The Ashes: A Humanist Sermon

For those of us who believe in liberality and human progress, 2016 has been a terrible year. Our hopes for positive change, which for a time blazed so brightly, have collapsed into cinders. Now we're faced with the prospect of a cold and dark season to come.This year was a painful reminder that there's no narrative to history, no inexorable trend toward redemption. History isn't a smooth arc, but a jagged sawtooth, with dramatic drops and plunges. Atheists, especially, ought to know that … [Read more...]

The America I Thought I Knew

[Note: I've still got a lot of raw emotions, and this post is written in the spirit of catharsis. If that's not what you need right now, feel free to skip it. You may also like this one: Dear America, Stop Gaslighting Me]Over the last few days, I've been cycling back and forth through all the stages of grief, trying to come to terms with what's happened. I've come to realize that the reason that last week's election results were such a devastating and unexpected blow - even besides the … [Read more...]

On Human Negativity Bias

What was the best year in history? If you could choose any year out of the entire span of human existence so far to be alive in, which one should you pick?You could pick your answer for any number of reasons. You might choose to live in the age of exploration, or at the dawn of the scientific revolution, or in the company of great historical figures. But if you want the best chance of living a peaceful and happy life, if you're going solely by the numbers, then it's obvious: the answer is … [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 Frozen River: A Humanist Sermon

Six years ago, this nation achieved a historic milestone when its people elected a black man to be their president. For a country that was sustained by slave labor for decades after its inception and riven by racism throughout its history, this is an almost unimaginable accomplishment. It's not that Barack Obama promised to single-handedly inaugurate a new era of progressive utopianism - those of us who followed his political ascent always knew that he was a conciliatory moderate with mildly … [Read more...]

The Torture Report is America’s National Shame

The Senate has released a massive report on the torture of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, and it's as bad as many of us feared. We already knew some of the terrible things done in our name as Americans, but not the full extent. In fact, we still don't know the full extent, since what the Senate publicly released was a summary of an even longer, still-classified report.But even the redacted version is a catalogue of horrors. The Senate's investigation found that prisoners … [Read more...]

The Fallout in Ferguson, Continued

Ever since Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by a white police officer back in August, the people of Ferguson, Missouri have been on edge, waiting to see if they would get justice. On Monday night, the grand jury that had been weighing the case for weeks came to a decision: no indictment, no charges - and the town exploded in rage. Businesses and cars went up in flames, and once again America witnessed the brutal spectacle of militarized police unleashing their arsenal … [Read more...]

Disillusionment

I've been writing about sexism and feminism in the secular community for several years now, and if you'd asked me this question even a few days ago, I would've said that I thought things were getting better. There's certainly evidence I could point to to support that: in just a short time, anti-harassment policies have become standard at our conferences and gatherings, we've had a parade of male leaders speaking out against sexism, we have whole conventions and organizations specifically … [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...]

A Dialogue with the Tempter

At the end of a long and weary day, with the last drops of twilight bleeding out of the darkening midsummer sky, I turned my key in the lock of my front door. I set my bags down, stepped inside... and paused, one foot on the threshold. I was certain I had shut off all the lights before leaving that morning, but my home wasn't fully dark. From the door of my office came the unmistakable blue glow of a computer screen, and in that harsh light, I could see a long shadow thrown on the … [Read more...]