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.

Chopping children for god is not abuse ok

Jun 29th, 2012 12:26 pm | By

Via Zinnia – more vicious shite from Brendan O’Neill.

There are many bad things about the modern atheistic assault on religion. But perhaps the worst thing is its rebranding of certain religious practices as “child abuse”. Everything from sending your kid to a Catholic school to having your baby boy circumcised has been redefined by anti-religious campaigners as “abuse”.

Yes imagine that! Some people are so depraved that they actually think it’s “abuse” to slice off part of an infant’s penis to please an imaginary god. How could that possibly be abuse?! 

This use of emotionally loaded language to demonise the practices and beliefs of people of faith has reached its ugly and logical conclusion in Germany, where a court has decreed that circumcision for religious purposes causes “bodily harm”, against boys who are “unable to give their consent”, and therefore should be outlawed.

Because obviously slicing off part of the penis in no way causes “bodily harm”; and obviously infants are perfectly “able to give their consent”; and anyway causing bodily harm without consent is obviously not something that should be outlawed. Right?!

No. It is bodily harm; it is without consent; it is far from obvious that it should not be outlawed.

The labelling of religious practices as “child abuse” is the most cynical tactic in the armoury of today’s so-called New Atheists. They are effectively using children as human shields, as a cover under which they and their beloved state might interfere in both family life and the realm of religious conscience in order to reprimand people for believing the wrong things and carrying ou[t] “cruel” practices.

“Cynical tactic” forsooth. I have a feeling I’ve been here before – marveling at the gall of Brendan O’Neill accusing anyone else of using a ”cynical tactic.” I don’t think the former Living Marxism guy believes a word of this bullshit, I think he just enjoys the sport.

He’s chicken-shit, too; the comments are closed.

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

How to rig everything in your own favor

Jun 29th, 2012 11:42 am | By

Dispatches from the “Sharia tribunals what could possibly go wrong” file: Charlotte Rachael Proudman in the Independent:

After fleeing a forced marriage characterised by rape and physical violence, Nasrin applied for an Islamic divorce from a Sharia council; that was almost 10 years ago now. Despite countless emails, letters and telephone calls to the Sharia council as well as joint mediation and reconciliation meetings, the Sharia council refuse to provide Nasrin with an Islamic divorce. Why? Because of Nasrin’s sex. An Imam at the Sharia council told Nasrin that her gender prevents her from unilaterally divorcing her husband, instead the Imam told her to return to her husband, perform her wifely duties and maintain the abusive marriage that she was forced into.

What more do you need to know? What more does anyone need to know? After millions of years of human history wouldn’t you think we could start to get this right by now? No, don’t force girls and women to marry someone; no, don’t forbid girls and women to escape men who abuse them. No, don’t make special asymmetrical rules by which men can do whatever they want to and women might as well be donkeys.

Read the whole thing, but be very careful of your teeth while doing so, or you’ll find you’ve ground them to powder by the end of the page.

H/t Babar Riaz.

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

Hostile conduct and intimidation

Jun 29th, 2012 9:46 am | By

CFI has announced its new policy on hostile conduct/harassment at conferences.

This is huge. Huge. I’ll tell you why. It’s the first part. Hostile conduct.

That’s what I’m worried about, personally as opposed to generally, I can tell you. I’m certainly, and obviously, not worried about sexual overtures, as the cyber-stalkers love to remind anyone who will listen. But I certainly am worried about hostile conduct, since I’m treated to it day in and day out. Therefore I’m very pleased that CFI put that aspect first.

Ron Lindsay has a great post about the background and the thinking.

Rationale for the policy: First, let’s step back a bit and ask why employers are effectively required to have policies prohibiting harassment, whether it’s sexual harassment or harassment based on protected group status. (I say “effectively” because absent such a policy, an employer has a much greater risk of legal liability.) This may shed light on why it’s also prudent for conference organizers to have such policies, especially conference organizers who try to create an atmosphere that promotes intellectual exchange.

At least in the United States, the primary rationale for workplace policies is not that employers have an obligation to ensure that all their employees are “nice” to each other. Rather, it is that harassment interferes with an employee’s ability to work; employers can be liable for such harassment when it is so severe that it “alters the conditions of employment and creates an abusive working environment.” Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 67 (1986). Workplace harassment policies are actually intended to help both employees and employers. Properly administered, they increase workplace efficiency.

