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.

Comedy Hour

Dec 29th, 2011 10:37 am | By

Priests. Greek Orthodox priests, Armenian priests. Cleaning up the “Church of the Nativity” in Bethlehem. For the Orthodox Christmas on January 7. Scrub scrub, dust dust, polish polish, sweep sweep. Bash bash. Bash bash bash bash bash bash.


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

Tiny dog

Dec 28th, 2011 4:53 pm | By

Another one. Just for fun.

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


Dec 28th, 2011 4:46 pm | By

Jason Thibeault says why it’s useful that Rebecca Watson draws the pus of frothing misogyny out into the open where we can see it and then pour bleach on everything in sight.

Maybe not so good for her, but for all of us. These magical superpowers of hers are probably a curse for her own sanity, but they are a boon for our society, for our respective communities. It’s excellent that she can draw so much attention to the problem, and can draw out the people who are, in essence, part of it, where they can make examples of themselves. The “touch of boorishness” that she can draw out of complete strangers just by mentioning this nonsense is exactly the type of attitude we need to cleanse from our systems, to keep from becoming an entrenched part of our culture. We have to draw this venom out of our skeptical communities’ bodies somehow.

If we don’t know about it, we can’t deal with it. I’m not very optimistic that we can deal with it even if we do know about it, but I’m sure we can’t if it’s kept away from the fresh air and sunlight.

More from Jen, John, Ed, PZ.


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

We have to base our behaviour according to scripture

Dec 28th, 2011 11:14 am | By

It appears that David Cameron is jealous of theocracy. He wants him some of that extra goddy power!

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK is a Christian country “and we should not be afraid to say so” in a speech in Oxford on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible….

And he staunchly defended the role of religion in politics and said the Bible in particular was crucial to British values.

Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Catholic weekly The Tablet, is chuffed.

“But what Christianity is really about is putting the least first. It requires us to feed the hungry, visit prisoners, have time for the lonely, fight for the oppressed, and love our enemies.”

No it isn’t. If Christianity were about putting the least first then it wouldn’t have put women last all this time, nor would the pope and the Vatican be telling the world’s Catholics not to use condoms despite the existence of the Aids virus, nor would Catholic bishops try to force Catholic hospitals to refuse to save women’s lives via abortion.

In a world riven with inequality, the belief that we are all equal before God requires that we speak up against those inequalities.

Bullshit, Catherine Pepinster. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. Your church is one of the last big defenders of inequality.

More sinister than Pepinster, though, is MCB member and imam from Leicester, Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra:

As Muslims we also believe in the Bible. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. Not only that, but in the teachings of all the biblical prophets, including Moses in the Torah. So this is something that we feel is absolutely in tune with the Muslim thinking. We have to base our behaviour according to scripture, God’s revealed message.

For a long time Muslims have been trying to express this idea, that for us as Muslims Islam is not just a religion but a way of life. To divorce politics from religion is not something we are able to do, we cannot leave our religion at home or in the mosques, it comes with us wherever we go. So it’s refreshing to hear the prime minister say Christians should do the same.

As Maryam said – be afraid.

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

Just for fun

Dec 27th, 2011 5:00 pm | By

Cooper on the beach.

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

Post-born children don’t matter so much

Dec 27th, 2011 4:30 pm | By

There’s a thing called Personhood USA.

The Primary Mission of Personhood USA is to serve Jesus by being an Advocate for those who can not speak for themselves, the pre-born child. We serve by starting / coordinating efforts to establish legal “personhood” for pre-born children through peaceful activism, legislative efforts and ballot-access petition initiatives.

By “pre-born child” of course it means the embryo; by “pre-born” it means “inside the body of a woman whose wishes are entirely beside the point.” By “personhood” it means “usurping the rights of the woman who is gestating the embryo.”


It is pleased that Ron Paul signed the “Personhood Pledge” but it is also suspicious.

Upon receiving the signed pledge with the addendum, Personhood USA requested clarification from the Paul campaign for inconsistencies between the accompanying statement and the pledge language.

