Cyber Think Tank                     
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December 31, 2014


Rebecca Solnit starts by remembering how important childhood stories remain, and then covers a variety of creation stories of Native American tribes. read


In 2000, Alan Dershowitz debated Alan Keyes on religion’s role in society. Strong defense of secular morality. watch


100 academics speaking about “god.” watch


Mark Bittman, as an atheist Jew, describes the Christmas season. read


T. M. Luhrmann describes religion without god. read


Tony Nugent on sources of scriptural stories. read


Terry Patten critiques Sam Harris’ Awakening (3 pts). read


Frank Schaeffer reflects on his former career as a Religious-Right hero. “Mark my words, the subtext to the GOP assault on us in 2016 will be religious extremism — again. And now it has a racist twist. Look at the right’s reaction to the events in Ferguson. Look at the continuing anti-Obama ugliness far past mere political difference. For the Republicans the next election won’t be about politics. it will be a holy war — again.” read


Paul Craig Roberts’ Christmas Letter. read


Amy Goodman explores how the UU Beacon Press printed the Pentagon Papers. watch


James Croft takes on his fellow atheists who contend that their orientation has nothing to do with any particular values. read


Richard Carrier’s assemblage of biblical texts, “The Will of God.” read


Arab atheism? Samira Shackle describes some of this complexity and notes the forthcoming book by Brian Whitaker’s “Arabs Without God.”. read


Grace Boey on moral uncertainty and moral hedging in recent philosophy. read


Massimo Pigliucci describes his move to an updated Stoicism. read


Diane Winston on the “spiritual fascism” of Pune’s Osho multiversity. read


Ryan Bell, Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, tried out atheism for a year and decided it was for him. read


Geoffrey Mitelman discusses science and religion in ways that further confuse everything. read


Annual report of Scientia Salon. read


Steven Pinker & Andrew Mack: Overall, world improvement continues! Conventional knowledge is simply wrong. See the data. read


December 20, 2014


Zuckerman and Marshall debate secular humanism vs Christianity. read

Christopher Hitchens on Bertrand Russell. listen

Tanya Luhrmann on ways that different religions shape cultures and may “kindle” different experiences. read

Susan Jacoby reviews Phil Zuckerman’s new book, but wonders about his reluctance to identify as an atheist. read

UK’s National Secular Society. read


December 10, 2014

Pew study shows half of countries in world have laws against blasphemy, apostasy, defamation. read

Scott Sanders reviews E. O. Wilson’s new book. read

New book on effects of apocalyptic thinking by Matthew Avery Sutton, interviewd by Daniel Silliman. “The one thing that affects how they live their daily lives is that they believe we are moving towards the End Times, the rise of the Antichrist, towards a great tribulation and a horrific human holocaust….Instead of the idea that Christians are building the kingdom of God on earth, the earth is on a quick, slippery slope descending to hell…..Their apocalyptic theology makes them more active not less….. It gives them peace, comfort and hope in a world that often offers none of those things.” Sutton raises important understandings about poor historiography of this movement. read

Chris Stedman interview Philip Kitcher (2 parts) . read read

Gosia Wozniacka discusses the popularity of forms of “mindfulness” in public schools. read

Tim Jacobs reports on new study of beliefs vs. facts, treating “moral” positions as ‘beliefs. read

Neo-ism? Gertrude Himmelfarb traces the role of (her husband) Irving Kristol’s “theotropism” and the ways it impacted his many changes into his ultimate neoconservatism. A must read to describe the many forms of anti-liberalism that now surround. “’in the secular-liberal milieu in which I lived and worked, it was an interest to be revealed with prudence’ ..Nor should Kristol’s neo-orthodoxy be mistaken for New Age religiosity, which is personal, eclectic, ephemeral. His neo-orthodoxy is firmly Jewish, rooted in history and community, in an ancient faith and an enduring people.” read

Naturalism,org by John Shook . read download John Shook “Scientific Atheology”

November 28. 2014

Soli Salgado discusses Lawrence Krauss who sees comparative religion taught in schools as weakening powers of religions within one generation (7 min). watch

Josh Sanburn in TIME (7/24/14) on atheist churches. read

Cognitive scientist George Lakoff is interviewed here by Mark Karlin on the revised edition of his recent framing book. Very important discussions for humanists regarding “reason” and “conservative morality,” as well is cautions on how not to be arguing our liberal positions. We should be discussing these issues! read

David Breeden traces US whiteness and power. read

Ralph Nader’s Thanksgiving wish outlines 7 areas where social scientists could use their knowledge to change and improve our deteriorating society. . read

