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.

A special gift

Sep 23rd, 2012 12:05 pm | By

Thomas Nagel explains about Alvin Plantinga and his goddy epistemology.

You know how it goes. Having reliable cognitive faculties as a result of natural selection is not credible, while having them as a result of goddy selection is. (But then explain God. I know, that’s old news, but still – if the first thing isn’t credible, why is God credible? Why is the first any less credible than the second?)

We form our beliefs in various reliable ways – perception, rational intuition, memory. Also one more way.

So far we are in the territory of traditional epistemology; but what about faith? Faith, according to Plantinga, is another basic way of forming beliefs, distinct from but not in competition with reason, perception, memory, and the others. However, it is

a wholly different kettle of fish: according to the Christian tradition (including both Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin), faith is a special gift from God, not part of our ordinary epistemic equipment. Faith is a source of belief, a source that goes beyond the faculties included in reason.

A special gift from God? Not part of our ordinary epistemic equipment?

Why? Why make it a special gift? Why do it in that patchwork way? Why not include it as part of the standard equipment? Why make it a special upgrade?

And if it’s a wholly different kettle of fish, why include it as another basic way of forming beliefs? Why treat it as basic at all?

God endows human beings with a sensus divinitatis that ordinarily leads them to believe in him. (In atheists the sensus divinitatis is either blocked or not functioning properly.)

Uh huh. It’s the same old cheat. If you don’t believe in “God” (meaning the local God, because of course it’s not good enough to believe in the wrong one), something is broken. It’s not part of the ordinary equipment, but on the other hand if yours doesn’t hook you up to the right god then the only explanation is that something is amiss.

If all this is true, then by Plantinga’s standard of reliability and proper function, faith is a kind of cause that provides a warrant for theistic belief, even though it is a gift, and not a universal human faculty.

Well, so you say, but it looks to me like just plain having it both ways. It’s basic but special, and it’s universal but it’s often broken. Giving it a Latin name doesn’t solve the problem.

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

Moderate shmoderate

Sep 23rd, 2012 11:08 am | By

Yes but. Yes it’s good to point out that “Muslim rage” about the video is actually a tiny fraction of Muslim opinion on the subject, as Avaaz does. But it’s not so good to sort Islamists into the bad radical ones and the “moderates,” as Avaaz also does. Moderate theocracy is still theocracy, and it’s bad.

Like everyone else, many Muslims find the 13 minute Islamophobic video “Innocence of Muslims” trashy and offensive. Protests have spread quickly, tapping into understandable and lasting grievances about neo-colonialist US and western foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as religious sensitivities about depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. But the news coverage often obscures some important points:

1. Early estimates put participation in anti-film protests at between 0.001 and 0.007% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims – a tiny fraction of those who marched for democracy in the Arab spring.
2. The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful. The breaches of foreign embassies were almost all organised or fuelled by elements of the Salafist movement, a radical Islamist group that is most concerned with undermining more popular moderate Islamist groups.

That looks alarmingly like a wedge strategy, or a move the window strategy – separate the “more popular moderate” Muslim Brotherhood from the Salafists so that the MB will seem not so bad after all. The MB is still so bad after all! Especially if you’re a woman, or gay, or a Christian or an atheist or an “apostate.”

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

$100 k for murder

Sep 22nd, 2012 11:42 am | By

In Pakistan, a government minister offers a reward for committing a murder.

That’s right.

In Pakistan, a government minister offers a reward for committing a murder.

A Pakistani government minister has offered a $100,000 (£61,616) reward for the death of the maker of an anti-Islam film produced in the US.

Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour told reporters that he would pay the reward for the “sacred duty” out of his own pocket.

He suggested the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be eligible for the reward.

His comments came a day after at least 20 people died in clashes between anti-film protesters and police.

“I announce today that this blasphemer who has abused the holy prophet, if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000,” the minister said.

Just like that. “This blasphemer” made a movie, and a government minister is saying “somebody please murder him, and I’ll give the murderer a hundred grand.” That’s Pakistan, land of the pure.

Richard Dawkins pointed out a 2010 Pew poll on Muslim views, on Twitter. One item is “harsh punishments.” In Pakistan approval for stoning people to death for adultery is 82%. Approval for whippings/cutting off hands for theft is 82%, for death for apostasy 76% (how liberal!)

