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.

Devon and homeopathy calling it quits

Dec 19th, 2012 9:25 am | By

There’s one bit of cheery news – an NHS “homeopathic outreach clinic” in Devon is closing because of falling demand.

But why did such a clinic ever exist in the first place? Homeopathy isn’t a thing. The NHS doesn’t have outreach clinics that do bloodletting, does it? Or exorcisms? Or treatment for an excess of black bile?

Patients who use the centre for treatments for conditions including rheumatism and allergies have reacted angrily to the news.

The trust said patients would be offered continued care in Bristol.

Greta Rankin, from Willand, is one of the patients against the closure.

She said: “They will lose all that personalised expertise. The approach of the homeopathic doctors is completely different. If I want to continue I will have to go all the way to Bristol.”

Expertise in what? How can you have expertise in homeopathy? You can’t overdose on homeopathic remedies (unless you take so much that the water kills you). That’s because there’s nothing in them to overdose on, so how can there be expertise? There can’t.

It makes no sense for the NHS to pay for homeopathy.

Detractors such as Keir Liddle of Edinburgh Skeptics say homeopathy is “against all the laws of physics and chemistry” because the initial ingredients are so diluted that all that is left is a “memory” in the water.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, believes there should be no further NHS funding for homeopathy, saying it is concerned that scarce resources are being spent on a treatment with “no scientific evidence base to support its use”.

I think the BBC’s Steven Brocklehurst must have misunderstood Keir Liddle. It’s homeopaths who claim there’s a “memory” left in the water; “detractors” think that claim is risible.

He gives Keir the last word though, and that’s clearer.

However, Mr Liddle, chair of the Edinburgh Skeptics, a society which promotes “science, reason and independent thinking”, says homeopathy is “not effective and not efficient, which is at odds with the NHS health care strategy”.

He says: “A substance with nothing in it cannot possibly meet those demands.

“Apart from that, it is unethical for a health care service to prescribe something they know is nothing better than a placebo because that means GPs are put in a position where they end up lying to patients, which is a position which is untenable ethically and morally, in our opinion.

“Where applicable the treatments offered to patients in the health service should be evidence-based. They should be proved to be safe and effective in order that we are not wasting money treating people with things that don’t work.”

We’re talking about “a substance with nothing in it.” Not even a memory.


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

Three more

Dec 19th, 2012 8:38 am | By

Three more anti-polio campaigners killed dead in Pakistan. That’s showing them.

That makes 8 this week.

Wednesday’s attacks all took place in the restive western frontier province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – one just outside the city of Peshawar and two others in the town of Charsadda. Two men and a woman have been killed.

The volunteers were taking part in a three-day government-led drive, supported by the World Health Organisation and Unicef, to vaccinate tens of millions of children at risk from polio in Pakistan.

After a decades-long struggle by multilateral organisations, governments and NGOs worldwide, the disease is now endemic only in three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Thank you Allah.

Women health workers held protests in Karachi and the capital, Islamabad. “We go out and risk our lives to save other people’s children from being permanently handicapped, for what? So that our own children become orphans?” Ambreen Bibi, a health worker, said at the Islamabad protest.

Women are such whiners.




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

Oh the door’s been unlocked for a week, hahahahaha

Dec 18th, 2012 4:41 pm | By

Alber Saber is out on bail, Paul Fidalgo tells us. On the other hand, bail was posted a week ago, but he was kept in jail for another week just for shits and giggles, apparently. That’s nice.

Daily News Egypt also notes that these kinds of charges about offending religious feelings have been on the rise under the presidency of Mohamed Morsi.

Imagine my astonishment.

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

The archbishops want more women dead

Dec 18th, 2012 3:09 pm | By

Well the four archbishops of Ireland have given their opinion of this radical new suggestion that it should be legal for hospitals to perform abortions when necessary to save the woman’s life. (H/t to Marie-Therese)

The four Catholic Archbishops of Ireland: Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin; Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel & Emly; and Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam, have issued the following response to the decision today by the Government to legislate for abortion:

Today’s decision by the Irish Government to legislate for abortion should be of the utmost concern to all.

