From Darwin’s Bulldog to England’s Sage: The Saga of Thomas H. Huxley
When talking about the meaning of modernity, there is a tendency to focus on the interplay between the products of the modern age and the psychological conditions those products give rise to: factories and nervous exhaustion, atomic bombs and existential anxiety, eight dozen different kinds of cereal and world-weary ennui. These products are all very …
Hot and Wild Sufficiency: Epicurus, the Mehness of Death, and the Pleasures of Enough
A hunk of cheese. A glass of watered-down wine. The company of a good friend. That, according to the most influential philosopher of the Hellenistic Age, is pretty much the summit of human happiness. Epicurus of Samos (341 bce–270 bce) inherited an Athens that had been broken by the Macedonian might of Alexander the Great …
The Sweet Tyranny of Other People: Virginia Woolf, Bloomsbury, and the World Beyond Belief
Bloomsbury. A century ago that word stood for everything loathsome to the dying Victorian Age. Homosexuality and impiety, infidelity and socialism, all were embraced at one time or another by the roughly dozen figures of the Bloomsbury Group while even the most freethinking of their Imperial elders scratched their heads, wondering what their small acts …
Humanism’s Future Circumstances: The Godless Galaxyscapes of Iain M. Banks
So, what does a purely humanist civilization look like? What do people do and need, when it is taken as given that life is material and beyond it lies nothing?” For decades, the best we could do in answering this question as to the lived-in feel of a prospective humanist society was to point toward …
Optimism from the Ashes: The Galactic Humanism of Isaac Asimov
Asimov dared to ask how humanity would be saved from enervation brought on by its own success.
What God Didn’t and Kant Couldn’t: Richard Rorty and the World after Philosophy
From Plato to Kant to Russell, philosophy has been in the business of describing the mind in a way unavailable to the lesser disciplines.
The Wickedest Man in San Francisco: Ambrose Bierce and Cynicism’s Battling Prime
Ambrose Bierce, the compleat cynic whose insights sear even as they sparkle.
Determinism in the Courtroom: The Other Legacy of Clarence Darrow
“Darrow’s approach remained the same: a full and frank determinism with a boundless empathy t its core.”
Coming Together: How Baron d’Holbach Made Atheism a Movement
“For pure, unadulterated, We-Are-Atheists-Hear-Us-Roar unity and pride, there was one beginning and one place to be: Thursday evenings at Baron d’Holbach’s joint.”
Normalizing Blasphemy: Robert Ingersoll and Freethought’s Great Awakening
Above all Robert Ingersoll demonstrated that an exuberant, joyful life without religion was possible.
The People’s Deist: Thomas Paine
“Paine would suffer for this book, but then he had suffered for every book he had ever written.”
H.L. Mencken: Scourge of the Booboisie
“He was a cultural commentator who helped usher in a new era of American thought, and then he arbitrarily dug in his heels against any further progress nce he saw his gals achieved.”
A Classic Returns to the Rescue
A review of The Faith of a Heretic, by Walter Kaufmann.
Walter Kaufmann: The Man Who Saved Heresy
Walter Kaufmann saved skepticism, almost singlehandedly, from McCarthyite repression and Eisenhoweresque torpor.
A Century of Main Street: The Freethinking Legacy of Sinclair Lewis
It would be a mistake to consider the works of Sinclair Lewis irrelevant to modern times and freethought’s role.
C. S. Lewis: How the Atheist Academic Became the Lion of Christianity
For believers, C. S. Lewis proves that a Christian commitment is intellectually defensible. But it turns out there is precious little that is intellectual about Lewis’s own journey to Christian belief.
When Atheists Mourn: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chemistry
The atheist’s understanding of death is only enriched by understanding the neurochemistry of attachment, loss, and mourning.
The End of Atonement: Law Without Free Will
There are three things that we humans seem to really want to believe in: the existence of God, the soul, and free will.