Welcome to our articles section. The articles below either have been written specifically for ButterfliesandWheels or are appearing here having been published elsewhere previously.

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Secular Coalition for America Calls Upon Pentagon to Cancel ‘Christian-Themed’ Event

Apr 23rd, 2010 | By Secular Coalition for America

The Pentagon should respect the constitutional separation of church and state and cancel a planned National Day of Prayer event, particularly in light of its recent labeling as a “Christian-themed event” by an Army spokesman, the Secular Coalition for America said today. The Pentagon should also sever all operational ties to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a radical right wing organization headed by the wife of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, and housed in Focus on the Family’s headquarters.

“It is bad enough that the administration is going ahead with an observance of the National Day of Prayer, correctly ruled unconstitutional by the courts only last week. But for the Pentagon to hold an explicitly ‘Christian-themed event’ … Read the rest

Halal, Haram, and Negis

Apr 22nd, 2010 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

If you walk at random in a Muslim district in the West, especially in Western Europe, you will certainly find somewhere, at least in one corner, an Islamic butcher’s shop with the word “halal” written on its shop-window. For the products of meat, the word “halal” is a badge of Islamic quality.

Muslims believe that since blood is not ritually a pure substance, slaughter is necessary to promote the thorough draining of all of the animal’s blood. Furthermore, the verse “Bismillah al Rahman Al Rahim”, in the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful, is necessary to render the meat halal or lawful to eat.

The word halal refers, here, to meat killed and prepared in line with Islamic dietary … Read the rest

Why Africans are Religious

Apr 21st, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

A new study conducted by the Washington based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life says that Africans are among the most religious people on earth. The study titled Tension and Tolerance: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa was based on more than 25,000 interviews conducted in more than 60 languages in 19 countries. According to the study at least half of all Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa believe Jesus will return in their lifetime. One in three Muslims in the region expect to see the re-establishment of the caliphate – the Islamic golden age – before they die. At least three out of ten people across much of Africa said they have experienced divine healing, seen the devil being driven … Read the rest

Scholarly Standards in Feminist Science Studies

Apr 18th, 2010 | By Allen Esterson

In September 2009 I submitted an article to the feminist journal Women’s Studies International Forum, and in February 2010 I was informed that the journal had decided against publication. Nothing unusual in that, of course. No doubt the great majority of articles submitted to journals are rejected, for a multitude of reasons. But when I enquired why no reason had been given, the Editor-in-Chief replied that the paper had not been sent out for review as she did not feel that it had sufficient evidence in terms of references or citations to back up some of the claims that were made.

Now, whatever deficiencies there may have been in the article, insufficient citation was not one of them. In … Read the rest

Individual Rights and Collective Responsibility

Apr 5th, 2010 | By Joshua F. Leach

The standard collectivist critique of individual rights has been with us a long time. It was best formulated in its classic outlines by the Catholic Church during the nineteenth century, amidst a great many cries for social and political change. The line the Church took at the time was essentially to say that rights cannot be understood without respect to “duties,” and that suffering and self-sacrifice are great virtues against which the individual should not be protected. As the classic statement on Catholic social teaching, the Rerum Novarum (1891), puts it, “The… pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany … Read the rest

Circumcision or Genital Mutilation

Apr 2nd, 2010 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

Circumcision, or for non-believers “genital mutilation”, is in some societies one of the most ancient rituals still practised. The historical background of this old ritual, as to when and why it started, is not precisely known. The practice varies from region to region and from epoch to epoch in its total or partial removal of the foreskin or clitoris.

Circumcision, in its different forms, is practised in a big part of the world. The Jews were the first to adapt it as a sign of religiosity; it is mentioned in the Old Testament as a religious ritual and preserved its practice into our times. Circumcision was banned by the ancient Romans and Greeks considering it as an act of barbarity. … Read the rest

A Very Young Activist’s Reply

Mar 29th, 2010 | By Alaina Podmorow

I need help. I need help to understand how and why someone would write a story about how Canadian Women are forcing their beliefs upon Muslim Women. I pasted this chunk below:

At the heart of the relationship between feminism and imperialism is an Orientalist logic that posits Western women as exemplary and emancipated in relation to “Other” (Afro-Asian/colonized) women, thereby charging the former with the responsibility of saving the latter from their backwards (i.e. Muslim), uncivilized cultures.

