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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A Modest Proposal for Achieving Secular Objectives

January 26, 2016

A state court in Florida has determined that the state can finance a Christian ministry that provides biblically based rehabilitation services because the program has a secular objective, namely rehabilitation, and no one is compelled to participate in the program. A federal court has ruled that Ken Ham’s Arc Encounter theme park is entitled to a tax incentive because even though the park is intended to promote a religious message, the tax dollars will serve the secular objective of promoting tourism, and no one is compelled to visit the theme park.

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Addressing Two Dogmas on Prostitution

August 17, 2015

Back in May, I promised (threatened, some might say) to write a few blog posts on issues where I think too many humanists base their views on preconceptions, preconceptions that in some instances border on dogmas in the sense that they are resistant to conflicting empirical evidence. I’m a bit behind schedule, but this is my second post in that series.

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I’m not saying you’re vengeful; you’re just deficient in empathy

May 26, 2015

So I wrote a blog post the other day the principal point of which was to argue for the proposition that it is not enough to be correct in your conclusion on a policy issue. How you arrive at your conclusion is also very important. I used the dispute over the death penalty as an illustration. A blogger vigorously objected to my post. In so doing, he confirmed the relevance of the point I was making.

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Questioning Humanist Orthodoxy: Introduction to a Series

May 18, 2015

About ten days ago, I wrote an essay for Huffington Post on the death penalty, in particular, focusing on how some of those who oppose the death penalty support imprisonment in a supermax facility as a supposedly more humane alternative—a position I find logically dubious if not hypocritical. The recent decision of the Dzhohkar Tsarnaev jury to sentence him to death made me think about this issue again. It also made me think about how humanists all too often commit the cardinal intellectual sin of many of the religious. That is, they hold certain principles as beyond question. This is not a good thing.

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