Threads of 2017

The old year is dwindling, and a new trip around the sun is about to begin. 2017 was another year that many of us will be glad to see the end of. But before the wheel turns, let’s take one last look back…

Doom and Gloom

This year, I started a Dystopia Journal series, each entry a glimpse at the downward slide of the America I knew and loved. I debated the morality of punching Nazis (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), compared Trump’s embattled Muslim ban to our shameful past treatment of Jewish refugees, and spotlighted the racist hypocrisy of Geert Wilders.

The state of the world offers ample evidence for pessimism. I wrote about the gap between good intentions and reality, the reciprocity of compassion and when a humanist should (and shouldn’t) forgive those who do evil. Even one-percenters have caught the gloomy mood.

The Tempter didn’t make his expected Halloween appearance this year. But in his place, I had words with a strange visitor calling themselves the Guardian.

White Evangelicals Are Evil

Despite scoring a political victory, evangelical Christians have indelibly stained their souls along the way. They’ve cemented a reputation for bigotry and reembraced their white supremacist roots.

I noted that religious conservatives are now against higher education – not specific colleges or subjects, but higher education as a whole. Like all would-be dictators, they know that ignorance and support for autocracy feed on each other.

Evangelicals’ depravity came to a crescendo when they threw their support behind alleged child molester Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate election. But that led into a small spark of hope…

The Resistance

…which was the astounding Democratic victory in Alabama. Doug Jones’ triumph capped a year of progressive resistance large and small, whether it was sweeping off-year elections, pulling down statues to the Confederacy or civil-rights activism sweeping the NFL. With midterm elections next year, I hope all this heralds a sleeping giant beginning to stir.

#MeToo

2017, improbably, was a banner year for feminism. The #MeToo movement caught fire, toppling creeps and predators in all walks of life, and bringing hopes of lasting social change.

Lamentably, the secular community continues to resist the tide of progress. We have much to answer for, whether it’s atheists’ ties to misogynist ideologies, Skeptic magazine’s flailing misfire at gender studies, Mythicist Milwaukee offering a starring role to a YouTube troglodyte, or general online terribleness. I urged us all to consign these wretched fossils to the past and spend more time on atheists who deserve the attention.

Then again, the churches shouldn’t throw stones. When it comes to enforcing gender segregation, promoting toxic masculinity, or imposing victim-blaming “honor codes”, religion is a tempting target for the next wave of feminist activism.

Antitheism

For all the flaws of the atheist movement, atheism as an idea remains vital and necessary. I wrote about the moral importance of opposing false beliefs, and gave two concrete examples of why: the testimonies of the #RaptureAnxiety hashtag and the atrocious Nashville Statement.

Atheists as a demographic are still making gains, while white Christian America continues its slow dying. On an individual scale, change is agonizingly slow, but from a generational perspective, it’s happening with breathtaking speed.

Secular Parenting

This September marked my son’s first year in the world. I wrote about why I’m not responsible for his soul, what I’ll teach him about religion, and how to explain evil to a child. I reiterated my support for vaccination and mused on how love is like gravity.

Science Strides On

I wrote excitedly about the oceans of Enceladus and newfound habitable worlds just a short hop out. I surveyed the overlooked contributions of black women to the space race (because science is for everyone).

Down on Earth, more good things are happening. I discussed the coming clean energy future, the spreading adoption of sci-fi-esque universal translators, and a new treatment that offers hope to sufferers of epidermolysis bullosa.

Science also has something to say about human equality. I listed evidence for the persistence of bias in race and gender.

Book Matters

I began my review of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, the precursor to Atlas Shrugged. It’s a window into how Rand’s political beliefs changed over time, despite her own insistence to the contrary. I had some things to say about its infamous rape scene.

Oh yes, and I wrote a new book! Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City, my friendly debate about God and government with Andrew Murtagh, was published this December by Wipf & Stock. Look for more announcements and book events in the new year!

Image credit: See-ming Lee, released under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

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