Notes and Comment Blog

Comparing the tens

Oct 31st, 2013 11:31 am | By

Let’s do a comparative study, or rather, let’s compare a couple of things. The American Humanist Association has a ten commandments, and I made up a ten commandments a few weeks ago, so it might be interesting to see if they have much in common. I naturally assume they have a good deal in common – a lot more in common with each other than either has with the Old Testament version.

The Humanist version:

1) Thou shalt strive to promote the greater good of humanity before all selfish desires.
2) Thou shalt be curious, for asking questions is the only way to find answers.

3) Harm to your fellow human is harm to humanity. Therefore, thou shalt not kill, rape, rob, or otherwise victimize anyone.

4) Thou shall treat all humans as equals, regardless of race, gender, age, creed, identity, orientation, physical ability, or status.

5) Thou shalt use reason as your guide. Science, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis are the best ways to determine any course of action.

6) Thou shalt not force your beliefs onto others, nor insist that yours be the only and correct way to live happily.

7) If thou dost govern, thou shalt govern with reason, not with superstition. Religion should have no place in any government which represents all people and beliefs.

8) Thou shalt act for the betterment of your fellow humans, and be, whenever possible, altruistic in your deeds.

9) Thou shalt be good to the Earth and its bounties, for without it, humankind is lost.

10) Thou shalt impart thy knowledge and wisdom gained in your lifetime to the next generation, so that with each passing century, humanity will grow wiser and more humane.

My version:

  1. Don’t be cruel.
  2. Love justice.
  3. Embrace equality.
  4. Practice compassion.
  5. Be generous.
  6. Do what you can to make the world better.
  7. Aim for truth.
  8. Think carefully.
  9. Share what you learn with others.
  10. Amuse.

Their 1 is my 5 and 6.

Their 2 I don’t have, and that’s an oversight – I do think curiosity is hugely important and worth inculcating and preaching.

Their 3 is my 1 and 4.

Their 4 is my 3.

Their 5 is my 7 and 8, although it’s also not. There’s an important difference, which I’ll elaborate below.

Their 6 I don’t exactly have, although you could say it’s implied by some of the others – 2 and 6, basically.

The same goes for their 7.

Their 8 is my 6.

Their 9 is included in my 6.

Their 10 is my 9, almost exactly.

They don’t have my 10. I think that’s an oversight. It may seem frivolous or trivial at first blush but I don’t think it is; that’s why I included it.

Now about their 5. It’s wrong.

5) Thou shalt use reason as your guide. Science, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis are the best ways to determine any course of action.

No, they aren’t. Not always, and not exclusively. 5 leaves out emotion, and that’s dead wrong. (And surprising, from humanists of all people!) Leaving out emotion doesn’t get you cleaner, more “rational” decisions, it gets you no decisions at all. People with brain damage in the emotions can’t make decisions because they don’t care either way.

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

The pastor meant to cast out demons, but the girl died

Oct 31st, 2013 10:24 am | By

Pentecostal churches in Africa do a lot of harm. The president of Cameroon is attempting to do something about that.

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has ordered the closure of nearly 100 Christian churches in key cities, citing criminal practices organized by Pentecostal pastors that threaten the security of the West African nation.

But Pentecostal pastors said the move is evidence of Biya’s insecurity about the churches’ criticism of the government.

Biya is using the military to permanently shut down all Pentecostal church denominations in the nation’s capital, Yaounde, and the North West Regional capital, Bamenda, which have the largest Christian populations in Cameroon.

To an American, steeped in the culture of freedom of [including from] religion, that seems like a very risky move, and even ethically dubious. But then again it’s Pentecostal churches that stir up witch panics against children and other vulnerable people…

More than 50 churches have now been closed, with the government targeting nearly 100 in eight other regions.

“We will get rid of all the so-called Christian Pentecostal pastors who misuse the name of Jesus Christ to fake miracles and kill citizens in their churches. They have outstretched their liberty,” Mbu Anthony Lang, a government official in Bamenda, told CNN Wednesday.

Nearly 500 Pentecostal churches operate in Cameroon, but fewer than 50 are legal, he added.

On Sunday, a 9-year-old Christian girl collapsed and died during a prayer session in Winners’ Chapel, a Pentecostal church in Bamenda. The girl’s mother, Mih Theresa, told CNN Wednesday that the pastor intended to cast out the numerous demons that were in control of her daughter’s life.

