Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)


Religion

  • Q&A: Evaluating Romantic Prospects: 6 Sep 2015, Question 3
  • Question: How can I efficiently evaluate potential romantic prospects? When introduced to a person – or out on a first or second date – it's often difficult to evaluate that person quickly and fairly as a potential romantic prospect. What should I look for? What questions should I ask? What kinds of qualities – moral and psychological – should I regard as particularly important, for better or worse?

    Tags: Communication, Dating, Ethics, Hobbies, Objectivism, Politics, Religion, Romance, Values

  • Q&A: Questions about Religious Beliefs: 12 Jul 2015, Question 1
  • Question: How should a doctor respond to questions about her religious beliefs? My wife recently told me about a colleague of hers – a physician and an atheist – being caught off guard when asked by the parents of one of her cancer patients in the hospital if she believed in God. These parents wanted their son treated only by a doctor who believes in God, and my wife's friend did not qualify. How should she have answered their question?

    Tags: Boundaries, Business, Career, Christianity, Communication, Honesty, Medicine, Openness, Relationships, Religion, Respect

  • Q&A: Friendship with a Devout Theist: 17 May 2015, Question 3
  • Question: Should I end my friendship with a persistent and devout Christian? I am an atheist who has been befriended by a very devout Christian (read: an ex-missionary). I often find that our philosophical differences prevent me from expressing myself the way I would like. However, this friend has been very devoted to pursuing a deeper friendship with me despite my attempts to keep the relationship very casual. She calls me her "best friend" to others and goes out of her way to forge a deeper bond by regularly telling me how "special" I am to her and reiterating how close to me she feels. She will often say that she regards me as a "sister." I am puzzled by her persistence, given that she has so many friendship options within her Church and the rest of the Christian community. I am also increasingly uncomfortable with our interactions, given their necessarily narrow breadth and depth: we tend to focus our discussions mainly on a shared hobby we enjoy that has nothing to do with religion or philosophy. I really value time spent engaging in philosophical discussions with my other friends, and this is simply not possible with her. The dilemma is that she has been admirably non-judgmental toward my lifestyle, at least outwardly. She does not proselytize or try to "convert" me. (I have made it clear to her that this is not possible.) Still, our friendship feels vacant to me. I have tried to express my concerns to her at various times but her response is always that she loves me and accepts me "no matter what." I think she is being sincere, but it feels like a manipulation or, at least, an evasion of our many differences. Still, I always end up feeling guilty for keeping her at a distance while she works so hard to be my friend. Should I end this friendship once and for all?

    Tags: Boundaries, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion, Values

  • Chat: Argument from Miracles for the Existence of God, Part 1: 9 Apr 2015
  • Summary: Do reports of miracles prove the existence of God? Most people of faith appeal to the miracles of their faith as grounds for their belief. Here, I consider what miracles are, how they are supposed to prove God's existence, and raise some concerns about them.

    Tags: Argument from Ignorance, Christianity, Confirmation Bias, Epistemology, God, Metaphysics, Miracles, Objectivity, Philosophy, Religion, Special Pleading, Theology

  • Q&A: Coming Out as an Atheist: 1 Mar 2015, Question 3
  • Question: How can I avoid coming out as an atheist to my boyfriend's parents? I'm gay and my long-time, live-in boyfriend recently came out to his parents. They are older and pretty religious, but they are doing their best to be accepting of our relationship. However, my boyfriend says that they believe that I am changing him for the worse in that he has not been as communicative and open with them because he didn't come out to them sooner and has not been sharing the progression of our relationship with them. (The whole concept of being in the closet seems completely alien to them.) But they do know our relationship is serious, so they have invited us to spend the holidays with them in order to get to know me better. My boyfriend says that they will insist that we attend church with them and has asked that I not tell them that I'm an atheist right away. I've explained to him that I am not going to lie about anything, but I am not sure how to remain true to my convictions without making things more difficult for my boyfriend and upsetting his parents. What are your suggestions for making the Christmas holidays pleasant while maintaining my integrity?

    Tags: Adult Children, Atheism, Communication, GLBT, Parenting, Privacy, Religion, Secrets, Values

  • Q&A: Insulting with Racial Epithets: 11 Jan 2015, Question 3
  • Question: Is it wrong to use racist epithets to insult the truly evil? A now-former Facebook friend used a racist epithet in reference to Islamic terrorists. I asked him if he understood that it was a racist term and he said he did and said that he used it on purpose to insult those evil-doers because they are so evilly evil that they deserve not even a little respect. I told him he was wrong because race is not the same as ideology and that I can't find any justification for racism, so I un-friended him. I agree that Islamic terrorists are evil, but is it morally okay to be a racist toward evil people?

