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.

The Irish blasphemy law

Jul 18th, 2013 5:58 pm | By

Atheist Ireland has made a submission to the Irish Constitutional Convention, looking to get blasphemy out of the Irish Constitution.

3. Why the Irish blasphemy law in particular is harmful

(ii) The preamble to our Constitution states that all authority of the State comes from, and all actions of the State must be referred to the Most Holy Trinity. It also humbly acknowledges all of the obligations of the people of the State to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s just a bonkers thing to have in a constitution. Just nuts. That’s not the kind of thing it’s reasonable to expect an entire population to agree to or submit to! You can’t demand agreement on something that’s not decided by rational means in the first place. It’s not right.

(ii) Under the Irish Constitution, you cannot become President or be appointed as a Judge unless you take a religious oath under God asking god to direct and sustain you in your work. These religious declarations are contrary to Ireland’s obligations under the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

And the reason for that is as above – people have differing views on it and there is no rational way to decide among them and it’s not reasonable to demand that people assent to supernatural claims.

(iv) In Article 44, the State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. This is not even an assertion of the right of citizens to worship this god. It is an assertion of the right of this god to be worshipped by citizens.

Hah! I love that one. That’s very elegant.

(xi) It has been suggested that the law as constructed was made deliberately unworkable to ensure it was never enacted. Even if this was true, such a stance relies upon a prevailing and consistent attitude amongst those in government considered sensible enough to ensure this remains the case. This is a dangerous assumption. We have already seen from the X Case, when the State sought an injunction to prevent a raped pregnant child from leaving the country, that religiously-inspired Constitutional provisions can be implemented when nobody expects it to happen.

Again: bonkers. Don’t make a “deliberately unworkable” law so that it won’t be enacted; just don’t make the law. Don’t play chicken with laws.

(xii) Likewise, if the law was constructed with such assumptions, this is parochial in the extreme and neglects the wider global implications of its existence. Indeed Ireland’s law has explicitly been cited as a precedent that should allow other countries to develop laws against blasphemy. Ireland’s stance on the matter runs counter to what is occurring in other western countries, and its own actions no longer occur in isolation and convey signals to the rest of the world. Blasphemy laws oppress ALL religious believers and non-believers as demonstrated by the actions taken by governments listed in Section 2(b).

Good luck to them. I very much hope they succeed.




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

A sarcastic thank you

Jul 18th, 2013 5:05 pm | By

Mohammed Hanif warmly thanks Adnan Shaheed for his generous letter to Malala Yousafzai.

Thanks for owning up that your comrades tried to kill her by shooting her in the head. Many of your well-wishers in Pakistan had been claiming the Taliban wouldn’t attack a minor girl. They were of the opinion that Malala had shot herself in order to become a celebrity and get a UK visa. Women, as we know, will go to any lengths to get what they want. So thanks for saying that a 14-year-old girl was the Taliban’s foe.

Then he moves on to theology.

Like you, there are others who are still not sure whether it was “Islamically correct or wrong”, or whether she deserved to be “killed or not”, but then you go on to suggest that we leave it to Allah.

There are a lot of people in Pakistan, some of them not even Muslims, who, when faced with difficult choices or everyday hardships, say let’s leave it to Allah. Sometimes it’s the only solace for the helpless. But most people don’t say leave it to Allah after shooting a kid in the face. The whole point of leaving it to Allah is that He is a better judge than any human being, and there are matters that are beyond our comprehension – maybe even beyond your favourite writer Bertrand Russell’s comprehension.

Well actually whole point of leaving it to Allah is that he is supposed to be a better judge than any human being, but what that turns out to mean is always just what the perpetrator decides Allah thinks or wants or decides – in other words it’s just what the perp thinks or wants or decides, dressed up as what “Allah” does. “Leaving it to Allah” doesn’t actually mean anything, because Allah isn’t around and doesn’t send or receive messages, so there really isn’t any way to leave it to Allah.

