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.

They’re not here to play

Nov 16th, 2011 4:19 pm | By

Frank Schaeffer fills us in on the world of evangelical child discipline for the glory of god, otherwise known as child abuse.

There’s the Texas judge, there are Michael and Debi Pearl, there’s James Dobson, and there’s Bill Gothard.

And it is not just individuals who are abused. Whole “Christian” organizations are involved. According to a report by Channel 13 WTHR Indianapolis (and many other media sources over the years),

“At first glance, the Bill Gothard-founded and run Indianapolis Training Center looks like an ordinary conference hotel. But some say there are dark secrets inside. “They’re not here to play,” Mark Cavanaugh, an ITC staffer tells a mother on hidden-camera video. ‘They’re here because they’ve been disobedient, they’ve been disrespectful.’”

He’s talking about young offenders who are sent to the center by the Marion County Juvenile Court. Critics of the program here, however, have another view. “This is sort of a shadow world where these kids almost disappear,” said John Krull, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. The pitch for the centers says that they were founded by Gothard because: “At the age of 15, Bill Gothard noticed some of his high school classmates making unwise decisions. Realizing that they would have to live with the consequences of these decisions, he was motivated to dedicate his life to helping young people make wise choices.”

The WTHR report goes on to detail how they help these young people make “wise choices”:

“But Eyewitness News has learned of disturbing allegations about the center, including routine corporal punishment — sometimes without parental consent — and solitary confinement that can last for months.

And just last week, Child Protective Services began investigating the center. That investigation involves Teresa Landis, whose 10-year-old daughter spent nearly a year at the center — sent there, according to Judge Payne, after she attacked a teacher and a school bus driver. What happened next outrages her family and critics of the ITC. The girl allegedly was confined in a so-called “quiet room” for five days at a time; restrained by teenage “leaders” who would sit on her; and hit her with a wooden paddle 14 times. At least once, the family contends, she was prevented from going to the bathroom and then forced to sit in her own urine.”

For Jesus. It’s all for Jesus, people, so it’s ok.

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

Glory in store

Nov 16th, 2011 1:09 pm | By

Enough of this frivolity; back into the theocratic trenches. Back to the anti-feminist “Biblical” reactionaries. It’s time to wade into The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

There is One Woman’s Wrestling Match with Submission, Part IV. Yes, part 4 – we want to be thorough about our wrestling matches with submission (provided, of course, we end up by submitting).

Christ’s purpose and joy was to glorify his Father, and he did this by submitting to him, thus elevating submission and the role of a servant for all time.   The Holy Spirit, for his part, was to glorify Christ.  If God gives me, as a woman, a task, that is the place and position from which he wants me to glorify him.  His intention is that my position of submission to my husband would bring glory to God.  And not only to him – ‘The woman,’ wrote the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 11:7, ‘is the glory of man.’  What if God has glory in store as I joyfully submit to my husband?

Yes but why? Why as a woman? Why not the other way around? Why not alternating – man submits on Tuesday Thursday and Saturday, woman submits on Monday Wednesday and Friday; on Sunday the whole household submits to the cat.

Well no doubt she explained all that in parts 1-3, and I’m just too unsubmissive to go and find out. Very well: your submission to your husband would bring glory to god. If you say so.

Now I am going to play devil’s advocate for a little bit.  What if, after all, the apostles Paul and Peter did not really mean that a wife should submit to her husband?  What if-after all-I have been living under an undue stricture?  What have I lost -my pride?  But is that not what I am supposed to lose?  What about my identity?  But does not the New Testament teach me that my identity is in Christ?  What about possibilities for self-development?  Helping one’s husband obey and rule will lead to plenty of self-development, I’ve noticed, without even looking for it-whether or not it is the sort I had in mind.

No this isn’t working, because there it is again – why is it just the woman who is supposed to lose her pride and find her identity in Christ and get plenty of self-development from helping her spouse?

She doesn’t say; instead she says she did it rong.