The pledge requires that the candidates “stand…with the Republican Party platform in affirming that [they] “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.”

Regarding the latter, Rep. Paul stated that “The Fourteenth Amendment was never intended to cancel out the Tenth Amendment. This means that I can’t agree that the Fourteenth Amendment has a role to play here, or otherwise we would end up with a ‘Federal Department of Abortion.’”

Uh oh. Could be problems ahead. But don’t worry; I’m sure between them they’ll be able to figure out a way to remove women’s rights over their own bodies.

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

Aesthetic interlude

Dec 27th, 2011 3:21 pm | By

Just to knock your socks off -

Photography in the style of traditional Chinese painting of the Song and Yuan dynasties by Don Hong-Oai.


There are lots more; go look. They’re sensational.

Via Julia Galef at Facebook.

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

Decent women don’t have “crisis pregnancies”

Dec 27th, 2011 12:41 pm | By

And if we haven’t had enough religious bullying today, here’s another batch.

As ThinkProgress has reported, so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that claim to help women in need are actually established by anti-abortion activists with the sole objective of shaming women out of having abortions. Despite receiving federal and state funding, they have a history of preying on and misleading pregnant women who are seeking abortions and giving them false medical information to dissuade them from making their own decisions.

After a year-long investigation, a new report to be released today by the pro-choice group NARAL reveals that those problems plague the vast majority of North Carolina’s crisis pregnancy centers. In addition to providing false medical information, many of the centers actively proselytize and tell women of non-Christian faiths to convert or face damnation

The number of centers in North Carolina has nearly doubled since 2006, and there are eight times as many of them as there are abortion clinics. Carey Pope, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the group’s investigators found numerous instances where crisis pregnancy centers were misinforming and misleading women. “Staff and volunteers often use propaganda to dissuade women from abortions,” she said.

Publicly funded; 8 times more of them than abortion providers; medical misinformation; convert or face damnation. One-stop shopping!

North Carolina’s GOP lawmakers have flooded these anti-abortion centers with taxpayer money while defunding Planned Parenthood and taking money away from legitimate family planning centers that provide medical services. Two new state laws will drive even more funding and patients their way. Money from sales of the new “Choose Life” license plates will go to the centers, and starting this Wednesday, a state-run website will launch and list the places that provide free ultrasounds.

Keep those pesky women down.

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

Not a touch

Dec 27th, 2011 12:02 pm | By


Massimo Pigliucci did a skeptical post on Hitchens a couple of days ago, and Jerry Coyne defends Hitchens today. I mostly agree with the defense, but…hmmm.

Misogynyist? Does Pigluicci know what that means?  Let us check the Oxford English Dictionary. “Misogyny: Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.”  I don’t think Hitch hated, disliked, or was prejudiced against women. Sometimes he was mildly paternalistic, as when he claimed that his wife didn’t have to work, and sometimes he made boorish remarks verging on sexism, as in his famous critique of the Dixie Chicks. (But remember that he used equal invective against people like Jerry Falwell, and was not accused of being a man-hater.)

[Update: The last sentence quoted above has now been altered, but I quoted it as it was at the time.]

Not verging on sexism; sexism, and not a million miles from misogyny. Disagreeing with women by calling them fucking fat slags is sexism and it does at least hint at the presence of misogyny. Men who don’t hate women as a category tend not to call them names of that kind.

So often these days, especially on atheist websites, a touch of sexism or boorishness, or even a criticism of a woman, is instantly condemned as “misognyny.”


If by “a touch of sexism or boorishness” he means calling a woman a cunt, a bitch, a twat, a slag, a smelly snatch, not once but over and over and over again – then I call bullshit. That’s not “a touch of sexism or boorishness.” If atheist blogs are calling it what it is, then well done atheist blogs.

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

Behold the whore

Dec 27th, 2011 11:00 am | By

I couldn’t watch more than a couple of minutes of the video of Na’ama Margolese without getting too angry to keep watching. It’s so disgusting that grown men consider it their “religious duty” or some such fucking nonsense to bully and threaten a little girl, call her a slut, and spit on her.