Allow me to make another small theological point – again about girls. Before the advent of Islam, before the prophet gave us the holy book that you want Malala to learn again, in the times we call jahilia, people used to bury their newborn daughters. They probably found them annoying and thought it better to get rid of them before they learned to speak. We are told Islam came to put an end to such horrendous practices. If 1,400 years later, we have to shoot girls in the head in an attempt to shut them up, someone like Russell might say we haven’t made much progress.


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

How can you tell?

Jul 18th, 2013 1:54 pm | By

A new Dan Cardamon.

How can you tell what a woman wants at any particular moment, I mean, come on.

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

Pick them off one by one

Jul 18th, 2013 1:47 pm | By

One article from the Asian Human Rights Commission leads to another, like this one from July 3 about the murder of one woman who was a women’s rights activist, followed by the murder of her sister who was trying to pursue the murder case.

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the murder of Ms. Shamim Akhter (50), who worked for the Social Welfare organization in Tando Jam, Sindh province. She was brutally chopped to death by her husband Mr. Sajid Mahmood and Police Constable Usman Lodhi on 4 June 2013 (For further information, please see our recent urgent appeal: AHRC-UAC-092-2013).

Now, we have learned that Shamim’s younger sister, Ms. Tasleem Akhter, who was pursuing the murder case against the police and her deceased sister’s husband, has been murdered by three persons riding on a motor bike. Within 25 days, both sisters were murdered by an official of the same police station and his henchmen. The police still refuse to investigate both cases of murder. Tasleem and her nephew Ehtesham were constantly under threat by the local police officials to withdraw their case demanding an inquiry into the murder of her sister.


Ms. Tasleem Akhter (40), younger sister of slain women’s rights activist Ms. Shamim Akhter (50), was gunned down by three armed men at 11: 30 a.m. on 29 June when she was coming back from a court hearing for her petition filed to demand an inquiry into the murder of her sister. Her nephew Ehtesham (brother’s son) was travelling back with his aunt by rickshaw and, as they reached the densely populated area of Sabzi Mandi (Vegetable Market) Station Road, Hyderabad, he saw four persons, including police constable Usman Lodhi, Shahzad, Abdul Hameed and Shahid, come towards the rickshaw. Suddenly the four assailants stopped the rickshaw, dragged Tasleem out and shot her at close range, leaving her injured. She stood up immediately and shouted for help but the constable saw her standing and came back. He shot eight bullets into her body and ran away firing into the air.

The victim’s elder sister, Shamin Akhter, was punished by the police because she was always fighting against the police brutality. Shamim had raised awareness of the murder of a Hindu young man in the Gulashan Hali police station by brutal torture. She was also raising her voice against the police ill-treatment of young women.

Read on, if you can bear it.

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

Death for a mobile phone

Jul 18th, 2013 12:32 pm | By

Via Małgorzata – in Pakistan, a young woman stoned to death for having a mobile phone.

Arifa, a mother of two, has been stoned to death on the orders of Panchayat (a tribal court) for possessing a cell phone. She was executed on 11 July in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province. The victim was stoned to death by her uncle and relatives on the orders of Panchayat after she was found to have a mobile phone.

There’s something wrong here.

I know that’s an understatement, but it’s also the problem. There’s something wrong. There’s something wrong when on the one hand there’s a trivial matter like possession of a mobile phone (on which it would in theory be possible to invite men to fuck her), and on the other hand there’s the vicious murder of a relative who has two children.

There’s something wrong. That shouldn’t even be conceivable. They should have enough family affection, or at least respect for the needs and rights of other people, not to want to murder her. They don’t. There’s something wrong.

Women are often victimized by these illegal judicial systems. This incident is a demonstration of the strong patriarchal society in Pakistan, and women are forced to remain in their clutches. Because of the absence of a proper criminal justice system, the powerful sections of society have complete impunity when they enforce their will.