I had said I believed in submission – and I came to believe in it more, not less – but I had not been living as a truly submissive wife.  I recognized that I had not been honoring and respecting Trent as my head when it did not fit with my personal ideas.  I had not let him truly lead me when I thought I knew better.  That gets to the crux of the matter, I suppose.  I went to him and asked his forgiveness.  He forgave me.

Yes, that gets to the crux of the matter, and you took the wrong arm of the crux.

So that’s that trench waded into for a moment. Back to light and fresh air now.

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


Nov 16th, 2011 8:30 am | By

Someone is mean on the internet. No really?!

Yes but sometimes it is worth noting. When it’s part of an extended misogynist group-rant is one time; when it’s an ostensibly rational person going off the charts for months on end is another; when it’s a matter of singling out a few women is another.

What is it this time? Some guy called Ed Clint did a snide Facebook post about feminists always thinking people are telling them to shut up when really it’s just a matter of polite disagreement, linking to a post of Jen McCreight’s. Abbie Smith made a considerably more snide comment on Ed Clint’s post.

‎*newsflash* Watsons LIFE is fucking around on the internet.  Thats all she does.  Jen is well on her way to being in the same position.  It is pointless to ask them to ‘shut up’ because bitching on the internet is *literally* all they have in their lives.  Normal, sane humans with real lives, yes, we should pick and choose our battles carefully.  Obviously.  But this isnt an issue of asking a normal person to be more tactful.  Youre talking to a loser-at-life and expecting them to react like a normal person.  Be pragmatic.  And dont fucking grow up to be a loser.

Jen did a post responding to what Abbie said. There was discussion - a lot of discussion. Ed Clint did another snide FB post, Abbie copied in a comment she’d posted on her blog. This comment is what it is this time.

Rebecca Watson is a loser. She leeches off the skeptical movement to exist. Its disgusting.

You have (had?) potential to be more. And you are flushing it down the toilet.

You are in graduate school. That is your job. You spend way too much time going to these stupid conferences (hey, like Skepticon this weekend), that are not even tangentially related to your job (contrary to what you wrote in the small portion of your proposal I read). You are behaving in an utterly unprofessional manner, posting pics of seminars you attend making fun of them, accusing your professors and classmates of being anti-science. The portion of your proposal I read was horrible, to the point of being shockingly horrible for someone of your education and writing experience. It bears absolutely no resemblance to my NIH proposal (which was funded).

Which brings me to the worst part of your behavior, and why I know you are well on your way to becoming a professional loser– your proposal sucked, and you blamed your critique on your colleagues supposed anti-science. Youve already said your proposal isnt going to get funded ‘because youre an atheist’ or something stupid like that. And do I remember right, you didnt get into Harvard ‘because youre an atheist’ too, right? When you were properly chastised for behaving inappropriately and unprofessionally, you declared that it was because they couldnt handle you speaking out. Poor you for fighting the system! Career suicide! Bitch, please. I killed a Godfather of Retrovirology, and Ive still got a career (technically, it opened up locked doors for me). Heaven forbid your brain entertain the thought, for a moment, that you just fucked up. You are too stuck up your own ass to take responsibility for your own actions. Youre too old for this kind of immaturity.

If you went to my uni and you were in my department, you would be kicked out this coming Spring. And it would have had jack shit to do with your atheism.

But I am not your mother and you are not my problem. If you want to bitch on the internet for a living, more power to you. But you need to deal with the fact that people are going to call you a loser if that is what you choose to do with your life. Because you will be.

If you want to grow the fuck up and be a professional scientist, I would be happy to have you and happy for you.

But I just dont think its going to happen.

Jen did a post on that comment. PZ did one. There are a lot of comments. They cover the ground well.

I have little to add; mostly I just want to go on the record. I think Abbbie Smith shouldn’t say things like that publicly. I think no one should. It’s vicious, and I don’t think people should say vicious things publicly, with a few partial exceptions for hugely powerful and/or influential people like the pope and Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin.

I particularly detest all this “loser” talk. It’s so high-school-bully. It’s so conformist. It’s so low.

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

Vyckie Garrison on the Duggars and baby #20

Nov 15th, 2011 5:41 pm | By

It’s a woman’s chance for martyrdom.