That’s purity for you.

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

Mockery of religion should be normalized

Sep 22nd, 2012 11:22 am | By

A comment by AJ Milne of Accidental Weblog on “Of course, however”:

My view of mockery of Islam is the same as mockery of Christianity:

That is: it is in everyone’s interest that such mockery be normalized, not discouraged. Whether it’s flippant, silly, rude, juvenile, absurd, insulting, thoughtful, or whatever it might be, people need to get used to the idea that it’s going to be out there if you go looking for it.

And no, I don’t care who does it, how stupid it is, how ugly or stupid anyone thinks it is. Or not much. As in, no, I won’t be writing any asinine fart jokes about anyone’s prophet (tho’ mostly because I can’t make those funny anyway), and, absolutely, if something’s genuinely and clearly racist, yes, fine, I want that discouraged, too. That, I think, is more than fair enough.

But it’s not some abstract ideal that when someone wants to make fun of someone else’s god or prophet, they should absolutely be allowed, nor is it a chip you should even be imagining put on the table. And if someone gets killed because someone takes offense, no, the person who wrote the joke isn’t a murderer, however callous or cruel or even deliberate was the apparent incitement. If someone loses it and kills someone over the mockery of a mythologized god figure that’s been made sacred and declared protected from such excesses, that someone who held the knife or the gun or who lit the fire is the murderer, not the one who scrawled something lewd on the bathroom wall. And the first accessory I’ll be looking for is the one who told them such things are sacred and that such mockery is forbidden in the first place.

In the long run, again: normalization has to be the goal. We have to get to the point that when an extremist imam wants to whip up his flock into a proper rage over random YouTube video X, his protest goes off like a damp squib because they’ve become so used to this stuff, that it’s just not shocking or particularly upsetting to anyone anymore.

We need to stick our elbows out and create space for open discussion of all religions, Islam included. We have to make it harder and harder for people to be raised in a vacuum, unaware that there are no unbelievers, unaware anyone might mock, and utterly convinced that if someone does it’s somehow your prerogative to hurt people and break things. Get to that place, and the voices from the ancient books and the frothers in their pulpits can rage on and on about what a travesty this is if they like; the world will have moved on, and that is how those voices will be made irrelevant. Get to that place, and it opens up people’s lives and minds, gets people thinking, gets people talking. Push that door open, and eventually calm and fearless scholarly secular discussion of early Islam will be that much easier for the academics. Push that door open, and Channel Four can run all the documentaries it likes, and it doesn’t matter how ‘revisionist’ is the historian scripting it. Push that door open, and one more lever for driving people to excesses is taken out of the extremists’ hands.

Religion has ever done this ‘you must respect/you must hush yourselves’ thing. It always will, if you give it even half a chance. It keeps on trying even when it has no chance, because that is central to its survival. Give it any excuse, it will try to sneak through such restrictions on that excuse, and ‘people will get hurt’ or ‘those most insulted are already oppressed and this is additionally hurtful’ will also do just fine.

And the reality about normalization is: we’re partway there already. The increasing ubiquity and interconnectedness of the data networks has changed the game already. It’s been pointed out: those imams could probably find a steady supply of perfectly insulting videos for the purposes of incitement anyway, with very little effort, just through YouTube, right now; ‘Sam Bacile”s flatulent little mess of a trailer was nothing special, in this regard. The reality is probably also: we probably can’t even change this entirely if we were stupid enough to allow legislation directed that way. Such legislation would make a life a misery for those who got caught, and would be entirely unconscionable, yes, but the light would still sneak in around it, now.

Speaking of: while plenty of attention has been paid to the geopolitical dimensions of this, and yes they are significant, and yes there is real resentment that has little directly to do with religion, and yes there’s absolutely some justification, that dynamic of increasing interconnectedness and increasing closeness is also probably significant, here. The world is changing quickly because of it, and those extremists and those religions are fumbling around, trying to work out how to survive and how to work within it. They see opportunities, but the reality is: they also have much to fear: the old formula of hushing entirely dissent and driving it out by the force of social sanction and the plain old iron fist is now greatly complicated by the many additional avenues through which people can see around the monoculture of ideas they try to create, and into a larger world. That, too, is part of what’s happening here.

