The Lesson of Autumn Leaves: A Humanist Sermon

November is a good month for poetry. Most great poetry is about transience, and with autumn in full swing, there's much in November to inspire the poet's thoughts on that topic: the last yellow and brown leaves raining from the trees; the early fall of dusk as the days continue to shorten; the gray skies and cool days as the first taste of winter frost becomes perceptible in the air, and the world settles in for its yearly sleep. While I was walking in the leaves the other day, I had a minor … [Read more...]

In Honor of Terry Pratchett

I should have mentioned this story much earlier, but better late than never. If you're an atheist and a regular reader of sci-fi and fantasy, you probably know the name Terry Pratchett - and if you don't, you should. He's the award-winning and much-loved author of Discworld, a series of fantasy novels set in a flat, circular world that's carried through space on the back of a giant tortoise. Discworld began as a straight-up parody of other fantasy novels, but it's moved on to parodying all … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: An Arundel Tomb

Today's edition of Poetry Sunday features a return of the English poet and novelist Philip Larkin. Born in Coventry in 1922, Larkin received a degree in literature from Oxford in 1943. Though he worked for most of his life as a librarian at the University of Hull, he was well-known and widely acclaimed for his poetry and his work as a literary reviewer and jazz critic. He received numerous awards for his writing in his lifetime, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, the German Shakespeare … [Read more...]

Dignity in Dying: An Atheist's View

By way of Dangerous Intersection, I came across this sorrowful, beautiful story: He spent his life conducting world-renowned orchestras, but was almost blind and growing deaf – the music he loved increasingly out of reach. His wife of 54 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. So Edward and Joan Downes decided to die together. Edward Downes, a renowned British conductor who headed the BBC Philharmonic and served for five decades as a music director for the Royal Opera House, was … [Read more...]

Green Fields

[Author's Note: This piece is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, who passed away last week. The last time I saw her, several months before she died, she told me that she was not a "god-fearing" person. Freethought evidently runs deeper in my family than I had guessed, and in this small way, as in others, I'm glad I can carry on after her.] 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 … [Read more...]

We Need Nothing More

I recently received an e-mail from an atheist asking for advice: I've always been afraid of death, and usually I tell myself that it's pointless. But lately, I've started thinking about my existence and ultimately, my death. I was, and still am to some extent, horribly afraid of losing myself forever, which is quite irrational I suppose. I've cheered myself up, worked through this fear several times. I've made myself realize that life is short and that I should look at death as a reminder to … [Read more...]

Fragile Trappings

I stepped out of my house today on a chilly fall afternoon. After an unseasonably late warm spell, as if summer had lingered this year past its appointed time, autumn had arrived at last. The feel of the season was in the air: the misty cool, the forests defiantly ablaze with fiery color, the smell of fallen leaves, wet black and rusty gold, in the grass. There was a sense of hunkering down, of quiet activity in the stillness, as nature prepares for the coming winter foreshadowed in the bare … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Dirge Without Music

Today's edition of Poetry Sunday features another freethinking poet of the 20th century, the American playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay. Joseph Parisi's 100 Essential Modern Poets calls her "glamorous and bold", and notes that she was known "as much for her unconventional lifestyle as for her gift for poetry". Millay was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, the second to win the Frost Medal, and the English novelist Thomas Hardy called her poetry one of America's two greatest creations (the … [Read more...]

Morality Without Humanity

A shocking story has recently come out of Texas. It seems that High Point, an Arlington megachurch, abruptly canceled a planned funeral after finding out the deceased was gay, and that his family planned to mention that fact: The pastor said that he could imagine a similar situation involving a different sin. Perhaps a mother who is a member of the church loses a son who is a thief or murderer, Mr. Simons said. The church would surely volunteer to hold a service, he said. "But I don't think … [Read more...]

On the Morality Of…

Today I'm launching yet another new post series on Daylight Atheism, and yet another that I've had in mind since creating this weblog. I've often made it known that I get somewhat annoyed at religious apologists who claim that atheists have no morals (and what atheist wouldn't?). Although I've sharply criticized people making this insulting and dishonest claim on more than one occasion, in the long run there's a more effective way to expose it for the foolishness that it is. That way is to … [Read more...]


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