My Interview With Blind, Openly Atheist Congressional Candidate James Woods from Arizona

James Woods is running for a seat in the United States Congress. He is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District. He is blind and an open atheist. Below is the complete transcript of my interview with him on April 27, 2014 with only very minor edits. The transcript was done by Josiah Mannion.

Daniel Fincke: So, I’m gonna jump right to it. I’m a philosopher by trade, and my blog takes a philosophical approach to atheism issues and secularism issues. And so I’d like to ask you some of your views on how you approach secularism as a philosophy, and how you would view governance in a way that’s representative of atheists and fair to religious people.

James Woods: I really like your take on it. I like your idea of setting up laws that are agnostic towards all groups. So people would be in favor of the law if they didn’t know where they were going to fall in, as their lot in life in society. I like that idea a lot. (I’ve been reading your blog the last few days since they told me that I was going to be speaking to you.) I think that is an excellent moral guide on writing laws, making it so that you don’t privilege one group over others. And I also like the fact that you are okay with inequality if it’s righting an injustice, like for example Affirmative Action, or something like that. Otherwise a marginalized group, like the disabled or what have you, sometimes there needs to be a counterbalance, so that they aren’t marginalized by the majority in the society.

Daniel Fincke: Do you think there are any ways in which the atheists have a specific set of interests, and where you would favor… where they should be favored as a correction against religious encroachment upon them?

James Woods: Well, in an ideal world, that wouldn’t be necessary. However, I don’t think we live in that world. There is definitely… It’s not so much that we’re put upon, other than just a perception bias, for whatever reason … because we don’t believe, we’re [perceived to be] immoral or we “don’t believe in anything”. But there’s definitely a bias [giving] a certain favoritism or credence towards especially Christians in this country. They’re given the benefit of the doubt, and we aren’t. I think that’s the biggest problem we face as open nonbelievers.

Daniel Fincke: What do you think that might mean in tangible policy terms? A a lot of people who would say, “I don’t want to know that there’s an atheist candidate; religion shouldn’t matter at all, and so a candidate’s atheism shouldn’t matter at all. What kind of policy difference would that make? Why should I care about that? All I want is a fair legislator.” So why would you run as an atheist, and what kind of policies might that mean in any tangible terms?

James Woods: I am running as an atheist, because I believe in honesty and disclosure; being open and honest about who you are and what you believe, I think, is vital to the democratic process. And it’s just an honesty thing with me. And I would agree with that person – it shouldn’t matter, a person’s faith or non-faith or what have you, as long as it doesn’t affect the way they legislate. However, as we know, especially in the more conservative religions, it absolutely does affect how they legislate, and they use that as a selling point to get elected, to people who believe as they do, people who want to deny science, minimize women’s role in society, reproductive rights issues, LGBT rights, what have you. And I am running as an open atheist as a push back against that.

Daniel Fincke: So you’re running as an open atheist to counter those who would try and specifically make their laws based on religious beliefs, as sort of a way of saying, “I guarantee I won’t base my laws on religious beliefs?” Is that it?

James Woods: That’s definitely part of it, yes. And just to raise the awareness that there are millions of people like us, and we are underrepresented. Being part of the conversation is really important to me.

Daniel Fincke: Okay, good. So the other thing people might say is that you can be a Secularist without being an Atheist, right? So, you can promote separation of church and state, and equal rights, without actually being an atheist, so why does it matter that you’re specifically an atheist, rather than just a secularist like a religious person might be.

James Woods: That’s absolutely true, and I have no problem with that. I have no problem with people who believe, I have no problem with lawmakers who believe, as long as they write laws in keeping with secular positions, as long as you have a rational position that can be justified through secular beliefs, I have no problem with that. Like, a religious person might say, “Well, my religion teaches that we should feed and clothe the poor, so we need to have social safety net programs.” Well, I’m all for that, I agree with that. Well, you can also make a rationalist, secular argument. “Well, helping the poor helps all of us, because… and it’s the right thing to do.” I don’t see a distinction as to where your ideals come from, I just think it’s important, for me personally, to be honest that I don’t believe. And I really do believe that having a truly secular government is important, and I think we’ve been moving further and further towards allowing religious privilege to enter the public realm.

Daniel Fincke: Yeah, one of the ways that I’ve tried to make this argument–‘cause there was the… Did you go to the Reason Rally?

