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.

Baby steps

Feb 24th, 2012 10:54 am | By

Well that’s one good thing.

The Vatican, which previously enjoyed an exemption, must now pay taxes on its commercial properties, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has announced.

Like anyone else. Why did it enjoy an exemption before?

The state has been exempt from paying property taxes since 2005, one of several  fiscal perks enjoyed by the Catholic Church and introduced by the Berlusconi  administration.

Ah! Of course. One autocrat doing a favor for another. Naturally.

The Vatican owns 110,000 properties, including shopping centres and  residences, which are collectively worth about $12 billion, the Business  Insider said.

As Italy tightened its belt to deal with the financial crisis, more than  130,000 people signed an online petition calling for the Church’s tax-exempt  status to be revoked, it said.

”This is a victory for public pressure,” Mario Staderini, the leader of the  Italian Radicals party, told The Independent.

”We’ve managed to break down – a little bit – the wall protecting the  Church.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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

Defiantly wholesome

Feb 24th, 2012 10:21 am | By

Want to splash around in morbidity for a moment?

There’s always the new season of 19 and Counting.

And Counting – geddit? It’s not really “and Counting” now because Michelle Duggar miscarried #20. The new season is kind of morbid that way.

And not just that way. I find it kind of morbid overall. “Morbid” isn’t really the right word, I suppose – the Atlantic’s “creepy” is better – but it is, in a way – what’s dead is the mind. The whole atmosphere is Stepfordish. Yes they’re all very cheery and smiley and friendly and warm – but so would programmed pod people be.

This is, at least on film, a defiantly wholesome family; these kids aren’t constantly moaning about shopping malls and video games, cellphones and parties. Maybe that stuff factors in off-air, but in TLC’s carefully edited version of the Duggars’ world, all children, ages 2 to 18, are happy to be gamboling about together in a cornfield. That’s fine! It’s a little weird, of course, but why would anyone watch TLC if they didn’t want something a little weird?

Yes but the weirdness isn’t really fine, given what we know about how this weirdness is achieved. As Richard Lawson goes on to say.

And then of course there was the infusion of religion that probably earns the series a fair number of looky-loos (ahem). Michelle Duggar, the broodmare who gave birth to this baseball team, was invited to speak to a ladies group at a nearby church, and though what we saw of the speech was mostly a series of platitudes about family and children and all that, there was a single shot that said much more — the camera panned over a handout that Michelle brought to the event, and the content was pretty unsettling. TLC maybe included this shot for people like us, who of course paused it and advanced the frames to read as much of it as we could, and, whooo boy, was it unpleasant. It was all about how to make your husband happy in a marriage, which is of paramount importance to patriarch-dominated Quiverfull families. There were things about how wives shouldn’t refuse their husbands’ sexual advances, about how self-reliance is what kills marriages, about not stepping out of bounds in terms of what your responsibilities are as a wife (do too much and you emasculate him, you see). It was all reeeeally gross stuff that you never really hear the Duggars talking about on the show, but is absolutely the unspoken (on camera, at least) foundation of their family.

We know. We know this thanks to Libby Anne and Vyckie Garrison and others. 19 and Counting is morbid because of the death of potential and freedom and exploration.


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

Guest post by Musical Atheist on Richard Dawkins

Feb 24th, 2012 9:29 am | By

After the torrent of spiteful dreck we’ve seen directed at Richard Dawkins lately, the comment by Musical Atheist came as a blast of cold fresh air in a stuffy room. Therefore, I’m putting it up on the main page.

Musical Atheist says:

February 24, 2012 at 12:03 am  (Edit)

I don’t like my own country very much at present. I think our politicians and our press display the lowest sort of sneering childishness, on a regular basis. Playground bullies who grew up to apply their bullying on a wider scale.

For this reason, when I first discovered Dawkins’ writing, I felt that he was one of the few public figures in Britain I could find genuinely inspiring. He’s honest, his moral integrity is innately bound up with his passion for his work, which is the noble work of the pursuit of truth. You’d think the religious authorities ought to get that, even if they think he’s wrong. He’s flawed and human, he’s made errors in judgement and sometimes takes cheap shots, but he still stands out as one of the few British public intellectuals engaged in doing active good and treating moral ideas seriously.