An abusive working environment. That’s the thing. It’s not a matter of being “nice” but it is a matter of not being overtly (noisily, energetically) hostile. Think teenage boys, school bus, Karen Klein. An abusive working environment really does interfere with doing the job – and that’s all the more true when the job is talking and listening and interacting, as it is at conferences.

CFI believes we should look at the goals of a harassment policy for conferences in an analogous light. A primary objective of our policy is to ensure that everyone at our conferences — speakers, attendees, and staff — will feel safe and at ease and be able to participate fully in all conference-related events. Intimidation and harassment prevent this objective from being achieved, so such conduct should be prohibited.

This is why we have embedded our harassment policy within the context of an overall prohibition on hostile conduct. We seek to prohibit any abusive conduct “that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another person’s ability to enjoy and participate in the conference, including social events related to the conference.”

Looked at this way, CFI’s policy supports the goals of CFI in holding conferences, just as workplace policies support the desires of rational employers for workplace efficiency. CFI’s policy promotes friendly interaction among conference participants, including the candid exchange of viewpoints, and this, in turn, helps ensure a successful conference.

Long exhalation. Yes. Thank you.

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

We know they’re miserable – we made them miserable!

Jun 28th, 2012 5:41 pm | By

David Robert Grimes has a piece on the Dublin anti-abortion ads. He points out that it’s not true that abortions tear apart the lives of the women who get them.

Dr Nada Stotland has published extensively on the topic, including a paper for the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled “The Myth of the Abortion Trauma Syndrome” in which the legend of Pas is firmly put to bed. “Currently, there are active attempts to convince the public and women considering abortion that abortion frequently has negative psychiatric consequences. This assertion is not borne out by the literature: the vast majority of women tolerate abortion without psychiatric sequelae,” she wrote.

Unless people see to it that they feel guilt and sadness.

A corollary of the research was that while women did not suffer long-term mental health effects due to abortion, short-term guilt and sadness was far more likely if the women had a background where abortion was viewed negatively or their decisions were decried – the kind of attitude fostered by “pro-life” activists.

This leads to the dark irony that while groups of this ilk claim to support women, they increase the suffering of women who have had abortions – the very women they ostensibly claim to help.

So typical of the church: pretend to be concerned while actually being crueler than the average street thug.

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

A dangerous contempt

Jun 28th, 2012 5:00 pm | By

Taslima has a great post showing sexist advertising in the airline industry, with picture after picture of gorgeous pouty women falling out of their tiny shreds of underwear. Great stuff for selling sex, but peculiar for selling a way to get from A to B in a hurry.

Taslima quotes an official on the subject:

Civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho says, “I don’t want to give this airline the free publicity that its rather grubby little ad was designed to attract, but this kind of thing matters. Cabin crew are there to save your life, not to offer sex. Portraying them as flying centrefolds undermines their ability to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for passengers – and can make their working lives unbearable. It can breed a dangerous contempt that undervalues them as individuals and also as the people who have to get you out in an emergency or deal with abusive passengers in air rage incidents…The portrayal of cabin crew-members as sex objects undermines their key safety role and diminishes the level of respect passengers are likely to have for their professionalism and competence. This applies regardless of the gender of the individuals involved. For this reason, the federation believes the decision to promote such images to have been irresponsible and reckless. This kind of initiative does not foster a positive aviation safety and security culture – instead it damages safety.”

That’s an important point, and it doesn’t get discussed enough. It’s not that sexy pictures of gorgeous pouty women falling out of their tiny shreds of underwear are bad in themselves, certainly, and it’s not that it’s bad to enjoy looking at such pictures or to use them as inspiration when a real woman isn’t available. It’s that using them to sell airline travel translates women doing jobs into sex toys. That can breed a dangerous contempt that undervalues them as individuals. It’s tits or GTFO – it’s you’re either here to turn me on or you’re in my fucking way. It diminishes the level of respect passengers are likely to have for their professionalism and competence.

