bookmark_borderAll New Comments Are Temporarily Being Held

After the migration to Patheos, I learned that it may, in fact, be possible to migrate our old Discus comments over to Patheos from the old site. In order to avoid a lot of problems caused by publishing comments on the new site using the Patheos system and then switching back to Discus, all new comments are being held up in moderation while we wait to get the Discus comments migrated. If the Discus migration works, we will notify each comment author individually asking them to repost their comments through Discus. If the Discus migration does not work, we will “approve” each of the pending comments through the Patheos commenting system.
Thanks for your patience. I apologize for the delay!

bookmark_borderRead Secular Outpost at Patheos

This is our last post on Blogger–at least for the foreseeable future. All new Secular Outpost posts for the foreseeable future will be featured exclusively at Patheos. After this weekend, all older posts will redirect automatically to the new site at Patheos. Once the archive of the blog is moved to Patheos, I will be shutting off the ability to comment here at the Blogger version of the blog because those comments would be lost to posterity anyway when the redirects kick in. will direct to the new site once the migration is complete.

comments made using Discus will, unfortunately, not migrate to the new
site. Past comments made using the old Blogger commenting system–what
we used before switching to Discus–will migrate over to Patheos.
I want to quote something written by Daniel Fincke when he announced that he was moving his blog to Patheos.

Now, I know that some atheist readers are not happy with the idea of atheist bloggers joining up with Patheos.
The majority of the ideas expressed on the total site are religious and
theistic in nature. I am not going to like a lot of what the bloggers
from the religious channels on the site say any more than many of you

But we adamant atheists have a seat at the table for discussion of religion at Patheos.
Actually, better than that–we have our own table, and it’s growing in
size and hopefully will grow in influence. I will continue to do my
damnedest to counter faith, authoritarianism, irrationalism,
superstition, dogmatism, fundamentalism, regressiveness, and all the
other vices of the major existing religions and theistic philosophies.
And the exciting part is that now all of this work will be somewhere
where it’s a harder for religious people to ignore it.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

I’m looking forward to blogging in the Atheist Channel with Daniel Fincke (Camels with Hammers), Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist), Chris Hallquist (Uncredible Hallq), Adam Lee (Daylight Atheism), Bob Seidensticker (Cross Examined), plus everyone else there.

bookmark_borderRyan Stringer on Nonbelief and Hope

Here is the abstract for Stringer’s new paper published on The Secular Web:

Many people hold on to supernatural beliefs because they feel that certain psychological needs could not be met without them–in particular, they feel that they would not be able to have any hope without such beliefs. However, nonbelief need not be the “recipe for despair” that it is often assumed to be; in fact, not only can it leave ample room for hope, but it can help people hope in a realistic, psychologically healthy way when it comes to important things in life. Because nonbelievers can hope for most of the things that people generally hope for, dispelling the myth that nonbelief is a recipe for despair can go a long way toward making nonbelief psychologically acceptable to those who might otherwise resist it.


bookmark_borderIn Conversation with Richard Dawkins

Location: Sheldonian Theatre
Friday, February 15th, 7:30

Professor Dawkins and philosopher Stephen Law
discuss the major issues of import to humanists and atheists at a time
when opposition to rationalist thought appears to be on the rise.

Other Oxford THINK week events here. Tickets on sale though the above sold out. I am also chairing the Wednesday 13th event “Do you fear death, or dying?” 7pm.

bookmark_borderIf There Is No God, Then Why Do So Many People Believe in God?

A reader recently asked me this question.

I was raised Catholic and even as a child I just couldn’t believe that if there was a God who created the universe and, by extension, us, that He wouldn’t expect us to use our brain to reason and learn was was real and unreal.  My major concern, I guess, is that so very many educated, intelligent, and respected people claim to believe.  Why do they believe when I don’t?? What am I missing?  Or perhaps, what are they missing?  I’m reasonable intelligent but I just cannot reach the same conclusions as believers seem to reach.

I think this is a great question. Atheists throughout history have tried to explain religious belief by appealing to wish fulfillment, the influence of family and culture, the (alleged) irrationality or ignorance of theists, and so forth.

In my opinion, the best explanation comes from the cognitive science of religion: humans evolved a Hypersensitive Agency Detection Device (HADD). Most humans seem to be hard-wired to believe that agents explain various facts; this tendency seems to include all sorts of invisible agents, including God, gods, ghosts, and so forth. The advance of science has systematically reduced the need to invoke invisible agents, by providing naturalistic explanations for things previously explained by invisible agents.

ETA: Fixed a typo in an earlier version that referred to a “Hyperactive,” as opposed to a “Hypersensitive,” Agency Detection Device.