When I read TGD a few years ago I, as many Christians keep saying,  didn’t recognise the god he described. I thought it witty, acerbic and entertaining, but not applicable to me. But I gradually realised that the example of scepticism and rigorous commitment to evidence that he was describing was applicable to all types of spiritual belief. When I began to apply it to my own (woo, new agey, vaguely pantheist, occasionally animist) spiritual ideas, I was genuinely shocked to find how much baggage of unjustified belief I’d accumulated over the years, and how much, if I was being honest with myself, I had to throw out.

Reading Dawkins got me interested in scepticism; led me to other writers and blogs like B&W and Pharyngula; reminded me of my childhood pleasure in science, long stifled by mediocre teaching; but more than anything, gave me the tools to reclaim my own mind. How do you repay the people who help you do that?

And he did it with one entertaining bestseller that didn’t even address the specific beliefs I actually held, but that I was able to use as a springboard for my own thought process.

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

Shall I compare thee to a spotty adolescent

Feb 23rd, 2012 11:56 am | By

Well at least Amol Rajan gets it.

Proof, if proof were needed, that “militant secularism” isn’t having such a great time of it in modern Britain has been in plentiful supply over the past week, during which there has been a sustained and vicious assault in our media on one of our most distinguished academics. Professor Richard Dawkins (FRS, FRSL) presumably personifies militant secularism, and has been made to suffer for it.

Or if not suffer, at least be the object of a lot of mud-throwing. (Being the object of something is the core meaning of “suffer,” but that meaning is intransative; you can’t just “suffer” in that sense without a direct object.)

In the Daily Mail last week, A N Wilson launched a nasty attack on him, comparing him, among other things, to a “spotty adolescent”. The lead interview in The Sunday Times was one long personal attack on his character, rather than an examination of his ideas. My distinguished colleague Mary Ann Sieghart, who at least has met him, described Dawkins yesterday as “puffed-up, self-regarding, vain, prickly and militant”. Rod Liddle wrote a blog for The Spectator with the ludicrous title “Dawkins exposed”.

Damn, I’m not even caught up. I haven’t seen the Wilson or the Liddle.

Dawkins has done a number of valuable and important things, Rajan goes on.

These are achievements and contributions to the cause of civilisation that none of his critics can boast. Their assault illustrates the extent to which defenders of religion still dominate our press, the brutal retaliation exacted on clever opponents of faith and the incorrigible stupidity of Sayeeda Warsi’s claim about “militant secularism” last week.

Why yes, yes it does. Thank you for noticing.


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

However childish

Feb 23rd, 2012 9:57 am | By

Speaking of the dopy endlessly-recycled vendetta against gnu atheism, John Gray obliges with another iteration of his version, via a perfunctory review of some book or other which he barely notices.

It is only the illiteracy of the current generation of atheists that leads them to think religious practitioners must be stupid or thoughtless. Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali – to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions – lacking in intellectual vitality? The question is absurd but the fact it can be asked at all might be thought to pose a difficulty for de Botton. His spirited and refreshingly humane book aims to show that religion serves needs that an entirely secular life cannot satisfy. He will not persuade those for whom atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish.

I can do that. It is only the thoughtless stupidity of the current generation of John Grays that leads them to think atheists must be illiterate. See? It’s easy! Shall I try another? He will not persuade those for whom hatred of atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish.

I can haz New Statesman gig now?

[De Botton] shows how much in our way of life comes from and still depends on religion – communities, education, art and architecture and certain kinds of kindness, among other things. I would add the practice of toleration, the origins of which lie in dissenting religion, and sceptical doubt, which very often coexists with faith.

Depends on? Communities, education, art, and architecture depend on religion? No they don’t. (The “certain kinds of kindness” can be made true just by definition – religious kinds, for instance.) And toleration has other sources than dissenting religion, and very often coexisting hardly amounts to depending on. Skeptical doubt can coexist with “faith” (though not really with faith, which is its opposite), but coexisting with is much more minimal and undemanding than depending on.

Today’s atheists will insist that these goods can be achieved without religion. In many instances this may be so but it is a question that cannot be answered by fulminating about religion as if it were intrinsically evil. Religion has caused a lot of harm but so has science. Practically everything of value in human life can be harmful. To insist that religion is peculiarly malignant is fanaticism, or mere stupidity.

He says, insisting and fulminating, either fanatically or stupidly.

The church of humanity is a prototypical modern example of atheism turned into a cult of collective self-worship.

Oh look, it’s narcissism again!

It’s good that John Gray is so thoughtful and careful and non-self-worshipping.

