As an atheist, I'm often asked if I believe in Satan because "I have to believe in something." I point out that I don't believe in the existence of any supernatural forces, including Yahweh, Satan, angels or devils. But I can make theological and strategic cases for embracing the mythical Satan.
Before we get to the snakes, what do we mean by religious freedom? I think it means that individuals can practice, promote, and proselytize for their religion, but that government cannot favor one religion over another, or religion over non-religion.
Several years ago, the math department at the College of Charleston, where I was a professor, hired a new administrative specialist in January. On February 2, Groundhog Day, I excitedly told her that Punxsutawney Phil had seen his shadow, which meant six more weeks of winter. When she laughed, I feigned surprise and said, "It's not nice to make fun of someone's religious beliefs.
In debates or discussions about the existence of God, I'm often asked, "What if you're wrong and there really is a God?" These questioners, who assume that God belief is of ultimate importance, are perhaps unknowingly applying Blaise Pascal's 17th-century attempt to defend Christian belief with logic.
The atheist community is deeply divided about religious fundamentalism and creationism, but not about whether such preposterous claims have any validity. They disagree on whether scientists should debate fundamentalists about the "science" of the Bible. I think both sides have reasonable arguments in the debate on whether to debate.
On Tuesday, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address. Recently, the Secular Coalition has been working more closely with the White House, including giving in-person input to encourage the recognition of nonbelievers and an accurate portrayal of religious liberty in the president's speech.
For years I’ve been advocating for “big-tent” atheism, which includes agnostics, humanists, secular humanists, freethinkers, and more. It’s a tent where people can choose activities according to their circumstances and comfort levels, a tent where they can follow their passion while respecting and supporting those with a different emphasis.