Penn Jillette: Is Libertarianism Compatible with Atheism?

Penn Jillette is a larger-than-life figure in every way, including but hardly limited to his imposing physical stature. He's of course best known as one of the world's most famous living magicians, and on stage with his partner Teller, he has the cheerful swagger of a carnival barker, revealing how some tricks are done and daring you to guess at the others. That winking insouciance and delight in breaking taboos carries over into his TV show, Bullshit!, which was one of the increasingly few … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on Penn’s Libertarianism

The last thread about Penn Jillette's book sparked some debate, so I'd like to revisit the topic. This is what Penn says is his view of the legitimate powers of government:If I had a gun, and I knew a murder was happening... I would use that gun to stop that murder. I might be too much of a coward to use a gun myself to stop murder or rape or robbery, but I think that use of a gun is justified. I'm even okay with using force to enforce voluntary contracts. I would use a gun to protect the … [Read more...]

Theocracy Causes Famine

Recently, I got an e-mail from the Foundation Beyond Belief, which is working with USAID to raise awareness of the continuing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. The toll in lives is already appalling, including over 29,000 deaths from starvation and outbreaks of measles and cholera, and hundreds more dying every day. The crisis has produced almost a million refugees, including over 400,000 at the Dadaab camp in Kenya.I have to admit that my first reaction to this news was a feeling of … [Read more...]

What Comes Next For the Middle East?

The last few weeks in the Middle East have been a story of extraordinary courage and heroism. With dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia lying in ruins and the democratic revolt now spreading to Yemen, Bahrain and Libya, it's not too early to start thinking about what will come next.The omnipresent fear in Western media is that the newly free countries will be taken over by an Islamist majority. This isn't an unreasonable concern (although it hardly justifies the West's decades of supporting … [Read more...]

Wednesday Link Roundup

I may write more about some of these stories over the weekend, but in the meantime, I just had to make quick mention of them:• Prominent evangelical pastor John MacArthur, whom Daylight Atheism readers have heard about before, has a new pearl of wisdom to bestow on us as regards the democratic revolutions currently sweeping the Middle East (HT: Slacktivist):I think there are a lot of ways to approach that but if you just talk about a biblical thing, [the protesters] are all in … [Read more...]

Is America a Christian Nation?

A frequent refrain among the religious right is that the United States of America is a "Christian nation", or that this country was founded on Christian principles. However, I've never seen any religious apologist explain what exactly this is supposed to mean beyond making the mere statement. If this nation was founded on Christian principles, which principles are those? If Christianity played such a major role in our nation's founding, then what specific contributions did it make?In an … [Read more...]

Why I Am Not a Libertarian III

Opportunity and ObligationOne of the driving notions behind libertarian political theory is that society should be a meritocracy. By removing all restraints on competition, we will create a system where the hardest-working, most talented, most creative people succeed. And this is a good idea which I agree with. We need to encourage effort and innovation to create a healthy society; we should not punish motivation, nor reward laziness. We should give people an incentive to work and to strive. … [Read more...]

Why I Am Not a Libertarian II

Positive and Negative LibertyThe second major reason why I am not a libertarian has to do with the social safety net - programs like public education, universal health care, food stamps or unemployment pay - that are funded by redistributive taxation. Hard-core libertarians decry these programs as theft or even slavery, arguing that it is unfair to tax them to fund programs from which they derive no direct benefit.In reality, however, these programs do benefit all members of society. … [Read more...]

Why I Am Not a Libertarian

I: The Dilemma of the CommonsI don't usually post purely political essays on Daylight Atheism, as opposed to posts that touch on religion in some way. But the new series beginning with this post is personally important to me, and deserves an exception.Though I only have anecdotal evidence, it's my experience that the majority of atheists hold a politically liberal view. The second largest group, a substantial minority, takes a libertarian stance. (Classic conservativism is a distant third.) … [Read more...]

Some Thoughts on Libertarianism

The Politics of Atheism posts back in April inspired a healthy debate with several regular commenters who advocate a libertarian political philosophy. One of the major claims of this philosophy, defended both on this blog and by prominent libertarians such as Timothy Sandefur, is that "taxation is theft" and that any taking of property from any individual, by the government or by anyone else, without that individual's consent is an immoral act even if done with the best of intentions.I … [Read more...]


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