Archives for April 2013

It’s SSA Week – Ask Me Anything!

It's that time again: the time of the year where we come together to support the Secular Student Alliance, one of the most important groups helping to foster community among young atheists and to energize, connect and train the next generation of secular activists. The SSA helps organize, represent and defend clubs for atheist and agnostic students on campuses across the country (plus I hear they sponsor some pretty cool speakers), and now has almost 50 high school affiliates and almost 400 … [Read more...]

Opposing Imperialism and Islamism

There was a searing editorial in the Times the other week, dictated by one of the men still being held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. A hunger strike is spreading among the detainees there, which strikes me as an understandable response of men driven to despair by endless and indefinite imprisonment in a legal black hole. (The military authorities are retaliating with the barbaric and intensely painful measure of forced feeding.)When the accused Boston bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev was captured, … [Read more...]

April Speaking Recap

Thanks to everyone in the Secular Student Alliance affiliates at Ripon and Oshkosh, who hosted my trip this past week to the great state of Wiscons(in). Aside from a minor air travel-related mishap on the way out (and I only blame US Airways for that), it went very well! I toured the rural wilds of Wisconsin, tried some of the local microbrew - I enjoyed Spotted Cow - and spent an afternoon in picturesque downtown Ripon, which has a kind of Norman Rockwell charm. I also spoke closer to home, at … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: World’s Worst Boss

Atlas Shrugged, p.34-37It's late at night when the first pouring of metal is done, and Hank Rearden is walking home from his mills and reminiscing. He's reflecting on his past and his climb up the corporate ladder, which gives us a rare opportunity to examine something Rand doesn't discuss much: her ideas as to how a business should be run.You might think this a strange statement, considering that this is a book about capitalism, but it's true. Rand doesn't spend much time dwelling on … [Read more...]

The Arc Is Bending, Continued

Last week, New Zealand legalized same-sex marriage, becoming the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so. In a video that should wring tears from the hardest heart, the spectators and Parliament burst into applause and cheers when the bill passed, then broke into song ("Pokarekare Ana", a famous love song in the language of the indigenous Maori).With this victory, New Zealand became the thirteenth country to pass marriage equality, just after Uruguay (!). In spite of the eighteen … [Read more...]

Why the New Atheism Isn’t Islamophobic

In the past few weeks, there's been a barrage of attacks on the so-called New Atheists, accusing them of inciting bigotry against Muslims or of fostering irrational hatred for Islam. This charge has been laid by Murtaza Hussein on Al Jazeera, Nathan Lean on Salon, and Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian, among others.Now, it's true that some high-profile New Atheists have made serious missteps when speaking about Islam. But it's equally true that New Atheism is a freewheeling, disputatious, … [Read more...]

Upcoming Speaking Events in Wisconsin

Later this week, I'll be in Wisconsin for two speaking events, courtesy of some local SSA affiliates. If you live in the area, come out and say hi! I'll be giving the same talk at each one - my speech on objective ethics from a secular viewpoint, "The Science of Morality" - so if you miss the first one, you'll have a second chance. I'll post exact locations for the talks as soon as I have them.WHEN & WHERE: Secular Student Alliance at Ripon College Ripon College Thursday, April 25, 5 … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Beauty Equals Goodness

Atlas Shrugged, p.33-39The next character we're going to meet is Hank Rearden, at work in his steel mills in Pennsylvania. In the name of being fair to Rand, her description of the first pouring of molten Rearden Metal is pretty good:The narrow streak pouring through space had the pure white color of sunlight. Black coils of steam were boiling upward, streaked with violet red. Fountains of sparks shot in beating spasms, as from broken arteries. The air seemed torn to rags, reflecting a … [Read more...]

What’s the Purpose of Topless Protests?

Note: This post is SFW; links may not be.Last month in Tunisia, a young activist named Amina Tyler posted a topless photo of herself online, with the phrases "My body belongs to me, it doesn't represent anyone's honor" and "Fuck your morals" written across her torso. (Here's the original photo.) When the Ukrainian feminist group Femen declared April 5 a day of international topless protests in solidarity, it caused a furor, and not just in Tunisia.To me, the point of Amina's protest (and … [Read more...]

Open Thread: Boston Bombings

I wanted to write something yesterday about the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, but I was too angry and depressed over it all to jot down something coherent. I still don't think I have anything profound or helpful to say, especially since we still know nothing about who did this or why. And as Amanda Marcotte reminds us, we may not find out more for months or years, if ever.Despite a pretty low level of irresponsible speculation, that not-knowing can't help but fan the flames of … [Read more...]