Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Some huge blinders

Jun 20th, 2014 4:45 pm | By

Penn Jillette’s assholeness goes way back. (I wasn’t paying attention to him then. I can’t pay attention to everything. I’m a nerd. Quit looking at me like that.) Massimo Pigliucci was pointing it out way back in 2009.

…as we have learned recently from the Atheist Alliance / Dawkins Foundation / Bill Maher fiasco, “skepticism” is sometimes too broad a label, as someone can be properly skeptical in politics but not about pseudoscience (Maher), while someone else may be great at debunking astrology and magnetic therapy, and yet also unable to shed some huge blinders when it comes to politically charged issues. The latter is, unfortunately, P&T’s case, as made excruciatingly clear by the 2008 (season 6) episode “Being Green” of Bullshit!

P&T’s libertarian blinders simply do not allow them to accept something that is so obvious to anyone who looks at the data and listens to the actual experts in atmospheric science: yes, Penn, global warming is happening; and yes, Teller, a good part of it is caused by human beings. Instead, the best P&T can do is to resuscitate a television weather man from the 1970s to assure us that global warming is a myth. And of course we have the predictable appearance of a guy from a libertarian think tank (the Cascade Policy Institute), who has no credentials that we know of, except being President of said think tank. (Note to self: create own think tank and declare yourself President. Make sure to have web site and business card. No thinking is actually necessary.) Needless to say, no one with a knowledgeable alternative viewpoint is presented during the show.

Instead, our libertarian heros keep telling us to relax, enjoy life, and drive SUVs, despite showing at the beginning of the episode a good number of frightening examples of all too real environmental destruction.


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

A libertarian feminist interviews Marwa Berro

Jun 20th, 2014 3:55 pm | By

Oh yes, there are such people as libertarian feminists. No not Christina Hoff Sommers, but there are such people.

Marwa is there to talk about her Ex-hijabi fashion blog.

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

Will’s untutored eye

Jun 20th, 2014 2:55 pm | By

The St Louis Post Dispatch decided it can get along without George Will after that column he wrote last week about how women long for the high status of being a rape victim.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger writes that readers — both liberal and conservative ones — have lobbied the paper to change its lineup of conservative columnists. But apparently a bit of a push was necessary.

That came from a recent controversial piece by Washington Post columnist George Will — the one about the “supposed campus epidemic of rape” and the way in which “victimhood” serves as a “coveted status that confers privileges.”

It’s so fashionable right now, all this yelling about “victimhood” and “patriarchy” and “ideology.” They’re all just passing the same stale tropes back and forth endlessly, like a joint.

Let’s have a look at that column of Will’s.

Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate. And academia’s progressivism has rendered it intellectually defenseless now that progressivism’s achievement, the regulatory state, has decided it is academia’s turn to be broken to government’s saddle.

Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.”

It’s odd that it didn’t occur to him to pause for a moment over that, and then delete it. It’s odd that it didn’t occur to him that it’s not a good look for a very safe, established, senior, well-paid, mainstream male columnist to sneer in public about rape. It’s odd that it didn’t occur to him that it’s not a good look to sneer at dangers that other people face while he never will. It’s odd that it didn’t occur to him that rape isn’t something he will ever have to worry about, so it’s unattractive for him to sneer about a supposed campus epidemic of rape or to put scare quotes on “sexual assault.”

But it didn’t, or if it did he shrugged it off, and the column said what it said. This is where reactionary tantrums about other people’s requests not to be raped or whipped or starved or sold into slavery will get you – not just punching down, but dropping cinder blocks on people from the roof of your palace. You don’t look good like that.

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

Evangelical teachings on repentance and forgiveness

Jun 20th, 2014 12:01 pm | By

Libby Anne talks about the way evangelical concern with “forgiveness” makes things harder for victims and a lot easier for perps.

Evangelical teachings on repentance and forgiveness create a tremendous problem when it comes to rape or other forms of abuse. If you commit a sin and repent of it, God forgives you. I remember hearing Psalm 103:12 quoted constantly: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Of course, this was always said in a positive way—isn’t it awesome that God forgives us no matter what? But it doesn’t must mean God forgives us. It also means God forgives rapists, child molesters, and so on—fully and completely.