    Tags: Communication, Communication, Culture, Ethics, Islam, Objectivity, Race, Racism, Religion, Terrorism

  • Q&A: Participating in Superstitious Rituals: 4 Jan 2015, Question 1
  • Question: Is it wrong to participate in superstitious rituals without taking them seriously? If I make some perfunctory observance or participation in some superstitious ritual, and do not believe the superstitious ritual is of any literal importance, am I still promoting irrationality? If I regularly read the horoscope in the newspaper, but do not believe astrology has any real impact on my life, does reading the horoscope promote irrationality? Likewise, in Hawaii, almost all retail establishments possess what are called "good-luck cats." A good-luck cat is a relatively inexpensive Asian figurine depicting a cat with one paw raised. Having this figurine is supposed to bring good luck to your business. You can commonly see such good-luck cat figurines in doctor's offices in Honolulu, and for your retail establishment not to have such a figurine would easily strike people as strange. If I spent just a little money on such a good-luck cat to decorate my business, and I didn't literally believe the figurine itself affected my fortunes, would the purchase be a concession to irrational thinking? Would such a gesture be "social proof" that would help other people rationalize more obviously pathological forms of irrationality, such as wasting hundreds of dollars on fortune tellers and psychic hotlines?

    Tags: Business, Communication, Ethics, Holidays, Humor, Rationality, Religion, Sanction, Science, Superstition

  • Chat: Design Arguments for the Existence of God, Part 4: 11 Dec 2014
  • Summary: Does the complexity, delicacy, and purposefulness of living organisms prove the existence of God? William Paley argues that it does in his Analogical Argument from Design. Here, we explore philosophical objections to his argument, as well as the alternative explanation of evolutionary theory.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Biology, Christianity, Creationism, Evolution, Evolution, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Physics, Religion, Science, Theology

  • Q&A: The Reality of Karma: 7 Dec 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Is karma real? Although the concept of "karma" has religious roots, it seems to contain a grain of truth, namely that people will, in the end, get what they deserve. So if a father is mean to his children, he will find them unwilling to help him when he suffers a health crisis in his old age. In contrast, children raised with love and kindness will be eager to help their ailing father. Is this understanding of karma true? Is this a concept that rational people might or should use in their moral thinking?

    Tags: Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Luck, Metaphysics, Religion

  • Podcast: Ayn Rand's Philosophy: Myth Versus Reality: 20 Nov 2014
  • Summary: What are some common confusions about Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism? In this talk, I briefly survey Ayn Rand's basic principles, then explore six common but false views about her, namely: (1) Ayn Rand was primarily concerned with politics. (2) Ayn Rand was an elitist: she despised everyone except super-high achievers. (3) Ayn Rand's ethics tells people to do whatever the heck they feel like doing. (4) Ayn Rand supported charity: she just thought it should be voluntary. (5) Ayn Rand's advocacy of reason and logic excludes any concern for emotions. (6) Ayn Rand's ideas are compatible with belief in God and Christianity. This talk was given to the Free Minds Film Festival on 8 October 2011.

    Tags: Charity, Christianity, Elitism, Epistemology, Ethics, Hedonism, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Subjectivism

  • Q&A: The Possibility of an Atheistic Afterlife: 28 Sep 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to believe in some kind of afterlife? I don't believe in God, but I hate to think that this life is all that I have. I can't stand the thought of never again seeing my parents, my children, or my friends again. So is it wrong to think that some kind of afterlife might exist? What's the harm?

    Tags: Afterlife, Christianity, Death, Emotions, Ethics, Metaphysics, Relationships, Religion, Values

  • Q&A: Agnosticism: 10 Aug 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Can the non-existence of God be proven? I see how a person could believe – purely based on rational argument – that God's existence cannot be proven, thereby becoming an agnostic. On the one hand, many non-theists criticize theists for believing in a deity strictly on faith, claiming that there's no rational reason to believe in a deity. Most theists, however, would probably reject that, saying that they have rational reasons for their beliefs too. On the other hand, atheism seems just as unproveable as theism. Yet atheists claim that their beliefs are based on reason, rather than emotion or faith. As a result, aren't the atheists covertly relying on faith? Or can atheism be proven purely based on reason? Why not just admit that we don't know? Also, practically speaking, isn't the agnostic basically the same as an atheist?

    Tags: Agnosticism, Arbitrary Beliefs, Atheism, Axioms, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Problem of Evil, Psycho-Epistemology, Religion

  • Q&A: Requiting Evil with Good: 3 Aug 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Can evil be requited with good? Christians claim that evil can and ought to be requited with good. So in "Les Miserables", the Bishop inspired Jean Valjean to reform by telling the police that he willingly gave Jean the silver plate (and added the candlesticks) even though Jean stole the silver. Does this strategy ever work to reform an evildoer? Or is it merely a license to further evil? In some cases, might it be useful to "heap burning coals on [an evildoer's] head"? If so, when and why?

