Israel, the Two-State Solution, and Humanity’s Flaws

February 16, 2017

Let’s forget history for a moment, or at least as much history as is not absolutely necessary for understanding the present situation of Israel and the Palestinian people. Let’s also pretend for a moment that we are all rational, forward-looking beings, who are committed to universal human rights, including the right to a democratic government.

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The Trump Presidency: A Second Harding Administration?

January 13, 2017

The inauguration of Donald Trump is only a week away and the many who dread the incoming administration are busy bewailing the coming catastrophe. The terms “fascist” and “fascism” feature prominently in their denunciations and historical analogies to Hitler or Mussolini are liberally offered. Just the other day, a full-page ad appeared in the Washington Post courtesy of refusefascism.org. The ad, bearing the signatures of a number of prominent individuals, flatly states that “by any definition, Donald Trump is a fascist.” This claim is not unique. Some respected political commentators have made the same accusation.

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Male Circumcision: It Should Not Be a Major Concern for Humanists

December 13, 2016

A not insignificant percentage of humanists and secularists are strongly opposed to male circumcision, to the point of wanting to ban it. The vehemence of their opposition is not warranted by the evidence regarding the effects of circumcision: it is not medically necessary, but it is not harmful (assuming appropriate analgesics are used) and it provides small benefits. 

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My Debate at the YPU: Religion Has No Place in Government

November 17, 2016

The Yale Political Union invited me and the Christian writer/scholar Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig to debate this topic: Resolved: Religion Should Have No Place in Government.

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Islamic Extremists Don’t Have To Be Islamic Scholars

August 22, 2016

This past week, the Associated Press published a story based on its analysis of leaked Islamic State (ISIS) recruitment documents. These documents indicate that, based on the recruits’ own self-evaluation, most ISIS recruits have only a basic knowledge of Islam. Some have argued that these “findings suggest religion has nothing to do with people joining [ISIS].”

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What Is the Proper Punishment for Sexual Assault?

June 19, 2016

Before we decide what the proper sentence is in a particular criminal case, we should be able to explain what purpose the punishment serves.

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Assisted Dying: For Whom?

May 20, 2016

In the United States, there continues to be intense debate over whether assisted dying should be legalized— for anybody. By contrast, in some European countries, as well as in Canada, the debate is no longer over whether it should be legalized. Instead, the debate now focuses on who should be entitled to assistance in dying.

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Threats to Religious Liberty: Real and Imagined

February 26, 2016

Religious liberty is under attack. A number of presidential candidates have made this claim, and it was one of the key issues in Thursday night’s Republican debate. One of the moderators, Hugh Hewitt of Salem Radio, even asserted that his worries about religious liberty keep him up at night.

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On the Pursuit of Meditation: Buddha vs. Faust

February 21, 2016

Should we meditate? If so, to what extent? What benefits can we realistically expect from meditation? And what might we be sacrificing to engage in meditation? Is devoting a substantial amount of time to meditation ethically questionable?

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Justice Scalia and Originalism: May They Rest in Peace

February 15, 2016

As a jurist, Antonin Scalia will likely be remembered most for championing the “originalist” view of constitutional law, that is, the view that in determining how constitutional provisions should be applied today, we need to adhere without deviation to the “original” meaning of the provisions. Scalia maintained this is the only legitimate way for an unelected judiciary to apply the Constitution because otherwise they would be acting as legislators. Scalia repeatedly heaped scorn on the view that judges should interpret constitutional provisions in light of contemporary conditions and standards.

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