I was taught that bringing up sins that someone had already repented for was wrong. If the transgressor had repented, after all, God had forgiven him, and had had removed those transgressions “as far as the east is from the west.” Those sins were gone, totally and completely, and should not be mentioned again. The slate was clean. Now this may make sense when applied to more petty offenses—it’s never fun to have your mistakes constantly brought up, even when you’ve tried to make good—it also applies to rapists, child molesters, and so on.

That’s a form of morality that’s very useful to rapists.

This is also in line with a piece I quoted from earlier this week. In that piece, blogger Maureen writes about what it was like to learn, suddenly and unexpectedly, that her husband was a child molester—and what it was like to deal with the aftermath:

Through this whole process, I learned that much is required of those victimized, while little is asked of sex offenders. When my husband began to spin his story, it was received with affirmations of how courageous he was. He was even placed on the worship team within a few months of his confessions.

In contrast, I was expected to never be angry, bitter, or wrestle with forgiveness. I needed to heal quickly and quietly. And, of course, I couldn’t ever question his “recovery.” His was a wondrous redemption story, and to question his trustworthiness was to question God’s work in his life.

This is, quite simply, the natural result of evangelical teachings about repentance and forgiveness—or at least, with the evangelical teachings I was taught growing up. (If there are evangelicals who find different ways to understand these passages, I’d be interested in hearing more, because these passages are in sorry need of reinterpretation!)

The offender need only repent. That’s it. If he repents, his slate is wiped clean. The victim must forgive, and that means never being angry, never being bitter, and getting over what happened post haste.

It’s a disturbing idea. It seems more unforgiving toward victims than toward their victimizers. I wonder if it helps for the victims to just say “Sorry” every now and then – does that make it ok for them to keep on feeling angry?

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

Target – see what they did there?

Jun 20th, 2014 11:51 am | By

I hate most kinds of shopping, and most kinds of shops. Confined spaces, lots of strangers everywhere, no trees or birds or large bodies of water – what’s to like about them? But I can tolerate them for the time it takes me to find the milk or socks or shampoo I need to get, usually. Unless there is Christmas music playing – then I really can’t tolerate them, and postpone non-essential shopping until after the season is over.

But there are some extras I can think of that would make a shop even more hellish. A bunch of polar bears roaming around hungrily? A raging fire? A broken sewer pipe?

Shoppers roaming around with shotguns slung over their backs?

open carry guns in Target

More images have surfaced of gun rights activists carrying weapons inside Target stores in Texas. On May 31, several women went shopping at a Target in Corpus Christi, toting not just kids but also shotguns and semi-automatic rifles.

“We just kind of feel like our rights are being infringed upon, which is against the constitution,” the organizer, Sarah Head, told a local TV station two days before the demonstration.

For several months members of the group Open Carry Texas—mostly men, some of whom have used disturbing intimidation tactics against women—have shown up armed at Target stores to demonstrate their right to carry rifles openly in public and to call for the right to do so with handguns (which is not legal in Texas.) They’ve hung out in the Target parking lot. They’ve carried their weapons in Target’s toy aisles and declared that the company is “very 2A friendly.” In at least one case, as I reported recently, Target has known in advance that they were coming.

That. If I went into a Target and saw people roaming around with shotguns I would be out of there in a heartbeat.

This country is a basket case.

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

Forced to marry at 14

Jun 20th, 2014 11:24 am | By

Another item from the Annals of Brutality – in Iran a woman who was forced into marriage at 14 is going to be executed for killing her husband.

Razieh Ebrahimi was forced to marry at the age of 14, became a mother at 15, and killed her husband at 17. Now at 21, she is on Iran’s death row.

They left out a step: she was raped at 14, no doubt repeatedly.

“I married our neighbour’s son when I was only 14 because my dad insisted,” Ebrahimi was quoted as telling officials working on her case, according to Mehr. “My dad insisted I should marry him because he was educated and was working as a teacher. I was 15 when I gave birth to my child.” Her child is believed to be now six years old.

