The Virtues: Be Passionate

The fifth of the Virtues is passion; in the ancient lists of cardinal virtues, it was sometimes referred to as diligence or zeal. In his famous list of virtues, Benjamin Franklin called it industry. All these terms describe basically the same quality. Passion is the opposite of laziness, apathy, and nihilism: it implies placing value on the right qualities, making the best use of one's time, and being diligent and tireless in defense of the good.There is substantial truth in the Bible's … [Read more...]

The Virtues: Be Truthful

The fourth of the Virtues is truthfulness, a quality that is in short supply for all that it has been extolled through the ages. The proliferation of new media of communication in our society, from cable news to the internet, has resulted in a wonderful diversity of previously overlooked viewpoints; but it has also created an atmosphere where half-truths and untruths of every kind can readily take root in the desires of partisans of every side.Some people, viewing this swamp of conflicting … [Read more...]

The Virtues: Be Rational

The third of the Virtues is rationality, a crucially important but often overlooked element of the virtuous life. I do not mean to say that being a good person requires being an atheist or a skeptic - for obviously, someone can believe in all manner of pseudoscience and superstition and still be a generous, benevolent and loving person. As always, how one treats one's fellow human beings is the only true marker of morality. Nevertheless, I believe that all else being equal, the rational person … [Read more...]

The Virtues: Be Compassionate

The second of the Virtues is compassion. The Latin roots of this word literally mean "suffering together", but I think this captures at most one-half of what it means to be compassionate, and the less important half at that. While being compassionate does include perceiving others' pain and distress and being motivated to relieve it, the far more important aspect of compassion is sharing not in others' suffering, but in their happiness and joy.My reasoning behind this conclusion is as follows: … [Read more...]

The Virtues: Be Mindful

As regular readers of Daylight Atheism are likely aware, morality is a major concern of mine, both in how ethical behavior finds its foundation and in how those principles can be applied to issues of everyday life. Mainly this is because I genuinely am interested in determining what best constitutes the good life, although I won't deny that my writings on this topic are also aimed at rebutting the tiresome claim that atheists are immoral or lack a basis for morality.But there is much left to … [Read more...]

All Days Are Holy

The word "holiday" comes directly from the phrase "holy day". This designation, in turn, is based on the curious notion that a particular event happening on a certain date forever afterward gives that date some special sacredness or magical quality. The day of Halloween, for example, was once believed to be a time when barriers between our world and the other world grew thin and restless spirits could return to haunt the land of the living, and other supernatural events are often tied to the … [Read more...]

A Freethinkers' Yule Sermon

Throughout the Western world, the end-of-the-year holidays are a time for celebrating and making merry. Our most time-honored traditions encourage us to come together at this time in commemoration and gratitude for the blessings that life has to offer and the good fortune we have enjoyed during the year.But even as we are encouraged to rejoice over the good things in life, the holiday season brings with it no shortage of reminders that there are many others who are not so fortunate. We are so … [Read more...]

Season of Light

As the end of 2006 draws within sight, the annual holiday season is upon us. This year, I have noticed an interesting pattern in these familiar rituals. It is striking how many of the holidays that fall around this time of year involve the ceremonial kindling of light as an element of the celebration.Chief among them, of course, is the Christian/pagan holiday of Christmas, when evergreen trees and buildings' eaves are adorned with strings of glowing lights, and the traditional Yule log is … [Read more...]

The Least We Can Do

by Alexander WeaverI drove from Sacramento to Portland (Rancho Cordova to Wilsonville, technically) last night (as of the original writing on 11/08/06), over mountains and through rain and what I would characterize as "pea soup fog." This is important in other contexts, but for our purposes the main relevance is that it got me to Portland. I got in at 05:30, slept for 6 hours and then booked a flight back to Sacramento, departing at 16:50. The flight was fully booked, and for a change everyone … [Read more...]

What Will Replace Religion?

One argument for theism that I have always found interesting is the argument that humans do not have desires for which there exists no corresponding object in the real world. For example, we desire water, and water exists; we desire food, and food exists; we desire love and friendship, and those things exist. Similarly, this reasoning goes, human beings innately desire fellowship with God, and this strongly suggests that God exists.This argument is clever, but naive. A straightforward … [Read more...]


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