Of all the ideas Janna Levin presents, the most provocative and disturbing, perhaps, is her doubt that there is free will in human existence at all. She cannot be sure that we are not utterly determined by brilliant principles of physics and biology. Yet she cleaves more fiercely in the face of this belief to the reality of her love of her children and her hopes and dreams for them.
In a recent Pew poll, 16 percent of Americans identified themselves as "unaffiliated" — atheist, agnostic, or most prominently "nothing in particular." Greg Epstein, a Humanist chaplain at Harvard, described himself that way until he discovered the tradition of humanism. He is passionate about articulating an atheist identity that is not driven by a stance against religion but by positive ethical beliefs and actions.
In 1965, a young Harvard professor became the best-selling voice of secularism in America with his book The Secular City. He sees the old thinking in the "new atheism" of figures like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. The either/or debates between religion and atheism, he says, obscure the truly interesting interplay between faith and other forms of knowledge that is unfolding today.
Poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht says that as a scholar she always noticed the "shadow history" of doubt out of the corner of her eye. She shows how non-belief, skepticism, and doubt have paralleled and at times shaped the world's great religious and secular belief systems. She suggests that only in modern time has doubt been narrowly equated with a complete rejection of faith, or a broader sense of mystery.
The Senior Religion Editor for the Huffington Post reflects on the death of author and journalist Christopher Hitchens.
Martin Marty highlights "one of the best short criticisms yet of the old/new or new/old atheism" by Jackson Lears, "whose critics describe him as a 'man of the left' in a 'magazine of the left.'"