In her book, The Way Home, Beyond Feminism and Back To Reality, Quiverfull proponent Mary Pride explains that mothers who risk their lives for the sake of building the Kingdom of God are to be honored the same as missionaries:

“Routinely we send missionaries off to work in unsavory climates, knowing full well that they will probably come down with amoebic dysentery, be overheated (or frozen), receive inadequate medical care in second-rate hospitals, and on the average live ten years less than other people. But we don’t tell people not to be missionaries. Instead, we commend missionaries for their courage.

“Missionaries go to foreign countries to beget new Christians; mothers get pregnant to be beget new Christians. Even if maternal missionary work has some hazards (and what missionary work doesn’t?), the noble way is to face them with courage. Likewise, we really ought to honor women with medical problems … diabetes, asthma, quadriplegia, arthritis, heart problems … who are willing to serve God with their bodies as mothers.  These are the unsung heroines of the modern church.”

Not all that unsung: TLC is singing like a canary.

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

A hero

Nov 15th, 2011 4:31 pm | By

And now for something completely different – the anti-Michelle Duggar – Farzana Yasmin in Bangladesh.

Farzana Yasmin

A top human rights group in Bangladesh has praised a bride who disowned her husband within minutes of their wedding because he demanded a dowry.

Sultana Kamal of the Ask rights group said that Farzana Yasmin had taken a “principled and brave stand against the gross injustice of dowry payments”.

“Already she is facing recriminations with several parties trying to defame her and portray her as a loose woman. In fact she is a heroine of Bangladesh.”

Ms Yasmin’s decision to divorce her husband within minutes of their wedding in the conservative southern district of Barguna has sent shockwaves through the country, with supporters and opponents of her action fiercely arguing their
cases on Facebook.

The “10-minute bride” told the BBC that she wanted other “dowry-oppressed women” in Bangladesh to be inspired by her actions, which correspondents say appear to be without precedent.

Ms Yasmin – who has fled her home village to take refuge with friends and
family in Dhaka – denounced her husband as she was about to be taken to her
wedding car at the end of her marriage celebrations.

She told the BBC that he and his family wanted to delay her departure until
they had received “gifts”, including a TV and a fridge.

Brave. Good luck, Farzana Yasmin!

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

Starting young

Nov 15th, 2011 11:35 am | By

See what it’s like to grow up as a Quiverfull child.

I’m the oldest of 12. I was 13 when my baby sister Tess slept in my room. I was responsible for changing and feeding her in the middle of the night (she was 6 months plus…I don’t remember exactly). That was pretty much the beginning. (To be fair, she was one of two babies who was passed off so young, but still.)

My second sister (seven years younger than me) is mother to our second-youngest sister, Abby. I don’t say second mother. I say mother. After a high-risk pregnancy, mom had an emergency C-section, and Abby became Beth’s buddy. She couldn’t nurse, so she was purely bottle-fed. Beth did everything for her. Last I knew, Abby would come to Beth if she had a problem, before she would come to mom.

Beth and I shared a room for many years, and the younger girls’ room was right next door. When Tess had nightmares and hallucinations, most likely it was Beth or me (or both) who got up with her. When the little girls needed help going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it was us again who helped (or the twins, when they got older).

It wasn’t that our parents’ room was across the house, either. It was across the hall from our rooms. They believed they deserved the right to sleep through the night while someone else took care of their kids. They believed they earned the right to sleep through the night while someone else took care of their kids.

Child labor laws would rule that out for unrelated children, but within the family it’s ok to make children do the night duty.

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

Another baby!

Nov 14th, 2011 6:08 pm | By

So I watched the Duggars for half an hour or so last night. I hadn’t seen them before apart from a few minutes once, before I knew they were Quiverfull. The whole thing is, not surprisingly, blood-curdling. Especially Jim Bob. God he’s awful – genial and ignorant and intrusive. They all went to Edinburgh (apparently because Jim-Bob is under the delusion that “King James” translated the bible), their first time ever out of the country, and perhaps even Arkansas – and on their very first afternoon there, Jim Bob got in a friendly chat with a street performer and damn if he didn’t come right out and say “what’s your faith background?” No really, he did – 90 seconds into a chat and he asks a total stranger what his religion is. When the guy said none, Jim Bob said hey look Jupiter is too cold and Venus is too hot but here it’s just right, God keeps it all working. His first day in a foreign country and he’s out there lecturing people!