The incident is a clear reflection of the total collapse of the rule of law in the country, where every section of the government has become utterly redundant in the face of tribal, feudal and religious traditions. The local police have not arrested the members of the Panchayat because the power in the area lies with the landed aristocracy.

Stoning to death is a barbaric act from a primitive society. Society is sent the message that violence is the way to deal with women and other vulnerable groups. Women’s rights are negated through the use of these forms of punishment.

Pakistani society has degenerated to the point that, for a woman, keeping a cell phone has become serious crime. It is treated as a worse crime than gang rape, murder and bomb blasts, through which many people are killed on a daily basis.

And it’s treated as such a crime that an uncle and other relatives see fit to murder their niece/cousin/whatever for committing it. There’s something terribly wrong.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the parliament to legislate against the illegal tribal courts, including the Jirga, Panchayat and Bradari judicial systems. The government must immediately investigate and arrest all the members of the Panchayat for ordering the murder of a woman on the charges of possessing a cell phone. The senior police officers for the district of Dera Ghazi Khan should also be prosecuted for aiding and abetting this heinous crime and neglecting their duty to investigate this case. The upper judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court of Pakistan, must take immediate action against illegal and parallel judicial systems and the killing of innocent people.

Fix it.


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

The Waterloo Bridge that’s gone forever

Jul 18th, 2013 6:20 am | By

The one that was in the Kunsthal, Rotterdam.

File:Waterloo Bridge in London.jpg

Bloomberg has images of all the destroyed paintings.

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

Monet: Charing Cross Bridge

Jul 18th, 2013 6:15 am | By

This one was in Rotterdam, so this one has been burned up in a stove.

File:Charing Cross Bridge, London.jpg


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

Monet: Waterloo Bridge, Effet de Soleil

Jul 18th, 2013 6:05 am | By

This one is at McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, Ontario, so it too is not burned up in a stove.

File:Claude Monet - Waterloo Bridge, Effet de Soleil.jpg


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

Monet: Waterloo Bridge

Jul 18th, 2013 6:03 am | By

This one is at the Hermitage, so it hasn’t been burned up in a stove.

File:Monet, Claude - Waterloo Bridge. Effect of Fog.jpg

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

The remains of canvas and paint

Jul 17th, 2013 4:52 pm | By


Some thieves stole seven paintings from a Rotterdam museum. The paintings have probably been burned up in a stove.


Ash from an oven owned by a woman whose son is charged with stealing seven multimillion-pound paintings, including works by Matisse, Picasso and Monet, contained paint, canvas and nails, a Romanian museum official said on Wednesday.

The discovery could be evidence that Olga Dogaru was telling the truth when she claimed to have burned the paintings, which were taken from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal gallery last year in a daylight heist.

Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, director of Romania‘s National History Museum, told the Associated Press that museum forensic specialists had found small fragments of painting primer, the remains of canvas and paint, and copper and steel nails, some of which pre-dated the 20th century.

“We discovered a series of substances which are specific to paintings and pictures,” he said, including lead, zinc and azurite.

I was furious about the Bamiyan Buddhas. I’m furious about this. Gah.

Via PZ.


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

Sorry we didn’t warn you first!

Jul 17th, 2013 3:54 pm | By

Some imbecile who is a “senior member” of the Taliban has written a criminally stupid “open letter” to Malala Yousafzai explaining why the Taliban shot her and how wrong she was to do the things that forced the Taliban to shoot her. It turns out they had a perfectly valid reason, which is that they thought she was maligning them. Sure; that’s fair. It’s fair the way it’s fair if some impudent girl of 12 refuses to marry some guy she doesn’t know and her family murders her to repair their broken “honor.” Totally fair. Some people matter and get to have things all their way, and other people don’t, and the people in the first group get to kill people in the second group whenever they’re at all annoyed about something.