If what is being proposed were to become law, the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland would be fundamentally changed. It would pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children. This can never be morally justified in any circumstances.

See? I keep saying – this is what they mean – never in any circumstances. Yes, even when the woman will die; yes, even when the fetus is already terminal.

The dignity of the human person and the common good of humanity depend on our respect for the right to life of every person from the moment of conception to natural death. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. It is the very basis for every other right we enjoy as persons.

The lives of untold numbers of unborn children in this State now depend on the choices that will be made by our public representatives. The unavoidable choice that now faces all our public representatives is: will I chose to defend and vindicate the equal right to life of a mother and the child in her womb in all circumstances, or will I chose to licence the direct and intentional killing of the innocent baby in the womb?

Moreover, on a decision of such fundamental moral importance every public representative is entitled to complete respect for the freedom of conscience. No one has the right to force or coerce someone to act against their conscience. Respect for this right is the very foundation of a free, civilised and democratic society.

Don’t forget – they mean even a fetus of 17 or 11 or 3 weeks; they mean even if the fetus can’t survive no matter what; they mean those and the woman will die. They want to make abortion illegal and forbidden and unavailable even in those circumstances. They think it’s good that Savita Halappanavar is dead. They think that’s a good outcome, while it would have been a bad outcome if her fetus had been aborted and she were now alive. Notice that her fetus did not outlive her.

All involved, especially public representatives, must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to today’s announcement by the Government. We encourage all to pray that our public representatives will be given the wisdom and courage to do what is right.

Evil demon shithead evil godbothering evil bastards.

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

One by one by one they add up

Dec 18th, 2012 12:38 pm | By

I’m going to piss off some people with this, but…

I think the reaction to what happened at Newtown is a little bit out of proportion. Wait, I can explain. I don’t mean it wasn’t absolutely horrible. But the reaction seems to imply that it’s terribly out of the ordinary, and the fact is…it’s not nearly as out of the ordinary as it should be except in the fact that it was 20 children in one go.

The US has a shamefully high rate of violence against children. The BBC reported on this more than a year ago.

Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year. Why is that?

20,000 killed by family members (if the figures are correct). Two thousand a year; more than 5 a day. A Newtown every four days. Only worse, because the children in Newtown weren’t killed by their own families.

The gun control issue makes me sick. I think we need to fix that. I always think we need to fix that. But I also think we should pay more attention to the one-at-a-time horrors.

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

Yes, it is a sin

Dec 18th, 2012 12:07 pm | By

Cristina Odone is worried. What’s she worried about? She’s worried that Ireland is planning to change its abortion law – to legalize abortion when it’s necessary to save the woman’s life – on the basis of a mistake about what happened to Savita Halappanavar. Oh noes!

I’m a Catholic but I believe abortion has to be legal. Yes, it is a sin; and yes, there are women who use it as contraception. But the risk of having a long roll call of tragic deaths like Savita’s is too cruel to contemplate. Like divorce, abortion should be available, but reserved as a last-resort nuclear option – and when the mother’s life is in danger is precisely such a scenario.

The Irish U-turn over Savita’s death worries me, though. Is this the right result based on the wrong premise? As I have written here before, listening to the radio interview with the journalist who broke the story, we’re left with the distinct impression that she is not sure that Savita or her husband actually asked for, and were refused, a termination. Nor does she explain what condition the mother-to-be was in when she was admitted to hospital: in other words, was she healthy and her death was preventable by an abortion, or was she suffering from some other condition, which eventually killed her?

And that’s the thing to worry about, clearly. Could Parveen Halappanavar be all wrong, or lying, about what happened at Galway University Hospital? Or could Savita have had some other mortal illness that had nothing to do with her pregnancy and that nobody knew about or mentioned to Praveen? That’s the thing to worry about, rather than the possibility (or likelihood) that this has happened many times in Ireland without a Praveen to go to the media about it, and rather than the need to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

That kind of thinking is the real “sin.”

