Is the Arab Spring Hurting Arab Women?

While protests continue to rage in Syria and a new government takes shape in Libya, the origin of the Arab Spring has attained a huge milestone: Tunisia successfully held its first election last week, and aside from scattered protests and violence, the contest appears to have been largely peaceful, free and fair - not to mention high-turnout (over 70% of eligible voters cast ballots). Three cheers for Tunisia! But Western secularists may have reason not to be entirely sanguine about the … [Read more...]

Moving the Overton Window

When I tell people that I'm an atheist, I'm often asked if I think that fiery rhetoric and sharp critiques of religion, like the kind found in the writing of trailblazers like Richard Dawkins, is harming the cause by offending believers who might otherwise have been sympathetic. The implication is that, if we focus our attacks only on the worst fundamentalists, we'll gain public support and approval, but if we criticize faith in general, we'll never get anywhere. I don't believe this is true, … [Read more...]

Governing by the Happiness Index

I've often written about the moral system I advocate, which I've dubbed universal utilitarianism. Although people have a broad range of individual preferences, human nature is, in general, fixed and predictable: certain things reliably bring us happiness, while others reliably cause pain and suffering. Through reason and evidence, we can work out which actions are more likely to have these good or bad consequences, allowing us to choose a course of action that's superior to others in an … [Read more...]

Secular Help for Trafficking Survivors

I've written in the past about the phenomenon of people who think that their religious beliefs excuse them from doing their job. The correct solution, of course, is to not accept a job whose duties you won't perform; but the religious privilege that pervades society often leads people to expect that their employer should accommodate them, rather than vice versa, and that they should be paid for work they refuse to do. Usually, this happens in service positions: pharmacists who won't fill … [Read more...]

Is America a Christian Nation?

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. In a campaign speech in September, Rick Perry hit upon some familiar Republican themes:Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, in an appeal to evangelical voters, said "Christian values" and not "a bunch of Washington politicians" should be the touchstone guiding how Americans conduct their lives. ..."America is going to be guided by some set of values," Perry told a crowd of 13,000 students and faculty members yesterday at a sports … [Read more...]

Did the American Cancer Society Refuse Atheist Money?

Charities that depend on donations and fund-raising to survive have it hard enough in the best of times. But in this depressed economy, it must be more difficult than ever. The obvious conclusion, I would think, is that if you represent a charity and a donor gets in touch offering to give you a lot of money, you don't delay, you don't put obstacles in their path, you don't make excuses: you do everything in your power to make that donation happen! Unless, it seems, the money is coming from … [Read more...]

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (Again)

My friends, I have to confess an unpardonable lapse of judgment. I have some very bad news to deliver, and what's worse, I forgot to tell you until now, when it's almost too late! Please, let me explain. As you may recall, the brave and righteous Mr. Harold Camping previously predicted that the Rapture would occur on May 21 of this year, along with a massive earthquake that would cause global devastation on all those heathens left behind. Well, we all know how that worked out. But proving that … [Read more...]

Worshipping the Holy Hair Dryer

My previous post, "The Blinding Fog of Religious Moderation", drew some criticism from people who felt that I was unjustly lumping moderate believers together with fundamentalists. So, in this post, I'm going to try (again) to illustrate why I find even moderate religious beliefs to be wrong-headed, by means of an analogy. I'd like to take credit for this analogy, but it isn't mine: the concept originally came from Sam Harris in his book Letter to a Christian Nation, though the proximate source … [Read more...]

It’s About Time a Bishop Was Indicted

As regular readers know, I've devoted considerable time to writing about the child-molestation scandal engulfing the Catholic church. The core of this story isn't that there are child abusers within the ranks of the clergy, but that their superiors within the church have consistently enabled and protected them by hushing up their crimes, failing to report them to the authorities, and continually moving them to new parishes where they could prey upon new victims. As the saying goes, it's not the … [Read more...]

Open Thread: Getting Settled

Well, I've been on Big Think for about two weeks now, and I'm starting to get used to the place. It's a different experience from my old site, no doubt about that, so this post is to follow up on some of the complaints and suggestions from the earlier open thread.The biggest annoyance, still, is the paginated posts. Big Think's programmers have at least provided a single-page viewing option, so I hope that's an improvement, but I want it to be the default and will keep pressing them. As was … [Read more...]


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