“I didn’t know who I am or what is life all about,” she said soon after being arrested. “My husband mistreated me. He used any excuse to insult me, even attacking me physically.”

Well she shouldn’t have agreed to marry him then.

Oh wait…

HRW called on the judiciary, which is independent of the Iranian government, to reverse its decision.

“Every time an Iranian judge issues a death sentence for a child offender like Ebrahimi, he should remember he is in flagrantly violating his legal responsibilities to administer justice fairly and equitably,” said HRW’s Joe Stork. “Iran’s judiciary should reverse its execution order of a battered child bride.”

The dispute appears to arise from Iran’s own definition of a juvenile. The country does not provide a clear distinction between the age of majority – when minors cease to legally be considered children – and the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which is 15 for boys and nine for girls under Iranian law. Under the current civil code, girls can marry at 13 and boys at 15, HRW said.

That’s some bad wording – the reality is that girls can be forced to marry at 13, not that they can decide to on their own. (I mean really – how often does that happen in Iran?)

Shadi Sadr, a London-based Iranian lawyer with the rights group Justice for Iran, told the Guardian that the case against Razieh Ebrahimi – also known as Maryan – underlined a hidden social and legal issue in Iran.

“Forced girl marriage in Iran is a hidden social and legal issue,” she said. “However, it should be noted that Maryam Ebrahimi’s case is not a unique case at all. This March, for instance, Farzaneh Moradi, 28, was executed for murdering her husband. She was forced to marriage at 15, gave birth at 16, fell in love with another man at 19 and was accused of murdering her husband at 20.”

She added: “Women such as Maryam or Farzaneh, who are forced to marriage at childhood, are actually being raped constantly under the name of marriage. While they should go to school at that age, they are instead experiencing a life full of violence with no legal support. They eventually kill themselves or their husbands to end this vicious circle.”

My point exactly. When a child is forced into marriage, the sex that happens in that marriage is rape.

Sadr said Justice for Iran’s research shows in 2012 alone, 1,537 girls under the age of of 10 and 29,827 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were registered for marriage in Iran.

That’s a lot of legalized rape.


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

BQ goes to Brighton

Jun 20th, 2014 10:30 am | By

Have another Big Questions, this one asking: Should the British stop tolerating intolerance? (Michael Frayn got there long ago, in the 60s, with BBC talking heads and all.)

Five minutes in, Maajid Nawaz responds to the host’s devil’s advocate question “If an area is 95% Muslim shouldn’t the schools in that area focus on that?” with a forthright defense of secularism including in state schools.

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

Look for the root sin

Jun 19th, 2014 6:30 pm | By

Bob Jones “University” tells rape victims to look for the sin in themselves that caused them to be raped. No, I’m not making a tasteless joke.

Coming from a conservative Mennonite family, Katie Landry, who at age 19 had never even held hands with a boy, was raped multiple times by her supervisor at her summer job. Two years later, haunted by the attacks, and attending Bob Jones University, she sought help from then dean of students, Jim Berg.

According to Landry,  Berg asked whether she’d been drinking or smoking pot and if she had been “impure.” He then brought up her “root sin.”

“He goes, ‘Well, there’s always a sin under other sin. There’s a root sin,’” Landry explained. “And he said, ‘We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape.’ And I just ran.”

“He just confirmed my worst nightmare,” she added. “It was something I had done. It was something about me. It was my fault.”

Landry eventually withdrew from the school and didn’t tell anyone else for five more years.


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

Guest post by Brony: Every one of us is a “God of Jokes”

Jun 19th, 2014 6:02 pm | By

Originally a comment on Penn Jillette on how to Professional Comedy With Added Misogyny.

What pompous overblown impulsive reactivity!

We all individually have a say in what is funny and what is not. Every one of us is a “God of Jokes” and a comedian should realize that. I’m pretty sure that comedians don’t totally ignore the surrounding culture and adapt to it in order to hone their craft. That culture has a structure made up of our individual dispositions, experiences and beliefs that are the source of jokes. It’s a pretty clear attempt to use his authority to bully a disliked opinion down.