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

Falsehood in advertising

Jun 28th, 2012 12:41 pm | By

An Irish anti-abortion group, Youth Defence, has stuck up hundreds of posters all over Dublin announcing that abortions tear women’s lives apart.

abortion woman

That’s crap. Sometimes abortions are very emotionally painful, but not always. It’s certainly not true that there’s always a better answer – that’s why the right to get an abortion is worth having.

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

Hello Secular Woman

Jun 28th, 2012 12:30 pm | By

Press release:

First National Organization for Atheist Women Mobilizes

Leadership Development Drives Mission

Atlanta, Georgia – June 28, 2012. Secular Woman, Inc. makes its debut today as the first national membership organization dedicated exclusively to advancing the interests of atheist, humanist and other non-religious women. The organization’s stated vision is “a future in which women without supernatural beliefs have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently as respected voices of leadership in the secular community and every aspect of American society.”

Secular identity organizations often struggle to attract and retain female members, lending weight to surveys which typically characterize women as more spiritual than men. Secular Woman will offer its members conference travel grants, profiles of secular women, achievement awards and other programming designed to add gender diversity to secular events and bring more nonbelieving women out of the closet and into roles of leadership.

Through strategic partnerships, Secular Woman will also advocate for equal pay, reproductive choice, and marriage equality, addressing political trends the group sees as ideologically-motivated threats to its members’ freedom of conscience. “The ‘War on Women’ dovetailing with the rise of secular activism showed us the time had come for secular women to form our own distinct organization to support our vision of the future,” said Kim Rippere, a Secular Woman founder and the organization’s first president. “Secular women have always been at front and center of the feminist quest for equality and autonomy.”

Rippere is joined on the group’s first Board of Directors by co-founders Brandi Braschler, Vice President of Programs; Bridget Gaudette, Vice President of Outreach; and Mary Ellen Sikes, Vice President of Operations. The four women bring a combined total of more than forty years’ activism in secular and women’s issues to Secular Woman.

“With this organization we plan to focus on promoting the secular female voice, but anyone who supports our mission can join,” said Gaudette. “All are vital to the success of Secular Woman and to the overall secular movement.”


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit:

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

Marry the nice rapist, dear

Jun 28th, 2012 11:04 am | By

Oh, human beings, sometimes I despair of you. The arrangements you come up with! Do you just get shit-faced drunk one night and decide all the rules, or what?

There’s this idea that letting a rapist avoid jail by “marrying” the young girl he repeatedly raped, for instance – that’s a real dud. I’ll tell you why. You forgot the girl!! It’s about the man who did the raping, and the men who own the girl. This means a shit life for the girl! Did you just not notice that, or what? Pay attention, ffs.

In April, the unidentified girl was shopping in the northern city of Zarqa when a 19-year-old man kidnapped her, took her to the desert where he had a pitched a tent and raped her for three consecutive days, judicial sources said.

She’s 14.

Police found the girl during a routine patrol, drove her back to her family home and arrested the man.

Within days news emerged that the boy had agreed to marry the girl, while all charges against him have been dropped.

The boy had agreed to marry the girl. Well that’s nice, but he had also agreed to rape her – he agreed with himself – so why is his agreement so crucial while hers is left entirely out of the picture? What, in short, is the difference between her life in that tent and her life “married” to the man who grabbed her, abducted her, and raped her for three days? “Oh noez, he raped you! Well we’ll fix that: now he gets to rape you legally forever. You’re welcome.”

Israa Tawalbeh, the country’s first woman coroner, sees “nothing wrong in Article 308 as such”.

“The problem is how some local and international human rights groups interpret the law,” she said.

“Accepting marriage under Article 308 is better than leaving girls to be killed by their parents or relatives,” she said. “I think the law fits our society and reality. It protects the girls by forcing attackers to marry them.”

Ah but there’s a third possibility: the girls’ parents or relatives don’t kill them anyway. Didn’t think of that, didja!


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

Since 2007

Jun 28th, 2012 9:53 am | By

One hopeful sign:

The good news for nonbelievers is that, for the first time ever, more than half the American population would vote for a qualified, open atheist for president.  A recent Gallup poll shows that 54 percent of Americans would not consider a candidate’s atheism to be a disqualification for holding the nation’s highest office.

This shows remarkable progress, a nine-point increase from 2007

From 2007. Really. What’s been going on between 2007 and now? Hmm.

[Thinks hard.]

