On Tolerating Intolerance

FirstAmendmentArea

Zinnia Jones at Freethought Blogs had a great post last week exposing Matt Moore, an evangelical and so-called "ex-gay" who loudly boasted that Jesus had cured him of homosexuality. It turns out the cure wasn't exactly complete, since Moore had an active profile on the gay hookup site Grindr.When confronted with the evidence of his hypocrisy, Moore admitted the account was his, claiming that he had been "disobedient" and that Jesus had already forgiven him for it (a clear example of … [Read more...]

Forward Thinking: Teenagers and Sex

ForbiddenFruit

Two of my new colleagues at Patheos, Libby Anne and Dan Fincke, have recently launched Forward Thinking: A Values Development Project, a collaborative discussion in the spirit of the old blog carnivals. This week's conversational prompt is, "What would you tell teenagers about sex?"Now, I'm not encouraging teenagers to have sex, because (1) no one should be pushed to have sex before they, themselves, have decided that they're physically and emotionally ready; and (2) it doesn't really matter … [Read more...]

Why I’m Not a Gun Owner

AR15Rifle

Last month, Sam Harris wrote a controversial essay arguing for private gun ownership:It is true that my work as a writer has added to my security concerns somewhat, but my involvement with guns goes back decades. I have always wanted to be able to protect myself and my family, and I have never had any illusions about how quickly the police can respond when called. I have expressed my views on self-defense elsewhere. Suffice it to say, if a person enters your home for the purpose of harming … [Read more...]

The Ethic of Reciprocity

My recent post "Building Justice" talked about how human beings have to work together if we want to build a just world to live in. I want to say some more about that, not least because this week, everyone on the U.S. East Coast had a vivid demonstration of what we're up against. New York City, where I live, was among the worst hit by Hurricane Sandy. On Monday night, Twitter had one apocalyptic image after another: lower Manhattan eerily darkened, a Con Ed transformer exploding on 14th Street, … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Privacy

This week's all-consuming internet drama was sparked by the journalist Adrien Chen of Gawker, who published a piece exposing the real identity of "Violentacrez", one of the most infamous trolls of Reddit. Violentacrez, real name Michael Brutsch, was notorious as the moderator of a forum called "creepshots" which consisted of sexualized photos of women taken in public without their knowledge or consent. (He also created the Reddit forum "jailbait", which similarly consisted of sexualized photos … [Read more...]

On The Morality Of: Treating Psychopaths

Earlier this week I caught a post on Lindsay Beyerstein's blog Duly Noted, highlighting a horrifying NYT story wrestling with the question of whether children can be psychopaths, and if so, whether they're doomed to grow up into adult psychopaths or whether there's any intervention that can be effective. "Psychopath" isn't a general term for an unpleasant person, but a term with a specific psychological meaning. Psychopaths score highly on indexes of what's called callous-unemotional behavior … [Read more...]

Testing My Moral DNA

I read an article this week about a questionnaire whose creator, the "corporate philosopher" Roger Steare, calls the Moral DNA test. Over 50,000 people from 200 countries have taken this survey, which its creator says is designed to help humanity understand how we make moral decisions. He also says the results so far show that women are more moral than men, and older people are more moral than younger people - both of which are claims I find strange, since the test is intended to show what … [Read more...]

Atheists Don’t Just Want Sex and Drugs

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. The death of Christopher Hitchens in December sparked an outpouring of tributes. Most of them praised his best qualities: his ferocious courage, his seemingly effortless erudition, and his crusading defense of free speech and rationalism. Of course, he had his faults as well - most notably his support for the Iraq war - and I was happy to see that relatively few of the eulogies, even those written by his personal friends, overlooked or excused … [Read more...]

Atheists Don’t Just Want Sex and Drugs

My latest article has been posted on AlterNet, Once Again, Believers Have it Wrong: Atheists Don't Just Want Sex, Drugs, and Lack of Morality. As you might have guessed, it's the culminating entry in my recent exchange with Peter Hitchens. In it, I discuss the absence of evidence for non-human moral authority, the fact that accusations of unbridled hedonism have always been used in an attempt to silence social reform movements, and the evidence which shows that the rise of atheism has no … [Read more...]

The Temporal Democracy of Self-Slices

Via Dangerous Intersection, I saw this TED lecture by Daniel Kahnemann, based on his book Thinking Fast and Slow, about the conflict between the "experiencing self" and the "remembering self". His thesis is that we have countless moment-to-moment experiences, most of which quickly fade from memory and leave no trace, while a few significant ones are retained and used to construct an overarching story or narrative of one's life. According to Kahnemann, many experiences which were unpleasant or … [Read more...]


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