The Post-Work Society


Laziness is a good thing.For as long as civilization has existed, people have been trying to live as well as possible with as little work as possible. That drive has created kings and kleptocrats who get rich by robbing their subjects, but it's also led to every technology that makes work easier, from horse collars to steam engines to industrial robots.Think of how few people in the industrialized world work in jobs that have a direct connection to the necessities of life: agriculture, … [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...]

The Maturing Secular Community: Fewer Personalities, More Good Deeds

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Humanism. Read other perspectives here.I've written about the future of religion and the coming secular era, but there's another side to that coin. Namely, if religion is declining, what will happen to the non-religious? How will the secular community change as it grows and matures over the next few decades? I don't have any special insight into the future, but we can make some educated … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Post-Scarcity Economy


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IDagny's next stop in the valley brings her to a familiar face:It was not a pass, it was a wall of laminated rock with a complex chain of pipes, pumps and valves climbing like a vine up its narrow ledges, but it bore, on its crest, a huge wooden sign...: Wyatt Oil.It was oil that ran in a glittering curve from the mouth of a pipe into a tank at the foot of the wall, as the only confession of the tremendous secret struggle inside the stone, as the … [Read more...]

When Would You Rather Be Alive?

Reading the news is always a marathon race between hope and despair, but that conflict has been especially sharp these last few months. While every era has its doomsayers, they've lately become a lot harder to dismiss.Europe remains slumped in depression and wracked by infighting over the future of its union, with no way out in sight. America is sweltering under political stagnation, fraying at the seams from breathtaking inequality and the brutal violence of a police state, and there's a … [Read more...]

The Coming Secular Era


The most important changes don't come in the form of attention-grabbing headlines, but subtle trends that quietly gather momentum until, by the time they finally burst into public view, they're unstoppable. Such is the case with the most important, and paradoxically most underappreciated, trend in American religion today: the long-term, across-the-board decline of Christianity and the corresponding rise of atheism, which has been going on behind the scenes for more than twenty years and is now … [Read more...]

When Will We Have an Atheist President?


So far this year, a rightward-leaning Supreme Court has issued two major rulings granting sweeping new privileges to religious belief. Atheists and secularists in America are angry and frustrated, and it's natural to wonder when we'll have a government that heeds our wishes. Is there any prospect of an atheist president any time soon, or a nonbeliever in some other high political office?My message, to atheists and friends of secularism, is that there's reason to hope. It won't be next … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 11

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 11, "The Immortals"As the new Cosmos approaches its final episode, it's about time that the series started looking back on the ground it's covered and drawing some larger lessons. This episode accomplished that, and while it treads into more speculative territory than earlier outings, I think that's appropriate.But first, there was a scene about someone I'd never heard of: Enheduanna, a Sumerian high priestess who holds the honor of being the most … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: The Promise of In Vitro Meat


Earlier this month, the first ever lab-grown hamburger was eaten at a taste test in London. The tasters' reports were guardedly positive:Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft... there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, but it's not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper."This is meat to me. It's not falling apart."Food writer Mr Schonwald said: "The mouthfeel is like … [Read more...]

Building a Better Secular Movement


This post will have to be my last word on this for the time being, because all this ugliness and nastiness takes an emotional toll, and I really want to get back to writing about happier things. But the events of the last few days have convinced me that our secular community, the one I love and want to see thrive, has some serious problems that need to be confronted and resolved.When I see a problem, my instinct is to fix it. So, what can we do to fix this one? I have three … [Read more...]