Notes and Comment Blog

Amid concerns of offence

May 27th, 2013 1:19 pm | By

Another week, another cartoon about Islam yanked from a student newspaper.

A cartoon satirising Islam has been pulled from the internet by editors of  the Australian National University student newspaper, amid concerns of offence  and potential for violent backlash.

The Woroni student newspaper originally published the cartoon on  April 18 as part of its “Advice from Religion” infographic, the fifth in a  series previously featuring Catholicism, Scientology, Mormonism and Judaism.

ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young said editors retracted the cartoon two days after  it was posted online following a formal complaint to university management.

So…cartoons about Catholicism, Scientology, Mormonism and Judaism, okay. Cartoon about Islam, not okay.

Speaking on ABC Radio on Monday, Mr Young said there was also concern about  the potential for a violent backlash because of the graphic, which appeared on  the backpage of the paper.

“There have been a number of cases internationally of satirical cartoons  about the Koran which can have some very unfortunate side effects,” he said.

So…violence and intimidation work.


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

The source and certainty

May 27th, 2013 12:07 pm | By

Desmond Clarke, an emeritus professor of philosophy at University College Cork, explains why religious moral certainty is out of place in discussions of abortion law. In particular, he says that

those who are absolutely certain about their ethical views – which are evidently not shared by many others – should reflect on the source and certainty of their convictions.

Those who do so reflect and do so independently of religion tend to bump up against some version of the harm principle. First do no harm. That’s the core of the little list I drew up the other day – don’t do genocide, don’t push children into traffic, that kind of thing. There are complications, but my point was that you can make the claims short enough and obvious enough that it’s difficult to be skeptical about them – at least I think it is. Except for people with broken empathy, which is why I made an exception for psychopaths.

Archbishop Eamon Martin spoke recently about Catholics “putting faith into practice” and not leaving “our faith ‘outside the room’” when they discuss legislation. No one can argue with faith. The history of religions shows that sects have held the most irrational and misogynistic beliefs, and have attributed them to a god.

And attributing them to a god means getting to go around the normal inhibitions on violence and cruelty, and doing so with a clear conscience.

Of course, non-religious people have held equally implausible beliefs, but they cannot protect them from examination by appealing to faith.

I’m not sure we know that. I’m not sure it’s true that non-religious people really have held equally implausible beliefs.

But that’s a quibble. It’s the second part that matters. That’s the point we ended Does God Hate Women? with – that that’s how religion makes misogyny much harder to address and get rid of – it sanctifies it and shields it.

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


May 27th, 2013 10:54 am | By

Jason added the tool that makes tweets big and readable, so I’m going to try it out. I’ll do a vanity tweet, because I’m so vain.

"Backlash happens when you're making progress, not when you're nowhere." @ at #wiscfi
A Room Of Her Own

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


May 27th, 2013 9:21 am | By

Send Justin Vacula to Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin

Justin Vacula — Skeptic Ink Network writer, speaker, atheist and church/state activist, and host of Brave Hero Radio – seeks to attend conference in Dublin.

He’s raised more than enough already.

So this is how it’s to be. I can’t go anywhere now without being followed by a dedicated harasser.



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

The property line

May 26th, 2013 5:51 pm | By

Sarah Ditum startles and shocks by making a distinction between female genitalia and electronic equipment.

2. A laptop is a portable electronic device, a vagina is a body part
Does it whir? Does it make small clicking sounds? Can it be placed in a briefcase and carried around separately to its owner? That is a laptop. Is it a fibromuscular tubular tract located between a woman’s thighs? Vagina. Taking the former from a car would be an act of theft. Penetrating the latter without the woman’s consent would be a physical assault – and that’s true even if the woman has behaved in a way that makes it obvious that she has a vagina and sometimes uses it for fun! No one says to the victim of a beating: “Well, anyone could see you had teeth. You were just asking to have them broken with all the eating you do.”



But still. Don’t just go walking around wherever you want to. Or leave your laptop on the bus.

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

Very, very, very well over the years

May 26th, 2013 5:40 pm | By

Good news: Colin Powell isn’t at all worried about the massive rate of sexual assault in the US military. He says everything’s fine and the system is working well. That will be a huge relief to all the women who were raped in that military, especially the ones who got punished while their rapists got promoted.

Despite the high rate of sexual assault and instances of convictions being overturned by commanders, Powell said the military justice system was working.

“There will always be a case where somebody disagrees with a judgment made by somebody in the appellate procedure,” he explained. “Well, lets examine that, but lets not toss out a system that I think has worked very, very well over the years. I have been in that position as a commander. I have been the appellate authority. I have decided who should get tried and who should not get tried, and I can tell you that in my experience as a commander, we take it very, very seriously.”