And all the children have names that begin with J. Like Jim Bob; geddit? How stinking conceited is that? One is called Jinger.

But that’s just by the way. The really creepy part is where they tell the kids – all 19 of them – that Mom is pregnant again. Then there’s a flashback to the last birth – when her blood pressure skyrocketed and the baby had to be taken out 3 1/2 months early. The kid is now 2 and she looks very damn fragile. But they were all beaming about the exciting prospect of doing all that again or perhaps just plain seeing Michelle Duggar die. She told the camera that would be fine.

It’s disgusting.

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

Nous sommes tous Charlie

Nov 14th, 2011 5:16 pm | By

And speaking of Facebook, it didn’t cover itself with glory in the matter of Charlie Hebdo, either. Charlie H says Facebook prevented CH from moderating its own Facebook page.

Charlie Hebdo Officiel

Charlie Hebdo’sFacebook page has been swamped with 13,000 messages, many of them threats and insults, since the publication of this week’s issue retitled Charia Hebdo and featuring a cartoon of Mohammed on its front cover.

But its moderator cannot remove them, the blog says, “under the pretext – surprise! surprise! – that Charlie Hebdo is not a ‘real’ person” and because it breaches a ban on “publications featuring nudity or other sexually suggestive content”, says the satirical paper’s blog, launched on Thursday to show that it is “reborn from the ashes”.

Therefore it just has to put up with threats. Good job, Facebook.

Reporters Without Borders is not impressed.

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders slammed Facebook on Friday for threatening to terminate the account of a French weekly whose offices were firebombed after publishing images of the Prophet Mohammed.

RSF noted with irony that Charlie Hebdo’s staff could no longer edit comments on its Facebook “wall”, including those inciting violence, while the “enemies of freedom of expression” could continue to post hate messages.

“It is extremely worrying to notice that the social network seems to fall on the side of censorship and restricting the freedom to inform,” RSF said, noting that Facebook had already closed the pages of several dissidents.

Facebook shut down the page of Michael Anti because it was a pseudonym of Chinese political blogger Jing Zhao, while the Facebook group “We are all Khaled Said”, named after an Egyptian blogger killed by security forces, was closed because the group’s administrators didn’t use their real names.

Booooooo, Zuckerberg. Don’t be evil.

The rest of you: Like Charlie’s Facebook page.

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

Ignoring it won’t make it go away

Nov 14th, 2011 12:00 pm | By

Someone who blogs at the CHE under the title “Female Science Professor” ruminates on how to respond to sexist comments.

The incidents themselves are not what generates the debate on my blog. Instead, the sometimes-heated discussion focuses on how I have chosen to respond to such slights: that is, my tendency to react in a calm, polite way, perhaps with a bit of humor or gentle sarcasm. Except in extreme cases, I prefer not to respond to insulting remarks with anger, and I try to move on with the research, teaching, or service task at hand.

No wonder there’s debate.

Granted, it’s sensible to respond calmly and politely, in a professional setting. You don’t want to turn purple in the face and shout a string of oaths. I understand that. But without anger?


No, and no, and no again.

Anger can be calm and polite. Be as icily calm and polite as Rex Harrison on a very cold day, but still be it with anger.

I’ll give you an example of one of these incidents: Not long ago, during a meeting of a somewhat prestigious committee, I openly disagreed with another committee member. He responded by noting that I was there only because “we needed a woman on the committee”—unlike the men, all of whom were apparently invited to serve because of their superior talents, wisdom, and experience.

He was trying to undermine me, and, therefore, my argument. My response was to ignore his statement entirely and continue to make a case for my opposing view. By remaining calm and professional, with a focus on the topic at hand, I think I was more effective than if I had acted defensively, traded insults, or walked out of the room in anger.

