Notes and Comment Blog


Apr 17th, 2013 5:22 pm | By

Terry Glavin doesn’t approve of forced ingestion of bromides from Mr Rogers in the wake of horrible events like the Boston bombings.

The Iranians have a word for it. It’s “hambestagi.” It roughly translates as “solidarity.” It is a condition of humankind that is always present and quite ordinarily blossoms in crisis. It was everywhere in evidence Monday in Boston and well beyond.

Solidarity is a good thing. I’m very big on solidarity. The more solidarity the better, especially international solidarity.

In place of actual acts of journalism related to Monday’s barbarism, was it  really necessary for the Globe and Mail, Time Magazine, Slate and the Washington  Post to gang up on everybody with pieties out of the cardigan-wearing  Presbyterian host of a 1960s-era television babysitting service titled Mister  Rogers’ Neighbourhood?

Seriously. The Globe headline: “How to talk to kids (and especially adults)  about the Boston Marathon bombings: Try Mr. Rogers.” Time: “In the Wake of the  Boston Marathon Attacks, Mr. Rogers Quote Spreads Hope Across the Internet.” Slate: “The History of Mister Rogers’ Powerful Message.” The Washington Post: “Mr. Rogers gives hope while social media becomes virtual house of prayer for  Boston.”

No, it wasn’t necessary, but it was probably inevitable. They weren’t going to cite Arendt or Zimbardo, were they.

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

The flower girls are given lunch and a Brazilian

Apr 17th, 2013 4:58 pm | By

How to get around those pesky religious rules that say women are sluts unless they’re nailed and sealed into a marriage? How can men have fun if women are all nailed and sealed into a marriage? There is a way. The men can marry them, but just for a few minutes. Win-win!

I knew this was popular in Iran, but it’s apparently big in India. too.

Men from around the Islamic world have been traveling to Hyderabad, India, to purchase marriage contracts lasting four weeks. These “one-month marriages” provide men with young Indian wives, generally from poor families, who must consummate the short-term arrangements. Essentially, men—often already married—come to India with the intent of having religiously sanctioned sex with women other than their wives. Since Islam forbids prostitution, a short-term “marriage” is arranged instead, often with girls from impoverished families.

And that of course bears no resemblance to prostitution whatever, and is in no way exploitative and brutal toward the women in these “marriages.”

The phenomenon is now being exposed because of the bravery of 17-year-old Nausheen Tobassum who cooperated with police after escaping a “marriage” with a 44-year-old man from Khartoum, Sudan. The man, who was married with two children, allegedly paid Nausheen’s aunt $1,800 to marry and live with the girl during his stay in India. The marriage was reportedly presided over by a “qazi,” or Muslim judge who renders decisions according to Sharia, at Nausheen’s parents’ house. After the “ceremony,” Nausheen says her parents forced her to consummate the marriage with the man, who had also been guaranteed a “Talaknama,” which allows for a swift divorce after the marriage interlude, upon the groom’s departure from India.

What a lovely way for parents to treat their daughter – sell her cunt for a month, as if it were like renting a room in their house. The fact that her body and mind are still attached is a small inconvenience, easily ignored by parents who are determined enough.

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


Apr 17th, 2013 4:21 pm | By

Besides, Amy did this post two years ago, based around this photograph -

Um. Over to Amy:

This isn’t the first time Mr Dunning has put up an image of an attractive woman while simultaneously insulting the majority of all other women present. He did it when he opted to show a woman he said was, “easier on the eyes” instead of showing the actual photo of the first woman to fly in space, astronaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova. He later apologized. One could assume it was a poorly designed joke and forgive his insensitivity to the plight of women in the sciences and in skepticism, once. We all make mistakes. But here he has done it again. And this time it is arguably more demeaning and insulting.

Not because it’s ooooooh naked body. No, that’s not it.