…she was featured in a news  broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 about the ongoing Haredi harassment of the girls who attend the Orot Banot School, and about the problem of extreme Haredi control in Beit Shemesh in general.

Naama spoke on camera of her fears while walking the short distance from her home to her school, after numerous occasions when she was cursed at and even once spit on by the Haredi demonstrators. Israeli viewers watched as her mother,  Hadassah, holding her hand, tried to convince her to make the short walk as she cried, whined and protested; it’s a ritual they go through every school day.

Members of an extremist Haredi group that have settled there over the past several years have been pushing for the creation of gender-segregated bus lines, designating parts of the city where women and men were directed to separate on public streets, and harassing the girls of Orot Banot on the ground that they did not dress modestly enough.

A Jewish Taliban, in short. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you? A Baptist Taliban, a Mormon Taliban, a Mennonite Taliban? Who knows, but the fashion is disquieting.

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

Pope says: be stupid

Dec 26th, 2011 4:22 pm | By

The pope said more in his homily than “look behind the pretty sparkly glitter.” He said the door to a church in Bethlehem is only a meter and a half high, which means people can’t enter the church while riding a horse. He thinks that’s way deep.

Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus’ birth has to bend down. It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason.

And there’s the voice of the cleric for you, telling you that reason is a nasty kind of snobbish upper class superiority which has to be abandoned along with our infatuated notions of reason being enlightened, so that we can “find” the god-baby. There’s the voice of the cleric telling you to ditch the best thing about you so that you can be stupid and ignorant so that he can go on wearing expensive robes.

We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby.

No we must not, you evil bastard. We must set aside our blind mindless unthinking “faith” so that we can make use of our reason and realize that there is no “God” and so no “God’s closeness.” We must pay attention to the world around us and realize that if protection rackets like yours are telling us to be stupid and ignorant, it means you’re trying to fool us. You bend down if you want to, but I’m going to go on doing my best to see things as they are, and encouraging other people to do likewise. Keep your saint and your baby and your portal of faith. I want to go with the grownups.

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

People can be so ineffable

Dec 26th, 2011 11:40 am | By

I’d pretty much forgotten about Hugo Schwyzer, but I still (just) recognized the name, so I was motivated to read Comrade Physioprof’s post on him the other day, and startled by what it told me.

Now I find out for the first time (also see the comments) (although this is not newly public information, just new to me) that over a decade ago the motherfucker sexually preyed on his students and attempted to murder his ex-girlfriend, as described graphically on his blogge:

I walked into the little kitchen only steps from where my ex lay. I blew out the pilot lights on our gas oven and on the burners, and turned the dials on everything up to maximum. I pulled the oven away from the wall, leaving the gas line intact, positioning it so that the gas was blowing directly at the passed-out young woman on the floor.

Schwyzer claims to be a “male feminist” and to have focused his life on feminism out of remorse and to make amends for his past grotesque history of woman-hating and violence, including both having sex with his female students and attempting to murder his ex-girlfriend. This opportunistic motherfucker is full of shitte.

PZ’s post on him today prompted me to dig up the posts that relate to my long ago clash with Schwyzer. It was April 2004. I had been invited to join the group blog about history Cliopatria at History News Network a few months earlier, and had been enjoying myself there…and then Hugo Schwyzer joined. I posted about the problem that arose almost as soon as he joined.

It’s fundamental disagreement time.  I disagree radically with a line of argument at Cliopatria, and what’s worse, the kind of argument it is makes it very difficult to dispute as directly and bluntly as I would like to – or as I would like to in one sense but would not like to in another.  That’s exactly the problem.  I may decide to leave Cliopatria as a result – because as it is, I seem to be semi-acquiescing in views that are anathema to me.

