On the Morality of: Privacy of the Dead

[Note: This post contains major spoilers for the S-Town podcast.]I've been listening to S-Town, the popular and controversial new podcast from NPR reporter Brian Reed. It was undeniably fascinating as a work of literature, a modern spin on the Southern Gothic genre. But after finishing it, I shared the concerns that others have had about it, and I wanted to write about why.The genesis of the podcast came when Reed was contacted out of the blue by John B. McLemore, a resident of a rural … [Read more...]

Can Basic Income End Poverty?

Last year, in "The Post-Work Society", I wrote about whether a universal basic income would be a feasible option in a society where there aren't enough jobs for everyone.I was skeptical that this wouldn't lead to a tragedy-of-the-commons problem - that the people who get the money would drop out of the workforce and leave everyone else to pick up the slack. But a test run in Kenya, at least so far, is offering evidence to the contrary.The program is being run by the nonprofit … [Read more...]

On the Morality Of: Punching Nazis

I wasn't anticipating I'd ever write a post with a title like this, but here we are. Welcome to America in 2017.This past weekend, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer was giving an on-camera interview in Washington, D.C. when this happened:Richard Spencer got punched in the face during the protests at Trump's #inauguration pic.twitter.com/oQAwtbtEeT— Gender-Professecs (@MrTrunney) January 20, 2017If you don't know who Richard Spencer is, here are the highlights: He founded an online … [Read more...]

When Should a Humanist Forgive?

In "The Ashes", I wrote that we should stop trying to help Trump voters who are about to suffer the consequences of getting what they voted for. This drew a rejoinder by Dragoness Eclectic:And this, I fear, is the difference between the compassion preached by Jesus, and secular humanist compassion: "We'll only be kind and compassionate to our friends and allies" vs. "Love your enemies; for even sinners love their friends. You are called to do much more."I thought this critique … [Read more...]

How to Resist Temptation

A quick question about your philosophical intuitions. Who's the more moral person: the one who feels immoral temptations and resists them, or the one who's never tempted to do wrong in the first place?Famous philosophers have taken different sides on this. As an article in the Atlantic describes, social scientists are now investigating the question:One argument, associated with Aristotle, is that a truly moral person will wholeheartedly want to do the right thing, and no part of her … [Read more...]

20 Things I’ll Teach My Son

Ever since my son was conceived, I've been thinking about what I want to teach him, about life and about the kind of person he should strive to be. It's going to be a while before he's old enough to absorb any kind of major life lessons, but that makes it more important to start coming up with ideas now, so I won't be unprepared when the time comes.I'm not going to list basic principles like the Golden Rule, because those go without saying. In this post, I'd like to collect the ideas that … [Read more...]

Repost: The World Is Changing and the Churches Are Afraid

[I'm taking a break from the blog to bond with and care for my new son. Please enjoy this classic post! I'll check in periodically to answer comments.]Last week, a Daylight Atheism commenter (thanks, Nathaniel!) pointed out that my post "Aid in Dying" had been cited on a blog on the Patheos Catholic channel, Public Catholic, whose author, Rebecca Hamilton, is a member of the Oklahoma state legislature. Needless to say, she was perturbed:Last night, when I googled euthanasia, I came … [Read more...]

Repost: If I Were an Unethical Atheist

[I'm taking a break from the blog to bond with and care for my new son. Please enjoy this classic post! I'll check in periodically to answer comments.]More times than I can count, I've heard the argument that atheists can't be trusted to act ethically, that human beings need to believe in a supernatural source of morality to coerce us to behave. (The most recent time I remember hearing this was in my debate with Peter Hitchens last year.) The argument usually goes that even if we … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Great Chain of Being

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsThroughout Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand tells us that her ideal state would be a perfect meritocracy. Everyone would rise or fall as their talents merited. There'd be no corrupt bargains, no discrimination, and no hereditary ruling class.It's an appealing vision, but what the novel shows isn't the same as what it tells. Regardless of what Rand says she wants, she repeatedly undermines her meritocratic ideal by writing characters who do indeed have special … [Read more...]

Useless Money: A Humanist Sermon

This is 432 Park Avenue:It's the newest addition to the New York City skyline, an ultra-luxury residential skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. With a top height of almost 1400 feet, it's the tallest residential building in the world and the second tallest building in all of NYC, ahead of the Empire State Building, behind only the new One World Trade Center.Despite its neck-craning height (it actually required approval from the FAA), 432 Park Avenue has only 104 apartments. The first … [Read more...]