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 tedious impasse

Oct 16th, 2011 4:47 pm | By

I see Julian has a new series at Comment is Free, Heathen’s Progress. (I saw it the other day via a post of Eric’s.) It’s about telling believers, atheists and agnostics how they’re all doing it wrong, and how to do it right.

In a debate that has been full of controversy and rancour, there is one assertion that surely most can agree with without dispute: the God wars have reached a tedious impasse, with all sides resorting to repetition of the same old arguments, which are met with familiar, unsatisfactory responses. This is a stalemate, with the emphasis firmly on “stale”.

Oh dear, I’m so bloody-minded. The first sentence of a long series, and one which says surely most can agree on just this one thing without dispute…and I disagree. Wouldn’t you know it.

I don’t disagree that that describes part of what’s happening, but I disagree that it describes what’s happening, period. Yes there’s a lot of repetition; no that’s not all there is. So, no, I don’t agree that “the God wars have reached a tedious impasse.” I think things are happening, not to say changing. I think “the same old arguments” have become much more widely known to far more people, and I think that by itself makes a difference. I think it’s way way way too soon to come over all jaded and bored and declare that that’s all there is to it. I don’t think it is a stalemate, not least because religious apologists and pontificators can no longer have things all their own way. Now that the intertubes have come along, religious apologists and pontificators get pushback whenever they publish anything. Part of what’s happening with all this repetition of the same old arguments that Julian finds so stale is that religious commentators are becoming aware that their claims are not unanswerable. It takes time for that kind of awareness to spread and to bite. Relax; be patient; put up with the repetition.

In any case things are churning in other places too. Atheist and secularist groups are forming and growing; books are being published; blogs are starting and continuing; people are talking. It’s not just a matter of the same old arguments repeating like an endless rerun of Seinfeld.

My heart sinks whenever I am invited to talk or write about the existence of God, whether science is compatible with faith, or whether religion is the root of all evil. I struggle to say something new, knowing that this is such well-trodden ground, the earth is packed too firmly for any new light to get in. The only hope is to start digging it up.

Really. Five years or so of “the new atheism” and the ground is so well trodden that now it’s time to dig it up. I don’t think so. I think there are things to say about, for instance, the eagerness of so many people to end the conversation. I think there are things to say about the silencing tactics that have been used – some of which are not entirely absent from Julian’s piece. I think this very “oh it’s all so stale” note is one such tactic.

I do not blame the quagmire on the intransigence of any of the three sides in the debate – believers, atheists and agnostics – but on all of them. Broadly speaking, the problem is that the religious mainstream establishment maintains a Janus-faced commitment to both medieval doctrines and public pronouncements about inclusivity and moderation; agnostics and more liberal believers promote an intellectualised version of religion, which both reduces faith to a thin gruel and fails to reflect the reality of faith on the ground; while the new atheists are spiritually tone-deaf, fixated on the superstitious side of religion to the exclusion of its more interesting and valuable aspects.

One, are they, really? All of them? Are all new atheists really tone-deaf to the more interesting and valuable aspects of religion? I don’t think so. I think most of them pay some attention to those at least some of the time. Two, given what a vast army of people there are who are already doing that, would it really be so terrible if all new atheists did focus on the superstitious side of religion alone for a time? I don’t think it would. Given the row upon row of shelves devoted to hooray-for-God in the bookshops, I think a few books devoted to the opposite of that are not such a terrible (or “tone-deaf”) thing.

A plague on all their houses: all are guilty of becoming entrenched in unsustainable positions. For there to be movement, all are going to have to recognise their failings and shift somewhat. The battlelines need to be redrawn so that futile skirmishes can be avoided and the real fights can be fought. This is the first in a series of articles which together will attempt to do just this. Over the coming months, I’ll be fleshing out the charges I have made and suggesting what the right responses to them should be.

But there is movement. Even without shifting, there is movement. Even if the basic arguments are repetitive, there is still movement. I’m still busy with the battle lines drawn where they already are, and I want to fight the fights that I think are real, not the ones that Julian thinks are real. I haven’t nominated Julian to be my general, so I’m not shifting.