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

Humbly lovingly thoughtfully crashing the party

Feb 23rd, 2012 9:04 am | By

Here’s something I hadn’t seen before. I probably could have predicted it if I’d thought about it, but I didn’t, so I didn’t. It’s a website called True Reason, set up to rally Christians to go to the Reason Rally in D.C. next month in order to pester it, because religion doesn’t get to pester us enough already without shoving itself into an event that is not all about religion.

It has a nice line in passive-aggressive pseudo-decency.

This is not a counter-demonstration. We are going there to share Christ person to person as opportunity arises. We will not raise our voices. We will talk with those who want to talk with us. We will offer gifts and materials to all, but we will not press ourselves on those who do not wish to converse.

Nonsense. They’re already pressing themselves on those who do not wish to converse by horning in on an event that they know perfectly well is about not doing the kind of thing they do. The Reason Rally for instance is about realizing that “sharing Christ” is a bit of empty jargon.

They admit they know this when they go on to say

We’ll provide you some advance training by way of Internet, so you will be prepared for interactions in this unique “Lion’s Den” environment.

They’re actually the ones who are importing the “Lions’ Den” by intruding on other people’s rally. The only sense in which the Rally will be a Lions’ Den is that the Christians weren’t invited and aren’t wanted (not as opponents and missionaries, that is).

They claim that they’re just as fond of reason as the people attending the Reason Rally.

A Reasonable Response to the Reason Rally

This website represents Christians from all over the country—even some from as far as Australia and New Zealand—who know that Christianity is both good and reasonable.

But you don’t know that. Christianity is not “reasonable” in the sense of being based on reason.

Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers and other New Atheists are planning a “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C. on March 24. They’re billing it as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” and they’re using it to trumpet their message that reasonable people reject belief in God.

We disagree.

Together, we represent Christians from the United States and around the world who believe that Christianity is a reasonable worldview.

Well you would, wouldn’t you, but nevertheless, it isn’t.

Our goal is to demonstrate a humble, loving and thoughtful response to the Reason Rally.

Not possible. The only humble, loving and thoughtful response would be to mind your own business. It would be to stay away and let other people do what they want to do. It would be to refrain from intruding. We don’t pile into your churches every Sunday; why the hell can’t you just extend us the same courtesy? [I speak broadly when I say "us"; I can't afford to go to the Rally so I'm not part of that "us."]

They want it all, don’t they. They want to throw their weight around and they also want to get credit for being humble and thoughtful. Not going to happen.

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

Narcissus leaves the pool

Feb 22nd, 2012 4:49 pm | By

Some goon was sniping at FTB on Twitter the other day – stupid snipey generalizations that have nothing to do with reality. Why would anyone even bother sniping at FTB in general? We’re not all the same, so what can one say that will be true? We all post in English, mostly. Anything else? We all sleep with our eyes closed? We all eat food and drink water?

Anyway, the stupidest tweet said “narcissism is near a sine qua non for blogging at FtB.”

Oh yes? Why?

No seriously, why? Why more than any other group of bloggers, or just any other blogger? What’s so narcissistic about everyone at FTB?

(Note: I always spell it FTB, because Thought is a full-size word, not a mini-word like “the” which doesn’t get a capital letter in titles. Most people spell it FtB, I guess because Freethought is one word in the title.)

What’s so narcissistic about everyone at FTB? Nothing in particular that I know of. We all have our share, no doubt, but so do lots of people; why is narcissism a particular sin of FTB’s?

I don’t think it is. I think that was just one of those “whatever comes to hand” snipes, that don’t bother with accuracy.

But it pisses me off, because if we’re narcissistic just because we write blogs, then almost everything is narcissistic – gardening, writing poetry, playing football, composing music, decorating, scholarship, research – anything. It’s a nasty stupid small-minded little jeer at anyone having the gall to try to do something. It’s that “what makes you think you’re so special?” that a certain type likes to use to squelch everything but the blamelessly ordinary.

And because it’s a crock. I’ve thought of another thing we all have in common, and that is that we’re interested in things. Not just ourselves, but things external to ourselves. That’s why we write blogs, I think, most or all of us. (I can’t think of any exceptions.) We’re not exceptionally interested in our precious selves, we’re interested in the world. Yes it’s true that writing a blog involves one in the presumption of offering something for other people to read – but what is so terrible about that? Why does it deserve to be called narcissistic? (That’s the only reason I can think of for calling us that.) Should everyone everywhere stop offering things for other people to read or listen to or watch or play, thus ending narcissism?

