All entries by this author

What happens when you open a book

Apr 4th, 2015 4:46 pm | By

My eye was caught by a wide yellow-spined book on a shelf at the library, which turned out to be Arguably, a fat collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens. I plucked it off the shelf and checked it out. Later, I opened it at random and started to read – on page 234, under the subheading The Afterlife of Animal Farm, in an essay on Animal Farm that originated as an introduction to a 2010 edition.

It starts with the “some animals are more equal than others” line. It cites communism in Russia and Eastern Europe and its “New Class” system, “with grotesque privileges for the ruling elite and a grinding mediocrity of existence for the majority,” and the … Read the rest

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Memphis exalts Jesus!

Apr 4th, 2015 4:03 pm | By

Christians are there protesting though, across the street.

As the American Atheists hold their national convention in Memphis this week, local Christians are responding with a “Memphis Exalts Jesus” worship concert at AutoZone Park.

Amanda Knief tweeted a photo:

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

 … Read the rest

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Do not be taken by pity for them

Apr 4th, 2015 12:13 pm | By

Muhammad Syed tweeted this important item from Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s talk:

“If you don’t allow for compassion, that is the end of civilization” @Ayaan #AACon15 in ref to Quran 24:2

Says it all, doesn’t it. “Do not be taken by pity for them” – WHY NOT? If you flinch at the idea of flogging people for having sex, you have the right intuition. If you stamp out that flinch and go ahead and flog them, you have the wrong intuition.

And yet one of the names of Allah is “the merciful.” On the basis of what?… Read the rest

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A free pass to be a whiny baby

Apr 4th, 2015 11:50 am | By

A gay atheist doctor in Indiana wonders if the shiny new RFRA lets him refuse service to assholes.

“Dear Governor Pence and the Republicans in the state legistlature,” Freiheit’s letter begins, “As a gay atheist doctor in a small town in Indiana, I want to applaud your bravery and standing up for your principles, because it would seem that you have given me a chance to finally stop having to treat asshole, bigoted Christians at my practice, based on my own deeply held religious views, and not anything more sinister or petty, of course.”

That is what we want, right? To make all public services and interactions conditional on agreement with each other’s world views? We want to have to … Read the rest

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Message from Bonya Rafida

Apr 4th, 2015 10:48 am | By

Here is that video address by Bonya Rafida, Avijit Roy’s wife, at the American Atheists’ Convention.

 … Read the rest

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Much to agree on

Apr 4th, 2015 10:03 am | By

I’m reading tweets from the American Atheists Convention again – there’s a lot of good stuff going on there, despite all the disagreement over CPAC and humanism/social justice/feminism. My friend Vyckie Garrison is this year’s Atheist of the Year; there was an ex-Muslims panel with Heina Dadabhoy and Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider, and Asif Mohiuddin just did a talk.

They all stood in solidarity:

Dave did the same:

Asif:

Asif shared a video message from Rafida Ahmet Vanya, widow of Avijit Roy.

Asif? Please don’t return to Dhaka.

 … Read the rest

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Guest post: That’s going to be quite a picture

Apr 3rd, 2015 5:02 pm | By

Originally a comment by hotshoe on No snow at the Phillips Station site.

A slow-motion natural disaster which directly affects at least 40 million people – and indirectly affects all 320 million USAians, as well as having international implications – is bound to create a little emotional tension. It’s bound to lead to finger-pointing and blame-games, but those are worthless (even if accurate, which they’re mostly not) unless in turn they lead to actual solutions.

Yes, turning off the fountains is a good minor solution; Las Vegas is criminally wasteful. Turning off the agricultural output — which has up till now been larger than the output of entire countries such as Mexico, Germany, and Canada — is not a … Read the rest

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The worst the Christian community can do in America

Apr 3rd, 2015 4:32 pm | By

Ayaan Hirsi Ali gave the keynote at the AA Convention, and James Croft livetweeted it. There was some…dubious stuff in it.

Such as a Dear Muslima for teh gayz.

