All entries by this author

Falangism in Ireland

Apr 6th, 2014 9:51 am | By

Behold, the entanglement of church and state in Ireland. The very police forces brandish bibles at their graduation ceremony. The Irish Times has the photographic record:

Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

That’s a truly frightening picture. These are police officers, agents of state power. They’re not supposed to work for any church.… Read the rest

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Guest post: There is a fundamental difference

Apr 6th, 2014 9:42 am | By

Originally a comment by Gordon Willis on How different?

The major point is that the desire to learn about the world as it is in itself is not and cannot be the same as the desire to understand god’s creation. There is a fundamental difference which the words “learn more about the world around us” conceals. The one leads to knowledge regardless of any desire for human or personal “significance”, the other has as its goal an interpretation of the world related only to personal meaning (whatever “meaning” means). There is a search for knowledge and a search for meaning, and although these seem to go together there is a point at which the ways divide. Stedman seems to be … Read the rest

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She only wants to talk to women

Apr 5th, 2014 5:36 pm | By

Is there a First Amendment right to bother strangers in the street? I sure as hell hope not.

By the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court will have decided one of the most contentious topics facing abortion clinics and their patients today: at what point does a protester’s First Amendment rights interfere with a clinic patient’s right to seek medical care without nonconsensual proselytizing? That is the issue in McCullen v. Coakley, and a 35-foot buffer zone surrounding women’s reproductive healthcare facilities in Massachusetts. Mark Rienzi, on behalf of the anti-abortion activists who are challenging the state’s law, argued that being made to stand outside of a buffer zone inhibits his clients’ opportunities to speak with patients,

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Some mirror

Apr 5th, 2014 1:46 pm | By

Google Earth street view from a road along a fjord on Austvågøy island which is one of the Lofoten islands in Norway (way up in Norway).

Click on it to get the full effect.

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

How different?

Apr 5th, 2014 12:45 pm | By

Chris Stedman asks at Religion News what misconceptions people have about atheists. There are lots of them, he notes, and that’s probably because most people don’t know many atheists, or don’t realize they do.

But when people meet atheists, they have an opportunity to revise their ideas about who we are and what we believe.

In that spirit, the Yale Humanist Community is cosponsoring an “Ask an Atheist” panel with Hartford Faith & Values—Connecticut’s nonsectarian, nonprofit religion news website and an affiliate of Religion News Service—this Monday, April 7 as the kickoff event for our first ever Humanism at Yale Week.

Great idea. He gets the other panelists to give some misconceptions, then he adds one.


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

Time warp

Apr 5th, 2014 11:34 am | By

Is it 2009 again? Salon has run yet another 2009ish article ranting about HitchensHarrisDawkins and their misunderstanding of the science-religion debate. Oy.

Sana Saeed, the author, lets us know that she spent her childhood loving science and also loving religion. Then she lets us know she was the same way as a teenager.

It never once occurred to me during those years, and later, that there could be any sort of a conflict between my faith and science; to me both were part of the same things: This universe and my existence within it.

And yet, here we are today being told that the two are irreconcilable; that religion begets an anti-science crusade and science pushes anti-religion valor. When

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Trees and landslides

Apr 5th, 2014 10:43 am | By

You know the Oso landslide? The collapse of a rain-sodden slope that buried a lot of houses, vehicles, animals, and people in a small town north of Seattle two weeks ago?

It’s been reported heavily in the local media, but as a natural disaster and human tragedy, not as something that had been predicted and warned about for decades. Well guess what – it was predicted and warned about decades ago.

Rain is the fuel for landslides in wet western Washington. The tall trees of the Evergreen State help hold the ground together, not just with their roots, but also by soaking up rain before it goes deep underground. That’s why the state essentially prohibits clearing of forests in places

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

Kapitalist Kollege

Apr 4th, 2014 5:49 pm | By

The Nation takes a look at one of the more egregious scams in the scam-ridden US: for-profit colleges that flourish because of the egregious scam of our college loan “system.”