Yes but those three items don’t exhaust the possibilities. FSP could also have calmly but firmly pointed out the sexist nature of that remark before going on to make a case for her opposing view. (I couldn’t do that, in such a situation; I would instantly turn purple in the face and shout a string of oaths; but FSP sounds like the kind of person who could simply make the factual statement without flooding her system with adrenalin.)

I think it’s a mistake to ignore overt sexism. The more I see of it, the more I think it’s a mistake to ignore it.

H/t to Christopher Moyer for the link.


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

Facebook’s little jeu d’esprit

Nov 14th, 2011 9:40 am | By

Update: Facebook caved, fixed it. Let the experts do the magic realism, please.

Facebook decides to try its hand at magic realism. If cool people like Salman Rushdie can play around with concepts of identity and authenticity and malleability, why shouldn’t Facebook do likewise? And how better to do that than by playing silly buggers with the identity of Salman Rushdie himself?

So what Facebook does is, it de-activates Salman Rushdie’s Facebook account on the grounds that it (Facebook) thinks it’s an impostor. That’s a very silly claim, because if Facebook had taken the trouble to read a few posts and comments it would have seen that it wasn’t. But then it wouldn’t have been able to play around with concepts of identity and authenticity and malleability, so it didn’t.

What it did instead was – here’s where its wit and playfulness become apparent – it told Salman Rushdie he could have his ol’ account back, re-activated, but he would have to stop calling himself Salman and call himself Ahmed, instead. World-famous Booker of Bookers-winning Ahmed Rushdie.

That’s a thigh-slapper, don’t you think?

And that sure is what Facebook is for – making its users stop using their own names and start using new ones that they’ve never used, so that nobody will be able to find them or have a clue who the fuck they are.

All very amusing except that Salman is going to quit Facebook in disgust, and he tells good jokes there, so that would be bad. I’ve been shouting at Facebook.

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

Progress report

Nov 12th, 2011 2:14 pm | By

Current glitch is that comments are coming in but they’re not visible (except to me), and that the two “wait patiently” posts I did today are gone. The comments are excellent, especially one from a student at Penn State – good luck with Westboro! – and they will show up eventually, so keep commenting.

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

Go all fucking Gandhi on their arses

Nov 11th, 2011 5:46 pm | By

Hipster guy tells Rebecca Watson what’s what. Really funny stuff that nobody’s thought of saying before, like hey you’re an adult and you’re all upset that some guy wanted to fuck you, grow up, people like to fuck, especially at 4 a.m. See what I mean? Witty.

Tim Minchin commented. Hmph. Rebecca has all the fun – well, except for being called a cunt 85 times a day. Anyway Tim Minchin commented.

No permalink – how tiresome. Use CTRL F.

I stay in a lot of hotels and travel in a lot of elevators. They are very helpful, what with their elevating properties and all. Sometimes, I am in an elevator with a woman. Just me and her. In this little, quiet, rumbly box. Actually, this happened this evening here in New York, just a couple of hours ago.

And I thought to myself, “What would it be like right now if I asked this woman for a coffee”? I’ve pondered this many times in the months since Rebecca’s video managed to unlock the secret door into the mysterious fuck-head chamber of the personalities of a thousand commenters, and the answer is always: fucking weird.

It would be really pretty fucking weird. No, not “deserving-of-arrest, definitely-a-rapist, just-as-bad-as-female-circumcision” kind of weird. But just about weird enough to justify, say… a comment. Y’know, the sort of comment you might make if you were, say, a video blogger who talks about life and skepticism from a woman’s perspective.

I have been substantially depressed by the scale and tone of the subsequent brouhaha.

Some advice, if you’ll forgive me, from someone who has, in the past, been rude to people on the internet, and also has been the subject of plenty of abuse:

Just don’t be cruel to ANYONE, ever. On the internet, or in your life.

Just imagine, as you sharpen your pen, that every man is your uncle or your brother, and that every woman is your mother or your sister. Just don’t spread vitriol. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it doesn’t improve anything, it fails to educate, elucidate or encourage debate. It’s lazy. It’d be boring if it wasn’t so awful.

