Spread the Wealth: Further Thoughts on Capitalism

In his 1651 book Leviathan, the Enlightenment political theorist Thomas Hobbes wrote that in the uncivilized, lawless state of nature, the life of humankind was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". Even in Hobbes' own day, when a relative degree of civilization had been achieved, there was considerable truth to this. But in just the last few hundred years, our society has been transformed almost beyond recognition. For most of human history, nearly everyone lived in conditions of … [Read more...]

On Christian Hypocrites

Anyone who's familiar with Christianity knows that, in the last few decades alone, the Christian church has seen an astounding number of its powerful preachers exposed as blatant hypocrites. The most famous example, of course, is Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a fervent opponent of gay marriage, who fell spectacularly from grace after revelations of a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute. But he's not the only one. There's Jim … [Read more...]

Why I'm Donating to Kay Hagan

In case you haven't heard, Kay Hagan is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, running against Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole. Yesterday, Dole and her staff put out a press release attacking Hagan... for planning to attend a fundraiser held by atheists. (HT: Friendly Atheist). According to Dole's press release: "Kay Hagan does not represent the values of this state; she is a Trojan Horse for a long list of wacky left-wing outside groups bent on policies that … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically VIII: Mill's Methods

Today's post on critical thinking concerns the five principles collectively known as Mill's methods, first presented together in 1843 by the Enlightenment philosopher John Stuart Mill in his book A System of Logic. Each of them is intended to illuminate the flow of causality in a different way, giving us mental tools to link causes and effects. In this post, I'll highlight past entries in my "Popular Delusions" series, and show how failure to properly use Mill's methods has duped the … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Torture

Thanks to revelations that the U.S. government has been using torture techniques such as waterboarding on people it suspects of being terrorists, this post is overdue. I find it unbelievable that, in the year 2008, it's actually a point of contention whether torture should be legal or not. Discussions of this issue in the media inevitably return to the "ticking-bomb" scenario - where torture is the only way to extract information from a captured terrorist in time to prevent a devastating … [Read more...]

Advice to an Atheist

I recently received an e-mail from an atheist who's grappling with what I imagine is a common dilemma. I offered some advice, but I wouldn't presume to think that my suggestions are definitive. I'm curious to see what Daylight Atheism commenters have to say: I realize that you don't run an advice column, or anything like it, but I'm sure you have had experience dealing with people who are close to you who happen to be theists. I can't really find any resources for atheists to deal with such a … [Read more...]

Imaginary Virtues

In last month's "Imaginary Crimes", I wrote about the fictitious offenses invented by religion to fill people with guilt and shame. But there's something even worse to write about. The flip side of having imaginary crimes is having imaginary virtues - people who believe themselves to be good and decent based solely on their ability to obey arbitrary religious edicts that offer no benefit to any human being. Not only does religion cause people to feel guilty when they shouldn't, it causes them to … [Read more...]

Sunrise at Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight, The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits; on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. Come to the window, sweet is the night air! I was originally going to post the poem "Dover Beach", by the Victorian poet Matthew Arnold, as the next installment of my Poetry Sunday series. Arnold was Professor of Poetry at Oxford and was said to be one of the three great Victorian poets, … [Read more...]

No Religious Exemptions from Discrimination Laws

Via ABC, this good news: the California Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that doctors cannot deny patients medical care on religious grounds. The case involved two Christian doctors, working at a fertility clinic, who had refused to perform artificial insemination on a lesbian: Guadalupe Benitez, now 36, had maintained that the California medical clinic that was treating her polycystic ovary syndrome had "dumped" her when she asked for artificial insemination. In 1999, after a year of … [Read more...]

Speak Boldly

This weekend, I came across an outstanding editorial by the British journalist Johann Hari, "We should never pulp books out of fear of fanatics". It opens by describing "the story of a novel you cannot read": The Jewel of Medina was written by a journalist called Sherry Jones. It recounts the life of Aisha, a girl who really was married off at the age of six to a 50-year-old man called Mohammed ibn Abdallah. On her wedding day, Aisha was playing on a see-saw outside her home. Inside, she was … [Read more...]


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