My politics are derived from my faith, not the other way around. When I was younger, and a secular liberal, my politics were the only faith I had! Since coming to Christ (and yes, I do call myself “born again” without embarrassment), I have had to rebuild my politics from the ground up. When I consider political questions, I am forced to ask myself what position I believe Christ calls me to. This isn’t easy, for any number of obvious reasons, starting with the fact that the New Testament is not a modern political manual. This is why I can’t merely allow myself to hunt and peck through Scripture, finding passages that support my already-in-place suppositions about justice. (Many liberal and conservative Christians alike do this; it’s an understandable habit, but a bad one). Rather, I have to be open to what the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and my church community are telling me about right, wrong, peace and war and so forth…The Christian left must be faithful to Christ first, not secular dogma. Where our agendas and our understandings coincide, so much the better. But at times, we will stand with our Christian brethren on the right of the political spectrum, not out of sectarian loyalty but out of a sense that, as Carter said, “discerning God’s will and doing it is prior to everything else.” It is no easy thing to claim to have discerned God’s will. No wise Christian tries to do it alone. We do it in the light of (thanks Wesley) Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience; above all we do it prayerfully, humbly, and together.

You can see how it was. I had simply assumed, without (that I recall) even wondering about it, that Cliopatria was a secular blog. What else would it be?! History is a secular subject that relies on secular methods. Historians don’t argue from revelation or “scripture” or divine afflatus. I found Hugo’s post wrong-headed and sinister, and also toe-curlingly embarrassing. I didn’t want to be on a blog that hosted that kind of thing. I also didn’t feel comfortable about saying so on the blog itself – which itself would be an obstacle. All of a sudden there was a big Taboo in the middle of the thing, and that wasn’t what I had signed up for.

And that wasn’t all. As you’ll see if you read the post, there was a lot of pushback from Ralph Luker of Cliopatria, who had invited me to join in the first place – a lot of very goddy pushback. This was 2004, before the monster Gnu Atheism was born, so I was foolishly surprised at the rising ferocity. Eventually Ralph called me Madame Defarge, which probably helped to make me the gnu I am today.

In the next round, I tried to figure out how Luker and others know so much about god when they escape pressing questions by saying god is ineffable.

One of the problems with religion when one is trying to have a rational discussion is that kind of having it both ways.  God is ineffable etc. but that won’t stop us from knowing all about it.  That kind of move doesn’t work in secular discussion, and doesn’t get resorted to as much.  But with religion – well, you know, everyone means something different, and it’s ineffable, and you can’t pin it down or define it, and if you try to you’re just being literal and scientistic…

And that’s where I decided to stop, and transfer over here, instead.  But that is a serious question.  I am constantly being told that when I disagree with religion on substantive issues I misunderstand because that’s not what it’s about, it’s about awe and wonder, or love, or inner experience.  But that’s not what Hugo’s post is about at all.  It’s about taking the Bible as a guide to morals, and without picking and choosing, because that’s a bad habit.  It’s about replacing one’s existing suppositions about justice with God’s will.  It’s about taking direction from the Holy Spirit – not metaphorically but literally.  That is the kind of thing that worries me, not awe or wonder, and not ineffable things (provided people don’t then decide that they’re effable after all when a different argument is going on).

And then I did a final post saying goodbye to Cliopatria, prompted by another goddy post by Hugo Schwyzer, which started with:

Debate here and elsewhere on the intersection of faith and historical method led me to this fine article from 2001 in Christianity Today.  It featured this terrific quotation from Mark Noll, who says what I have been trying to say in all of these debates for some time (but without much success):

Asked about the anti-supernaturalism of history, Noll made a distinction between what he called”ordinary” and”providential” history. Ordinary history, he said, limits itself to”evidence and causes and effects that almost everyone can be convinced might have taken place.” While ordinary history might look quite secular, Noll sees it as fundamentally Christian in its presuppositions and worldview. He compared it to science. Christian scientists do their work with confidence because they believe that the world will make sense, and that God has made it possible for the human mind to understand the world.  So with the historian.”If I want to study the history of the American Revolution, I’m presupposing that something real took place, that the evidence left corresponds in some way to what really took place, that I’m intelligent enough to understand that evidence, that I’m able to put together a plausible explanation of cause and effect that might get us close to the truth,” Noll said.”All those enterprises I see as implicitly dependent on a Christian view of God.”

