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.


Nov 9th, 2010 12:53 pm | By

Chris Stedman is excited about inter-faith thingies again – interfaith cooperation, interfaith training, interfaith leadership, interfaith youth, interfaith activism, the interfaith movement, the interfaith table, interfaith work, interfaith events, interfaith understanding, interfaith coffee, interfaith ice cream, interfaith bicycles…the list goes on.

Anyway, the thing that’s so particularly exciting this time is that even atheists can do it. You would think that wouldn’t make any sense, since if there’s one thing atheists can be counted on not to be interested in, it’s faith – but it turns out that you would be wrong to think that. Atheists are all over it.

Speaking before a group of policy and philanthropic professionals, I explained that there are many atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nonreligious individuals like Anderson, Chituc, Link, Garner, Liddell and others at the institutes who wish to seek understanding, respect and collaboration with their religious neighbors.

Why does that statement give me the creeps? Why does it make me want to duck my head and slam the door and run quickly in the opposite direction?

I suppose because it sounds so damn intrusive and pious and missionary-like. I don’t want to seek anything with my neighbors, nor do I want them to seek anything with me. I don’t want to pester people that way. I don’t want to be always meddling with people, and I’m suspicious of people who do. I’m suspicious of Chris Stedman. I’m suspicious of all this teaming up and leadershipping and faith-based initiativing.

And I suspect that faithiness has something – perhaps a lot – to do with that habit of mind, and atheism has a lot to do with its absence. I think faithy people tend to think they have The Answer, and to want to force it (in the nicest possible way, of course) on everyone else. I think atheists tend not to think that. Yes we tend to think atheism is liberating, but we’re not so sure of it in every case that we feel like knocking on people’s doors to tell them so.

I don’t know – I just think all this reaching out can’t help being patronizing, and it creeps me out for that reason. There they all are, the fresh-faced youngsters, planning how things are going to be for the rest of us. I don’t want them planning things for me. I want to do my own planning. I want to be grumpy if I feel like it. Maybe I’ll start wearing a big red G for Grumpy.

Life as furniture

Nov 8th, 2010 5:26 pm | By

An item from last August, which I hadn’t seen before. For about £5,000 a taxi driver in Bradford would track down women and girls who had run away from home to escape a forced marriage.

Zakir’s job was never to harm his targets, but to return them home to face their “destiny” of being made to marry someone their parents had chosen. Despite the fact that runaways can be beaten for having escaped, he sides with the families on the issue. The softly spoken driver, speaking to G2 on the condition his real name was not used, insisted: “I did it as a favour to the families, as I knew most of them. It wasn’t about the money. It was about izzat [honour]. I saw the effect it had on them when their daughter ran away. The worry and the shame from the community talking about them. I was part of the ‘taxi driver network’, so we shared information about who we picked up and where they got dropped off.

Of course, returning them home to be forced into marriage is harming them, to put it mildly. Returning them home to be beaten is also harming them. And notice how the concern is all for “the families” and not for all the individuals who make it up, which would have to include the escaped women and girls. Notice how the families are assumed to have every right to treat women and girls as inanimate objects to be forced to do whatever the families ordain.

One woman who knows what it feels like to be hunted down is Jaspreet. She ran away from her home in Sheffield after discovering that her father was arranging her marriage. The 21-year-old said: “I overheard my dad talking to his brother in Pakistan about getting me married to my cousin over there. He’d never discussed marriage with me.

“I didn’t want to get married yet. I wanted to finish my law degree. I would have been happy to have an arranged marriage in my mid-20s. But when I protested, my dad threatened me physically and said I would be letting the family down if I refused. I couldn’t take any more of the rows, so I ran away.”

Like that. It’s her life, but she doesn’t get to decide what she does with it, “the family” does, as if she were the dining room table.

