Scoffing at those who believe in near death experiences

When I saw the title of this article that said Reasons not to scoff at ghosts, visions and near-death experiences, I assumed that it was going to make the case for the plausibility of things that I definitely scoff at. But what the author is arguing is that such beliefs can be therapeutic for some people and thus of some value and we should not too quickly move to disabuse people of those beliefs.
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A sensible attitude

It has always been absurd that the followers of a faith that believes in an all-powerful deity would think that they need to take law into their own hands or to require the government to crack down on what they see as heresy and heretics. If their god is upset, surely he could deal with it by himself? Conversely, the fact that their god did not do anything must be because he was not upset by whatever it was that got his followers all hot and bothered.
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The Intelligent Design-Young Earth Creationist tension

At the height of the battles over the efforts of intelligent design creationists (IDC) to have their ideas taught as an alternative to evolution in the science curriculum in public schools, I wrote an article that was published in the June 2002 issue of Physics Today under the title Philosophy Is Essential to the Intelligent Design Debate in which I argued that important ideas about the nature of science that had been made by philosophers of science were not being adequately used by the defenders of science who were trying to keep religious ideas like IDC out of the school science curriculum.
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Searching for the real Buddha

Of the major religions, Buddhism carries with it the least amount of supernatural baggage (though not entirely devoid of it) and is perceived as a religion that values contemplation and introspection. (Of course, I am referring to Buddhism in its more philosophical form, not the actual practice in places like Sri Lanka and Myanmar where it has become commandeered by chauvinists who think nothing of using murderous violence against those who are not Buddhists to the extent of going on ethnic cleansing rampages.) As a result, it has gained popularity among those who find it hard to accept the idea of gods and like to think of themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’, and Buddhism-inspired practices like meditation and mindfulness have gained a lot of traction in the West.
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Monterey SkeptiCamp meeting on Saturday, January 4th

The sixth annual meeting of this group that features “a day of free presentations on science, skepticism and critical thinking” will be held this coming Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. The event is free and open to the public but prior registration is requested. I will be one of the speakers talking about the ideas in my new book.

You can get information on the speaker schedule, registration, and other information here.

The event is organized by the Monterey County Skeptics and the Humanist Association of the Monterey Bay Area.

The fallout from the Ron Reagan atheist ad

In watching an earlier Democratic debate, I mentioned how surprised I was to see an ad featuring Ron Reagan, former president Reagan’s son, on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation that argued for the separation of church and state. He began by describing himself as an “unabashed atheist” and ended with him declaring himself to be a ” lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”

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The strange new turn taken by anti-Semitism

When members of the Jewish community are attacked because they are Jewish, one immediately thinks that the attacker will be found to be a white man motivated by neo-Nazi ideology because it is such groups that have seen a recent resurgence in the US. And that usually does turn out to be the case. But two events recently have disturbed that pattern because they were committed by black men with unclear motives

Just two days ago an attacker entered the home of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi in Monsey, New York during a Hanukkah dinner and viciously attacked everyone present with a machete before running away. He was later captured in Harlem, covered in blood. He is suspected to have a history of mental problems
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Violent reaction to Brazilian comedy film

Last week I favorably reviewed the Brazilian comedy The First Temptation of Christ that has drawn protests from Christian groups because of its suggestion that Jesus may have been gay. Now the protests have spawned violent offshoots that have attacked the filmmakers’ offices with firebombs.

Police are investigating a fire-bomb attack on the Rio de Janeiro office of a production company behind a controversial Christmas special aired on streaming service Netflix.
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Cracks in evangelical support for Trump

The fallout over the editorial in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today calling the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump continues with an editor from another publication The Christian Post resigning after the magazine decided that they would write an editorial in support of Trump.

Evangelical support for US President Donald Trump is back in the spotlight after the resignation of a leading journalist for Christian Post magazine.

Journalist Napp Nazworth’s departure follows an op-ed from another Christian outlet calling for Mr Trump’s removal.

On Monday, journalist Napp Nazworth announced he was “forced to make the difficult decision to leave The Christian Post”.

Mr Nazworth – a political editor and near 10-year veteran of the Christian magazine, whose Twitter biography includes the hashtag #NeverTrump – said the publication “decided to publish an editorial that positions them on Team Trump”.

He continued: “I can’t be an editor for a publication with that editorial voice.”

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