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic: “Reason and the Republic of Opinion.” “It was a dark day in America when ‘judgmental’ became a term of opprobrium. In a universe without judgment, what is admiration worth?”…. If politics was once the model for commerce, commerce is now the model for politics.” read

Andrew Copson (Briish Humanist Association) shocked that new curriculum for UK schools on Religious Education and Religious Knowledge omits any mention of humanism and non-religion. (If only US had moved that far with required curricula!). read

November 8, 2014

Hans Obrist writes about John Brockman. “Brockman, at thirty-two, retired from writing (although he has managed, over the past forty-odd years, to publish forty-five books in his various roles as editor, producer, impresario).” read

Parents count! Not so much what they say as do, in promoting religiosity continuity in their children. “No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. ‘Parents just dominate.’” (Does this apply to humanist parents as well?) read

Public Religion Research Institute site carries useful data. read

David Masciotra criticizes Cornel West for his superficial; treatments of Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens. read

Michael Robbins reviews Nick Spencer’s Atheists: the origin if the species.He shares its critique of “evangelical atheists,” wishing hey would read more Nietzsche. read

C. Grayling reviews Barbara Ehrenreich’s Living with a Wild God. read

Michael Rosen reviews Onora O’Neill’s Acting on Principle: An essay on Kantian ethics. “Consistent Kant or congenial Kant? Perhaps we can’t have both.” read

Julia Llewellyn Smith review Andrew Newberg’s experiments with the “God Helmet” and speculates on the meanings. read

Michael Fitzpatrick reviews Terry Eagleton’s Culture and the Death of God. read

John Gray review Richard Dawkins’ An Appetite for Wonder: the makings of a scientist. read

Stephen Asma review book on religion by Terry Eagleton, Roger Scruton, and Peter Wartson. read

Jennifer Hancock notes that may governmemnts are appealing to “humanism” to justify their policies. read

October 27, 2014

Herbert Calhoun reviews Norma Khouri’s book on ways to end honor crimes. read

Thomas Farrell reviews Steven Herrmann;s book on “spiritual democracy.” read

Milly Williamson reminds her UK readers that women’s freedom has not been an historical component of “liberalism.” US readers will see many parallels. “Liberalism’s promise of freedom and equality was never intended for the majority, but for the propertied elite, and the advances made by women, workers, and the anti-racist movement have been under sustained attack from our liberal rulers almost from the moment they were won.” read

Austin Cline on faith vs. knowledge. read

Austin Cline on atheology. read

Edward Slngerland, author of “What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body & Culture, gives Edge talk on his multidisciplinary project at UBC to study, among many things, origins of

Most liberal and conservative US cities. read

The Real News has linked with telesur for Bill Fletcher, Jr. to create a video on Africa and its Diaspora. watch

Intelligence2 has debates on wide range of topics. read

October 9, 2014

Terry Shoemaker on how religion is understood in media. Note absence of humanism and interfaith materials. read

“Ideas, not Idols.” David Koepsell reviews recent translations of Heidegger (that further embody his anti-Semitism) and argues that we need to separate philosophical ideas from the humans who produced them. read

Greta Christina’s current blog adds Phil Zuckerman to her growing list of atheists who nonetheless still exhibit some sexism. read

Sunday Assemblies expanding. read

“Under God” in US pledge submitted to Congress in 1954 by Knights of Columbus. read

Kimberly Winston on Richard Dawkins’ vulnerabilities. read

Serious humanists should be followers of The Edge and other John Brockman ventures to stay in touch with relevant dimensions of contemporary sciences. Are you hosting salons in your town? read

al-Razi rejects Karen Armstrong’s critique of secularism. read

Stephen Law on Armstrong and secularism. read

Justice Scalia says Constitution does not support secularism. read

Global Secular Conference in London. read

Rob Kall: Does charisma inhibit higher brain functions? read

Bart Campolo comes out as humanist to his evangelical father. He is now humanist chaplain at USC. read

Richard Dawkins on responding to someone who says belief in God is necessary for life to be meaningful (5 min). watch

Liberalism, Islamophobia. Sam Harris responds to recent discussions on the Bill Maher show where he and Maher were accused of being racists. read

London: Secularism Conference 2014. read

A. C. Grayling at WHC on Freedom of Speech, 25 min (2014). watch

September 28, 2014

Stephen Hawking clarifies that he really is an atheist. watch

Austin Cline reviews polls on atheists, noting that knowing and atheist and knowing that atheists can be moral does not alter the refusal, in all demographics, to vote for an atheist. read

Karen Armstrong’s new book recognizes the recent roles of secularism and modernism in helping religions moderate their linkages to state violence. read