“I want the government to stop these pastors who use mysterious powers to pull Christians and kill then for more powers. All my children have ran away from the Catholic Church in search for miracles, signs and wonders,” she told CNN while holding back tears.

Argh, what to do. “Religious freedom” shields horrors like that, so what is the best thing to do? I frankly don’t know.


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

Shock-horror: research fails to find Big Danger in GMO crops

Oct 30th, 2013 5:58 pm | By

GMO-phobes please note:

Massive Review Reveals Consensus on GMO Safety

“The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.”

That’s the conclusion from a team of Italian scientists, who just completed a thorough systematic review of the scientific research conducted on genetically modified (GM) crops in the past decade. Their work is published in the journal Critical Review of Biotechnology.

But but but the genes of GM crops will spread to wild plants, other crops, and microorganisms.

The review affirmed that this can indeed occur.

“The formation of hybrids between GE crops and wild relatives is possible and documented,” Nicolia said.

There is a caveat, however. According to Nicolia, this sort of thing happens naturally all the time with normal crops. Local plant genotypes get replaced. Wild plant populations mutate and become resistant to herbicides. Soil bacteria can niftily uptake genes. But this isn’t necessarily harmful. It’s just evolution.

Well yes but evolution is god’s nature’s way of doing it and GMO is ARTIFICIAL.

Opponents of GM crops are in the news. In Washington, they’re pushing to label all GM products. Nationwide, they’re viewing GMO OMG, a new documentary damning genetic modification. On the Internet, they’re cheering a just-released report announcing that non-GMO food sales will total $178 billion this year, and are predicted to rise substantially by 2017.

Sadly, much of their discourse is devoid of scientific evidence, leaving a vacuum that gets filled with emotionally persuasive anecdotes, accusations of corporate corruption, and often erroneous information. It remains to be seen whether or not there will be room for the evidence contained in this exhaustive review.

You have to start somewhere.

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

Brief one-time return of documenting the harassment

Oct 30th, 2013 4:32 pm | By

Was there a rumor that the slime pit had gotten not so bad? Or did I imagine it? Anyway it’s not not so bad, that I can see. I normally don’t look at it, but it showed up in the stats again (as it does so often) and I was vaguely curious to see if they were raging at me for posting about the CFI Summit because whrblxqfxx. No, they’re raging at me for being so (physically, aesthetically, sexually) disgusting.


Postby katamari Damassi » Mon Oct 28, 2013 2:44 pm  •  [Post 18619]

Cunning Punt wrote:Suddenly I want to fuck Service Dog.

Only because society has indoctrinated you that SD is sexy and that Ophie(par exemple) is not. Damn society!


by welch » Mon Oct 28, 2013 2:51 pm  •  [Post 18620]

katamari Damassi wrote:

Cunning Punt wrote:Suddenly I want to fuck Service Dog.

Only because society has indoctrinated you that SD is sexy and that Ophie(par exemple) is not. Damn society!

There is no method, neither in reality, nor the most fantastic imaginings of fiction, by which Ophie could become someone I’d be willing to stick it in, or frankly, even wish to think of in that manner. Given the choice between that and death by suffocation in a pit of spiders, I’d willingly commit my soul to countless numbers of the most foul creature to ever be part of Arachnida.
She dreams of a world in which her ugliness is only skin-deep.

Two and a half years later and John Welch (@bynkii on Twitter) is still at it. It’s bizarre. Why is my disgustingness relevant, and what’s it relevant to? It’s not as if I go around acting or talking as if I think I’m gorgeous and sexy. Why make a big point of how physically repellent I am? What’s it for? Just because on the internets you can get away with it? Who knows. I never understand it. I never will.

I once, as a child, shared with my mother my low opinion of an elderly guy’s necktie at a country auction. She hissed at me to be quiet – “he heard you.” I darted a look at his face and (the way I remember it at least) he did look mortified. I can’t begin to describe how horrible I felt – how I wished I could undo it, how I wished I hadn’t made him feel like that. I’ll never understand people who think it’s fun.

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

Oh no not a Facebook group calling for atheism

Oct 30th, 2013 4:00 pm | By

It’s exhilarating to know that Egypt is in such wonderful shape that its national security officials can squander their valuable time arresting people for posting atheism on Facebook.

A 20-year-old Egyptian student is reportedly under investigation for starting a Facebook group calling for atheism.

The unnamed student who studies commerce at the Suez Canal University in Ismailia, was arrested after the university’s administration filed a complaint over his alleged activities, Egypt’s largest news organisation Al-Ahram online writes.