Now back to the distinction I wanted to make. Images send messages. An image of a beautiful naked body can send a message of the joy of life or of shape and form and light and shadow or of love and tenderness or loneliness or heartbreak or many other informative and moving messages. What you add to the image can have a strong effect on it’s meaning as well. The placement of the nude in the surroundings can, for example have a strong influence on the tone and the meaning of the piece of art or in this case the photograph. Is the nude in harsh light? Is the nude in a soft or warm environment? Is it black and white or color? Is it a safe environment or is there an element of danger? Photographers and other visual artists utilize all of these ideas and more to send a message to the viewer. It is all about context. And Dunning’s image is reinforcing a hierarchy with men at the top and women as nothing more than submissive servants whether it was his direct intention or not. A man in formal wear standing in a stately and dismissive pose high above a completely naked woman on her knees serving him, sends a message that women are lower, stripped of intellectual value, completely objectified and in this particular image reduced to mere servants or tray tables.

Yes it does.

Imagine a skeptic hero posing with an Aunt Jemima type model offering him a plate of pancakes. Funny how that’s unthinkable but this isn’t.

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

Someone else turns out to be not perfect

Apr 17th, 2013 4:02 pm | By

So this happened – Brian Dunning pled guilty to wire fraud. I wasn’t aware of Brian Dunning before – my knowledge of the Skeptics’ Who’s Who is shamingly incomplete or even in fact inadequate. The “skeptic community” is much upset at the revelation that Dunning is imperfect, as PZ notes.

Everyone seems to be regarding this as a great tragedy and the loss of a hero, and I agree that there is an element of that — it certainly is a personal tragedy for Dunning. But maybe we should also recognize it as a gain, the exposure of a criminal and the cessation of illegal activity. People aren’t one-dimensional heroes or villains, and Dunning, like everyone, is a bit of both.

One of the “great tragedy and loss of a hero” posts -

If I could do anything I would. Many of you recognize that we link extensively to Skeptoid on this site and have taken great joy in its success around the world. I’d never tell people to pray or send good thoughts but I can’t help wishing I could do something. Best wishes, Brian, Lisa and family. Nothing can erase the positive things you do in the world. At least not with me.

Nothing? That’s not very skeptic. Loyalty to friends is a great thing, but it can be in tension with other great things, like honesty and transparency, which tend to be of value to skeptics.


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

In honor of the Bangladesh atheist bloggers

Apr 17th, 2013 3:34 pm | By

Mo draws the line. The barmaid had better start packing.


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

Linking arms with Amanda Brown and Roger Gorley

Apr 17th, 2013 10:19 am | By

Lilandra has a post in solidarity with Amanda Brown and her father Roger Gorley.

She writes here about her father’s run in with hospital authorities and his partner’s family for simply wanting to hold his gay partner’s hand. The family had no authority to ask him to leave as he has power of attorney. Gorley should have the same rights as heterosexual domestic partner to care for an ailing spouse. The reality of the situation is that that only works when people respect those rights. He was eventually handcuffed and dragged out of the hospital by the police.

You may have already heard of Amanda Brown from her work on We Are Atheism. A project that encourages nonbelievers to come out. She also helps organize Reason Fest every year in Lawrence Kansas.  Reason Fest is going on this weekend if you can make it. I’d like to say a brief thank you to Camp Quest for providing children’s activities. It helps my family make this trip more doable. Kudos to the people that sponsor Camp Quest.

Help to pass Lilandra’s post around if you have time and inclination.

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

Savita Halappanavar would probably be alive now if she had had that termination

Apr 17th, 2013 9:21 am | By

That’s what Dr Peter Boylan, the former master of Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital, told the inquest today.

Dr Peter Boylan said that if Ms Halappanavar had been given a termination on the Monday or Tuesday, one or two days after she was admitted last October 21st, she would “on the balance of probabilities”, still be alive.

“It is highly likely she would not have died” if she had been given a termination earlier, he added.

However, terminating her pregnancy was not a practical proposition for the doctors treating her at this time because of the legal situation in Ireland, he said.

Before reading more, I wonder – is it possible that that’s why there was so much apparent neglect and incompetence? That that’s why doctors failed to treat her deteriorating condition as an emergency for so many hours? Is a woman with a stalled miscarriage just an obvious scary liability in Irish hospitals, and do such women as a result get even more neglected because doctors can’t stand to confront the reality?

But really that’s beside the point, because if they’d done the termination earlier there probably wouldn’t have been any emergency to neglect. They created their own damn emergency and then neglected it, thanks to Irish law. Fuck you, Irish women, says Ireland.