A senior member of the Pakistani Taliban has written an open letter to Malala Yousafzai – the teenager shot in the head as she rode home on a school bus – expressing regret that he didn’t warn her before the attack, but claiming that she was targeted for maligning the insurgents.

See what I mean about imbecile and criminally stupid? Say what? “Expressing regret that he didn’t warn her before the attack”? Of course he didn’t fucking warn her before the attack! That’s because he wanted her dead! That’s like apologizing for not offering her a cup of tea before shooting her in the head.

Adnan Rasheed, who was convicted for his role in a 2003 assassination attempt on the country’s then-president Pervez Musharraf, did not apologise for the attack, which left Malala gravely wounded, but said he found it shocking.

“I wished it would never happened [sic] and I had advised you before,” he wrote.

Yeah no. Nobody wants your advice, Adnan Rasheed. You’re not the boss of all the things; you don’t get to tell schoolgirls not to go to school or shoot them in the head when they don’t obey you. And you don’t wish it had never happened, you lying scum.

In the letter, Rasheed claimed that Malala was not targeted for her efforts to promote education, but because the Taliban believed she was running a “smearing campaign” against it.

“You have said in your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword,” Rasheed wrote, referring to Malala’s UN speech, “so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school.”

That’s the same thing.

The rambling four-page letter, in patchy English, citing Bertrand Russell, Henry Kissinger and historian Thomas Macaulay, was released to media organisations in Pakistan.

In it, Rasheed – a former member of Pakistan’s air force, who was among 300 prisoners to escape jail in April last year – advises Malala to return to Pakistan, join a female Islamic seminary and advocate the cause of Islam.

Hey I have a better idea – Adnan Rasheed should go to a real school and learn not to be such a stupid vicious fanatic.

H/t Kausik Datta

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

Let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument

Jul 17th, 2013 11:14 am | By

Bwahaha Andrew Brown is such a riot.

Is it really ludicrous that the Vatican should be claiming you can get time off purgatory by following the pope on Twitter?

Yes, Andrew, of course it fucking is!

Yes, it is ludicrous to think there’s a magic supernatural guy in the sky who transcends everything and is too vast and magical and everythings for mere humans to comprehend, who hunches over an iPad keeping track of human beings retweeting the pope. Yes, that is very very ludicrous.

There are obvious problems. If as a materialist you don’t believe in purgatory, or hell, or any kind of moral balancing in an afterlife, then the whole thing is absurd, though no more absurd than any other belief about purgatory.

No, actually, it is more absurd than other beliefs about purgatory, because of the absurd gulf between the ignorant medieval idea of purgatory and the modernity and technical knowledge of Twitter. There’s also the whole thing about the supposed fate of a putative eternal soul on the one hand and fiddling about with Twitter on the other. Yes, that is more absurd than other, vaguer or more traditional beliefs about purgatory. It is risibly more absurd.

But let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the pope does have an informed opinion on what behaviour pleases God and benefits the soul.

Oh sure, and let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Cinderella is sitting next to me drinking champagne and playing Angry Birds. Let’s suppose any old ridiculous thing, just for the sake of argument, and then once we do that why guess what, it’s no longer absurd. The argument wins!

Or as a commenter put it

If you grant that the world’s poised on top of a giant tortoise, it’s not daft to think the tortoise could have five legs. Er …

Andrew, time for your summer break. Find a darkened room, and lie down with an iced pillow on your head. It’s all going to be all right.

Andrew is a funny, funny guy.

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

If you can’t leave, that’s prison

Jul 17th, 2013 10:28 am | By

The Taoiseach has told the religious orders to have a serious think about their refusal to pay any compensation to the women who did slave labor in the Magdalen laundries for decades. This was a for-profit business the orders were running, and the women got literally no payment at all. That’s slavery, and a pretty damn harsh version of it at that.

The four orders have told the Government they will not contribute to the redress scheme set up to compensate the former residents of the laundries. The scheme is expected to cost between €34 million and €58 million.