So they’re off balance, and real human freedom from their previously extremely effective techniques of trapping their flock within a bubble of unquestioned dogma is opening up as a real possibility. Letting the clerics dictate the terms, doing their work for them, joining in hushing the mockery and trying to cooperate and close up the space in which it can be made just because they manage to get a tiny percentage of their population (and yes: these protests are tiny, from my understanding, against, say, the scale of the Arab Spring, and the violent elements tinier still) angry enough about is just incredibly counterproductive, utterly against the interest of anyone who wants genuine freedom of conscience to prevail, and a huge step backwards.

So if they incite by screaming ‘thou shalt not mock’, focus your criticism on them. And, conversely, if the Copts want to make fun of the Muslims, or the Muslims want to make fun of the Copts, I say: shrug and say: that’s your right. Because it is. And it should be. And it’s in everyone’s interest that it should be.

Now: I am absolutely grateful to those trying to tamp down the discord, here get some calm restored, stop people getting hurt. I am beyond grateful to those who step up and say any statement is racist when it clearly is

But as that former thing, I don’t think we need to compromise the longer view in doing so, at all, anyway. Remember: the protests are relatively small. The Salafists are making a power play, here, and it’s probably winning them a few more loyalists, but it’s costing them, elsewhere, too. There are a lot of people in the countries effected affected who are pissed off those who talked this stuff up, and just want things to calm down.

So it’s back as always to diplomacy and discussion. Calm. Keeping your sense of proportion. Keeping in mind the long view. You probably can’t often say ‘Great video, that’ (and as widely noted, it’s not, particularly, anyway), but you can absolutely say ‘Look, these are our laws, and that is anyone’s right under them’, and people will accept it. There are those of them who don’t see anything wrong with the larger direction I’m seeking here, anyway, others who may not much like it, but probably do realize and/or fear: that’s probably where the wind is going eventually anyway.

So summing up: fine, call out racism, where you really see it. But do not forget this larger direction, in doing so. And do not assist anyone trying deliberately to close in the boundaries of discussion around their sacred cows, whatever you do.

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

And so there was a lot of fear and terrible desperation

Sep 22nd, 2012 10:52 am | By

One of the things religion does is create artificial misery. One of the ways religion does this is by making people feel agonizing terror about eternal torture for themselves or people they love or both, or by making them feel agonizing despair and grief at angering or alienating God. This is especially vile when the putative eternal torture or alienation from God is caused by actions or thoughts that are in no way bad. The misery is doubly artificial (and thus gratuitous and cruel) in these situations: there is no eternal punishment, and the putative Sin is not bad or wicked.

The entrenched belief that not being straight is Sin is a classic and still very active example. Consider Peterson Toscano for instance, a survivor of “ex-gay” therapy.

Mr Toscano, now 47, grew up in an average Italian American Catholic home in Upstate New York.

But as a devout Christian, and member of the Evangelical Church, he found it difficult to resolve what he saw as a conflict between his sexual orientation and his faith.

“I was doing something spiritually and morally wrong that I would be punished for in the afterlife. And so there was a lot of fear and terrible desperation,” he told BBC Religion.

That’s horrible. It happens all the time, and it’s horrible.

Humans have more than enough natural misery to deal with. It’s horrible to make up new kinds.

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

Dynamize the dilution

Sep 21st, 2012 10:24 am | By

Oy. Via David Colquhoun on Twitter, I’m reading a PhD thesis on homeopathy and Evidence Based Medicine, one that argues that EBM gets it all wrong. I have learned that homeopathy is not just the dilution – tut tut, that’s just silly – it’s dilution that gets dynamized. You didn’t know that, did you. Scientistic bastards.

One might draw an analogy with the relationship between a cake and the cake-mixture. To argue that cake-mixture is a delicious complement to tea because cake is, is clearly to neglect that cake is cooked cake-mixture. And so, to argue that homeopathic treatments are not effective medicines because high dilutions are not, is to neglect that homeopathic treatments are dynamized high dilutions. Of course, this analogy ignores the major point of contention. While cooking clearly turns cake-mixture into a delicious complement to tea, it is controversial whether dynamization really does turn high dilutions into effective medicines.