    Tags: Benevolence, Christianity, Communication, Ethics, Evil, Generosity, Justice, Moral Errors, Moral Judgment, Moral Wrongs, Religion

  • Q&A: Proposals to Ban Muslim Immigration: 8 Jun 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Does the lack of respect for rights among some Muslim immigrants justify banning all Muslim immigrants? Sometimes, I hear people say that immigrants from Muslim countries are so illiberal (in the classical sense) that they ought to banned from entering the United States and Western Europe. The anti-immigrationists say that when people from Muslim countries are allowed to reside in the West, such immigrants remain committed to political Islam, honor-kill their own daughters, rape native-born women, and plot to impose sharia law on the West through "stealth jihad." Is the illiberalism of some (or even many) Muslim immigrants grounds for limiting immigration from Muslim countries? What is the proper response to this problem?

    Tags: Conservatism, Crime, Discrimination, Ethics, Foreign Policy, Immigration, Islam, Justice, Law, Politics, Religion, Security, Terrorism

  • Q&A: Weak Versus Strong Atheism: 11 May 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Should a rational person's atheism be weak or strong? People often distinguish between "weak atheism" and "strong atheism." The weak atheist regards the arguments for the existence of God as invalid, so that God's existence has not been proven. The strong atheist positively asserts that God does not exist. Which of these views is correct?

    Tags: Agnosticism, Atheism, Epistemology, God, Integrity, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Religion

  • Q&A: The Value of Studying Theology: 30 Mar 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Can a rational atheist extract any value from studying theology? Theology includes a mix of arguments for the existence of God, plus views on ethics, and more. It's the earliest form of philosophy. Can a person benefit by cherry picking ideas from theological teachings or does the mysticism and other faults outweigh any benefits?

    Tags: Activism, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion, Society, Theology

  • Q&A: Sharia Finance: 28 Jan 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Should financial companies be permitted to offer financial products consistent with sharia law? Sharia Finance – meaning, investments that specifically conform with Islamic law – are growing in popularity and have been adopted by major financial companies like Citi. Should these private businesses be legally permitted to offer whatever their clients want to buy? Or should these investments be banned due to their connection with funding terror, oppressing women, and violating rights in other ways? Morally, should companies offer these investments? Should people protest or boycott companies offering them?

    Tags: Business, Ethics, Finance, Islam, Law, Religion

  • Q&A: Deep-Down Atheism: 1 Dec 2013, Question 2
  • Question: How can I convince myself, deep-down, that God does not exist? I was raised Catholic, although I was never deeply religious. Now, many years later, a friend is showing me Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. I can see its benefits, but my religious upbringing still lingers in the back of my head. So part of me still thinks that God exists, even though I don't really believe that any longer. It was just engrained in me from such a young age that I can't seem to let it go. Can I change that? If so, how?

    Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Epistemology, Ethics, Habits, Introspection, Proof, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality, Religion

  • Q&A: Positive Change in Islam: 24 Nov 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Can Islam change for the better? Many critics of Islam claim that the religion is inherently totalitarian, violent, and repressive – and hence, that change for the better is utterly impossible. An Islamic reformation or enlightenment will never happen, they say. Is that true? More generally, what are the limits of a religion's ties to its own scriptures?

    Tags: Bible, Christianity, Foreign Policy, Islam, Judaism, Philosophy, Qu'ran, Religion

  • Q&A: The Value of the Ten Commandments: 20 Oct 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Are the Ten Commandments of value to an atheist? Are the Ten Commandments a useful guide to living a good life, even for people who are not Jewish or Christian? Should a rational person look to religious scriptures for ethical guidance?

    Tags: Bible, Christianity, Duty Ethics, Ethics, Law, Religion

  • Q&A: Deduction from Axioms: 6 Oct 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Is philosophy deduced from axioms? Often, I hear people claim that philosophy – particularly Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism – is deduced from axioms. Is that right? Personally, I don't see how that can be: How can anything be deduced from "existence exists"? But in that case, what's the purpose of the axioms?

    Tags: Axioms, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Politics, Proof, Religion

  • Q&A: Atheists Patronizing Religious Businesses: 15 Sep 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to patronize religious businesses? Is it an endorsement of religion or failure of integrity for an atheist to buy goods or services from a religious business, such as hiring an explicitly religious (and advertised as such) plumber or joining the local YMCA?

    Tags: Atheism, Boundaries, Business, Integrity, Justice, Religion, Respect, Sanction

  • Interview: Dr. Monica Hughes on Myths about Evolutionary Theory: 19 Jun 2013
  • Summary: Many Americans are woefully ignorant of the basics of evolutionary theory, even while they criticize or reject it. Biologist Monica Hughes explained the basics of evolutionary theory, including some fascinating examples of evolution in action. Then she discussed and dispelled some common myths about it.