Dr Boylan said there were a number of deficiencies in the care provided to Ms Halappanavar, including the failure to note and review her initial – abonormal – white cell count and a conflict of evidence between a midwife and doctor who treated her early on the Wednesday morning.

He said University Hospital Galway’s guidelines on sepsis were “not particularly helpful”. The particular antibiotics administered to Ms Halappanavar early on the Wednesday could also be regarded as deficient but were in line with international recommendations, he said.

The real problem was the inability of doctors to terminate her pregnancy at an earlier stage, Dr Boylan said. By the time her condition worsened and this became possible, it was too late to save her life.

Ok next question. A stalled miscarriage is not a terribly rare event. I don’t know the statistics but I gather from what Jen Gunter says that it’s something an obstetrician expects to see on occasion. It happens. It’s not like a two-headed calf.

Dr Boylan said obstetricians were working in a legal “vacuum” as to when a mother’s risk of dying was high enough for them to be legally allowed to terminate a pregnancy. Under cross examination he told Eugene Gleeson, SC for Ms Halappanavar’s husband Praveen, that the legal position was that there had to be a “real and substantial” risk to the life of the mother, but that there were no guidelines on what constituted the real and substantial risk.

And how fucking insulting is that? The position in law that if the risk is not “substantial” enough then the woman must be forced to take it.

Mr Gleeson referred to the Medical Council guidelines which state: “In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.”

Mr Gleeson asked Dr Boylan whether the risk posed by severe sepsis satisfied this standard. Dr Boylan said the standard had not been reached, according to Ms Halappanavar’s medical notes, until 6.30 am on Wednesday 24 th.

That is just disgusting. Just utterly disgusting. “Sorry, hon, you have to get a lot sicker than this before we can end your pregnancy.”

Asked whether it was reasonable to wait until there had been a 51 per cent risk of death, as had been suggested by counsel for Dr Katherine Astbury at the inquest last week, Dr Boylan said medicine was “not like that”.

He said in his opinion a risk of 20 per cent to 40 per cent risk of death was sufficiently “real and substantial” for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy. “I wouldn’t agree with 51 per cent”.

He said doctors from abroad working here could not understand the restrictive law on abortion here. “But we have to work within the law,” he said. “Had intervention occurred on 22nd or 23rd , Savita would be with us?,” asked Mr Gleeson. “Yes,” said Dr Boylan.

Doctors from abroad have it right. The law is an outrage.


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

Be patient

Apr 16th, 2013 5:16 pm | By

A finding that will astonish no one.

Working women who engage in feminist activism report more experiences of gender harassment on the job, regardless of whether or not they identify themselves as feminists, a new University of Michigan study indicates.

“A woman who personally adopts the feminist label may not ‘out’ herself as such to others,” said Kathryn Holland, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in women’s studies and psychology. “Women openly engaging in activism for women’s rights may pose a more obvious threat to the existing gender hierarchy—a hierarchy that grants more power to men than women.”

I could give a shorter version of that. Women who engage in feminist activism experience more gender harassment. Everybody hates a feminist.

“Sexual harassment can be devastating to women, both personally and professionally. However, we found evidence that engagement in feminist activism may help protect against or remediate some negative occupational outcomes,” Holland said.

The intersection of feminism and harassment presents working women with a catch-22, she says.

“On one hand, behavioral displays of feminism could prompt sexist and sexualized hostilities from co-workers,” Holland said. “On the other hand, not engaging with feminism could increase the chance that women will suffer professionally if harassed, not to mention the fact that avoiding feminist activism diverts energy from a cause committed to advancing women inemployment.”

It will work itself out, in a few hundred years.

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

Synechdoche is all very well but

Apr 16th, 2013 4:51 pm | By

Good lord.

A Republican New Hampshire lawmaker referred to women as “vaginas” in an email to colleagues on the official legislative electronic mailing list earlier this month, drawing outrage from women’s rights groups.

No. Nobody did that. Right?

State Rep. Peter Hansen (R) made the comment, first reported by New Hampshire political blogger Susan the Bruce, in an April 1 email debate with colleagues about a “stand your ground” gun bill. Hansen’s colleague, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R) had delivered a lengthy floor speech about the benefits of retreating instead of using deadly force, to which Hansen replied in an email:

What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims.