Just stop. Breathe. Don’t be defensive. Think hard about what you think. Clarify your point of view in your head. Try to find a way to articulate it – if you still feel you must articulate it – in a manner that assumes the person you are addressing is an actual human.

Preferably make it rhyme. Rhyming your anger seems to help, in my experience.

Go on, I dare ya – go all fucking Gandhi on their arses. Even if you hate them. It’s a good feeling. Little glasses, sandals, chilling out and drinking chai. Trying not to have sex with your great niece. Lovely.

You can experiment on me, if this post ignites your ire.

It’s too chilly for sandals right now, let alone the loin cloth, but apart from that – Gandhi R us.

Jamila Bey was asking Rebecca earlier why this stuff happens and why it doesn’t get called out. I don’t know why it happens, although I have some ideas, but - it does get called out now. We’re all over the calling out.

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

Prepare for FTB outage

Nov 11th, 2011 2:45 pm | By

There is a big upgrade in the works for tonight so FTB will be down for 2 to 3 hours starting at 7 pm my time which is 10 pm in New York and 3 am in London and…I’m not sure what time in Sydney. Late morning or noonish maybe – yes that should be right – it’s late there when it’s early for me and early there when it’s late for me, so around midday should be close.

4 hours and a quarter from now, anyway.

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

Whether it is morally outrageous to suppose

Nov 11th, 2011 2:11 pm | By

Andrew Brown goes out of his way to misunderstand William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins on William Lane Craig. Does he really misunderstand or is he just playing silly buggers? I often think coat-trailing is all Andrew Brown ever does. He only does it to annoy, because he knows it teases.

What he misunderstands is the part about the slaughtered children of Canaan.

…if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

Brown misunderstands or pretends to misunderstand the outrage at that claim of Craig’s.

The question is whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that the innocent victims of such crimes go to heaven.

No it isn’t.  The question is whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that that belief makes it perfectly all right for “God” to “command” humans to kill them. It’s not whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that people go to heaven; it’s whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that because people do go to heaven therefore it is fine to kill them, at least if you’re “God” or obeying “God’s” command. That’s Clifford’s leaky ship. Human beings have no right to believe that their spooky mysterian boss tells them to massacre people and that that’s ok because the innocent ones will go to heaven. That’s a reckless, negligent, self-serving belief that would justify horrors.

via WEIT

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

It’s the spook or nothing, punk

Nov 11th, 2011 12:25 pm | By

I should at least read to the end before I throw a verbal punch, but you know sometimes it just can’t wait. Rabbi Adam Jacobs, ornamenting the Huffington Post with his wisdom.

He just doesn’t get it about believers, he confides. They keep making him jump with surprise.

 Often, I’ve inquired of non-believers if it at all vexes them that nothing that they have ever done or will ever do will make the slightest difference to anyone on any level?

Stupid man. He thinks because we don’t believe in the omni-god, we believe nothing makes any difference to anyone on any level. He thinks either there’s an omni-god, or nothing makes any difference to anyone on any level. On any level. If only he’d had the wit to leave off the “on any level” he wouldn’t look so dumb! But he just had to add that, thus underlining that he really was talking unmitigated nonsense.

After all, one random grouping of molecules interacting with another has no inherent meaning or value. I still await the brave soul (or neuron complex if you prefer) who will respond that I am quite correct; that no thought, deed, action or impulse is any more significant or meaningful than any other, that statements like “I would like to enslave all of humanity” and “I would like a chocolate bar” are functionally equivalent, and that their very own thoughts and words are intrinsically suspect as they are nothing more than some indiscriminate electro-chemical impulses. Until then, I will carry on believing that most “non-believers” actually believe a bit more than they generally let on, or are willing to admit to themselves.

Nooooo, you dope – we believe that things do matter on the level where we live, and that belief in a magical spooky omni-god is not necessary for that belief. It’s really not that difficult!

H/t Ezra Resnick, who does a more patient and meticulous critique on his blog.


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

Sandals with socks? A whiff of wet dog?

Nov 10th, 2011 3:16 pm | By

Another rather heavy-breathing piece by Julian in his “Heathen’s Progress” series. Once again he’s saying very much what “new” atheists have been saying all along, so why is it again that he’s so annoyed by “the new atheists”? Loud voices was it? Bad haircuts? Garlic breath?