“Controversial” only in the sense that there are people who insist on ignoring the evidence that it doesn’t.

Proponents of homeopathy contest the Canonical Criticism’s framing of the evidential debate in a variety of ways. Below two of the main challenges are noted: first, that the interpretation of EBM in the Canonical Criticism is naïve and unsophisticated…

It is argued that the interpretation of EBM in the Canonical Criticism is ‘scientistic’, and that focusing only on the results of placebo controlled trials fails to not [sic] provide the range of evidence needed to evaluate whether homeopathy works. That is to say, proponents of homeopathy argue that the question of whether homeopathy works cannot be sufficiently answered by evidence from randomised trials, because other evidence is also necessary…The problem identified here is that randomised trials have, according to proponents of homeopathy, been reified in the Canonical Criticism.

Uh huh. Power-knowledge; Foucault; paradigm bingo.

The conclusion starts on page 260, in case you want to end the suspense.

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

Pakistan tells the world

Sep 21st, 2012 9:48 am | By

Via Paul Fidalgo’s Morning Heresy – the Prime Minister of Pakistan says the UN “should frame laws to stop blasphemous acts.”

Oh, yes, absolutely, because that kind of thing is working out so well in Pakistan. Asia Bibi for instance, accused of “blasphemy” by a petulant neighbor. Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, murdered for attempting to help Asia Bibi. A homeless man beaten to death by a mob after he was accused of “blasphemy” and arrested. A Christian girl arrested for “blasphemy” and a few days later an imam arrested and charged with framing the girl for a “blasphemy” that never happened, and a whole neighborhood full of Christians in Islamabad is emptied as a result.

And Raja Pervez Ashraf wants that kind of thing all over the world. Brilliant.

The Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has called upon the world community to declare blasphemy despicable and a criminal act.

Addressing Ishq-e-Mustafa Conference held at the Prime Minister House, he said denial of holocaust is met with punishment but Muslims’ sentiments are absolutely disregarded, adding it is incumbent upon all as a Muslim to protest against any insult to the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

No, it isn’t. An insult to the prophet is not comparable to Holocaust denial.

Non-Muslims are not required to be polite to the prophet.

He said if denying Holocaust is a crime then demonizing holiest personalities is not less a crime. Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf said an attack on the Prophet Hazrat Mohammad [Peace Be upon Him] is an attack on the core belief of 1.5 billion Muslims.

This is something that is unacceptable. Our faith remains incomplete without total devotion and reverence to the holy Prophet (PBUH).

No. That’s wrong. The Holocaust has nothing to do with “holiest personalities”; it’s a matter of human body counts. [Expressing skepticism about an evidence-laden]* genocide is not equivalent to an attack on the core belief of no matter how many people. It is not unacceptable to dispute or contradict or mock a core belief. You are free to give total devotion and reverence to the prophet if you want to, but nobody else is required to. (You shouldn’t be required to yourselves. It should be an option, not a mandate. It’s slavish to make it a mandate. If your religion makes it a mandate then it’s a slavish religion. Sorry, but it is.)

The PM Raja demanded disrespect to the prophet hood be declared as an international offence, adding Pakistan seeks resolution of this issue in concert with the international community.

But, again, that’s your religion, it’s not everyone’s religion. It’s not legitimate to attempt to force all people to obey the rules of your religion. And as I hinted at the beginning…your country doesn’t present a very attractive model of this. We don’t look at Pakistan and envy its way with people accused of “blasphemy.” So, in short -


*Amended in response to comment.

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

He was a man of 14, I tell you

Sep 20th, 2012 5:47 pm | By

So there’s this Catholic priest in Illinois who’s been accused of sexually abusing a boy of 14 and was removed from his ministry because of the accusation. There’s this bishop who is letting him go back to just a little bit of ministering because 14 is old enough to say yes to the priest’s overtures.

The bishop says Rome has decided that at the time Ryan allegedly molested a teen[ager], what he did was not considered a serious crime by the Church according to Church law at the time. For that reason, Conlon ruled, Ryan could not be moved from ministry altogether.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests says Church law at the time actually said a 14-year-old was at an age of consent.