Well that’s remarkable.

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

No idea what it’s like

Apr 16th, 2013 10:39 am | By

Farah Rahman has a great post on the Amina-Femen-”imperialism”-too busy being awesome thing.

So let’s look at these accusations of ‘imperialism’. Many of those on Facebook (mis)using the word ‘imperialism’ are, it seems, Western-based Muslims who have grown up under liberal laws. They have no idea what it’s like to actually live in a country where you might be forcibly silenced for your politics. In my opinion, you do have to be pretty privileged to cry out the word ‘imperialism’ so often and with such wild abandon. What is really and truly awful is not that some Muslim women feel upset, but how playing the victim can so effectively erase the original victim herself, in this case Amina. There where whole days of outrage and little concern for where Amina was. It turns out she was being tortured by her family, her aunts stripped her naked to force a ‘virginity’ test on her and she was made to recite passages from the Koran against her will.

We need to be very wary of giving political credence to those who cry wolf, screaming ‘imperialism’ to create a smoke screen every time they don’t want to be challenged. You really have to ask the question ‘what are you trying to hide?’ Accusations of racism are becoming a way of demolishing the confidence to show or even feel solidarity with those across national and cultural boundaries (boundaries I don’t happen to believe in). It’s becoming a way of making people feel guilty about caring, of making women feel like they can’t say anything about human rights in another country. It’s a strategy to force silence on those who have something to fight for, like Amina.

Exactly. The right thing to feel guilty about is not caring what happens to women like Amina and girls like Malala. Internationalism is a good thing, and not to be confused with imperialism.

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

A strict policy of segregated seating between males and females

Apr 16th, 2013 9:43 am | By

The University of Leicester had a gender segregation problem too, also in connection with Hamza Tzortzis.

The talk, entitled Does God Exist?, featured a guest speaker Hamza Tzortzis as part of an Islamic Awareness week. Seating at the event was segregated, with different entrances into the lecture theatre for men and women.

In Leicester, more than 100 students attended the segregated event, which took place last month. A photograph passed to the Guardian shows signs put up in a university building, directing the segregation.

A message on the group’s website says: “In all our events, [the society] operate a strict policy of segregated seating between males and females.” The statement was removed after the Guardian contacted the society.

The university responded but they’re confused in the same way UCL was.

A spokesman for Leicester said: “The University of Leicester does not permit enforced segregation at public events. The university will investigate whether entrances to the hall for this event were segregated by the society and will ensure there is no recurrence of this.

“The University will not interfere with people’s right to choose where to sit. If some people choose to sit in a segregated manner because of their religious convictions then they are free to do so. By the same token, if people attending do not wish to sit in a segregated manner, they are free to do so.”

But if some people choose to sit in a segregated manner then other people will have to comply or the segregation will stop being segregation. It doesn’t work to allow both. In any case the University shouldn’t want to, for the obvious reasons: suppose the segregation is whites and non-whites, or Muslims and kuffar, or Muslims and Jews.

Universities need to develop a backbone on this subject.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Gender segregated seating contravenes the equal opportunities and anti-discrimination policies of universities and student unions. Students and staff should not be subjected to sexist segregationist policies.

“Universities are supposed to be places of enlightenment, tolerance, liberalism and human rights. It is shocking the way some student Islamist societies are being allowed to force women to sit apart from men, sometimes with the connivance of the university authorities, who take a hands-off approach. Some universities are doing very little to ensure that the campus is a safe and equal place for all students.”

Exactly. They need to stop talking waffle about people “choosing” to segregate.

Dan Flatt, an officer for Leicester Students’ Union, said: “The Students’ Union does not believe in enforced segregation. We trust in our societies’ ability to conduct their events in accordance with the principles of the union.”

But Rupert Sutton, from the campus watchdog Student Rights, has claimed there is “consistent use of segregation by student Islamic societies across the country”.

He wrote: “While this may be portrayed as voluntary by those who enforce it, the pressure put on female students to conform and obey these rules that encourage subjugation should not be underestimated.”

No waffle about “enforced” segregation please.