I’m very much in sympathy with this view*, and this series is largely an attempt to try to find more constructive points of engagement that can only emerge if we ditch lazy and tired preconceptions about those with whom we disagree. At the same time, however, I’m all too aware that “you just don’t understand” is a card that is often played far too swiftly and without justification.

On the one hand, but on the other hand. I agree with the obvious, but at the same time, I also agree with a different obvious. That’s philosophy.

It has become evident to me, however, that many people, especially the religious, suffer from a kind of conceptual claustrophobia. Their beliefs are of their essence somewhat vague and they are terrified of being pinned down. Although critics often leap on this and claim that this betrays woolly thinking, evasion or obscurantism, I think that there are times when such a refusal to commit is justified.

Yes – provided that you don’t then go on to make lots of confident claims, but how often is that condition met?

But embracing this mystery comes at a price. If, like the archbishop of Canterbury, your faith is a kind of “silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark”, then think very carefully before you open your mouth. Too often I find that faith is mysterious only selectively. Believers constantly attribute all sorts of qualities to their gods and have a list of doctrines as long as your arm. It is only when the questions get tough that, suddenly, their God disappears in a puff of mystery. Ineffability becomes a kind of invisibility cloak, only worn when there is a need to get out of a bit of philosophical bother.

Precisely; my point exactly. I’ve been saying that for years. Julian doesn’t need instruction from me, of course, but nevertheless I don’t quite see why he’s presenting all this as if it’s new and fresh as opposed to just the kind of thing the gnu atheists get so much shit for saying, sometimes from Julian himself.

*that disputants in the religion debate are talking past each other because they do not have a sufficiently rich understanding of the positions they stand against.

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

After she was raped, she was charged with adultery

Nov 10th, 2011 2:13 pm | By

The EU commissioned a documentary film on women in Afghanistan who get shoved into prison for doing outrageous things like leaving abusive “husbands” they never wanted to marry in the first place. The documentary was duly made, at which point the EU got cold feet and said on second thought let’s put this documentary in a locked drawer and never think about it again.

The documentary told the story of a 19-year-old prisoner called Gulnaz.

After she was raped, she was charged with adultery. Her baby girl, born
following the rape, is serving her sentence with her.

“At first my sentence was two years,” Gulnaz said, as her baby coughed in her
arms. “When I appealed it became 12 years. I didn’t do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?”

Or, for that matter, at all? Why not, rather, sentence the rapist? Now there’s a novel idea!

But don’t worry: there’s a happy ending for Gulnaz.

Gulnaz’s pardon may be in the works because she has agreed – after 18 months
of resisting – to marry her rapist.

“I need my daughter to have a father,” she said.

Nothing to add.

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

Not just making it up

Nov 9th, 2011 3:41 pm | By

Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber was on the trail of internet misogyny last week too.

Anyone who blogs regularly gets annoyed by commenters. We do our best to screen out the worst here at Crooked Timber, but inevitably some get through, and, just as inevitably, they can sometimes upset us. But though I’ve had my intelligence, good judgement and moral character questioned many times, I’ve never had to cope with the kind of abuse female bloggers sometimes get. And the women at CT have had that too, from behind the protective shield of anonymity (though I did work out who on one occasion and warned a fairly prominent academic about what would happen if he came back).

Many interesting comments. This one from Henry Farrell (of Crooked Timber) for instance:

…you folks are only seeing the comments that make it through. There is a steady-ish (it is a little slacker at the moment) trickle of nasty stuff which doesn’t. Most of it, but not all, is drive-by. And the really vicious stuff is aimed at our women posters. The shit that we guys get is mostly laughably generic – communist, socialist, idiot-professors etc. The comments that the women posters get are more intense, vicious and personalized.

And John Quiggin, also of CT:

My experience here and elsewhere is entirely in line with Chris’ post. Even when being deliberately provocative, I don’t get anything like the abuse directed at women bloggers even on posts that would seem unlikely to offend anybody.

It’s not our imagination.