An amuse-bouche

Nov 8th, 2010 5:18 pm | By

Something Allen Esterson pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago and which I had to share. From Brandt, K. J. (2005). Intelligent bodies: Women’s embodiment and subjectivity in the human-horse communication process.

The cowboy’s stranglehold on the label of expert in human-horse relationships, as well as mythic construction of the woman-horse bond, have effectively silenced women’s voices and rendered their experiences with horses non-authentic. This dissertation takes women’s knowledge of horses seriously as data and draws from three years (2001-2004) of ethnographic research of in-depth interviews and participant observation. I explore the human-horse communication process and argue that the two species co-create what I call an embodied language system to construct a world of shared meaning. I problematize the centrality of verbal spoken language and the mind in theories of subjectivity, and maintain that the privileged status of verbal language has left untheorized all non-verbal language using beings, human and non-human alike. I bring questions of embodiment–in particular women’s embodiment–to the center and examine how lived and felt corporeality shapes human subjectivity. I call for an understanding of embodiment not as deterministic but as a lived process that has a meaningful impact on how individuals understand themselves and others. Further, the women’s experiences of embodiment when working with horses propose a way to subvert oppressive dominant constructions about female bodies as inherently flawed and allow for a re-imagining of women’s bodily comportment.

Pesky privileged status of verbal language…

Four rows of priests in white robes and pointed white hats

Nov 7th, 2010 4:34 pm | By

He’s not a very pleasant-looking character, is he – he looks pissed off, not to say violent. He looks as if he’s going to take a swing at you as soon as somebody fastens his arms on. He looks as if he thinks you’ve got a fucking nerve cluttering up his world the way you do, with all your talking and breathing and walking to and fro.

Makes sense. The pope thinks so too, after all. No more messing around; let’s get this straight: God is the boss, and the pope is God’s enforcer. We don’t want none of your poxy seculsrism around here; you’ll do what the pope says God says, and you’ll like it. Capeesh?

Pope Benedict XVI defended religion from critics Sunday as he dedicated the Sagrada Familia church, a still-unfinished emblem of the Spanish city of Barcelona.”This is the great task before us: to show everyone that God is a God of peace not of violence, of freedom not of coercion, of harmony not of discord,” he said.

Peace correctly understood, that is; freedom ditto, harmony ditto. Secularists of course have a completely wrong understanding of all those items.

And he pushed back against what he sees as increasing secularism in the world, saying, “I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him.”

Quite right; how dare we claim to be able to build our lives without the hidden magical deity that only the pope gets to talk to. The pope will set us straight about that all right, thank you very much. And if the pope should happen to want one of your children, you are to curtsy and say “Yes your majesty” and hand that child over; do you hear me?

Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were in the full-to-overflowing church as the pope poured oil on the altar and rubbed it in with his hand, then swung incense over it.

He was surrounded by four rows of priests in white robes and pointed white hats, their mitres the same shape as the pope’s own headdress, as he honored the architect of the church.

Do you detect a hint of amusement in those lines? Do you think this devilish “wire staff” is having a little fun with the papal ceremony-type deal? I think I do. Secular bastards.

Would you?

Nov 7th, 2010 3:53 pm | By

So if a very very tall Jesus appears in a Polish cabbage field (by which I mean a cabbage field in Poland, not a field in which Polish cabbage grows, which I don’t know if there is such a thing), is that reason enough for you to believe in god? Or would you be hesitant to believe because of the news reports that the tall Jesus is the brainchild of a Polish priest and was built by some people?

I think I would, at least at first, until we knew more, find the report of the Polish priest deciding to build the statue out of material more convincing than the possibility that the statue actually only appears to be a statue and is really a Jesus 108 feet tall, or even more if you count the bump he is standing on. I know this is very dogmatic and stubborn and fundamentalist of me, but I can’t seem to ignore the news reports. I try to be open-minded, but there they are, talking of construction teams and Polish people who think the statue is tacky.