We should consider why things are funny and what the effect of humor is on the subject of the joke’s objects. Why we have jokes about other people that draw on stereotypes and unflattering associations is a totally valid subject of concern. How to deal with jokes that make like more difficult for other people is a totally valid subject of concern. I definitely smell some paranoia about criticism of humor in Penn’s chosen approach here.

There is not a whole lot of research into humor, but I have looked at it because Tourette’s comes with some altered appreciation of humor, in addition Tourette’s is the subject of much social humor, thinking about these things is self-defense. It seems to me that when you scratch beneath the surface of a joke you find tension. Lots of comedians (professional and non) joke about things that they are troubled with on some level, family, age, politics, religion, sex, race, more. The joke relieves the tension and makes the person laughing at it feel better about the thing.

But not every means of reducing tension is valid and a professional comedian should be able to maturely discuss that fact. If someone is tense because of sex, gender, or race issues spreading around a stereotype to hide, or distract the source of tension is a bad idea. It’s puts an emotional bandage on a social wound that will still be leaking after the joke or show except now the persons telling and laughing at the joke can go pretending that reality is something else easier for a while. It won’t be funny to a person personally harmed by the social wound that is being replaced by an exaggeration or falsehood for the amusement of others.

And maybe we don’t want these sources of tension to be funny anyway. The worse we feel about social problems, the more attention gets directed to them, and the sooner something gets done about them. The temporary emotional salve of humor can effectively let us put things off for a while, but can be habit forming on a group level.

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

It’s not me, it’s you

Jun 19th, 2014 12:19 pm | By

So what next? American Atheists tweets:

Embedded image permalink

Yeah. I’m afraid this just isn’t working out.

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

She even includes the obligatory elevator reference

Jun 19th, 2014 12:09 pm | By

A bit of annotation on the substance of Jaclyn Glenn’s anti-feminism video.

At 45 seconds she makes an elevator sneer – “He invited me to have coffee in his hotel room; sexual harassment, patriarchy!”

But I feel like the term “feminist” is exclusionary.

She points out “humanist” is a great word too so why don’t we use that word?

But the word “feminist” has gotten such a hawwrible reputation from modern feminists and like I said it’s exclusionary.

It’s gotten such a hawwrible reputation from people like Glenn talking stupid garbage about it, too.

So stop the nonsense, stop saying patriarchy for every damn thing, and stop making everything about you [with a forceful gesture].

Which is rich coming from someone doing a video of herself talking while perched on a glammed-up bed.

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

Battling the feminist demon

Jun 19th, 2014 11:48 am | By

Jaclyn Glenn has a new video. This one is about her contempt for feminism. I’ve managed to watch 29 seconds so far.

Glenn is the Latest Big Thing among the atheists – this shit is the Latest Big Thing.

It’s the New Left all over again. Oh, it turns out I’m a second class citizen? Oh. I thought I was a citizen like any other. Bye then.

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

Penn Jillette on how to Professional Comedy With Added Misogyny

Jun 19th, 2014 9:46 am | By

Well that’s one good thing: Penn Jillette has gone public – more public than before, at least – about what a sexist asshole he is.

Dave Muscato did a public Facebook post yesterday* about how to deal with sexist jokes. He was spinning off a post of Miri’s (that I had seen) about the uses of playing dumb when you hear a sexist or racist etc joke, because this puts the joker in the position of having to spell out what the joke rests on. Dave’s post was about why he prefers the calling out approach. Who knew that would motivate Penn Jillette to out himself? But he did.


Penn JilletteWho fucking made you the god of jokes? Who gives a fuck if you think a joke is sexist? Does anyone care? Or care if you pretend not to get it.. I mean, does anyone care you think they’re misogynist? And why do you have to have strategies for social situations? How about just dealing with your friends? You really think you’re protecting someone by “getting in someone’s face” about a fucking joke? Is that noble? And what do you know about comedy? I didn’t think you were a pro, or any sort of expert on that. Why would you be better at articulating how a joke works socially than the person telling the joke? Understanding the exact POV of a joke on a sexual, or racial, or religious subject — is something that a team of pros would have to think about a lot. And then have different opinions on. If you can do this, off the top of your head, in a social situation — you should be making a metric shitton of money doing this professionally. Just an amazing post. Insane.