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

They would regret helping the “infidel” campaign against polio

Dec 18th, 2012 11:30 am | By

First, do no harm.

First, don’t be evil.

It’s strange how easily a lot of people lose sight of that basic thought, or never entertain it in the first place.

What would be high on a list of harms not to do? Killing people who are working to prevent polio in a country where 35 children have been infected with polio this year, when nearly all other countries in the world are polio-free.

High high high on the list. One, polio is bad; very very bad. Immunizing people against it is an unqualified good. Two, people who are working to immunize children against polio are doing a good thing, and don’t deserve to be killed for doing it.

And yet, there are people who murder young women who are working to immunize children against polio in Pakistan, where 35 children have been infected with polio this year. The immunization campaign has been suspended in Karachi as a result.

Three women were killed and a man was wounded in two separate attacks on health workers in Karachi on Tuesday, said senior police superintendent police Imran Shaukat.

The team had received telephone calls warning workers they would regret helping the “infidel” campaign against polio, said health official Gul Naz, who oversees project in the area where the women were shot.

An anti-polio worker in Karachi was shot dead on Monday, the United Nations said.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, gunmen on a motorbike shot a 17-year-old girl supervising an anti-polio campaign, said government official Javed Marwar.

She died of her wounds in hospital, a doctor said.

All of the victims were Pakistanis working with a U.N.-backed program to eradicate polio, which attacks the nervous system and can cause permanent paralysis within hours of infection.

It has been eradicated in all but a handful of countries but at least 35 children in Pakistan have been infected this year.

In Karachi, provincial Health Minister Saghir Ahmed said the government had told 24,000 polio workers it was suspending the anti-polio drive in the province.

It’s monstrous.

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

“Married” six times in one night

Dec 17th, 2012 4:36 pm | By

The Islamists in Northern Mali are getting more unpleasant.

On a sweltering afternoon, Islamist police officers dragged Fatima Al Hassan out of her house in the fabled city of Timbuktu. They beat her up, shoved her into a white pickup truck and drove her to their headquarters. She was locked up in a jail as she awaited her sentence: 100 lashes with an electrical cord.

“Why are you doing this?” she recalled asking.

Hassan was being punished for giving water to a male visitor.

Grabbed, beaten up, abducted, “sentenced” to 100 lashes with an electrical cord, for giving water to a man. Fatima Al Hassan does something ordinary and sociable, and a bunch of men commit a whole set of violent crimes against her to punish her for that.

“The people are losing all hope,” said Sadou Diallo, a former mayor of the northern city of Gao. “For the past eight months, they have lived without any government, without any actions taken against the Islamists. Now the Islamists feel they can do anything to the people.”

So they do.

Why do people want to do shit like that? Why don’t they hate their “god” and run away from it?

Refugees fleeing the north are now bringing stories that are darker than those recounted in interviews from this summer. Although their experiences cannot be independently verified — because the Islamists have threatened to kill or kidnap Westerners who visit — U.N. officials and human rights activists say that they have heard similar reports of horrific abuses and that some may amount to war crimes.

The refugees say the Islamists are raping and forcibly marrying women, and recruiting children for armed conflict. Social interaction deemed an affront to their interpretation of Islam is zealously punished through Islamic courts and a police force that has become more systematic and inflexible, human rights activists and local officials say.

“They are going around asking every pregnant woman who made her pregnant,” said Alkaya Toure, an official with Cri de Coeur, a Malian human rights group. “They also rely on spies inside the populations in Gao, Timbuktu and elsewhere.”

But as a reward for loyalty, the Islamists have found a religious loophole. They have encouraged their fighters to marry women and girls, some as young as 10, and often at gunpoint. After sex, they initiate a quick divorce. In an extreme case that has shocked the country, a girl in Timbuktu was forced last month to “marry” six fighters in one night, according to a report in one of Mali’s biggest newspapers.