As a querulous member of the atheist camp, one of my aims is to end up with a richer, more constructive vision for what should follow the “new atheism”, which may well have been needed, but does not appear capable of taking us much further. To use another military analogy, the new atheism seems designed for effective invasion, but not long-term occupation.

People keep saying that. Over and over and over and over again. (Talk about stale!) It’s bollocks. The “invasion” is a long term thing, to put it mildly. We can keep doing that while other people do the “occupying.” The new atheists don’t have to stop what they’re doing and do something else, because what the new atheists are doing isn’t finished yet. We get that lots and lots of other atheists really hate it and wish it would shut up, but that’s just too bad. If other atheists want to occupy, by all means occupy, but don’t try to make us join you. You do what you want to do, and we’ll do what we want to do, and that will be fine. Telling us what to do, on the other hand, not so much.

One key characteristic of this new, new atheism must be more modesty. Although it was not intended to be a boast, advocacy of the noun “bright” to describe atheists illustrates how they have too often come over as smug and over-confident.

Sigh. Yes, no doubt, but almost no new atheists do advocate the use of “bright” so that’s a boring (and stale!) strawman…and silencing tactic. And speaking of smug, and more modesty – what is all this “must” talk? Who is Julian to tell new atheists what we “must” do or be? I might just as well try to tell the new heathens (if that’s their title) what they “must” do. I’m not smug and over-confident enough for that.

Not a great start for the campaign, I think. I expect the later, substantive articles are better. I haven’t read them yet…



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

Men couldn’t hear the girl’s screams

Oct 16th, 2011 12:27 pm | By

One small bit of good news, for a change.

The movement to end genital cutting is spreading in Senegal at a quickening pace through the very ties of family and ethnicity that used to entrench it. And a practice once seen as an immutable part of a girl’s life in many ethnic groups and African nations is ebbing, though rarely at the pace or with the organized drive found in Senegal.

But good news of that kind is of course always too late for some…for many.

Bassi Boiro, the elderly woman who was Sare Harouna’s so-called cutter, said she always performed the rite before dawn under the spreading arms of a sacred tree, away from the settlement.

“Men couldn’t hear the girl’s screams,” she explained. “They are not part of this.”

Four women would hold down the arms and legs of each girl, usually ages 5 to 7. For years, Mrs. Boiro said, she used a knife handed down through generations of cutters in her family until it became “too dull to even cut okra.” She then switched to razor blades.

But Mrs. Boiro says she has now accepted Sare Harouna’s decision to end the practice and speaks about the harm caused by her life’s work. “I didn’t realize it was my doing,” she said.

Muusaa Jallo, the village imam, was convinced of the need to stop the practice and has spread the word in many other villages. As his toddler impishly poked her finger through a hole in his sock, he placed his hand gently on her head and said, “I have already decided this one will not be cut.”

His 8-year-old, Alimata, sat solemnly to the side, her eyes downcast.

“I will abandon it like my parents,” she said, almost inaudibly. “I won’t do it to my daughters. It’s not good to do that, and they did it to me.”

8 is very young to know that it’s too late for you.

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


Oct 15th, 2011 4:16 pm | By

I got a package in the mail today and it turned out to be two copies of Does God Hate Women translated into Polish. Yip!

Dlaczego Bóg nienawidzi kobiet?


Dlaczego Bóg nienawidzi kobiet?  - Benson Ophelia, Stangroom Jeremy

Someone has read it.

This feminist and human rights activist likes it.

Greetings, Poland.

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

The good of the faith community takes priority

Oct 15th, 2011 3:46 pm | By

Valerie Tarico interviewed Janet Heimlich last May, on the subject of Heimlich’s new book on religious child maltreatment.

Tarico: Some people would say that religion prevents child abuse – that a supportive spiritual community or a personal relationship with a higher power, or a strong moral core is the antidote to maltreatment.
Heimlich: As I state in the book, families generally benefit from participating in religious activities. Still, we are only beginning to understand how children are harmed in certain religious communities.  In my research, I found that, in these problematic cultures, the good of the faith community as a whole takes priority over members’ individual needs, and this is particularly true with how those communities view children.

And women.

