God Doesn’t Solve the “Who Sez?” Problem

I've finished reading Timothy Keller's book The Reason for God. It was a hard slog, especially the last section, in which he announces he's not going to argue for God's existence any more because everyone already agrees with him whether they admit it or not (yes, he actually says that), and instead devotes his time to writing theological fan-fiction about how happy and glorious and wonderful everything will be when Jesus comes back.I've addressed Keller's arguments regarding inherited … [Read more...]

When an Atheist Falls From Grace: On Teresa MacBain

ParkZamkowy

I wish I didn't have to write this post, but if I'm going to call attention to religious misbehavior, I can't ignore it when it happens in our own community. So, here's a sad story about Teresa MacBain, a former Methodist minister who dramatically outed herself as a nonbeliever on stage at an atheist convention. (Full disclosure: I've met Teresa and talked to her at several conventions, most recently at Women in Secularism 2 in May.)Earlier this month, she was hired as the new director of … [Read more...]

The Richard Dawkins Facepalm Watch

Facepalm

When I last wrote about Richard Dawkins, it was to report on the backlash over some clumsy, badly-judged remarks that he made about Islam. I was hoping that, at the very least, he'd learned a lesson from all the criticism he received and would watch his words more carefully in the future. But alas:In an interview in The Times magazine on Saturday (Sept. 7), Dawkins, 72, he said he was unable to condemn what he called "the mild pedophilia" he experienced at an English school when he was a … [Read more...]

If I Were an Unethical Atheist

FormerAtheist

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 nonbelievers have a self-chosen moral code derived from philosophy and personal reflection, that isn't good enough, because it lacks any means of enforcement. If … [Read more...]

Ingersoll Sunday: On Divorce

RobertIngersoll

In 1889, a literary magazine called the North American Review solicited essays on the question of whether divorce was ever morally justifiable. Although all the other answers were from clergy (who, for no apparent reason, are always deemed to be the experts on these kinds of questions), they also printed a response by the great American freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll.As in many other things, Ingersoll's progressive, humanistic views were decades ahead of his time. He argued that … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Ubermensch

Nietzsche

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VAlthough the most vivid (and creepiest) scenes depicting Ayn Rand's views on love and sex are still to come, this chapter offers a preview, as we find out in flashback that Dagny and Francisco became lovers during their college days. The first hint of this comes on a summer day when they're walking along the Palisades. Here's how Francisco initiates their relationship:He said brusquely, "Let's see if we can see New York," and jerked her by the arm to … [Read more...]

Is It Worth Boycotting the Russian Olympics?

I've written about Russia's hostile and oppressive treatment of artists and the Russian Orthodox church's increasingly close alliance with the state, but in the last few years, things have gone from bad to worse. Journalists and anti-corruption activists have been murdered with impunity. Critics of the state have been subjected to trumped-up charges and show trials. Gay pride marches have been banned, and supporters of gay rights have been brutally assaulted by the police and mobs of skinhead … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Code of Competence

Money

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VOne thing about Atlas Shrugged that's very handy for a review like this is that there's never any ambiguity about which characters embody the author's views. Her characters are all black-and-white, either fully consistent capitalists who are always right or fully consistent looters who are always wrong. That means that when Francisco, or Dagny, or Hank Rearden makes some bold proclamation, we can be certain that Ayn Rand is speaking through them.And … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Boycotting States

MassachusettsWelcomesYou

To celebrate the Supreme Court's DOMA decision, Dan Savage wrote a poignant column, "I Can Die Now", about how his husband and son are now protected in a way they wouldn't have been before if he were to die in some unlikely accident:My country wanted to make sure that if I died, Terry wouldn't just have to endure the pain of losing his husband, and D.J. wouldn't just have to endure the pain of losing a parent. No, there would be bonus pain for my family. Because we weren't married in the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Corporate Philanthropy

Atlas Shrugged, p.46-47I've got one more point to make about Hank Rearden, and then we'll move on to the next scene. Hank's brother, Philip, asks him to donate money to a charity he's working for, an group called "Friends of Global Progress":Rearden had never been able to keep track of the many organizations to which Philip belonged, nor to get a clear idea of their activities. He had heard Philip talking vaguely about this one for the last six months. It seemed to be devoted to some … [Read more...]


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