After many delays, a crane on Saturday morning lifted the arms and shoulders and slowly placed them onto the figure’s lower body. Hours later, workers hoisted on the head, which is crowned with a golden king’s crown — rather than the crown of thorns favored in Christian iconography.

See what I mean? It just sounds as if somebody built it. I can’t help it; it does.

Workers in safety helmets and neon vests gathered at the base of the statue for a group photo, and Rev. Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue, waded into an adoring crowd.

Safety helmets and neon vests – that’s a realistic touch. No, sorry, I’m going to have to wait and see what happens. If it starts to wander around, then maybe we can start to talk supernatural.

More news items

Nov 7th, 2010 9:22 am | By

Drat, the updating tool is misbehaving again, so I’ll post some News items here again.

Pope orders Spain to be more theocratic

No secularism, no gay marriage, plenty of incense and pointed hats.

Pope tells everyone what to do some more

Said children’s lives are ”sacred and inviolable” but forgot to explain about protecting child-raping priests.

The closing of the Western mind

Nov 6th, 2010 5:27 pm | By

I’m reading Charles Freeman’s very interesting The Closing of the Western Mind, and in a nice bit of serendipity I happened on a long review he did of James Hannam’s God’s Philosophers at the New Humanist. Hannam is a Catholic and an apologist, and his book is apparently what one would expect from a Catholic apologist.

Yet for Hannam Catholic authority is never the problem. “However sympathetic we might be to his [Abelard’s] plight, the fact remains that he brought most of his problems on himself. His blatant hypocrisy and breathtaking arrogance ensured that he had a ready supply of enemies who were quite happy to see accusations of heresy to bring him down”. (P.59) Hannam has no understanding of the intellectual inhibitions that arise from ring-fencing large areas of knowledge as “faith”, or using the threat of heresy for those who transgressed, often unwittingly, the boundaries between orthodoxy and heresy. Inevitably these tended to arbitrary. The freedom of intellectual debate was bedevilled, literally – the punishment for heresy was eternal suffering at the hands of devils in hell fire, something unknown to the Greeks. One will never know what fruitful pathways of knowledge remained closed as a result. (I have detailed the process by which religious “truths” were declared to be absolute and challenges to them worthy of excommunication and eternal punishment in my The Closing of the Western Mind and AD 381. I see the fourth century as one of the most important, if still neglected, turning points in the history of European thought. Hannam’s discussion of “Heresy and the Inquisition”, (pp.52-6), never considers that the definition of heresy is problematic. He takes it for granted that orthodox Catholic Christianity must be defended.)

No Templeton money will be finding its way to Charles Freeman any time soon, I suspect.

Alien epistemology

Nov 5th, 2010 4:55 pm | By

Am I being too obstinate and nitpicky about accepting (notional) evidence for a god? People are whispering in my ear to that effect, but I don’t think so. I’m not saying “No evidence would ever convince me no matter what” – I’m saying “I don’t at present see how anyone would know it was a god and not just a very surprising Something that we didn’t know about before and still have no idea how to explain.”

I’m having a hard time figuring out what kind of evidence would force me to accept the label “god” for a novel and surprising something - even if it were very very very surprising. Maybe I just haven’t thought hard enough. Maybe various kinds of cognition and action would convince me that this new entitity could only be called a god…

Unless I said that an entity couldn’t be a god if there were evidence for it because it’s central to my definition of god that it is always Hidden.

Perhaps if I invented a new and exciting word for it – would that be good enough? I wouldn’t want to be both gnu and obstinate. That would be bad.

News items

Nov 5th, 2010 11:17 am | By

Something is broken so I can’t post news items in News for the moment, so I’ll post them here.

Peace breaks out

Massimo holds out an olive branch.

Peace consolidates

Jerry returns the olive branch.

Frans De Waal on god-science shouting match

He would love to see a debate among moderates.