Tarico: Are some kinds of religious communities more prone to maltreatment than others? What are the patterns?
Heimlich: In writing Breaking Their Will, I felt it was imperative not to simply expose problems but answer the question: What makes religious experiences healthy and unhealthy for children? I came to the conclusion that children are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect if they live in religious authoritarian cultures. There are three perfect-storm factors that identify a religious culture or community as authoritarian: one, the culture has a strict, social hierarchy. Two, the culture is fearful. And three, the culture is separatist. The more intense these three factors are—the more authoritarian the culture is—the more likely children will be harmed. It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter whether the community is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim; whether people worship a deity called “God,” “Allah,” or “Jehovah”;  or whether they read from the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon. Any religious culture has the potential to subscribe, and be subjected, to authoritarian “rule.”

A very important point. We’ve been learning about how it plays out lately from Vyckie Garrison and others at No Longer Quivering and Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism and the people at Broken Daughters.

I met Tarico and Heimlich, and a lot of other great people, last night. Not an authoritarian in the bunch.

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


Oct 15th, 2011 12:51 pm | By

Jesus and Mo are too deep for the barmaid.


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

When in doubt, threaten

Oct 15th, 2011 12:44 pm | By

Definitely; the thing to do when you disagree with a woman or girl is to threaten violence. Absolutely. It’s only weak feeble worthless people – like women and girls - who hesitate to do that.

A high school girl objects to a prayer on a wall of her school; Fox News reports; the threats come in.

I say just take her out to the parking lot, put on some gloves so as not to leave any marks, and just  b e a t  her selfish little  a s s  for her. If she tells on you,  b e a t  her  a s s  again. What have you got to lose? I can guarantee that throwing bibles at her isn’t going to help.


She should be removed…PERMANENTLY…Nothing here but a wannabe future aclu   w  h   o   r    e….

Did they forget the ever-popular “If I was a girl, I’d kick her in the cunt. Cunt.”?

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

Duct tape and baling wire

Oct 14th, 2011 3:27 pm | By

An interview with Valerie Tarico.

How and why she left evangelicalism:

I would say that from adolescence on I struggled to fend off moral and rational contradictions in my faith, evolving  more and more idiosyncratic ways of holding the pieces together.  In particular, I couldn’t understand how I was going to be blissfully, perfectly happy - indifferent to the fact that other people were experiencing eternal anguish.

Bingo. That’s something that always troubles me (to put it as mildly as possible) about non-questioning evangelicals - that indifference to the fact that other people are experiencing eternal anguish. It’s a horrible, unspeakable thought, yet some people are apparently perfectly fine with it.

The final straw came while I was completing a doctoral internship at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  My job was to provide psychological consultation to kids and families on the medical units.  I was working with kids who were dying of cancer or enduring horrible, frightening treatments in order to survive it.  As I listened to the explanations offered by people who believed in an all powerful, loving, perfectly good interventionist God, it seemed to me these “justifications” were comforting, but they didn’t make things just.  I re-read The Problem of Pain, and the resident rabbi offered Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.  Both rang hollow.  Finally I said to God, “I’m not making excuses for you anymore.” And suddenly it felt like I had been holding my God together for so long with duct tape and bailing wire that all I had left was tape and wire.  So I walked away.

She took the problem seriously, as so many people fail to do.

Morality doesn’t come from religion.  Healthy human children come into the world primed to become moral members of society, just like they come into the world primed to acquire language. Moral emotions like empathy, shame, guilt and disgust begin to emerge during the toddler years regardless of a child’s cultural or religious context. A toddler may pat an injured peer or offer a grubby toy to an adult who is distressed. A preschooler may hide behind a couch to cover a transgression. As a child’s brain develops, moral emotions are joined by moral reasoning. By age five or six, kids can argue long and loud about fairness.

Research is just starting to show how our moral emotions and reasoning are guided by powerful moral instincts.

Cf Patricia Churchland’s Braintrust – see here and here and here.

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

Meanwhile, in Calabar

Oct 14th, 2011 1:52 pm | By

The Nigerian columnist and public intellectual Edwin Madunagu has written a piece about Leo Igwe and the Nigerian Humanist Movement.