The newspaper adds the accused student is now being investigated by national security officials.

There’s actually a law against that though?

Don’t be silly; of course there is.

While the story has yet to be verified by other sources, article 98 of Egypt’s penal code says anyone found guilty of offending religion in any form can face up to six years in prison.

In December last year, a Cairo court convicted Coptic Christian blogger Alber Saber of blasphemy and contempt of religion, sentencing him to three years in prison.

Offending religion in any form – that could mean literally anything.

I dislike theocracy.

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

He was just musing aloud

Oct 30th, 2013 11:34 am | By

Turkey used to be more secular than it is now. It’s going in the wrong direction. It’s going backward. Of course, theocrats think it’s going in the right direction, and going forward, or else that going backward is a good thing.

Torcant sent me this example from Hürriyet, in which a woman is fired because cleavage.

A television presenter has been dismissed over a low-cut top she wore on a television program, following criticism from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik.

Çelik criticized the presenter’s costume during a TV program, without giving a name, saying he found the dress “extreme” because of its open cleavage.

“We don’t intervene against anyone, but this is too much. It is unacceptable,” he said.

We don’t intervene against anyone, except when we do. We, the political party in power, decide what is acceptable in the way of women’s shirts. When we turn our thumbs down the woman is kicked out of her job.

Following Çelik’s remarks, it was revealed that the host in question was Gözde Kansu, who was taking part on the show “Veliaht” on the ATV station, and rumors spread that she had been fired.

The show’s producer, Caner Erdem, previously said nothing had been resolved, adding that Kansu might not take part in the program next week “due to her busy schedule.”

However, after discussions between the channel and the producer, Kansu’s dismissal was confirmed on Oct. 8.

The company that produces the show released a statement on Oct. 9, denying that Kansu was fired due to her low-cut dress.

The company said it no longer wanted to work with Kansu after the first  episode because her way of presentation and style was not in line with  the show’s aims, the statement said.

And those aims were…to jump when the party in power said jump.

Gözde Kansu is more direct about the matter.

Gözde Kansu, the television presenter who was fired from a TV show after a government official criticized her low-cut dress, said her firing was political, as nobody at her station was “willing to stand against the political will.”

“Sacrificing me was the easiest thing they could have done and they did. A woman again,” Kansu said in an interview with daily Hürriyet, speaking for the first time in public after reports of her dismissal from private broadcaster ATV surfaced.

She objected to the show producer’s claim that said they had parted ways because “her way of presentation and style was not in line with the show’s aims.”

“Look, if they didn’t like my performance they would tell me, right? They are investing a lot of money in this business. But they didn’t tell me anything. When [Hüseyin] Çelik talked, things changed,” Kansu said, insisting that her presenting had previously been praised and encouraged by the producers. “This is only the excuse. The ratings were not bad. But nobody wanted to act contrary to political will that slammed my décolleté. This is obvious,” she said.

Well, you know. Tits are haram.

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

Life’s little glitches

Oct 30th, 2013 10:58 am | By

You know that thing where you’re in a place with a lot of people you don’t see very often, and you cross paths with someone who says, warmly, “Hi, [your name here]!” and you know who it is but can’t pull the name up quite fast enough to say it before you’ve already said the “Hi” part and it’s too late? And you feel terrible? But then later you figure out a way to seek the person out so that you can say the name right off the bat? And then you feel very relieved?


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

If corporations are persons

Oct 30th, 2013 10:29 am | By

I sat next to Eddie Tabash at the speakers’ dinner Saturday, so I’ve been reminded (aka inspired) to focus more on the church/state issues looming at the Supreme Court, so you can expect me to be sharing more reportage on the subject.

The LA Times has a useful article by its business columnist on the “do corporations have a ‘religious conscience’?” question.

Now that the Supreme Court has endowed corporations with the right to have their voices heard via unrestrained spending on political campaigns (in the Citizens United decision of 2010), there aren’t many frontiers left to test the idea that corporations are “persons.”

But one test is heading our way with the speed of a freight train. This is the claim that corporations can have a religious conscience — more to the point, that they can impose their own religious beliefs on their employees. 