The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in recent days that they will not pay into the fund.

Laughable, isn’t it. Mercy. Charity. Good shepherd. All that, yet they refuse to pay back wages to women they enslaved. What mercy? What charity? What good shepherd?

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter earlier ruled out stripping the orders involved in running the Magdalene laundries of their charitable status.

He told the Dáil yesterday he believed the orders had a “moral and ethical” obligation to contribute.

One of the groups representing the former residents, Magdalene Survivors Together, called on the Government to strip the orders of their charitable status.

Spokesman Steven O’Riordan said access should be sought to their accounts and their assets.

“The religious orders in question should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. They should be ashamed of themselves and the Irish Government should be going over to the religious orders and demanding access to their accounts. They should be demanding access to their accounts and their land and they should be demanding them to cough up for the injustice that they created in our society.”

Morally, if not legally, they should.

Asked whether there was scope to take legal action against the religious orders, Mr Shatter said: “No, the reality is there isn’t scope to take legal action against them.

“This is a moral and ethical issue. The Magdalene laundries as we know provided a form of refuge for many women, but it was an extraordinarily harsh regime and there was the issue of women working unpaid in the laundries and the impact on their lives of the experience of the laundries.”

No. Come on. You can’t call it refuge, even “a form of refuge,” when they couldn’t leave. They were unlawfully imprisoned, and it’s not right to call that any kind of refuge.


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

Neither right nor left

Jul 17th, 2013 9:50 am | By

Speaking of Ken White Popehat – he has an interesting post on Nancy Grace. (Who? She has a US cable “news” show about The Judgin [to use Peter Cook's label], which I’ve never seen but have a vague sense of by reputation – which can be summed up with the odious word “feisty.”)

He starts with the enigma of her politics, which combines tropes from all (banal) directions, so what actually is she? None of those, but something they don’t cover.

Nancy Grace’s political bent is quite recognizable to me.  She’s not liberal or conservative, and no principled view of gun ownership or race or women’s rights drives her coverage.  No, she’s a vigorous statist, at least with respect to criminal justice.  Her political viewpoint is perfectly internally consistent.  As a statist, purpose of the criminal justice system is to convict and punish to the maximum extent possible people accused by the government.  To determine whether someone has committed a brutal and dastardly crime, all you need to know is whether the government has said they did.  That’s why defense attorneys are worthy of contempt:  they are, by definition, trying to obstruct justice.  That’s why she questions and despises constitutional rights:  they are mere impediments to the guilty being punished.  (That view, no doubt, fueled her penchant for prosecutorial misconduct.)  That’s why anyone who might speak in support of a defendant infuriates her: they are objectively pro-crime.  That’s why she’s defiant when law enforcement abandons a suspect in favor of a new one:  we have always been at war with Eastasia!  That’s why she is perplexed and abrasive when actual crime victims don’t act the way she thinks they should; the role of a crime victim is to advance the state’s chosen narrative.  That’s how she decides whether she’s an opponent of the abuse of women (as in the Duke Lacrosse case) or a snide opponent of a defense of battered woman’s syndrome (as in the Jodi Arias case):  she doesn’t decide, the state does by making its accusation.

Nancy Grace is the clumsy and ill-considered personification of frightened devotion to the will of the state.  She’s the mob made one flesh, the embodiment of our fears, our hope that the government will save us, our worry that it might not.  The notion that the state can be counted upon to accuse the right person, and that the justice system will punish the guilty and only the guilty, is comforting; the concept that the system is flawed and fallible is terrifying.  Due process, like any sort of freedom, is scary and messy.  How much more soothing it would be to believe, like Nancy, that the state is right, and that anything or anyone that stands in the state’s way may be righteously denounced.