I first  met Leo Igwe a couple of years ago when he came to the free library I oversee in Calabar to do some research.  From the type of books he consulted in the library and the books and papers he had with him, I guessed he was interested in philosophy, sociology and human rights.  Later, I learnt from him that he was working for a higher degree or diploma at the University of Calabar.  I also learnt that, simultaneously, he was active in a human rights organization called the Nigerian Humanist Movement…

…when Leo Igwe sought audience with me his request was promptly granted.  He told me he was organizing a number of seminars on child abuse in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states as well as a national conference on human rights.  I have forgotten the theme of the conference, but I think it was to take place in Ibadan.

I could not personally attend Leo Igwe’s events, but I encouraged the young persons around me to attend and participate actively.  Our interest in the seminars was strong on account of its specific subject, namely: rescuing, and defending the rights of, children accused of “witchcraft”.  Unrescued or undefended, these named “child witches” faced gruesome death or serious permanent disfigurement  carried out, of course, criminally or extra-judicially.  The victims of the anti-witchcraft “crusades” were mainly children from poor families and the campaigners were usually fundamentalist church groups, aided and abetted by the victims’ parents and older family members who, in almost all the cases, initially identified the “child witches” and then  invited churches to “deliver” their “evil” children.

The seminars were invariably subject to attack, and Leo was assaulted every time.

Edwin Madunagu seems to be my kind of guy.

In addition to the public library, I ran a programme aimed at developing anti-sexist, anti-patriarchal and critical consciousness in adolescent boys.  As we all should know, the prime victims of patriarchy or patriarchal system are women and children (of both sexes). Other victims include strangers, the poor, the “outcasts” and the minorities (ethnic and religious).  You will therefore appreciate why the adolescent participants in our conscientisation programme were interested in Igwe’s pro-child seminar and why I encouraged them to attend and participate actively.

Meanwhile, officials in Nigeria are throwing up stupid obstacles to keep the Nigerian Humanist Movement from registering as a corporation. Madunagu is trying to help.

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

Did a wolf howl?

Oct 14th, 2011 1:20 pm | By

What’s going on, has ERV blown a new whistle or what? Suddenly Teh Menz are popping up on an old thread to display their vocabularies.

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

Fallows on anti-Mormon “bigotry”

Oct 13th, 2011 5:42 pm | By

James Fallows is irritating in a different way from Andrew Sullivan. He’s reliably…middle. Safe; predictable; good at thinking what Everyone thinks.

Sometimes what Everyone thinks is just wrong. Fallows as Everyone thinks anti-Mormonism is simply another bigotry, like racism.


I do understand the political handicapping aspect of stories about the “Mormon angle.” It’s like asking three years ago whether America was “ready” for a black president. Or whether we’re “ready” for a Hispanic, female, Jewish, Asian, Muslim, atheist, gay, unmarried, overweight, etc President.

Not quite. Some of those items are based on ideas or beliefs, while others aren’t. It’s not sensible to treat them all as the same kind of thing for this purpose.

To be against Mitt Romney (or Jon Huntsman or Harry Reid or Orrin Hatch) because of his religion is just plain bigotry. Exactly as it would have been to oppose Barack Obama because of his race or Joe Lieberman because of his faith or Hillary Clinton or Michele Bachmann because of their gender or Mario Rubio or Nikki Haley because of their ethnicity.

No, no, no, no, no. Not “exactly as” - differently from. Religion is not the same kind of thing as race or gender or ethnicity (it is however the same kind of thing as “faith” – does he really think Lieberman has a “faith” as opposed to a “religion”?).

It’s very very simple. Race and gender aren’t systems of ideas; religions are. It really is necessary to know what candidates think and believe, because what they think and believe will (obviously) influence what they do in office, even if all they think and believe is “I will do whatever it takes to stay in office.” It really is necessary to know, for instance, whether or not a given candidate can separate her religion from her work. Some people can, but it’s no good just assuming that everyone can. It’s also no good just assuming that Mormon beliefs couldn’t possibly inspire or motivate any whacked actions in office. “Mormon” isn’t just a label or an identity and we can’t treat it as such. Imagine if a Dominionist were a candidate for president – we would really have to discuss that!

 I do understand that voters assess a whole suite of traits, including race and gender and class background and religion and family status, in deciding whether or not they are comfortable with a candidate.