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

Beaten, kidnapped and drugged by her family

Apr 16th, 2013 7:34 am | By

Amina Tyler has told us (via Femen) where she’s been and what’s been done to her.

…she was beaten, kidnapped and drugged by her family after posting pictures of herself baring her breasts online.

The 19-year-old was also forced to endure a humiliating “virginity test” in the aftermath of her protest, which inspired women’s movement Femen to organise a“topless jihad” in support of her.

Speaking to Femen leader Inna Shevchenko from an undisclosed location via Skype, she told her harrowing story, but was adamant she will continue her struggle for women’s rights in the Muslim country.

Assuming she can. Her relatives seem to be determined to treat her like a piece of livestock.

Amina, who was threatened with stoning after posting the images with the words “Fuck your morals” written across her chest to the Femen-Tunisia page, told how she was beaten by her uncle and cousin and taken to a remote village where she was given powerful sedatives.

She spoke of being examined by her aunts in the family kitchen to see if she was still a virgin – describing it as a “horrible” experience, “against my freedom”.

She added: “Every day they were teaching me morals. They forced me to read the Koran. I am an atheist.

“They put their hands on my head and started to read the Koran over my head, that was horrible.”

She tried to escape once but they caught her.

Inna Shevchenko of Femen wrote a reply to Muslim Women Against Femen.

You say we talk about you because we are irritated only by bearded men who pray five times per day.

We have enough bearded bastards in our part of the world, the beard of Russian patriarch Kirill [a Russian Orthodox bishop who is a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin] would win a competition of ‘holy beards’ and some people even say that he is so connected to the God so he is praying 30 times a day.

Sisters, we don’t care how many times your men are praying, but we care a lot what do they do in between.

And then they get to the internationalist part.

You claim that we bring you our idea from our part of the world and you don’t need it.

The idea of freedom doesn’t have anything to do with nationality or colour of skin.

There is no set of human rights for Europeans and another for Arabs or Americans, it’s universal. And we are going to keep fighting for all of us, for our right for freedom.

We are going to fight with you, with Arab women, like Aliaa Elmahdy, [Egyptian internet activist], like Amina and I hope like you.

Just what I said. Human rights are universal; that’s the whole point of them. That’s not “imperialism.”


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

And yet they still speak

Apr 15th, 2013 4:41 pm | By

Alex has a post about the god panel at QED, which he attended, along with a lot of other people I know and a lot of people I don’t know.

Yesterday on QED’s second and last day, Carrie Poppy of Oh No, Ross and Carrie! fame (her talk on anecdotes, by the way, was excellent) moderated the ‘God Panel’, a discussion between Mitch Benn, Richard Dawkins, Mike Hall and Lawrence Krauss and the programme’s one specific atheist event. When a question was posed about mistakes our movement had made, the first example given – I think by Mitch Benn, though it might have been Mike Hall – was Atheism Plus, an answer audience members seemed to like and onto which other panellists piled.

Mitch Benn (again, it may have been Mike Hall) said A+ makes atheism into more than non-belief.

I can interject here to clarify, because Mitch Benn tweeted at Rhys and me to explain that he has no problem with the principles, only the name. Oh well then! I’m not invested in the name, and not sure I like it either. That’s that sorted.

Lawrence Krauss said a ‘PC’ ‘orthodoxy’ now clamps down on people who say the wrong things.

Richard Dawkins called A+ an ‘obvious example’ of atheists doing things wrong, and bemoaned the use of the word ‘douchebag’ in reference to people deemed sexist. (It wasn’t the accusations of sexism to which he objected, so far as I could tell, but the word ‘douchebag’ specifically.)

PC orthodoxy in a pig’s eye. Yes, when people call me a cunt then I consider that sexist bullshit and I say so. If Lawrence Krauss doesn’t agree then I think he’s wrong, politically wrong, politically “incorrect” if you like. I wish people like Krauss (and others, I’m looking at you M_____l S_____r) would stop saying things like that. I wish they would accept it and move on. They don’t approve of racists screaming about “niggers” outside school buildings do they? Why should sexist epithets be any different?

Alex’s later posts will be about the great things at QED, of which there was obviously far more than this small item.

