#800deadbabies: The Grim Conclusion

In 2014, I wrote about the Magdalene laundry in the Irish town of Tuam, one of many institutions where the Catholic church imprisoned and tortured innocent women. Catherine Corless, a local historian, uncovered death certificates for almost 800 children who died there under the harsh and abusive hand of church overseers.Corless embarked on a search for these children's graves. While she had no direct evidence of where most of them were buried, there were no burial records for them in any … [Read more...]

Evangelicals Cement Their Bigotry

The new administration's Muslim travel ban has inspired vehement protests across America. Even if the courts uphold it, which seems unlikely, the fear and dismay it's caused in immigrants throughout the land will have a lasting effect. In a black irony, its most salient effect may be to chase away skilled workers of all types - including immigrant doctors from Muslim countries who work in the underserved regions of Appalachia and the Rust Belt. (Once again, you get what you vote for.)The … [Read more...]

Dystopia Journal #3: The Unamerican President

Last month, when I wrote about the unprecedented badness of the Trump administration, I neglected to mention something else unique and terrifying about his presidency. Namely, it's that he seems to value the goodwill of foreign autocrats above the well-being of America.This was, of course, brought forcefully to my attention by the news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions secretly had contact with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and lied to Congress about it during his confirmation … [Read more...]

Does Atheism Lead to Islam?

As a society becomes increasingly secular and unchurched, what's the natural next step? Will it continue to become freer, more liberal, more peaceful? Or will it take a sharp 180-degree turn into ultra-fundamentalist Islam?You might find that idea absurd. If so, you're probably not archbishop emeritus (which I'm assuming is code for "ultra-conservative old fossil who pines for the Inquisition") Carlo Liberati, of Italy, who reportedly said the following:Because of their "stupidity," … [Read more...]

Dystopia Journal #2: Is It Really That Bad?

One month into the Trump administration, I'm looking for any reason to be optimistic. One that's occurred to me is that I have to wonder whether I'm not falling into the trap of present bias - exaggerating how bad things are now, just because I wasn't around in past eras when things were far worse, so I don't have the proper baseline for comparison.After all, we've been through bad times before. The U.S. has had awful presidents and Congresses, wars and depressions and all kinds of … [Read more...]

The St. Louis Manifest

I wasn't able to join in the massive protests at JFK over the weekend - not being able to jet off on short notice is one disadvantage of having a baby to care for, alas - but I was cheered up to see them. After a dark few months where it seemed as if America's progressive spirit was dead, this is one of the first real signs of a backlash against the poisonous racism that's wormed its way into our government.Even so, the illegal Muslim ban, decreed with no warning or debate, has already … [Read more...]

Dystopia Journal #1: A Vast Unreality

This past weekend's inauguration didn't feel real. It still doesn't.Despite the evidence, it's hard for me to accept that the presidency of Donald Trump is really happening. Watching the news feels like we've been granted a collective glimpse into an alternate timeline, a bad future, as a warning and a means of averting it. But this is no dream or fantasy, it's the reality we live in now and we'll be facing it for years to come.It feels all the more unreal because it's such a sharp break … [Read more...]

Letter-Writing Wednesday: Andrew Cuomo’s Bad Faith

Dear Governor Cuomo:As a New York State resident and a Democrat, I was dismayed to read that you vetoed a bipartisan bill passed by the legislature to reform the state's woefully inadequate public-defender system. What's even more disgraceful is that you let the legislature pass the bill back in June of last year and then sat on it, waiting until the last possible moment to announce your veto, to ensure that the legislative session would be over and there'd be no chance to override it until … [Read more...]

Letter-Writing Wednesday: Don’t Help Republicans Govern

[For 2017, I made a New Year's resolution to make sure my elected officials hear from me more often. To hold myself accountable to that pledge, and hopefully to inspire others to do the same, I intend to post the letters I send on Daylight Atheism. I sent a version of this letter to my senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Feel free to reuse it or adapt it for your own purposes.]Dear Senator:After Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Mitch McConnell declared that Republicans' … [Read more...]

Lord of Misrule

Before the Christian church renamed the day Christmas and tried to co-opt it with their own rituals, the winter solstice holiday was traditionally a raucous pagan festival. One of the old customs, which persisted into the medieval era, was called the Lord of Misrule. A person of low social standing, like a peasant or a servant, was chosen to be king for a day and to conscript everyone else into debauchery:Presiding over these rowdy celebrations of Christmas-tide, held over the twelve days … [Read more...]