01 Sep 2001
26 Oct 2013

Philosophy & Religion
Articles Dialogues Data Links Notes

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About This Section   Ed. 25 Oct 2013

Beyond Belief —continuing the thought process begun in "Everyone Must Believe in Something!" 7 Ed. 25 Jun 2011
Building a Viable Ethic —practical ethics for practical people 7 Ed. 22 May 2012
The Fourth R: Reasoning —formerly "Thinking Clearly," now an individual website 5,7 01 Aug 2010
My Homespun Humanism —from an unpublished book 7 Ed. 08 May 1999
Philosophical Purity —why simplicity usually doesn't work 7 Ed. 02 Jul 2011
What Is Philosophy? —what it has been, what it is, what it will become, what it can do for us 7 06 May 2011

NOTE: Some of the following articles challenge accepted teachings of various religions.  The aim is neither to insult religious people nor to pry them from their beliefs, but rather to present information and perspective which are unfamiliar to many believers.  These include discoveries of science and history that are often suppressed or misrepresented in conservative religious literature, and the views of what is arguably the world's third-largest religious category comprising almost a fifth of the global population: non-believers (variously self-described as atheist, agnostic, secularist, religiously indifferent, not religious, etc.).  The purposes of these articles, in general, are: (1)  to dispel popular misperceptions about religious disbelief; (2) to offer a resource for those contemplating a change in personal beliefs; and (3) to explore common ground between believers and non-believers.
Answers to Questions You're Not Supposed to Ask —notes on religion 3 Ed. 22 May 2012
Comfort: Reality or Delusion? —religion's imaginary advantage 4 Ed. 14 Jun 2012
Creative Ontology —creating a new and improved deity 3 Ed. 25 Oct 2013
Creationist Nonsense —criticism of science by the scientifically illiterate 3 Ed. 28 Dec 2005
Curiosities —from an unpublished book 3 Ed. 16 Sep 2001
Faith to Faith —an apostate's tips on switching belief systems 1,4,5 01 Feb 2011
Higher Power Hypothesis —a brief reflection on the results of religion 3,7 24 Nov 2001
Myths About Atheism —there's a freethinker in that foxhole 4 Ed. 13 Feb 2007
Myths About Humanism —recovering from tale-spin 4,5 Ed. 21 Feb 2002
Myths About Religion —getting real 4,6 Ed. 22 May 2004
Prayer in Public Schools —be careful what you ask for 2 Ed. Dec 1998
Reconciling Religion and Reality —making sense of it all 3 Ed. 18 Jun 2012
Religion: How I Lost It, but Found Something Better 8 Ed. 04 Oct 2005
Secular Spirituality —from an unpublished book 5,7 06 Apr 2001
Thank God! —gratitude misdirected? 3 03 Dec 2001
Those Weird Atheists 4,5,6 04 Mar 1999
Values for Everyone —transcending boundaries 1,5 Ed. 25 Oct 2013
A Word about "Creation Science" 3,4 Ed. 28 Dec 2005
A Word about "Intelligent Design" 3,4 Ed. 27 Jun 2012

For your convenience, the articles are keyed by number and color to the following general categories:

1: values and ethics 5: common grounds
2: government and religion 6: reminders to "the majority"
3: peculiarities of religion 7: philosophy
4: myths and misperceptions 8: anecdotes


These are not true dialogues, but rather my comments on the statements of others, presented—where possible—in an approximation of conversational style.  Obviously, my "opponents" are unable to respond in kind; however, the objective here is neither fairness nor resolution, but to ensure that questionable ideas do not go unquestioned.  For anyone wishing to confirm or investigate, the sources of the original or reported remarks are provided.

Robertson on Islam Pat Robertson: CNN article (Feb.2002) 09 Mar 2002
Strategic Dialogue Ron Rhodes: Internet article Ed. 02 Sep 2001

Chronology of Scripture and Tradition timetable of scriptural and historical events Ed. 21 Dec 2009
Comparative Definitions clarification of frequently misused terms Ed. 13 Aug 2003
Famous Skeptics what thinkers from Epicurus to Einstein really thought about religion 15 May 2008
Religions of Today's World populations and patterns 20 Jan 2000

  • The Holey Bible (contradictions and fallacies)
    [found inoperative 15 May 2008]



Though born into a Methodist household and reared a Christian, I have not been religious (at least in the conventional sense of the word) since my late twenties.  In the course of my maturation, many events have influenced my way of looking at the universe and mankind's relationship to it.  It is not that I intentionally set out to defy religious authority and tradition; quite the contrary, as a teen and as a young man, I was unusually traditionalist in my views, and I had been seeking ways to reaffirm my faith.  But as I learned more and more about the universe in which I found myself, I began to encounter discomfiting conflicts between belief and actual experience.

Ironically, it was my contact with fiercely religious fundamentalist elements which first prompted me to examine and question my own faith more closely, and which ultimately led to my disenthrallment from religious and mystical belief altogether.  But even though I no longer believe in such things as gods, devils, and afterlife, religion—from its earliest roots in primitive superstition and legend, through the ancient traditions of Sumerian, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Norse, Hindu, and Hebrew polytheism, to its many present-day manifestations—has nevertheless remained a fascinating (if somewhat peripheral) subject to me.



In my early years, when I was religious, I was taught that religion is an intimately personal matter which respectable people do not discuss in the public sphere outside the home and church.  Having been quite comfortable in my religious disbelief for the better part of my life, I feel no particular desire to convert others to my way of thinking.  However, I find there is substantial reason to disseminate some perspective on atheism from a purely informational standpoint.  The skeptic's view seems strange to many, and people often misunderstand and fear that which is strange to them.  We see the results of such fear manifested in a variety of ways, from hate propaganda equating disbelief with immorality, extremist politics, or even devil worship, to laws denying equal rights to those who refuse to profess belief in a supernatural power.