Nov 4th, 2010 5:50 pm | By

Mehdi Hasan is annoyed with Roshonara Choudhry. She doesn’t get it – she doesn’t understand that Islam doesn’t approve of her going to her MP’s surgery for the purpose of stabbing him to death, nor of her actually sticking a knife in his stomach.

She is, for example, ignorant of the specific Quranic verses that she claims inspired her horrific and cowardly attack on Timms – “the main chapters about it are chapter . . . chapter eight and chapter nine, I think,” she says, pathetically. In fact, there are no verses in the Quran which justify such brutal, vigilante attacks on innocent civilians. Suicide bombings for example, are un-Islamic.

Oh tut – isn’t that awful. But if there were such verses in the Quran, would that justify such brutal, vigilante attacks on innocent civilians? If suicide bombings were Islamic, would that make them a good thing?

Mehdi Hasan doesn’t address that question; it doesn’t seem to occur to him. It ought to. It doesn’t matter whether stabbing civilians is in the Quran or not; it matters whether it’s bad or not. Focus.

Those who claim that our mosques are breeding grounds for terrorists and extremists should note the two names Choudhry cites as her influencers: Anwar al-Awlaki and Abdullah Azzam. She discovered both on the internet (on YouTube!), not at her local Islamic centre. Both, I hasten to add, lack the credentials and qualifications of mainstream Islamic scholarship; al-Awlaki has a PhD in human resource development (!) from George Washington University. Why on earth did she think such a person had the “Islamic” or moral authority to instruct her to carry out a murder, one of the greatest sins in Islam?

But why on earth is Hasan so concerned about who has the “Islamic” authority to instruct people to murder? Why is he so worried about credentials and qualifications and mainstream Islamic scholarship? Is he shocked by what Choudhry did, or is he shocked by the association of Islam with brainless brutal violence?

For when the agent gets here

Nov 3rd, 2010 4:48 pm | By

So as Sigmund says, the point is that if there is (what looks like) convincing evidence of ‘God’ we will not be able to tell whether it is simply evidence of an advanced alien technology. My similar point is that we won’t know of any way to distinguish between a natural intelligent agent and a ‘god’ of whatever sort.

I think that observation is hard to get around. We could of course say that it could be a ‘god’ – that we don’t know that it’s not a god, that it has powers that seem to us to be what is called ‘miraculous.’ But could we say ‘this is supernatural for sure’? I don’t think so. It seems like the kind of thing we couldn’t know, in the nature of the case.

Another, and perhaps more relevant, thing we couldn’t know is that the agent/god had legitimate authority over us. Believers take that idea for granted – ‘God’ is great, God is bigger and stronger and better than we are, God made us and the flowers too, therefore God is the boss of us. Non-believers however don’t take that for granted. Lots of people are bigger and stronger than I am, but I don’t consider them to have legitimate authority over me. An agent with miraculous-seeming powers might have the ability to force us to obey it, but that’s not at all the same thing as legitimate authority.

But that’s not it, the devout listeners in the audience murmur to each other; it’s not just superior strength, it’s also infinite wisdom and goodness. That’s what makes the authority legitimate.

Well – I’ll suspend judgment on that point until I meet such an agent…or until someone gives me a good argument. One of those.

Agents or aliens

Nov 3rd, 2010 12:46 pm | By

The more I think about it, and read what other people have to say about it, the more I think “supernatural” is a meaningless word. That’s just another way of saying I’m a naturalist, I guess. I think the same thing about the word “god” or “gods” – I think that word brings a lot of excess baggage, and warps thinking about it from the outset. I kept stumbling on that in a discussion on a post of Jerry’s yesterday. Sigmund said

I suspect we will be unable to determine whether such evidence indicates a ‘God’ or a ‘God-like alien’.

And I thought, and said, what is the difference anyway?

Really – what is the difference? The idea is: maybe there is something out there, something with a mind, something that can do things. Maybe it has powers that go way beyond any we have. But that could be something natural, and there’s no obvious reason to call it “god.” I find it not at all hard to believe that there could be agents elsewhere in the universe, but if there are, they’re part of nature.

