Pro-Life and Pro-Family

Inspired by an interview on a recent episode of Freethought Radio, I want to talk about a term that greatly annoys me: "values voters". This term is used by American religious conservatives to describe themselves, and all too often, we see the media playing along and using it to describe this voting bloc as well."Values voters" is widely understood to refer to the heavily religious Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, who reliably vote Republican. This group generally supports the war in … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Prostitution

Today's installment of "On the Morality Of" concerns the topic of prostitution, and whether it should be legal. Would a perfect society permit this practice, or would it be banned under the law?As I've said before, universal utilitarianism was intended to promote the happiness of all human beings, and no person can decide what makes you happy with more knowledge or authority than you yourself. Consistent with this conclusion, any society that follows UU should place the highest value on … [Read more...]

On Gratitude

This Thursday, November 22, is - at least for my American readers - the holiday of Thanksgiving. Despite the religious connotations that have been attached to this day since the beginning, I think this is a good holiday for atheists. It's one of the few whose message can be rendered in entirely secular terms. Thanksgiving as traditionally practiced is a time to come together with family and friends, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life's abundance, and to give thanks for all the good that has … [Read more...]

Flickers of Conscience

One year ago this month, I posted an essay titled "A Seriously Warped Moral Compass". In it, I highlighted the disturbing tendency of religious beliefs to twist and distort a person's conscience to the point where they accept terrible evils as just acts, and, conversely, elevate harmless actions to the height of wickedness and sin.But I do wonder sometimes if even the most thorough and relentless religious brainwashing can ever completely succeed. Are human beings infinitely malleable, so that … [Read more...]

Inexplicable Justice

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mold me Man? Did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me, or here place In this delicious Garden? As my will Concurred not to my being, it were but right And equal to reduce me to my dust, Desirous to resign and render back All I received, unable to perform Thy term too hard, by which I was to hold The good I sought not. To the loss of that, Sufficient penalty, why hast thou added The sense of endless woes? Inexplicable Thy justice … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Gay Marriage

The second installment in my "On the Morality Of" series will focus on another issue that has sharply divided society in recent years, the issue of whether gay couples should be legally permitted to obtain marriage. Although American polls consistently find that majorities are opposed to this idea, substantial minorities support it, and the opposition seems to be declining in strength year by year. Is the majority right in this case? If gays are not permitted to marry, should they receive at … [Read more...]

Nurturing Virtue

Earlier this year, I wrote a post series titled "The Virtues", which proposed a secular reinvention of the seven cardinal virtues of theology. But I now realize that with this series, I was making an additional, implicit point: that it is possible for human beings to be consistently virtuous.This was made clear to me in a recent e-mail correspondence with a Christian visitor:One of the things that convinces me of my need for a savior is a long hard look at myself. In particular my absolute … [Read more...]

The Basis for an Atheist's Morality

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an editorial titled What Atheists Can't Answer. The author, Michael Gerson, is an influential evangelical Christian and was formerly George W. Bush's chief speechwriter.Compared to most attacks on atheism, including a few I've rebutted recently, Gerson's essay is fair and honest. He rightfully steers clear of the slanderous and unfounded insults so common in apologetic literature, conceding that human beings can be good without God. However, while he … [Read more...]

Lightbringers

In the World in Shadow series, I have written about some of the terrible natural evils that afflict humans. My primary purpose in writing this series is to illustrate the strength of the atheist's argument from evil, that the existence of vast amounts of undeserved and random suffering disproves the existence of a powerful, benevolent deity.However, there is another reason I write this series, and that is so I am not accused of excessive optimism. I am, as I will readily admit, an optimist, … [Read more...]

The Doctrine of Double Effect

In my recent post on euthanasia, a thought experiment was mentioned which I'd like to address at greater length:In one dilemma, you are standing by a railroad track when you notice that a trolley, with no one aboard, is heading for a group of five people. They will all be killed if the trolley continues on its current track.The only thing you can do to prevent these five deaths is to throw a switch that will divert the trolley onto a side track, where it will kill only one person. When … [Read more...]


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