against Roman rule in the Great Revolt, the Romans as punishment destroyed the Temple again.

Halloween in Public Schools: Do Halloween Celebrations Violate the Separation of Church & State?
Halloween has traditionally been celebrated in schools by having kids dress up in costumes, take part in costume shows, and engage in a variety of activities relating to Halloween images of skeletons, pumpkins, ghosts, witches, and so forth. Quite a lot has changed in the last couple of decades, one of which is a growing number of religious challenges to Halloween celebrations in public schools. Are there any serious church/state issues that schools should worry about?

Via Dolorosa: Profile of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem - Did Jesus Walk Here to his Crucifixion?
Via Dolorosa is Latin for the 'way of sorrows' or 'way of pain.' It is an important pilgrimage route for Christians in Jerusalem to commemorate the path taken by Jesus when carrying the cross to the site of his crucifixion. There are 14 devotional sites along the way where people stop to pray, none of which existed in the earliest centuries - they are products of medieval Christian practices.

Religion & Groundhog's Day: Christian & Pagan Origins of a Secular, Seasonal Holiday
Most residents of North America are familiar with Groundhog's Day, celebrated every year on February 2. What people may not be so familiar with is the fact that there are important religious origins that lie behind that celebration, even if those origins are no longer recognizable. Today, Groundhog's Day is treated as a purely secular, if perhaps a bit superstitious, holiday -- but that was not always the case.

What is God? Defining and Understanding the Alleged Nature of God
It might seem odd to list 'existence' as an attribute of God, but that's not actually the point here. Of course believers think that their god exists - what is at issue is how God exists. According to philosophical theism, God exists in a very special and unique way: God's existence is necessary rather than contingent

Atheism vs. Agnosticism - What's the Difference Between Atheism & Agnosticism?
The difference between atheism and agnosticism is the difference between belief and knowledge: atheists cannot say that they believe that any gods exist and agnostics cannot say that they know for sure (or perhaps that anyone can know for sure) if any gods exist or not. Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive; instead they are orthogonal because they are about separate issues

Is Atheism a Belief? Why Atheism Isn't a Belief & Atheism Isn't Believing
Atheism is not a belief, but it is common for religious believers to claim that atheism is a belief. It's not clear why so many assume or insist that atheism must be a belief, though one reason may be that theism is a belief so people assume there is a direct parallel between atheism and theism: if theism is a belief, then atheism must also be a belief. This analogy is not valid; just because theism is a belief doesn't make atheism a belief

What is Apatheism? What is an Apatheist? Explaining Apatheism
Apatheism is apathy towards belief and disbelief in gods. This word apatheism is derived from the fact that apatheism is a portmanteau of apathy and theism / atheism. Apatheism can be described as the position that neither the existence nor the nonexistence of gods is important, thus neither belief in nor denial of gods is important.

Negative vs. Positive Atheism: What's the Difference Between Negative & Positive Atheism?
The difference between negative atheism and positive atheism depends on just how far a person is willing to go in rejecting belief in gods. Whereas negative atheism means simply that a person doesn't believe in the existence of any gods, positive atheism means that a person has taken the extra step of asserting that no gods exist.

What is Pragmatic Atheism? What is a Pragmatic Atheist? Explaining Pragmatic Atheism
Pragmatic atheism is the rejection of belief in gods because belief in gods is unnecessary for any pragmatic, important part of one's life. Pragmatic atheism is derived from the application of the philosophy of Pragmatism to the question of whether any gods exist. It does not positively assert that any gods do or do not exist; instead, pragmatic atheism asserts that their existence simply does not matter.

Separation of Church and State 101
What is the separation of church and state? What does it mean for religion, religious organizations and the government? Does it really mean anything for people personally, or is it only a function of large groups? What does it mean to be a separationist, accommodationist, or non-preferentialist?

Government Observances of Good Friday & Easter
Although making Christian holy days like Good Friday an official government holiday is a practice often accepted as a matter of course in the past, recently more and more people have begun to object to what they perceive as unfair favoritism being shown towards Christianity and Christian beliefs. Because of this, they are challenging the practice of accommodating Christian beliefs in ways not generally accepted for the beliefs of other religions - but with mixed results.

What is the Separation of Church and State?
What is the separation of church and state? What does it mean for religion, religious organizations and the government? Does it really mean anything for people personally, or is it only a function of large groups? How do we differentiate between what is seculare and what is religious, which is obviously a necessary condition for separating religion and government? We can't defend church/state separation or secular government if we can't explain what we are defending in the first place.

Supreme Court Decisions on Free Speech and Censorship
Index of United States Court Decisions the right to free speech, including both Supreme Court and lower court rulings. The right to free speech may be written in the Constitution, but the government often tries to find ways to regulate, restrict, or just prohibit unpopular forms of speech. Why, and what have the results been?

