Editorial: Skepticism and Seeking

Pagan Perspectives

An intimate pointed out to me recently that when it comes to literature, I have a distinct preference for a specific sort of narrative: that of an unbeliever coming face to face with the possibility of a religious awakening, and then, after staring long into that profundity, choosing to turn away from it. I protested this idea at first, but after she pointed out the kinds of writing I point to as my personal models for writing about religion, I had to concede that she had a point. For example, take Next Year in Jersualem, one of my favorite essays, published in Rolling Stone in 1977. Ellen Willis writes about her powerful attraction to orthodox Judaism after seeing her brother embrace it; she goes so far as to move to Israel and take up studies under a Hasidic rabbi. Willis finds, however, that as much as the religion appeals to her, and more than that, makes sense to her, she cannot reconcile it with the feminism that is the foundation of her ethics.

Column: the Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

23.439281 degrees – that’s the reason for the season. Or rather, it is because of it that we started to promote symbolic and ultimately religious meaning to the path of the sun across the sky. It is an astronomical event co-opted by just about every religion that emerged north of the 23rd parallel, if not worldwide. The returning of the sun was marked in Rome as Sol Invictus with the co-occurring festivals of Brumalia and Saturnalia. The Christians would later fold those holidays together to mark the Nativity as the birth of light in the world.

Richard Dawkins Meets Glycon

Every year, a fundraising conference called TAM (The Amazing Meeting) is held for the James Randi Educational Foundation (home of the famous one million dollar challenge), an organization founded by James “The Amazing” Randi, a former stage magician who has dedicated his life to debunking paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims. As one might expect, these conferences draw famous skeptics, free-thinkers, and atheists to give talks, and this year is no different. Headliners this year include Richard “The God Delusion” Dawkins, PZ Meyers, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Fry, and Alan Moore. Wait a minute …  Alan Moore?!? “Richard Dawkins is of course author of The Selfish Gene, a volume that popularised the reinterpretation of Darwinian thinking to explain altruism.