Ah Church law. Well that’s all that counts, isn’t it. Wait.

Just fancy: Bishop Conlon is head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on sexual abuse.


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

Of course, however

Sep 20th, 2012 5:25 pm | By

Maryam has a post saying Bravo Charlie Hebdo, which alerted me to this cringing piece of crap in the Guardian. It’s by Philippe Marlière, who is a professor of French politics at UCL. The body of the article is a quick history of Charlie Hebdo, then suddenly in the last paragraph he flings himself down on the floor in surrender.

Of course people should be entitled to mock Islam and any other religion. However, in the current climate of racial and religious prejudice in Europe, how can these cartoons be helpful? Charlie Hebdo is waging a rearguard battle.

Helpful to what? It depends what you’re trying to “help,” doesn’t it. If you’re hoping to help defend the genuine right to mock Islam and any other religion, as opposed to a purely notional right mentioned in passing only to be negated in the next sentence, then these cartoons can be helpful by exercising the very right that Marlière pretends to affirm only to deny it in the next breath.

I mean get a bead on what you’re saying, dude. Don’t say people should be entitled when you mean they shouldn’t. Don’t say it in one sentence only to take it back in the next. Just admit it – you think people should not be entitled to mock Islam. Any other religion, yes, maybe, but Islam, no. So say that. Say that and then explain why.

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

No, it’s tic-tac

Sep 20th, 2012 3:55 pm | By

Via Kausik Datta, a satirical video about the exciting possibilities when bosses can fire employees for using birth control.


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

What’s in a name

Sep 20th, 2012 11:18 am | By

Sean Carroll points out a study of gender bias among scientists.

To test scientists’ reactions to men and women with precisely equal qualifications, the researchers did a randomized double-blind study in which academic scientists were given application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position. The substance of the applications were all identical, but sometimes a male name was attached, and sometimes a female name.

Results: female applicants were rated lower than men on the measured scales of competence, hireability, and mentoring (whether the scientist would be willing to mentor this student). Both male and female scientists rated the female applicants lower.

Not at all surprising, alas. I’m sure I have the same bias.

I’m especially interested that it’s Sean Carroll who points it out, because it was Carroll who said, in that chat about why so few women in atheism on The Point last month, that the goal should be equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. I sighed at his production of that particular bromide because of exactly this problem of unconscious bias, which renders formal equality of opportunity worthless.

I wonder if Paula Kirby will see this study, and if so, I wonder if it will prompt her to have second thoughts about her “just try harder” version of feminism. The problem it indicates is precisely why I’ve all along found her version to be surprisingly naïve.

If you want to get your blood hotter, read the comments by “TW”…The first, for instance:

I would argue that experienced researchers use all information available, and sex is additional information in two ways:

1) The woman on average worked harder to get the same qualification, leaving a man with a greater potential for growth.

As mentioned before, women are more conscientiousness. Across my student years, many just got better marks, because they did homework well and studied more regularly. Even though some got better marks than myself for example, I always felt they were closer to their limits.

I recently had a class reunion where I discussed with a female school friend who was the No 1 math student why she never did math at university and “just” became a middle school teacher. I told her: Why did you never do it? You were better than me! She said: No I was not better than you, but I worked so much harder and regularly.  I felt my limits. But you were just totally lazy, disorganized and de-focused and still passed!

2) Women get pregnant. This is a real disadvantage and risk for any project leader. I witnessed myself that a project leader hired a woman with all good intentions, but she got pregnant just after, promised to keep working, but then left. His project was delayed significantly and he said “never again”.

So given the same qualifications, I would rationally go for the man.

Yay. Conscious bias.

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

Deeyah and Banaz

Sep 20th, 2012 10:23 am | By

Deeyah has produced and directed a documentary film about the “honour” killing of Banaz Mahmod in South London in 2006. Deeyah talks to A Safe World for Women.