Nancy Grace exists.  This is distasteful and regrettable but inevitable, and should be tagged and filed away with other evidence of our brokenness.  Her existence and her viewpoint is not what terrifies me.  What frightens and shocks me is how mainstream it is, how it’s simply a slightly less polished version of what we hear from our leaders of the “left” and “right” every day.  Once, if someone were described as “liberal” or “conservative,” we could draw some conclusions about their opposition to unrestricted state power, or to vigorous defense of the rights of the accused.  Now — particularly after 9/11 — that is not the case.  It’s statists all the way down.

I wonder how much of that is 9/11 versus how much of it is the Law and Order franchise – the many tv iterations, not the concept. I suspect the latter has done a lot to nudge people in the direction of statism over the years. (And by “people” I mean “including me” – I certainly don’t think I’m immune to influences like that.)

Read that one first and then his post on Zimmerman, and see what you think.


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

The disproportionate and disturbed anger

Jul 16th, 2013 6:12 pm | By

On Monday July 1 I was walking around in Dublin so I didn’t see Ken’s Popehat post Why Does Talking About Creepers And Harassment Make People So Angry? I didn’t see it until now, when a correspondent pointed it out to me.

I confess:  I still don’t get it.

We write about things that make people angry:  sometimes on purpose (u mad bro?), sometimes because the topic interests us.  But few topics are as consistent in their ability to draw anger and trolling and bizarre visitors as the issue of sexual harassment and responses to it.

If I talk about my experiences training clients’ employees in how to avoid sexual harassment, I draw nutters.  If I talk about sites that discuss bad behavior towards women in gaming culture — great sites like Fat, Ugly, or Sluttypeople get angry.  Discussions of outing and vigorous more-speech remedies seem to be more controversial when the target is chosen for being a creeper rather than, say, a racist.  Even the abstract subject of this post — the meta-examination of why the subject of harassment is so incendiary to some — generates some of the most vituperative comments we ever see here.

I still don’t get it too either, but I can certainly corroborate it. Yeah. For years I just quietly blogged away and there were disagreements but they were just disagreements. And then everything changed, because sexual harassment.

 When people discuss this sort of behavior on forums and blogs dedicated to the culture, the responses are salted with vicious and seemingly unbalanced anger, anger that I don’t see in other contexts.

Like I said, I don’t get it.

I was thinking about this over the weekend because an author talked about the process of reporting harassment at a convention, and out tumbled two things:  anger, and stories  of women putting up all the time in this subculture with creepers.  The experiences are not new; perhaps the willingness to talk about it is only emerging, as is a willingness to speak up when women are classed as chainmail-bikini-chicks and “lady writers.”

I’m not saying that every accusation of sexual harassment is truthful; no class of accusations should be treated as presumptively true.  I’m not saying that every perception of sexism is fair-minded or rational; no class of human grievance is uniformly trustworthy.  I’m not saying that people should shut up about emerging norms about public behavior towards women if they disagree with those norms; I’m a free speech advocate, and I think people should participate in the marketplace of ideas if they are willing to pay the toll of being disagreed with.  I’m not calling for adherence to dogma; we should call out dogma when it conflicts with real values like due process.  What I’m doing is questioning the disproportionate and, to be blunt, disturbed anger that arises over this particular subject. I’m questioning how easily the “criticism of my good-natured kidding is tyrannical censorship” trope is brought to bear when the issue is sexism or sexual harassment.  I’m questioning why the — pardon me — hysterical terms like “lynch mob” are so quickly brought to bear when this is the subject.  I’m questioning why on some issues — say, race — incoherent basement-stinking fury is relegated to places like Stormfront, but when it comes to sex it’s alarmingly close to the mainstream.  I’m asking why is it that if I write about racism, truly nutty and racist response are fairly rare, but if I talk about sexual harassment or sexism, I can count on being classified as a “white knight” or “mangina” or “pink shirt” or homosexual or something.

I don’t know. I do not know. But it’s good that people are asking.

