Why I’m Not a Gun Owner

AR15Rifle

Last month, Sam Harris wrote a controversial essay arguing for private gun ownership:It is true that my work as a writer has added to my security concerns somewhat, but my involvement with guns goes back decades. I have always wanted to be able to protect myself and my family, and I have never had any illusions about how quickly the police can respond when called. I have expressed my views on self-defense elsewhere. Suffice it to say, if a person enters your home for the purpose of harming … [Read more...]

Why You Should Be a Voter

In my earlier post about whether to vote for third parties, there were some commenters who asserted that there's no good reason to vote at all. Since we're now right on the verge of Election Day, I thought it was worthwhile to address this argument. Putting aside the inevitable paranoid conspiracy theories, the most common argument I've seen for the no-vote position is that the time and effort required to cast one's vote can be significant, whereas the probability of a single vote playing the … [Read more...]

Blogging Better Angels: Hobbes Was Right

The most famous human being of prehistoric times is probably Otzi the Iceman, a Neolithic human whose mummified body was discovered frozen in a glacier in the Alps in 1991. What's less well known about Otzi is that he met his death violently: an arrowhead was lodged in his back, and he was carrying an arrow and a flint knife which had traces of three people's blood, none of them his own. Anthropologists speculate that he was part of a raiding party that attacked a rival tribe and was killed … [Read more...]

Why I’m Not Voting Third-Party

Last week, four third-party U.S. presidential candidates had a debate in Chicago. As is usual in American politics, third-party debates tend to be all over the map: a mixture of completely loony ideas and eminently sensible ideas that no major candidate dares touch. On the surface, I probably look like the kind of voter third-party candidates would have a good chance of reaching. I'm liberal enough that Obama has disappointed me pretty often, and I live in New York, a safe Democratic state, so … [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...]

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...]


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