Arguments Against Vouchers - Private, Religious School Vouchers are Wrong
Defenders of strict church/state separation and secular government also defend secular public education by opposing schemes to use vouchers to funnel public funds to private, religious schools. Secular public schools are an important foundation for secular democracy in America, bringing together children of diverse backgrounds into a common educational system and experience. Sending school funds to private, religious schools would undermine secular government as well as secular education.

School Prayer Cases - Court Rulings on Prayer in Public Schools
To what extent, if any, may the government allow prayers at the graduation ceremonies of public schools? The answer is simple, although difficult to apply in practice: if the government has any say or controlling function over the words being said, then prayer and evangelism may not be a part of those words. This is the underlying principle which ties together a number of important court cases dealing with school prayer during football games, graduation ceremonies, and other school events.

Homologies & Evolution - Homologies as Inferential Evidence for Evolution
Homology has a specific meaning in evolution, but I will not be using that to avoid circular reasoning - we can't 'prove' evolution using terms that assume evolution. I will use a more general meaning for homology: similarities between species that are not functionally necessary. In pre-evolutionary terms, the alternative type of similarity would be an analogous similarity: the wings of birds and bats are similar, but this can be explained by their similar function.

Secularism & Secularization - Importance for Secularism & Secularization
Supporters of secularism and secularization can best rebut attacks from religious critics by emphasizing how the two are vital for democracy, personal liberty, and even religious freedom. Secularism prescribes state neutrality in religious matters, but they are not morally or politically neutral. They are positive goods which must be defended as foundations of liberal democracy. This is why they are opposed by authoritarian religious institutions and authoritarian religious leaders.

Secularism & Godlessness in Government, Politics, Science, Culture, and Life
It's become popular for religious conservatives to use the label 'godless' as an attack, but there's nothing inherently negative about it. On the contrary, secularism and godlessness can be positive and important attributes not just for one's personal life, but for society, culture, and government. Because of a popular presumption about the need for religious theism not everyone recognizes this, so it's incumbent upon godless secular atheists to explain why godless secularism is good.

John McCain on Religion, Faith, Secularism, Church/State Separation, Atheists, Atheism - What Does John McCain about Religion & Secularism?
John McCain has long been an important Republican politician, active both in his home state of Arizona as Senator and on the national scene as candidate for president. McCain's views on religion, religious faith, secularism, church-state separation have played an important role in his political policy choices, which means that atheists need to consider those views when evaluating McCain. How has John McCain injected his own Christian doctrines or prejudices into public policy and civil law?

Mike Huckabee on Religion, Secularism, Church/State Separation, Atheism - What Does Mike Huckabee Believe about the Role of Religion in Government?
Mike Huckabee's campaign to be the Republican presidential nominee surprised a lot of people with its success. Huckabee's support came almost entirely from conservative evangelical Christians, the traditional base of the Republican Party. Usually politicians just pander to them, but Mike Huckabee presents himself as a true believer in their political agenda of Christian Nationalism. Many Republicans get votes from evangelical Christians without having to deliver, but Huckabee wants to deliver.

Basics About Atheism & Agnosticism: What They Are and Are Not
Never has such a simple concept provoked so much misinformation, myths, and bigotry. Atheism is just the absence of belief in gods - nothing more, nothing less. Beyond that atheists may believe or disbelieve absolutely anything, but religious theists continually insist that atheism is much more than disbelief in gods and that atheists necessarily hold to philosophies like nihilism or communism.

Liberation Atheology: Criticism of Theism, God, and Religion as False, Irrational, and Harmful
Why are so many atheists critical of religion and theism? Not all are, and in fact some atheists are religious themselves, but it is common -- especially among secular, naturalistic atheists in the West. Reasons include: theism is wrong, irrational, and harmful, that religion has been a powerful force for violence & xenophobia in history, secularism & liberation from theism & religion are necessary for social & political liberation, and supernatural beliefs retard social & scientific progress.

Mary Magdalene: Image Gallery of Mary Magdalene, Female Disciple of Jesus
Mary Magdalene is not mentioned often in the gospels, but she does appear at key moments and has become an important figure for those interested in the role of women in early Christianity as well as in Jesus’ ministry. She accompanied Jesus throughout his travels and was a witness to his death - which, according to Mark, was a requirement to truly understand Jesus' nature. She was a witness to the empty tomb and was instructed by Jesus to carry the news to the other disciples.

Knights Templar: Image Gallery of Templar Knights in Various Outfits, Armor
Founded in 1118 by Hugh de Payens in order to help protect pilgrims to the Holy Land and they were originally housed close to the site where Solomon's Temple once stood. The rules of their order, formally granted in 1128, were created by St. Bernard of Clairveaux and officially given to them at the Council of Troyes, France. The Knights Templar became one of the most famous and powerful of all the monastic military orders during the Crusading era.

Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor: Photo of the Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset, England
The current ruins of Glastonbury Abbey are all that remain after a fire destroyed the monastery complex in 1184. In addition to the physical structures, the fire also destroyed the abbey's treasures and relics which were the primary source of the monks' income, not to mention prestige. The loss of relics led to a loss of needed pilgrims, creating an acute need for something to boost their profile again.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene is described as having helped pay for Jesus' ministry out of her own pocket. Obviously Jesus' ministry wasn't a paying job and nothing is said in the text about their having collected donations from the people he preached to. This means that he and all his companions would have relied upon the generosity of strangers and/or their own private funds. It appears, then, that Mary Magdalene's private funds may have been an important source of financial support.

Holy Grail: Image of the Holy Grail in Christian Mythology, Literature, and Fiction
The English word grail comes from the Old French graal, which itself comes from the medieval Latin word gradalis, which refers to a cup or small dish. Later writers claimed that the original term for Holy Grail was San Greal and, even later, some claimed that this was code for Sang Real, which means

Peter the Hermit Preaches the Crusade
In 1096 Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens in France, led 20,000 commoners out of Cologne on the Peasants' Crusade. They sacked a number of Christian cities and killed many Jews before they reached Constantinople.

Peasants' Crusade: Illustrations, Drawings, Woodcuts of the 1096 Peasants' Crusade
In 1096 Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens in France, led 20,000 commoners out of Cologne on the Peasants' Crusade. They sacked a number of Christian cities and killed many Jews before they reached Constantinople.

Defending Gay Marriage Against Conservative, Religious Attacks & Bigotry - Anti Proposition 8 Protests in Pittsburgh, PA, November 15, 2008
On November 15, 2008, people in major cities all over America marched in protest of the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Gays who all too briefly enjoyed the right to marry each other on an equal basis next to straight couples had this fundamental civil right ripped away because of prejudice, ignorance, and hate. Proposition 8 was a serious blow against the effort of Americans to promote equality, justice, and liberty for all Americans, not just Californians.

Defending Gay Marriage Against Conservative, Religious Attacks & Bigotry - Anti Proposition 8 Protests in Pittsburgh, PA, November 15, 2008
On November 15, 2008, people in major cities all over America marched in protest of the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Gays who all too briefly enjoyed the right to marry each other on an equal basis next to straight couples had this fundamental civil right ripped away because of prejudice, ignorance, and hate. Proposition 8 was a serious blow against the effort of Americans to promote equality, justice, and liberty for all Americans, not just Californians.

Freethought Poster: It's OK Not to Believe (Inspirational Posters on Freethought, Skepticism, Atheism)
Perhaps one of the most fundamental and important messages which atheists need to communicate is that it's really OK not to believe in any gods. So many religious theists act like belief in some god and adherence to some religious belief system are the most important, fundamental, and necessary things that a person has to do in their lives. Irreligious atheists, however, can demonstrate through example that neither gods nor religions are necessary in any way.

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays: Not Saying Merry Christmas is like Denying Christ and Denying Christianity
This image is based upon a World War II poster designed to frighten people about what might happen in America if the Nazis weren't defeated. This is an appropriate theme for this topic because the rhetoric of Christian Nationalists indicates that they see attempts to deny them control over the public square to be much the same as Nazi repression. This image reflects Christian Nationalists own fears back on them: the fear that they will be persecuted merely for expressing their Christian beliefs.

Sidon at Night: 1911 Illustration of Sidon, Lebanon at Night
As a Phoenician trading port, Sidon began rising to prominence during the 12th through 10th centuries BCE. Sidon's preeminence among Phoenician cities is clear from the historical records. Even biblical accounts of the era, from Joshua, Judges, and Samuel, refer to Sidon as the powerful city-state to respect rather than Tyre.

Sidon, Lebanon: Photos & Images; Religion, History, Culture of Sidon, Ancient Phoenician City of Modern Lebanon
Sidon (Zidon, Saida, 'fishery') is the third-largest city in Lebanon. Located 48 km south of Beirut, Sidon was one of the most famous cities of the ancient world but today it is one of the least well known -- in part because its archaeological relics have either been stolen and scattered or covered over by modern construction. There is evidence of human settlement at least as early as 4000 BCE and possibly going back to 6000 BCE.

What is the Basilica of Constantine? Photograph of the Basilica of Constantine Today
The so-called 'Basilica of Constantine' is a good example of Roman massive construction. The main chamber reached 48 meters in height, both the main chamber and the two side chambers were 25 meters wide, and the entire structure took up 6,000 square meters. It is located between the Via Sacra and the Velia Hill, into which the Basilica is partially built.