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

219 children in an unmarked grave

Apr 15th, 2013 11:54 am | By

The Protestants were in on the “imprison the children” routine too. That’s nice. Very ecumenical, very interfaith.

Abuse survivors of the Protestant Bethany Home care institution are to accuse the State of being complicit in the manslaughter of 63 children at the home when they meet Justice Minister Alan Shatter on Tuesday.

The manslaughter charge now being made by the Protestant survivors represents a major escalation in their battle with the Government for inclusion in the State’s redress scheme for abuse victims.

Bethany Home was a Protestant evangelical institution for unmarried mothers to give birth, before being forced to abandon their children, and was a place of detention for Protestant women on remand, or convicted of crimes from petty theft up to infanticide.

In 2010 it was discovered that 219 Bethany children were buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

The usual. Neglect, indifference, neglect.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act include inspection reports from the time that now reveal the appalling conditions children at the Bethany Home were in. Survivors had been told back in 2000 by the Departments of Health and Education that documents relating to the abuse suffered by victims at the Bethany Home didn’t exist.

However, on foot of pressure from the survivors, documents have since emerged which reveal how reports were censored in the Forties to prevent some of the more damning findings from emerging.

It has been established how a report was altered to remove mention of a child that was dying. “This baby appeared to me to be in a dying condition. As I knew the baby was suffering I had the dispensary doctor telephoned to ask him to call to see the child,” it had said.

The documents show how the reference to dying was amended later by an official to read: “The baby appeared to me in a very low condition. It was dirty and neglected and sore and inflamed from a filthy napkin, which cannot have been changed for a very long time.”

Compassion is at the heart of every great religion.


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

The pope still hates “radical feminists”

Apr 15th, 2013 11:24 am | By

Oh whew, what a relief, Pope Frank isn’t going to relax the discipline on those pesky radical feminist nuns who are giving the Vatican such a splitting headache. Thank you, Mr Pope!

Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican’s criticism of a body that represents U.S. nuns which the Church said was tainted by “radical” feminism, dashing hopes he might take a softer stand with the sisters.

Nah. Don’t worry about that. Nobody’s going to take any kind of softer stand with any sisters, because that’s where it all stops. If men ever give up the right to tell the sisters to stfu, then it’s all over – the very principle of arbitrary hierarchy and dominance and superiority will be at risk, and if there’s anything we can’t have it’s that. Why? Because little boys have to be able to pump up their egos as they grow up by constantly reminding themselves and each other that at least they’re not girls. Because big men need to keep doing the same thing because hey, it’s always nice to have a little ego boost. Because let’s face it: male stands for strong and brave, and female stands for weak and chickenshit, so obviously there can be no compromise or “softer stand.”

We just have to have it, don’t you see? We have to hang onto the “male better than female” principle for dear life because without it we might ultimately find ourselves with no way to put other people down at all, and then what? Hell on earth, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Francis’s predecessor, Benedict, decreed that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group that represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 Catholic nuns in the United States, must change its ways, a ruling which the Vatican said on Monday still applied.

Last year, a Vatican report said the LCWR had “serious doctrinal problems” and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”, criticizing it for taking a soft line on issues such as birth control and homosexuality.

You may be wondering what on earth “radical feminist” means in that context. Well what does it ever mean? Anything more than the vote and equal pay for equal work, pretty much. It means, basically, thinking there’s anything wrong with treating the female half of the population as an afterthought.

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

Meet Leo

Apr 15th, 2013 10:59 am | By

Leo Igwe’s talk in London last month, courtesy of London Black Atheists. (Which by the way is for all atheists; it’s “Black” to help more Black atheists come out, but not to limit it to them.)

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

Blasphemy on Twitter

Apr 15th, 2013 10:17 am | By

Another artist convicted of a non-crime in Turkey.

A Turkish court has convicted pianist and composer Fazil Say of blasphemy and inciting hatred through a series of comments he had made on Twitter last year.

According to his lawyer, Meltem Akyol, the musician was given a suspended 10-month jail term. Akyol also said that his client would have to serve the term if he committed a similar offense within the next five years.