That’s greeeeeeeeeat! Isn’t it? Only, he might be a little bit wrong. Maybe his view of how well it’s worked is shaped by his job, his position, his ties, his friends – by all the things that make it a super bad idea to let people at the top of an organization decide how crimes inside the organization will be dealt with. Maybe, just maybe, he has the same kind of problem popes and bishops have dealing with rape in their organization. Maybe Bloomberg TV shouldn’t be asking him softball questions but should instead be asking why the fuck the military thinks it can deal with sexual assault within its ranks better than the Vatican does.

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

But words

May 26th, 2013 4:23 pm | By

This week’s xkcd is so very apt…

Sticks and Stones

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

28.4% of speaking characters were female

May 26th, 2013 3:57 pm | By

I keep saying.

Where have all the women gone in movies?

Despite the success of recent female-driven movies such as “Bridesmaids” and the “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” series, female representation in popular movies is at its lowest level in five years, according to a study being released Monday by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

I keep talking about this. You’d think women didn’t exist, looking at most movie trailers. Even the animated ones – all the toys or all the animals – they’re male.

Among the 100 highest-grossing movies at the U.S. box office in 2012, the study reported, 28.4% of speaking characters were female. That’s a drop from 32.8% three years ago, and a number that has stayed relatively stagnant despite increased research attention to the topic and several high-profile box-office successes starring women.

We also need stats on amount of speaking, screen time, billing, importance to the plot, action – a lot of things.

When they are on-screen, 31.6% of women are shown wearing sexually revealing clothing, the highest percentage in the five years the USC researchers have been studying the issue.

For teen girls, the number who are provocatively dressed is even higher: 56.6% of teen girl characters in 2012 movies wore sexy clothes, an increase of 20% since 2009.

Because that’s why they’re there. To be hawt.

This is a barrier. I’m not being an extremist ideologue in saying that.

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

“I thought you liked it.”

May 26th, 2013 12:59 pm | By

Wow. Talk about not even “I don’t care who started it, both of you go to your rooms!” or “both sides are equally wrong, and I know this without knowing any of the  particulars,” but just plain “you were harassed, don’t ever come back here again.”

Christine Walkinshaw is a comic. She did a gig at a casino. Ten drunk guys at one table shouted “show us your tits!” and then “show us your bush!” She finished her act in spite of them and without engaging them.

When I get backstage, the headliner, Darren Frost is livid. During my set, he ran around the club trying to get manager and staff to tell the table to shut up, but they wouldn’t.

Um. Well maybe they were figuring she started it, by being up there on the stage and all.

Before I left that night, I approached the woman running the club. I’m terrible at confrontation. The worst. I’d rather put up with a little shitty behavior, not just as a comedian, but as a human being, than start a conflict. I’m the queen of saying things like, “It’s okay,” “I’m alright,” or “Don’t worry about me.” I don’t mean to sound pathetic. I’m actually a very happy person. I’ve been told I smile too much. (How creepy is that!) However, in this moment, I know I have to say something.

“Hey. The next time a bunch of guys are shouting ‘Show us your tits!  Show us your bush!’ you might want to tell them to shut up.”

Then I burst out crying. Oh for fucks. I can’t believe I’m confessing on the internet that I cried. I swear I don’t cry all the time. I cried during the movie ‘Big Fish.’ I also cried the first time I saw the music video to Taylor Swift’s ‘Ours.’ Other than that, I’m pretty tear free. The manager was taken aback.

“Oh. I thought you liked it.”

Do I need to tell you guys I didn’t like it? Probably not.

I endured it, but I didn’t like it. Still, I like to keep my relations with comedy clubs drama free. I accept her apology, then the second she left the green room, I opened the mini fridge, and shoved as many of those little, chubby casino size bottles of water in my purse. It was a small act of revenge, and most certainly passive aggressive, but it felt good. Free bottled water for all disgruntled employees of Casino Niagara! Who says I don’t stand up for myself?

That was Thursday; she did the Friday and Saturday. A year later they invited her again. She thought ew, a bit, but accepted anyway.

A week ago I got an email from my agent, saying the casino is axing me from the weekend, due to the night with Darren Frost and the “unruly” crowd.

Her fault, you see.

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

If you’re blue and you don’t know

May 26th, 2013 12:31 pm | By

A Fresh Air interview with Mel Brooks the other day played the sound from the “Puttin on the Ritz” segment in Young Frankenstein. I thought I’d better share that segment.

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

No backsies

May 26th, 2013 12:12 pm | By

Oh honestly. Teresa MacBain was supposed to be on CNN this morning to talk about how atheists deal with tragedy – but CNN went and canceled on her, because they wanted to talk about the London events and religious extremism instead. Phooey.