Hunting for the elusive atheist woman

Nov 2nd, 2010 4:02 pm | By

Jen McCreight said what’s wrong with Ms magazine’s blog post asking whether gnu atheism will make room for women. Jen did it, so I don’t need to. But I’ll go over some of the ground anyway, because I feel like it.

If you’ve been following the rise of so-called “New Atheism” movement, you may have noticed that it sure looks a lot like old religion. The individuals most commonly associated with contemporary atheism—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Victor Stenger—are all male, white and, well, kinda old (69, 61, 68 and 75).

I have been following the rise of gnu atheism; I’ve even been participating in it, in my own small (but noisy) way; I have not noticed that it sure looks a lot like old religion. It takes more than having a lot of people who are male, white, and kinda old to make something look like old religion. It takes quite a lot more. The US Congress also looks like that; so do many corporations, law firms, universities, unions, insurance companies, and other institutions. I’m white and kinda old myself, and I choose not to consider those attributes disqualifiers, or symptoms of religiosity.

The four guys named are all Names; they have published best-selling books. No women have yet published atheist best-sellers of the kind that Dawkins and Hitchens did. That’s not obviously a sign of sexism. Vanishingly few people have published atheist best-sellers of the kind that Dawkins and Hitchens did. The fact that Dawkins and Hitchens did doesn’t mean that women were excluded from a club.

That’s not to say that atheist women are not overlooked; I think they are; I think people who organize atheist conferences don’t invite enough women; but that’s a separate issue.

There’s no official definition of New Atheism, but the general consensus is that while atheists were once content to not believe in God by themselves, “new” atheists are determined to proselytize so that others join their disbelief.

Yes, but you see, the general consensus tends to be based on stupid prejudices and on manufactured consent – it’s not born, it’s created. “The general consensus” is a product of media recycling of hackneyed formulas that everybodyagreeson without bothering to think about it. Any fule kno that noo atheists are rude and strident and militant and intolerant, so that’s “the consensus,” so yet another journalist repeats it, so it becomes even more the consensus, world without end amen. “The consensus” is indistinguishable from the backlash.

We’re not “determined to proselytize” – we’re determined not to be silenced. There’s a difference. I tend to be determined not to let religious truth claims go unquestioned, but that again is not the same as proselytizing. If there were fewer religious truth claims flying around, I would be doing less questioning of them. It is Because They Are There.

Given the immense harm many organized religions inflict on women through outright violence and institutional oppression, it seems women may have more to gain than men from exiting their faith. Yet no women are currently recognized as leaders or even mentioned as a force within the movement.

That just isn’t true. Lots of women are mentioned as a force – Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina, Susan Jacoby, Lori Lipman Brown, and on and on.

PZ, like Jen, points out that Monica Shores didn’t even talk to any atheist women.

So don’t blame the Old White Guys, and don’t regard their gender and age as a debit. What we need to do is promote more equality, and make a positive case for freethought. The Ms article could have explored that by talking to some of the many people involved, and could have even talked to the many prominent female atheists out there, and said something about the direction we’re going, rather than where we come from.

Maybe it will do that as a follow-up.

Policing belief

Nov 1st, 2010 12:14 pm | By

The Freedom House report on blasphemy laws underlines the distinction between blasphemy and incitement.

There is an important distinction in international law between blasphemy—meaning critical, insulting, or offensive expression against religious doctrines, figures, and deities—and incitement—meaning expression that explicitly encourages and calls for hostility and violence. Of the two, only the latter appears to fit the limited circumstances in which restrictions on freedom of expression are considered acceptable.

