November 6, 2018

Your moral hero advises, nay, commands that you love your enemies.  ‘Would that include political enemies?’ you fearfully ask your moral hero.  Your moral hero replies, ‘Yes, political enemies too.’ Here you might abandon your moral hero on the spot as a strange subject for moral veneration, as an oddball, as an inveterate dreamer. Or you might stick with your moral hero, even in these flights of impracticable perfectionist ethics. You decide to stick with your moral hero. You think… Read more

November 1, 2018

This is a short piece because it’s heavy and you’ll have to go into your well of solitude and ponder it.   Religions moralize mental assent, making belief a criterion of merit and disbelief a criterion of demerit. Belief gets saved and unbelief gets damned.   Here are three reasons why Humanists disagree with the moralizing of our mental life:   Action is subject to moral judgment but thought is not subject to moral judgment. It is the essence of… Read more

October 14, 2018

The idea of a punishing God is prehistoric and ubiquitous in human ecology, and it is still with us. In the hunt-and-peck days of prehistory, when aboriginal peoples everywhere conceived of the world as animated by innumerable spirits and sprites and souls—many of these imagined invisible entities required pacification. And if the Invisibles were not pacified, they punished humans. Punished them how? With bad luck, with lack of crops, lack of scaled fish, lack of feathered fowl and leathering cow,… Read more

October 3, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh was educated by Catholic Jesuit priests. They may  have taught young Brett how to practice moral casuistry, since the Jesuits were once known for such a thing. Morality is not mere rulekeeping in the casuist view. There are moral rules of thumb, yes. But any given circumstance can provide mitigating events that make moral rules moot. ‘Don’t steal’ is a good rule of thumb but it’s not a moral absolute when we can imagine permissible scenarios that would… Read more

September 18, 2018

Humanists, meet a predecessor. In 1781 London, Matthew Turner published a little pamphlet called  ‘Answer to Dr. Priestly’s Letters to a Philosophical  Unbeliever.’ Matthew Turner defended his own skeptical position against Joseph Priestly, a known theologian and the writer of ‘Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever.’ Here are select quotes from Matthew Turner: Recognizing judicial punishments for religious dissent: No tyranny is greater than that of ecclesiastics. These chain down our very ideas. Other tyrants only confine our limbs. They invite… Read more

September 15, 2018

All ancient religions were once new religions. And all ancient innovators of those once-new religions borrowed ideas from even older religions, blending old ideas with new ideas to create a new religion. Scholarly sleuthing exposes the ancient borrowing. For instance, the ancient religion of the Jews, when that religion was new, borrowed ideas from even older religions in Sumeria, Akkadia, Babylon, Egypt, and Persia: the bible’s garden paradise, the forbidden tree, the ethics of the ten commandments, the baby set… Read more

September 10, 2018

On South Pacific trade winds, the word taboo cruised into Western lexicons. European sailors, in eighteenth-century rigging, discovered that people on the islands of Fiji and Tonga referred to certain actions as tapu, forbidden. Owing to deafness or dyslexia, the first chronicler of the word rendered it into English as taboo. The misspelling and the mispronunciation stuck. (It’s curious that, half a world away in the near East, the ancient Hebrews used the word toba for the same meaning: that… Read more

September 5, 2018

In his dream, the Pope was again seated in a ballroom where the Divine Comic was performing. Funny God. But this time no one else was present in the room except the Pope and the Divine Comic. No holy hordes were there, no clerics, ministers, ecclesiastics, prophets, preachers, priests, monks, mystics, lamas, nuns, rishis, rabbis, holy men, holy women; no feathered angelic clown with drum kit and cymbal (no bada bing). A  spotlight sat in a perfect halo around the… Read more

August 22, 2018

Here is what the Pope should say to Catholics worldwide: Most priests and bishops in the entire history of the Church have been, and are, men of uncommon virtue.  And yet, there are others who mar their mission. Let me speak of them. Literary interpretation can accomplish whatever you want. This is so for biblical interpretation too. Making a sacred text say anything you desire it to say is an ancient skill. What Catholics need to accomplish along these lines… Read more

August 19, 2018

What’s on offer in a university course about religion? There are two approaches to the study of religion—one is devotional and one is academic. The devotional approach is ancient and the academic is fairly recent (less than 200 years old). The devotional approach is conducted by caretakers of religion and the academic approach is undertaken by critics of religion. Unfortunately the term ‘critic’  portrays the academic as ‘fault-finder.’ But this is not necessarily the case. It’s more accurate to see… Read more

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