Here I provide
a brief explanation of the guiding principle that underlies these
pieces: namely, that what we experience is this world, and there is no
Religion and Language |
Religion and language, I suggest, are closely bound up with each other
and are probably acquired in similar ways. This suggests that religious
belief may be all but impossible to eliminate in human societies.
The Origin of Religion|
Religion is often treated by rationalists as primarily a matter of
belief, and there is much argument about how such strange notions could
originate or be widely accepted. However, I think religion is better
regarded as originating from narrative, with belief being a secondary
The Casaubon Delusion|
I use the term "Casaubon delusion" to refer to the misguided search for
"totality answers". But these, I argue are unobtainable.
Most apparently miraculous cures are of cancer but spontaneous recovery
from cancer does occur outside a religious context.
Avoiding the Casaubon Delusion|
Still on the Casaubon delusion theme, I consider what we can do to avoid
falling into the trap of totality beliefs.
Julian Jaynes Revisited|
Julian Jaynes put forward a remarkable theory of the origins of human
consciousness. His contentious ideas seem to be experiencing a belated
Living with Uncertainty|
Here I continue the theme of the Casaubon delusion and consider what it
is in most of us that makes us crave certainty in an uncertain world.
Consciousness and Evolution|
There is a widespread notion that the universe is "intended" to produce
consciousness, intelligent life. But is it?
The Survival Question
Most skeptics dismiss postmortem survival out of hand. Not all, however,
and here I look at the issue from a secular standpoint.
Buddhism for Humanists
Buddhism appeals to some Western intellectuals who are otherwise
indifferent or even hostile to religion. Here I consider what Buddhism
has to offer from a humanist standpoint.
The Fine Art of Skepticism|
Self-styled skeptics don't always avoid falling into the trap of
dogmatism. Skepticism can become another form of belief system.
Do We Live in A
This is an intriguing suggestion but could we know that it is the case?
It seems possible that the creators of the simulation might have planted
clues to let us suspect the real state of affairs.
Reflections on the F word
It is often stated or assumed that faith is a good thing in itself,
although materialists and atheists dispute this. But is faith something
one can actually avoid, or is it inevitable even for materialists?
Thomas Nagel and the Fear of Religion|
Thomas Nagel thinks that there is a deep-seated fear of religion among
many secularists and that this prompts much modern scientism and
excessive enthusiasm for evolutionary paychology.
Thomas Nagel and the Religious Temperament
Thomas Nagel has written a sequel to his essay on the
fear of religion, in which he suggests that it is possible to make the
case for a form of secular teleology. This is a profound and
Religion as Parasite, Parasite as
This essay won joint third prize in a recent competion in The
Quotations for Sceptics
Some favourite sceptical quotations collected over the years.