    Tags: Biology, Creationism, Evolution, God, Religion, Religion, Science

  • Q&A: Doctors Refusing to Perform Abortions: 9 Jun 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Does a doctor violate a woman's rights by refusing to perform an abortion? Many people on the left claim that a doctor who refuses to perform an abortion – or a pharmacist who refuses to dispense Plan B – is thereby violating the rights of the woman. Those doctors and pharmacists, however, claim that they're exercising their own freedom of religion. Who is right?

    Tags: Abortion, Conservatism, Ethics, Medicine, Politics, Progressivism, Religion, Rights

  • Q&A: Bad Ideas as a Cause of Mental Illness: 9 Jun 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Can the consistent practice of wrong ideas lead to mental illness? Often, the most consistent practitioners of an ideology – such as Naziism or Islam – seem to become increasingly unhinged over time. Does fully embracing a fantasy-based ideology entail or encourage mental illness, such as paranoia and delusions? If so, are such people then not responsible for what they say or do?

    Tags: Epistemology, Mental Illness, Philosophy, Psychology, Rationality, Religion

  • Q&A: Atheists Attending Religious Ceremonies: 28 Apr 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to refuse to attend a sibling's religious ceremony? I've decided not to attend the religious ceremony of my younger sister's upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I'm an atheist, and while I don't think attending would be immoral, I don't want to support any kind of religiosity or connection to religion. Other family members have criticized me for that decision, saying that I should support my sister and not pressure her into agreeing with my own views. Should I attend? If not, how should I handle the family dynamics?

    Tags: Atheism, Communication, Ethics, Family, Integrity, Judaism, Religion, Sanction, Siblings

  • Q&A: Parental Consent for Abortion: 14 Apr 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Should minor girls be required by law to obtain parental consent for an abortion? Normally, parents are legally empowered to make medical decisions for their minor children, and minors cannot obtain medical procedures without parental consent. How should that apply in the case of pregnancy? Should pregnancy and abortion be treated differently from other medical conditions? Should parents be allowed by law to force a daughter under 18 to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort against her will?

    Tags: Abortion, Ethics, Health, Law, Parenting, Pregnancy, Religion, Rights, Sex, Young Adults

  • Q&A: The Validity of Gay Marriage: 7 Apr 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Is "gay marriage" a valid form of marriage? Many people oppose gay marriage on the grounds that marriage is essentially religious, that procreation is central to marriage, or "traditional marriage" should be respected. Should gay unions be considered a valid form of marriage, legally or socially? Might civil unions be an acceptable alternative?

    Tags: Bible, Christianity, Culture, GLBT, Law, Marriage, Politics, Religion, Romance, Tradition

  • Q&A: Being an Atheist in a Religious School: 3 Mar 2013, Question 2
  • Question: How can an atheist teenager maintain his integrity in a religious school? A few years ago, I read Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged" for the first time. After a year of struggling between faith and reason, I chose reason. Unfortunately, I am a teenager, and I am forced to attend church and a religious school. For a time, I was fine coexisting with religious people. However, in the next academic year, I will have to take a class entitled "Christian Apologetics" in which I will have to pretend to be a Christian theologian. Now my integrity is at stake. How should I confront my religious family about my atheism? How can I persuade them to enroll me a different school?

    Tags: Academia, Atheism, Children, Communication, Education, Ethics, Integrity, Parenting, Religion

  • Q&A: The Value of Happiness: 3 Mar 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Is happiness overrated? Recently, I had a conversation in which the other person told me that "happiness is overrated." Basically, the person claimed that people should spend less time thinking about their own personal happiness. Instead, people should focus on acting rightly, and then take whatever pleasure they can in that. Is that view right or wrong?

    Tags: Duty Ethics, Egoism, Ethics, Happiness, Life, Religion, Self-Interest, Values

  • Q&A: Atheism as Religion: 3 Feb 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Is atheism just another form of religion? I often hear from religious people that atheism is just another form of religion – and just as much based on faith as Christianity and the like. Is that right or wrong?

    Tags: Atheism, Faith, Religion

  • Q&A: The Golden Rule: 3 Feb 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Is the Golden Rule a valid and useful principle of ethics? In past podcasts, you've mentioned that you consider the Golden Rule – meaning, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" – as flawed. What are some of the problems with this rule? Does it have any value?

    Tags: Christianity, Ethics, Judaism, Justice, Religion

  • Q&A: Romance Between an Atheist and a Believer: 13 Jan 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Can a romance between an atheist and a religious believer work? What are the major obstacles? Should the atheist attend church or church socials with his spouse? Should they have a religious wedding ceremony? Should they send their children to religious schools? Do the particular beliefs – or strength of beliefs – of the religious person matter?