See what I mean about Fallows? That’s so…what is it, it’s so normal and so clueless. He’s not a clueless guy but he has this instinct for the wrong-by-banality. It’s not about being “comfortable” with a candidate, it’s about doing our best to get a sense of what the candidate will do in the job.

But for people to come out and say that they won’t back a candidate because he’s Mormon and therefore a “cult” member is no better than saying “I’d never trust a Jew” or “a black could never do the job” or “women should stay in their place” or “Latinos? Let ‘em go back home.”

Not the same thing. Mormon beliefs and political beliefs are the same kind of thing; being black and political beliefs are not.

 I disagree with most of the LDS church’s political stances, and I hated the role it played in the California Prop 8 struggle last year. But to be against candidates because of their religion? That should be seen as bigot talk — yes, even when applied to Mormons.

So there he just comes right out and says it (yet apparently still doesn’t realize he’s said it). “I disagree with the candidate’s politics, but to be against candidates because of their politics? That’s bigot talk.”

Really? So does this also apply to libertarians, socialists, communists, anarchists, centrists, reactionaries, fascists? You disagree with their politics but to be against candidates because of their politics is bigotry?

It’s nuts.

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


Oct 13th, 2011 4:23 pm | By

Three long-term holds at the library all just turned up at once (long-term as in there are a lot of people on the list ahead of you).

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.

Rubs hands with glee.

(I know, very horse-and-buggy. But I still like books.)

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

Higher bullshitting

Oct 13th, 2011 1:02 pm | By

Andrew Sullivan thinks “militant atheists” have an excessively crude epistemology. (Via WEIT)

First he tells us how his works.

As to Coyne’s challenge to present a criterion of what is real in the Bible and what is true, I’d argue that empirical claims -   like, say, a census around the time of Christ’s birth, or the rule of Pontius Pilate in Palestine at the time – can be tested empirically. But the Gospels themselves have factually contradictory Nativity and Crucifixion stories…and so scream that these are ways to express something inexpressible – God’s entrance into human history as a human being.

If you are treating these texts as if they were just published as news stories in the New York Times, you are missing the forest for the trees. You are just guilty of a category error – or rather of forcing all experience into the category of science.

No, not science. News stories in the New York Times are not science (apart from the few that are). That’s a false dichotomy. Science is not the only alternative to fiction or myth. News stories in the New York Times are not science, but they are supposed to be, and expected to be, accurate. They are expected to get things right. They are not expected to make things up. (If you don’t believe me, Google Jayson Blair.) They are expected, in short, to tell the truth.

Sullivan apparently doesn’t agree with this (which is disconcerting, given that he is a journalist).

The rub is the miracles, as Hume noted. Here we have clear empirical accounts of things that we cannot account for in nature, indeed stories that are told precisely because they defy the laws of nature. And when the real and the true seem to conflict, I think we need to rely on the true, and leave the real to one side. The point of curing a blind man is the lesson of faith: “I once was blind and now I see.” I remain agnostic about the miracles as real; I have no doubt that they were true, that those who experienced Jesus’ touch and message were transformed in ways perhaps only expressible in terms of physical miracles. That goes for Lazarus as well. When we are talking about coming back from the dead, we are entering non-real truths. And the most profound unreal truth is, of course, the Resurrection.

He’s saying stories about miracles can be true even if they’re not real. Try that with the New York Times then. Try it with the Atlantic. Try it with the Daily Beast. If Sullivan reports something, as opposed to commenting on it or interpreting it, does he give himself permission to report it as true even if he knows it’s not real? Does he actually make truth claims in print in journalistic outlets that he knows are not “real” (by which the rest of us mean “true”)? I doubt it, and if he does, he risks getting in the kind of trouble that Jayson Blair did – but with a much bigger reputation to lose.

In other words, I think he’s bullshitting. I think he’s bullshitting rather shamelessly, since he probably wouldn’t act on that (bogus-seeming) distinction in his professional life. He wouldn’t call a fiction “true” to his editors or his readers (at least I don’t think he would, because as far as I know he’s a reputable journalist).

It’s interesting that this kind of special rule doesn’t apply in other areas. There’s no such thing as “true but not real” in the courtroom, or psychology, or history, or engineering. It might be a way of talking about fiction and story-telling, but that of course is the opposite of what Sullivan means – he is not saying that the Resurrection and the New Testament are fiction.