It was rather obnoxious of Schwyzer, I thought. He could have simply kept the goddy stuff to himself, but he made a point of not doing that; he forced it on the rest of us, as bossy goddy types always do.

It’s fascinating to learn about this other side of him now.

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

Holy misogyny

Dec 25th, 2011 3:45 pm | By

More festive jollity, this time in Jerusalem Israel.

Residents of an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Beit Shemesh called Israel police officers “Nazis” on Sunday, after they removed a sign ordering the separation of men and women in a street in that neighborhood.

In response to the removal of the sign by police officers and city inspectors from Beit Shemesh, a crowd of local ultra-Orthodox residents gathered around them, shouting and cursing at them. One man hurled rocks at the police officers, but managed to flee the scene. No one was hurt and no arrests were made.

Several hours after the police removed the sign, residents of the neighborhood reinstated it.

Earlier on Sunday, a Channel 2 news team was attacked and beaten by 200 ultra-Orthodox men at the same location on the street where the sign that was removed had been hanging.

Nice guys.

Update: forgot to thank Stewart for the link.

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


Dec 25th, 2011 10:46 am | By

The pope really makes it too easy. Candy from a baby is arduous in comparison.

In his homily [at Christmas eve mass the pope] said: “Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem.”

Oh yes? See through the superficial glitter is it?


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

Well merry xmas to you too

Dec 25th, 2011 10:08 am | By

Says Boko Haram, setting off bombs in churches and elsewhere that kill 32 people and injure many more. God is love, Allah is merciful, compassion is at the heart of every great religion, boom boom boom. Screams, agony, blood, death, sorrow, loss. What a nice present.

Businessman Munir Nasidi was in a hotel opposite the church when the blast occurred.

He told the BBC: “When I came out of the hotel, people were running around. Everyone was crying. They were bringing out casualties. Nobody was getting near the building as there was a fire.”

Bomb blast victim is in Suleja, Nigeria, 25 Dec

Peace, love, good will.

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

In a spirit of rational inquiry

Dec 24th, 2011 5:52 pm | By

A question is posed:

Reasonable people can disagree in good faith about the wisdom of writing a book, employing a particular rhetorical style, or articulating a particular speech act. They can do a proper moral calculus, and come to a different conclusion. They can be attentive to the same evidence, worry about the same moral issues, and come to a different determination.

If one accepts this point, how should one react if somebody else suggests that perhaps one ought not to write a book, or that one ought to tone down some rhetoric, or go easy with some criticism?

Well, at least one answer, which in my more pious moments I’m inclined to favour, is that one should ask whether their request – or even demand – has any merit. Are their concerns legitimate – can you see what they’re worrying about? Is their position held in good faith (since even if you think they’re mistaken, this is a relevant datum in terms of how one should view their character, etc)? Does their position have at least some evidential merit? In other words, one should react in a spirit of rational enquiry – after all, it’s possible they’ve got a point, and it’s possible that a lot is riding on getting things right.

How one should not react is simply to assume that they are beyond the moral pale because they make the request or demand. Sometimes, shutting up is the best option. And sometimes telling people to shut up is morally justified (and perhaps even obligated).

This question was posed after I posted The dancer from the dance. Perhaps that’s a coincidence.

Be that as it may, I’ll say how I answer the question. How should one react? It depends. It depends on a lot of things. It depends on who is asking or demanding, and what that who has said in the past, and whether that who has or seems to have an agenda other than the stated one. It depends on the situation, and the reasons given, and one’s own understanding of all those.

In a sense, of course one should ask all those questions. Of course, if the demand has any merit, one should take it into consideration. That’s almost tautological. If someone has good reasons, then one should pay attention to the reasons. You bet.

But it’s also true that sometimes one already knows the request or demand has no merit. Sometimes one has already seen and discussed the request or demand; one has asked for merit; one has examined the concerns; one has considered their legitimacy; and one has determined, to the best of one’s ability, that they have little or no merit. One is in such cases not assuming that the requests or demands are without merit, one is concluding that they are, based on reasons.