    Tags: Atheism, Character, Children, Compromise, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Marriage, Relationships, Religion, Romance

  • Q&A: Teaching Children Philosophy: 25 Nov 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Why isn't philosophy taught to young children? It seems that teaching philosophy to young children – as young as kindergarten – might result in much better reasoning skills, as well as greater willingness to think independently and question what they've been taught. So is philosophy not taught to the young just because some parents and politicians might not like those good results?

    Tags: Children, Education, Induction, Logic, Parenting, Philosophy, Religion

  • Q&A: The Nature of Mysticism: 4 Nov 2012, Question 1
  • Question: What is mysticism? Is mysticism distinct from religion, faith, and belief in the supernatural? Can a person be non-religious but mystical? Can a person be religious but non-mystical?

    Tags: Epistemology, Faith, Mysticism, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality, Religion

  • Q&A: Reasons for Everything: 21 Oct 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Does everything happen for a reason? When confronted with some unwelcome turn of events, many people tell themselves that "everything happens for a reason." What does that mean – and is it true? Is it harmless – or does believing that have negative effects on a person's life?

    Tags: Causality, Ethics, Evil, Religion, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Pursuing Personal Values in an Imperfect World: 14 Oct 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Given the terrible state of the economy and culture, is it wrong to pursue your own personal values? Shouldn't we all be working full time at counteracting the terrible ideas that run rampant in our culture? Is time taken away from "the good fight" in pursuit of other activities merely a useless distraction, counterproductive, and possibly immoral – as some people claim? Or is the pursuit of your own values a moral way to enjoy one's life in spite of the grim state of the culture, politics, and the economy?

    Tags: Activism, Apocalypticism, Duty, Ethics, Personal Values, Politics, Religion, Sacrifice, Values

  • Interview: Craig Biddle on Common Mistakes about Ethics: 10 Oct 2012
  • Summary: What are some of the most common mistakes that people make in thinking about ethics? Craig Biddle explained people's wrong ideas about ethics, including ethics of duty, pragmatism, religious ethics, collectivism, and more.

    Tags: Causality, Collectivism, Duty, Ethics, Objectivism, Obligation, Pragmatism, Religion

  • Q&A: A Religious Wedding for an Atheist Groom: 30 Sep 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Should an atheist refuse to have a religious wedding? I'm an atheist, but my fiancée is a not-terribly-devout Christian. My parents – and her parents too – are Christian. Everyone wants and expects us to have a religious wedding, but I don't want that. My future wife would be willing to have a secular wedding, but she prefers a religious one. Mostly, she doesn't want to argue with her parents over it. Should I insist on a secular wedding? Or should I just let this one go? What's the harm, either way?

    Tags: Atheism, Communication, Compromise, Family, Honesty, Independence, In-Laws, Integrity, Marriage, Religion, Weddings

  • Q&A: Blue Laws: 16 Sep 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Do "blue laws" violate rights? Many communities have "blue laws" – such as prohibitions on selling liquor, or even cars or other goods, on Sundays. Are these laws violations of the separation of church and state?

    Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, Business, Law, Politics, Religion, Rights

  • Q&A: Chivalry as a Virtue: 16 Sep 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is chivalry virtuous? In the Aurora Masacre, three men died in the process of physically shielding their girlfriends from the gunfire. Is that kind of sacrifice noble? More generally, does chivalry have any place in an ethic of rational egoism?

    Tags: Chivalry, Emergencies, Ethics, History, Integrity, Religion, Sacrifice, Self-Interest, Self-Sacrifice, Sexism, Virtue

  • Q&A: Bigotry Against Religion: 26 Aug 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is criticism of and opposition to religion a form of bigotry? In its entry on bigotry, Wikipedia claims that a "bigot" is "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance and animosity toward members of a group," and that "bigotry may be directed towards those of a differing sex or sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, region, language, religious or spiritual belief, political alignment, age, economic status or medical disability." I hear the charge of bigotry bandied about, often reflexively, particularly by theists when atheists criticize their faith-based beliefs as irrational. Is open criticism of and disrespect for religion a form of bigotry? Or is "bigotry" a loaded concept to be used by anyone whose belief system is critically challenged?

    Tags: Atheism, Racism, Religion

  • Interview: Jason Stotts on Mistakes Couples Make about Sex: 1 Aug 2012
  • Summary: Is your romantic relationship and sex life hampered by wrong ideas and bad habits? Are you inadvertently sabotaging your relationships? Find out how to stop holding yourself back with some simple tips.

    Tags: Conflict, Egoism, Ethics, Marriage, Pleasure, Relationships, Religion, Self-Interest, Sex

  • Chat: Morality without God: 13 Jun 2012
  • Summary: Is objective morality possible or necessary without God? Can and should morality be based on observable facts?