At the end he quotes a reader

Notice that the  fundamentalist and the militant Atheist both confuse truth with fact,  the fundamentalist by insisting that truth overwhelm fact, and the  militant Atheist by insisting that fact overwhelm truth. Neither, usually, have [sic] solid epistemological grasp of truth or fact.

And adds

Because their epistemology is too crude, in my opinion.

No. Thanks, but no.

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

That kind of ruckus

Oct 13th, 2011 11:42 am | By

Separation of church and state? That’s terrorism!

The mayor of Whiteville, Tennessee said his community is  under attack from a national atheist organization that is threatening to sue  unless they remove a cross atop the town’s water tower.

“They are terrorists as far as I’m concerned,” said  Mayor James Bellar about the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “They are alleging that some Whiteville resident feels very, very intimidated by this  cross.”

And that makes them terrorists. Saying a minority feels intimidated by a majoritarian religious display is terrorism, which is why the United States has never had any truck with pestilential terrorist ideas about the protection of minority rights. Thank god for loyal patriotic majoritarian anti-terrorism public officials like the mayor of Whiteville, Tennessee.

[T]he Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation said the cross is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They’ve given the mayor until the end of October to remove the cross. If he refuses, they have threatened to sue.

“The law is very clear on this,” Freedom From  Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker told Fox News Radio. “A secular city  may not promote or hinder religion. We don’t have a problem with believers putting up crosses wherever they want, but this is a cross put up by the city on the city water tower.”

Terrorist bastard. Terrorist communist Muslim socialist anarchist godhating bastard.

Barker said they’ve been sending letters to the city  since last year demanding that the cross be taken down, acting on behalf of an  unnamed resident who complained.

“It offends many residents,” Barker said of the  cross. “Many of them think the cross symbol is an offensive symbol – that it’s  an insult to humanity.”

But Mayor Bellar said he doesn’t believe that’s  true.

“As a matter of fact, I don’t even think it’s a Whiteville resident,” he said. “We don’t have people of that belief here and if we do they’re not going to raise that kind of ruckus for the rest of the town.”

He said menacingly.

H/t Ed Brayton.

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

Finders keepers

Oct 12th, 2011 4:21 pm | By

Dear old tradition.

Bride kidnapping, or “bridenapping”, happens in at least 17 countries around the world, from China to Mexico to Russia to southern Africa. In each of these lands, there are communities where it is routine for young women and girls to be plucked from their families, raped and forced into marriage. Few continents are not blighted by the practice, yet there is little awareness of these crimes, and few police investigations.

Well, you see, it’s something that happens to women and girls, and it doesn’t matter what happens to them. They aren’t really people you know. They look like people, sort of, but that’s deceptive – it’s just an outer thing, like the skin on a mango. They’re not really real people who feel things and think about things, the way you and I do. They’re hollow inside. It doesn’t matter what happens to them.

Up to a third of all ethnic Kyrgyz women in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped brides, and some studies suggest that, in certain regions, the rates of bride kidnapping account for up to 80 per cent of marriages. In six villages scrutinised for a recent survey, almost half of the 1,322 marriages registered were from bride kidnapping, and up to two-thirds were non-consensual. Earlier this year, two 20-year-old students committed suicide after falling victim to bridenapping. The deaths of Venera Kasymalieva and Nurzat Kalykova prompted demonstrations in their home province of Issyk-Kul, but little has changed.

Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a reflex. It’s like lobsters trying to get out of the boiling water.

Aminata Touré, chief of the Gender, Human Rights and Culture branch of the UN Population Fund, said: “What we really need is more research to come up with the level of the problem. For something to be registered as a crime, it has to be reported; that’s the problem, because it’s often seen as a cultural practice and not a crime. When it’s not perceived as a crime, it becomes even harder for this practice to be registered as one.

“These are issues that sometimes it is problematic even to talk about. The bottom line is that women are considered as commodities – both by the husband who takes them and their own families who accept a deal.”

It’s a beautiful romantic traditional way to get possession of a commodity.

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

Ferocious extrapolation

Oct 12th, 2011 9:37 am | By

The new bandwagon (or meme): moan a deep moan about the persecution of Christians in places like the UK and the US. A guy called (inelegantly) Tom J Wilson does a particularly maudlin version for the Huffington Pest.