Bruce Wilson’s Talk To Action is a useful site for keeping track of Christian fundamentalists. read

Paul Raushenbush interviews several advocates on meditation. read

Claude Fischer on Paul Bloom and empathy and religious charity. read

David Breeden’s blogs in Patheos are usually on humanist topics. Currently he explores “cognitive closure” via a paper analyzing the interactions of religiosity, scientific support from government, and creativity (link at end). read

Chris Hedges, “The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies.” 2013 lecture enriched by arts and history. watch

Video On Police Militarization. watch

John Pilger on Australia’s hidden history. watch

SGI has assembles an 11 min. video tribute to Christopher Hitchens. read

August 20, 2014

Humanists often debate whether liberal forms of religions shoud be welcomed or simply seen as fronts for conservative and fundamentalists majority forms. Libby Anne discusses this on Patheos. read

Achieng Maureen Akena says that, especially in Africa and Asia, human rights must always be separated from religions. “Like fire, religion makes a good servant. As master, however, it would be tyrannical.” read

Brook Wilensky Lanford favorably reviews “Magic in the Moonlight” noting how it builds upon the great magician Houdini parallel career in debunking pseudo-science. Too bad he didn’t cite the present activities of James Randi! Or the pioneering debunker activities of Universalist P. T. Barnum. read

Kwame Appiah on impossibility of defining “religion.” watch

Two evangelical theologians explore contradictory beliefs of atheists. read

“The Violence of Organized Forgetting.” Victoria Harper interviews Henry Giroux on his essential new book. Many memorable and key phrases: “Historical memory has become dangerous today because it offers the promise of lost legacies of resistance, moments in history when the social contract was taken seriously (however impaired), and when a variety of social movements emerged that called for a rethinking of what democracy meant and how it might be defined in the interest of economic and social justice….. disimagination… entertainment is the new mode of education with its delivery of instant stimulation, excitement, gratification, and escape from the world of social and political responsibility while broader notions of education harness peoples’ subjectivities to the narrow values of a market-driven society….. disposability…. neoliberal savagery….. market fundamentalism….. In essence America has devolved into a society that not only violates civil liberties, wages a war against unions, school teachers, women, youth and social activists, but has inhabited a sphere of militarism that increasingly resembles a form of domestic terrorism….. The new authoritarianism represents a mix of a widespread culture of fear, privatization and consumer fantasies, along with a systemic effort to dismantle the welfare state and increase the power of the corporate and financial elite. …. the coupling of a market-induced form of depoliticization with a deep-rooted cynicism….. Without hope, even in the most dire of times, there is no possibility for resistance, dissent and struggle.” read

Epigenetics? Should Dawkins have argued that “memes” can affects gene? “Epigenetics is a field of science that studies how external forces and stressors, including things like poverty, hunger and violence can cause the human body to change the way certain genes are expressed, which control the way our body reacts to things.” read

August 5, 2014

Stephen Asma sees the new atheists as somewhat intellectually focused and thus dated. He reviews new books by Peter Watson, Terry Eagleton, and Roger Scruton who view religions with more depth. “But in focusing on seductive macrosocial and lofty theological impulses, the new books slight the essential day-to-day comforts that keep religion, or at least its spiritual secular offshoots, relevant.”read

Margot Adler, key figure in neopaganism, obituary. read

David Breeden’s article on declining church attendance in Patheos. read

Richard Dawkins interviewed at Oxford Union by Mehdi Hasan on whether religions are forces for good or evil (47 min). watch

riverdaughter writes about religious narcissism. read

July 28, 2014

Timothy Egan on the violence that can be endorsed by religions. ” The problem is that people of faith often become fanatics of faith. Reason and force are useless against aspiring martyrs…. But this year, the ancient struggle of My God versus Your God is at the root of dozens of atrocities, giving pause to the optimists among us (myself included) who believe that while the arc of enlightenment is long, it still bends toward the better.” read

SBNR? Timothy Snyder describes Nancy Ammerman’s research on how these terms get defined by those who use them. read

Hollis Phelps on biblical literalism. “It’s this lack of curiosity that makes biblical literalism so damaging, scientifically, socially, and politically speaking, for once we have all the answers there’s really no need to explore, discover, or create.” read

T. M. Luhrmann on drawing “boggle lines.” She (correctly) sees the inevitable meaning of the faith-word: “FAITH asks people to consider that the evidence of their senses is wrong.” And “For better and for worse, it is pretty basic to humans to understand themselves as different from other humans because of what they do and what they hold dear.” Her “hold dear” seems a good phrase to umbrella emotions, beliefs, and value.” (My long-used phrase for this has been “choose and cherish”). read

