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...]

Blogging Better Angels: Changing of the Norms

In my previous post, I discussed how the invention of government led to a major reduction in the level of violence in human civilization, as compared to the constant battles of tribal societies. But while democracy, laws and police forces can account for most of the decline, they can't account for all of it. To get to the extraordinarily low levels of violence seen in most developed nations today, we need to invoke other cultural forces that tilt the balance toward peace. In Better Angels, … [Read more...]

The Coming Atheist Demographic Tide

The WIN-Gallup International network of polling firms has released a new poll titled Global Index of Religion and Atheism 2012, and there's a lot of good news in it for us. Some of these results are so encouraging, I hesitate to believe them without additional confirmation - but if they bear out, they show that atheism is rising all around the world like the tide coming in! The highlight of the survey was Ireland. One of the questions was, "Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship … [Read more...]

Blogging Better Angels: The Bad Old Days

Back in May, I reviewed Steven Pinker's hugely ambitious new book The Better Angels of Our Nature, about the decline of violence through history. I couldn't do justice to all the ideas in this book with a single post, so I promised to return to it and write about Pinker's argument in more detail. It's taken me a while, but I'm getting back to that promise now. I plan to write several posts exploring some of the major ideas put forth in the book, which I intend to eventually collect into an essay … [Read more...]

We Have an Unfair Advantage

When it comes to debating the merits of religion, we atheists have an unfair advantage. Lately, almost every day when I go to work, there are Jehovah's Witnesses in the subway station. I see them in the morning and the evening, two or three of them sitting on folding chairs in the sweltering, grimy heat, holding up Watchtower magazines and pamphlets to the rush of disinterested commuters. I think I've seen someone engage them maybe once or twice, either to talk or to debate, but 95% of the time … [Read more...]

On Getting Through the Dry Spells

If you ask anyone who knows me, I like to think they'd tell you that I'm a generally optimistic and cheerful person. But these past few weeks, I've felt like I've been going through a dry spell. I've been restless, gloomy, and much more irritable and pessimistic than usual. No matter where I physically go, mentally I feel like I'm somewhere in the middle of the desert. And I don't think I'm alone in this: it seems to me that a similar dark cloud is hanging over the secular community. There are … [Read more...]

The Millennials: America’s Secular Future

I had a run-in with an old adversary lately, and after I've sent him on his way, I always feel compelled to point out some of the hopeful things he never mentions. This post is about one of those things. In recent posts, I've expressed my disillusionment with the Democrats. But whatever the current state of politics in America - and I'm not denying that it's depressing and infuriating by turns - the long-term trends look very good for us. One of the brightest of these trends is the rise in … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Better Angels of Our Nature

I've just finished reading Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, an extraordinary book that I think deserves wider attention. I want to write a full review, but this book is far too vast (696 pages!) and too broad in scope to do it justice in a single post, so I plan to split my review up into several installments over the coming weeks. This post is just to serve as a brief overview of the book and a few of its more startling data points. The book's thesis is that humanity is … [Read more...]

Goodbye Religion? How Godlessness Is Increasing With Each New Generation

This essay was originally published on AlterNet.Something strange is happening to American teenagers. If you believe popular wisdom, young people are apathetic, cynical and jaded; or, they're supposed to be conformists whose overriding desire is to fit in and be popular. But if you've been paying close attention over the past decade, you might have seen any of a growing number of cases that conspicuously defy these stereotypes: stories of teenagers who have strong principles they're unashamed … [Read more...]

To Win, We Just Have to Show Up

In the wake of marriage equality's victory in New York State last Friday, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler posted the following to Twitter:Now, fully 1 in 9 Americans will live in a state with legalized same-sex marriage. Our mission field is getting more complicated.On the surface, this is a strange statement. Mohler apparently believes that the legalization of same-sex marriage will make it more difficult for Christians to win converts. Why would he think … [Read more...]


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