Tag Archives: humanism

“Robo sapiens”

O brave new world! In the science section of The New York Times this week is a report on Atlas, a recently designed robot built for use by the Pentagon: “People love the wizards in Harry Potter or ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but … Continue reading

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What’s Coming (A Prediction)

A century from now, were you and I to see it, I think we would exclaim, like Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “O brave new world that has such men in it!” And I worry that those men will not be religious … Continue reading

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Camille Paglia on the New Atheism and Contemporary Humanism

In an interview posted at Salon today, Camille Paglia lets loose on godless chic, arguing that it has poisoned contemporary film and art: People in the humanities have sunk into this shallow, snobby, liberal style of stereotyping religious believers as … Continue reading

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The Idol of War: Why God is Not an Islamist, an Orthodox Jew, or a Republican Christianist

How does one extract God from the mob? The Catholic contemplative Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation (originally published in 1962), made the following startling observations about strong hate: Strong hate, the hate that takes joy in hating, is … Continue reading

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Carl Rogers is What I Would Call Retro-Humanist Cool

I’ve always admired Carl Rogers’s orientation toward the world (emphasizing existential authenticity and choice, transparency, imaginative sympathy, and meaning). In the 1960s, he used to have public debates with B. F. Skinner about whether people’s inner states were really all that … Continue reading

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The Secular-Christian Social Contract at Christmas

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Carl Sagan Day: Three Historians Reflect on Carl Sagan’s Life

For “Carl Sagan Day” (which is today), this extended reflection on Carl Sagan’s life seems fitting to post.

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The Humanist Delusion?

In his book, Straw Dogs (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), professor of European thought, John Gray, argues that the humanist belief in progress is deluded in part because our experience of “consciousness, selfhood, and free will” are uneven at best (p. 38): Our lives … Continue reading

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How to Really Make a World of Humanists: Helen Vendler Urges Training in Close Reading

In a recent essay for Harvard Magazine, the great Helen Vendler pushes back against our teach-to-the-test/Twitter-texting culture, eloquently calling on parents and teachers, including those teaching college, to train young people in close, as opposed to merely proficient, reading: Without reading, there … Continue reading

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Terry Eagleton Asks: What Does It Mean to Live in a Secular Society?

Terry Eagleton, in a recent essay for the New Statesman, suggests a sure-fire method for determining just how secular your society truly is. It has to do with the degree to which universal compulsion on matters religious has been abandoned (both in law and cultural … Continue reading

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Atheism’s Real Problem Going Forward: Universal Humanism vs. Johann Gottfried Herder, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Friedrich Nietzsche

The fact that we evolved from social primates, and not, say, loner sharks, is sufficient to account for human moral impulses. Aristotle famously defined us as the political (or social) animal. But being a tribal species in which demonized out-groups are … Continue reading

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What is Humanism, and Where is 21st Century Atheism Taking Us, Really?

Just as Unitarianism is the featherbed for catching the falling Christian (Erasmus Darwin), humanism is the featherbed for catching the falling atheist. What humanism functions to conceal for the squeamish atheist and agnostic (and I am one of those squeamish agnostics) is … Continue reading

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“The Age of Doubt”: Christopher Lane’s New Book on Victorian Agnosticism Looks Interesting

At New Humanist is an essay by Christopher Lane (adapted from his recently released book on doubt and agnosticism among the Victorians). Here is Lane writing about the (failed) defensive maneuvers taken by the Christian faithful against the rising cultural tide of religious doubt: … Continue reading

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St Paul Meets Jehu: Is Quran Burner Terry Jones a Blasphemer or an Iconoclast?

I’m not sure blasphemy (a word from the Greek blasphemos, meaning “evil speaking”) is the right word for what Florida pastor Terry Jones did. To my mind, blasphemy has two levels. The first is honest and conscientious expression of non-Orthodox opinion. If I … Continue reading

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Vintage Christopher Hitchens from 1989

Christopher Hitchens in high form, speaking out on behalf of Salmon Rushdie in 1989:

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1 Part Critical Thinking + 1 Part Behavior Modification = Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

The Enlightenment premise that the average person can deal rationally with life’s demands invites a question: what might a psychotherapy that foregrounds critical thinking habits look like? Enter Albert Ellis (1913-2007) and his Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Ellis, an atheist and humanist, believed that rational life habits could … Continue reading

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Zeev Sternhell on The Enlightenment and Its Enemies

One of the books that I’ve been dropping in and out of this past month is Zeev Sternhell’s The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition (Yale 2009). Sternhell’s book is about 450 pages long, and I’m only 150 pages in, but I can already say that it is … Continue reading

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Truth, Socratic Dialogue, Internet Threads, and Giambattista Vico

Giambattista Vico was, from 1699-1741, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Naples, and I love the open way that he ended his speech, “On the Study Methods of Our Time” (1709). It represents well the spirit of Italian humanism that … Continue reading

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In praise of Chateauneuf (Voltaire’s godfather and tutor)

Below are some rather impious lines from La Moisade, a 17th century French satirical poem (author unknown). It opens with this sass of Mosaic legislation: A teaching so irrelevant Shall not my doubts destroy? With empty sophism thou shalt not My reason … Continue reading

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Does Megan Fox Foreshadow Our Posthuman and Atheist Future?

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses  (in Book X), Pygmalion carves a female figure out of ivory and falls in love with it: And I couldn’t help but notice, in this Interview  magazine cover promotion, the ivory-skinned Megan Fox making of herself a Pygmalion aesthetic object: Ernest … Continue reading

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