The hell with that. The hell with sniping and spite and belittling. Only narcissists do that.

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

About us – except for who we are

Feb 22nd, 2012 10:12 am | By

Ben Goldacre wondered aloud on Twitter why it’s impossible to find out who is behind “Coalition for Marriage.” Why is it a secret?

Good question. What’s up with that? If you have a cause, why be secretive about it?

It’s a stupid “cause,” I must say.

The Coalition draws upon a substantial body of evidence showing that marriage – as it has been understood for thousands of years – is beneficial to society, and that changing its definition would undermine that benefit.

Except that marriage hasn’t been “understood” that way (they obviously mean one woman and one man) for thousands of years. The imbeciles are forgetting polygamy.

Well maybe that’s why they don’t want us to know who they are. They’re sekrit imbeciles.

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

What we talk about when we talk about blogging

Feb 21st, 2012 5:59 pm | By

A conversation among FTBers has (by a circuitous route, as is often the case) ended up in a discussion of the weirdness of the interpersonal dynamics of blogging – of the kinds and degrees of intimacy that can be created, and whether they’re an illusion or not.

I think the usual view is a brisk, “healthy,” matter of fact view that any sense of intimacy is an illusion, as is any sense of liking or friendship that may develop over time. That’s not my view. My view is pretty much the opposite, which is that it’s not an illusion at all, and that there are perfectly good reasons for this.

I was prompted to say some of this in the discussion after someone else mentioned that the person you see on a blog is not the whole person. That of course is true (ding ding! body missing! key ingredient of whole person!), but it’s also a little misleading. Yes of course you don’t get the whole person, but in a way you get a lot more of the person than you would in real life except in the most intense of relationships. In real life people don’t just sit around and listen to us blather on uninterrupted for two or three or ten minutes, but when we blog, they do. That too is not “whole” conversation; real conversation is full of interruptions and false starts, and laughter and gestures; but that’s just it – real conversation in real time in real life doesn’t allow for the kind of extended discussion you can have on a blog (or discussion board and the like).

This thought is probably more true for people who like to write and to whom it feels natural – but then so does blogging, I would think.

I would blather on uninterrupted more now but I have eleventy seven things to do so I have to go do them. Your turn to blather uninterrupted.

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

Former archbishop (ret’d) in Daily Mail

Feb 21st, 2012 10:08 am | By

The former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said, in an article for the Daily Mail, that the proposal to change the status of marriage ”constitutes one of the greatest political power grabs in history.”

The state does not ‘own’ the institution of marriage. Nor does the church.

The honourable estate of matrimony precedes both the state and the church, and neither of these institutions have [sic] the right to redefine it in such a fundamental way.

So who should? Lexicographers?

Whatever. There’s a poll, and the yes everyone should have the right to get married no matter what their sexuality answer is winning by an avalanche. Maybe that’s who gets to redefine the honourable estate of matrimony: people who vote in polls at the Telegraph.

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

Because Afghans have nothing more important to fret about

Feb 21st, 2012 9:28 am | By

Because Afghanistan is so peaceful and safe and prosperous, such a paradise of equality and freedom and happiness, people there have leisure to get wildly upset and furious when some books are accidentally sent to the incinerator in a consignment of waste paper.

US and Nato forces have rushed  to apologise for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of furious Afghans gathered to protest outside Bagram military airbase.

Some carried ancient hunting rifles and others used slingshots to pelt the outer walls of the airbase with stones for several hours, despite the bitter cold, shouting “down with America” and other slogans.

The crowd swelled to as much as three thousand, and police stationed on roads leading to the base turned back other would-be protesters from further away, according to General Mohammad Akram Bekzad, Parwan province’s police chief.

Because that’s the biggest problem Afghanistan has - a few copies of a printed book being accidentally destroyed.

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

Justin finds another consignment of atheist-bashing

Feb 20th, 2012 5:16 pm | By

One Reverend Bryan Griem, writing to the Pasadena Sun:

Look, you just read the stats: “Researchers have found that spiritual people have decreased odds of attempting suicide, and that spiritual fitness has a positive impact on quality of life, on coping and on mental health.” Atheists be damned. They will be. So I really don’t care what they think regarding these tests. I’m tired of having their constant nagging, their constant opposition against God — their evil. They contribute nothing positive in the long run. Their very name, “a” theist, means they are “against,” with a big “no” regarding America’s “creator” and “Nature’s God” (the one mentioned in our Declaration of Independence). I’m frankly sick of them. Why they are here on the In Theory cast is beyond me. It’s like saying, “I have no spiritual input because I don’t believe in the spirit. So here’s my ignorance….”