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

Unconvincing claims of exercising free speech

Nov 9th, 2011 12:43 pm | By

A week ago the Paris correspondent of Time, Bruce Crumley, wrote an article on the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo, saying…that we journalists and beneficiaries of free speech stand shoulder to shoulder with Charlie Hebdo?

No actually. Not that. Something different.

Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts
by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?

Oh gee, I don’t know. I ask myself the same question whenever I have the audacity to write something and then go ahead and click “Publish” so that it appears online. Surely I’m just begging for the very misogynist responses from misogynists that I claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. Amirite? I tempt belligerent reaction several times every day. What do I think I’m doing!?! What does anyone think she’s doing by writing down what she thinks about something when she knows full well that someone somewhere could disagree with it and be tempted into belligerent reaction?! It’s such a petulant, futile thing to do, to say something that somebody might dislike.

The difficulty in answering that question is also what’s making it hard to have
much sympathy for the French satirical newspaper firebombed this morning, after it published another stupid and totally unnecessary edition mocking Islam. The Wednesday morning arson attack destroyed the Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo after the paper published an issue certain to enrage hard-core Islamists (and offend average Muslims) with articles and “funny” cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed—depictions forbidden in Islam to boot.

Stupid and totally unnecessary – so is it Forbidden to publish anything that’s not necessary now? And what are the criteria for “necessary”? And is the fact that something is certain to enrage hard-core Islamists a good reason not to do it? Women going out in public is also certain to enrage hard-core Islamists; should they therefore stay at home? And is “forbidden in Islam” a good reason for the whole world to not do something? Charlie Hebdo isn’t in Islam, so why should it care what is forbidden in Islam? The prohibitions of religions don’t apply to people who don’t adhere to the religions, after all. I know this is old news, as well as obvious, but this Crumley fella seems to have missed the memo.

We, by contrast, have another reaction to the firebombing: Sorry for your loss,
Charlie, and there’s no justification of such an illegitimate response
to your current edition. But do you still think the price you paid for
printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the
logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good luck with those
charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring.

Oh good god, what a horrible brainless thug. He’s right up there with Brendan O’Neill. Sorry for your loss, he says sneeringly, and there’s no justification but all the same I will tell you how very bad and wrong you are – you the one who just had your offices and equipment destroyed. It was offensive and shameful so nyah nyah good luck with the charcoal.

…rather than issuing warnings to be careful about what one asks for, the arson
prompted political leaders and pundits across the board to denounce the arson as an attack on freedom of speech, liberty of expression, and other rights central to French and other Western societies.

Oh jeezis mary and joseph, the guy is a journalist and he said that – he wants political leaders and pundits issuing warnings to be careful about what one “asks for” by writing or drawing cartoons! He wants them to do that instead of defending freedom of speech!

In 2007, Charlie Hebdo re-published the infamous (and, let’s face it,
just plain lame) Mohammed caricatures initially printed in 2005 by Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. As intended, those produced outrage–and at times violent reaction–from Muslims around the world (not to mention repeated terror plots to kill illustrators responsible for the drawings). Apart from unconvincing claims of exercising free speech in Western nations where that right no longer needs to be proved, it’s unclear what the objectives of the caricatures were other than to offend Muslims—and provoke hysteria among extremists.

He says the caricatures were intended to produce outrage and violent reaction, and terror plots to kill the very cartoonists who apparently intended all this. He attacks the very idea of free speech in the act of informing us that it no longer needs to be “proved” – well with people like him around it sure as hell does.

…it’s just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a
minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their
rights and liberties—and that isn’t happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble
statement by gratuitously pissing people off.

A minimum of calculation. We’re allowed to have free speech but we have to exercise a minimum of calculation before we actually use it – so we’re not actually allowed to have it at all. “Let’s see, will this cause Islamists to blow us up? Will this cause misogynists to threaten to rape me? Hmmmmm yes maybe; I’ll just go get drunk, instead.” There’s your free speech.

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

L’amour plus fort que la haine

Nov 9th, 2011 9:18 am | By

Via Maryam - Charlie Hebdo says love is stronger than hate. C’est vrai!

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