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...]

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...]


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