Living the Humanist Life

In the past, I've written much about the philosophy of humanism and how it offers a transcendent, spiritual view of life's purpose that is at least as appealing as anything offered by religion (and in fact, is superior - at least in my opinion).Well and good, but I've been thinking lately that what we need is a set of practical guidelines for living life as a humanist. Holding this lofty view in moments of deep reflection or contemplation is one thing, but how does the humanist philosophy … [Read more...]

The Religion of Humanity

He was a worshiper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: "For Justice all place a temple, and all season, summer." He believed that happiness is the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest.The above passage is an excerpt from a eulogy given by the famous American freethinker Robert Ingersoll for his brother, Ebon. It's one of my favorite passages from Ingersoll, … [Read more...]

Building a Secular Community

A recent column by Katha Pollitt, The Atheist's Dilemma, laments how atheists would like to take away what people value and offer nothing in return:But if all you can offer people is reasons to quit their religion—which also often means their community, their family, their support system and their identity—you're not going to have many takers. For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt, there's a mosque- or churchful of people who'll choose the old-time religion if … [Read more...]

On Gratitude

This Thursday, November 22, is - at least for my American readers - the holiday of Thanksgiving. Despite the religious connotations that have been attached to this day since the beginning, I think this is a good holiday for atheists. It's one of the few whose message can be rendered in entirely secular terms. Thanksgiving as traditionally practiced is a time to come together with family and friends, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life's abundance, and to give thanks for all the good that has … [Read more...]

Fragile Trappings

I stepped out of my house today on a chilly fall afternoon. After an unseasonably late warm spell, as if summer had lingered this year past its appointed time, autumn had arrived at last. The feel of the season was in the air: the misty cool, the forests defiantly ablaze with fiery color, the smell of fallen leaves, wet black and rusty gold, in the grass. There was a sense of hunkering down, of quiet activity in the stillness, as nature prepares for the coming winter foreshadowed in the bare … [Read more...]

On Atheist Janitors

I recently received an e-mail which asked me if I believe that atheism is a worldview that anyone can take up, or whether the majority of society needs religion to keep them happy and pacified:The question at the heart of the debate is: does the average Jacques need religion in his life? I am familiar with all the atheist talk of self-fulfillment and living the only life you've got to the fullest, and think it's a great idea. Except for a snafu. The people who write about these issues tend to … [Read more...]

Golden Atheists

The popular aphorism "there are no atheists in foxholes" implies that people can only be atheists in times of comfort and security, and that if the end of life is in view, they will inevitably cry out to God to save them. I wish everyone who uses this thoughtless and insulting slur could meet Claire Hull:Claire Hull rarely misses a Sunday at church. That's remarkable for two reasons: She's a 91-year-old with a replacement hip, and she's an atheist.Yes, you heard right: Ms. Hull is a … [Read more...]

Nurturing Virtue

Earlier this year, I wrote a post series titled "The Virtues", which proposed a secular reinvention of the seven cardinal virtues of theology. But I now realize that with this series, I was making an additional, implicit point: that it is possible for human beings to be consistently virtuous.This was made clear to me in a recent e-mail correspondence with a Christian visitor:One of the things that convinces me of my need for a savior is a long hard look at myself. In particular my absolute … [Read more...]

The Basis for an Atheist's Morality

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an editorial titled What Atheists Can't Answer. The author, Michael Gerson, is an influential evangelical Christian and was formerly George W. Bush's chief speechwriter.Compared to most attacks on atheism, including a few I've rebutted recently, Gerson's essay is fair and honest. He rightfully steers clear of the slanderous and unfounded insults so common in apologetic literature, conceding that human beings can be good without God. However, while he … [Read more...]

Lightbringers

In the World in Shadow series, I have written about some of the terrible natural evils that afflict humans. My primary purpose in writing this series is to illustrate the strength of the atheist's argument from evil, that the existence of vast amounts of undeserved and random suffering disproves the existence of a powerful, benevolent deity.However, there is another reason I write this series, and that is so I am not accused of excessive optimism. I am, as I will readily admit, an optimist, … [Read more...]