The fact that British police would consider the displaying of Christian scripture an illegal offence is a concerning indication of the mentality that British society has come to adopt towards all things Christian.

For anyone who follows the British media’s reporting of American politics, the continuous attempt to run down certain American politicians on account of their faith rather than engaging with their politics has now become a rather boring familiarity.

Bush and Palin are crazed evangelical fundamentalists we are forever being told, oh yawn, is this kind of cheap and lazy defamation really what we have to make do with for journalism?

Is it any more cheap and lazy than what he’s saying? And, is it not the truth? (And are we really forever being told that about Bush now?) And, is it not relevant and important? Do their evangelical beliefs not influence their policies? Is evangelical belief simply and safely inert?

Yet what is far more concerning is what is happening to Christians here in our own country.  It is only when one steps back and takes an overview of the litany of cases where Christians have been discriminated against for their religious convictions, that it is possible to appreciate what resembles a sustained assault against the Christian communities in Britain.

He then proceeds to offer a list of apocryphal stories, exaggerated stories, and “yes; so?” stories, which do not add up to anything that resembles a sustained assault against the Christian communities in Britain.

It is as if there is a systematic effort to extrapolate British society from its Christian heritage and the values that have for centuries served as a basis for British culture and identity.

Ah, the poor guy – he doesn’t know what “extrapolate” means, and he went and used it in a published article. So embarrassing.

As much as I am not a Christian, it still seems clear that all of us who value the rights and freedoms afforded by a liberal democracy should ensure that there is fair treatment for Christians in Britain.

More than that, we as a society need to recognise that Christianity has played a major and for the most part extremely positive role, in forming our nation’s history and national identity.

More “positive” than a secular worldview would have played? Doubtful.

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

More godless groups in the world

Oct 11th, 2011 11:11 am | By

Leo Igwe sent me the link to a heartening article about the global energization of atheism.

At the World Humanist Congress in Oslo in August, delegates from India,
Uganda, Nigeria, Argentina and Brazil — all countries where belief in a supreme deity or deities has a strong hold — reported mounting interest in their philosophy.

Like their counterparts in Europe and North America, they argue that morality
is based in human nature and does not need a father-figure god to back it up
with punishment in an afterlife, in which they do not believe.

“There are more godless groups in the world than ever before,” Sonja
Eggerickx, a Belgian schools inspector who is president of the International
Humanist and Ethical Union, told the Congress.

We can talk to each other more easily than ever before. (Of course, so can Dominionists…)

U.S. delegates, including a serving army major who has just established an
organisation for atheists in the military, spoke of a surge of rejection of
religion in all its forms among young Americans — a point some recent opinion
surveys back up.

In Manchester in May, British Humanists — one of the world’s oldest
groupings — were told of a sharp rise in humanist birth, marriage and death
ceremonies, and strong growth in their association’s four-year-old student

In Ireland, a country where the influence of the Catholic Church was for decades dominant in
all areas of life including politics and government decision-making, an optimistic national humanist association met in Carlingford in late August.

In Nigeria, where the openly non-religious face Christian preacher-inspired
public opprobrium as “immoral reprobates” or “Satanists” and in the Islamic
north are treated as apostates, the humanist movement held its Congress in Abuja
in September.

Leo’s talk at that Congress is at the ur-B&W.


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

Apostles have been raised up by God

Oct 11th, 2011 10:06 am | By

Via Ed Brayton, Terry Gross talks to the apostle C Peter Wagner. Be afraid.

On demons

“As we talk, in Oklahoma City there is an annual meeting of a professional
society called the Apostolic — called the International Society of Deliverance
Ministers, which my wife and I founded many years ago. … This is a society of
a large number, a couple hundred, of Christian ministers who are in the ministry of deliverance. Their seven-day-a-week occupation is casting demons out of people. And they have professional expertise in this and they happen to meeting — to be meeting right now. My wife is one of them. She’s written a whole book called How to Cast Out Demons. And I don’t do that much. Once in a while when I get in a corner, I might. But that’s — that’s been her ministry.
And so I’ve been very, very close to that for years. We’ve been married for 60

On people in American politics being possessed by demons

“We don’t like to use the word possessed because that means they don’t have any power of their own. We like to use the word afflicted or, technical term, demonized. But there are people who — yes, who are — who are directly affected by demons, not only in politics, but also in the arts, in the media and religion in the Christian church.”