James Croft @JFLCroft 5 hours ago
“If you are gay the worst the Christian community can do in America is not serve you cake.” @Ayaan #AAcon15 Privilege check needed!

Oy. That’s so not the worst the Christian community can do in America.

There this story in Outsports, for instance. A high school basketball game in rural Kentucky. One of the winning players called Dalton Maldonado a faggot. Maldonado had a meltdown in the locker room.

After collecting their clothes and bags the team headed to the bus, where some

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Yesterday in Memphis

Apr 3rd, 2015 3:58 pm | By

The American Atheists Convention is on this weekend.

There was a CAH tournament:

Nick Fish @NotNickFish 21 hours ago
Playing Cards Against of Humanity with donations going to Planned Parenthood of Memphis. Awesome.

And the winner is -

Nick Fish @NotNickFish 19 hours ago
Of course this was the winning play for our Cards Against Humanity tournament. #AAcon15

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Do the right thing

Apr 3rd, 2015 12:54 pm | By

Ensaf Haidar asks Obama and Kerry to do what 60 members of Congress have done, and demand the immediate release of Raif Badawi.

When I am allowed to speak with Raif, I brief him about all that is being done on his behalf. Because of a global outcry by citizens and governments of the world, Raif has not been flogged for 11 consecutive weeks. But I know that as soon as the media spotlight fades and pressure on the repressive Saudi monarchy eases, Saudi Arabia may seek to do what it pleases with my husband. It is critical that the pressure not abate, not even for an instant.

More than a million people around the world have demanded that the

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A better fundraiser

Apr 3rd, 2015 12:21 pm | By

The fundraiser for the pizza family in Walkerton, Indiana is now at $749,741 and still rapidly climbing. Quite a reward for making public their religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

A more worthy fundraiser is one to send Sunil Khandbahale to MIT.

Born and raised in a rural farming village in Nashik, India to uneducated and illiterate parents who firmly believed in the power of education to unlock their children’s potential, Sunil was the first in his family to go to university and now he’s been acccepted to MIT Sloan’s fellowship program.

Sunil has spent the past 14 years overcoming many obstacles and building from nothing to what is now a free technology enabled multilingual translation platform  that is being

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Even drinking water

Apr 3rd, 2015 11:27 am | By

Ouch. More on that drought in California:

Southeast of Lake McClure is the town of East Porterville, where waterways aren’t the only thing drying out. The town’s residents have also run out of well water, the primary source of drinking water for many of the area’s homes, according to the New York Times.

Residents haven’t had running water in months and rely on donated water tanks to bathe, wash clothes and eat, the report added. To drink, many of the city’s residents rely on bottled water, either donated or purchased on their own.

The town is largely made up of Mexican immigrants who work in the fields all day, toiling under the sun. The local high school has

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C’est normal

Apr 3rd, 2015 11:18 am | By

Saudi Arabia has tried to order Quebec to back off in its criticism of Saudi’s appalling human rights record. Quebec has said Nope.

The CBC has seen the letter:

Quebec’s premier is not backing down in his opposition to the imprisonment and torture of blogger Raif Badawi, despite the Saudi ambassador’s written caution to Quebec politicians to mind their own business.

“We have made our opinion known. It’s normal that we did so,” Philippe Couillard told reporters as he made his way to a cabinet meeting in Quebec City Wednesday.

Naif Bin Bandir Al-Sudairy, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Canada, sent a letter to Quebec’s National Assembly in March telling them not to meddle in the case of the jailed 

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How they are now

Apr 3rd, 2015 10:39 am | By

Since it came up, I’ll just share the 2012 news about how Malala’s classmates recovered from being shot on that little bus going home from school.

“Which one is Malala?” he barked. Terrified, the girls fell silent. Malala Yousafzai was their 15-year-old schoolmate, a well-known children’s rights advocate who frequently challenged the Pakistani Taliban’s stance against girls education. She was sitting to Shazia’s right. “I think we must have looked at her,” admits Shazia. “We didn’t say anything, but we must have looked, because then he shot her. He shot her in the head.” Shazia screamed when she saw Malala slump forward. The gunman turned and shot Shazia twice, just below her left collarbone, and in her left hand

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No snow at the Phillips Station site

Apr 2nd, 2015 5:20 pm | By

Drought in California. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory restrictions yesterday, standing on a mountaintop that should be snowy but isn’t.

