All entries by this author

Show your solidarity with those with the courage to speak out

Sep 26th, 2016 9:45 am | By

CFI is throwing a dissent party all week in honor of blasphemy day Friday.

This week, let’s take a stand for the right to question and criticize ideas and beliefs, and demand an end to the attacks and arrests of those who exercise that right.

International Blasphemy Rights Day is this Friday, September 30, and in the days leading up, we invite you to be a part of the fight for this most fundamental of human rights. On Friday we’ll make a very important announcement to help us do even more.

In too many countries around the world, criticizing religion is illegal. We’ve seen the consequences of these laws too many times — when a tweet or a post

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A fox and a hedgehog walk into a gender neutral restroom

Sep 25th, 2016 5:02 pm | By

Seen on Twitter:

Newt Gingrich: Clinton is a fox who knows many things you can fact check. Trump is a hedgehog who knows one very big thing: We need change

Popehat: A former professor of history, reduced to sneering at knowledge of facts. How dignified.

Furthermore, this “one big thing: we need change” item – come on. We always “need change.” There are always countless things large and small that need alteration, so saying that is empty. Of course we need change; that’s not one big thing, it’s just a pointless truism.

Notes and

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Tell Jibril to bring me some cashews

Sep 25th, 2016 3:59 pm | By

In August the Clarion Project (a contentious source) published the cartoon that Nahed Hattar posted on Facebook, with a translation of the dialogue:

The cartoon is translated below by Clarion Project Arabic Affairs Analyst Anwar el-Iraqi.


In Green: In paradise…

Allah: “May your evening be joyous, Abu Saleh, do you need anything?”

Jihadist: “Yes Lord, bring me the glass of wine from other there and tell Jibril [the Angel Gabriel] to bring me some cashews. After that send me an eternal servant to clean the floor and take the empty plates with you.”

Jihadist continues: “Don’t forget to put a door on the tent so that you knock before you enter next time, your gloriousness.”

He was being … Read the rest

Women’s bodies as community property

Sep 25th, 2016 11:52 am | By

Paul blogs Katha Pollitt’s conversation with Annie Laurie Gaylor:

“We have to start talking about abortion as a normal part of women’s lives,” Pollitt told us. “It always has been.” And in fact, even religions have not been, and are not always, tied to the notion that a fertilized egg is equivalent to a full person. She talked about the “wiggle room” that Southern Baptists allow for abortion, and how in Judaism, the woman is the “first person” of priority when there is a question of primacy.

A major stumbling block when it comes to abortion is the ingrained perception of women’s bodies as somehow being community property. Part of this is exacerbated by what Pollitt called the “baby-fication”

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For sharing a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam

Sep 25th, 2016 10:45 am | By

Terrible news:

A prominent Jordanian writer, who was on trial for sharing a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam, has been shot dead outside a court in Amman where he was due to appear.

Nahed Hattar, 56, was charged with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam after posting the cartoon on Facebook this year.

The cartoon, entitled The God of Daesh (Isis), depicted an Isis militant sitting next to two women and asking God to bring him a drink.

Hattar was arrested in August and released on bail early this month. On Sunday, he was shot in the head three times as he arrived for a hearing.

Because he shared a cartoon deemed “offensive” to Islam – to Islam, which … Read the rest

Guest post: A fistful of cash in one hand and the leash of the university administration in the other

Sep 24th, 2016 7:32 pm | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on If not at a Center for Ethics, then where?

The school where I did my masters slipped in my mind when they caved to the demand of a donor that they censor an art exhibit. Students being told their art couldn’t be hung because it offended someone who walked through the building with their nose in the air, holding a fistful of cash in one hand and the leash of the university administration in the other. What lessons do those students learn? They learn that they will need to conform to a lifeless, commercial art if they want the chance to be seen, to work in the field they love.

I watched our local … Read the rest

Zafe zpace

Sep 24th, 2016 5:08 pm | By

Paul reports that the panel discussion on free speech and safe spaces was…lively.