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

The Twitter route out of purgatory

Jul 16th, 2013 5:04 pm | By


Vatican offers ‘time off purgatory’ to followers of Pope Francis tweets

[gasp] On the one hand purgatory, on the other hand tweets.


In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis’ tweets.

The church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins.

Reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory? What good is that?? Surely the believers want the indulgences to reduce the actual time Catholics have to spend in purgatory. I wonder if that’s the actual deal, or if it’s just the reporter’s clumsy attempt to say that some people don’t believe in purgatory.

The remissions got a bad name in the Middle Ages because unscrupulous churchmen sold them for large sums of money. But now indulgences are being applied to the 21st century.

But a senior Vatican official warned web-surfing Catholics that indulgences still required a dose of old-fashioned faith, and that paradise was not just a few mouse clicks away.

“You can’t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks – such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate’s house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.

Ok, I think I understand. You can’t get an indulgence just by clicking a mouse a few times, but you can get one by climbing some stairs. Fair enough. The Vatican wants people to stay in shape.

But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.

Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

“That includes following Twitter,” said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis’ Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. “But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet.”

In its decree, the penitentiary said that getting an indulgence would hinge on the beneficiary having previously confessed and being “truly penitent and contrite”.

Oh dear god, how can anyone take them seriously? It makes as much sense as taking Sylvia Browne seriously.

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

It was they who exploited the women

Jul 16th, 2013 4:43 pm | By

And speaking of the Magdalenes – here is a petition you can sign, to force the orders who ran the Magdalen laundries to pay compensation to the victims.

They have refused to make payment of compensation, leaving this to the Irish Government but it was they who exploited the women, they who ran the laundries and they who should pay for the abuse they committed.  Letting them get away with not paying would be a true travesty of justice.

As is so common with the church.


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

Guest post on unethical vaccine experiments in Ireland

Jul 16th, 2013 4:38 pm | By

A comment that came in late on a post from last week, and I didn’t want it to go overlooked. By Mari Steed.

In August 2011, after filing a DPA request with GSK, the HSE South (record-holders for Sacred Heart Adoption Society files), I was able to confirm that I was part of the active 4-in-one vaccine trials group (1960-61 at Bessboro). And despite that myself and two others were actively sought out and contacted by the law firm Shannon Solicitors, who seemed to firmly believe we had a case, solicitor Vincent Shannon later dumped us like a hot potato with little explanation given.

Life and the Magdalene Laundries campaign intervened, so I set this issue aside for the nonce. But I am now ready to take it up again, most likely as one of just many human rights abuses under the umbrella of Ireland’s forced adoption schemes, including trafficking of children abroad.

For the skeptics, I’m not out to skin GSK or science (being an ardent science fan). However, all of my experimental injections were given prior to October 1961, when, according to the Irish Dept. of Foreign Affairs, my mother signed formal relinquishment. We were both resident at Bessboro until December 1961. That means that legally I was still her child and no permission was ever sought from her for my participation in the trials. And no follow-up was ever done with my adoptive parents in the US to insure I suffered no ill effects. Bad science? You betcha. Watch this space…we’re not done yet.

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

HRW on setbacks for women in Afghanistan

Jul 16th, 2013 3:48 pm | By

Another press release.

(Kabul) – Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, should reject a proposed criminal law revision that would effectively deny women legal protection from domestic violence, Human Rights Watch said today. A new draft of the criminal procedure code, seen by Human Rights Watch, is currently being considered by Afghanistan’s parliament.

The proposed language would prohibit the relatives of a criminal defendant from being questioned as a witness against the accused. Should this provision become law, victims and other family members who have been witnesses to abuse will be silenced in domestic violence cases, making successful prosecutions unlikely.

“Afghanistan’s lower house is proposing to protect the batterers of women and girls from criminal punishment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Legislative approval of this criminal law revision would effectively stop prosecutions of people who beat, forcibly marry, and even sell their female relatives.”