It’s easy to understand why the two get blended together, because hatred of a set of ideas can lead to hatred of people who espouse them. This is obvious to me with regard to people like Glen Beck; to the pope’s ravings about atheism; to sexist rants about feminism. In that sense, I can understand at least in principle the worry that criticism of Islam may lead to hatred of Islam’s followers. But I also realize that neither Glen Beck nor the pope nor sexists can be silenced on those grounds. They can be disputed, but not silenced. So it is with religions.
As the special rapporteurs on freedom of religion and belief and on contemporary forms of racism pointed out in a joint annual report to the Human Rights Council in 2006, “the right to freedom of expression can legitimately be restricted for advocacy that incites to acts of violence or discrimination against individuals on the basis of their religion. Defamation of religions may offend people and hurt their religious feelings but it does not necessarily or at least directly result in a violation of their rights, including their right to freedom of religion.”
And for that reason, the risk has to be tolerated. The alternative is an unacceptable level of policing of discussion and belief.
UN member states from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the African group—particularly Egypt, Algeria, and Pakistan—have been leading an initiative to incorporate a prohibition on defamation of religions into the international human rights framework. Pakistan, acting on behalf of the OIC, introduced the first resolution on this issue at the Commission on Human Rights in 1999, and similar resolutions have been passed each year since. The 2009 version of the resolution, introduced in the Human Rights Council, explicitly linked defamation of religions with states’ obligations under Article 20(2) of the ICCPR to legally prohibit “incitement to hatred.” The move represented an attempt to expand existing international norms on incitement.
The move goes beyond simply seeing how criticism of a religion can lead to hatred, to assuming that it does. That step is one step too many.
[An international blasphemy law] would insert into the international human rights framework a concept that essentially turns human rights upside down, restricting the speech and actions of men and women for the sake of disembodied ideas as such, and replacing equality and the rule of law with deference to religious orthodoxy and subjective feelings of outrage. An internal contradiction of this magnitude would cripple international human rights law as a whole and leave little recourse to victims of persecution around the world.
Let’s not replace equality and the rule of law with deference to religious orthodoxy and subjective feelings of outrage.

Fatwa train

Oct 31st, 2010 4:42 pm | By

Why is it the Telegraph that mentions such things? Where are the papers to the left of the Telegraph?

Nick Cohen is on the case.

Jon Stewart’s Rally for Sanity yesterday featured Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens singing “Peace Train”. Islam/Stevens previously showed his commitment to peace and sanity by saying that death was the appropriate punishment for Salman Rushdie’s “blasphemy”.

I’m hoping that Rushdie will drop a word to Stewart and Colbert and that they will say something – like perhaps that they didn’t realize that about Islam/Stevens and have no desire whatsoever to endorse fatwas on heretics or blasphemers or apostates.

Sympathy for the doctrine

Oct 29th, 2010 4:41 pm | By

The Freedom House report on blasphemy laws gets it right.

[A]n examination of the application of blasphemy laws indicates that they typically give rise to the violation, not the protection, of fundamental human rights.

By definition, these laws, which are designed to protect religious institutions, doctrines, figures, and concepts—in other words, nonhuman entities and ideas—from insult or offense, impose undue restrictions on freedom of expression.
Precisely. Institutions (including corporations), doctrines, figures and concepts do not need protection from insult or offense, and they cannot be given such protection without restricting freedom of expression. Since they do not need the protection, it is a bad and stupid idea to restrict freedom of expression in order to give it to them. Institutions, doctrines, figures, and concepts are just the sorts of things that people need to be able to discuss freely in order to choose among them. A doctrine that can’t be dissed is a doctrine that has way too much power.

Franco Frattini

Oct 29th, 2010 4:05 pm | By

As you saw if you keep up with the News here, Marc Alan Di Martino helpfully translated some theocratic bullying from Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in the Vatican’s house rag the Osservatore Romano.

Christians also must be able to forge an agreement with Muslims on how to fight those aspects which, like all extremisms, threaten society. I refer to atheism, materialism and relativism. Christians, Muslims and Jews can work together to reach this common objective. I believe it’s time for a new humanism in order to struggle against these perverse phenomena, because only the centrality of the human being is an antidote to fanaticism and intolerance.