July 20, 2014

John Brockman’s new book, Universe, should be must reading for humanists, along with his unique set of programs. “Edge, at its core, consists of the scientists, artists, philosophers, technologists, and entrepreneurs at the center of today’s intellectual, technological, and scientific landscape. Through its lectures, master classes, and annual dinners in California, London, Paris, and New York, Edge gathers together the “third-culture” scientific intellectuals and technology pioneers exploring the themes of the post-industrial age. These are the people who are rewriting our global culture.
And its website,, is a conversation. The online salon is a living document of millions of words that charts the conversation over the past eighteen years. It is available, gratis, to the general public.” read

George Marsden’s new book, “The Twilight of the American Enlightenment., The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief,” is critically reviewed by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins. Marsden correctly describes “the twilight of the American Enlightenment,” by which he means the cultural and intellectual assumptions of the Founding Fathers: human freedom, equality of rights, rationality, the scientific method and male leadership.” Marsden sees this as once quite accommodated to the mainline Protestant dominance. But the Catholicism, the Religious Right, and a failure to become more pluralistic

Heidi Ledford on how we dislike being alone with our thoughts. read

.A. C. Grayling reviews Barbara Ehrenreich. “…it is a disappointment when a rational person’s thinking about the unusual, the unexpected, the extraordinary, the amazing experiences of transcendence and unity that many of us have at heightened moments of life, suffers a declension into quasi-religious or supernaturalistic vagueness. The human brain is complicated enough to produce all these experiences from its own resources; we need no fairies in the garden to explain how roses bloom.” read

Walter Isaacson’s Jefferson Lecture on humanities and science (1h, 16 min). watch

Christopher Bray on the “catfight” between Isaiah Berlin and Isaac Deutscher. read

Michael Robbins reviews Nick Spencer’s “Atheists: The Origin of the Species,” a history critical of the “new atheists.” “The point is not that a coherent morality requires theism, but that the moral language taken for granted by liberal modernity is a fragmented ruin: It rejects metaphysics but exists only because of prior metaphysical commitments. A coherent atheism would understand this, because it would be aware of its own history.” read

Astra Taylor’s contention that technology is destroying culture is critiqued by Tim Wu. read

July 8, 2014

Peter Morales on different roles of science and religion. “The scientific truths of life are amazing, beautiful, and awesome. But only we can decide how to react to them, how to apply those wondrous insights to our own lives.” read

Onora O’Neill’s new book on Kant’s ethics, reviewed by Michael Rosen. read

Massimo Pigliucci describes himself as a skeptic and then discusses the development of skepticism in the history of philosophy. read

Boston philosopher Matthew Stewart sees the founding religion of the US as deism, and describes its roots in Epicurus, Lucretius, and Spinoza. These are the roots of humanism as well. Wendy Smith’s review: read

Sarah Jones’ movement away from fundamentalism is described by Mark Oppenheimer. read

Danielle Allen’s book on the Declaration of Independence should be read and discussed by humanists. read

Alex Beam’s new book on Mormon beginnings reviewed by Benjamin Mosier. “After all, it may be easy to make fun of Mormon theology, but it is surely no more absurd to believe that the resurrected Christ visited America in A.D. 34 than it is to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea, or that Muhammad ascended to heaven on a winged horse, or that Jesus was born of a virgin. To see Mormonism in this broader context is to be constantly confronted with questions of belief, of how much nonsense humans will suffer for the sake of making sense of their lives.” read

Good marketing? Bishop Gene Robinson sees “fear” at the center of a megachurch’s message. read

New study shows most people are uncomfortable being alone with their own thoughts (a preface to any kind of meditation?) read

Terry Eagleton’s “Culture and the Death of God” reviewed by Michael Fitzpatrick. ” Eagleton traces the enduring drive to use culture to fill the gap between the elite and the masses resulting from the demise of common religious convictions back to Edmund Burke and the conservative response to the French Revolution.” read

June 14, 2014

Roy Speckhardt urges humanists not to fight over labels. “any search for purity of name for members of the nonreligious movement is a losing battle that could unnecessarily constrain the movement in the long term and prevent people who don’t believe in a god, even if they still ascribe to religious traditions, from joining.” read

Alyssa Giacobbe’s story (Boston Magazine) of attempts to re-brand Unitarian Universalism is instructive. What puzzles is the almost complete brushing aside of the history of that movement or of any recognition of humanism and its significant — and continuing — role in that history. read

Conservatives remain the largest self-identified bloc of Americans. read

Karl Marx’s analysis of religion, by Austin Cline. read

Austin Cline contends that strong atheism does not necessarily imply “certainty.” read

