Can You Pick a Humanist Out of a Lineup?

Vlad Chituc, an atheist who blogs at NonProphet Status, thinks I was right on in my critique of humanist groups yesterday.    He says, as an atheist activist, he's run into similar problems. I’ve tried to pin down specific moral principles of Humanism from various people, and all I ever seem to get is some vague gesturing towards Reason or Compassion, or some philosophical terms like Naturalism and Consequentialism. But that gives me nothing specific.If I have a conversation with someone who … [Read more...]

How is an atheist group like a bridge club?

In yesterday's Sunday Review section of The New York Times, Susan Jacoby had an essay titled "The Blessings of Atheism."  She's tackling the perceived absense of atheists and secular philosophy in moments of crisis.  Here's an excerpt, but my critique is about something missing in the piece, so you'd better read the whole thing to be fair. One major problem is the dearth of secular community institutions. But the most powerful force holding us back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at … [Read more...]

Is There a Good Ideological Echo Chamber?

This is the second part of a discussion about the rhetoric I use on this blog and the dangers of linking identity to ideology.As I head out to the Reason Rally this morning, I wanted to address the second part of Brian Green's comment: I suppose my real concern is a theory-practice one again, as usual. As you gain practical commitment to atheist causes, the bond strengthens. Theory follows practice. Habit deepens. When you become president of the American Atheists, your freedom of thought … [Read more...]

What We Can’t Claim Credit For

In light of the two most recent posts (on atheism's weakness as philosophical movement and my inability to rebut a Ross Douthat thought experiment), it's about time I got around to discussing the keynote at the DC Center for Inquiry fundraiser I attended a few weeks back.The featured speaker was Greta Christina and she spoke on the similarities between New Atheism and the LGBT movement.  I'm sure you can think of plenty of them already: both distrusted groups that are numerically in the … [Read more...]

Is Atheism Ever Not Boring?

R. Joseph Hoffman, a professor at the New England Conservatory and blogger at The New Oxonian has some harsh words for the New Atheists in a recent essay "Atheism's Little Idea." I mention Skepticon because to my mind the meeting is further evidence of the crisis that besets atheism. It cannot quite embrace humanism at the margins, the solution to which for certain ecumenical atheists is to fiddle with the definition of humanism by rolling out the dough ever thinner. It cannot represent … [Read more...]

Feser’s Typology of Atheism (Part 2)

Today, I'm returning to Edward Feser's typology of atheism.  Monday, I took a look at ways atheists approach religious philosophy, today the focus is on responses to religious practice.  Here's how Feser splits up atheists: A. Religious practice is mostly or entirely contemptible and something we would all be well rid of. The ritual side of religion is just crude and pointless superstition. Religious morality, where it differs from secular morality, is sheer bigotry. Even where certain moral p … [Read more...]

High Octane Ritual

Yesterday I made a case for authority among atheists and today I’m addressing ritual without religion.In the big discussion about Greg Epstein’s humanist chaplains and the twitter forum on #humanistcommunity, PZ Myers claimed setting up atheist rituals that paralleled religious tradition was “a cheat and a waste.” At their essence, Myers claimed, ritual is just another world for “waste of effort, feel-good displacement activities that take the place of thought.”It’s easy to think of fairl … [Read more...]