#Baltimore and the Failure of Human Flourishing

HONESTY DOESN’T RULE Huffington Post called the president’s remarks on the Baltimore uprising “the most honest fifteen minutes of Obama’s presidency.” What did Obama get honest about? He said, In those environments, if we think that we’re just gonna send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there, without [Read More...]

Reason is Dead; Long Live . . . Advanced Hindsight

JUSTICE IS A SNACK AWAY Justice. It may be a meal best served cold, but not on an empty stomach. Israeli Neuroscientist and business professor Shai Danziger studied the correlation between food and the likelihood that a judge will grant prisoners parole. In the morning, just after breakfast, the chances of parole are high—around sixty-five [Read More...]

The Transient, the Permanent, and the Stitching Horse: What Remains True in Religions

When I was a kid, I loved wandering in the barn on my grandfather’s farm. The barn had been built around a two-story log house. In the loft of the barn was a jumble of old farming equipment. My favorite piece of equipment there was what was known as a stitching horse. This was a [Read More...]

Apocalypse: What Death Cults Really Want

The recent Atlantic article by Graeme Wood, “What Isis Really Wants,” examines the Isis phenomenon from the vantage point of apocalyptic movements. It’s an insightful article. I’m just a bit confused at the reaction. We’ve had apocalyptic thinking living in our midst here in the US for some time. I grew up Pentecostal. Now that’s [Read More...]

Greenery Without People: The Future of Post-Religious Community

I don’t get it about the natural world. Like, greenery, without people in it, is supposed to do what? ~Charles Smith   How to do religious community in a post-religious world . . . . As a senior minister in an urban congregation, it’s something I think about every day. For most urban North Americans, [Read More...]

The Bigness of our Littleness: Humanism and Individualism

  Late in his life the philosopher Richard Rorty—well known to be an atheist—was asked by an interviewer if he could define “holy.” I suppose the interlocutor thought Rorty would be stumped by the question, or even perhaps show some sympathy for one religion or another. Rorty was not stumped by the question. He responded, [Read More...]

Covenant: Broken Promises, Dumb Ideas, and Ways Forward

Captain, We’re Out of Beer! When those adventurers we now call the Pilgrims realized they weren’t going to make it to Virginia on their beer supply, they did what most idealists do, they jumped ship. But first they wrote up a little agreement for themselves that nowadays we call the Mayflower Covenant. This was 1620. [Read More...]

The Proof’s in the Pudding (or What’s Churchy about Church?)

Imagine I’m sometimes asked how humanists can have “church” without invoking god. Here’s how I think about it: Imagine this scenario: When Imhotep in ancient Egypt invoked the great god Ra, he was invoking the human consciousness, not Ra Almighty. Imagine this: When Zadok, son of Ahitub, entered the holy of holies of Solomon’s brand [Read More...]

Spiritual But Not . . . Keep Talking

Literary critic Terry Eagleton said, “The din of conversation is as much meaning as we shall ever have.” I like that. On first glance, it appears to be bleak—human conversation is all the meaning there is? But imagine what human conversation has given us. Imagine the din of conversation under the porches and under the [Read More...]

Tinfoil Hats and the Examined Life

Let’s say I tell you I’m wearing a tinfoil hat today . . . What does that say to you? Crazy? Paranoid? Safe from the mental meddling of governments and/or extraterrestrials? It’s shorthand, isn’t it? A tinfoil hat says crazy or paranoid or safe, not because of anything inherent in the tinfoil hat, but because [Read More...]


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