By expressing my views on a variety of subjects in a frank but (mostly) non-confrontational spirit, I hope to alleviate such fear-born-of-ignorance, and to promote a degree of understanding between believers and non-believers.  For example, someone who has never considered any possibility but that morality must be divinely inspired might find a plain-language introduction to rational ethics truly eye-opening.  And perhaps those who cannot understand others' contempt for their beliefs need only be reminded of their own negative feelings toward "false" religions—i.e., religions other than their own—for every religion appears "false" to those who devoutly believe something else.

But more than painting a clearer picture of our differences, I wish to emphasize that as humans we, believers and non-believers alike, have many values, interests, problems, and objectives in common.  Granted, there are many on both sides of the religion issue who have allowed their humanity to be eaten away by fanaticism; these cannot be reached by reason.  But the rest of us, if we are of good will, should be able to agree to disagree on matters of personal faith, and yet cooperate wholeheartedly in areas of common human concern.



A lifelong advocate of religious freedom and tolerance, I have no quarrel with those who practice religion as a matter of personal belief and conscience.  However, those who insist upon thrusting their own beliefs upon everyone else, especially if they demand the endorsement or participation of government in this endeavor, are a matter of considerable annoyance.  The religious indoctrination of children in public schools is particularly troublesome, whether it takes the form of an official school prayer (discriminating against students whose beliefs are not in accord with those of school authorities), the posting of the scripture of one particular religion (ostensibly to "promote values," as if one religion—or even religion in general, for that matter—had a monopoly on such things), or the corruption of science and history curricula (in the name of "cultural diversity") by the spurious insertion of material more suitable for a course in comparative religion or mythology.

People who advocate such things are not interested in religious freedom, but rather in religious domination.  It is not the general advancement of all religious ideas and philosophies which they seek, but the imposition of one religion—their own, naturally, whatever it might be—upon us all.  (I have yet to hear an evangelical Christian seriously advocate Buddhist meditation, the study of Jewish culture and tradition, the observance of Muslim or pagan holidays, the teaching of Hindu creation myth, or the posting of the Humanist Manifesto, in public schools.  The grand ideal of "cultural diversity," it would appear, extends only as far as the particular religious culture of those advocating it, and to no other.)  Indeed, it is not a contest between belief and disbelief, but between fanatical minority sects on one side and everyone else, both religious and secular, on the other.

Most Americans would agree that each person should be free to believe according to the dictates of his own conscience.  And it is natural for each person to feel that his own creed is the "right" one.  However, any attempt to force general compliance with a particular creed, even in the earnest belief that it is the right thing to do, goes beyond the guarantee of religious liberty.  It is indeed an assault upon that principle, and therefore a matter of concern to everyone who cherishes that liberty.  Although the fanatics' numbers are relatively small, their voice is loud, and clever political alliances have disproportionately magnified their influence.  As long as the Internet remains open to all opinions, we—believers and non-believers alike—must continue to express that concern, lest the voices of all eventually be stifled by the strangling grip of fanatical intolerance.



One description of humanism which often comes to mind is the cultural movement of the European Renaissance.  The humanist movement redirected intellectual and academic inquiry, previously focused almost exclusively upon studies of the Bible and the works of Aristotle, and expanded it to embrace new scientific discoveries, as well as the rediscovery of the art, literature, and history of the "Classical" civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome.

As the term is used today, humanism can be described as a philosophy emphasizing the value and interests of human beings, and a concern for their needs and well being.  Humanism supposes that humans are responsible and accountable for their own actions and the foreseeable consequences thereof.  It holds that we, as responsible individuals, deserve both credit for acts which benefit humanity, and blame for those acts which are detrimental to it.  Humanism is opposed to nihilism, which supposes that "right" and "wrong" should be defined according to what is immediately gratifying to the individual rather than beneficial to humanity as a whole.  And because humanism concerns itself with humanity as a whole, it differs as well from utilitarianism, whose focus is limited to the happiness and well being of a majority without concern for the legitimate rights of individuals and minorities.

Humanism is not a religion, but neither is it inherently anti-religious.  It does not oppose religion, except in those areas where religion displays clearly anti-human tendencies, such as the denial of personal responsibility, the promotion of tribalism, the reliance upon superstition instead of evidence and reason, and the stifling of honest inquiry.  Humanism is simply a rational way of viewing humanity and its endeavors, with the aim of enhancing the general quality of life.  It is also an instrument for the formulation and maintenance of a workable system of ethics, providing a strong but adaptable framework for a stable, progressive, and prosperous society.  In this sense humanism and religion are similar, in that both serve as media for the propagation of moral values.  The difference is that humanism focuses its values on the reality of human need and aspiration, adapting itself as circumstances evolve, whereas religious values are chained to ancient superstition, myth, and taboo.  In many respects, the values of humanism and religion are similar, even identical; in others, they are obviously centuries and cultures apart.

Since the eighteenth century, humanism has become increasingly associated with secularism.  Yet it originated among religious believers in an age of pervasive religious belief, and it has always had a strong following among the religious intelligentsia.  That's because it is a tool.  Like a hammer, a screwdriver, or a computer, humanism will work as well for a Methodist as for an atheist.  Like any other tool, humanism doesn't care about the personal beliefs of the person using it.  As long as it is employed with intelligence, skill, and a respect for the workings of nature, the tool of humanism just does its job.  While humanism comes in both secular and religious versions, the differences between them are relatively minor, confined mainly to the precepts of whether human value is naturally derived or divinely inspired.