Thoroughly opposing the notion of safe spaces was Maryam Namazie, forcefully declaring that the rise of safe spaces is due almost entirely to identity politics, and that they are really a form of censorship. “Universities should be unsafe spaces for ideas you might not be comfortable with,” she said, arguing that identity politics have a homogenizing effect in marginalized communities, stifling dissent from within.

Twitter featured a lot of strong feeling on this one.

More clarity about the lines of disagreement emerged when the discussion addressed the dis-invitation of certain speakers, something Namazie has had first hand experience with. Namazie and Haider advocated for protest as a

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Free speech and freedom of and from religion

Sep 24th, 2016 12:45 pm | By

One more Fidalgo post for now: Wendy Kaminer on free speech.

A free-speech stalwart herself, authoring a magazine piece on atheism as “the last taboo” that was formative to this writer, Kaminer tells this conference full of the irreligious that free speech and freedom of and from religion are “inextricably linked,” and warns that there exists now there is a “progressive retreat from free speech.”

Yes about that magazine piece; same here. I’ve admired Kaminer’s writing for decades. I sometimes disagree with her, but I always see her point.

It’s an extremely touchy issue here, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Straightaway, it was clear that some folks in attendance were in full agreement with Kaminer, and others were

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Amazing secularist women who beat the shit out of patriarchy

Sep 24th, 2016 12:32 pm | By

Another talk courtesy of Paul: Gulalai Ismail, Founder and Chairperson of Aware Girls…which she established at the age of 16. I learned of her the day Malala was shot, and we’ve been social media-friendly ever since. She’s wonderful.

She particularly highlighted Pakistan’s hostility to women, which she sees as a direct product of its rejection of free expression and secularism in favor of the Islamisation of society. Dr. Ismail discussed the Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises and guides official parliamentary legislation based on fundamentalist religious beliefs. It recently pushed for the rejection of a law written protect women from domestic abuse, something that seems like an obvious good.

Not to them. Instead they offered a new version, allowing

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Those who have that kind of leverage

Sep 24th, 2016 12:04 pm | By

Paul Fidalgo blogs Melanie Brewster’s talk which also sounds terrific, on the subject of why there aren’t more women in atheism. Brewster is an assistant professor of psychology and education at Columbia.

She cited many older studies that asserted some kind of biological or psychological traits of women that prime them for religious belief, but then revealed that these studies were done with no actual examination of the biological components, and often they came from sociologists working from explicitly religious universities such as Baylor, Brigham Young, and Holy Cross.

But these dusty studies still serve as the foundation for popular understanding of these perceived differences, even among seculars, and she cautioned us to bring our own prized critical thinking to

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The leftovers of flies

Sep 24th, 2016 11:39 am | By

The fourth Women in Secularism is happening this weekend, and Paul Fidalgo is blogging each session. Maryam spoke yesterday.

At a time when the wearing of burqas and their beachwear variants is an incredibly heated topic, Namazie wasted no time, and withheld no ire, lambasting the enforced veiling of women in Islamic societies.

“Many feminists,” said Namazie, as well as other progressives and secularists, “defend the right to be veiled, but never the right to be unveiled and then live to tell the tale. What a betrayal.”

Secular Coalition tweeted:

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If not at a Center for Ethics, then where?

Sep 24th, 2016 10:44 am | By

An item from Daily Nous:

Wednesday afternoon, Gordon Hull, associate professor of philosophy at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and director of the school’s Center for Professional and Applied Ethics, put up a post on the Center’s webpage about the recent police shooting of an unarmed black man, Keith L. Scott (see the bottom of this post for that text).

The central message of the post was summed up in its conclusion:

I do not know exactly what happened last night, but even more than I hope that the CMPD will conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, I hope that something triggers white America to care about the deep structural racism that permeates so much of our society,

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Person, his wife, Person win awards

Sep 24th, 2016 9:50 am | By
Person, his wife, Person win awards

Wouldn’t you think editors and subs would learn to stop generating headlines like this? Especially after that conspicuous fuss about the Chicago paper that headlined “Football Player Name’s Wife Wins Medal”?

Tom Waits, his wife, John Prine receive songwriting awards

They just don’t even think we’re human, do they. We’re pets, or The Help.

H/t Jen Phillips… Read the rest

Girls can hear him

Sep 24th, 2016 8:46 am | By

Well that’s a powerful ad.