If you worry about offending the Muslim, Sikh, Hindu or any other community by criticising honour killings, then you are complicit in perpetuating it. Our silence provides the fertile soil and circumstances for this oppression and violence to continue. It’s not Islamophobic or racist to protest against honour killings. We have a duty to stand up for individual human rights for all people, not just men and not just for groups. Let’s not sacrifice the lives of ethnic minority women for the sake of so called political correctness.

Exactly. Not just men, and not just groups; if people within the groups are subject to oppression and violence, then we have to try to do something about it.

It is not OK to shy away from abuses happening against women in some communities, for fears of being labelled racist or insensitive – the very notion of turning a blind eye or walking on egg shells and avoiding to protect basic human rights of some women because they are of a certain ethnic background is not only fatal, but that is actually racist in itself.

We also need community awareness, responsibility and action. We don’t want the reactionary, rigid and orthodox religious leaders. But ones who care for our own communities, based on love, respect, dignity and equality. We don’t need community or religious leaders who will only protect and fight for the rights of the men and completely ignore the needs and struggles of women.

 See the trailer.

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


Sep 19th, 2012 5:26 pm | By

I took Cooper to the beach this afternoon, his first time since he had his paw stitched. It had been a foggy morning but was pretty sunny in the afternoon, though not as hot as it had been the last few days. The park where the beach is (Golden Gardens) was sunny, and I chucked the ball (with the chuckit) on the grass before we got to the beach and Cooper chased it, and then we got to the little trail through the Scotch Broom (aka gorse) to the beach…and we were in a different universe – some of the thickest fog I’ve ever seen, which got thicker while we were there. It was weird and beautiful. There was just the water, and blur. Blur south, blur north, blur west, and blur behind us, east, where the park still was, in the sun.

When we got back home (which is on a hilltop that overlooks Puget Sound) the fog was still there, just a strip over the middle part of the Sound. It was like a Thing – a long serpent stretched south to north over part of the water.

It was innaresting.

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

Child marriage in Britain

Sep 19th, 2012 4:18 pm | By

Maryam reports that there’s growing evidence that very young girls are being “married” to much older men in Sharia courts in the UK. Girls as young as five.

A recent undercover investigation by the Sunday Times found imams in Britain willing to “marry” young girls, provided this was carried out in secret. The imams had been approached by an undercover reporter posing as a father who said he wanted his 12 year old daughter married, to prevent her from being tempted in to a “western lifestyle”.

Imam Mohammed Kassamali, of the Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough, sanctioned the marriage, but stressed the need for total secrecy. He stated: “I would love the girl to go to her husband’s houses (sic) as soon as possible, the younger the better. Under sharia (Islamic law) there is no problem. It is said she should see her first sign of puberty at the house of her husband. The problem is that we cannot explain such things (the marriage) if the girl went tomorrow (to the authorities).”

Clearly “married” means “imprisoned” and “prevented from ever having adult autonomy and freedom.” It means being cut off from adulthood before it starts.

Maryam’s One Law for All is helping to stop this; you can help One Law for All.

One important way to tackle this matter is to galvanise support for the Arbitration and Mediation (Equality) Bill introduced to the House of Lords last year by crossbench peer, Baroness Caroline Cox. The Bill is due for a second reading in October.

The Government has so far declined to support Cox’s Bill. They do not believe there is a parallel legal system in operation. They also insist that everyone has full right of access to the British courts. This is simply not the case. There are many with little or no English language skills, trapped by community pressure, who believe Sharia courts operate as real courts and who regard their decisions as legally binding. The idea that they can easily instruct a high street solicitor to help them access their full rights under UK law is far from reality.

The Government must be pressured into taking immediate action, including by supporting Cox’s Bill, and shutting down Sharia and religious courts. If child welfare takes precedence then the Government is duty-bound to take action.

Sign our new petition in support of Baroness Cox’s Bill; tell the Government that enough is enough! Please sign it now.

Help Us

Baroness Cox has said in the past that her Bill was inspired by One Law for All. To donate to our important work, please either send a cheque made payable to One Law for All to BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK or pay via Paypal. We need regular support and also for supporters to commit to giving at least £5-10 a month via direct debit. You can find out more about how to join the 100 Club here.

If you have donation funds, that’s a very good destination for them.

