Archive for September 2007

Atheist Group Protests Censorship *

Sep 13th, 2007 | Filed by

RC League for Religious and Civil Rights fussed about Kathy Griffin’s refusal to thank Jesus.… Read the rest

PZ Myers on Haidt on Morality and Religion *

Sep 13th, 2007 | Filed by

Haidt makes important questions vanish by simply equating religion with moral systems.… Read the rest

Jonathan Haidt on Moral Psychology and Religion *

Sep 13th, 2007 | Filed by

Some very interesting stuff, some very dubious stuff.… Read the rest

Picture of Jesus Can Stay in Courthouse *

Sep 13th, 2007 | Filed by

Picture is now shown with 15 other people in legal history, including Mohammed with Koran.… Read the rest

Judge Throws Out Part of UK Gay Rights Laws *

Sep 13th, 2007 | Filed by

Church leaders have argued that such laws could seriously restrict ‘religious freedom.’… Read the rest

Woman Sues Judge Over Language Restrictions *

Sep 13th, 2007 | Filed by

Accuser in a sexual assault case is suing a judge because he barred the word ‘rape’ from the trial. … Read the rest

Hitchens Encounters Tariq Ramadan *

Sep 13th, 2007 | Filed by

He possesses a command of postmodern and sociological jargon, and he has a smooth way with euphemism.… Read the rest

Keep your purity

Sep 13th, 2007 11:07 am | By

I got Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis out of the library yesterday. It’s interesting but in places it’s also revolting. Jean Kazez talks about the main problem in an article in Philosophy Now and on her blog.

Haidt gives the example of a Hindu Brahmin relishing food that’s been offered to the gods, purifying himself in the Ganges, and feeling a socially sanctioned repulsion toward people of lower castes. That’s an ideal to strive for?

Apparently, yes. I read the passage in question this morning and…was revolted. He suggests we suppose we grow up as a Brahmin in Bhubaneswar (pp. 228-9).

Every day of your life you have to respect the invisible lines separating pure from profane spaces, and

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Sep 13th, 2007 9:24 am | By

I have some questions here.

A picture of Jesus can remain on the wall at a south Louisiana courthouse because it is now just one among many portraits of legal icons, a federal judge ruled Sept. 7.

What’s a picture of Jesus? Is it a picture of a guy wearing, like, a sweatshirt with ‘Jesus’ across the front? Because if it’s not, how does anyone know it’s Jesus? It’s not as if there’s a stash of photographs of the guy somewhere you know. There’s not even a stash of sketches; there’s not even one sketch. There’s nothing. There’s also no physical description. Mark doesn’t tell us he was balding and short. John doesn’t tell us he had red hair … Read the rest

It’s not 50/50

Sep 12th, 2007 4:04 pm | By

Another point. To resume with page 51 (which is where we stopped yesterday) – farther down Dawkins points out that

it is a common error, which we shall meet again, to leap from the premise that the question of God’s existence is in principle unanswerable to the conclusion that [its] existence and [its] non-existence are equiprobable.

This is obvious, he goes on, with more unfamiliar and absurd assertions whose non-existence also can’t be proved, such as Russell’s orbiting teapot or the FSM; Russell’s teapot ‘stands for an infinite number of things whose existence is conceivable and cannot be disproved.’ The fact that we can’t disprove them does not mean that the matter is 50/50.

The point of all these way-out

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Martin Amis on the Passion for Unreason *

Sep 12th, 2007 | Filed by

Crush reason, kill reason, and anything and everything seems possible.… Read the rest

Shock-horror: Critics of Islam on Facebook *

Sep 12th, 2007 | Filed by

NY Times is confused about what constitutes ‘hate speech.’… Read the rest

Buddha Carving in Pakistan Attacked *

Sep 12th, 2007 | Filed by

The area has seen a rise in attacks on ‘un-Islamic’ targets in recent months. … Read the rest

A Woman Among Warlords *

Sep 12th, 2007 | Filed by

Director Eva Mulvad films the election campaign of Malalai Joya in Afghanistan.… Read the rest

Tristram Hunt Frets at ‘New Atheist Orthodoxy’ *

Sep 12th, 2007 | Filed by

Foolish atheists fail to understand that Protestantism caused the Enlightenment.… Read the rest

It’s all myth, you see

Sep 12th, 2007 11:30 am | By

This is a gleaming example of bad thinking. Alex Stein on Hitchens on God. He quotes the very passage on the guy who believes the story about the graves opening in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, and the occupants walking the streets, that I commented on last month – and then he gets it completely wrong.

“He replies that as a Christian he does believe it, though as a historian he has his doubts. I realise that I am limited here: I can usually think myself into an opponent’s position, but this is something I can’t imagine myself saying let alone thinking.” This inability to imagine fatally flaws much of Hitchens’ thesis. The argument presented by the reverend

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The Fifth

Sep 11th, 2007 4:23 pm | By

And another thing. It’s B&W’s birthday again. This year I’m only one day late – last year I was four days late. But never mind that – the point is, dear little B&W is five years old. Isn’t that staggering? Half a decade. Half a decade of what Julian so elegantly calls sitting at a computer in my underwear. (It’s not underwear. It’s jeans and a blue T shirt with [appropriately] a large butterfly on the front.) Anyway – happy birthday, B&W. Pass the cake.… Read the rest

One through seven

Sep 11th, 2007 4:05 pm | By

Okay more on agnosticism and doubt and certainty and ‘faith’ and dogmatism or fundamentalism. Dawkins has a good discussion of agnosticism in The God Delusion. Page 46:

There is nothing wrong with being agnostic in cases where we lack evidence one way or the other.

He cites Carl Sagan on the question of the existence (or not) of extraterrestrial life.

…we lack the evidence to do more than shade the probabilities one way or the other. Agnosticism, of a kind, is an appropriate response on many scientific questions, such as what caused the end-Permian extinction.

He draws a distinction between two kinds of agnosticism: temporary-in practice, and permanent-in principle. The first kind is legitimate where there is an answer … Read the rest

In the face of all reason and experience

Sep 11th, 2007 2:37 pm | By

Anthony Grayling isn’t entirely convinced that expansion of ‘faith’ schools is a good idea. He has one or two mild reservations.

In the face of the failure of multiculturalism, with the awful example of faith-divided schooling in Northern Ireland over decades, with news of Deobandi control of half of British mosques where hostility to the host community is preached, the government is choosing to continue to fly in the face of all reason and experience, and to design and pay for – with our tax money – greater future divisiveness and trouble. It is staggering.

Yes but you see divisiveness and trouble are part of the rich diverse exciting tapestry of life. You get your curry, and your sushi, … Read the rest

Deliberately provocative?

Sep 11th, 2007 12:49 pm | By

Good luck to them.

The Committee for Ex-Muslims promises to campaign for freedom of religion but has already upset the Islamic and political Establishments for stirring tensions among the million-strong Muslim community in the Netherlands…Similar organisations campaigning for reform of the religion have sprung up across Europe and representatives from Britain and Germany will join the launch in The Hague today. “Sharia schools say that they will kill the ones who leave Islam. In the West people get threatened, thrown out of their family, beaten up,” Mr Jami said. “In Islam you are born Muslim. You do not even choose to be Muslim. We want that to change, so that people are free to choose who they want to

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