The Humanist Symposium: Inaugural Edition

It is a brilliant spring morning, and the first-ever gathering of the Humanist Symposium has convened here in the Garden at Daylight Atheism. The crowd of attendees has gathered in a natural clearing delineated at one end by a vast, ancient oak, its upper branches dappled gold in the sun, great weather-worn stones embedded in the ground among its roots, and flowering vines curling around its trunk. At the tree's foot, a wilderness of brilliant blue and red pansy violets grows wild in the grass, … [Read more...]

Through a Glass, Brightly

In past posts such as last December's "The Theodicy of Narnia", I've called attention to some of the unintentionally revealing comments that famous theists have made about their own belief systems. C.S. Lewis, for example, wrote whole books to defend the thesis that God's existence is compatible with pain and suffering, but when it came to creating his own fictional world, he took pains to point out that its history was overwhelmingly blissful and peaceful so as not to cast doubt on the goodness … [Read more...]

A Passionate Atheism

The new generation of bold and outspoken atheists, including Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, are making waves in society with numerous media appearances, a welcome change of pace from the media's previous policy of steadfast refusal to cover freethought and nonbelief. (Some things are slower to change than others - despite Time Newsweek's praiseworthy coverage of a debate between Sam Harris and Rick Warren, the conversation was a clear example of the "Gish Gallop", where the theist throws out as … [Read more...]

The Virtues: Be Just

The seventh and last of the Virtues is the imperative toward justice. In general terms, the virtue of being just entails treating others as their actions merit - neither withholding from people what they deserve, nor giving them what they do not deserve. Acting justly is also a core part of the ethical system of universal utilitarianism, since the guarantee that justice will be done is a major component in ensuring the happiness of all people.Like most of the Virtues, the ideal of justice is … [Read more...]

Parenting Beyond Belief

I have the privilege tonight of telling my readers about a wonderful project that's gotten me feeling very excited. The author Dale McGowan has edited a book of essays for parents on the topic of raising a child without religion, titled Parenting Beyond Belief, to be released next month.This is a particularly important gap in atheist literature, which is why I'm so glad to see a serious effort being made to bridge it. Although some books, like the FFRF's Just Pretend, have addressed this … [Read more...]

The Secular Islam Summit

I've recently been reading Karen Armstrong's A History of God, an enormously informative though often irritatingly naive account of the evolution of monotheism in the Abrahamic faiths. One thing that struck me while reading it is how religious grievances dating back centuries or even millennia continue to cause hatred, bloodshed, and violence today with virtually unabated intensity.For example, Armstrong discusses the roots of the Sunni-Shiite split in Islam, a dispute over who would succeed … [Read more...]

The Virtues: Be Humble

The sixth of the Virtues is humility. In many religious traditions, humility is considered the very highest of virtues, and while I think it is an important and desirable quality to practice, I wouldn't go quite so far. Furthermore, as we'll see, my idea of what constitutes humility differs somewhat from the theistic view.What I advocate is not the humility enshrined in many religious texts, the aim of which is to abase oneself and think of oneself as lowly and worthless, in order to avoid … [Read more...]

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...]


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