Atlas Shrugged: Too Much of a Good Thing


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter VIt's now been two months since Dagny returned from Galt's Gulch. Taggart Transcontinental is suffering through an agonizing, protracted collapse, with breakdowns halting trains and snarling schedules all across the country. The few spare parts they can get are being stolen and sold on the black market by Cuffy Meigs, the looter official from Washington who's now the sole one making decisions for the railroad.Dagny is in Jim's office, where he's pleading … [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...]

Weekend Coffee: November 8


• A Texas homeschooling family has been taken to court after allegedly refusing to teach their children anything at all since "they were going to be raptured". Of note, the family's 17-year-old daughter ran away from home because she wanted to go to school.• Violence in the Name of the Messiah: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists aim to create a theocratic state in Palestinian territory through terrorism. An infamous rabbinic document called "Torat ha-Melekh", or "The Law of the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Kill the Redshirts


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IVWhile his wife is away, Jim Taggart has a caller. It's Lillian Rearden, and she's come to plead for help. Hank is pressing ahead with a divorce, and by means of rampant subversion of the legal system, he's winning:"It's set for next month. And when I say set, that's just what I mean. Oh, it's cost him plenty — but he's bought the judge, the clerks, the bailiffs, their backers, their backers' backers, a few legislators, half a dozen administrators — he … [Read more...]

If John Galt Invented the Internet


A hero's work is never done. I've been recapping Atlas Shrugged, including the movies, for over two years, and the end was finally drawing into sight. But now I've found out that yet another adaptation is being planned, this time a TV series. The new producer, Albert S. Ruddy, plans on taking some liberties with the source material:The main thing, Mr. Ruddy said, is to honor Ms. Rand's insistence on making a film for the future. That means redrawing its capitalists and creators, who go on … [Read more...]

Dangerous Ideas Welcomed Here


In September, Bernie Sanders made a campaign appearance at Liberty University, the Jerry Falwell-founded college and incubator for the religious right. Sanders' speech emphasized themes of social justice in the Bible and other religious traditions, although without downplaying the obvious differences in how he thinks they should be applied. By all accounts, the response from Liberty's students and staff was tepid, but polite:"Calling on us to help the neediest, that resonates with me as a … [Read more...]

Dark Heart Now Available For Free!


Happy Halloween!Because it's the season for tricks and treats, I've got one to offer. For a brief time only, I'm making my first novel, DARK HEART, available for free (update - see below). It's a fantasy epic set in a world where mortals rose up, overthrew the old gods and took their places, only to find that divinity isn't all they dreamed it would be. If you haven't read it yet, now's the opportunity you've been waiting for!Here's the capsule summary:Three gods rule the world … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Horseshoe Theory


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IVHere's this chapter summarized in two sentences: Jim Taggart's wife Cherryl finds out that he's not the great businessman she thought he was, but one of the worst of the looters, and that he married her for the sadistic pleasure of crushing her spirit. In despair, she commits suicide.That's really the only thing that happens. It has no larger importance, but Rand spends an entire chapter on it, piling on the bathos and melodrama, just to emphasize what … [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...]