Weekend Coffee: October 11


• eBible Fellowship, a Christian group with ties to Harold Camping, predicted the world would end on October 7. Oops! After the date came and went, they put up a defiant post in which they conceded their error, yet insisted the world is still going to burn in hell anyway. (Here's a graphic of some other end-time blunders through history.)• The men trying to stop Sikh women from marrying outside their religion, using violence if necessary.• I've written about the horrible … [Read more...]

Is Assisted Dying Narcissism?

In a milestone, the California legislature approved an assisted-dying bill last week. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't said if he'll sign it, but if he does, the state would become the fifth and by far the largest to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication. Like its counterpart laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont, the California version requires doctors to certify that the person is of sound mind and has less than six months to live.But even if Brown vetoes this version of the bill, it … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: August 30


• Oliver Sacks has died. In his final column, "Sabbath", he talks about his humanism and his rejection of his Jewish upbringing when his mother discovered he was gay and was violently hateful towards him: "her harsh words made me hate religion's capacity for bigotry and cruelty".In his closing words, he contemplates the end with acceptance and peace:And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: March 28


• GOP congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers asked her constituents for Obamacare horror stories. The response she got was rather different.• "Shouldn't you be having these same kind of prayer circles around divorce attorneys' offices to 'save' people from acting on the sin of divorce?"• According to federal investigators, a self-described American "patriot" named Michael Sibley was upset that Muslims weren't committing enough acts of terrorism to make everyone see how evil … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Terry Pratchett’s Death

I was devastated to learn that Terry Pratchett, the renowned fantasy author, died this week at the unfairly early age of 66. Pratchett had been suffering from early-onset dementia for several years, and while he was a vocal advocate of assisted dying, his own passing was natural. (He also worked almost right up to the end: his final Discworld book, The Shepherd's Crown, is set to be published posthumously this year.)The sad news was broken by family on his Twitter account, in a form any … [Read more...]

Book Review: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


Summary: Morbid, irreverent and funny, but a subtle and compassionate humanism runs throughout.Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, the creator of a popular YouTube series answering questions about the funeral industry, and the founder of the Order of the Good Death, a "death acceptance" organization dedicated to helping people reconcile with mortality. Her book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory grows out of that mission, offering a disarmingly honest glimpse into an … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: February 22

• Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and science writer, has terminal cancer. Here, he writes a beautiful, elegiac, deeply humanist essay about confronting the prospect of death and what he intends to do with the time he has left.• This can't end well: In response to the increasing threat of ISIS, which is drawing Muslim extremists to its cause from all over the world, Western Christians, most with military experience, are traveling to Iraq and Syria to form an opposing Christian … [Read more...]

Brittany Maynard and the Right to Die


Brittany Maynard died this month. Diagnosed with brain cancer on New Year's Day, at the age of 29, she opted for surgery, but the cancer returned and became even more aggressive. Deciding that radiation or chemotherapy was only delaying the inevitable and would destroy the quality of her life in what time she had left, she decided to forego further treatment and spent her last few months traveling, checking off all the places on her bucket list, before finally choosing to end her life under … [Read more...]

Repost: Green Fields


[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from June 2009.]For those who are grieving, for those who mourn, and for all those who are burdened with the weary weight of sorrow, I have a prescription.Find a quiet, peaceful place, a green field of grass where great trees grow and gift the world with their shade. Let it be just before sunset, at that golden hour when the heat of the afternoon is past, when the sky is blue … [Read more...]

Grief Beyond Belief

I've been writing about atheism for some years now, and one of my great joys has been watching the secular community grow and thrive. Once, our main pastimes were debating philosophy on the internet and filing church-state lawsuits. Now we have political lobbying arms, atheist parenting guides, secular student clubs and summer camps, humanist communities and celebrants, and more. We're getting closer and closer to the ideal of a true secular community whose members offer tangible support to each … [Read more...]