Penn Jillette Amazing. I guess there are people who really think they understand the way jokes work in culture enough to make these calls. I have sat for hours with professional comedians tearing about on phrase of one joke trying to understand some of the ramifications and you people think you can just do it, cold, off the top of your head. A little learning is a dangerous thing — drink deep or taste not. I have to go in when someone is performing surgery, and tell them what I think off the top of my fucking head. It’s good to speak from complete ignorance. Man, the fucking presumption. Have you all read “Going Too Far” by Tony Hendra? Are you familiar with Michael O’Donahue’s writing on whether his “Hellen Keller Joke” was a joke about her or an epistemological joke. Are you people even aware that Sarah Silverman exists? I worked 5 years of my life on a fucking movie just looking at one small aspect of one taboo joke and didn’t scratch the surface And you’re doing this all off the top of your heads? Do you all really think you’re that fucking smart, to enter someone else’s area of expertise and ignore it?

Penn Jillette Drop your friends because you don’t like their joke? What are the chances you’re dropping a friend because you don’t understand their fucking joke? Has it ever occurred to you that when you think a joke is a rape joke, you might just be fucking wrong. You know, wrong wrong wrong. Like it’s not even a rape joke. Or are there magic words that can’t be said around you, and if anyone says those magic sounds they are evil. Yeah, let’s stop reading Mark Twain, because he didn’t understand humor in society the way you fucking geniuses do.

Penn Jillette So, the argument is “magic words.” Okay, so these are people who believe in magic words. I have no argument for that. Someone says a magic word and they are wrong and you are right. Good, so Mark Twain and George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce, aren’t as enlightened as you. Yeah, Prior was a fucking idiot. Amazing.

Nola Olsen But part of telling a joke is playing to your audience. And part of it (for many) is a way to make social commentary and make things better for the oppressed. That is why so many comedians fail miserably and no one likes them. Telling a joke is easy. Making it universally funny without being at the expense of a single person or singled out minority is hard. Anyone can be a bully.

Penn Jillette Who are you to say you understand who the audience was supposed to be? No one is going for universal. Who would go for universal.?

Penn Jillette Yup, I’ll fuck off. Bye bye.

Dave Muscato I’m about to start a live podcast so I have to go, but Courtney Alexandra Caldwell I don’t allow people to tell others on my wall to shut up—I’ve deleted your comment. There are appropriate ways to disagree and inappropriate ways and that’s the latter

Courtney has a post on Skepchick pointing out that Dave deleted a comment of hers telling Jillette (in gif. form) to shut up. Think about it.

*Now deleted.

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

Everything normative Islam stands for

Jun 18th, 2014 6:17 pm | By

It’s helpful when reactionary theocrats spell out how reactionary and theocratic they are. There’s this guy Ghulam Esposito Haydar for instance. He’s not pleased that a liberal Muslim has been invited to speak at the Living Islam festival.

So at this years Living Islam, the ISB have invited a speaker from the BMSD.. who’s also a part of Tell Mama..

Don’t feel it’s appropriate. Wasn’t required. .

Really? He doesn’t want the founder of British Muslims for Secular Democracy there? So he disapproves of secularism and democracy, and thinks they’re not “appropriate” at such a festival?

Wow. Good to know.

His last comment on that post is even more informative.

 I know fairly well who she is. She’s from the group ‘British Muslims for Secular Democracy’ & ‘Tell Mama’ as well. She’s pretty much against everything normative Islam stands for, and I mean the things that are agreed upon by the people who call themselves traditional Sufis, Salafis, Brewlvis, Deobandis, Ikhwanis, Ahlul Hadith, etc

So “normative Islam” is against democracy and secularism?

Good to know. I hope it gets taken over by people like Tasmina.

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

A morbid fascination with human credulity

Jun 18th, 2014 5:04 pm | By

PZ has some thoughts on skepticism. He starts with a continuum of belief, with the very gullible at one end and conspiracy theorists at the other.