Ten months in jail for saying something “blasphemous” on Twitter! Suspended, but not suspended if he does it again in the next five years. “Blasphemous” for fuck’s fucking sake – a non-existent “crime” against a non-existent “deity” who is supposed to be all-powerful and all-knowing which if it is why would it give the tiniest damn in the world about one human being saying something? Why would it want that human being punished for saying it?

[Fazil] went on trial for denigrating Islam last October for a series of tweets earlier that year. In one of his messages he had retweeted a verse from a poem by Omar Khayyám in which the 11th-century Persian poet attacks pious hypocrisy: “You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern to you? You say two huris [companions] await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?” In other tweets, he had made fun of a muezzin (caller to prayer) and certain religious practices.

And for that the authorities in Turkey think he should get ten months in jail, unsuspended if he does it again.

Artists and intellectuals have repeatedly been targeted in Turkey for voicing their opinions, and the case against Say has renewed concerns about the Turkish government’s stance towards freedom of expression. The composer has been a vocal critic of the ruling AK party and the Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Concerns”? The time for “concerns” is past. The Turkish government’s stance towards freedom of expression is obvious: it thinks there should not be any.

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

Sevan Nisanyan gets a lot of death threats

Apr 14th, 2013 5:46 pm | By

Guest post by Torcant Torcant.

Sevan Nisanyan is a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin, living in Turkey, who is openly Atheist. He is also a public figure, an activist, an historian, a conservationist, an etymologist and more.

He spares no words when it comes to Islam and religion in general. He has many published books, is active on Facebook, twitter, and has a blog.

Of course he gets a lot of death threats.

But this video against him is especially interesting:

The guy in this video is not widely known. He is not an especially learned person (even in the religious sense). But that is exactly what makes him important. Because there are so many of these guys in Turkey.

The video expresses some characteristics that are commonplace in Turkey:

The speaker first starts by saying that the name Sevan Nisanyan is completely foreign to him (which shows the narrowness of his social circle-the name is so typically an Armenian name) and hasn’t heard of before (which shows his intellectual narrowness) and he can’t even guess if the writer of the article is a male or female (which again shows his cultural circle is very isolated).

1. Surprised: (There are such people and they also dare to talk?)
Sevan Nisanyan, in his article, mocks the Judeo-Christian God and talks about Mohammed as “the guy who claims to be the messenger of Allah. (Allah by the way is the very same God of Abraham. According to Muslims, Christians and Jews got the faith and doctrine wrong in some places and distorted them in others. Moses, Jesus and Mohammed (the very last one) are all prophets of Allah.) The guy in the video receives this article as a viewer’s question and is asked to comment. It’s really comical that he starts by repeating the article’s points and finally says “What he really writes, what he really does is denying God!” as if he suddenly realizes the point just at that moment. Later the punch line comes: “People can criticize other people, but how can you criticize Allah?” Suddenly I was left speechless; did he or not get that Nisanyan does not believe in the existence of God?

2. Unbelief in unbelief: (There must be something sinister behind it!)

Then he says that “I feel someone is playing a sinister game here, someone is trying to provoke issues so that somebody will go and shoot him.” Well, let me first say that such conspiracies do happen in Turkey. Therefore, in that sense, this is not such a fringe claim. But of course it is not true in this case.

The unbelief in unbelief is very common. Their faith is so deeply engrained in people’s minds that they find it very difficult to grasp an unbeliever’s position. They always resort to thinking “oh, he is just a provocateur, the imperialist west is trying to stir up trouble in our country, he is just a tool in the hands of powerful bad countries.” No, he is just an intellectual saying bluntly what he thinks.

As I said before, Sevan Nisanyan gets a lot of, I mean a lot of death threats. Even on twitter, there are open traceable death threats sent to him. On a lucky day, he gets some very graphic insults and curses. On a bad day, he gets graphic, descriptive death threats.

But apart from them, one of the twitter messages exemplifies the mindset so clearly: “You smart ass, you want to get murdered so that you will be a hero, right?”

Nobody actually can get their brains around the fact that there is a person who thinks God doesn’t exist and says so openly, believes that he has the right to do so no matter what, and does all this just for the sake of truth.