    Tags: Bible, Christianity, Ethics, Religion

  • Q&A: United States as a Christian Nation: 3 Jun 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Is the United States a Christian nation? People often claim that the United States is "a Christian nation." What do people mean by that? Why does it matter? Is it true or not?

    Tags: Bible, Capitalism, Christianity, Culture, History, Law, Politics, Religion, Separation of Church and State, United States

  • Q&A: Outing Yourself to Bigots: 27 May 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Am I obliged to disclose that I am gay if I know that the person then wouldn't wish to do business with me? Let's say that I have a job that I enjoy, but I find out that my boss does not like gay people and would refuse to hire or would fire anyone that she knew was gay. Somehow, she doesn't know that I am, in fact, gay. Should I tell her knowing that she would want to fire me – a decision that I think is wrong, but nonetheless something she should be free to do? Assume that in every other regard I enjoy my work and job, and sharing her discriminatory view is by no means a requirement for my work.

    Tags: Business, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, LGBT, Privacy, Rationality, Religion, Work

  • Q&A: Disclosing Atheism to Babysitters: 27 May 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Should I mention we are atheists when interviewing babysitters? I am looking for a babysitter. The question is: How do I handle the fact that many of the candidates will be very very strong Christians? Should I bring up the fact we are atheists right away or would that be creating an issue when there could be none? I definitely have to set some boundaries like "No praying with my children," but what is the appropriate way to handle it?

    Tags: Business, Children, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Parenting, Religion

  • Chat: Guilty Pleasures: 16 May 2012
  • Summary: Do you struggle with the temptation of "guilty pleasures"? How can you overcome them – or should you indulge them?

    Tags: Christianity, Diet, Egoism, Emotions, Ethics, Food, Guilt, Mind-Body Connection, Nutrition, Paleo, Parenting, Pleasure, Religion, Self-Control, Self-Interest, Temptation, Willpower

  • Q&A: Offers of Prayers for Atheists: 11 Mar 2012, Question 4
  • Question: What should I do when other people offer to pray for me? Sometimes my friends and family members offer to pray for me – whether because I've got some problem in my life or because they know that I'm an atheist. How should I respond?

    Tags: Atheism, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Friendship, Honesty, Integrity, Relationships, Religion

  • Q&A: The Proper Place of Women: 11 Mar 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Are women subservient to men in Objectivism like in Christianity? The Bible and Christians teach that God made women to be subservient to men and not to be their leader. Ayn Rand seems to think that women are naturally subservient to men and should not be their leader. Aside from the appeal to God, what's the difference?

    Tags: Ayn Rand, Christianity, Ethics, Gender, Masculinity/Femininity, Objectivism, Psychology, Religion, Sex

  • Q&A: Responding to Requests for Prayers: 4 Mar 2012, Question 2
  • Question: What is the proper response of an atheist to requests for prayers? A relative of mine recently had surgery to have his appendix removed. I was asked by another relative to pray for the first relative, even though everyone in my family knows that I don't believe in God or the power of prayer. I tried to let it slide during the conversation, but she was insistent. How should I respond to such requests for prayers, particularly when I don't want to offend anyone or seem unconcerned?

    Tags: Atheism, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Friendship, Honesty, Integrity, Relationships, Religion

  • Q&A: The Meaning of Faith: 26 Feb 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Is it wrong to use "faith" to mean "trust and confidence in a person"? Some people talk about having "faith" in their friends or in themselves – and by that, they mean that they trust and have confidence in those people. Is it wrong to use "faith" in that way? In other words, blind faith is wrong, but is all faith blind faith?

    Tags: Atheism, Epistemology, Faith, Language, Religion

  • Q&A: Judging Religions as Better and Worse: 19 Feb 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Are some religions better than others? Do certain religions encourage rationality more than others? Do some promote better moral systems than others? I am curious both about different forms of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Unitarian, Mormon, etc.), as well as other religions (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha'i, etc.). Should rational atheists respect followers of certain religions more than others?

    Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Compartmentalization, Islam, Judaism, Religion

  • Q&A: Boycotting Chick-Fil-A: 12 Feb 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Should people boycott Chick-Fil-A for its hostility to gays? The fast food chain Chick-Fil-A is well-known for its promotion of Christian values. In recent years, the company has actively worked against gay marriage, in alliance with other organizations promoting the imposition of biblical commands by law. More generally, the company is hostile to same-sex couples. Given that Chick-Fil-A uses money from customers and shareholders to promote theocracy and other rights-violations, should people condemn and boycott the chain?

