As 2014 draws to a close, it’s time for the annual wrapup. Here are the major threads that I kept returning to on Daylight Atheism over the past year:
The New Civil Rights
In January, I reviewed Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, the most important book in American politics of the last decade, about the prison-industrial complex and how it preserves de facto racial segregation.
But that was soon eclipsed. Over the summer, the country was riveted by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, which thrust racial injustice into the national spotlight. The killing and non-indictment of the officer by a rigged grand jury stirred up the community to angry protests, which the police met with shocking displays of brutal, militarized force reminiscent of the pre-civil-rights era.
Michael Brown wasn’t the only black person murdered with impunity by law enforcement. The killing of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by police on a Staten Island sidewalk for selling cigarettes, led to massive marches in New York City and across the nation. When Mayor Bill de Blasio sided with the protesters, the police unions reacted with blisteringly belligerent and insubordinate rhetoric, which led me to wonder who it is the police think they serve. I closed out the year with “The Frozen River“, a humanist sermon on reasons to despair and reasons to hope.
Atheism and Feminism
The vexed question of gender equality in the secular community continued to boil in 2014. After tentative signs of progress, Richard Dawkins reverted to his old, sexist ways and then some. I was moved to write an article about why the atheist movement no longer needs him. Dawkins’ allies offered some laughably inadequate rebuttals, and the man himself responded with an embarrassingly self-pitying comment. I later wrote about his ludicrous claims of being silenced, and pointed out how sexism from atheists sounds just like sexism from Christians. Lastly, in “Summer Twilight“, I mused on the slow and arduous work of changing minds.
2014 also witnessed the eruption into public view of serious allegations against Michael Shermer, and the atheist Thought Leaders who tried to cover up or ignore the story. I wrote about atheism’s contingent of so-called “men’s rights activist” misogynists,
pointed out their historical ignorance, and roundly mocked them when they got mad at me.
This year, sexism reverberated beyond the atheist community. We bore witness to the emergence of “Gamergate”, a terrorist movement whose goal is to intimidate women into silence, and the murderous misogynist rampage of Elliot Rodger, which can’t be blamed on mental illness.
The Coming Secular Era
Progressives took a heavy blow in the midterm elections, and my old enemy the Tempter returned to challenge me about the reasons for this defeat. I also wrote about the sharp increase in creationism and anti-intellectualism generally among Republican voters.
In spite of this, demographic change brings good tidings for the secular movement. I pondered whether the Internet is killing religion, reported on the Southern Baptists’ membership woes, tried to predict when we’ll have an atheist president, and summed up the trends with a message of hope for the future.
Marriage Equality Rolls On
Favorable court decisions extended marriage equality to more than half the nation in 2014, and a final victory seems within our reach. I wrote about how the world is changing and the churches are afraid, and reported on the religious right’s last-gasp attempts to enshrine discrimination in law.
The arguments against LGBT equality sound just like the arguments against racial equality, despite strenuous efforts by apologists to resist the parallel.
I argued that equal rights for same-sex couples is the logical culmination of a long trend of progress toward gender egalitarianism. In spite of this, reproductive choice suffered many setbacks this year, something I pondered the reasons for.
Unfortunately, other than marriage equality, the news on the legal front was mostly awful. The Supreme Court handed down two terrible decisions, Greece v. Galloway and Hobby Lobby, which will unleash chaos for years to come. Secularism and free expression also suffered a blow in the weird, compelling story of a Satanist service being kicked out of Harvard.
This year, the human race landed a spaceship on a comet. I praised a documentary about the hunt for the Higgs boson, reviewed the new Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and defended the series against those annoyed by its refusal to pander to faith.
My marathon review of Atlas Shrugged continued this year. Some of my most popular posts were on perpetual motion machines, the glory days of child labor, pollution, the gold standard, the ugliness of nature, Rand’s poor grasp of courtroom procedure, and of course the infamous train-disaster scene.
My Books and Speaking