I wonder what the military puts on gravestones of atheists, a thumbs-down? Listen, all religions are protected by our laws, but atheists don’t countenance America’s documents that mention God. They don’t actually deserve rights that even bizarre religionists have. If it could be shown that people who deny God create military weakness, however small, what should commanders do when choosing a winning military?

Whee-ew. We’ll be damned. We’re evil. We contribute nothing positive. We don’t deserve rights.

Well at least he’s a civilian, so Justin can safely ignore him.

Justin’s post.

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

It’s only 50 thousand pounds

Feb 20th, 2012 10:57 am | By

Those times when news stories read like stories from The Onion…

Like the BBC’s report of the MP who said “sorry” for not mentioning a financial interest while arguing for something that would do that financial interest a lot of good.

Conservative MP and ministerial aide Mark Simmonds has apologised for failing to make clear an interest when speaking in favour of the NHS shake-up…

The MPs’ register of interest shows he is paid £50,000 a year as a strategic adviser to Circle Healthcare.

Mr Simmonds told MPs he wanted to apologise for “inadvertently” failing to declare his interest.

He made his statement during a Point of Order. Although he had correctly declared his interest in the register of interests, he did not mention it – as MPs should – when speaking in the debates on the Health and Social Care Bill in January and March last year.

Oh, oops.

Ben Goldacre had a good time with that on Twitter.

“MP apologises for health firm interests” HEY DUDE! It’s easy to forget £50k…


really, i don’t think that guy should beat himself up about forgetting FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS. could happen to any one of us. move on. srsly.

it’s just, you know, fifty thousand pounds for advising the first private company to run an NHS hospital. that’s all. no biggy.

look, srsrly: it’s only a thousand pounds a week, twice the average wage, for “Advice”. just.. stop going on about it.

Quite right. Let’s have a little trust in the integrity of our elected officials, shall we?

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

Up for a prize

Feb 20th, 2012 10:13 am | By

Good morning girls and boys, it’s time for Monday’s entries in the “What Week-old Dead Fish Can We Throw at Richard Dawkins Today?” contest.

A big round of applause for Mary Ann Sieghart at The Independent, who wastes no time but gets to the vulgar abuse right out of the gate.

The Church of England couldn’t hope for a better enemy than Richard Dawkins. Puffed-up, self-regarding, vain, prickly and militant, he displays exactly the character traits that could do with some Christian mellowing. In fact, he’s almost an advertisement against atheism. You can’t help thinking that a few Sundays in the pews and the odd day volunteering in a Church-run soup kitchen might do him the power of good.

That’s some professional journalism, wouldn’t you say? Informative, accurate, well-documented, carefully verified, reasoned, impartial – everything you expect of a quality newspaper. It’s great to have journalists telling us exactly how much they hate hate hate this one public figure instead of frittering away their talents on actually saying something of substance. I look forward to the day when journalists start telling us about this kid who pissed them off in the third grade.

And by the way I can very easily help thinking that a few Sundays in the pews and the odd day volunteering in a Church-run soup kitchen might do him the power of good. What I really can’t help thinking is that Mary Ann Sieghart is a shameless slanderous hack who ought to be demoted to covering dog shows.

And that’s not a lazy cliché

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha – that’s a good one.

And that’s not a lazy cliché; for the power of good is what the Church in this country exemplifies. It’s by no means true of all religions at all times – far from it – but here and now we are extraordinarily lucky to have the established Church we have. The Church of England is broadly charitable, open, welcoming, tolerant, compassionate and undogmatic.

Only up to a point – and only because it is so comparatively powerless. It’s that, to the extent that it is, only because it has been forced to be – by secularism and by secular influences, mostly.

But it still has its bishops in the House of Lords. That’s still a little sliver of theocracy; it’s still a bad arrangement.

The great thing about the Church of England is that it couldn’t be less militant. If anything, people criticise it for being too meek and mild. Personally I prefer a Church that is forgiving and undogmatic…

Really? Then why the row of personally insulting labels at the beginning of the piece?

“Gently and assuredly”, said the Queen, the Church has created such an environment in this country. I like those adverbs.

See above.