Climate change? The Great Economic Meltdown? Obama in place of Bush?

Those could all have something to do with it. Or not. Worries about coastal cities and famines, and about bankruptcy and penury, could prompt disillusion with the whole idea of a just god, but they could also prompt reliance on a god who works in mysterious ways but makes everything ok in the end, whatever the end may be.

Another thing that’s been going on between 2007 and now is ever-increasing discussion of atheism and the reasons for atheism – or, to put it another way, new and gnu atheism.

Which we are often told “doesn’t work” and is “counter-productive”…but maybe that turns out not to be true. I don’t know, of course; correlation is not causation, so I don’t know that the open discussion of atheism and its reasons played any part in the remarkable progress since 2007. I don’t know, but it does seem quite likely. We’re out there, we’re visible and vocal, we’re pointing out obvious facts about the non-availability of god, so it seems quite likely that that has made at least some difference.

Check back in 2017.

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

Amy said I could

Jun 27th, 2012 11:20 am | By


Copyright Amy Davis Roth. All rights reserved.

Amy’s store is here.

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

Why women can’t have nice things

Jun 27th, 2012 11:00 am | By

The gaming article linked to Helen Lewis in The New Statesman: Dear The Internet, This Is Why You Can’t Have Anything Nice.

A Californian blogger, Anita Sarkeesian, launched a Kickstarter project to make a web video series about “tropes vs women in videogames”. Following on from her similar series on films, it aimed to look at women as background decoration, Damsels in Distress, the Sexy Sidekick and so on.

What a good subject. Women in the media – it’s such a mess these days, there can’t be enough work done on this. Hooray for Anita Sarkeesian.

Except some kind of Bastard Klaxon went off somewhere in the dank, moist depths of the internet. An angry misogynist Bat Signal, if you will. (It looks like those charming chaps at 4Chan might have had something to do it.)

In Sarkeesian’s own words:

The intimidation and harassment effort has included a torrent of misogyny and hate speech on my YouTube video, repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me, organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website.  These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape.  All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded.

Thank you. Thank you misogynists. Thank you for making it so unpleasant for us to do anything in public. Thank you for making us pay a huge price for saying things. Thank you for punishing us for the crime of being female and in possession of an opinion.

Lewis takes a look at the Wikipedia page.

There are also references to Sarkeesian being “of Jewish descent”, an “entitled nigger” and having a “masters degree in Whining” (because why stick to one prejudice, when you can have them all?) More than a dozen IP addresses contributed to this vandalism before the page was locked.

Meanwhile, her YouTube video attracted more than 5,000 comments, the majority of them of a, shall we say, unsupportive nature. The c-word got a lot of exercise, as did comments about her personal appearance, and a liberal sprinkling of threats of violence.

Check, check, and check.

Sarkeesian decided to leave the comments on her video, as proof that such sexism exists. I think it’s important that she did, because too often the response to stories like this, “Come on, it can’t be that bad”. There are two reasons for this: first, that if you don’t experience this kind of abuse, it’s difficult to believe it exists (particularly if you’re a man and this just isn’t part of your daily experience). Secondly, because news reports don’t print the bad words. We’ve got into a weird situation where you have to get a TV channel controller to sign off a comedian using the word “cunt” after 9pm, but on the internet, people spray it round like confetti. We read almost-daily reports of “trolls” being cautioned or even jailed, but often have no idea what they’ve said.

This story should be shared for several reasons. The first is that a horrible thing happened to Anita Sarkeesian. She did nothing to deserve the torrent of abuse, and the concerted attempts to wreck her online presence. It’s not the first time this happened: Bioware’s Jennifer Hepler was similarly hounded out of town for expressing some fairly innocuous statements about videogames. Every time this happens, more women get the message: speak up, and we will come for you. We’ll try to ruin your life, tear you apart, for having an opinion.


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

Enough to drive some of my friends from the game

Jun 27th, 2012 10:20 am | By

It’s not just the atheists and skeptics. It’s not just the US. It’s not just bloggers. It’s everywhere. It’s (notoriously) in gaming; it’s in Australia (gee, really?!).