It would have been good. Here’s what she said about it on Facebook, before they pulled the plug.

I just received a call from CNN. They want me to be on the Sunday Morning show to discuss how atheists deal with tragedy. I’m very glad that I have this opportunity. My goal is to continue the process of normalizing atheism and share how so many of us have stepped up to help those who are suffering.

That would have been great.

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

Quel horreur

May 26th, 2013 11:53 am | By

Huge demonstration in Paris to say omigodno about same-sex marriage.

French police says that 150,000 protesters are taking part in the march in central Paris, but the organisers say the number is closer to one million.

One demonstrator dressed in black, holding a scythe and wearing a mask of Mr Hollande, stood behind a coffin in which lay a mannequin dressed as Marianne – the emblem of France.

I don’t get it. I never do. It’s other people, being allowed to do something that a lot of people think is a good thing to do. It seems so bizarre to get that worked up about it. It’s not legal permission to marry you, against your will – it’s just legal permission to marry someone of the same sex. Someone. Not you. Someone. Someone else.

Du calme, du calme.

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

Not a merely inner struggle

May 25th, 2013 6:39 pm | By

Tarek Fatah says it.

While ordinary Britons and non-Muslims around the world are bewildered by these never-ending acts of terrorism, the response of the leaders of the Islamic community is the tired old cliche — Islam is a religion of peace, and jihad is simply an “inner struggle.”

The fact these terrorists are motivated by one powerful belief — the doctrine of armed jihad against the “kuffar” (non-Muslims) — is disingenuously denied by Islamic clerics and leaders.

Yesterday, instead of calling on Muslims to shelve the doctrine of armed jihad, predictably, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) issued a quick press release claiming the “barbaric” attack has “no basis in Islam.”

Not true, MCB. As a Muslim, I can say without fear, the latest terror attack has a basis in Islam and it’s time for us Muslims to dig our heads out of the sand.

He says it. You don’t see that very often.

This was an opportunity for the Muslim leadership to confess they have failed and that the time has come to admit that jihadis cannot be fought without fighting the doctrine of jihad.

It is worth noting that not a single Muslim cleric since 9/11 has mustered the courage to say the doctrine of armed jihad is defunct and inapplicable in the 21st century. They rightfully denounce terrorism, but dare not denounce jihad.

If only they would.

Unless the leaders of British mosques as well as the Islamic organizations in the U.K. denounce the doctrine of jihad as pronounced by the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, and distance themselves from the ideology of Qutb, al-Banna and Maudoodi, they stand complicit in the havoc that these jihadis are raining down on the rest of us.

They cannot have it both ways: promoting the teachings of Maududi and Qutb among Muslim youth, while concealing the same teachings from the rest of Britain.

If the Muslim leadership did denounce armed jihad, think what a blow it would be against “Islamophobia.”

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

Not running away

May 25th, 2013 5:05 pm | By

Omar Bakri, founder of the banned UK Islamist group Al Muhajiroun, is excited about the “courage” of the guy who hacked Lee Rigby to death on a street in Woolwich.

What surprised me (is) the quiet man, the man who is very shy, decided to carry out an attack against a British soldier in the middle of the day in the middle of a street in the UK. In east London. It’s incredible.

“When I saw that, honestly I was very surprised – standing firm, courageous, brave. Not running away. Rather, he said why he carried (it out) and he wanted the whole world to hear it.”

No. That’s not courageous or brave. Nobody was going to hack him to death. The guy he hacked to death wasn’t given a chance to fight back. That’s not courageous, it’s not brave.

“The prophet (Mohammad) said an infidel and his killer will not meet in Hell. That’s a beautiful saying,” he said. “May God reward (Adebolajo) for his actions.”

That’s a disgusting thing to say. “Kaffir.” And he calls it a beautiful saying. It makes me feel ill.

Bakri said his organization Al Muhajiroun had nothing to do with the attack because members had not seen Adebolajo since 2005. However, Anjem Choudary, who took over the leadership of Al Muhajiroun when Bakri was exiled from Britain, has told Reuters Adebolajo attended the group’s events until about two years ago.

It seems to me people used to call Anjem Choudary a joke. He doesn’t seem to be much of a joke.

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


May 25th, 2013 4:47 pm | By

Just a small side thing, about reading and disagreeing with an opponent fairly.

A reader pointed out to me a post by Damion Reinhardt at Skeptic Ink about a post of mine. Here’s how he paraphrases my post:

Her argument seems to be something like this:

  1. Skeptics assent unquestioningly to moral propositions of the form “You must not [commit atrocities against humans]” without stopping to ask for further evidence.
  2. Checkmate, skeptics!

I may have missed out a step there, but that seems to pretty much cover it. My answer to this is twofold.