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

Sam Harris does a spot of carpentry

Sep 19th, 2012 3:50 pm | By

I often find Sam Harris irritating, but he can be very good at hitting the right nail on the head. He is in his new piece on the freedom to offend.

I’ll just give a few examples of nail-hitting.

Whether over a film, a cartoon, a novel, a beauty pageant, or an inauspiciously named teddy bear, the coming eruption of pious rage is now as predictable as the dawn. This is already an old and boring story about old, boring, and deadly ideas.

The contagion of moral cowardice followed its usual course, wherein liberal journalists and pundits began to reconsider our most basic freedoms in light of the sadomasochistic fury known as “religious sensitivity” among Muslims. Contributors to The New York Times and NPR spoke of the need to find a balance between free speech and freedom of religion—as though the latter could possibly be infringed by a YouTube video. As predictable as Muslim bullying has become, the moral confusion of secular liberals appears to be part of the same clockwork.

Unlike the founders of most religions, about whom very little is known, Mormonism is the product of the plagiarisms and confabulations of an obvious con man, Joseph Smith, whose adventures among the credulous were consummated (in every sense) in the full, unsentimental glare of history. Given how much we know about Smith, it is harder to be a Mormon than it is to be a Christian. A firmer embrace of the preposterous is required—and the fact that Romney can manage it says something about him, just as it would if he were a Scientologist proposing to park his E-meter in the Oval Office.

The moment one adds seer stones, sacred underpants, the planet Kolob, and a secret handshake required to win admittance into the highest heaven, Mormonism stands revealed for what it is: the religious equivalent of rhythmic gymnastics.

The point, however, is that I can say all these things about Mormonism, and disparage Joseph Smith to my heart’s content, without fearing that I will be murdered for it. Secular liberals ignore this distinction at every opportunity and to everyone’s peril.

The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary.

He’s right you know.

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

How about interfaith healing?

Sep 19th, 2012 11:32 am | By

Faith healing doesn’t work; would interfaith healing do better?

No. So why is interfaith such a good thing again? Why is faith a good thing?

It’s not.

Consider Randi and Russel Bellew for instance. (No, I don’t know why Russel spells his own name wrong.)

A Creswell,  Ore., husband and wife have pleaded guilty to negligent homicide charges in the faith healing death of their 16-year-old son.

KVAL-TV reports that the teen, Austin Sprout, died at home last December after his appendix  burst. Lane County sheriff’s Capt. Byron  Trapp says medical professionals believe the boy’s condition was treatable had he been provided medical care.

Ya think?

That’s one hell of a painful death those two damn fools inflicted on their kid.


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

Now all shouty

Sep 19th, 2012 9:57 am | By

Another piece on women in tech fields. The takeaway:

It was always the ones that said they didn’t see gender or color who did the most damage. “They’re just words,” they would say, “Why do you let them hurt you?” And with that, my pain was made as invisible as me. “They’re just words.” Indeed, just the verbal incantations of power, like law and code and everything else that made the world. I decided to leave tech for words.

But now I’m all shouty. Now people are angry at me because I have a stage, and they can’t make me invisible and ignore me, because the truth is you can’t ignore words, and I have the words. So now they really hate me. The others, the majority, sit uncomfortably with the conflict. No one is quite sure what to do, they want things to be abstractly better, but they don’t want anyone to be loudly upset, either. One side is considerably louder than all the others.

That “just words” thing is so ridiculous. People who say that – how do they think we got here? We humans? Do they think language is just incidental? A minor ornament that makes no difference to anything?

And I love the second para, because it applies to so many of us, us shouty women, us women who are all shouty. We have a stage, so now they really hate us – but it doesn’t do them any good because they can’t make people stop reading us or listening to us. They try and try and try but it just doesn’t work.

H/t Chris Lawson

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

No thank you

Sep 18th, 2012 6:04 pm | By

There’s a dreadfully wrong-headed article by Eboo Patel in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. You can probably guess the gist if you remember that he’s one of Chris Stedman’s favorite interfaithy types. The gist is that faith is great, it doesn’t matter what kind as long as it’s faith, and it’s a kind of identity like race so let’s start making sure there’s lots of diversity of it, because faith.

