Some stuff I haven't posted due to being busy with Knife of Dreams...
Via an article at Magic Statistics, an examination of the modern atheist movement. It's a good read. The problem with atheism is that it has allowed itself to become a religion, rather than a simple negation of religion. It's got dogma (all religions are bad, evil, nonsensical, useless). It dismisses out of hand any claims that do not agree with its worldview (even the possibility of spirits, UFOs, magic) rather than investigating in a true spirit of scientific inquiry (note that most believers in these things have their own dogma and reject out of hand any attempt to discredit them). I have no problem with the statement "All supposed photographs of UFOs have turned out to be fakes, thus there is no photographic evidence of UFOs." That's fine and scientific. It's carried too far when "Therefore, there are no UFOs" is tacked onto it. That is speculation.
That said, the current Carnival of the Godless has some interesting and thought-provoking entries.
One that I particularly liked is plane proselytizer. I had thought my perspective on heaven/hell was somewhat unique, but apparently I'm not the only one to say, "“I’d much rather go to hell and help people than go to heaven…” Of course, that is practically the Mahayana Buddhist path: not to be dissolved into Nirvana until all beings can do so. But I've never heard a non-Buddhist westerner express the idea (besides me). But think about it. If Christianity is truly the religion of compassion, how could any Christian choose to go to heaven knowing that there will be people suffering in hell? How could any Christian be happy in heaven, knowing that there are people trapped in hell? A Christian who believes they deserve to suffer clearly does not deserve to be in heaven. Of course, all this assumes that (1) there is an afterlife and (2) Christians have correctly determined its structure. Of (1) I have no doubt. As for (2)... *shrugs* Oh, and here's a rather vociferous atheist analysis of the afterlife. He's a bit virulent, but there are some interesting thoughts in there.
Some critical thoughts on religion:
It isn't that religion causes all wars (though it contributes to many). It is that religion makes the very character flaw (fundamental irrationality) that is the source of much war and misery even worse than it normally would.
I would argue that religion does not have to be irrational. However, it does seem to bring out the irrational side of even the most rational of people. In some religious discussions with an otherwise rational person, I have provoked entirely irrational reactions by making observations about others who follow the same religion that this person does. It is...unpleasant. A stronger observation equates fundamentalism with mob mentality. If all fundamentalists could agree on what to be fundamental over, this would be more worrisome. But some groups actively hate each other. On the lighter side, here's a cartoon version.
However, I feel I should close with a more positive view of religion, from Albert Einstein:
Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts.
Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
The complete essay is not very long, and well worth reading. I've heard Einstein's religion described as "pantheism," but I have no clue what exactly that means. When I'm not feeling lazy, I'll look it up.