Weekend Coffee: August 12

Coffee

There's a lot of news this week: • Two examples of humanism in action: Charles Feeney, a billionaire philanthropist, plans to give away all his remaining money within a few years, and a new nonprofit helps to crowdfund DNA sequencing for children with rare genetic diseases. • Since we still have a lot of work left to do on this problem, here are two very good articles on sexual harassment: An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping by John Scalzi, and a post on what "creepiness" means from … [Read more...]

Happy Winter Solstice!

Happy winter solstice, everyone! As you doubtless already know, today is the shortest and darkest day of the year (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere). Ancient people, who were keen observers of the skies even without high technology, knew this date and its significance very well. It's no surprise that so many holidays which fall around this time of year involve the ceremonial kindling of light, whether it's lights on a Christmas tree, Yule logs burning on the hearth, flames on a … [Read more...]

Do We Need More Humanist Chaplains?

I wanted to highlight this excellent post on JT's blog about the rewards of activism: Joe was sick in the hospital, and asked a friend of his to go down to Philadelphia to collect the award for him. Friend went to see him in hospital, said "Joe, what do you want me to tell these folks when I pick up the award?" He's looking at Joe lying there sick as a dog, and thinking about his life, all the struggles, all the hard times, you know, trying to fight for social justice, and racial justice, and … [Read more...]

Governing by the Happiness Index

I've often written about the moral system I advocate, which I've dubbed universal utilitarianism. Although people have a broad range of individual preferences, human nature is, in general, fixed and predictable: certain things reliably bring us happiness, while others reliably cause pain and suffering. Through reason and evidence, we can work out which actions are more likely to have these good or bad consequences, allowing us to choose a course of action that's superior to others in an … [Read more...]

The Contributions of Freethinkers: Wole Soyinka

I wasn't familiar with Wole Soyinka, the first African author ever to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, until I got a Google alert for his name the other day. You can probably guess why - it turns out he's an atheist, as I learned from this article in the Nigerian Tribune grousing about it:Although I might not be able to quote him verbatim, Professor Soyinka had replied thus. "The reason why I don't believe in God is simple. I simply cannot imagine that somebody (emphasis mine) will be … [Read more...]

How to Create (Not Find) the Meaning of Your Life

Guest post by Samantha Eliza BentenA friend recently paraphrased a statement from The Nature of Existence (the documentary, I believe, though I haven't seen it) as follows: "People should spend more time thinking about the meaning of their own lives, than the meaning of life in general." This strikes a chord with a notion I've held since at least my senior year of high school. (That was when I came up with the BLT theory of the purpose of life, which is to say that a purpose is a goal that's … [Read more...]

The Value of Autonomy

I've been following this debate between Ross Douthat and Kevin Drum about the morality of assisted suicide. In his latest post, Douthat made a telling, though apparently unintentional, statement:The slippery slope that I discussed in the column doesn't amount to much if you don't disapprove at all of people deciding to take their own lives. Absent that disapproval (and an accompanying, even-stronger disapproval of the people who assist them), you won't be bothered by... people taking lethal … [Read more...]

Another World Creeps In

I'm an atheist, in part, because I'm a moral person.When I first read the books that are called holy, what I found were countless passages that are abhorrent to the conscience: God drowning the planet in a global flood, massacring the innocent firstborn of Egypt, ordering Abraham to murder his son as a test of faith (and rewarding him for being willing to do it!), commanding the Israelites to wage genocidal war on other tribes, promising to torture nonbelievers in a burning hell forever, … [Read more...]

An Atheist’s Yule Sermon

I woke up at 3 AM earlier this week to see the lunar eclipse. Dressing in the dark, my wife and I went out into the freezing silence of the winter solstice to see the moon: a small disc high in the sky swallowed by the planet's shadow, glowing coppery-red with the reflected light of every sunset on Earth.I'll admit, it wasn't the most spiritual experience I've ever had (being fully awake tends to facilitate those transports of awe and wonder). But I'm glad I saw it, nevertheless. If nothing … [Read more...]

This Holiday Season, Consider Atheism!

I was happy to read that this week that atheist groups are launching a new ad blitz, with ads extolling the virtues of atheism on billboards, buses, trains and print media. Significantly, atheist ads are also hitting the airwaves for the first time ever - thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, which is underwriting a TV ad campaign by the American Humanist Association.And the very best part of the AHA campaign is that the ads aren't just saying that … [Read more...]


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