The issue is raised by three corporations’ challenges to Obamacare, specifically its requirement that employer health plans cover a wide range of contraceptives. The companies’ owners maintain that the rule infringes on their enterprises’ free expression of religion. Lower courts have split on whether a federal law forbidding the government to “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” applies to corporations. If it does, the road is wide open for employers to allow their religious beliefs to govern how they do business. Two appellate courts have ruled that for-profit corporations don’t have religious rights and a third says they might; what this split means is that the issue is on a certain path to the Supreme Court.

The implications of granting corporations the right to free expression of religion are horrific. The precedent, writes David H. Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center, would allow companies to fire workers “for engaging in all manner of activities that may not conform to the religious code of the company’s owners, including using contraceptives or terminating a pregnancy, becoming pregnant out of wedlock, or marrying a person of the same sex.”

Oh hell, don’t stop there. Including working at all if you’re a woman, including not being submissive if you’re a woman, including not being submissive if you’re not of the Chosen race or the halal religion, including not wearing a hijab if you’re a woman, including sending your girl children to school, including failing to whip your children when they are naughty – and on and on. Let’s not sugar the pill, here. Contraceptives and abortion, pregnancy outside marriage and same-sex marriage are the items that seem likelier to go down right away, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (Or, to put it another way, the availability heuristic.) Mandatory prayer, mandatory fasting, mandatory going without water as well as food from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, even at a construction company in Arizona where the job site tends to get hot and dry…It would be theocracy in action, and it would be a fucking nightmare.

The broader issue is the distinction between the secular and religious enshrined in the Constitution and our political culture. The corporate charters issued by government bestow numerous privileges that profit business owners, such as limited liability and access to special provisions of bankruptcy law and the tax code. In return, businesses have to comply with anti-discrimination laws and other public mandates. That’s the deal.

These business owners don’t want to give up these privileges. But they do want to shed the obligations of functioning in a secular world. They want to have things both ways — they want to keep their secular rights, without having to comply with their secular obligations.

And they want that so that they can impose their hateful tiny-minded oppressive shit on all of us. They want universal theocracy.

This is another attempt to blur a line that has already become far too blurry. The Obama administration arguably gave too much away when it offered religious groups a way around meeting the contraception mandates of the Affordable Care Act for their secular arms, such as hospitals that serve secular communities and hire staff without regard to religious affiliation. We’re seeing a steady encroachment of religious dogma into medical treatment, as when St. Joseph Health System imposed an abortion ban at Newport Beach’s Hoag Memorial Hospital, a Presbyterian institution it took over this year.

The Obama admin absolutely did give way too much away when it did that, and of course the Catholic bishops demanded (and alas got) way too much. The Catholic bishops are not the bosses of us, but in many ways they’re getting to impose their rules on us. It’s an outrage.

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

A mission to the preachers

Oct 29th, 2013 5:59 pm | By

Janet Heimlich wants to get atheists talking to clerics in order to do a better job of fixing the (enormous and terrible) problem of religious child abuse. She has a post on the subject on her blog.

I’ve been speaking on the subject of religious child maltreatment for some time, and a glance at my speaking schedule shows what groups have been most eager to have me come talk about this topic. While some religious organizations have extended invitations, I have been welcomed by atheist groups more than any other by far. I can think of all kinds of reasons why this would be, but the fact remains, atheists are willing to learn about religious child maltreatment more than any other group. And that’s commendable. I live with these cases of psychological and physical torture and death every day, and it’s not for the faint of heart. So, thank you, atheists, for taking the time and paying the money and whatever else you do to learn about this god-awful and hellish subject.

But, she adds, it’s preaching to the choir. Atheists have to preach to the preachers.

What I mean is, atheists should put aside their theological differences, focus on common goals, and sit down with faith leaders and teach them about religious child maltreatment. Why faith leaders? Because they can have a direct impact on perpetrators, the ones who need to learn about healthy alternatives to raising kids. After all, isn’t this how these problems get started in the first place, with pastors, rabbis, imams and cult leaders telling parents how to treat their children?

I propose we use that powerful force for good, so, atheists, I ask you to have a heart-to-heart with members of the clergy. You, atheists, who rarely need it to be explained that religious child maltreatment is a serious problem; who know we can’t accomplish much with just a lot of hand-wringing; and who want to see change happen to stop child abuse and neglect enabled by ideology and ignorance. I ask you to encourage faith leaders to teach parents about compassionate childrearing and to use healthy disciplinary techniques in ways that would bring a smile to the face of any child development expert.

