On Nihilism and Satanism

I'd like to write today about two stereotypes of atheism that are common among some quarters of religious apologists: that we are moral nihilists, recognizing no such concepts as right and wrong; and that we are Satanists who worship, or at least admire, the adversary power of monotheism. The atheists who advocate these concepts, rare though they are, are exploited by fundamentalists who use them to tar the rest of us.Is what I just wrote a contradiction? I don't think so. I find no … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Abortion

Although abortion is stereotyped as the most controversial and divisive social issue there is, I think the moral issues at stake are actually fairly unambiguous. This installment of "On the Morality Of" will explain why.Pared down to its essence, the moral question posed by abortion is a simple one: is an unborn fetus a human being, with all the moral rights and protections that pertain thereunto; or is it a non-human, an assemblage of cells, the existence of which may be terminated without … [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...]

Open Thread: On Anarchism

This is an open thread to hold the discussion split off from the "On Amateur Atheism" thread. Comments and replies welcome. … [Read more...]

On "Amateur" Atheism

This week, the Christian Century published an article by the Catholic theologian John Haught, titled "Amateur atheists: Why the new atheism isn't serious".Before I say anything more, I want to acknowledge that John Haught is not the real enemy. He testified for the side of the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design trial, for instance, arguing that religious faith is compatible with scientific inquiry and that ID is pseudoscience. I'm appreciative of his service on this … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Recreational Drug Use

Today's post on atheist morality concerns the use of natural and artificial pharmaceuticals for pleasure. This practice may be nearly as old as humanity - three-thousand-year-old Andean mummies have been found to contain traces of coca, and the brewing of beer may date back to the Stone Age. Today, the legality of such substances varies widely across the world: some religious sects consider psychoactive drugs to be a sacrament, while other religions, such as Islam, ban them altogether.Rather … [Read more...]

On Torture and "Tribulation Saints"

"What if she doesn't flip? How long do you give it?" "If you can't get to 'em somehow in the first forty-eight hours, more of the same isn't going to be any more effective." "Starvation isn't a motivator?" "Would be for me, but I guess they've proved it with prisoners of war. The ones who can survive that first round of psychological and physical torture aren't likely to ever break, no matter how long you keep it up."—from Armageddon, book 11 of the Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and … [Read more...]

On the Morality Of: Cloning

In today's post on atheist morality, I'll consider the permissibility of two types of human cloning, therapeutic and reproductive. Both types involve implanting a person's genes into an egg cell and stimulating it to grow. If the resulting embryo is allowed to grow to maturity and be born as a person, that is reproductive cloning; if the embryo is used to harvest stem cells and destroyed before it can grow into anything like a conscious being, that is therapeutic cloning.I see no intrinsic … [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...]

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...]