Ingersoll Sunday: On Divorce

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

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

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 we … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Boycotting States

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...]

My Thoughts on the Civility Pledge

My Patheos colleague Dan Fincke has proposed a civility pledge for people engaged in public discussion.I think his motivations are good, and most of the pledge is fine. I completely agree with his points about using specific charges rather than abusive epithets, about recognizing that members of marginalized groups may have experiences which I lack, and about refraining from slurs based on ethnicity, gender or sexuality. I also particularly like his point about the difference between safe … [Read more...]

On Tolerating Intolerance

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

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

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...]


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