James Woods: I didn’t get a chance to. I wish I could have.

Daniel Fincke: Okay, yeah. So when the Reason Really came out, there was… it was ostensibly a movement for, a rally for secularism in government, and yet it was clearly an atheistic rally. There were all atheist speakers, almost entirely. There was an atheist crowd, there was even religion bashing right there on the mall. And people asked, “Well, if you’re just about secularism, why do that, rather than have an ecumenically secular representation of believers with atheists?” And my response was that the reason we had to do that was because religious secularists have failed to do an adequate job of representing secularism, and we as atheists are the most impacted by the threat of a merge of religion and government. And so we have to organize as atheists for our representation. Not because we want religion out… you know, to be legislated against, but because we need… we need it to be known that not everyone is on board with religion and a government that… Like, we have to do that as atheists, to know that there are some people out here who feel offended when religion and government merge. Do you agree with that sort of an outlook?

James Woods: Yes, I would, because if you don’t believe… well, I’m sure you’re familiar… This culture is very… is steeped in religious imagery and religious thought. And that can make a nonbeliever uncomfortable. We need to come out and say, “Hey, that’s not okay.” Because if it’s just… there’s just an implicit bias toward religion in this country. And people need to know that there are millions of us, you know. That it’s not okay. We feel like we’re not being represented, and sometimes even discriminated against.

Daniel Fincke: Now, do you think there is such a thing as specifically religious rights? Or do you think that all of our rights just also apply to religious people? So, what I mean by that, for example, would be, there’s a first amendment right to free speech, and that covers religious language. But would there be religious protections of speech that might otherwise be curbed [but] because it’s religious, it would get a little extra [protection] than normal free speech? Or, with other rights, are there ways where we might curb normal people, you know, nonreligious people, or people in a secular context, yet we should give more latitude to the religious out of fear of overreach by the government if we don’t because of the first amendment? What would you say, are there specifically religious rights?

James Woods: Are there, or should there be? I think those are two different questions.

Daniel Fincke: Well, say, should there be first, and then say if you think there are some that shouldn’t be.

James Woods: Should there be? No. I don’t there should be. I think everyone should be treated equally under the law. However, there are. For example, in the Federal Healthcare Act, religious institutions don’t have to follow the contraception mandate. Or the tax exempt status of mega-churches. And there’s things like that. There are definitely religious privileges in the law.

Daniel Fincke: Okay. So, you don’t think… so you think that every right of freedom and expression that religious people have is… should just be considered under the same rubric of free speech we all have.

James Woods: It should be. I don’t think it is.

Daniel Fincke: Okay. Well, what do you think is it that makes religious liberty or freedom of expression a right in the first place, morally? What do you think makes it so that we have a right to religion, religious expression, or free expression, in general? What principle guides that, do you think?

James Woods: I am sort of a First Amendment absolutist. I think people should be able to say and express their opinions as they believe with minimal fetters as possible. Like, obviously, the classic example is you can’t yell fire in a movie theater. But that also is a two-way street. Like, if you’re saying outrageous things, everyone else also has the right to criticize you, and boycott you, if you’re a public figure, or whatever. I think it’s definitely a human need, to express opinions and to form groups, and all that. And communicating those ideals, I think is a very human thing. But I think that freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution.

Daniel Fincke: Do you think that there’s any religious speech which is the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded movie theater? Are there any kinds of religious speech, do you think, crosses a line, and shouldn’t be protected?

James Woods: Absolutely. There is… a lot of really intolerant language, especially about the LGBT community. And, not so much in this country, but in other countries, the second class status of women, are both, you know, on their face just disgusting in my opinion. And that shouldn’t deserve the right to be protected as, you know… you have the right to believe, but when you try and… and you can say it, but you can’t try and legislate that. That’s where I draw the line. You can say whatever you want, and you can wholeheartedly believe that, but if you’re preaching about honor killings, because your daughter had sex before wedlock, or that the LGBT community is destroying the country, or causing hurricanes and other nonsense, that needs to be looked at.