    Tags: Business, Ethics, Integrity, LGBT, Religion, Sanction

  • Q&A: Explaining Atheism: 29 Jan 2012, Question 4
  • Question: How can I effectively explain my atheism to religious believers? When I discuss religion with believers – mostly Christians – I find that I can't easily explain why I don't believe in God. Should I appeal to the principle of the "primacy of existence"? Should I explain the problems with the arguments for the existence of God? Or should I try a different approach?

    Tags: Atheism, Communication, Faith, Metaphysics, Religion

  • Q&A: Ignosticism Versus Atheism: 29 Jan 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Should rational people describe themselves as "ignostics" rather than "atheists"? By rational principles, no cognitive consideration should be given to arbitrary assertions. Since the concept of God is invariably a floating abstraction and incoherent in its definition, shouldn't the claim that God exists be dismissed as arbitrary and invalid – rather than being answered in the negative? If so, shouldn't rational people describe themselves as ignostics? In contrast to atheism, ignosticism is "[the] view that a coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of God can be meaningfully discussed. Furthermore, if that definition is unfalsifiable, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of God (per that definition) is meaningless." [Wikipedia]

    Tags: Atheism, Faith, Metaphysics, Religion

  • Q&A: Revealing Atheism to Inquisitive Strangers: 4 Dec 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Should I reveal my atheism to strangers when asked? I work at a hospital. One night a patient asked me if I'm religious. I answered yes. He then asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I answered yes. Then he took my hand and prayed for me. Immediately, I felt guilty, because I lied in answering these questions. In fact, I'm an atheist. The next day, I told the patient the truth, and he thanked me for my honesty. What should I have done in answering his original questions?

    Tags: Atheism, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Religion

  • Q&A: Forcing Religious Fanaticism on Others: 20 Nov 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Why do religious fanatics seek to impose their beliefs on others? Most religious fanatics aren't content to practice their religion for themselves: they seek to impose it on others by law. Why is that? Why is that wrong? What can be done to combat it?

    Tags: Christianity, Epistemology, Ethics, Ethics, Government, Politics, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Religion

  • Q&A: Working for a Minister: 6 Nov 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Is working for a minister giving religion moral sanction? As an atheist, I once worked for an ordained minster who was the owner of a gallery. I became his manager when I made it clear that I was an atheist, but that I was a good framing manager. I don't think I gave him a moral sanction for his irrationality by working for him under those terms. What do you think?

    Tags: Atheism, Business, Christianity, Ethics, Integrity, Judgment, Justice, Religion, Work

  • Q&A: Fear of Death: 2 Oct 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Should death be feared? Why or why not? Also, why do most people fear death? How can a person overcome that, if ever?

    Tags: Afterlife, Atheism, Death, Emotions, Life, Psychology, Religion

  • Q&A: Circumcision and Religious Freedom: 28 Aug 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Should circumcision be banned? Residents of San Francisco were supposed to vote on a ballot measure that would have banned circumcision, except in cases of medical necessity. (It was struck from the ballot by a judge due to conflicts with state law.) Since circumcision is an millennia-old religious rite for Jews and regarded as essential to their covenant with God, would a ban on circumcision violate the principle of freedom of religion?

    Tags: Circumcision, Ethics, Judaism, Parenting, Politics, Religion

  • Q&A: This-Worldly Success of Faith-Driven People: 31 Jul 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Why do some people of faith survive and even flourish? If reason is required for life, and faith abdicates reason, then how can anyone who has faith live and prosper? In particular, how do some devoutly religious people manage to be so productive and creative in business?

    Tags: Business, Compartmentalization, Epistemology, Ethics, Faith, Rationality, Religion, Wealth

  • Q&A: Atheists Singing Religious Music: 31 Jul 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Is it moral for atheists to perform religious music? I love to sing classical music, and that usually means performing with a group that does religious music, including Catholic mass and other religious songs. Some of these groups are secular and perform it for the artistic value alone, but other groups are explicitly religious, such as those affiliated with a church. Is it wrong for an atheist like me to join either of these types of groups?

    Tags: Art, Atheism, Christianity, Music, Religion, Sanction

  • Interview: Ari Armstrong on Values of Harry Potter: 12 Jul 2011
  • Summary: In preparation for the release of the final Harry Potter movie, I interviewed Ari Armstrong about the values – moral, psychological, and political – of J. K. Rowlings' Harry Potter novels. (Beware: The interview contains some major spoilers, so don't listen to it unless you've read all the books.)

    Tags: Ethics, Film, Harry Potter, Literature, Politics, Religion

  • Q&A: Kids and Religion: 10 Apr 2011, Question 6
  • Question: Should atheistic parents encourage their children to explore religion? Why or why not? And if so, how?

    Tags: Atheism, Children, Communication, Education, Religion

  • Q&A: Religious Morality: 10 Apr 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Does morality require God? Many devoutly religious people claim that morality requires God. They say that without a supernatural lawgiver, anything would be morally permissible. Is that right? Are relativism or subjectivism the only alternatives to religious morality?