I’d talk to fellow players who’d moved servers, convinced that Thaurissan (an Oceanic server, with a high volume of Australian players) was suffering from the same rot as Australian society in general. Alas, as it turned out, there was sexism in pretty much every server and realm, enough to drive some of my friends from the game.

Thus making it even more sexist, thus driving even more women from the game; repeat. Cf recent events. Women murmur about sexism; man rebukes women for murmuring about sexism; explosion of sexism takes place; women go elsewhere.

This is how it works. Where there is rabid constant relentless sexism, women will be driven away because it isn’t fun, so the place where there is rabid constant relentless sexism gets even worse. That’s why it’s shortsighted and foolish to encourage the rabid constant relentless sexism, unless you actually like that kind of thing, which reasonable people don’t.

I tell you this because it seems there is still a considerable slice of society that either believes that women don’t play video games, or that they do, but sexism in gaming isn’t that bad a problem.

To which I can only really say: O RLY?

A few weeks ago, cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian set up a Kickstarter campaign, seeking crowdfunding to produce her series about gender roles and sexism in gaming, Tropesvs. WomenInVideoGames.

Sarkeesian’s campaign began to receive donation pledges, but then all hell broke loose: the bro dudes got wind of her campaign and set about doing all they could to burn it to the ground.

Oh how familiar that sounds.

I’m inclined to think that gaming, like its broader relative, “geekdom”, is one of those areas where the less reconstructed men of the world feel they still have a grip on the “old fashioned” way of doing things (i.e. objectifying women and slinging hate-speech around like confetti), and they’re not about to give it up without a fight. They still feel like they have a say when it comes to who gets to play in the treehouse.

In many ways, it often feels as though women can’t win when it comes to fighting sexism within gaming (both itself and the community surrounding it): you’re either derided as a “girl gamer” who is only posing with a PS3 to be popular, or decried as a feminist bore because you dare to suggest that having a major female character suffer sexual assault is lazy character development.

That too.

Hipster misogyny is all over the place. Fighting it is probably hopeless, but one has to try.

H/t Emily

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

Down on your knee

Jun 27th, 2012 8:55 am | By

Time out for a laugh. Important stuff is afoot.

The Duchess of Cambridge may be the future queen, but she has discovered that there are several women in the Royal family to whom she must show reverence. Mandrake hears that the Queen has updated the Order of Precedence in the Royal Household to take into account the Duke of Cambridge’s wife.

The new rules of Court make it clear that the former Kate Middleton, when she is not accompanied by Prince William, must curtsy to the “blood princesses”, the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra, and the daughters of the Duke of York, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

When William is with her, Kate does not need to bend the knee to either of them, but she must curtsy to the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

So that’s how they spend their time! Trying to keep track of all these duchesses, and of who curtsies to which on what occasion wearing what while holding what and please remember not to fart.

A document is said to have been circulated privately in the Royal Household, clarifying Kate’s status. When the Order was last updated, after Prince Charles’s second marriage, in 2005, the Countess of Wessex was reported to be upset that she now had to curtsy to Camilla. “She didn’t like it one bit,” a senior courtier was quoted as saying.

The Earl of Wessex’s wife had previously been the second-highest ranking woman in the Royal family because neither of the Queen’s other sons, Charles and Prince Andrew, were married.

However, after Charles remarried, the Queen changed the Order of Precedence “on blood principles” so that neither Princess Anne nor Princess Alexandra, the granddaughter of George V, would have to curtsy to Camilla when her husband was not present.

Well I should hope so! It would be a nightmare if Princess Alexandra (who??) had to curtsy to that fraffl Camilla person. It’s sad that the Countess of Wessex (who??) is upset, but I’m sure a nice outing to Harrods food hall will put that right.


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

American Atheists Announces Harassment Policy

Jun 26th, 2012 4:40 pm | By

In a press release.

American Atheists’ President Dave Silverman announced today that the organization was implementing a comprehensive Code of Conduct for all sponsored and hosted regional conferences and the annual American Atheists’ National Convention.

Dave Silverman said, “The Code of Conduct will allow all conference attendees to know that American Atheists’ events are safe, fun and informative. We want people to enjoy themselves but know there will be consequences for harmful behaviors.”

The Code of Conduct addresses conference attendees’ behavior during speaker’s sessions, access to sessions for ability-challenged attendees, respect for families who attend, as well as sexual and other types of harassment.

