Welcome Stranger: A Humanist Sermon

I've said in the past, and will have occasion to say again, that the world is slowly becoming a better place despite the tragedies and outrages that parade before our eyes. But just because the overall picture is brightening doesn't mean that there aren't real and lingering dark spots that ought to command our attention. One is the continuing civil war in Syria and the exodus of people, mostly Muslim, it's scattered across Europe and the United States.Last month, I mused about the astounding … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Antiheroism

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter VII've been contemplating the concept of the antihero in literature. It's always struck me as an odd term. Just going by etymology, you'd think it meant the opposite of a hero, but it doesn't. All it means is a different kind of hero - someone who has more obvious character flaws, or a different moral code, than traditional, white-hat, truth-justice-and-the-American-way heroes.What would it mean for someone to really and truly be the opposite of a hero? … [Read more...]

Are Atheist Kids More Altruistic?

When I see a story that promises evidence for something I'd very much like to be true, I try to apply an extra measure of skepticism. That's why I'm hesitant to believe a new study in the journal Current Biology which claims that children raised in atheist households are more altruistic and less judgmental than children of religious families:The children played a game intended to measure their altruistic tendencies (or lack thereof). First, they were presented with a bagful of stickers and … [Read more...]

On Moral Superheroism

I have thoughts about this essay in the Guardian about extreme altruism, seen through the life of an atheist named Julia Wise:Julia believed that because each person was equally valuable, she was not entitled to care more for herself than for anyone else; she believed that she was therefore obliged to spend much of her life working for the benefit of others... She reduced her expenses to the absolute minimum so she could give away 50% of what she earned. She felt that nearly every penny … [Read more...]

What Is the Economy For, Anyway?

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Consumerism Gone Wild. Read other perspectives here.The Guardian ran a column on a group of unsung heroes: the therapists to the super-rich, whose job it is to help their clients deal with the stress and strain of having all that money. According to one of them, Clay Cockrell:"I shifted toward it naturally," he said of his becoming an expert in wealth therapy. "We are trained to have empathy, no judgment and so … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Kinder, Küche, Kirche

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter III've mentioned the missing women of Atlas Shrugged, but there's another omission that's even bigger. Although the men far outnumber the women, we have Dagny as a main character, plus there are a few other women to provide representation, unequal as it is. However, there's a hole that has no such compensation: the almost total absence of children.Despite all the sex in Atlas - Dagny has long-term sexual relationships with Francisco, Hank, and later John … [Read more...]

When Rationalists Reinvent Religion

I enjoyed this story by Dylan Matthews on Vox about effective altruism, an idea I'm all in favor of and wanted to say more about.EA is the philosophy that we should use science, rather than warm fuzzy feelings or guesswork, to direct our charitable giving where it will do the most good. Compared to the enormous need in the world, the amount of money and energy available for charity is small to begin with, and too many of those scarce and precious dollars and volunteer hours have been … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Hippocratic Oath

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IDagny's first day in John Galt's secret capitalist valley, and her whirlwind tour of its inhabitants, ends with a dinner party at Midas Mulligan's house later that night:Midas Mulligan met them at the door. She noticed that his grim, square face was not as harshly expressionless as she had thought: he had a look of satisfaction, but satisfaction could not soften his features, it merely struck them like flint and sent sparks of humor to glitter faintly … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Bells and Whistles

Atlas Shrugged Part II: The StrikeIn most things, the producers of Atlas Shrugged Part II were unwilling to deviate in the slightest from the book. They followed the text as slavishly as possible, keeping everything that screen-time and budget constraints would allow. But there are a few places where they chose to make changes, one of which was the climactic train-disaster scene of Part II. It's illuminating to look at the reasons why, and to see what the changes show - or fail to show - … [Read more...]

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 11

This is part 11 of my "Think! Of God and Government" debate series with Christian author Andrew Murtagh. Read my latest post and Andrew's reply.Hello Andrew,I'm ready to move on to comparing our views on government, really! But I have to tarry on one small point:Goodness itself is not a necessary truth, but God as the Final Cause (Being and Goodness itself) is a necessary truth in the Aristotelian-Thomistic conception, (goodness being inseparable from God's nature).I've read … [Read more...]