    Tags: Atheism, Ethics, Relativism, Religion

  • Q&A: Christianity Versus Capitalism: 27 Feb 2011, Question 2
  • Question: How can a conservative Christian also be a supporter of capitalism? Isn't the Christian philosophy diametrically opposed to the basic principles of egoism and reason necessary to fully support laissez-faire capitalism?

    Tags: Altruism, Atheism, Capitalism, Christianity, Conservatism, Egoism, Ethics, Faith, Politics, Property, Religion, Self-Interest, Wealth

  • Q&A: Objectivism Versus Theism: 5 Dec 2010, Question 5
  • Question: Can an Objectivist believe in God? Can a person be a theist and an Objectivist? Or is that too fundamental a conflict? If so, why?

    Tags: Altruism, Atheism, Capitalism, Christianity, Epistemology, Ethics, Faith, Metaphysics, Politics, Religion, Wealth

  • Q&A: Arguing Religion with Family: 14 Nov 2010, Question 2
  • Question: My father and his side of the family are very religious while I am not. Is it moral for me to jeopardize my relationship with them to share the countless fallacies and inhumanities that is religion? If so, how does one go about this process?

    Tags: Atheism, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Relationships, Religion

  • Interview: Stephen Bailey on Politics Based on Principle: 23 Sep 2010
  • Summary: What does a principled political candidate say and do? Stephen Bailey – the Republican candidate for US House of Representatives for Colorado's Second District in 2010 – gives us a good example in this discussion of his principles and prospects.

    Tags: Abortion, Alcohol/Drugs, Campaign Finance, Economy, Elections, Environmentalism, Government, Immigration, Personhood, Politics, Religion, Rights, Taxes

  • Podcast: Design Arguments for the Existence of God, Part 3: 2 Nov 2009
  • Summary: Does the complexity, delicacy, and purposefulness of living organisms prove the existence of God? William Paley argues that it does in his Analogical Argument from Design. Here, I explain his argument, including his analogy between living organisms and machines.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Biology, Christianity, Creationism, Evolution, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Physics, Religion, Science, Theology

  • Podcast: Design Arguments for the Existence of God, Part 2: 16 Oct 2009
  • Summary: Does the complexity and orderliness of the universe prove God's existence? Yes, according to Design Arguments for the existence of God. Here, we consider six objections to two versions of that argument – the Teleological Argument and the Fine Tuning Argument.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Christianity, Cosmology, Creationism, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Physics, Religion, Science, Theology, Thomas Aquinas

  • Podcast: Design Arguments for the Existence of God, Part 1: 9 Oct 2009
  • Summary: Does the complexity and orderliness of the universe prove God's existence? Yes, according to Design Arguments for the existence of God. Here, I explain two versions of that argument – Thomas Aquinas' Teleological Argument and the Fine Tuning Argument – both of which appeal to the regularity of the cosmos.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Christianity, Cosmology, Creationism, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Physics, Religion, Science, Theology, Thomas Aquinas

  • Podcast: The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God: 2 Oct 2009
  • Summary: Does God's perfection entail his existence? Via his Ontological Argument, Anselm of Canterbury, argues that it does. Here, we consider the argument and the decisive objections against it.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Anselm of Canterbury, Christianity, Cosmology, Creationism, God, Immanuel Kant, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Religion, Theology, Thomas Aquinas

  • Podcast: Cosmological Arguments for the Existence of God, Part 2: 25 Sep 2009
  • Summary: Did God create the universe? Is his existence required to explain how and why something exists, rather than nothing? The Cosmological Argument for the existence of God says "Yes." Here, we consider six objections to three variants of that argument – the First Cause Argument, the Temporal First Cause Argument, and the Sustaining First Cause Argument.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Christianity, Cosmology, Creationism, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Physics, Religion, Science, Theology, Thomas Aquinas

  • Podcast: Cosmological Arguments for the Existence of God, Part 1: 18 Sep 2009
  • Summary: Did God create the universe? Is his existence required to explain how and why something exists, rather than nothing? The Cosmological Argument for the existence of God answers "Yes" to both of these questions. Here, I present three variants of that argument – the First Cause Argument, the Temporal First Cause Argument, and the Sustaining First Cause Argument.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Christianity, Cosmology, Creationism, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Physics, Religion, Science, Theology, Thomas Aquinas

  • Podcast: Philosophy of Religion: Overview: 11 Sep 2009
  • Summary: Does God exist? Can that be proven? This episode begins a series of podcasts on philosophy of religion surveying the various arguments for the existence of God. Here, I introduce the topic by discussing the importance of those arguments, explain the burden of proof principle, and discuss the nature of God.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Creationism, Epistemology, Ethics, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Proof, Religion, Theology


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