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

In a couple of weeks

Feb 19th, 2012 5:44 pm | By

Meanwhile…see that top banner in the right margin, the one above Rock Beyond Belief? Moving Secularism Forward? I’m a speaker at that. Orlando is kind of far away from everything except Florida, but I’m hoping some people will turn up anyway.

It’s a great lineup.

Daniel C. Dennett, Sir Harold Kroto, PZ Myers, Russell Blackford, Stephen Law, Rita Swan, Anthony Pinn, Victor Stenger, Elisabeth Cornwell, Eddie Tabash, Lionel Tiger, Ronald Bailey, Razib Khan, Jamila Bey, Sikivu Hutchinson, David Silverman, Bill Cooke, Steven K. Green, Ellenbeth Wachs, Ronald A. Lindsay, Debbie Goddard and Tom Flynn.

The following weekend I’m at QED in Manchester.

QED has a blog post about Maryam.

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

And now for some good Twitter jokes

Feb 19th, 2012 11:14 am | By

Martin Robbins@mjrobbins And here is The Telegraph’s Charles Moore in 2005 attacking Blair for apologizing for slavery


So according to the Telegraph, you shouldn’t hold guilt for your ancestors’ actions, unless you’re Richard Dawkins. Neat.

David Aaronovitch@DAaronovitch

The Telegraph attack on Dawkins for having slave-trading forebears two centuries back, is wonderfully bizarre. Mad, really.


Information is invited on ancestral sins, going back three centuries, of Telegraph editors, sundry bishops and Tory politicians. #pastsins


Re Telegraph outing of past Dawkins, I have to confess to being descended from Sir Darcy O’Ronovitch of the Hellfire Club, hanged in 1782.

Mr Roger Quimbly@RogerQuimbly

According to Richard Dawkins, the Sunday Telegraph is descended from a newspaper.

Jonathan Haynes@JonathanHaynes

Next week in the Sunday Telegraph: how Richard Dawkins is descended from Adam and Eve, even though he calls himself an atheist!

David Allen Green@JackofKent

Bonkers Telegraph article on Dawkins’ ancestors: They will be saying he is descended from apes next.


RT @Crofton_Parker: @JackofKent can’t wait until Telegraph does article explaining how British royal family amassed its wealth and power.

Matt F@flayman

Richard Dawkins is descended from Cain, a man who murdered his own brother, it has been revealed.

 Sir Keith de Lard@keithlard

“So Richard Dawkins’ family used to own slaves?” Yup. “But not him personally?” No. “Well, that blows evolution out of the water for me.”

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

Look out, he’s got a whip

Feb 19th, 2012 10:35 am | By

And last item on your exciting breakfast menu, all items with complimentary orange slice and sprig of mint, the Daily Mail on Dawkins as sekrit descendant of slaveowners.

Never mind, don’t get excited, it’s just the Telegraph article, reported. It does add one stupidity of its own though -

Equality groups are now calling on him to apologise for his family’s past.

Are they? Really? Groups, plural? Independently of reporters phoning them and asking for a quote? Can you name as many as one?

Plus they added an illustration.

 Ancestors of Richard Dawkins are believed to have been linked to slavery


Ancestors of Richard Dawkins are believed to have been linked to slavery

Filthy. They’re a filthy crew. We knew that, but it’s worth saying anyway.

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

Argumentum ad haircut

Feb 19th, 2012 9:33 am | By

There’s a separate, unrelated hit piece on Dawkins in the Sunday Times, which I haven’t yet read because of the paywall, but a comment at RDF quotes from it, and that’s quite informative by itself.

I’ve just been reading an article in today’s (19/02/12) Sunday Times By Camilla Long. It’s the front page of the News Review section and has a photo of Richard on the front page of the section. It really is the most appalling article. The very first sentence gives a flavour of how it will go, “Richard Dawkins has an extremely unfortunate face in that he always looks angry, even when he is quite calm.” I don’t know who she met, or if she has even bothered looking at the photo that accompanies the article, but that is not a description I would recognise of Richard.

The whole article then has a series of slurs designed to belittle Richard, he has a “nibbly little voice”, he has a “thin smile”, he has a “slightly prissy manner”, he has a “crushing misanthropy”, he never just says any thing, he “retorts”, “fulminates”, “whinnies”, “shouts”, “scoffs”, “snapping”, “hoots”, “sneers”. An insinuation is made that he is “hideously pompous”, when he picks up a copy of the survey he “stalks over to the desk and snatches up a copy”. She even has a go at his haircut and the way he is dressed and his looks, saying he was “gnashing his tiny teeth”  and describing him as “complete with anorak, creased tie and grey hair cut into indignant little flaps”.