And the burden is not only on the person being told to shut up. That part got left out of the questions. It’s a very intrusive request or demand, telling other people what and how to write. There’s a large presumption against it, because we value free expression and free inquiry. The people being told to shut up or tone it down are not the only ones who have to do some careful thinking and question-asking.

We (the two authors of Does God Hate Women?) have experience of this ourselves. There was a time when it looked as though the publisher might decide to shut up by not publishing it after all. That didn’t happen, and the publisher behaved beautifully, but it was an issue for a few days, and I can tell you, we did not think the request or demand had any merit.

So, in short, I don’t agree with the conclusion. I think that sometimes, even often, one does get to think – not assume, but think – that people who are telling you to shut up or tone it down are indeed doing a wrong thing (to translate “beyond the moral pale” into terms I recognize).

And now I have to go make the plum pudding. Happy Saturnalia.

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

The only one willing to take on Big Peer Review

Dec 24th, 2011 1:09 pm | By

Ken at Popehat has a Marc Stephens version of the Hitler rant. It’s very funny.

“You think we can get a NORMAL person to pose as a lawyer and threaten 17-year-olds?”

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

Jesus or death

Dec 23rd, 2011 5:08 pm | By

The Telegraph blurbs Dr Tim Stanley:

Dr Tim Stanley is a historian of the United States. He is working on a biography of Pat Buchanan.

Well, if you say so, but reading his post, I find it hard to believe he’s a Real Historian™.

Anti-social displays of bad taste are becoming common in the United States of America. The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue reports the following outrages: “In a South Carolina cancer center, a 67-year-old volunteer Santa was evicted because of the “different cultures and beliefs of the patients we care for” … In an elementary school in Stockton, California, poinsettias were banned but somehow snowmen were permitted; they justified their censorship by saying there was a Sikh temple in the city … A skeleton St. Nick was found hanging from a cross on the grounds of the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg, Virginia.”

Wouldn’t you think a  Real Historian™ would have the nous to find out that “The Catholic League” is just Bill Donohue himself? A League of one?

But it gets worse.

More worrying is the insidious conversion of the religious festival of Christmas into a purely cultural phenomenon. Christians on both sides of the Atlantic have noticed with dismay that the commercial aspects of the season have been elevated (I saw crackers on sale in September) while its spiritual dimension has been squeezed out of the public sphere.

This from a historian? He seems to think it just happened. This “insidious conversion” has been going on just about as long as “Christmas” has meant anything (which isn’t all that long).

But it gets much worse.

I’ve said it before and I’ll write it again: the Founding Fathers never intended for faith to be excluded from public or political life. America might lack England’s established church or continental Europe’s pervasive Catholicism, but it was founded by Christians along Christian principles with the express intention of building a more Christian commonwealth. It is, at risk of sounding pedantic, a Christian nation in all but its absence of national church.

Uh……….that’s not history, it’s an agenda. It’s bullshit. It’s not true. Real Historians™ don’t say or write that. That’s David Barton history – for which see my esteemed blog-neighbor Chris Rodda at This Week in Christian Nationalism.

The real war on Christmas is not the effort to deprive it of a place in the public sphere, which is more like a set of small, localised skirmishes. No, the real war is the effort to strip the festival of its meaning. Christmas isn’t about brandy eggnog and mince pies, generous presents and bad TV. It’s about the birth of Jesus Christ. Take away that central truth and you are left with a holiday that lacks a message. Take away that message, and the system of morals that flows naturally from it, and you risk stripping America of its ethical foundation. There is no better example than the decision of the dean of Washington and Jefferson College to approve the display of a Christmas tree covered in condoms. This is the future: the joyless abuse of the hollow remnants of Western civilisation. It is a future that, like the rubber covered tree, points to sterility and death.

That’s our choice: the message of Jesus Christ, or sterility and death. Yessir, Dr Tim.


