Welcome Stranger: A Humanist Sermon

I've said in the past, and will have occasion to say again, that the world is slowly becoming a better place despite the tragedies and outrages that parade before our eyes. But just because the overall picture is brightening doesn't mean that there aren't real and lingering dark spots that ought to command our attention. One is the continuing civil war in Syria and the exodus of people, mostly Muslim, it's scattered across Europe and the United States.Last month, I mused about the astounding … [Read more...]

I’ll Say It Again: Richard Dawkins Doesn’t Speak For Me

I haven't written until now about Ahmed Mohamed, the gifted Texas teenager who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school to show off his engineering prowess. Ahmed's teachers claimed that they thought the device was a bomb, but it's obvious that the real reason for their absurd overreaction was racism and xenophobia (Ahmed and his family are Muslim and of Sudanese descent). Anything even slightly out of the ordinary from a brown or a black person triggers panic reactions and … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: Non-Religious Theists

Earlier this week, I wrote about Pew's latest American religious landscape survey, which revealed the continuing rise of secularism among the "nones". But what are we to make of the unaffiliated who don't consider themselves atheist or agnostic?That's the subject of my latest column on the Guardian, Many non-religious people still believe in God - what is that all about? In it, I analyze the beliefs of the religious "nones" and discuss what, if anything, they really have in common. To find … [Read more...]

Are Atheist Kids More Altruistic?

When I see a story that promises evidence for something I'd very much like to be true, I try to apply an extra measure of skepticism. That's why I'm hesitant to believe a new study in the journal Current Biology which claims that children raised in atheist households are more altruistic and less judgmental than children of religious families:The children played a game intended to measure their altruistic tendencies (or lack thereof). First, they were presented with a bagful of stickers and … [Read more...]

On Moral Superheroism

I have thoughts about this essay in the Guardian about extreme altruism, seen through the life of an atheist named Julia Wise:Julia believed that because each person was equally valuable, she was not entitled to care more for herself than for anyone else; she believed that she was therefore obliged to spend much of her life working for the benefit of others... She reduced her expenses to the absolute minimum so she could give away 50% of what she earned. She felt that nearly every penny … [Read more...]

Pay Attention to the News You Don’t See

Last week, there was a powerful magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Chile near the city of Illapel. The tremors were felt as far as São Paulo, 1,600 miles away, and triggered tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific, from Hawaii to Japan to New Zealand.If you didn't hear about this quake, there's a reason for that: in spite of the widespread damage and massive evacuations, it had a tiny death toll. Just 11 people died, compared to the 525 people who died in a similar quake five years ago. That … [Read more...]

Is Assisted Dying Narcissism?

In a milestone, the California legislature approved an assisted-dying bill last week. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't said if he'll sign it, but if he does, the state would become the fifth and by far the largest to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication. Like its counterpart laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont, the California version requires doctors to certify that the person is of sound mind and has less than six months to live.But even if Brown vetoes this version of the bill, it … [Read more...]

The Maturing Secular Community: Fewer Personalities, More Good Deeds

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Humanism. Read other perspectives here.I've written about the future of religion and the coming secular era, but there's another side to that coin. Namely, if religion is declining, what will happen to the non-religious? How will the secular community change as it grows and matures over the next few decades? I don't have any special insight into the future, but we can make some educated … [Read more...]

Pro-Gay Christians, Wouldn’t Atheism Be Easier?

I have to wonder what could possibly be motivating gay and gay-affirming Christians to stay in the church. Last week, another one was unceremoniously tossed out:Julie Rodgers rocked the evangelical world last year when Wheaton College announced they would be hiring the celibate gay Christian as an associate for spiritual care in the Chaplain's office. In a new blog post, Rodgers announces her affirmation of same-sex relationships and marriage equality.And Wheaton College says Rodgers … [Read more...]

Secular Students Week 2015: How to Win at Activism

It's Secular Students Week, when we old folk interview the next generation of secular activists and share stories of the fantastic work that they're doing. The Secular Student Alliance has a goal to get 500 donations this week, and if they reach this goal, they'll unlock a $20,000 challenge grant! Donate and help them reach their goal here.For this post, I spoke to Sarah McCarter of the Students for Free-thought at the University of Michigan-Flint, whom you may remember from my column in the … [Read more...]