A positively papal level of hypocrisy.

In a telephone interview, a senior Islamist commander conceded that his fighters were marrying young girls.

“Our religion says that if a girl is 12, she must get married to avoid losing her virginity in a wrong way,” said Oumar Ould Hamaha, the military leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa…

And a “wrong” way of course is one without “marriage” – but “marriage” is whatever we say it is, so we can whip you or stone you or fuck you and then divorce you, whichever we choose.

And they treat boys and men like crap too.

I’m so sick of thugs.


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

What dialogue?

Dec 17th, 2012 11:33 am | By

The pope has his message of peace for the new year all written and typed up and translated and posted online. The pope is way ahead of the game! The pope can kick back and watch some football.

Well it won’t have been very difficult. It doesn’t break any new ground. Somebody could have put it together by cutting and pasting from previous messages of peace for the new year.

It’s not very rich in what you might call self-awareness or self-knowledge.

In addition to the varied forms of terrorism and international crime, peace is also endangered by those forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism which distort the true nature of religion, which is called to foster fellowship and reconciliation among people.

Oh? Religion is called to foster fellowship and reconciliation among people? Is it really? Does the Catholic church have a long history of that?

No, of course not. Quite the reverse…unless of course you take “fellowship and reconciliation among people” to mean “fellowship and reconciliation on our terms.” Fellowship and reconciliation provided you surrender and submit. Fellowship and reconciliation provided you join our club, and endless war and revenge if you don’t.

That’s become less popular over the last three or four centuries, so the church has gradually gotten into the habit of talking emollient fluff about fellowship and reconciliation. It doesn’t mean it though. It wants to be the boss of all of us.

In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle,
namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift.

See what he does there?

He talks in two completely different and opposing veins, as if they were one and the same. He’s cheating.

He talks in secular terms, about what human beings want and need, and then he sticks god in it, when god has nothing to do with it. Then at the end he simply gives god credit for the thing we want and need and don’t have. What tf does he mean “peace is god’s gift” – what gift?! Where is it? I mean, there’s peace where I am, and I’m very fortunate that way, but there are millions of pockets all over the world where “god’s gift” either never arrived or got smashed up lately.

He does it throughout the “message” of course. It’s what he does; it’s what they do. But it’s cheating.

To become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by his only-begotten Son. In this way mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures.

Dude – how am I supposed to “enter into constant dialogue” with someone who has never given me the slightest reason to think it is there? Why is the onus on me? Why are you telling me to talk to someone who doesn’t answer? Seriously. Why are you telling me to talk to someone who doesn’t answer? Why do you call it a dialogue? You know very well it’s not a dialogue, so why do you call it that?

Yes he does. Of course he knows. Does he ever record god talking? Does he ever quote any of god’s recent sayings? He quotes putative old sayings of god’s, but that doesn’t count as a dialogue. I can quote Shakespeare, but I don’t call that a dialogue with dear Will.

It’s all a cheat. It’s just habit that makes that non-obvious to some people.

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

Epidemics of accusations

Dec 16th, 2012 5:34 pm | By

I re-read some of Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things this morning, to refresh my memory. I’ve read that and Why We Believe and the odd article here and there. I’ve never liked his writing much. It’s not bad, but it’s a little loose and lazy. Characterless. Journalistic.

I was interested to see that chapter 7 is titled Epidemics of Accusations: Medieval and Modern Witch Crazes. The modern ones are the panics about “Satanic” abuse in the 1980s and about “recovered memory” in the 90s. They’re interesting subjects and ones I’ve read a fair bit about, thanks to Frederick Crews and Elizabeth Loftus among others. It’s terrible stuff – people’s lives ruined by ridiculous beliefs about Satanic rapes that never happened and “recovered memories” of Daddy committing a murder for which he was sent to jail with no other evidence. (He was let out after more than six years.)

