Is Addiction a Moral Failing?

Something that, as an atheist, I always insist upon is that we are biochemical machines. There's no spooky, supernatural ghost in the machine directing our bodies, no Cartesian Theater where the nervous system feeds into a single ineffable locus of consciousness. Our thoughts and our desires arise from patterns of electrochemical activity in our heads, and drugs and other interventions that alter those patterns of connectivity produce corresponding changes in our minds.But even if we know … [Read more...]

Friday Night Music: Dance Apocalyptic

Since the 2016 presidential election seems like it has at least decent odds of bringing about the end of the world, let's celebrate in style with Janelle Monáe. From 2013's The Electric Lady: … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Collateral Damage

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IXThere's one scene from the previous chapter that fits better here. While John Galt is being held captive, there's one person he asks to see: his old teacher, Robert Stadler. Stadler, who sold his soul to the looters long ago, is hysterical with terror at the prospect and begs them not to make him do it, but they shove him into the room anyway:Across the long room, he saw John Galt sitting on the window sill, a tall, slender figure in slacks and … [Read more...]

On Not Ceding the Moral High Ground

This already-bizarre campaign season has taken an ugly turn, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump encouraging violence at his rallies and even promising to pay his supporters' legal bills if they were arrested. That's why many people feared the worst last week, when Trump announced he would hold a rally in Chicago, on the campus of the University of Illinois.A massive counterprotest quickly sprang up, and at the last minute, the campaign called off the event. They claim that the police … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: How Atheists Die

Atheists are transforming Western society's attitudes toward death and dying. Our growing numbers and increasing cultural influence are making religious rituals and beliefs about death less and less relevant. What's coming up to replace it? That's the topic of my latest column on the Guardian, Are we ready to face death without religion? To find out more, read the excerpt below, then click through to the full piece:For centuries, the Christian church wrote the script for how westerners deal … [Read more...]

My Birthday Wish: Support Bowl-a-Thon ’16

Happy birthday to me! Today's my 34th birthday, which means I totally outlived Jesus.I'm not a materialistic person, so I'm not looking for presents. But if you have some spare cash, I'd be happy if you made a donation to Feminist Coffee Hour's Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser for the New York Abortion Access Fund.And if you need a further reason to donate, this cat in a bowtie also wants you to: … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Passion of Eddie Willers, Part I

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter VIIIAs we've seen throughout this book, Eddie Willers is by far the best character in Atlas Shrugged.Unlike the other characters, who are mostly millionaire heirs with superhuman competencies and inhuman emotionlessness, he's the only regular joe. He's more loyal and devoted to his job than even Dagny is: when she quits the company in a fit of pique, and then later vanishes for a month into Galt's Gulch, both times Eddie steps in and keeps the company … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Open Borders

My recap of the Maryam Namazie-Sam Harris exchange spurred a debate about open-border policies, so I wanted to write a post focusing on that topic. Unfortunately, I believe this is only going to become more relevant, not just because of the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, but because it's likely that the next few decades will see millions of people forced to migrate by climate change.On a first pass, it's hard to see what argument could be made against open borders. Shouldn't travel be … [Read more...]

What the Catholic Church Did in the Shadows

Although it slipped out of the headlines for a while, the Roman Catholic church's plague of priests raping and molesting children hasn't gone away. This week, we got a jolting reminder of that:Two Roman Catholic bishops who led a central Pennsylvania diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests or religious leaders over a 40-year period, according to a grand jury report issued on Tuesday.The grand jury's report, which is based on documents … [Read more...]

Photo Sunday: Sign of Spring

"Winter never dies. Not as people die. It hangs on in late frost and the smell of autumn in a summer evening, and in the heat it flees to the mountains.Summer never dies. It sinks into the ground; in the depths, winter buds form in sheltered places and white shoots creep under dead leaves."—Terry Pratchett, WintersmithPhoto by the author, Long Island, March 2016. Camera: Samsung Galaxy S6. … [Read more...]