 … Read the rest

This does not happen with such regularity anywhere else in the world

Sep 23rd, 2016 11:32 am | By

Michael De Dora writes:

Whatever you believe about police and race and racism in the United States, consider this: unarmed citizens who pose little to no danger to society or law enforcement — and, in some cases, citizens in need of help — are being killed in the streets by the very people responsible for keeping us safe. Leave aside for a moment the question of “why.” The bare fact is, this does not happen with such regularity anywhere else in the world. This should disturb as conscientious humans, frighten us as fellow citizens, and concern us very deeply as Americans. Because I can tell you from first-hand experience that in the international halls of power, in the highest

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An era of weaponized sensitivity

Sep 23rd, 2016 11:24 am | By

In a NY Times op-ed Lionel Shriver frames the moral panic over her Brisbane Writers Festival talk as a matter of conformity.

Viewing the world and the self through the prism of advantaged and disadvantaged groups, the identity-politics movement — in which behavior like huffing out of speeches and stirring up online mobs is par for the course — is an assertion of generational power. Among milliennials and those coming of age behind them, the race is on to see who can be more righteous and aggrieved — who can replace the boring old civil rights generation with a spikier brand.

When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was

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A ragtag but consistently repulsive movement

Sep 23rd, 2016 9:18 am | By

The Economist looks at Trump and Pepe and the alt-right. It doesn’t usually like to advertise such visitors from the sewer, but this isn’t usually.

Unfortunately, and somewhat astonishingly, the Alt-Right—the misleading name for a ragtag but consistently repulsive movement that hitherto has flourished only on the internet—has insinuated itself, unignorably, into American politics. That grim achievement points to the reverse sway now held by the margins, of both ideology and the media, over the mainstream. It also reflects the indiscriminate cynicism of Donald Trump’s campaign.

Or it reflects Trump’s actual tastes. I see no reason to think they’re too finicky to enjoy a consistently repulsive movement such as the alt-right.

Much of the Alt-Right’s output will seem indecipherably

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It’s not basketball

Sep 23rd, 2016 8:38 am | By

Trump doesn’t want debate moderators pointing out lies. Well he wouldn’t, would he. He lies the way the rest of us breathe, so naturally he doesn’t want reality-based people pointing out all his lies, not to mention his pig-ignorance.

Trump says it’s up to the candidates themselves to call out their rivals when they are wrong. Trump spoke Thursday in a telephone interview on “Fox and Friends.” He says the candidates should “argue it out.”

NBC’s Matt Lauer has received criticism for not pointing out factual errors by Trump at a recent forum on national security.

Errors and also lies. He tells lies. Big, glaring, shameless lies.

Trump says there’s pressure on NBC’s Holt ahead of Monday’s debate at

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What you think it means

Sep 22nd, 2016 6:14 pm | By

From Amy Dickinson aka Dear Amy at the Washington Post:

Dear Amy: You used the word “mansplaining” in your reply to “Perplexed.” I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Mansplaining is a sexist word used by feminists to shut down any debate with a man if they think they can’t win with their argument.

Your use of it in your column is offensive to anyone who is capable of a logical discussion.

Mark R. Bates, National Coalition for Men

Mark: Others complained that I had misused the word “mansplaining,” but you are the only person to mansplain while doing it.

“Mansplaining” is a slang term used for when men co-opt ideas, thoughts or concepts generated by

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Barbies and pirates

Sep 22nd, 2016 11:42 am | By

Janice Turner in the Times:

I have complained to the BBC for the first time in my life, about an episode of Radio 4’s iPM in which Jennifer Tracey interviewed a ten-year-old who we were told “identifies as gender non-binary”. The mother said she’d spotted “signs” her daughter wasn’t truly a girl: aged three she wanted a pirates (not princesses) birthday party, disdained dolls, liked Peter Pan, Iron Man and Wolverine.

Instead of buying books on lady pirates, declaring girls can like superheroes — indeed girls can like, do or wear anything! — this mother “did a bit of research on the internet”. Whereby she concluded her daughter was a trans-boy and asked what name she’d like to

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