While re-reading that chapter I became quite…annoyed that Shermer had accused me of witch hunting. He compared me to people who put innocent people in prison on the basis of absurd beliefs.

Think about it. I said he had perpetuated an insulting stereotype about women by saying that wanting to stand up and speak about atheism and be intellectually active about it was “more a guy thing.” He said I was a witch hunter.

Not quite proportionate.

Anthony K said a good thing on Crommunist’s post A Response to Lee today.

And this is what it comes down to.

This is why the skeptical movement has been largely so unsuccessful. If Lee, or Shermer, were at all interested in the putative goals of the skeptics movement, namely to make the world a more rational place, they’d be much less interested in justifying why they think skepticism is a “guy thing”, and much more interested in making it as much an “everybody’s thing” as possible.

But of course, they’re not.

The skeptical movement has never been about outreach. It’s never been about helping to make the greater community outside the skeptics movement itself more skeptical, or rational.

It’s always been a clubhouse for those who think of themselves as smarter than average.

This is why Jenny McCarthy cleaned the skeptical movement’s clock. This is why Sylvia Browne still makes money hand over fist.

Good luck with your little guild, Shermer.

It’s all leather chairs and humidors.

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

A Facebook page named “Allah”

Dec 16th, 2012 12:59 pm | By

An Egyptian blogger wrote about Waleed Al Husseini more than two years ago, when he was arrested by the Palestinian authorities.

Palestinian blogger Waleed Al Husseini has been detained by the Palestinian authorities for creating a Facebook page named “Allah”! it was reported and shut down and Waleed created this page, that page, and that page, that is already hacked, to fight those who keep censoring his thoughts.

Waleed Khalid Hasayen is a 26 year old blogger who was arrested in the West Bank city of Qalqilya by the Palestinian authorities on the grounds of religious contempt and promoting atheism. On his blog “Nour Al Akl” or The enlightened Mind, he refuted all religious arguments – specially Islam – and he wrote long detailed posts on the fallacy of religions.

Now he’s out of jail, and at a distance from the people who arrested him, but his situation is precarious. I’m hoping we (the community) can help him.

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

If only

Dec 16th, 2012 11:49 am | By

Well this sums it up…

via Dr Jim’s Thinking Shop.

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

So I commented under the name “James”

Dec 16th, 2012 11:11 am | By

It’s not just mouthy atheist feminist women. It’s not just mouthy atheist feminist me. It’s not just mouthy feminist gamers, or programmers, or columnists. It’s everywhere.

Like theology, for instance, I see via Marlowe Filippov. JTB at rudetruth:

I’ve been following with some interest, given my previous interaction with the blog on the limerick thing, the conversation on Theoblogy in response to Tony’s question, “where are the women.” My first reaction to this post was positive–despite what some criticized as a prejudicial phrasing of the question–because, after all, concern about the unintended homogeneity of our communities, particularly our Christian communities, is a commendable concern. Moreover, it seemed clear from the post that Tony felt the absence of women’s voices on his blog commentary to be a lack and that he was asking for feedback to rectify what he considered a problem.

Very quickly, as the comment thread spun itself out, a couple of things became clear. The first was that many women did not feel like the comment threads were a space they could enter and be heard or respected; various reasons were offered for this. The second was that Tony was quick to defend his good intentions against these proffered possible reasons for the lack of women’s voices in the blog comments.

Since I myself had dared to enter the fray on the limerick discussion, and had been hard put to defend my (and Julie’s) critique of the limerick contest in conversation with Tony and others, including having to absorb without retaliation more than a few unconstructive and personal comments, I think the suggestion that the general atmosphere of the blog as hostile to women’s voices is pretty accurate. That’s not to suggest that this is anyone’s intention; on the contrary–it’s clearly unintentional. But it is something that can be intentionally addressed, which is what I took Tony’s post “where are the women”
to be a step toward.