And even though I don’t understand at all the words Orientalist or feminism theory, I do understand what this chunk means, and now I want to speak my truth.

I am the founder of Little Women for Little Women in AfghanistanRead the rest

Take One Traumatised Child

Mar 10th, 2010 | By Clare Sambrook

‘He looks my age,’ says my nine-year-old son. ‘He looks sort of like me.’

There’s a picture on my screen: a small, slight boy who, for legal reasons, we’ll call M. He’s being cuddled by his 17 year old big brother Z. Both boys are smiling. They have been reunited after a long, hard separation.

Back home in war-torn Afghanistan their parents and a sister were killed. Big brother Z was first to come to Britain, traumatised, in November 2008. He has refugee status, studies for his GCSEs at school in Leicester.

This past October little brother M made his way here. Despite M’s size, his vulnerability, his boyish looks, officials said, you’re not 14, you’re an adult.

Instead … Read the rest

The Spirituality of an Atheist

Mar 4th, 2010 | By Andrzej Koraszewski

Do atheists have any spirituality? A certain internaut wracked his brain about this problem in a comment to one of our articles, and he was not alone. I used to get this question at various meetings and was met with astonishment when I asked for a definition of spirituality.

Spirituality seems to imply a soul. It is not mentioned in a passport, but if there were a place for it, in mine I would have to write: N/A. But can there be a soulless spirituality? An atheist has consciousness, but you may search and search for a soul. Moreover, he/she is skeptical about the existence of a soul in a believer as well, and this skepticism shades into irony or … Read the rest

Political Theory and the “Group Rights” Debate

Feb 17th, 2010 | By Joshua F. Leach

It took a Bertrand Russell to first notice that political ideologies tend to evolve over time into their polar opposites; and it took a George Orwell to point out that words which today nearly all people embrace, such as freedom and democracy, can mean very different things to different people. Today, however, most people are jaded enough to accept and even expect these sorts of insincerities. To point them out at all has become banal.

But every once in a while it is incumbent upon honest people to go back to the drawing board and remind themselves what ideologies represent and what words really mean. Nowhere is this more necessary than in the debates surrounding group rights and multiculturalism.

There … Read the rest

Iran Needs a United Democratic and Secular Opposition

Feb 16th, 2010 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

The lack of a strong and united democratic and secular movement in Iran has left the way clear for the Islamic regime for the further destruction, plunder, and bloodshed of our country. Although the panic-stricken bullets of Islamic mercenaries would suffocate any voice of protest, people are brave enough to resolutely claim their freedom despite any risk of torture, rape, and execution as “Mohareb” (heretic).

Unfortunately, the worst-ever conditions of our people have not enough stimulated responsible reactions among all democratic and secular activists to form a united movement to free the country from the plague of the Islamic regime.

Sadly, yet the people of Iran must wait; such a liberation movement has long been deemed illusory. It is however … Read the rest

Islam’s Black Dog

Feb 13th, 2010 | By R Joseph Hoffmann

The tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, and the near miss by underwear bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab, are being analyzed by the chattering classes as a failure of intelligence. In one sense, that’s right.

The army psychiatrist charged with the murders is seen as a closet terrorist whose deployment orders drove him over some psychological edge. He has a record, we’re told, of being argumentative, self-righteous about his religion, unwilling or unable to locate his religious ideas in any context that would limit their effect, and devoted to the jihadist philosophy of the Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki.

Umar Abdulmutallab on the other hand is a sad instance of a privileged upbringing in which fundamental personal and educational questions went unresolved. It … Read the rest

Humanism and the Quest for Justice in Africa

Feb 8th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

Justice, they say, is the first condition of humanity. That means justice is imperative for human existence and coexistence. Justice is necessary for any society to grow, develop and flourish. Any movement that gives primary consideration to the human being must take the quest for justice- the enthronement of a just society- seriously. Millions of people around the world are living, languishing, suffering and dying under unjust conditions imposed on them by fellow human beings. And this is particularly the case in Africa.

The humanist outlook cannot thrive in a situation of so much injustice and deprivation. Humanism cannot take a firm hold on a society where unjust institutions abound and oppression prevails.

