Welcome to Daylight Atheism

Welcome, all, to the new Daylight Atheism! I'm pleased to be officially joining Big Think as a blogger-in-residence. Whether you've just come across this site or are a long-time reader from my previous home, I hope you'll stick around and become a return visitor. To those who aren't familiar with my views, I'd like to begin with a quick summary of where I'm coming from.

As you've doubtless already grasped, I'm an unapologetic atheist. I don't believe in any supernatural beings - gods, angels, demons, ghosts, fairies, unicorns, leprechauns - I treat them all alike, and disbelieve in them all equally. Of course, I spend the majority of my time writing about the particular superstitions that are most popular today, that I'm most familiar with and that pose the greatest threat to human progress. Some people have asserted that religious beliefs have a unique status in our culture and should be exempt from criticism, but I don't think highly of those arguments. I consider it one of my guiding principles that any belief which claims to teach truths about the world should be open to challenge and debate.

I'm a materialist in the fine old tradition of Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius: all that exists is made of matter and energy interacting in the arena of time and space. The world is extraordinarily complex, but it's also patterned and lawful, and we can discover truths about it by using reason and the scientific method.

On the moral side of things, I'm a humanist and a utilitarian. I hold human beings as the ultimate source and standard of value, and happiness as the only intrinsic good. Contrary to common stereotypes of atheists, I believe that objective morality exists and is knowable, and consists of choosing the course of action with the greatest likelihood of improving human well-being and happiness. Because the mind is unified with the brain, we die when our brains do; our lives are finite and death is the end of consciousness, which only underscores the importance of filling our limited time with meaning and purpose.

On the political front, I'm a progressive. I believe that government should advance the common good and defend the general welfare, and the way it should do that is by smoothing out natural obstacles to create an equality of opportunity where all people's natural talents have the best chance to manifest. In the last few years, I've increasingly come to identify with the feminist movement, as I've realized that the scourge of inequality and active discrimination has often fallen the most heavily on women - due, in large part, to the baleful influence of patriarchal religions.

Atheism is a worldview with a long, proud and storied history, yet over the ages it's been repeatedly censored and pushed back into the shadows by religious authorities who fear any challenge to their views. But in our era, this is changing very quickly. In the U.S.A. today, as many as one in seven people describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or nonreligious, and our numbers are growing with each generation. This site is called Daylight Atheism because I want to do what's in my power to speed this transition, to bring atheism fully into the light of day and see atheists take our rightful place at the table of society's discourse.

I've been blogging since 2006, and in that time, I've had a few memorable experiences. My writing was cited by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion and won a science writing prize judged by Steven Pinker. I've been attacked in campaign ads run by a U.S. senator, stood in the rain of a tropical rainforest, looked out from the edge of the radio dish of Arecibo, and last but not least, married the love of my life. More recently, I started writing occasional columns for AlterNet and joined the speakers' bureau of the Secular Student Alliance, a fast-growing organization which helps organize atheist student clubs in universities and high schools across the U.S.

This site is my home and hearth: my observatory on the world, my library of ideas, the garden where I find reason for hope. If you already agree with what I have to say, then I hope you'll find inspiration and encouragement, and reasons to keep fighting the good fight. If you disagree with me, then I hope to meet you in open debate, and may the best ideas win. Once again, welcome, and let's get this show on the road!

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
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Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
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Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

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Scientists find a horrible new way cocaine can damage your brain

Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.

Getty Images
Mind & Brain
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  • Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
  • Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
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