3. Look around, how did all this come about! (with American creationist propaganda added as a bonus)
Then comes the fun part. He says “We must counter this with wisdom. We must prove to him that Allah does exist. In order to do this we have to ask him how did the universe came to being, how did a fly or an apple came to being?” How is that? Funny isn’t it? Then he continues “We have to ask him to prove that Allah doesn’t exist!” LOL! In order to prove God to someone, we have to ask that person to prove the non-existence of God! That’s really clever!

Now comes the imported, “Made in USA” part: The protein! Yes, the protein! Do you know how unlikely a protein molecule is? Yet we have protein everywhere! (Despite the abundance of protein, his brain may be suffering from a protein deficiency!) Evangelical Christians should rejoice! Their efforts to promote creationism, serves Islam also. They must be proud!

4. They should be silenced (but murdering them is problematic)
Wanting to silence is absolutely typical and commonplace. Respect for freedom of expression is not a particularly strong point among Turkish people.  Moreover anti-god, anti-religion thinking is considered an insult, that should have consequences. Even the very moderate will still think that this type of rhetoric should be silenced at least because it hurts the feelings of believers and causes unnecessary trouble.

But this guy is no moderate. He is just a typical fundamentalist that gently waits for his time to come; patience is one of the highest tenets of Islam after all!

In the final part, he repeats that these thoughts should be countered by wisdom and then goes on to say “Although it is legitimate to murder him according to Islamic law-if he doesn’t repent-, we cannot do this for now… Iran issued a fatwa for Salman Rushdie. Although they didn’t kill him, they made him suffer so much that he is still in hiding” (Which is not true. But he is not being dishonest; just ignorant!) He repeats himself again, and says “Iran had the governmental power to do so. For now, under current circumstances, we have to put up with him and counter with wisdom.

According to the ideology (or faith) of this guy,  the only thing that keeps him murdering Nisanyan is secular democratic tradition (which is fading fast), and western pressure. Although the “kill the unbeliever” rhetoric is not publicly and openly expressed, it is there, waiting for the moment to come.

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

Coat-trailing as only Brendan can

Apr 14th, 2013 5:39 pm | By

Robin Ince wrote up his version of what that panel was about. “The journalist” is his coy name for Brendan O’Neill.

I attempted to explain to the journalist that the world we live in has never been more complex or filled with things that require work and patience to understand. Though democracy lovers may shiver at the idea, the penalty for living in the civilisation we currently walk through is that we must sometimes accept our ignorance and defer to others. We can hope that they might be trusted, that the heart surgeon is sober and the climate scientists isn’t swayed by the desire for fame on the front cover of Vanity Fair kissing a Polar Bear.

But the people! The people, I tell you!

The journalist suggested this was the kind of fascistic thinking that held up women’s suffrage and the education of the poor. My belief that we are not always equipped to make the best decisions is apparently the alibi that has always been used by people like me who wish to oppress “the common man”.

In the next breath (or on the next panel) he’ll tell you what a great idea the House of Lords is, and what a mess of trendy whiney liberal individualists are the people who say otherwise. It’s what he does.

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

Four horsemen emergency

Apr 14th, 2013 4:08 pm | By

Bad idea of the moment – a tweet -

Only three horsemen left. Who’s feet are big enough to fill Hitchens’ shoes? #atheism

Dear god what a stupid question (even if it had been “whose”). It’s like asking “what shall we call people who were just too young to fight in WWII that’s not ‘the greatest generation’?” Or “what shall we call the new atheists now that some time has passed?” It’s taking a dopy media cliché and treating it as somehow meaningful.

And then, even if it weren’t ridiculous to take the dopy media cliché seriously, why take it seriously in that way? Who cares whether there are four?

And then, if you want to say Hitchens left a gap, say that, but don’t talk sycophantic (and risible) nonsense about filling his shoes.

But much more, what is this pathetic craven belly-crawling need for Bosses or Leaders or Heads or motherfucking Horsemen? Why are people such suckups? Why are they not just suckups, but not even embarrassed to be suckups?

Atheism doesn’t need any leaders. Leaders are not automatically a good thing. Get over it.

And by the way least of all does atheism need male leaders, or a mindless belief that we need male leaders. Of all people you would think atheists could manage to figure that out, because what is it that we don’t share with most people? Belief in a mysterious supernatural hidden male boss of all the bosses, that’s what.

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