Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

Remember you can vote once per day for the About.com Atheism Awards.  I’m one of five nominees for Best Atheist Blog.  More details here.I was talking about posthumous Mormon baptism in an interfaith discussion group (I don't object to it, see here: "The Mormons Try for a Mitzvah"), and someone asked why many of us have a strong, knee-jerk objection to proxy baptism of the dead, but don't see anything odd about baptizing children.In both cases, you're inducting someone who cannot consen … [Read more...]

No ‘Healthy Outlet’ for Bad Habits

Remember you can vote once per day for the About.com Atheism Awards.  I'm one of five nominees for Best Atheist Blog.  More details here.This is part two of my response to Brian S. about my choice to give up free food during Lent.  The first focused on why I glommed on to Lent in the first place.  Now we're addressing the substance of the change I'm trying to make.  Brian wrote: I disagree [that the feeling of having cheated someone is a bad pleasure to cultivate], or at any rate don’t feel … [Read more...]

Assenting to Sin

If someone has made up their mind to do something evil, is there any benefit to them if someone else prevents them from carrying out their intended action? The hypothetical doesn’t need to be as extreme as the examples of the last few days, where someone else commits the evil act preemptively to prevent you from managing it. Imagine instead someone swapping out PZ Myers’s consecrated wafer with an unconsecrated wafer before he desecrated it, or just stealing it back from him alt … [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...]

High Energy Theoretical Ethics

Joel Marks has written an essay for The New York Times Opinionator page titled "Confessions of an Ex-Moralist."  The title alone was a clue this piece would raise my hackles, and it turned out to be an explanation of why atheism requires rejecting moral imperatives.  By an atheist!There's a lot to take issue with, but today I want to focus on one small point in contention.  Marks makes a division between normative ethics, which, he says, focus on the origin of morality a la Pl … [Read more...]

Update on Church Vandalism Fundraising

Hermant Mehta of Friendly Atheist has ended his atheist fundraiser to help two churches that were defaced by Flying Spaghetti Monster graffiti.  Both churches were able to do cleanup with their usual maintenance staffs, so Mehta donated the money raised, as promised, to the Foundation Beyond Belief.  I donated to his fund, and posted his fundraising widget on the blog, to allow other atheists to donate, but I was a little uncomfortable making a donation to a religious group; I never contribute to … [Read more...]

Call him Voldemort!

"Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things.  Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself"  -- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone  I was dumbfounded by a "On the Square" feature at First Things this week.  Christopher Kaczor gave advice to Christian parents who aren't sure whether to have their children vaccinated against HPV and adopted the tone of someone teetering at the edge of a precipice.  After considering several approaches, Kac … [Read more...]