The governor’s emergency order comes after a year of requests for voluntary conservation — and a record-breaking warm and dry spell culminating in the worst April snowpack in recorded history — have failed to alarm many Californians enough to cut back on water.

Do they think it will just be there anyway? Like magic?

Snow surveyors found no snow at the Phillips Station site — the first time that’s happened in 75 years of early-April measurements. In an average year, the site would have 5.5 feet of snow. Across the Sierra, electronic readings indicate the water content of the snowpack

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Children frolic in Alabama

Apr 2nd, 2015 1:07 pm | By

What a good idea. No, I mean, what a bone-achingly bad idea. Alabama wants to see children carrying hand guns.

…lawmakers have proposed an amendment to the state’s gun laws that would allow minors to acquire their very own pistols. At the moment, the law is on a bit more even keel, stipulating that “no person shall deliver a pistol to any person under the age of 18.” Lawmakers want that changed to allow minors to have pistols, but only if they get the permission of a “parent, guardian, or spouse who is 18 or older (?)”

So little George age 5 who is married to Tina age 19 will be able to pack heat as long as … Read the rest

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Garissa: 147 killed

Apr 2nd, 2015 12:38 pm | By

The attack is over, the BBC reports, and all the students are accounted for.

The number of people killed in an attack by al-Shabab Islamist militants on a university in north-eastern Kenya has risen to 147, Kenyan government officials say.

The operation to secure the Garissa University College campus was now over, with all four attackers killed, they added.

Officials said 587 students had been evacuated, 79 of whom were injured.

Nine who are critically injured have been airlifted to Nairobi for treatment.

Student Collins Wetangula said when the gunmen entered his hostel he could hear them opening doors and asking if the people inside were Muslims or Christians, the AP news agency reports.

“If you were a Christian

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Guest post: Signed, confused

Apr 2nd, 2015 12:24 pm | By

Originally a comment by screechymonkey on But it’s terribly important to understand.

Who asked him? What makes him think it needs to be said? Who asked him to pronounce on which abuses of women are worse than other abuses of women?

He’s just trying to be helpful! He’s gearing up to start writing a regular advice column. It’ll be a big success:

Dear Richard Dawkins,
I’m currently unemployed, but have just received two job offers. One of them is in a predominantly Muslim country, and one of the job requirements is having my clitoris cut off. The other job is here in the U.K. and has no such requirement, but the boss is a bit handsy. I can’t decide … Read the rest

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But it’s terribly important to understand

Apr 2nd, 2015 10:49 am | By

I saw a discussion of a video of Dawkins talking to someone on a stage in front of an audience, which is an extract from the full video posted by the RDF. It’s an event at Kennesaw State University in Georgia last November 21. I watched the first four minutes of the extract because it’s interesting. I transcribed most of it for the purpose of saying what’s wrong with it.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybhZ6PLUYwI

The guy asking the questions, Dr. Michael L. Sanseviro, Dean of Student Success at Kennesaw State, asks about the controversy about feminism and why Dawkins has been comparing degrees of badness when one could say the same thing about atheism. Yes, Dawkins says. “I want to be clear about … Read the rest

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Garissa

Apr 2nd, 2015 8:53 am | By

This time it’s al-Shabab.

They’ve killed at least 15 people and taken an unknown number hostage at a university in Garissa, Kenya.

Masked gunmen from Somalia’s al-Shabaab movement claim to be holding an unknown number of Kenyan Christians hostage after a dawn raid on a university compound that left at least 15 people dead.

The attackers stormed into the university shortly after 5am in the town of Garissa, about 90 miles from the volatile border with Somalia. Kenya’s national disaster operations centre said 280 of the university’s 815 students were accounted for but did not say how many it believed to be still inside.

As many as 60 are wounded, according to witnesses. “We have evacuated about 30

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