I completely see her point, but I think it’s difficult. I wouldn’t volunteer to try to do it, because I don’t think I would do it well. I would get too argumentative. I think people who do terrible cruel things because they think there’s a god who wants them to are in need of a lot more than just advice to be kind instead of terrible. I wouldn’t be able to agree with their belief that there’s a god who wants them to do things and disagree only on the particulars of what the god wants them to do. I think the whole idea is horrendously dangerous, so I’d be bad at trying to bargain with it.

But as I said, I see her point. I hope she and others can get through to the preachers.

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

But it’s rampant

Oct 29th, 2013 4:37 pm | By

More on the teenage Kenyan girl who was gangraped and then thrown into a toilet pit, from the BBC.

They threw her unconscious body into a latrine. Her spine was broken, and the girl – referred to simply as Liz to protect her identity – is now in a wheelchair.

Earlier this year, a similarly horrific gang rape in India sparked a worldwide frenzy in social media and brought international condemnation.

Liz’s case was first reported by Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper on 7 October. “This is one of many such cases that happen in rural areas and the slums,” says Njeri Rugene, the journalist who broke the story. “People keep quiet about it – but it’s rampant.”

The men who allegedly attacked Liz – three of whom she says she knows – were
told to cut grass, then set free. The lack of punishment spurred a handful of
journalists and activists to use social media to raise awareness of the case.
The hashtags created did not get widespread traction, with #Justice4Liz getting
just a couple of hundred tweets. But in recent days, an online
set up by activist Nebila Abdulmelik started to gain international

How does that even happen? They broke her back – and still the cops just made them mow the lawn and that was the end of it?

I must not despair. But some of these stories…

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

Hamza Kashgari is free!

Oct 29th, 2013 11:46 am | By

He never should have been in prison in the first place, and he was there for 20 months, but he’s out now, so YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

Al Jazeera reports:

Supporters of Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari are celebrating his release after his imprisonment 20 months ago. His lawyer Abdulrahman Allahim said he was released early Tuesday, though there was no official confirmation from the government.

Kashgari was detained in February 2012 for allegedly blasphemous tweets. He fled to Malaysia following widespread outcry and death threats from some religious conservatives. He was extradited back to the kingdom where he was apprehended.

Remember that? He was heading for Indonesia, I think, New Zealand but he had to go via Kuala Lumpur and there the bastards grabbed him and sent him back – probably in violation of international law. Extradition is for serious shit, not made-up bullshit “blasphemy.”

Anyway, he’s out now. Enjoy your freedom, Hamza.

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

In the post-antibiotic era

Oct 29th, 2013 11:27 am | By

I knew the situation with antibiotics was bad but I didn’t know how bad. It’s really bad. The part I didn’t realize (which was stupid of me, because it’s obvious once it’s pointed out) is how heavily most advances in medical treatment, i.e. surgeries, depend on antibiotics. We’re screwed.

Frontline did a big show on it last week which I haven’t seen yet. It has an interview with Dr. Arjun Srinivasan of the CDC on its website.

They really are miracle drugs, and not only have they saved the lives of millions and millions of people … but antibiotics have opened up new frontiers in medicine that would be impossible without them.

Like what?

For example, organ transplantation. One of the major causes of death in patients who would have an organ transplant would be an infection. Without antibiotics, we wouldn’t be able to treat any of those infections.

And stem cell?

Stem cell transplants, bone marrow transplantation, cancer chemotherapy would be largely impossible … because all of these are therapies that weaken people’s immune system, which of course makes them then vulnerable to infections. We don’t have to worry about that so much because we have antibiotics that can treat those infections.

A lot of the therapies that we use now for different types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis — you see ads for that now on television — again, these are therapies that weaken immune systems. They make people vulnerable for infections, but because we have antibiotics, that’s not something that we have to particularly worry about as much as if we didn’t have the antibiotics.

But now we don’t, so much, so we do have to worry. And it’s getting worse not better.

We are quickly running out of therapies to treat some of these infections that previously had been eminently treatable. There are bacteria that we encounter, particularly in health-care settings, that are resistant to nearly all — or, in some cases, all — the antibiotics that we have available to us, and we are thus entering an era that people have talked about for a long time.

For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about “The end of antibiotics, question mark?” Well, now I would say you can change the title to “The end of antibiotics, period.”

We’re here. We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t. …

And that is just scary as hell.

I talked to a friend about it the other day, and she told me she’d recently had major spinal surgery and the hospital told her to go home the next day. She was aghast, and said, “What? Surely I need to recuperate more first?” And they told her every minute she stayed was more risk of untreatable infection.

