Jesus has been described as the best known figure in history, and also the least known. If you mentioned the name “Jesus” and someone asked Jesus who?, you might blink. Or laugh. Even people who don’t think Jesus was God, mostly believe they know a fair bit about him. You might be surprised that some of your most basic assumptions about Jesus are probably wrong.
Why aren’t Muslim and Christian extremists extremely peaceful? The answer lies in the Iron Age setting of the Bible and Quran—when literate cultures replaced the Golden Calf with the Sacred Text. Diplomats, religious leaders, and peacemakers of many stripes keep insisting that ISIS isn’t about Islam. They point to a host of other factors including colonialism, injustice, lack of economic opportunity, and hopelessness. They’re not altogether wrong, but they are missing the tyrannosaurus rex in the room.
Opposition to IUD’s, like opposition to vaccines, is putting American families at risk—and a Colorado controversy shows that misguided faith and scientific ignorance are to blame. When a pilot program in Colorado offered teens state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives—IUD’s and implants—teen births plummeted by 40%, along with a drop in abortions. The program saved the state 42.5 million dollars in a single year, over five times what it cost. But rather than extending or expanding the program, some Colorado Republicans are trying to kill it—even if this stacks the odds against Colorado families.
Taken as a package, the Bible sends mixed messages about slavery, which is why Christian leaders used the Good Book on both sides—including in the lead up to the American civil war. Should a person be able to own another person? Today Christians uniformly say no, and many would like to believe that has always been the case. But history tells a different story, one in which Christians have struggled to give a clear answer when confronted with questions about human trafficking and human rights.
Tweeting, like driving, creates perils that become more dangerous as we age, and the more stature or visibility people attain, the more they have to lose. In history books, Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins will be known for his contributions to science. But you’d never know that based on the last two years of his media coverage, which have centered on a series of controversial tweets, mostly about women and Islam. The tweets, and Dawkins’ attempts to defend them have provoked fierce debate between atheists about whether his visibility as an advocate for secularism has become a liability to the cause.
Maybe descriptions of Hell are so horrific to keep people from thinking about how hellish popular versions of the Christian Heaven would be—even without Pat Robertson in the mix. Most Westerners are at least vaguely familiar with the popular Christian version of Heaven: pearly gates, streets of gold, winged angels and the Righteous, with their bodies made perfect and immortal, singing the praises of God forever. What’s surprising is how few people have actually thought about what a nightmare this kind of existence would be.
In the fall of 2014, a young dying woman, Brittany Maynard, captured the hearts of millions around the world. Now her husband and mother have teamed up with a national advocacy group, Compassion & Choices to honor her final wish—that aid in dying be available to terminally ill Americans in every state.
Some of humanity’s technological innovations are things we would have been better off without: the medieval rack, the atomic bomb and powdered lead potions come to mind. Religions tend to invent ideas or concepts rather than technologies, but like every other creative human enterprise, they produce some really bad ones along with the good.
Religion is just one part of the lethal cocktail, but it is a powerful intoxicant. The year 2015 has opened to slaughter in the name of gods. In Paris, two Islamist brothers executed Charlie Hebdo cartoonists “in defense of the Prophet,” while an associate killed shoppers in a kosher grocery. In Nigeria, Islamist members of Boko Haram massacred a town to cries of Allahu Akbar—Allah is the greatest! Simultaneously, the United Nations released a report detailing the “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims in the Central African Republic by Christian militias, sometimes reciting Bible verses.
A woman who values fertilized eggs or who believes her deity does should use the most highly effective contraceptive available. Most fertilized eggs spontaneously abort during the first weeks of life. Estimates of death before implantation range as high as 80 percent and bottom out around 45.
When conservative Christians claim that the Bible God condones torture, they’re not making it up. A close look at the good book reveals why so many Christians past and present have adopted an Iron Age attitude toward brutality. The first half of December 2014 was painful to many moderate American Christians who see their God as a God of love: A Senate inquiry revealed that the CIA tortured men, some innocent, to the point of unconsciousness and even death; evidence suggested that this torture extracted no lifesaving information.
When you have to make hard medical decisions, who do you want in the room? Religious belief is on the decline in the U.S., and medical knowledge is on the increase. This makes it particularly ironic that so much of our health care system is accountable at the highest levels not to science or patient preference but to the dictators of faith and of theology. Metaphorically, more and more medical decisions get made with the Catholic Bishops in the room, regardless of whether the patient wants them there. Not only that, but the Bishops have a religious veto that can trump both doctor and patient.
