Zainab Bangura is Sierra Leone’s foreign minister *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

Her father was a strict Muslim cleric who did not believe in educating women. Her mother – though illiterate – fought for Zainab to go to school.… Read the rest

Andrew Copson’s speech to protest the pope rally *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

We support equality, human rights, secular and liberal democracy. And we support justice, even if that justice is inconvenient for the power and reputation of churches and clergy.… Read the rest

Siding with the already strong

Sep 18th, 2010 12:26 pm | By

There’s another thing about Julian Baggini’s rebuke of atheists for ganging up on the pope. It is the fact that it overlooks the gang on the other side. There was the gang that toddled obligingly along to Westminster Hall yesterday to listen deferentially to the pope telling them what’s what.

Pope Benedict tonight used the keynote address of his visit to Britain to protest at “the increasing marginalisation of religion” in public life, maintaining that even the celebration of Christmas was at risk.

In a dense, closely argued speech to an audience that included four former prime ministers, the pope said social consensus alone could not be left to decide policies…

Below him, seated in neat rows that

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Swedish elections: far-right likely to win *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

“Sweden is still an extremely conformist, authoritarian society, where opinion formers and politicians move together like a shoal of herring.”… Read the rest

Tony Judt on Czesław Miłosz and open minds *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

 Miłosz brilliantly dissects the state of mind of the fellow traveler, the deluded idealist, and the cynical time server.… Read the rest

Paul Cliteur on secularism v religious extremism *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

Religious neutrality in religiously pluralist societies is the path to tolerance. When will the American president and the American people acknowledge this?

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Theocracy in Ireland *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

Judge orders a man to “do the four stations of the famous Mayo pilgrimage” as punishment for drunken swearing at a garda.… Read the rest

London: thousands protest papal visit *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

Peter Tatchell notes, “When he says no woman is fit to be a priest, that’s an insult to the whole of female humanity.”… Read the rest

Gagging the Mississippi

Sep 18th, 2010 | By PZ Myers

The Mississippi is a mess. I live in the agricultural, rural upper midwest, and one of the nasty surprises lurking beneath the rich green fields is that the rivers are ugly stews of fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides from agricultural runoff. We have data that it hurts people, too: premature births and birth defects show seasonal fluctuations that peak for children conceived in the spring and summer, when the chemicals are being sprayed into the air and are dribbling into the streams. The villains are agribusiness and overproduction and the corn ethanol boondoggle and horrors like the fecal lakes associated with swine farms. Louisiana’s environmental problems are partly the product of Minnesota’s toxic largesse.

It needs to be known. The … Read the rest

Tim Minchin’s pope song *

Sep 18th, 2010 | Filed by

Beware: could “create divisions.”… Read the rest

Pope makes surprise announcement *

Sep 17th, 2010 | Filed by

“Science cannot explain everything,” pontiff tells stunned audience of rival clerics.… Read the rest

There are too few of you! Also too many!

Sep 17th, 2010 4:54 pm | By

Julian Baggini says why he declined to add his signature to a letter protesting against the pope’s visit and why he thinks the pope-protest is a bad thing.

Consider for a moment why almost every secular, liberal-minded person thought that Pastor Terry Jones was wrong to plan to burn Qur’ans on the anniversary of 9/11…The main problem is that by burning the holy book of all Muslims, the protest would fail to target jihadist murderers and would be seen as vehemently anti-Islam.

But jihadist murderers are not necessarily the only problem with Islam; it is not necessarily the case that being anti-Islam is self-evidently bad. It could be the case that there are many things wrong with Islam, and that … Read the rest

Benedict sees that secularism itself can be challenged

Sep 17th, 2010 1:43 pm | By

Andrew Brown, for some opaque and never-explained reason, devotes himself to explaining what the pope meant in his “atheists=Nazis” speech. He does a kind of ventriloquist’s dummy act, saying “the pope believes” or “according to the pope” throughout, while in fact saying things that he clearly enjoys saying.

For him, a nation that turns away from God entirely has nothing to keep it from treating people as disposable means, rather than ends in themselves. The liberal appeal to reason, to choice, and to human rights doesn’t go far enough. He believes in all three, but he thinks they must be derived from something else. That something else was once generally understood to be Christianity. If that is no longer

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Jesus and Mo on the pope *

Sep 17th, 2010 | Filed by

And the militant atheist hate campaign against him.… Read the rest

Ashtiani forced to do another tv “interview” *

Sep 17th, 2010 | Filed by

The judiciary system, the state television, and the diplomatic system have been mobilized against an imprisoned woman.… Read the rest

Ashtiani’s son refused visit again *

Sep 17th, 2010 | Filed by

At Tabriz prison he was told: “Sakineh is still not permitted to visit with you. Stop bothering us and don’t come back.”… Read the rest

Andrew Brown speaks up for the pope *

Sep 16th, 2010 | Filed by

“The invective thrown at the pope and his church over the last week must come partly from people who would like to drive religious faith out of public life.”… Read the rest

Protest the pope on Saturday *

Sep 16th, 2010 | Filed by

Hyde Park Corner, 1:30 p.m. Be there.… Read the rest

Seattle “Draw Mo” cartoonist goes into hiding *

Sep 16th, 2010 | Filed by

No more cartooning for Molly Norris!… Read the rest

Brendan O’Neill defends pope from savage atheists *

Sep 16th, 2010 | Filed by

Those horrible new atheists think any kind of sexual abuse of a child by a priest is a bad thing. Can you believe it?!… Read the rest