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

Actively working

Oct 29th, 2013 11:07 am | By

For awhile the Mormon church tried to appear like less of a malicious hate-driven institution, but now that Romney has not been elected president it’s decided the hell with that, at least in Hawaii. It’s back to the old project of trying to repair the gayness, according to Mother Jones.

This week, the Hawaii state legislature began a special session to consider a bill that would legalize gay marriage in the state. The church is actively working to kill that measure.

One Sunday in September, local Mormon bishops read a letter from top Hawaii Mormon leadership instructing churchgoers to contact public officials about the same-sex marriage bill.

The letter was not the full-throated call to action the church issued during the fight over California’s anti-gay marriage measure, Proposition 8, when church leaders read letters directing members to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time.” The September Hawaii letter was far subtler, and even acknowledged that some Mormons might actually be in favor of the marriage bill. Nonetheless, it urged members to “review” the church’s “proclamation to the world,” a 1995 speech given by church president Gordon Hinckley that spelled out the church’s belief that marriage can only be between a man and woman. This latest letter also recommended members donate time and resources to groups working on the bill, though it didn’t say on which side they should be working.

The church also suggested that regardless of how members felt about the marriage bill, they should advocate for an exemption that would protect religious organizations from having to perform same-sex marriages and to allow individuals and small businesses to refuse to cater to such marriages (a nod to the famous cases of photographers and bakeries that have refused to serve customers celebrating a same-sex wedding in states where it’s now legal). The language the Mormon church favors mirrors the religious freedom argument the Catholic Church has adopted in its fights over everything from contraceptive coverage to gay marriage.

Because that’s the important thing. Interfering with people who aren’t like them, meddling with people’s ability to be happy together, defending the “freedom” to interfere with and poke at and torment people for no good reason.

But Salt Lake City’s focus-grouped language didn’t sit well with Hawaii church leaders, who wanted a more forceful message. On October 13, Hawaii church leaders read another letter to their flocks, this time stating flatly that the church’s position on same-sex marriage had not changed and that the church “is opposed to the proposed legislation in Hawaii.” The state church’s letter argues that traditional marriage is “fundamental to successful families and a strong society,” and directs members to actively oppose the legislation.

Dear flocks: let us all persist in being tiny-minded and spiteful and interfering, forever and ever, amen.

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

They raped her then threw her into a toilet pit

Oct 29th, 2013 10:49 am | By

Another petition worth flagging up (because worth signing) - about a rape case in Kenya in which the rapists were basically congratulated and sent on their merry way.

["Liz" is not the victim's real name and that's not a picture of her.]

16 year old Liz was walking home from her grandfather’s funeral when she was ambushed by six men who took turns raping her and then threw her unconscious body down a 6-meter toilet pit. Their punishment? Police had them mow their station lawn, then let them go free!

Liz’s horror story has sent shockwaves through Kenya and now politicians and the police are under pressure to respond. But women’s groups in Kenya say nothing will truly change unless the government is put under the global spotlight. They are calling on us urgently to help ensure justice is done and that Liz’s nightmare marks a turning-point in Kenya’s rape epidemic.

Nobody has been brought to justice – not the rapists, and not the police. Today, we change that. Let’s stand with Liz right now, before her attackers and the police escape. Sign now to get justice for Liz and help make sure no girl anywhere suffers this violence.

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

He was having a bad day

Oct 29th, 2013 10:02 am | By

That must have been an exciting day in the Religious Education class.

A religious education teacher has been struck off after telling pupils: “Hitler wasn’t all bad – he killed the Jews, the gays and the disabled”.

David McNally also told pupils at Kilwinning Academy that he would rather have been a child abuser and liked to watch porn on his mobile phone.

The remarks were made to S3 and higher RE classes on 1 November 2012.

First of all he seems to have gone off topic…although I suppose he could have been attempting to explain why Hitler was a good and orthodox Catholic, to start with, and then shifted to explaining why child abuse is totally Catholic and orthodox and good. (I still don’t get the porn connection though.)

Second, too much information.

As well as the remark about Hitler he asked one of his Higher pupils if they had had sex at the weekend.

On the same day he said to pupils in his third year class: “I didn’t want to be a teacher. I would rather have been a prison warden or a child abuser.”

He also said: “I have a part-time job at a children’s home – they have taught me how to whip a child with a wet towel without leaving a mark.”

