On Gift-Giving

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Hanukkah's prominence was the plan of reformist rabbis, seeking to create a Jewish holiday to compete with Christmas just as Christmas was created to compete with pagan solstice festivals. In an ironic sense, this campaign has been both a success and a failure: although the cause of Hanukkah was eagerly taken up by marketers, it failed to dislodge Christmas from public consciousness and has simply contributed further to the commercialization of the holiday … [Read more...]

A Solstice Sermon

In past years, I've used the occasion of the winter solstice to deliver a brief homily on an issue of moral importance. This year, I'd like to do so again.Although nearly every society has put its own religious or cultural gloss on it, the solstice is an event marked and commemorated by all of humanity. In Japan, the solstice festival is Amaterasu, the reemergence of the sun goddess. To ancient Romans, it was Brumalia, the feast of the wine god Bacchus, and to Germanic pagans, it was Yule. To … [Read more...]

Rapture Bonds

One of the great virtues of market forces is that they consistently reward investors who can correctly predict future events. Whenever two people disagree about the plausibility of some event, you can create a financial instrument whereby the one who's right can profit at the expense of the one who's wrong.The Christian community in America, particularly that section of it aligned with the religious right, commands vast wealth and influence. Although atheists are beginning to make our mark, … [Read more...]

Down to Earth

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Alexander Donald, 7 February 1788What should we seek to get out of life? To a secular humanist, what is the goal toward which our labors should point?As atheists, we don't believe in a heavenly reward, so that path is … [Read more...]

Spread the Wealth: Further Thoughts on Capitalism

In his 1651 book Leviathan, the Enlightenment political theorist Thomas Hobbes wrote that in the uncivilized, lawless state of nature, the life of humankind was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". Even in Hobbes' own day, when a relative degree of civilization had been achieved, there was considerable truth to this. But in just the last few hundred years, our society has been transformed almost beyond recognition.For most of human history, nearly everyone lived in conditions of … [Read more...]

Why I Am Not a Communist

Last summer, I wrote a three-part post series, "Why I Am Not a Libertarian", which explained my disagreement with this political philosophy. However, I've realized that despite writing an essay addressing the crimes of communist regimes as they reflect on atheists, I've never written a post on my differences with communism per se. This one will do that.I have many objections to communism, not least of which is last year's news that, in Russia, the Communist party is now teaming up with the … [Read more...]

Three Objections to Objectivism

I recently finished reading Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness, and I wanted to offer some comments on her moral philosophy.There are several good reasons why I ought to like Ayn Rand. She was an atheist, and proudly so, and argued for the supremacy of reason as the only valid way of knowing. I agree with this. She denounced communism and supported capitalism. I agree with this as well. Her works are still very popular in some circles and offer a vision of a rational, productive life which … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Mind of the Market

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: A libertarian political tract disguised as a work of science.Michael Shermer's The Mind of the Market concerns "evolutionary economics" - the way that evolutionary forces have shaped human instincts about trading, value and exchange, and how those tendencies have played out in creating the variety of economic systems in the world today. There's enough material on … [Read more...]

Probing the Prosperity Gospel

I'm surprised that this story, "Going After the Money Ministries", hasn't gotten much attention on atheist blogs. Earlier this month, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, and Paula White - six notorious televangelists who preach the "prosperity gospel" - received an ominous letter from Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee, asking them to account for numerous expenditures whose tax-exempt status seems … [Read more...]

Optimistic Populism

In the comments of my recent post "On Atheist Janitors", I was accused of being naive for my belief in the possibility of a truly just and prosperous state:I wasn't even going to address Ebon's utopian comments on how we should ensure a minimum income for everyone on a full time job sufficient to travel for leisure and all. Clearly Ebon's not an economist, but a dreamer. I guess that's his own variety of opium. Heaven not in heaven, but here on Earth... I ask you, is that any less of a … [Read more...]


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