Daniel Fincke: So, “needs to be looked at” as in, would there be… like, I’ll give you a clear, kind of, controversial case. Like, what would happen if some of the legislation that’s coming up on state levels involving bullying laws, what if there were to be… what if Congress were to come out with the Anti-Bullying Act, and they were to say, In all public schools, you can’t bully LGBT people. And what if they wanted to put into that… what if the conservative were to suggest an amendment to that, as they’ve done on the state level, saying that people can still express their sincere moral or religious objections to LGBT people, or lifestyles, or beliefs, or etcetera, would you protect… would you say, No, that one child telling another child in a public school that he thinks the other child’s homosexuality is wrong because of the Bible, do you think that that would be speech that, as happening on school grounds in a government institution, should be considered bullying and not allowed? Or do you think that would be the kind of speech that, even if you find the viewpoint heinous, you would protect under the First Amendment?

James Woods: That would definitely be… I would consider that bullying. It would just be like them defending racism for the same thing. They might firmly believe that, you know, that people of other ethnicities are inferior. But if they say it, that’s racism, and it shouldn’t be protected. It’s the same thing. It’s bigotry.

Daniel Fincke: What if a florist doesn’t want to sell flowers for a gay wedding?

James Woods: Well, first of all, they’re not a very good capitalist. And second of all, they shouldn’t be in an industry that serves people if they’re going to have problems with, by all estimates, 10-15% of the population.

Daniel Fincke: Okay, good. What about…

James Woods: If …

Daniel Fincke: Yeah?

James Woods: I mean, if they’re dealing with people in public, they should expect everyone to have an equal opportunity to use their services. If I were in the LGBT community, and I was aware of a florist’s public opinions, I would definitely do my best to make sure everyone knew about it, and to make sure that everyone I knew, and everyone who cared about me, wouldn’t patronize their services.

Daniel Fincke: Would you make it illegal, though, for them to discriminate in that way?

James Woods: I think so. Again, it goes back to the bigotry argument. That’s why segregating lunch counters are illegal.

Daniel Fincke: What about if you had a scenario where there was a church that refused to perform the wedding ceremony of same-sex couples? Should that be illegal?

James Woods: That’s one of the religious privileges that we were discussing. I think… I am personally okay with that. If a religious institution doesn’t want to perform a same-sex wedding, that’s their right. However, that couple should be able to go across the street, or whatever, to another church that doesn’t have a problem with it. A religious service can… well, they can believe whatever they want. However, if the state is going to recognize the marriage, that’s what I have a concern with because being married does confer benefits, tax benefits, social benefits, you know, rights of inheritance, all that kind of thing. That is really what I’m concerned about. Having the state recognize a marriage. If it’s an individual church, that’s their… if they want to be on the wrong side of history, that’s their call.

Daniel Fincke: Right, do you think it’s a form of religious discrimination that gays are not allowed to marry right now, in many states?

James Woods: I think that is certainly an element to it. I think some of it is just a traditionalist point of view, and, you know, sometimes traditions are wrong. Fear of change. But yes, I do think, definitely, religious intolerance is a major influence on it.

Daniel Fincke: Right, ‘cause there are certain religious people whose religions would promote… or, you know, accept gay marriage, and right now they’re not able to have their weddings recognized by the state.

James Woods: Exactly.

Daniel Fincke: What would you say about, like, a proposal, hypothetical… probably never get there in our current state, but if someone were to say that you… that religions making healing claims was equivalent to any other pharmaceutical manufacturer, or any other kind of corporation in the country that was making unverified, un-falsifiable false medical claims. Would you want to include claims that a church can heal you in with other fraud claims that were also, you know, equally specious? Or do think that they’re… because saying prayer can heal you is a religious statement, it would deserve more protection than your average… you know, your average snake oil salesperson?

James Woods: I wish we lived in a society that that wouldn’t need to be addressed, but we don’t. Some people will even let their children die because they believe that it’s God’s will, that it’s in God’s hands now. That strikes me as cruel, especially when children are involved. I don’t know if forcing people to get medical care is the right choice for that, but I really… it really saddens me that that argument even has to be made. That, you know, scientifically proven, effective medical treatment… some people will just deny it. And… if you’re an adult of sound mind making that choice, that’s one thing. However, in the case of parents and their minor children, that one I have a real problem with.

Daniel Fincke: Okay, so you wouldn’t, though, say that the claim that prayer heals could be, you know, could be charged as fraud the way that other specious, unmedical claims of magical healing could.

