Atlas Shrugged: Terror on the High Seas

PirateShip

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIAs Dagny drifts through the crowds at Hank's party, she overhears a conversation:"Last night," said the spinster, "I stayed awake because of the shooting. There were guns going off all night, way out at sea. There were no flashes. There was nothing. Just those detonations, at long intervals... Everybody down on the shore knows what it was. It was Ragnar Danneskjold. It was the Coast Guard trying to catch him.""Ragnar Danneskjold in Delaware Bay?" a … [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...]

Remembering the Holocaust, Respecting the Constitution

OhioHolocaustMemorial

In Ohio, the state legislature recently approved a plan to build a Holocaust memorial on the grounds of the statehouse, with public money to be contributed towards the cost of construction. The winning design incorporates two tall structures of stainless steel, engraved with the testimony of an Auschwitz survivor, that are shaped so as to create a prominent negative space in the shape of a Star of David. You can see an image of the design above, to get a sense of it for yourself.The Freedom … [Read more...]

Ingersoll Sunday: Civil Rights

RobertIngersoll

There was a great disgrace in this country today. Backed by the laws of the state of Florida, a jury decided that it was reasonable for an armed white man to provoke a confrontation with an unarmed black teenager, shoot him dead, and then claim he was acting in self-defense.I'm too heavy-hearted to write much about this, or about the Supreme Court's disgraceful gutting of the Voting Rights Act last month. Suffice to say that race relations are an open and unhealed wound in the fabric of … [Read more...]

Ingersoll Sunday: Eight Hours Must Come

RobertIngersoll

I've been reading The Great Agnostic, Susan Jacoby's biography of Robert Ingersoll, which has only increased my admiration for the great 19th-century freethinker. I knew that, in addition to his tireless opposition to religion, he was a staunch defender of women's equality, of racial justice and of free speech unconstrained by blasphemy laws, despite living in a time when all of these were radical positions. But Jacoby's book showed that Ingersoll was an even greater man than I'd thought: he was … [Read more...]

The Bible as Engine of Extremism, Continued

In my previous post on "Southern Slavery As It Was", I cited two modern-day Christian pastors who claim that black slavery was a positive and beneficial institution. To throw some cold water on their rosy claims, in this post we'll hear from a person with firsthand experience of it: Frederick Douglass, the great American abolitionist and orator who himself escaped from bondage and later chronicled his experiences. I'll cite passages from Wilson and Wilkins' book asserting the gentle and … [Read more...]

Southern Slavery As It Was: The Bible as Engine of Extremism

This weekend I saw Lincoln, which was a tremendous movie. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a compelling performance as President Abraham Lincoln during the closing days of the Civil War, when he battled with a fractious Congress to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery permanently in the United States. Among the movie's many strong points is that it unambiguously presents the Civil War as first and foremost a battle over slavery (which, according to the people who started … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Swerve

Summary: The compelling true story of the Renaissance humanists who rescued Greek and Roman philosophy from oblivion and wrenched the Western world out of the Dark Ages. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Europe descended into a centuries-long era of cultural and intellectual stagnation, a dark age of theocracy and feudalism. But how did the Western world pull itself out of this pit? What brought about the rekindling of light and reason in the Renaissance? That question is the subject of … [Read more...]

9 Great Freethinkers and Religious Dissenters in History

This article was originally published on AlterNet. What kind of world would we have if a majority of the human race was atheist? To hear religious apologists tell it, the triumph of atheism would mean a swift descent into selfishness and chaos. The defenders of the faith argue that atheism inevitably leads to selfishness and nihilism, and that only religion can justify charity or compassion, bind people together in community, or inspire a lively and flourishing culture. But this assertion can … [Read more...]

Blogging Better Angels: The Escalator of Reason

In my last post, I talked about some of the cultural factors Steven Pinker identifies that have led to a reduction in violence. There are two other major forces he discusses which are worthy of note. The Flynn Effect The first of these is a truly strange phenomenon. If you go by the results of IQ tests, average intelligence has been steadily rising for decades. This is called the Flynn effect, and it's been found consistently in countries all around the world since IQ tests first started being … [Read more...]


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