Stories like the Virgin Birth lack freely given female consent. Why don’t they bother us more? Powerful gods and demi-gods impregnating human women—it’s a common theme in the history of religion, and it’s more than a little rapey.
We women hear a lot about side effects of birth control, but we don’t hear as much about the side benefits. If you haven’t had a conversation with your doctor lately about family planning, you may be in for some surprises, like the fact that lighter, less frequent periods may be healthier for you.
The birth story of baby Jesus celebrates the promise of new life, but for girls it also sends a harmful message. How can we acknowledge this without spoiling the rest?Most Americans, even many who are not very religious, look forward to Christmas as a time to celebrate warmth, friendship, generosity and good cheer. Familiar festivities weave together stories and traditions from many cultures, which makes it easy to find something for everyone. But maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the Christmas story itself.
Many women know more about the risks of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their lives. For busy women, making good health decisions and actually taking care of ourselves can be a challenge, especially when practical factors such as complicated schedules, finances, and competing demands are taken into consideration. Well-balanced, well-presented information can empower women to make smart decisions about reproductive health care. Unfortunately, thanks in part to how the American legal system works, many women know more about the risks and side effects of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their health and well-being.
Most British people think religion causes more harm than good according to a survey commissioned by the Huffington Post. Surprisingly, even among those who describe themselves as “very religious” 20 percent say that religion is harmful to society. For that we can probably thank the internet, which broadcasts everything from Isis beheadings, to stories about Catholic hospitals denying care to miscarrying women, to lists of wild and weird religious beliefs, to articles about psychological harms from Bible-believing Christianity.
Seventh Generation founder and daughter launch female-friendly, fair-trade, eco-friendly condom company When Meika Hollender’s dad, superstar green entrepreneur Jeffrey Hollender, first brought up the idea of founding a condom company together, Meika wasn’t quite sure what to think.
On the last Sunday in September, fifty or so people tricked into an old classroom in North Seattle. Classic rock played in the background, and greeters pointed parents to a table at the back where young children could entertain themselves with art materials. They were there for the launch of Sunday Assembly Seattle, an experimental church community without gods, sacred texts or dogmas.
“I am 30 years old and I am struggling to find sanity. Between the Christian schools, homeschooling, the Christian group home (indoctrinating work camp) and different churches in different cities, I am a psychological, emotional and spiritual mess.” –A former Evangelical. If a former believer says that Christianity made her depressed, obsessive, or post-traumatic, she is likely to be dismissed as an exaggerator. She might describe panic attacks about the rapture; moods that swung from ecstasy about God’s overwhelming love to suicidal self-loathing about repeated sins; or an obsession with sexual purity.
Given that 82 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended, it should come as no surprise that sexual health advocates are eager to make information and services even easier to access and more appealing to emerging adults. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, which serves Western Washington, Alaska, and Southern Idaho, recently rolled out a telemedicine pilot project that may help to do just that.
Red State conservatives may insist that the rest of us should keep aspirin between our knees and be forced to bear Divine Justice Babies when we don’t. They may refuse to provide cake or flowers for gay weddings, or even to attend. They may pretend that teens won’t do it if we just don’t tell them how.
Every year more than 750,000 American teens become pregnant, and over 80 percent of these pregnancies are unplanned. That may be about to change. If teens take to the latest wave of birth control technologies the way they’ve taken to cell phones, unplanned pregnancy could go the way of landlines and stretchy handset cords.
In a powerful article at the Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel lined up facts and figures showing that much of the recent gain in human lifespan is about stretching out the process of decline and death rather than living well for longer. Most of us would love to live to 100 and beyond with our minds sharp and our senses clear, able to take pleasure in the world around us while contributing at least modestly to the happiness and wellbeing of others. But clear-eyed analysis shows that is not how most elderly Americans experience their final years.
Three years ago, my sister, who had long struggled with mental illness, hit her limit and jumped off a freeway bridge. She lived. She was rushed to the county trauma center, and by the time I arrived from Seattle she was hooked up to an array of life support technologies and monitors.
Several years ago, Bill Gates keynoted a breakfast for Seattle-based Climate Solutions, a nonprofit focused on advancing the clean energy economy and driving practical, profitable solutions to climate change. Gates opened his speech with an equation. To paraphrase: Our carbon problem = persons x services x the energy intensity of services x the carbon intensity of energy. The number of people is growing, Gates observed, and we all want more services.
Public health officials, educators, and parents of teens have reason to party! According to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, American teen pregnancy rates are lower currently than they were back in 1975 when top 40 dance music included “Kung Fu Fighting” and “The Hustle.”