James Woods: That’s an interesting point. I’ve never really thought about it, but I can see where you’re coming from, and it would be nice if the FDA could say, Okay, show us some sort of evidence backing that up. Like you said, that won’t happen in this country, at least, not anytime soon. If it were an option, I would vote for it, if that was proposed.

Daniel Fincke: Right, so hold everyone to exactly the same standard, then. So, do you think that if you have a megachurch where you have a multi-million dollar pastor who’s telling people, “Send me money, and you will be rewarded tenfold by God”, is that a pyramid scheme? Could you… if they were making financial claims like that, would you favor laws that didn’t allow them to make disprovable financial claims, the way… you know, any more than an investor could? Would you hold them to that same standard?

James Woods: It would be nice if that was an option. My personal favorite of those types is the guy who hits people with their sport jacket to cure them of things.

Daniel Fincke: Yeah.

James Woods: That’s my personal favorite.

Daniel Fincke: Is that Benny Hinn?

James Woods: Yeah, that’s the one. Yes. [both laugh] The sport coat of Christ compels you.

Daniel Fincke: Yes! Ok, great, so then the question, then, would be, is there a case where you think you would be a surprising champion for religious rights, where religious people could count on you to make sure that they are protected?

James Woods: I think the separation of church and state goes both ways. You want to keep government out of your church. And I’m okay with that, as long as your church stays out of our legislative process. Religious people should be able to petition their representatives to represent them in government, when it comes to proposing laws. And that’s fine, as long as you can make an argument that’s not 100% religious based. Like, many religious people say, “My religion teaches me that we need to take care of the sick, the hungry, and the poor.” I am completely on board with that, that’s great. But you can make an easy secular argument for it, too. And that’s, you know, that human suffering is wrong, and we can mitigate that through nutrition assistance, disability payments, unemployment insurance, what have you. That, I have no problem with. I have no problem working with religious people whose goals are to advance society. As long as there can be made a rational argument, rather than just based on faith belief.

Daniel Fincke: Do you think that all of your humanist values that you would legislate by, are values that religious voters also share? Or do you think that there are some things that as a humanist, you have certain values and priorities that religious people wouldn’t share, but you would legislate by them, because those are your values?

James Woods: I think most religious people share them. People who really practice the teachings of their individual faiths. Humanists believe in human dignity, equality, respect, compassion, inherent fairness. I think those are all things everyone should support, and most people do.

Daniel Fincke: What do you think is the highest priority in terms of women’s rights, from a policy standpoint?

James Woods: Right now, I think that it’s probably the attacks on reproductive health. Women need access to comprehensive reproductive health choices. Abortion, birth control, contraception, science based education, sex ed, all of that is really important. And it’s just been attacked, over and over again, ever since Roe vs Wade, and even before.

Daniel Fincke: Now, when you say… so, are there any restrictions on abortion that you would favor, in terms of trimester, in terms of any other mitigating factors? Where would you, if anywhere, draw lines on the right to an abortion?

James Woods: I… I don’t know. I would have to really think about it. I can understand the desire to minimize it, and use it as an option of last resort, but it absolutely should be a choice between a woman and her doctor. I don’t know where I would draw the line. I don’t know where that would be appropriate.

Daniel Fincke: Okay. And, there are some who might say that, in a couple years it looks like the Supreme Court is heading towards the end of marriage discrimination, the end of laws that make it so that gay people can’t get married. Do you think that that’s the end of our concern about gay rights, legally? Or do you see horizons where we’re going to… like, where do you see any upcoming horizons where we’re going to struggle for gay rights, after this marriage issue, and the… Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are in the past?

James Woods: Once marriage equality is achieved, that’s a great first step. But, like all other marginalized groups, there’s always going to be, you know, discrimination in the work place, bullying, things of that nature, will obviously continue. Because, I mean, it’s just like racism, and any other marginalized group. There’s still issues that need to be dealt with afterward. They will minimize over time, but I don’t think they will, unfortunately, ever be completely stomped out.

Daniel Fincke: What do you think is the primary challenge that… from a policy standpoint, that we face right now in terms of ending the effects of systematic racism in America? Where do you think, right now, that legislatures could do the most good towards creating a world in which black people have genuine equality of opportunity and outcome in America?

