Under Green Leaves

In an old essay on Ebon Musings, "Finding Beauty in the Mundane", I wrote in a contemplative mood:Have you ever considered the trees? Though their kind of life is far grander, slower and more patient than ours, they are each individuals, as different as human beings are. They add beauty to the world, give peace in their dappled shade, freshen the air and enrich the earth, and turn even the most hard-edged urban environment into a blossoming garden. We humans grew up beneath the trees, and we … [Read more...]

How to Eradicate Militant Islam

It's said that nothing is harder to kill than an idea. Trying to stamp out a deeply felt belief by force, especially a religious belief, not only makes its followers cling to it more tenaciously, it gives them an aura of martyrdom that makes the belief look even more attractive to outsiders. And when the belief in question is a religious belief whose scriptures claim that persecution of the faithful is a sign of their righteousness, these tendencies become all the stronger.This is more than … [Read more...]

The Contributions of Freethinkers: Richard Leakey

Atheists have a great number of famous names to our credit. We can justly claim renowned composers, scientists, musicians, civil rights leaders - and conservationists, as we'll see in today's post on the contributions of freethinkers.Richard Leakey was born in Nairobi in 1944, son of the famous archaeologist Louis Leakey. The elder Leakey was a strong supporter of racial equality, and Richard's upbringing reflected that belief. He started school soon after the Mau Mau rebellion had been … [Read more...]

Fossilized Opinions

Sam Harris is famous for the argument that religion, even moderate religion, does harm by teaching that faith is a virtue that should not be questioned, which encourages militant and violent strains of fundamentalism. Today, I want to talk about another way, subtle but unmistakable, that religion causes harm to human beings.Because of its tendency to treat all the statements of its founders and sacred texts as holy truth, religion has the effect of "freezing" the prejudices in vogue at the … [Read more...]

Apotheosis

Last month, in "Dreams of a Better World", I considered some of the immediate problems humanity could solve if we had the collective will to do so. I want to continue that theme in this post, but from a longer perspective.Historically, humanity's knowledge has exceeded its wisdom. As soon as we invent a new technology, we begin adopting it on a wide scale, without asking whether we should or what the consequences might be. Many of our most pressing problems - multidrug-resistant diseases, … [Read more...]

The Secular Case for Vegetarianism

Guest Post by Rob Schneider[Editor's Note: In my third anniversary post, I mentioned that I wanted to have more guest essays on Daylight Atheism, as well as more posts exploring issues where atheists don't all agree. This post accomplishes both those aims. Please welcome Rob Schneider (not that Rob Schneider) and his first appearance on Daylight Atheism.]Veganism and vegetarianism have a bad reputation in our society. Those who identify as vegan or vegetarian tend to receive odd looks and … [Read more...]

Bands of Iron

On a wintry day late last year, I visited the Museum of Natural History in New York City. While touring the geology wing, I came across this boulder-sized chunk of a rock formation:A banded iron formation from the geology exhibit of the Museum of Natural History. Photo credit to Erich Vieth.It was out in the open with no ropes or glass around it, inviting visitors to touch it. I brushed a hand across its polished surface, which was as smooth and cool as a sheet of glass. Nothing about … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Conservation

Today's post on morality concerns environmental conservation and sustainability. Human civilization has historically behaved (and many still do behave) as if the Earth was there to be conquered and natural resources were limitless. Environmental devastation is not solely the product of industrialized society; ancient cultures did the same thing, even those with tools no more sophisticated than the hand ax. For instance, as Jared Diamond wrote in his book Collapse, the reason for the … [Read more...]

TV Review: Planet Earth

I recently finished watching Planet Earth, the award-winning BBC nature documentary series narrated by David Attenborough. As its title implies, Planet Earth is an effort of considerable ambition: the filmmakers set out to produce a series that would provide a survey of our world's natural grandeur and biodiversity. To a remarkable extent, I think they succeeded. Of course the full richness of Earth's biosphere could not be exhaustively chronicled, but this series touches on many of the high … [Read more...]

A Solstice Sermon

Today is - at least to my northern hemisphere readers - the winter solstice, shortest day of the year. For three months now, we've seen the sun set and the night fall progressively earlier each day. But this date marks the terminus of that trend, and though the heart of winter still lies ahead, from now on the days will start to grow longer again.The solstice has always been a date invested with great importance. In the bitter depths of winter, our ancestors surrounded themselves with all the … [Read more...]


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