Atlas Shrugged: The New Feudalism


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IILast time, John Galt told Dagny that because she trespassed in his valley, he's going to hold her there for a month, just because he wants to. He also tells her that he's going to bill the account that Ragnar established for her at the Mulligan Bank for her accommodations:"If you don't claim it, some part of it — a very small part — will be turned over to me in your name.""In my name? Why?""To pay for your room and board."I quoted this p … [Read more...]

When Rationalists Reinvent Religion


I enjoyed this story by Dylan Matthews on Vox about effective altruism, an idea I'm all in favor of and wanted to say more about.EA is the philosophy that we should use science, rather than warm fuzzy feelings or guesswork, to direct our charitable giving where it will do the most good. Compared to the enormous need in the world, the amount of money and energy available for charity is small to begin with, and too many of those scarce and precious dollars and volunteer hours have been … [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...]

Weekend Coffee: August 8

• Niloy Neel, a Bangladeshi atheist writer, is brutally murdered in his own home by Islamists. He's the fourth secularist writer in Bangladesh to be assassinated this year, while the government continues to sit on its hands and do nothing.• Prayer can't fight the Ebola virus. But science can.• Today in "why are LGBT people still Catholic" news: a director of religious education at a Catholic school was fired for being a lesbian, and unaccountably seems surprised by it. … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: L’Etat, C’Est Moi


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIWhile Ragnar Danneskjold thinks of himself as a reverse Robin Hood, I think he's more like the Objectivist Santa Claus. He comes down the chimney to give gold to all the good girls and boys of superlative individual value. He may not have a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer, but he does have a stealth battleship which can both outrun and outfight all the navies of the world while simultaneously being small enough to hide undetectably, which we can safely say … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: The Bright Side of Discrimination


My latest column on the Guardian is up: "There's a silver lining in the religious right's onslaught of discrimination".From evangelical colleges to Catholic schools, America's religious right is pulling out all the stops to keep enforcing their prejudices on others, even after Supreme Court rulings that went against them. In this column, I argue that this is a good sign for those of us who care about equality! To find out why, read the excerpt below, then click through to the full … [Read more...]

So Wrong For So Long: On Liberal Biblical Reinterpretation


Following up on last week's affray over cognitive dissonance in pro-LGBT Christians, I have one more point I want to make.Liberal and progressive believers have a variety of theological rationalizations for why they remain in a church that's historically been an unrelenting enemy of people like them. One of the most common is that God is continuing to deliver new revelations, updating and overwriting old beliefs, and they have faith that this will eventually result in all believers … [Read more...]

Speaking at Long Island Atheists


Two weeks from today, I'll be speaking on Long Island about secular morality, courtesy of the Long Island Atheists Meetup Group. If you're in the area, come out and see me!WHAT: Secular Morality in the Modern Age WHEN: Saturday, August 15, 2015, 4:00 PM WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau, 223 Stewart Avenue, Garden City, NYNo admission charge. Donations welcomed. … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Bare Branches


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter III've written about the things that shouldn't be present in Galt's Gulch but somehow are: handmade tractors, orange groves, an entire industrial infrastructure that seemingly sprang up out of nothing. However, just as important is what's not there, because Ayn Rand either didn't grasp the necessity or simply overlooked it. And one of those lacunae is a huge one.Rand unintentionally betrays the depth of the problem when Dagny asks Ragnar Danneskjold how … [Read more...]

There’s No Religious Freedom to Refuse Service


Last week in Washington state, another special religious privilege bit the dust. The Ninth Circuit appeals court ruled unanimously that a pharmacist doesn't have the right to refuse to fill a prescription for emergency contraception:A unanimous three-judge 9th Circuit panel on Thursday decided that the rules are constitutional because they rationally further the state's interest in patient safety. Speed is particularly important considering the time-sensitive nature of emergency … [Read more...]