The Code of Conduct also provides direction for American Atheists’ staff and volunteers who will take reports of harassment and inappropriate conduct.

Silverman continued, “We are training our staff and volunteers to be able to take information from our attendees who have been harassed. These reports will be given directly to one designated senior staff member at each event to be assessed and to determine what action should and needs to be taken.”

“The Code of Conduct is a living document. We will adapt it as we learn from what works and what needs improvement. But the overall goal is to create fun, enjoyable, and safe conventions and conferences for everyone,” Silverman added.

The Code of Conduct will go into effect immediately and be used first at American Atheists’ regional conference in Minnesota, August 10-11.

AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a non-profit 501(c)3 national organization that defends civil rights of Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church-mosque-temple and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.

You can read the whole thing.

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

The fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity

Jun 26th, 2012 4:13 pm | By

A German court has outlawed circumcision done for religious reasons.

Circumcising young boys on religious grounds causes grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled Tuesday in a landmark decision that the Jewish community said trampled on parents’ religious rights.

The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”, a judgment that is expected to set a legal precedent.

And a hugely important one. Think forced marriage, think child marriage, think FGM, think of denying children medical care. Maybe bodily integrity will be defined more narrowly, so that it wouldn’t apply to child marriage – but child marriage ruins girls’ bodies and lives (think fistula), so maybe it will apply.

The case was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents’ wishes.
A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily. Prosecutors then charged the doctor with grievous bodily harm.


The decision caused outrage in Germany’s Jewish community.

The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, said the ruling was “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination.”

The judgment was an “outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for centuries,” added Graumann.

“This religious right is respected in every country in the world.”

Yes, and it shouldn’t be. There shouldn’t be a “religious right” to mutilate your children.

Mind you, one could wish it hadn’t been a German court…


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

Which twin has the tragedy?

Jun 26th, 2012 12:56 pm | By

A guy who has a blog called Eternal Life Blog with the subtitle “covering all aspects of eternal life” (I do like thoroughness, don’t you?) thinks it’s a tragedy when clerics escape.

Sadly, spiritual tragedies do occur in this dangerous spiritual environment. That is why Christians are told to guard themselves, hold on, keep themselves, etc. One of the most recent and openly publicized spiritual tragedies among preachers losing their faith would be Jerry Dewitt. Jerry DeWitt, from Louisiana, became an atheist after more than twenty-five years of Pentecostal ministry! He was senior pastor of a congregation when he became an unbeliever and now claims he could not be happier because he feels he has regained his integrity.

Emphasis his. Formatting his. Alternation between bold and italics his. Anyway he’s amazed that a former minister could be happy because he feels he has regained his integrity. I, on the other hand, find that thought completely intelligible. It’s similar to what I always think when I try to imagine myself taking up religion for any of the consequentialist reasons people so often cite – community, tradition, support in life’s difficulties, that kind of thing. It’s the fact that it would feel like such a gruesome surrender and cheat that makes it fall to the floor before it gains any respectable altitude. I couldn’t do it, because of integrity.

If Jerry DeWitt, Teresa MacBain or any atheist ever came to initial salvation or not, I can’t say. It is possible they were once saved at some point before getting back on the road to hell as they are now. As sad as it is for them to openly reject the existence of God (and therefore Jesus Christ), it is even worse when one ponders the many under their influence who might also be hurt by their horrible example. It is horribly bad for any professing Christian to renounce his faith, but even worse when a person who is considered by some to be a spiritual leader does it.

That poor man – he thinks there’s such a thing as “the road to hell” (or he professes to – who knows, really). Sucks to be him. He’s frantic about something that is not at all a bad thing. He’s throwing away his life on fictions and useless terrors.


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

Hebden Bridge under water

Jun 26th, 2012 12:21 pm | By

Hebden Bridge was hammered by a flood last Friday. Pictures here.

After heavy rain all day Friday,  flood sirens went just before 8pm. Just hours later, the whole of the centre of Hebden Bridge was flooded. Market Street,  Bridge Gate, Old Gate, Albert Street and Crown Street were all under water and impassable.

The dramatic events of Friday evening have led to dozens of local shops and businesses suffering damage and serious loss of stock. We encourage all HebWeb readers to support the fund set up by the Community Foundation.