More than half of the students who enroll in for-profit colleges—many of them veterans, single mothers, and other low- and middle-income people aiming for jobs like medical technician, diesel mechanic or software coder—drop out within about four months. Many of these colleges have been caught using deceptive advertising and misleading prospective students about program costs and job placement rates. Although the for-profits promise that their programs are affordable, the real cost can be nearly double that of Harvard or Stanford. But the quality of the programs [is] often weak,

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

More haha rape jokes haha

Apr 4th, 2014 4:01 pm | By

Because we just never get tired of them, right?

Here’s another instance of rape culture to add to the ever-lengthening list: French so-called “comedian” Rémi Gaillard’s latest video, Free Sex.

In the prank, Gaillard stands a few feet away from unsuspecting women and, using the camera’s trick of perspective, makes it look like they’re having sex. He simulates sex with a woman tying her shoelace on the sidewalk, another reading on a park lawn and a third rifling through her handbag in a grocery store aisle. And he uses women smoking on a bench and eating their lunch in the sunshine to imitate oral sex.

It’s hilarious because the victims don’t know he’s there, but he’s having sex

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

Minutt for minutt

Apr 4th, 2014 11:53 am | By

Ok now I know what I’ll be watching on my laptop in small increments for the next six months or so…

Norway’s public tv station NRK did a week long real-time program that was a trip on its famous Hertigruten ferry from Bergen to Kirkenes, a trip that takes six days and passes some of the most skull-crushingly beautiful scenery on the planet – possibly the most: National Geographic has called the fjords the top Thing To See in the world. I have a huge crush on the fjords, just so you know.

One of my local PBS stations ran an hour-long extract from that show last night, so now I want to see all six days, and god damn … Read the rest

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

Clergy aren’t obliged to tell magistrates

Apr 4th, 2014 11:23 am | By

A week ago the Italian Bishops’ Conference published guidance saying that they don’t have to report suspected sexual abuse of children to the police.

Fair enough. They agreed it among themselves, so it’s none of anyone else’s business, right? That’s democracy.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference said the guidelines published Friday reflected suggestions from the Vatican’s office that handles sex abuse investigations.

Victims have long denounced how bishops systematically covered up abuse by shuffling pedophile priests around while keeping prosecutors in the dark. Only in 2010 did the Vatican instruct bishops to report abuse to police — but only where required by law.

Well of course only where required by law. You don’t expect them to do the right thing even … Read the rest

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

Improper use of social media

Apr 4th, 2014 9:40 am | By

A word of advice for schoolteachers: don’t ever seek a job in Cincinnati Catholic Archdiocese schools. You’d have to sign a contract that makes you their slave.

The Archdiocese has a new contract for teachers, one that’s twice the size of previous contracts, to accommodate the many things it tells you not to do.

The contract for the 2014-15 school year explicitly orders teachers to refrain “from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the school or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals.” It goes so far as to ban public support of the practices.

Principals in the 94 Archdiocese-supervised schools in Southwest and Central Ohio began receiving the new employment

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The honors list

Apr 3rd, 2014 5:41 pm | By

Maryam has been made a Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism, which is a CFI thing full of starry stars. AC Grayling, Taslima Nasrin, Harold Kroto, Leo Igwe, Patricia Churchland, Dan Dennett, Rebecca Goldstein, Susan Jacoby, Wendy Kaminer, Jonathan Miller, Salman Rushdie, Peter Singer, Wole Soyinka, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Keith Thomas…and lots more.

Very cool.

Here’s the whole list.… Read the rest

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

The safety of zeroing out

Apr 3rd, 2014 4:44 pm | By

Another state down.

Catholic News Agency “reports”:

The Louisiana House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved new safety regulations requiring that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, rules which could lead most abortion clinics in the state to close.

“We are thrilled that the Louisiana House of Representatives overwhelming passed H.B. 388 to protect the health and safety of women,” Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said March 31.

Ya that’s not safety regulations, you lying shits. That’s making abortion unavailable.

The bill requires that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.

In addition, it clarifies that informed consent protections also apply to abortions procured with the RU-486 pill.