The hearing was also told he said: “I love my mobile phone because I can sit and watch porn on it.”

McNally also made inappropriate comments about disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile after widespread reports emerged about him being a child abuser.

He really was thorough about it, wasn’t he.

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

That’s a doesn’t follow if I ever saw one

Oct 28th, 2013 3:52 pm | By

Joking aside, though, I really do have profound contempt for this whole “there are bigger issues so shut up about your issues because they’re not the biggest issues” line of patter. It’s even worse because it’s not even serious, or really meant, it’s just a pretext for saying some kind of shit, however desperate. But it wouldn’t be very respectable even if it were meant.

It’s just fucking dumb. The world is a big place, with a lot of people in it, and it’s a good thing that different people work on different things in different ways. It’s not a reason to spend a big chunk of time using social media for the purpose of badmouthing people who work on things that are not The Most Important Things Anyone Could Possibly Work On.

Saudi women are not allowed to drive, therefore people who blog about feminism should shut up.

Wut? Why should they? Why should we? And who made random creepers on Twitter the experts on the subject?

They shouldn’t, we shouldn’t, and no one did.

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

His observations may not be politically correct but

Oct 28th, 2013 3:31 pm | By

Dan Fincke sent me the link to an inspirational discussion on William Lane Craig’s Q and A page.

Dear Dr. Craig,

I have usually found your words to be a source of information and reassurance  in my Christian faith, and have often sought out your writings and videos in  times of doubt or questioning.

So I was really disappointed, almost shocked, when I read your newsletter of  April of this year in which you casually stereotypes men and women, and complain  that the church is becoming increasingly feminized, and has difficulties in  attracting men.

Your compared the audiences at a couple of your speaking engagements to the  audience from a clip of a Downton Abbey Q&A at another location – concluding  that they were all men at the former and almost all women at the latter “simply  because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing  to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is  more appealing to men.”

Wuhay! It’s dear old “it’s more of a guy thing” again. Women like fluffy stuff like relations and big huge expensive houses with expensive dresses, and men hard bony stuff like intellectual talks.

His correspondent goes on,

I believe that you are using stereotypes here, which you justify by making a  ridiculous comparison that holds zero statistical significance. Not only is your  statement unreasonable, it is potentially damaging – especially when made so  carelessly. Stereotypes are shortcuts in classifying people. They can, and often  do, limit and distort the way we perceive others and the world. Stereotypes are  a lazy way of thinking that can lead to discrimination, and their use should not  be encouraged.

So he turns red with rage and tries to stomp her into the ground, yes?

No, he’s better than that. He just talks a lot of patronizing bullshit.

My observations about the peculiar attraction that Christian apologetics has  for men involves several claims. Let’s tease these apart to see which of them  are objectionable.

First is my observation that apologetics seems to have far more interest for  men than for women. That observation is based upon an enormous amount of  experience in speaking on university campuses, at apologetics conferences, and  in classroom teaching. It is a realization that gradually and unexpectedly  forced itself upon me. It became very evident to me not only that the audiences  which came to these events were largely male but that in event after event only  the men stood up to ask a question. These facts seem to me to be undeniable.

Second is my hypothesis that this disparity is to be explained by the fact  that men respond more readily to a rational approach, whereas women tend to  respond more to relational approaches. Of course, this is just my best  suggestion, and if you’ve got a better hypothesis to explain the disparity,  Alexandra, I’m open to it. But there has to be an explanation.

Well, Bill, could part of the explanation be stereotype threat? Which you are doing your bit to re-enforce right here? Could it be that blather like that boils down to “women are kind of stupid, though in the nicest possible way” and that it makes women hesitant to open their mouths lest stupidity come tumbling out?

I think it could. I think patronizing crap like that is part of the very explanation you claim to be looking for.

Please understand that what I’m doing is not stereotyping but generalizing.  There’s a difference between a stereotype and a generalization. A generalization  admits of exceptions but remains an accurate characterization of most members of  a group. Most women do respond better to relational appeals, whereas men tend to  like the rational approach. Books on marriage improvement strongly emphasize  this difference. In her fascinating book You Just Don’t Understand: Women  and Men in Conversation, Deborah Tanner, for example, says that the way men  and women communicate is so different that when a man talks to a woman it’s a  case of cross-cultural communication!

Ah yes, generalization is obviously nothing like stereotype at all. Notice how he demonstrates that: by using the word “do” before “respond better” – that way we know it’s true. Then he makes us know it even more by saying the name of a book.