And then, somewhere in the middle lie science and skepticism. People readily conflate those two, unfortunately, and I think that’s wrong. Science is all about following the evidence. If a bit of evidence supports a hypothesis, you willingly accept it tentatively, and follow where it leads, strengthening or discarding your initial ideas appropriately with the quality of the evidence. You end up with theories that are held provisionally, as long as they provide fruitful guidance in digging deeper. It is ultimately a positive approach that winnows out bad ideas ruthlessly, but all in the cause of advancing our knowledge. I am far more comfortable with science then skepticism, because I’d rather be working towards a goal.

Skepticism is the flip side. It’s all about falsification and disproof and dismantling proposals. I think it is the wrong approach.

Consider one classic example: Bigfoot. Skepticism is all about taking apart case by case, demonstrating fakery or error, and demolishing the stories of the Bigfoot frauds. That’s useful — in fact, skepticism is most useful in dealing with malicious intent and human fakery — but it doesn’t advance our knowledge significantly. The scientific approach would involve actually studying forest ecology, understanding how the ecosystem works, and getting a handle on what lives in the forest…and at the end, you’re left with something informative about the nature of the habitat, as well as a recognition that a giant ape isn’t part of the puzzle.

I still have a morbid fascination with human credulity, but I also think that’s all it really is: just a gossippy, aren’t humans weird, hobbyish kind of interest. I don’t think it’s useful enough or profound enough to be the kind of thing that Movements can be built around. Skepticism’s pretensions to being a movement increasingly seem a little infatuated to me, although that could be because so much of the US branch of that movement is so very full of smug narcissistic shits.

So we get skeptics who argue against the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke, or anthropogenic climate change— it’s OK, because they’re being critical — and these same skeptical entertainers are lauded for berating an MD and throwing him out of a party, because he had criticized their pandering to a quack…and also their climate change denialism. Do I even need to get into their contemptible sexism or their Libertarian bullshit?

And then the movement as a whole has been wracked with this bizarre denial of sexual harassment, and refusal to deal with the issue. I think part of it has to be a culture of dealing with complications by rejecting them — that the movement is full of individuals whose favored approach to the deplorable messiness of human interactions and the existence of malefactors is by retreating into a Spock-like insistence that the problem does not compute, and therefore can be ignored. It’s a culture of explaining away, rather than explaining.

Yes; those are the ones I can’t stand: the ones who label everything that’s not empirical as “ideology” and treat it as an illegal alien.

PZ ends with a hilarious/disgusting example of obsessive hyperskepticism about…a letter that PZ got from a teenage fan. Yes really. People are weird.



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


Jun 18th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

Soraya shared a pretty astounding ad from about 1967 (I’m estimating) on Facebook.

Photo: The text on this is really priceless.

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

The adult table

Jun 18th, 2014 4:19 pm | By

Ed is underwhelmed by Peter Boghossian.


I have to agree with Taylor Carr’s assessment of Peter Boghossian and his often simpleminded and childish jabs at religion. I think he’s an example of exactly what we don’t need in atheism, someone who is content with making the lowest common denominator insult rather than the thoughtful criticism. A perfect example is this recent Tweet:

Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.

Uh, no. Making a stupid statement like that disqualifies one from sitting at the adult table.

Funny he should mention it, because I’ve disputed one or two of Boghossian’s tweets for the same kind of reason – they can be oversimplified and crude in the manner of Dawkins at his Twitter worst. I’ve even done a post about one such tweet, and there are lots of informative comments. Damn you guys are good.

More from Taylor Carr’s assessment:

I’ve seen a few comments on Facebook calling Boghossian “our version” of young earth creationists, saying that he almost seems like a viral marketing gimmick for the God’s Not Dead film. To this I’ll add that he’s like the Deepak Chopra of atheism. Chopra is a new age ‘guru’ who spouts wisdom that’s eaten up by his followers, yet is less wisdom than it is gibberish. In similar fashion, Boghossian plays to an audience that he knows, one that disdains anything and everything remotely connected to religion. These “cultured despisers” of religion, as Schleiermacher once called them, are quite happy to agree with whatever fits the us vs. them narrative they’ve constructed, along with its clear emphasis on the inherent and unavoidable evils of religion, while little things like arguments, facts, and honest dialogue take a backseat.