It is something that can be intentionally addressed – or it can be called a “witch hunt” and vigorously shouted down by furious defensive men.

JTB decided to do an experiment.

So I commented under the name “James.” And wrote exactly what I would have written as JTB. That is to say, I was myself. With a pretend penis.

And lo and behold! Not only was I respectfully engaged, I actually won agreement from someone who challenged my original comment.

As JTB, in response to my numerous comments on the limerick contest post, I was told my critique was ludicrous; that to  hold my opinion suggested I lacked even a modicum of common sense; that I labored under various mistaken assumptions; that I was a buzz kill; that I was vaginal retentive (as opposed to anal, that’s for boys only?); I was even limericked about (a particularly sly dig, given the context); I was never acknowledged by name or as a colleague; and genuine follow-up questions went unanswered completely.

As James, I was addressed by name; asked genuinely critical questions; received an affirmation of the importance of my point; and when I defended my original point, received a concession from my respectful challenger.

That’s stereotype in action. It’s obviously poisonous. Yet mention of the problem – if it has the temerity to include an example – is greeted with roars of rage and wild accusations.


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

A comrade

Dec 15th, 2012 5:01 pm | By

Meet Waleed Alhusseini.

I ran a blog in Arabic called Nour Alakl. I was also active on Facebook, running a satirical page under the pseudonym of Allah. In October 2010 I was arrested in the street near an internet cafe. I had believed that I had a right to the freedom of speech and to the freedom of belief.

But in jail I was told that my online statements about religion and Islam were illegal. I was told that society didn’t accept such criticisms. I was beaten by prison guards who demanded to know who had made me write against Islam. In their minds, I could only say these things as the result of some plot, some conspiracy. That I might simply want to express my independent thoughts was alien to them.

I spent the worst 10 months of my life in a Palestinian jail, facing constant pressure to say I was sorry. I was told they had removed my blog and that I must apologise for publishing it. Even once I free I was told I should never again use the internet, nor meet the media. For months after my release I was harassed by the security services, who further interrogated me and detained me without cause. I received letters from people saying they wanted to kill me.

It’s a familiar story, but no less horrifying for that.

He’s not changing his mind though. He’s still an ex-Muslim, an atheist, a believer in human rights.

Eventually, I left the West Bank for Jordan. I obtained a visa from the French embassy. I am now in Paris, having applied for asylum. I am still awaiting an answer after six months. It has become harder and harder. From here I do have chance to blog in Arabic and in English as “Proud Atheist”. But I am now effectively in exile. I am living alone in a foreign city, cut off from friends and family. All over words.

I still do not feel safe. If I cannot stay, if I am not protected, then maybe the Palestinian authorities will arrest me again. That is my fear. I want to be active, but safety is my priority. I want the international community to care for those like me who are persecuted simply for speaking their minds, to stand against the laws in any country which limits basic freedoms of thought and expression. For we are human and freedom only means living our lives without hurting others.

When I had read that far I stopped reading and went to Facebook to see if I could find him. I could, and I did a friend request, and he accepted within seconds. This dude needs allies and friends and solidarity! Make friends with him. Maybe we can help him get asylum. I’ve already emailed people at CFI. We blew it with Alex Aan; let’s try to help Waleed Al-Husseini.

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

Such a petty god

Dec 15th, 2012 3:29 pm | By

Alyson Miers has a good post on the “god didn’t prevent the shootings at Sandy Hook because secularism” meme.

To those of us who believe in no God at all, you’re saying that your God is an asshole. You’re telling us that making everyone worship Him is more important to God than saving children’s lives.

To those who believe in different gods, or different ideas of the same God, you’re telling them that they are part of the problem because they want their children to go to school in a non-sectarian environment. You are asking them to think there would be less violence in the world if they allowed your religious traditions to be honored in the public sphere, at taxpayer expense, above their own.

The more you think about the claim, the weirder it gets. God is that childish? Really? You want to go with that?