Article 26 of the draft law, entitled “Forbiddance of Questioning an Individual as a Witness,” states that “The following people cannot be questioned as a witness: … 4) Relatives of the accused person.” The amended procedure code would pose a serious threat to critical protections for women and girls embodied in Afghanistan’s groundbreaking Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (the EVAW Law), passed by presidential decree in 2009. The EVAW law provides criminal penalties for various abuses including rape, child marriage, forced marriage, domestic violence, sale of women and girls, and baad, the giving of girls to resolve disputes between families.

The proposed ban on testifying against relatives follows several other efforts by the Wolesi Jirga to further weaken the inadequate legal protections for women’s rights, Human Rights Watch said. Members of parliament opposed to women’s rights have increasingly sought to repeal or weaken the EVAW Law. A Wolesi Jirga debate over the EVAW Law in May 2013 was halted after 15 minutes when parliamentarians called for revisions that would have eliminated the minimum marriage age for girls, abolished shelters, and ended criminal penalties for rape and domestic violence. Although the EVAW law has been slowly and unevenly enforced, it has been a crucial tool for fighting violence against women.

You kind of start to think they’re doing this for a reason, almost as if they want to commit violence against women.

The legislative threat emerging from the Wolesi Jirga coincides with other recent developments that indicate a broad-based attack on women’s rights which the government has contributed to, rather than opposed:

  • President Hamid Karzai appointed to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) a former Taliban government official, Abdul Rahman Hotak, who publicly denounced the EVAW Law. Hotak was quoted in the New York Times on July 1 saying, “The people who have written that law do not know Afghanistan and Afghan society very well – perhaps they think Kabul is Afghanistan.” The same week he told Reuters that in his view the EVAW Law is “violating Islam” and there should be a law that people are “comfortable” with.
  • Another ominous sign of the ongoing rollback in women’s rights in Afghanistan was the decision in early July by an appeals court to release three family members convicted for the torture and starvation of a teenage in-law, Sahar Gul, after serving only about a year of a 10-year sentence for her attempted murder. In 2011, Sahar Gul’s stepbrother sold her for US$5000 to be forcibly married. She was about age 13 or 14 at the time. According to media reports, soon after the marriage her in-laws attempted to force Sahar Gul into prostitution. When she resisted, the in-laws locked her in the basement of their house for months, burned her, pulled out her fingernails and pinched her with pliers. She was found in December 2011 locked in the basement, badly malnourished. The appeals court reversed the sentence and instead ordered the release of Gul’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law for lack of evidence of attempted murder.
  • On July 3, unidentified assailants shot and killed Islam Bibi, the most senior female police officer in insecure Helmand province, on her way to work. The murder highlighted the risks to women in public life and the Afghan government’s failure to protect women under threat.

The escalating setbacks to women’s rights have not deterred the Afghan government from trying to put a positive spin on recent developments, Human Rights Watch said. On July 10, an Afghan delegation at the United Nations in Geneva for the first review of Afghanistan’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), assured the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that the Afghan government is fully committed to implementing CEDAW and to promoting women’s rights.

“While Afghan officials give lip service to women’s rights at the UN, the president, parliament and courts are actively undermining those rights,” Adams said. “Afghanistan’s foreign donors should be loud and clear that they won’t stand by while Afghan women’s hard-won rights are swept away.”

So that women won’t be murdered or raped or locked up and tortured. That’s not asking so much…

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

Saturday afternoon in Dublin

Jul 16th, 2013 3:33 pm | By

In Dublin a couple of weeks ago -

Photo: At  "Empowering Women Through Secularism 2013" International Conference in Dublin with Ophelia Benson, Marie Therese Loughlin, Venie Martin, Taslima Nasrin, Maryam Namazie, and Farhana Shakir

Next to me but one is Venie Martin, Taslima, Shah Nawaz, Maryam, and Farhana Shakir.

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