James Woods: The first thing would be rewriting, and reestablishing, the Voting Rights Act. That would be an important first step. I do support Affirmative Action, and that needs to be expanded, and written in a language that won’t allow for further challenges to the Supreme Court. There are definitely inequities. One of the biggest problems is poverty. And in most immigrant and other minority groups, poverty is a major problem, and it really inhibits their ability to rise above and really join society. So, working to elevate everyone would me a major step in the right direction.

Daniel Fincke: You are blind.

James Woods: Correct.

Daniel Fincke: What do you see as the major issues facing disabled people that Congress can have an impact on with legislation and policy.

James Woods: There is a big one going through right now. There is a loophole in a disability access law. I’m sorry, but the bill number has escaped me. The National Federation of the Blind is lobbying hard against it, because it allows employers to pay people with disabilities who can’t perform the operation at what they consider 100% efficiency, below minimum wage. And there are hundreds of thousands of people with… who are blind, amputees, people with cognitive disabilities, that are working in these jobs, that are making less than minimum wage, sometimes significantly less than minimum wage. Like, we’ve [discovered] that there are something in the neighborhood of a few hundred thousand that are making less than $5.80 per day, which is less than a value meal at McDonald’s. And that’s just unconscionable. That should be illegal. And just in general, the participation in the work force for the disabled is very low. It’s under 20% of people with a major disability [who] are employed.

Daniel Fincke: And you think they’re an untapped resource?

James Woods: Very much so. There are lots of people like me that are plenty capable of doing many jobs, and with adaptive technologies and things of that nature, you know, we’re perfectly capable of holding a job. Granted, there are some people with significant disabilities, that can’t work, and that’s what disability is for. But most of the people I know, especially with vision, and amputees, and other disabilities like that, want to work. It’s just, a lot of employers have a lot of misconceptions about the disabled population. They think they’re safety risks, or they’re a liability for insurance, and a number of other problems. And I think that can be addressed through policy, like perhaps a tax break for small businesses who are willing to hire the disabled, for adaptive equipment, and things like that. And also the expansion of vocational rehabilitation programs to give people the skills to use those adaptive devices, so they can be a better fit in more jobs. Those are two policy ideas.

Daniel Fincke: What are some of the abilities, do you think, as a blind person that people underestimate that you have?

James Woods: One of the ones, and this really, really makes me angry… a lot of people assume, because I can’t see, that I’m totally helpless. So, they will speak to me like I’m a small child, and act… “Oh, are you lost?” No, I know exactly where I am. Or they’ll talk louder and slower, like the cliché from movies, where people who don’t speak a language, the ugly American speaks louder and slower? People do that to me, and it really infuriates me. [Dan laughing] And I understand why, and I make a point… They just don’t know, they’ve probably never dealt with a blind person before. So I try and get centered, and I… and they’re coming from a genuine place, they want to help. So that’s what I try and tell myself. They just don’t know any better, they want to help. But then I try and use that to teach them, “No, I’m perfectly okay.” Show them the cane, show them how it works, talk to them about it a little bit, and hopefully they’ll go home and think, “Hey, I met this really smart and independent blind person today,” and they’ll tell their friends. And maybe that’s how people learn, so…

Daniel Fincke: You’ve dealt with the public assistance related to your disability. From your many years dealing with this, what are your insights into the nature of our system and how our social services system can be fixed?

James Woods: One of the biggest things is, you have to jump through a lot of hoops. The paperwork is daunting. And I think that is, in some ways, by design, because… it’s kind of like in the university system, they make… they frontload the hardest classes to get people to drop out. You know, so… lowering the barriers, especially for people that have been through catastrophic illness or disability… It’s frustrating. You’re in pain, you might be on some pain medications, and even getting the proper materials so that someone can do the paperwork for you requires a lot of hurdles. So streamlining paperwork is a major one. And the second biggest one is, the programs… and obviously, my colleagues on the right would disagree with the… you know, already too much government largesse… they don’t pay for everything. They’re incredibly underfunded and understaffed. And it needs investing in people who are hurting, it would be not just morally, but economically, the right thing to do. Because… like myself. Because I was able to get on social security disability, and Medicare and Medicaid, and nutrition assistance, and I was able to go to a vocational rehab program, I… not only my health improved, but I was able to re-find… regain my confidence that I could go back into the workforce, and even run for Congress. So…

Daniel Fincke: But a lot of conservatives might say that they fully support someone who’s suffering, you know, blindness to have these sorts of benefits, but quote-unquote, “able-bodied people” need to be given the tough love and not have a gigantic safety net to exploit. What do you say to such conservatives?