This is an omniscient god, don’t forget. An omniscient god would be aware of the reasons people have for favoring secularism, including our long history of religious wars and persecution. It seems odd to think that such a god would be so put out by not being invited into public school classrooms that it would simply refuse to prevent Adam Lanza from killing all those children.

It seems odd to believe in – and worship – a god who would refuse to prevent things like that out of sheer spite. Abortion is supposed to be such a terrible crime, but god letting murders and earthquakes and wars do their worst is perfectly fine.

They don’t see it that way. I know. But it’s odd that they don’t. (Well, some do, and thus you get Teresa McBains and Jerry DeWitts.)

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

God will protect your children only if you submit first

Dec 15th, 2012 11:17 am | By

Ohhhhh lordy. Sometimes the viciousness makes my head want to explode – I can feel it trying to.

He actually does say it.

We’ve kicked God out of our public school system.

And I think God would say to us…”Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children but you got to invite me back into your world first. I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted, I am a gentleman.

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

Atheists of Maine want you

Dec 15th, 2012 10:34 am | By

Here’s a nice item if you want an Atheists Doing a Good Thing Just Because It’s a Good Thing thing. We need some of those right now.

Atheists of Maine jump in the freezing water to raise money for Camp Sunshine.

For those of you that don’t know, I have waded in the icy waters of our ocean to benefit Camp Sunshine for the past two years. This year, I’m mixing it up a bit: I’m looking to form a team to take the plunge with me. My goal is 10 people, including myself. That means you.

The minimum per person is $100 but last year I was able to raise over $700 with only $100 of it being my own. The goal I’ve set for the amount of money we raise is $1,500 which is entirely within the realm of possibility so I’m hoping to over deliver!

Camp Sunshine supports children with life threatening illnesses and their families. The camp has the distinction of being the only program in the nation whose mission is to address the impact of a life threatening illness on every member of the immediate family—the ill child, the parents, and the siblings. Since its inception, Camp Sunshine has provided a haven for over 30,000 individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

You can join in, or you can donate.

So with that being said, I know you’re excited to join me in this years Polar Dip! Well wait no longer! Send us an e-mail at and you will be sent an invite where you’ll be able to make your own profile and join the official team.

Not one for frigid waters and just want to donate? That is just as important and don’t worry if it’s just a dollar, every amount helps. Just go to the Team Page and click on the big blue “Donate” button on the top right corner and it’ll guide you through the steps to donate with your debit or credit card.

The date is February 9, 2013.

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

Michael Shermer was not quoted inaccurately

Dec 14th, 2012 6:03 pm | By

Shermer’s unleashed a lot of assholes on me (because I didn’t have enough of them before). I’m getting pretty tired of people saying I lied, I must say. I did not lie. I quoted Shermer accurately.

“Atheist Revolution” is pretty shameless about calling me a liar.

In his response, Shermer notes that he was quoted inaccurately and out of context.

He was not quoted inaccurately. That is not true. I don’t consider it out of context either, but that of course is always debatable. But inaccurately, no. I’m tired of people calling me a liar.

And he takes the additional step of pointing out the problems with some of
Benson’s more common tactics regarding labeling those with whom she disagrees as
sexists and misogynists.

I didn’t label him a sexist or a misogynist.

Did Michael Shermer make a sexist comment, and if so, does that make him a sexist? And most importantly, should his comment – whether it strikes you as potentially sexist or not – reduce his worth in the atheist and skeptic communities to zero?

What’s that got to do with anything? I certainly didn’t say his comment reduced his worth to zero. My article was about the stereotype, not about Shermer. I devoted one paragraph to Shermer.

Yes, it appears that this is the plan. Shermer’s contributions can now be dismissed and all because he made a comment that looks like it could be sexist in nature when presented without the context in which it was made. But even that
is not enough. Shermer deserves to be haunted to his grave, as nothing more than a social Darwinist douche and a “dipshit.” And what of Ophelia Benson herself?

