On Gift-Giving

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Hanukkah's prominence was the plan of reformist rabbis, seeking to create a Jewish holiday to compete with Christmas just as Christmas was created to compete with pagan solstice festivals. In an ironic sense, this campaign has been both a success and a failure: although the cause of Hanukkah was eagerly taken up by marketers, it failed to dislodge Christmas from public consciousness and has simply contributed further to the commercialization of the holiday … [Read more...]

Down to Earth

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Alexander Donald, 7 February 1788What should we seek to get out of life? To a secular humanist, what is the goal toward which our labors should point?As atheists, we don't believe in a heavenly reward, so that path is … [Read more...]

On Atheist Janitors: Followup

Around this time last year, I wrote a post titled "On Atheist Janitors", addressing an e-mail from reader Serban Tanasa that asked whether atheism has something to offer to people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. The other day he wrote back to me with a follow-up post addressing some of the issues first discussed here, and I wanted to offer some further thoughts.Atheist forces and their agnostic coalition members have launched devastating artillery barrages against the veracity of … [Read more...]

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 Treadmill

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran an article series about millionaires who don't feel rich, mostly engineers and executives living in America's Silicon Valley. Though most of the people profiled in the article have luxurious, paid-off homes, multiple cars and several million dollars already in the bank, they continue to work grueling, stressful 60- to 80-hour weeks, largely because they feel insecure when they compare themselves to their even wealthier neighbors. (This article was … [Read more...]

Drink Deeply

For most of human history, the range of experience open to most people was narrow and limited. Untold millions of people lived and died never traveling more than a few miles from their birthplaces and never meeting more than a few hundred other individuals from their own communities, their horizon largely limited to the handful of miles that could be easily traveled by foot. Crossing oceans, though it was possible, was a risky and dangerous endeavor that could take weeks, months, or years. Local … [Read more...]