Very papal, isn’t it. Also stupid and deceitful – the whole point of theocracy is that it is not about “the centrality of the human being,” it’s about the centrality of that thing way way above the human being: good old God.

Frattini has form when it comes to theocratic bullying. He was on the job during the Motoons fuss (when he was justice commissioner for the EU), telling the European media to “self-regulate.”

Frattini is appealing for the European media to agree to “self-regulate”. “The press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right,” he said.

Yet that man has the gall to talk about theism as giving a rat’s ass about the “centrality of the human being.”

Seriously they want me to wear purple

Oct 29th, 2010 11:58 am | By

The loveliness of the religious mind.

Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed therselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE

Ooh ick – who’s that – some high school kid, right?

No, it’s a school board member at Midland School District in Arkansas. It’s a grown-up male adult mature citizen over the age of 16.

being a fag doesnt give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it.

An adult, and a school board member. He’s a member of a school board. He plays a role in education.

I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.

And a Christian.

However, not everyone disagreed with McCance’s comments, which he had defended on his page by citing his religious beliefs.

Gays and lesbians are “thinking they’re all right, and [God is] going to let them think that and go to hell for believing what they’re doing is right,” pastor Harry Craig, of Pleasant Plains Full Gospel Church, told CNN Little Rock affiliate KARK.

God is love; God is compassion; what would Jesus do.

Why Freethought Kampala matters

Oct 28th, 2010 6:08 pm | By

I was very chuffed to see that Time did a story on Freethought Kampala. Uganda needs all the freethought it can get, so publicity is good.

A study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 97% of Ugandans are believers, and the fact that professions of atheism are invariably met with incredulity has prompted most of Uganda’s freethinkers to keep their skepticism in the closet.
Exactly. This is why solidarity is needed, and why atheists really shouldn’t stay in the closet or go back in the closet if they have the freedom and safety not to. Yes we are too so helping.

But James Onen, a former Pentecostal Christian who once spoke in tongues, is not among them.

Onen, 35, had abandoned his once fervent Christian beliefs by the age of 20, after reading the Bible cover to cover and noting what he said were its logical inconsistencies. Hoping to promote reason and logic, the organization initially focused on the widespread belief — even among Uganda’s Christians — in witchcraft, but it has since taken aim at religion too. Pentecostal Christianity is a particular concern, Onen says, because it promotes the belief that “we are living in a time of spiritual warfare involving evil spirits,” which he says has reinforced the practice of witchcraft.

He’s doing important, needed work. Good luck to him.

Where the rabble-rousers come in

Oct 28th, 2010 12:25 pm | By

Victor Stenger sends encouragement.

It’s time for secularists to stop sucking up to Christians–and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and any others who claim they have some sacred right to decide what kind of society the rest of us must live in–what a human being can do with her own body. The good news is that young people are joining the rising atheist movement in increasing numbers. I have not met one yet who is an accommodationist.

That is indeed what it is time for. This does not mean, contrary to what accommodationists keep saying (whether they believe it or not, and I suspect they mostly don’t), it is time for us to call believers idiots whenever we encounter them. It means it is time to stop sucking up to them by pretending to think their religious beliefs are entirely reasonable and well-founded.

I think there is room, indeed a need, for both the accommodationist and confrontationist approaches. If you look at the history of every great social movement–the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights–you will see both components. There are people who try to work within the system to make changes. They often succeed, but usually at a snail’s pace–too slow to satisfy the millions who are impatient to have their inherent rights recognized by the power structure.And that’s where the rabble-rousers come in. They confront the system and eventually win the hearts of a majority that becomes awakened to the basic justice of the cause. They also give more power to those trying to work within the system.

We’re needed. We have a part to play. We’re not leaving.