Ophelia Benson

She’s decided that labeling Shermer a sexist is not sufficient. He’s also “an anti-feminist.”

That tweet was yesterday, after he’d done several anti-feminist tweets. I “decided” that he was being an anti-feminist jerk because he had apparently been so annoyed by the responses critical of his post that he felt the need to talk a lot of libertarian bullshit about feminism.

And then one of the comments

Note that the original interview, or whatever it was, happened in August. So, I agree about the manufactured outrage. I think there are people out there that are constantly trying to stir up controversey in the A/S community for no other reason than to pump their own egos. It’s shameful.

I wrote the column in August. I didn’t write it four days ago in order to stir up controversy, I wrote it in August as part of a column for Free Inquiry.

Talk about inaccurate…


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

The need for extreme care

Dec 14th, 2012 5:12 pm | By

So here’s a zany suggestion – people should stop cutting off bits of infants’ penises in the comfort and danger of their own homes.

The trial of nurse Grace Adeleye who carried out the circumcision on Goodluck Caubergs heard that up to three children a month are admitted to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital because of bleeding after home-based

That’s a beautiful old tradition. Don’t you think it’s beautiful?

Manchester-based solicitors JMW are currently investigating a separate case of a family from West Sussex who claim their son was left in “excruciating pain” after a home circumcision.

The doctor involved in the case said the redness and swelling her son experienced was a normal part of the healing process.

So he’s in pain! So what! It’s a beautiful old tradition. Shut up about the redness and swelling.

About five days after the circumcision she said the swelling on her son’s penis started increasing and he was in “excruciating pain”.

She said she took him to her GP who prescribed antibiotics for an infection.

The mother said she contacted the doctor who performed the circumcision who said she should wait three weeks for the skin to heal.

Her doctor said: “In my leaflet and at the time I went to do the circumcision I did explain redness and swelling is normal in healing, that it will go away in two weeks but it can happen.”

So the baby’s in pain for two weeks! So what! It makes God happy.

Melissa Gardner, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at JMW, said: “Given the impact on their child, the family has significant concerns about the way the procedure was conducted.

“While it is too soon to know what the long-term effects will be, this case highlights the need for extreme care when performing circumcisions.”

Wait wait wait wait, I have a fabulous idea, I’m so glad I thought of it -

Don’t cut the infant’s penis at all.

Isn’t that perfect? No need for extreme care, because no cutting of the penis!

I think it will catch on.

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

That’s not exactly religious freedom…

Dec 14th, 2012 3:53 pm | By

Mystifyingly, the UK government is going to make it illegal for the Church of England to perform same-sex marriages.

The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced.

Other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said.

But she added that the Church of England and Church in Wales had “explicitly” stated strong opposition and would not be included.

Labour said the exemption for the established Church was “disappointing”.

I can’t even make sense of that. The government is making it illegal, yet it’s an exemption. What? And the government is making it illegal because the churchs had stated strong opposition?

It gets worse.

Miller said the Church of England and Church in Wales had “explicitly stated” their opposition to offering same-sex ceremonies, so the government would “explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples”.

She also said: “I am absolutely clear that no religious organisation will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring in a bill which would allow that.

“European law already puts religious freedoms beyond doubt, and we will go even further by bringing in an additional ‘quadruple legal lock’. But it is also a key aspect of religious freedom that those bodies who want to opt in should be able to do so.”

It’s a matter of religious freedom therefore the government is making it illegal for particular churches to do it.

So “religious freedom” here is taken to mean the government passing a law that the Top Bosses in the national church like, which will make it impossible for rebel churches to disobey the church’s Top Bosses.

That’s a funny understanding of religious freedom, if you ask me.

This is a good one -

Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks for the Church of England in Parliament, said: “For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it does embody the distinctiveness of men and women.

“So removing from the definition of marriage this complementarity is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged.”

Oh noes! Now there will be not one social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged – !! The horror!

But sure there will. Atheism. Gaming. Needlepoint.

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