Jesus Christ. Hair cut into indignant little flaps? What on earth?

There’s just no end to it. It’s disgusting.

You know…I hate the pope, as you know. I hate him with a passion – but mostly because of his office. He’s clearly not the warmest or most comparatively-liberal pope there’s ever been, but so what, however nice the occupant may be, the office itself is a monstrosity. I hate the pope, but I’ve never picked on him for his looks. Of course that’s partly because I’m ugly as shit myself so it would be unbecoming and silly to rail at other people for being ugly – but that’s really not all. The main reason I don’t do that is because I think it’s shitty. I think people who do that are shitty. I think Camilla Long is shitty and I think the Sunday Times is shitty.

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

The disgraceful Telegraph article on Dawkins

Feb 19th, 2012 9:03 am | By

The Telegraph hit piece on Dawkins is out (as many of you already know; it’s nearly 5 in the afternoon in the UK, while it’s only a fresh-faced nearly 9 in the morning here on the west coast of the US). It’s even worse than I expected it to be, and that’s saying something. It’s vicious slavering bullshit. It’s a disgrace to journalism.

He has railed against the evils of religion, and lectured the world on the virtues of atheism.

Now Richard Dawkins, the secularist campaigner against “intolerance and suffering”, must face an awkward revelation: he is descended from slave owners and his family estate was bought with a fortune partly created by forced labour.

It’s not “awkward.” We’re all descended from people who did bad shit. Count on it. God, just think, here’s me, a feminist, yet half of my ancestors are men!! Omigod that’s so awkward; how will I ever explain it?

There is no “estate”; there’s a farm. Everybody alive now depends partly on wealth created by forced labor.

He is now facing calls to apologise and make reparations for his family’s past.

Esther Stanford-Xosei, of Lewisham, south London, the co-vice chairman of the Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe, said: “There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity.

“The words of the apology need to be backed by action. The most appropriate course would be for the family to fund an educational initiative telling the history of slavery and how it impacts on communities today, in terms of racism and fractured relationships.”

Ah, Adam Lusher, that’s naughty.

What he means is, he phoned Esther Stanford-Xosei and solicited that statement from her. The way he phrases it, it looks as if “calls” are coming spontaneously (despite the fact that this article is the first anyone has heard of this “revelation” apart from Richard’s account of Lusher’s obnoxious phone calls). That’s a sneaky journalistic trick, presenting their own “calls,” or “calls” that they’ve solicited for a story, as if they were independent. That trick borders on deceit; it borders on mendacity, not to say lying. It’s technically true but highly misleading. It’s contemptible. It shouldn’t be the job of journalism to play tricks of that kind.

There’s more, in other papers. This stuff has to be bitten off and chewed one by one.

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

And another one, and more, and more

Feb 18th, 2012 5:08 pm | By

This one also from the Telegraph, by someone called Stephen Bayley (by which I mean, as you may remember, that I haven’t heard of him before, not that he’s obscure or beneath my lofty notice). It has no content, it’s just a brief volley of abuse.

…Richard Dawkins, a fanatic disguised as a scientist. And surely, in the powerful counterproductive sway of his noisy arguments, proof of the existence of God? Terrible to awake in that groggy matutinal state when things lodge in your addled brain and hear shrill, ugly, cruel arguments on the radio. Atheists seem to be very good at dogma. Dawkins seems not to understand that his own zealotry is itself a sort of religious quest. And he applies the “logic” of science, itself a fallible human construct, to a beautiful mystery. Sure, organised religion has caused appalling conflicts. But it has also caused Michelangelo, Milton and Bach. Organised atheism has produced North Korea. There is really not much more that needs to be said.

It’s dispiriting, seeing how willing and eager people are to say really filthy things about someone who doesn’t admire their religion. It’s dispiriting to see how eager the major media are to publish this kind of shit-throwing, and to commission more and more and more and more of it. It’s dispiriting to see that Andrew Brown has yet another entry, as inaccurate and intemperate and illiberal as the others. It’s dispiriting to see all this lying rage pouring out of people who should know better and published by media outlets that should do better. It’s stupid, it’s nasty, it’s coercive, it’s dishonest. It’s dispiriting.

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