Life is difficult, and then it floods.

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

American Atheists issue a strong anti-harassment policy

Jun 26th, 2012 10:02 am | By

Jason has details.

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

She said he said

Jun 25th, 2012 4:52 pm | By

A few people think I’ve been unfair to DJ Grothe. I don’t. I think it’s the other way around.

I’ll explain why, as succinctly as I explained it to DJ (and Carrie) the day after threat-day.

I think he stuck a metaphorical target on me. He didn’t do anything to take it off. He didn’t do anything to assure me that he still welcomed me to TAM. He triggered a shit-storm, and then let it get worse and worse and worse.

That’s it.

He stuck a metaphorical target on me (in my view) when he blamed the fall in women’s attendance at TAM on

irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.

Since I was scheduled to do a talk at TAM, the target was very awkward. I blogged about this. DJ never responded. (I could have emailed him directly – but his target-attaching was public as opposed to email, so I replied to it in public rather than email. Besides, I didn’t feel as if I should have to email him to say, “Uh er am I still supposed to do this talk or wut?” I thought it was his job to deal with it, not mine. I still think that.)

As time went on, the fallout from DJ’s remark got bigger and nastier. I felt steadily more unwelcome. DJ still did nothing. Again – I think this is not how someone in charge of an event should treat an invited speaker.

Then came the emails. When I told DJ about them and my decision not to go to TAM as a result, he finally did say they would welcome me as a speaker and value my safety “like we do of everyone who attends our events.” It wasn’t entirely convincing…and it was also very late (and forced). It wasn’t entirely convincing for instance because he went on to predict that some attendees might have different opinions and then cited “these recent couple dozen blog posts on Freethought Blogs about TAM” – in other words he blamed posts at Freethought Blogs for people at TAM disliking me. I, on the other hand, think the dislike originates in his remarks about the clumsy women. He then pointed out that controversial speakers possibly disliked by attendees were still treated respectfully, and named three examples: Dawkins, Krauss, and Jillette.

As I pointed out to him in my reply, there are some salient differences between me on the one hand and Dawkins, Krauss, and Jillette on the other. I think they kind of jump off the page, especially in this context. They’re all men. They’re all Names. They don’t piss off angry misogynists.

So that’s why I don’t think I’ve been unfair to DJ Grothe. That’s why I think it’s the other way around.

As I said, I replied to DJ’s reply, but I got no reply in turn. Carrie told me I could phone them, but that’s all the answer I got. I don’t think that’s very good management.

So that’s that. I expect now we can at last drop the whole smelly subject!

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

We hadn’t

Jun 25th, 2012 12:51 pm | By

There are some memes that need correcting – and when I say “correcting” I mean “multiple repetitions of correction for however long it takes” because that’s how it is with memes: they’re god damn hard to correct and often trying to correct them just entrenches them instead. (So don’t correct them? No, because what else can one do, and because at least they’ll be easier to find.)

One that I see everywhere is that the mysterious “small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe” had been saying that TAM was bad for women before DJ Grothe called them out with that accusation.

We hadn’t. Or they hadn’t. I don’t know for sure if DJ meant to include me in that group or not, but either way – we or they hadn’t.

In his now notorious reply to Rebecca, he quoted only one item that specified TAM, and that one he cited via the generic address rather than the specific post. The generic address was that of The Skeptical Abyss – which is one of those anonymous sites set up for the sole purpose of talking shit about uppity women. The post DJ quoted from was a set-up for the next post, which was an order to name names. Another description for that would be an invitation to get yourself sued. The one item that named TAM comes from a site that is emphatically supportive of DJ and hostile to feminism and feminists.

The others are Rebecca, Stephanie (several times), and Jen. None of the passages he quoted mentions TAM.

So: DJ said a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics were scaring women away from TAM; Rebecca asked for specifics, and he provided generics. He did not provide any examples of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics talking about TAM.

I know I hadn’t been talking about TAM before that. For one thing, I didn’t know much about it. I had nothing to say. I hadn’t been talking about TAM, and I don’t know that any of the named women had either. But there is now a robust myth that we had all been talking a lot of smack about TAM before DJ ever said anything.

Not true. False. A dud meme.

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