Steve Jobs was interviewed by Robert Cringely in 1996, and the interview was recently found. His views on wealth, creativity, and the humanities make this worth watching. Parts are on YouTube and also rentable. watch

Tara Haelle on the science denial in both political parties is stronger in GOP but there also in Democrats. read

The Humanist Society has suggestions for secular invocations at public events. read

Sam Harris has held a moral essay contest, and Ryan Born is the winner. Here begins their interaction. read

John Green’s career viewed by Margaret Talbot. read

David Breeden argues that churches and temples get built to facilitate human communities, and the existence of any “gods” is secondary. read

Stephen Greenblatt on Shakespeare’s debt to Montaigne. read

Christopher Ketcham notes, in New Republic, a number of plagiarisms in Chris Hedges’ writings. read

Gary Gutting surveys the long tensions of analytic and Continental philosophy. “The continental-analytic gap will begin to be bridged only when seminal thinkers of the Continent begin to write more clearly.” read

June 2, 2014

Humanists will want to sign up and stay in touch with the new Global Secular Council. read

An atheist less likely to get presidential votes, according to latest Pew survey. But current rejection percentage lowers slightly. read

Jeff Sharlet interviews Barbara Ehrenreich on her new book. read

Noam Chomsky’s unique role as a public intellectual is well-.summarized by Henry Giroux. Chomsky has “addressed how the new reign of neoliberal capital is normalized not only through military and economic relations but also through the production of new forms of subjectivity organized around the enslavement of debt, the security-surveillance state, the corporatization of higher education, the rise of finance capital, and the powerful corporate-controlled cultural apparatuses that give new power and force to the simultaneously educative and repressive nature of politics.” read

Steve Williams discusses 10 things he has learned since coming out as an atheist. read

Walter Isaacson, Jefferson Lecture “The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences” (1hr 16 min). watch

Margaret Fuller. Kim Phillips-Fein reviews John Matteson’s new biography, reminding humanists of our adopted forebears. read

Paul Braterman reviews Michael Brosnin, “The Bible Code.” read

Alain de Botton and his critics, dexcribed by Sam Knight. read

May 20, 2014

Irony? Mindfulness (presumably minus the Buddhist nonviolence) is being taught to US Marines to reduce their tensions, according to Tom Jacobs. read

Philip Kitcher interviewed by Gary Gutting on his new book “Life After Faith: the Case for Secular Humanism. Kitcher described himself as a humanist first and an atheist second. He finds examples of “refined religions” that focus on values rather than beliefs. “The supposed ‘transcendent’ toward which the world’s religions gesture is both a distraction and a detour.” read

Dorothy Day? A rare person that humanists should know about. Eric Anglada’s article helps. read

Thoreau and Emerson – doer and thinker in regard to slavery. David Breeden brings that tension up to date. read

Foundation Beyond Belief also raises funds for religious groups that have shared values – and don’t proselytize. read

Secular Leaders online. Many online courses offered by this new organization. read

James Croft weighs his own balance of criticizing aspects of a religion (such as Islam) and not recognizing the possible effects on US Muslims in their minority status here.. read

May 10, 2014

R. Joseph Hoffmann on the ways that Western modernism is unique – and viewed ambivalently in other cultures. read

Unitarian Universalists have new project on class and classism. read

David Breeden analyzes the Cheasters (those who only go to church on Christmas and Easter). “The people, not the priests, make the gods. Religions are the oldest open source software.” read

Nick Spencer’s Atheists – The Origin of the Species is reviewed by Julian Baggini, who agrees with many claims of the believer-author. “In the long run, however, the church is being slowly undermined by the critical powers of inquiry it helped unleash.” But Baggini concludes: “History can enrich our understanding of the debate, but it cannot settle it.” read

The Book of Miracles, a recently-rediscovered 16th-century writing, reviewed by Marina Warner. “The recurrence of miracles in the Bible meant that the Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century could not reject such wonders as superstitions in the way they scorned Catholic beliefs.” read

Austin Cline evaluates Christopher Partridge, New Religions. read

US is 16th in Social Progress. read

WSJ praises SCOTUS approval of legislative prayer. read

Antonia Blumberg on SCOTUS prayer decision . read

NY Times Editorial Board sees Greece religious ruling as “lamentable.” read

The Funny or Die site produced a 3-minute parody of evangelical attacks on the Cosmos series. watch

Current issue of New Scientist explores illusion of “the self.” read

Brookings Institute sees progressivism as the religious future. read

Steven Pinker interviewed by Colleen Walsh on cognitive development. read

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