Don’t be the Deepak Chopra of anything.

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

The content is now available again in Pakistan

Jun 18th, 2014 11:53 am | By

Hey, Twitter reversed itself on blocking those “blasphemous” tweets in Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities had requested the removal of the material, much of which mocked Islam and other religions, claiming that it was “blasphemous,” “unethical” and violated Pakistan’s Penal Code. Twitter used its Country Withheld Content tool, which blocks content in a particular nation, for the first time in Pakistan, the social network said.

And now it has decided to unuse it.

Twitter issued the following comment Tuesday about its restoration of the blocked content:

“We always strive to make the best, most informed decisions we can when we’re compelled to reactively withhold identified content in specific jurisdictions around the world. On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Consistent with our longstanding policies we provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximize transparency regarding our decision. We have reexamined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan.”

  • The Chilling Effects blog post on restoration of the content


Try to get it right, Twitter. Harassment of individual people? Block that. “Blasphemy”? Don’t block that.

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

A scorching emptiness

Jun 18th, 2014 11:35 am | By

A heart-rending piece by Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, who is still in a Saudi prison for the “crime” of setting up an atheist website.

I still pursue that mirage… two years have passed and I am still faced with a scorching emptiness and a series of agonizing questions.

When will he be back, and in what condition? What will I put on, and how will I react? Should I hug him, kiss him, or should I cry?

I wake up to the torture inflicted upon me by our children’s questions, like: “Mom, will we be leaving tomorrow without Dad, to fly from Beirut to Canada? Will I be afraid of flying? Dad used to help me overcome my fear.”

That’s our ally, Saudi Arabia.

First thing one recent morning, a telephone call from one of Raif’s friends woke me up. He had attended Raif’s trial back in Riyadh on 7 May 2014, and without further ado he said – in a coarse, sad voice – that they had increased Raif’s original sentence of seven years and 600 lashes. I hung up the phone and was overcome with anxiety and stress before bursting into tears! I pulled myself together and recalled that Raif had promised me that he will come back – I do not know when, but he promised me he will!

Every opportunity I get, I always reiterate the same message to the Saudi government. They know very well that Raif is no criminal; instead, he is a prisoner of conscience. The authorities have to abide by the international treaties that provide for the freedom of expression. I wonder whether or not they will ever heed my words.

Saudi Arabia.

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

Ofsted does the decent thing

Jun 17th, 2014 6:20 pm | By

The BHA reports a bit of good news:

Ofsted has today withdrawn and committed to update a briefing for inspectors on ‘faith’ schools that endorsed gender segregation in lessons, as well as restrictions on the teaching of art and music. The British Humanist Association (BHA) criticised the guidance on Thursday after the Times brought it to light, pointing out that it contradicted negative findings from Ofsted and the Education Funding Agency into the practices of schools in Birmingham and of the Al-Madinah School in Derby last year, as well as the stated policy of the Department for Education. The BHA wrote to Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw about the briefing and has welcomed the decision.

It quotes from their statement, which is written in the most impenetrable officialese…I mean, check it out:

In line with the advice provided to the Secretary of State for Education, HM Chief Inspector is considering any lessons for Ofsted following its recent inspections of 21 schools in Birmingham.

You can read this statement on the Parliament website.

As part of this undertaking, he has given instructions for a number of documents under the headings of Subsidiary guidance to support the inspection of maintained schools and academies and Briefings and information for use during inspections of maintained schools and academies to be temporarily taken down while their content is reviewed.

This guidance, updated where necessary, will be re-published shortly.

That third paragraph is a real doozy. Anyway, if the BHA tells me that’s what it means, I’ll take their word for it.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome the news that Ofsted is revising its briefing for inspectors on “faith” schools. It is vital that every young person receives a broad and balanced education free from discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic – regardless of the type of school they are educated in. That Ofsted previously hosted a briefing that was discriminatory on some of these grounds was concerning and we are pleased that it has taken prompt action to rectify this issue.’

Good. Now don’t do it again, Ofsted. Pull your socks up.

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