Here’s what I actually wrote:

One of the things that proud or “movement” skeptics like to say is “you have to be skeptical of everything.” No sacred cows!

But I don’t think even proud or “movement” skeptics really believe that, apart from a few psychopaths. I can think of lots of things I think no one should be skeptical of, and I’d be surprised to get much disagreement.

  • you must not push small children in front of speeding cars
  • you must not punch a child in the face
  • you must not kill all the Jews
  • you must not commit genocide
  • you  must not kidnap and imprison women
  • you must not force a woman to abort a pregnancy by first starving her and then repeatedly punching her in the abdomen as hard as you can
  • you must not set fire to people’s houses
  • you must not enslave anyone

They don’t match. What I wrote is not what he said I wrote.

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


May 25th, 2013 4:21 pm | By

Sorry, I had to make that earlier post private, because I was told it wasn’t a good idea. Sorry for any confusion.

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

Women leaving religion

May 25th, 2013 12:52 pm | By

Speaking of Quiverfull – one of the great panels at Women in Secularism 2 was the Women Leaving Religion one, with Maryam, Teresa, Vyckie and Jamila, moderated by Stephanie.

There was one part where Teresa was talking about the difficulties of leaving and of coming out, in particular the fact that her husband is still a believer, and they had always talked about everything – and she choked a bit on that word. Maryam reached for her behind the table. It wouldn’t have been visible to people much farther back (I was in the front row for a change). It made me get chokey. I love Maryam.

Photo by Monica Harmsen.

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

How to be a Real

May 25th, 2013 12:04 pm | By

Via Brian Engler via Vyckie Garrison – some Quiverfull wisdom by one “Von” on how to be a Real Man.

Real men marry. Real men seek the responsibilities (and joys!) that God has called them to and seek, actively seek: a wife and children. A wife and children that will require work on a daily basis; work to feed and clothe them, work to share in their joys and sorrows, work communicating, fixing, kissing… real men take those responsibilities seriously.

Real men marry, and lead spiritually. They realize that, however little they know about God and Scripture, it is their responsibility to step up to the plate and lead their family. To learn and to lead. Every day, all the time.

However little they know about anything, and however much their wives know about everything, it is still their responsibility to be the boss. God said so. It’s theirs because penis, and it’s not wives’ because not penis.

Real men can really admit they have real problems; and know that that is what wise counsel is for. Their father, their father-in-law, the elders of their church, other wise men… real men aren’t (too) afraid to go to these men and admit that they have struggles, and listen to, and act on, their advice.

That’s a new one (to me). I haven’t seen that particular piece of contempt before. Women aren’t even good enough to talk to when men have problems. Not even that. Not even though the problems could be domestic or relational, and women are generally thought – even by Quiverfull types – to be good at that. No, it has to be father, or her father, or wise men. Wise men.

Real women marry, hopefully young. They know they are called to marriage in their youth, to a husband in his youth, and are not afraid of this.

Real women who understand that they are not called to ‘a career’ but a house. They are called to love their husbands, bear and love their children, and keep their house.

And none of this pesky modern shit about deciding that for themselves; none of that actually thinking about one’s life and how one wants to live it; no sir; real women are “called” to do one kind of thing and not all the others. End of story (in every way).

Real women realize the marriage is more important than the wedding. They don’t bankrupt their new husband or father, or delay their marriage for months while things are ‘planned’ to be just perfect. Real women marry and bear children; they don’t spend the rest of their life poring over their wedding pictures.

Real women obey their husbands over their fathers. While the honor that the young woman owes her parents is lifelong, and includes obedience to all of his lawful commands, she realizes that she now has a much more direct authority in her husband.

Real women are not afraid of submission. Well, maybe they are, but they do it anyway. They strive to give to their husbands the same kind of submission that the Church owes to Christ.

That’s Quiverfull! Maybe they are – maybe they do have qualms – but they do it anyway! They obey and submit. Booya, that’s what this is all about. Obey, god damn it!

Real women know that they are often called to listen when they would like to speak. That is more important to build their husband up than to put him down with their latest spiritual point.

Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

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

Help Imad

May 25th, 2013 11:05 am | By

Imad Iddine Habib has run out of cash, and urgently needs more. I told him I would rally the troops.

Use this button to donate. Thank you Maryam!

We are with you, Imad.

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

The actual photo

May 25th, 2013 9:53 am | By

I should post the real photo, because that was actually about something, something that matters. It’s Brian’s photo.

Photo by Brian D. Engler

Left to right: Stephanie, me, Brianne, Maryam, Jason, Kate, Miri, PZ, Ashley. All Freethought bloggers, you see. All in the one place so we thought what fun to get a picture, and of course Brian obliged. Freethought bloggers for international solidarity with atheist bloggers.

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