James Woods: I say to them, any bureaucracy is going to have people who are going to exploit it. In my experience, and I’ve known a lot of people who’ve been on disability and in these programs, the vast majority, well above 90%, don’t like being on them. Because… I don’t know where they’re getting their numbers, but living off of disability is not glamorous, it’s not a lot of money. Living off of nutrition assistance, you’re going be eating basic food, and not the highest quality stuff, either. People want to be on these programs to get better, so they can move on, and rejoin the normal workforce, or what have you. And it’s really a shame that the priority is pointing out the bad actors. I would rather have the system be there, and have some people abusing it, than it not be there, and taking food out of disabled people and children’s mouths.

Daniel Fincke: What about the transgendered community? It’s rare that you see a politician in their press announcements stress that they’re going to reach out to the transgender community. What do you see as the principle policy needs of the transgender community right now?
James Woods: First of all, just being recognized as a group. They are generally just ignored, or actively persecuted. Not this legislative session, but the previous one here in Arizona, they tried to pass a law that made it so that you would have had to use a public restroom in keeping with the gender you were born with. And that’s just discriminatory, and offensive, you know. People should be left alone. And they tried to couch it in language, for protecting children. That was just disgusting, in my opinion.

Daniel Fincke: So, what sorts of… if you were to draft a bill protecting transgendered people, what would be the priorities in that bill?

James Woods: Honestly, I am not the right person to ask. I need to get more in… I need to be better informed about what the transgendered community’s needs are. That’s why I want to reach out to them, because I don’t know, and I think listening is a key part of legislating. I need to find out what these marginalized communities want and need. And no one’s doing that, for many of them. And I want to make a point to do that.

Daniel Fincke: The district you’re running in is currently held by the Republican Matt Salmon, and so the question is, what do you think is your appeal to this constituency in your district? How do you think you specifically connect with and represent the people of the 5th District of Arizona?

James Woods: My life experience is a lot closer to the people in this district’s than Matt Salmon’s. He grew up in a fairly privileged family, has been in Congress for 18 years, with a 10 year break in the middle. I think he’s just gotten disconnected, and has kind of turned a deaf ear towards people in the district. The district has a moderately high unemployment; it’s a very working class and middle class district. And I don’t think he’s doing a very good job of representing the people in the East Valley. It’s getting more diverse; it’s getting younger. And I think the fact that I am fairly young, and I’m willing to reach out to people that have been marginalized, will speak to people.

Daniel Fincke: When did you decide to run, and what was the major factor in the decision?

James Woods: I have been involved in my local party in my district for a while now, and they were looking for people to run for local offices. And I thought I was going to run for the Arizona House, which is the Lower House, because we have a bicameral legislature. So I thought I was going to run for the Lower House, in my district and I was talking to them about it, and in the meeting, they mentioned that they were looking for someone who was willing to put their name on the ballot in [Congressional District 5]. And I’m like, “Well, what are you talking about? Well, no one wants to run against Matt Salmon?” All of the career politicians see it as a loser race, and no one wants to put their name out there, because if they’re going to run for Congress, they want to win. Well, that’s not how democracy’s supposed to work. People should have a choice. So I said, Well, if no one’s going to run, I’ll do it. And everyone kind of laughed, like, “Well, you know…” And I said, No, seriously. Why not? And they’re like, “Well, if you’re serious, we’ll put you in touch with the party, and…” Here I am. So.

Daniel Fincke: And did you immediately decide that you were going to run as an open atheist, as a matter of honesty? Or was that… was there a decision making process involved in that?

James Woods: I did think about it a while, and, yes, the reason why I am running as an open atheist is because I do believe in honesty and integrity and openness. I would feel like I was misrepresenting myself if I wasn’t honest about being an atheist and a humanist.

Daniel Fincke: What do you think is the greatest misperception of atheists that’s out there that you’re hoping to dispel with your openness?

James Woods: That we’re immoral. “Well, if you don’t believe in God, how can you be a decent person?” Well, easy – there are laws, and there’s right and wrong. Just because I don’t believe in a god, doesn’t mean that there isn’t right and wrong. Just because I don’t think I’m going to be punished after I die, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a nice person, and help people, and not steal, and not be violent, and not be dishonest.

 

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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