Part of the rationale for 1990s-era campus multiculturalism was to remedy the racial bias in the broader society: to lift up underrepresented narratives, to remind people that many communities have contributed to the American project, to ensure that our perceptions of race were not driven by the crime reports on the evening news. Gender, sexuality, class, and ethnicity all got some airtime, but mostly we talked about race. And one form of identity was almost totally excluded: faith.

Now that the evening news is full of stories of faith-based violence, and our public discourse has a constant undercurrent of religious prejudice (Barack Obama is a Muslim! Mitt Romney isn’t a Christian!) colleges can no longer ignore faith identity. For many of the same reasons that they actively engaged race, so should they now actively and positively engage faith identity.

That’s how he gets the toe in the doorway: treating “faith” as identity rather than a set of beliefs and claims, and then treating identity as something that has to be “engaged.” But that’s a bad idea. Religion does operate like an identity in a lot of ways but it’s bad to treat it like one because it makes it less open. It shouldn’t be hard to leave one’s religion just because it feels like an identity.

What if campuses took religious diversity as seriously as they took race? What if recruiting a religiously diverse student body, creating a welcoming environment for people of different faith and philosophical identities, and offering classes in interfaith studies and co-curricular opportunities in interfaith leadership became the norm? What if university presidents expected their graduates to acquire interfaith literacy, build interfaith relationships, and have opportunities to run interfaith programs during their four years on campus? What impact might a critical mass of interfaith leaders have on America over the course of the next generation?

I have one word to offer as an alternative to Patel’s nightmare vision: secularism.

H/t to Christopher Moyer, via Jessica Moyer.


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

Forty seven percent

Sep 18th, 2012 5:32 pm | By

I know it’s obvious, I know it’s too easy, I know everybody and its dog is all over it, but can I just point and laugh at Romney a little all the same? Because it’s too perfect.

That is how they think. I know some, and that’s how they think. They think everybody who isn’t rich is contemptible, and out to steal their stuff.

At the fundraiser, Romney was asked how he could win in November, and he replied:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

You have to love the way it ticks all the boxes, and the way it ignores reality. He seems to think that 47 percent of the population is on welfare, which is never cut off. That’s Romney’s America! Almost half of us are beneath contempt and not his job to worry about.

Class war. Booya.

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

One shudders to think of chapter 5

Sep 18th, 2012 4:38 pm | By

This is funny. I got a tweet from Linky @LinkyGray saying

putting on an event celebrating & supporting women in science and media, called LogicGrrrl in Edinburgh, cld you spread word?

So I said sure and asked if she had any useful links and in the meantime I tried Google, which turned up nothing relevant but did turn up something from a Christian apologetics site explaining “Girl Logic.” It’s chapter 4 of something (a book? a manifesto?) called What does a Woman Want? A Real Man.

“Girl logic” is the label given to describe that series of semi-consecutive feminine thoughts that favored “cute things,” “soft things,” and cuddly little kittens and puppies. It causes girls to act in such strange displays of behavior that the average man is stupefied in useless attempts to comprehend. The smart man quickly abandons such ventures as he soon realizes severe head pain and vertigo follow.

Each and every man has encountered this highly illusive mental game of matching wits with a woman, most often to his confusion and demise. The average male thinks too clearly, too linearly, and, therefore, can’t figure women out at all. The strange marvel is that girl logic makes sense to all women.

There is, most probably, a genetic something that unites all females this way. I have seen groups of them act in behavioristic unison — as if driven by some common cosmic feminine force — when they encounter a jewelry department, a sale on clothes, or choosing the color of their shoes. This is all fine and dandy as long as men are excluded. But we aren’t!

Every man knows the unmerited agony of being dragged into a clothes store only to have his aesthetic senses crushed into ridiculed oblivion when he says that blue blouse goes well with that green sweater. I’ve seen girls almost lose their lunch and stare in pathetic disbelief at some poor shlup who got cornered in the women’s department and made the inexcusable blunder of commenting on how yellow and pink polka-dots go together.

There’s lots more. I think it comes from deep experience of watching tv sitcoms. What it has to do with Christian apologetics is anyone’s guess, but I’m not going to research any further.

Oh and spread the word about the event called LogicGrrrl in Edinburgh!


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