So for humanism to flourish in Africa, … Read the rest

Amnesty International and Cageprisoners

Feb 7th, 2010 | By Gita Sahgal

This morning the Sunday Times published an article about Amnesty International’s association with groups that support the Taliban and promote Islamic Right ideas. In that article, I was quoted as raising concerns about Amnesty’s very high profile associations with Guantanamo-detainee Moazzam Begg. I felt that Amnesty International was risking its reputation by associating itself with Begg, who heads an organization, Cageprisoners, that actively promotes Islamic Right ideas and individuals.

Within a few hours of the article being published, Amnesty had suspended me from my job.

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when a great organisation must ask: if it lies to itself, can it demand the truth of others? For in defending the torture standard, one of … Read the rest

Remember Them!

Feb 3rd, 2010 | By Maryam Namazie

I want you to remember two names – Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour.

They were two young men who were executed by the Islamic regime of Iran at dawn this past Thursday, January 28 for the ‘crime’ of ‘enmity against god’.

Yet another two beloved, murdered for protesting medievalism and theocracy…

And whilst this act of barbarity will leave many of us outraged and ‘speechless’(see writer Jim Herrick’s act of solidarity against the executions), we can only do them justice if we keep the pressure on.

The Islamic regime of Iran is on its last legs and will do anything it can to maintain power just a while longer. It is flexing its muscles to intimidate and … Read the rest

Reflections on John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty

Jan 9th, 2010 | By Eric B. Litwack

There is a limit to the legitimate interference of political opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

J.S. Mill, On Liberty, Chapter One.

It can be said of only a very few texts that they are touchstones for important discussions across many generations. John Stuart Mill produced such a text in 1859, and friends of freedom would do well to celebrate the sesquicentennial of On Liberty. At a time when challenges to human rights and freedom of expression continue around the world, the message of this relatively short work remains a clarion-call for liberty and the … Read the rest

This Nonsense Must Stop

Jan 7th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

On Tuesday January 5, at about 7.00am some police officers and soldiers led by two crime merchants in my community, Edward Uwah and Ethelbert Ugwu stormed my family compound in Mbaise in Imo state in Southern Nigeria. They arrested me and my aging father. We were detained briefly at the local police station in Ahiazu before we were transfered to the zonal police headquarters in Umuahia. The officers threatened to beat us when we asked them to allow us to clean up and change our clothes. One of the soldiers brought out his gun and threatened to shoot my father when he wanted to make phone calls to alert other family members of our arrest. The police held us throughout … Read the rest

The Many Ways Africans are Dying

Dec 10th, 2009 | By Leo Igwe

The Nigerian author, Ben Okri in his book, A Way of Being Free, said, “There are many ways to die, and not all of them have to do with extinction. A lot of them have to do with living. Living many lies. Living without asking questions. Living in the cave of your own prejudices. Living the life imposed on you, the dreams and codes of your ancestors.” I quite agree with him. The author did not make specific reference to any nation, race or continent. But any time I read this piece, it seems to me as if he is addressing Africans. Because I think Africans are dying in so many ways, in ways that many of them do … Read the rest

Witch Hunter Sues Humanist Activist in Attempt to Quell Criticism

Dec 9th, 2009 | By Nathan Bupp

New York, NY December 4, 2009—The Center for Inquiry (CFI), an international organization that fights for science and reason, launched an anti-superstition campaign in May 2009 to highlight and combat the abuse of alleged child witches throughout the African continent. Now witch hunter Helen Ukpabio, head of the Liberty Gospel Church in Nigeria and a frequent target of criticism by CFI, has filed a lawsuit in Nigerian federal court against Leo Igwe, CFI’s representative in Nigeria.

A mob of about 150 members from Ukpabio’s Liberty Gospel Church attacked Igwe and others during a “Child Rights and Witchcraft” event in Calabar, Nigeria on July 29, 2009. At the end of the frightening event, Igwe found his eyeglasses smashed and his bag, … Read the rest

A Deal-breaker

Dec 2nd, 2009 | By Ophelia Benson

One compelling reason not to believe the standard-issue God exists is the conspicuous fact that no one knows anything at all about it. That’s a tacit part of the definition of God – a supernatural being that no one knows anything about. The claims that are made about God bear no resemblance to genuine knowledge. This becomes immediately apparent if you try adding details to God’s CV: God is the eternal omnipotent benevolent omniscient creator of the universe, and has blue eyes. You see how it works. Eternal omnipotent benevolent omniscient are all simply ideal characteristics that a God ought to have; blue eyes, on the other hand, are particular, and if you say God has them it suddenly becomes … Read the rest