I thought at first that maybe the reason women almost never stood up to ask a  question was due the intimidation factor: they just feel less comfortable than  men getting up publicly to ask a question. That’s why the experience of seeing  the Downton Abbey panel was so intriguing to me. Though there were men in the  audience, everyone who got up and asked a question was a woman! When a man  finally stood up and asked something, this was almost a cause of celebration and  was noticed by everyone. Now obviously, this evidence is anecdotal, not  statistical, as you point out, but still this was not just accidental. What is  the explanation? Those of us who, like Jan and me, are fans of Downton Abbey  know how relational the program is, as it follows the personal lives and  struggles of those in the house. It’s striking that women didn’t feel  intimidated about getting up publicly and asking questions about very relational  matters.

What is the explanation? Here’s my hypothesis. It’s that there are no William Lane Craigs running around saying that Downton Abbey is an intellectual subject and that’s more of a guy thing.

He ends on a courageous note. That’s the guy thing coming into play again.

I doubt that what I’ve said in response to your question, Alexandra, will do  much to rebuild your faith in my words! My observations about the peculiar  attraction that Christian apologetics has for men may not be politically correct, but I believe that they are accurate, even if disappointing and  shocking to some.

His observations may not be politically correct, but he believes that they are accurate. Well that’s good enough for me, William Lane Craig!

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

One pernicious aspect, you may see a stranger

Oct 28th, 2013 2:52 pm | By

I posted a short excerpt from The Collected Tweets of Someone Very Angry About Something on Facebook, and people couldn’t even figure out what it was supposed to mean, so I thought I’d crowd-source it another way.

One pernicious aspect of identity politics favored by social justice warriors is it tends to subvert any concern with the horrors of poverty

Something about a tricycle is it?

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

Bishop Chukwuma

Oct 28th, 2013 12:27 pm | By

Pink News reports a Nigerian bishop raging at the archbishop of Canterbury for not hating teh gaze.

The Most Rev Justin Welby risks allowing the Church of Nigeria to break away from the worldwide Anglican Communion, Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma warned during a conversation with journalists at Nigera’s Akanu Ibiam International Airport.

Bishop Chukwuma had returned from Nairobi, where he’d been attending the Global Anglican Future Conference, along with 500 other Nigerian bishops.

He said: “We are not going to compromise. And we have made it quite known even to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the whole Europe and America, that there is no compromise as far as the scripture is concerned. So, if they do not repent, we are ready to stand on our own and go ahead with that authority of the scriptures and confess that faith as Anglicans for the future of church of Anglicanism.

“We secede. We are ready to secede because if you look at Ephesians chapter 5, verse 7, it says that you should not have anything to do with those people [homosexuals] who are becoming disobedient. So, why should we yoke with unbelievers. So, if they do not repent, we are ready to say, go away, we go our way. We love them but we hate their sins.”

Who cares what Ephesians chapter 5, verse 7 says about what you should not? Ephesians was written many centuries ago, and morality has improved since then. What pathetic bungling ignorance it is to point at a page in one single book and treat it as dispositive of anything.

Let’s take a look at the conversation-stopping wisdom of Ephesians 5. The New International Version.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a]Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

Well there you go – it’s just some ignorant anal-compulsive narrow pseudo-morality about being pure. It’s ethically impoverished. It’s barely adequate even as advice on polite manners in a public place, and as for being an irrefutable reason to treat LGBTQ people as tenth-class citizens, it’s beneath contempt.

Your morality is shit, Bishop Chukwuma. You’re a bad man doing bad things. You may not mean to be, but you are.




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

Greece v Galloway

Oct 28th, 2013 11:18 am | By

One thing I learned (or was nudged into noticing more clearly) at the CFI event is that I should be paying more attention to Greece v Galloway.

Or to put it another way, it’s the Supreme Court, stupid.

Eddie Tabash points out that we are one justice away from being second-class citizens. The “we” in that sentence is atheists and secularists.

As the Center for American Progress puts it,

The Supreme Court’s decision in Greece will serve as the basis for what is and is not permitted when it comes to prayers before official public meetings—guidance that could also be applied in cases involving all aspects of religion in the public sphere.

SCOTUS will hear the case November 6. It all hinges on Kennedy. (The ruling will come months later.)

Part of me thinks I should pay less attention to it instead of more, on the grounds that I like to remain cheerful. But that’s just cowardly.


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