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

You did ask

Dec 23rd, 2011 11:32 am | By

I was asked what I think of the quotes from the NO God Blog and Al Stefanelli quoted in Chris Stedman’s most recent Letter to the Atheists. Ok; what I think.

The first one is from a post titled “A Point was missed” on what appears to be a blog on the website of American Atheists. It’s not signed. It’s short. It’s dated April 29, 2010. It seems about as random, as an “example” of anything, as one could get. The bit quoted is very badly and stupidly worded; no disagreement there; but so what? I don’t even know who wrote it. I certainly don’t take it as representative of anything. It’s nearly two years old. What on earth is the point of dredging up an old obscure anonymous blog post as part of what is called a “sampling of comments from prominent atheists about Islam and Muslims”? Yes of course you can find people of any point of view or faction or party or any other category, saying stupid things, but what of it?

The second is from Al Stefanelli here at FTB ten days ago – so much better on the recent, and representative, and non-anonymous score; but when you read it you find it’s much worse on the making the case score. In context the quoted bit is not shocking or (to use Stedman’s term) “hateful.” Al doesn’t just say “Islam sucks booya”; he makes a case. You’d never know it from Stedman’s article.

So that’s what I think. The first was a crappy comment but it’s obscure and far from recent so why bring it up, and the second was a forcefully argued comment and not “hateful.”

And for dessert I will say a little more about what I think.

As someone who is regularly targeted with false critiques by fellow atheist activists — most frequently that I believe that religious beliefs should be immune from criticism, a claim I countered in this post, or that I am an apologist for religion, for which no evidence has ever been provided — I can attest firsthand that the debate over how atheists should approach religion is perhaps the most contentious conversation in the atheist movement. It is a frequent cause of disagreement, and the disagreements it inspires are very often vitriolic and personal.

This is what I think. Stedman isn’t “targeted” by atheists. Atheists reply to things Stedman says about them (us) or publishes other people saying about them/us or both. That’s not “targeting.” To reply is not to target. Atheists don’t just hide behind trees and pounce on Stedman for no reason; atheists react when Stedman does some shit-stirring about them, as he does with dreary regularity, including in this very post.

Stedman gets quite a lot of attention and praise for this shit-stirring – this “targeting,” one might almost call it. I think that’s probably a major reason he keeps doing it – from his point of view it works. It’s self-pitying and disingenuous to complain about people responding to his endless accusations. I suspect that he actually wants the responses, and that that’s why he keeps stirring the shit. He gets attention and praise for stirring the shit, and then he gets attention and sympathy when we disagree with him; win-win.

Oh and one more thing – I don’t consider him a “fellow atheist.”

Update: and one more one more thing: more about this at


Almost Diamonds

En Tequila es Verdad

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

Irony in the north

Dec 23rd, 2011 10:20 am | By

Minnesota has more than its share of wits and piss-takers. There’s its whole entire gay community for instance.

The gay and lesbian community of Minnesota has issued a letter of apology to recently resigned Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch for ruining the institution of marriage and causing her to stray from her husband and engage in an “inappropriate relationship.”

“On behalf of all gays and lesbians living in Minnesota, I would like to  wholeheartedly apologize for our community’s successful efforts to  threaten your traditional marriage,” reads the letter from John Medeiros. “We apologize that our selfish requests to marry those we love has cheapened and degraded traditional marriage so much that we caused you  to stray from your own holy union for something more cheap and tawdry.”


The letter comes on the heels of Koch’s own apology, released yesterday, in which she expressed her deep regret for  “engaging in a relationship with a Senate staffer.” Although the letter did not specify the identity of the other participant in the  “inappropriate relationship,” it is widely rumored to be former communications chief Michael Brodkorb, who lost several positions with the GOP in the wake of the scandal.

Koch, Brodkorb, and their fellow Republicans campaigned this year to put a constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot to  define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, thus forbidding gay marriage. Sadly, the amendment comes too late to prevent Koch from straying from her own marriage.

Dear good Minnesota. Happy hols.

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