Doubt Is Not Our Product

In my Atlas Shrugged series, I wrote about the tobacco companies who tried to conceal the health risks of smoking by sowing confusion and uncertainty. The strategy was to counter all the scientific evidence with ginned-up studies and paid-to-order experts so that people wouldn't be sure what to believe. Their memos said that "doubt is our product" and that their goal should be "establishing a controversy" in the public mind.That story is an object lesson in how corporations that sell … [Read more...]

Open Thread: Ghostbusters

There's so much darkness in the world lately, I feel like we could all use a break to talk about something light-hearted. So how about that new Ghostbusters movie?I saw it over the weekend, and the theater was packed. If the internet backdraft has hurt the box office at all, which I doubt, it wasn't noticeable where I live.Overall, it was solidly entertaining. There weren't any huge surprises, but it was a fun popcorn movie and it met my expectations. If you liked the original - and if, … [Read more...]

The Rising Tide of Republican Extremism

Last week, in a failed last-minute bid to prove himself bigoted enough to be Donald Trump's running mate, Newt Gingrich said this:.@newtgingrich: "We should...test every person here who is of a Muslim background, & if they believe in shariah they should be deported."— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 15, 2016This isn't just unconstitutional, it's anti-constitutional. The idea of a religious test for American citizens, used for expelling those whose views are deemed … [Read more...]

On Seasteading and Liberlands

Libertarianism is an ideology of the frontier.Most political ideologies are built to answer, in some fashion, the question of how to get along with our neighbors. It may be through democratic persuasion, or melting-pot cross-pollination, or shared notions of duty and tradition. Libertarianism alone makes the assumption that you don't have to get along with your neighbors. You can limit your interactions with other people to whatever trades you find advantageous, and if you'd rather not deal … [Read more...]

The Injustices of the American Justice System

Again and yet again, America is bleeding. The latest eruption of protests and anger came in response to the brutal, unnecessary police killings of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and then the carnage in Dallas where a deranged sniper killed five police officers and wounded more before being killed in turn.Whether any of this will spur reform, or whether violence will only beget more violence, either way it's clear that there's a chasm between police and the communities … [Read more...]

No Place for Racism in the Atheist Community

I wish I didn't have to write posts like this, but they're still sadly necessary.Recently, my Patheos colleague Martin Hughes at Barrier Breaker had an interaction with an unpleasant fellow who calls himself "The Amazing Atheist". TAA is the archetype of the smugly arrogant white-guy atheist who thinks that because he's seen through this whole religion thing, he doesn't ever need to learn anything else.His perspective reflects all the toxic ignorance and casual cruelty you'd expect from … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Ideological Event Horizon

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsIn life and in death, Ayn Rand stands alone as the supreme advocate of individualism. No one was fiercer in defending the romantic idea that you should follow your conscience above all else, chase your dreams whatever the price, and ignore the taunts and scorn of the masses along the way.At least, that's the popular conception. It's certainly how Rand thought of herself. But Atlas Shrugged offers surprising evidence to the contrary.The last third of … [Read more...]

I Get Religious Mail: Trust in God, Go Hungry Anyway

The latest religious charity that's sent me a solicitation is Food for the Poor, Inc., a Christian nonprofit that serves poor and malnourished people in the Caribbean and Latin America. Click to see the letter [NOTE: possibly disturbing images of an emaciated infant]:As is standard for humanitarian charities, the letter describes the desperate poverty of the people they serve. Given that Haiti was one of the world's poorest countries even before the 2010 earthquake, I'm willing to … [Read more...]

The End of Christian Hegemony

The Atlantic reports on a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute with an eyebrow-raising finding:Almost half of Americans say discrimination against Christians is as big of a problem as discrimination against other groups, including blacks and minorities. Three-quarters of Republicans and Trump supporters said this, and so did nearly eight out of 10 white evangelical Protestants.Nearly 80% of white evangelicals say that "discrimination against Christians" is as big a … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Great Chain of Being

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsThroughout Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand tells us that her ideal state would be a perfect meritocracy. Everyone would rise or fall as their talents merited. There'd be no corrupt bargains, no discrimination, and no hereditary ruling class.It's an appealing vision, but what the novel shows isn't the same as what it tells. Regardless of what Rand says she wants, she repeatedly undermines her meritocratic ideal by writing characters who do indeed have special … [Read more...]


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