A Book Review Policy

Although I have written previously of Daylight Atheism's rapid growth (and let me add that the total hit count for August shattered the previous record from July), this weblog appears to be attracting attention in a way that I did not at all expect. Several days ago, I was contacted by Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, who thanked me for my previous positive review of his book and asked if I would mention that it was now out in paperback with new and revised chapters. I … [Read more...]

The Roots of Morality III: Universal Utilitarianism

In Part 2 of this series, we reached the conclusion that happiness is the ultimate value and we should strive to increase it. This result can be formalized into a secular ethical system I call universal utilitarianism, whose key tenet is as follows:Always minimize both actual and potential suffering; always maximize both actual and potential happiness.Granted, this simple statement hardly seems sufficient to undergird an entire ethical system. On the other hand, the statement "Allele … [Read more...]

The Roots of Morality II: The Foundation

In the previous post in this series, I argued that moral relativism is a logically inconsistent position and must be discarded. The only remaining option is moral objectivism; that is, the position that some acts are objectively right and others are objectively wrong, and that this will be true regardless of any person or group's opinion.However, the knowledge that morality is objective does not tell us what it actually consists of. In this post, I will propose a basis for objective morality … [Read more...]

Newsweek Discovers Atheists

P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula draws my attention to a Newsweek article by Jerry Adler, "The New Naysayers", about several prominent atheists and the impact they have had on American culture and society.In sum, I agree with Myers: this article was terrible. (Newsweek in general has a poor track record when it comes to atheism.) Although any attention paid to atheists is welcome, Adler's article was characterized by the heavy-handed application of logical fallacies and an intrusively opinionated tone … [Read more...]

A Religious Fugitive is Captured

(Author's Note: We temporarily interrupt the "Roots of Morality" series to bring you this late-breaking news...)A few weeks ago, I read Jon Krakauer's book Under the Banner of Heaven, a chilling account of the persistence of fundamentalist Mormon sects in the Utah desert that still practice polygamy, often forcing girls as young as 12 or 13 to marry older men who already have dozens of wives. (As Krakauer documents, this practice was instituted by Joseph Smith himself and is still enshrined in … [Read more...]

The Roots of Morality I: Refuting Relativism

Back in March of this year, soon after the founding of Daylight Atheism, I wrote a series of posts under the collected title "On Free Will". In that series, I argued that appeals to the supernatural are neither necessary nor helpful in explaining the origins of human behavior, and that a rational, physical account of free will which preserves the qualities we value most can be given without invoking an immaterial soul.I was pleased with the way this series turned out - in particular, I myself … [Read more...]

On Pushing Back

The recent violence in Lebanon, as well as the worsening sectarian bloodshed in Iraq, that have dominated the headlines in recent weeks remind us of the sheer unending vindictiveness of religious warfare. Indeed, of all the worst trouble spots in the world either currently or in recent memory - Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, India and Pakistan, Sudan - religion has played a major causative role in virtually every one. The defenders of religion assert that it has brought into the world much good … [Read more...]

A Call for Truth in Advertising Laws

I was in New York City the other week, near Penn Station, when I was accosted by a well-dressed man in a business suit attempting to hand out fliers to passers-by. I did not take one, but inside the train station, I noticed one cast aside and lying on the ground. Out of curiosity, this time I picked it up and read it. It turned out to be promoting a revival meeting to be held in Madison Square Garden that weekend by the Korean evangelist Jaerock Lee, sponsored by a host of local churches. Below … [Read more...]

No Miracles

The previous essays in this series have explored various ways in which human beings appeal to the supernatural to solve our problems. We seek out oracles to tell us the truth without doing the hard work of seeking it out through study and experiment; we dream up heavens to provide us with a perfect world to live in without the sweat and toil of creating it ourselves; we invent commandments to show us morality without the intellectual labor and uncertainty of reasoning it out; we look to the … [Read more...]

No Messiahs

To judge by the narratives of our culture, an observer might well come to the conclusion that Homo sapiens was a race of fearless, free-spirited revolutionaries. History and mythology both religious and secular is filled with stories of the mavericks, the dissenters, the nonconformists who rebelled against an unjust and senseless system and "did it their way".However, this seeming admiration for dissent conceals the unsettling truth: Humanity is, and has always been, a race of followers. Ever … [Read more...]