This guy is seriously terrifying. He’s not some sad Dennis Markuze, he’s got a lot of followers. When exactly will the witch-hunts start, one wonders.

On demon identification

“Sometimes they know. Sometimes the demon has identified itself to the person. Sometimes you can tell by manifestations of superhuman, unhuman behavior. Sometimes you can tell by skilled deliverance ministers. My wife has a five-page questionnaire that she has people fill out before she ministers to them. So she asks the kind of questions that a medical doctor would ask to find out, to diagnose an illness. So she actually does diagnostic work on people to discover not only if they have demons, but what those demons might be.”

She actually does diagnostic work, and demons are as real as bacteria, and her diagnostic work can detect them and say what kind they are, just like a medical doctor…Yet these people aren’t some hicks who live 4o miles up Cowshit Road and can’t do much damage.

On whether other religions and nonbelieving Christians are

“Well, it means they’re not part of the kingdom of heaven. It means they’re
part of the kingdom of darkness. An apostle, a friend of mine in Nepal, once
told me that every Christian believer in Nepal that he knows of has been
delivered from demons. That their former Hindu religion had implanted, or the
demons had gained access, and that in order to become Christian believers, the
demons had to be cast out. Of course, we have many examples in the Bible of the same thing.”

Ah well if a friend of his told him that – there’s no more to be said.

On what it means to be an apostle

“In terms of the role of the apostle, one of the biggest changes from traditional churches to the New Apostolic Reformation is the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals. And the two key words are authority and individuals — and individuals as contrasted to groups. So now, apostles have been raised up by God who have a tremendous authority in the churches of the New Apostolic Reformation.”

He thinks he’s been raised up by God. He thinks he has spiritual authority. He’s apparently serious.

If only these people were just a tiny minority.

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

A foxhole atheist speaks up

Oct 11th, 2011 9:28 am | By

A-News talks to Justin Griffith, FTB colleague, Military Director of American Atheists, and the guy behind Rock Beyond Belief.


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

United for separation of church and state

Oct 10th, 2011 5:36 pm | By

Another reply to Wallis and Pinsky. (I like it when the objects of theist bullying fight back. Sue me.) This one is by Rob Boston of Americans United.

There are people in this country who belong to fundamentalist Christian religious groups and who believe that they have the right (and perhaps the duty) to run your life.

That is a fact. These people exist. I’ll be spending some time with them this weekend at the Family Research Council’s “Values Voter Summit.”

It’s also a fact that some folks would like to pretend that these people don’t exist, or that they are a fringe group that can be easily dismissed. Some evangelicals are embarrassed by the antics of politically active, extreme fundamentalists, but instead of standing up to them, they’ve decided instead to criticize those of us who write about the Religious Right.

It’s a classic “kill the messenger” scenario.

Our open letter sets the record straight. Those of us who write about the Religious Right are not overreacting. Nor do we, as Wallis and Pinsky seem to think, believe that all evangelicals are theocrats. Indeed, we know that the theocratic wing is a minority – but we also know that a minority can have influence far beyond its numbers.

We write about these things because we believe there are people out there who support church-state separation and maybe they’ll get involved in stopping the Religious Right – if they have the facts they need. So be assured that we’re not going to let two naysayers who can’t grasp what’s going on shout us down or intimidate us into silence. (In a USA Todaycolumn, Pinsky says that David Barton, a man whose phony “Christian nation” claptrap is considered gospel in fundamentalist churches all over America and who helped dumb-down social studies standards in Texas, is a marginal figure. Talk about clueless!)

As long as I have the power to turn on a computer or pick up a pen, I’m going to keep writing about the threat the Religious Right poses to American values and freedoms. And yes, I intend to call out the theocrats when it’s necessary.

Very well said.

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

Scenic interlude

Oct 10th, 2011 5:13 pm | By

I took a dog friend to the beach at Golden Gardens this afternoon. It was beautiful and stormy.

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