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

The ground shakes

Apr 3rd, 2014 4:23 pm | By

The Onion reports on a disturbing new trend:

Increasing Number Of Men Pressured To Accept Realistic Standards Of Female Beauty

The tragedy!

NEW YORK—Confronted on a regular basis with images of women who represent a diverse array of body types, a growing number of American men are reportedly feeling pressured to accept the increasingly realistic standards of female beauty now depicted in the media, social scientists confirmed this week.

“More and more, men today find themselves bombarded with un-retouched images, and with that comes the considerable mental burden of trying to reconcile what they see in these ads and magazines with their personal perceptions of beauty,” said sociologist Cliff Hillard, who studies attainable ideals of female attractiveness in the media

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He might not like the food

Apr 3rd, 2014 1:36 pm | By

So a guy rapes his 3-year-old daughter, is tried and convicted several years later, and…

gets no jail time.

Robert Richards IV was in 2009 convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter, seven years after she, then five, told relatives that she didn’t want “my daddy touching me anymore.” In an alarming twist, the judge who sentenced the heir to the du Pont fortune let him off with no jail time, arguing that six-foot-four Richards “will not fare well” in prison.

Instead of sentencing him to prison for raping a toddler, Judge Jan Jurden ruled that Richards would benefit from treatment. Critics have since noted that such treatment is usually only offered to drug addicts or those in

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We’ll show you who’s “too controlling”

Apr 3rd, 2014 10:57 am | By

A British woman who went to visit family in Iran has been locked up for five months in Evin prison for saying things on Facebook.

Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, from Stockport, was arrested as she stepped off a plane in the provincial city of Shiraz and accused of being a spy, husband Daryoush Taghipoor told the Manchester Evening News.

Daryoush said his 47-year-old wife has been detained at Evin, an infamous prison in Iranian capital Tehran, on suspicion of plotting to commit crimes against security and insulting Islam.

He claimed her arrest was over comments she made on an internet chat forum and to friends on Facebook about the Iranian government being too controlling and ‘too Islamic’.

Part-time chef Daryoush

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Apr 3rd, 2014 10:35 am | By

Interestingly understated headline in the Independent:

Concern as Brunei brings in system of Islamic law with punishments that include the dismemberment of limbs and stoning to death

Well yes, that would awake some concern.

The Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s wealthiest rulers and a close ally of Britain, will this week oversee his country’s transition to a system of Islamic law with punishments that include flogging, the dismemberment of limbs and stoning to death.

I hate having close allies like that, don’t you?

The 67-year-old absolute monarch declared last year that he wanted to introduce a full sharia system in his oil-rich nation and warned critics who took to social media sites to complain that they could be

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We were always being exhorted to think for ourselves

Apr 2nd, 2014 5:01 pm | By

A wonderful passage from Louise Antony’s essay in Philosophers Without Gods (a collection she edited):

As I’ve said, the reactions of grownups to my questions about religion were doubly distressing to me because of their dissonance with the principles adults were explicitly promoting in other contexts. In school, a broadly libertarian and individualistic ethos prevailed. We were always being exhorted to “think for ourselves.” In reading, we were urged to “sound out the words instead of just asking,” and in arithmetic to figure out the problems on our own. Science teachers and science books agreed heartily that curiosity is a marvelous thing, the engine of all scientific achievement. One must not take things for granted; one must always ask “why.”

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What philosophers call epistemic peers

Apr 2nd, 2014 4:26 pm | By

After the conversation with Plantinga, Gary Gutting moved on to one with Louise Antony.

Antony is the editor of the wonderful collection of essays Philsophers Without Gods (Oxford University Press 2007). I’ve blogged about it several times. Gutting’s conversation with her is much more interesting than the one he had with Plantinga.

Gutting starts by telling her she’s “taken a strong stand as an atheist” and she replies by saying she doesn’t know what he means by that.

L.A. I don’t consider myself an agnostic; I claim to know that God doesn’t exist, if that’s what you mean.

G.G.: That is what I mean.

L.A.: O.K. So the question is, why do I say that theism is false

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