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.

What “everybody knows”

Apr 2nd, 2012 1:56 pm | By

Eric MacDonald has a very good piece on Julian’s humanist manifesto. He makes the same point I kept making (and really, it’s hard not to – it’s so obvious):

Julian Baggini has now published his Heathen’s Manifesto, which he begs atheists to read. I wish I could understand the motivation behind it. It seems to be based on the premise that atheists, and new atheists in particular — an unidentified assemblage of nonbelievers who are, it seems, strident, obtuse, impolite, and seek to banish religion from the world  — need to grow up, be sensible and kind, and ally themselves with their allies amongst religious believers, something that, so far, they seem disinclined to do. I sometimes simply despair when I read Baggini, because he never really identifies any of these supposedly rude, self-centred, self-praising atheists, nor does he provide an example of the kind of thing that he seems to object to so much. In order to say that we need a change in attitude, he has to show who is exhibiting the attitude he so much deplores, and the entire series on Heathen’s progress over the last six months or so never identifies any particular person as the kind of unbeliever who needs to change his or her attitude. What Baggini seems to have done is to accept that the strident responses of religious believers to the so-called “new” atheism are unquestionably justified. However, in my own reading on both sides of this divide, I have to say that the most caustic voices, the shrillest and most strident condemnations have come from the religious side of this particular divide, and Baggini has yet to show that this is not so.

What Baggini seems to have done is to accept that the strident responses of religious believers to the so-called “new” atheism are unquestionably justified.

Exactly. His way of talking about the so-called “new” atheism simply assumed that everybody knows what it is and what is so terrible about it. That’s a very odd thing for a philosopher to do. Philosophers are generally very familiar with the idea that what “everybody knows” may well be wrong. Things that “everybody knows” can be drastic simplifications, or empty banalities, or uninformed prejudice, or based on misunderstanding, or confused, or incoherent, or propped up by nothing but long habit, or gut-level hatreds dressed up as knowledge.

The much-circulated hatred of outspoken atheists relies on a huge amount of dressing up mindless loathing as something more respectable, and once again it’s odd to see a philosopher playing along. It’s odd for a philosopher not to recognize the sheer banality of the hatred and thus avoid adding to it by producing more of the same.

There’s a lot of that kind of “everybody knows” floating around, after all. “Everybody knows” things about women, and immigrants, and poor people, and gays, and blacks, and Jews, and intellectuals, and liberals. The stuff that “everybody knows” about atheists is just more of the same old bigotry-masquerading-as-facts. It never fails to surprise me when even some atheists engage in it.

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

The debut of the Heresy Club

Apr 2nd, 2012 12:57 pm | By

The Heresy Club is a group blog of young heretical bloggers – Alex Gabriel, Siana Bangura, Rhys Morgan, Richard Nicholl and Hayley Stevens. You’re already familiar with Alex and Rhys if you’ve been reading B&W for awhile: they were starring daily back in January. I met both of them at QED, and Hayley as well. Check them out and if you like the blog, spread the word!

To be young and heretical in 2012 is to experience the intense realities of superstitious thought.

In our schools, we see science teachers treat Genesis with kid gloves. We see intereference in students’ private lives who blaspheme online. We see religious worship in British classrooms, and prayer creeping unconstitutionally back into American schools. Those of us at religious schools see indoctrination and sectarianism first hand, often with sex-negativity, misogyny and heterosexism in tow.

On campus, we’re targeted by evangelists from day one. We get threats of violence at atheist events, face censorship attempts from student unions, witness fellow students walking out of lectures on Darwin. Our universities still frequently make Christian chaplains central to pastoral care, and cling to Christian prayers and mottos from their Latin-speaking pasts.

They’re clearly paying attention, and the right kind of attention.

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

Another diocese heard from

Apr 1st, 2012 3:31 pm | By

It seems odd that the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne publishes an article by an Anglican minister, but I guess it’s just the usual ecumenical - interfaith – he hates Them so we love him – any port in a storm deal. Catlicks and Prods join hands to fight the real enemy, Teh Atheists.

the sad atheists are those who do take the God question seriously. They know that the stakes are high and that without God it is notoriously difficult to make sense of the world or of human life or death or joy or pain or love-making or justice or even, at the philosophical end of the spectrum, of truth itself.

Do they? You sure about that?

I ask because it’s also notoriously difficult to make sense of the world with “God.” I claim it’s a good deal more difficult. Since god is generally defined as perfectly good, there is a huge difficulty in making sense of such an entity creating a world in which living organisms develop via natural selection. Natural selection is not the creation of a being who is “good” in any sense we can understand (which is, after all, the one we’re talking about).

Our minister was disappointed by the quality of the last GAC. No thinking, you see.

Where I hope for serious engagement with the issues of atheism and the nature of science, the convention is more like a Christian revival meeting: a rally for the faithful with abundant noise, laughter and loud affirmation. Only the songs and the interjected ‘amens’ are missing. In 2010 it was quickly clear that the gathering was not about debating issues of faith and (non-)belief nor to defend the assumption that science is the only source of truth. The overwhelming and simplistic dogma was that religious people are misguided and unwilling to accept the clear evidence of the natural sciences.

But then he doesn’t do any of that kind of thinking himself, in this piece. He just talks some waffle that’s basically a demand for more deference please.

We need to examine the implications of living in an increasingly secular society where a harmonious future will only be forged through mutual tolerance. Trust can be built, but only when beliefs and values are clear, and when all parties accept the limitations imposed by living in a multicultural democratic state. As Christians we ought to preach the Gospel in word and deed, we ought to persuade others, offering good reasons for our hope. But coercion and manipulation are ungodly and will bring disrepute to the Church and its Lord.

In other words, if we just preach and nag and pressure, but don’t actually kick or hit, please demonstrate mutual tolerance by shutting the fuck up about us, amen.

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

The entirely parochial judgment of Stanley Fish

Apr 1st, 2012 11:50 am | By

Stanley Fish is doing his Brendan O’Neill act. There is no view from nowhere, therefore no claim is better founded than any other claim, it’s all just likes and dislikes.

 [D]espite invocations of fairness and equality and giving every voice a chance, classical liberals, like any other ideologues  (and ideologues we all are),  divide the world into “us” and “them.”  It’s just that rather than “us” being Christians and “them” Jews or vice-versa, “us” are those who subscribe to the tenets of materialist scientific inquiry and “them” are those who don’t, those who, in the entirely parochial judgment of liberal rationalists,  subscribe to nonsense and superstition.

“Entirely parochial” is it. So it’s entirely parochial to prefer evidence-based engineering to the magic kind?

I’m not criticizing liberals for standing up for, and with, their own,  only for pretending that they are, or could be,  doing something else. Liberals know, without having to think further about it, that those who oppose global warming on religious grounds are just ignorant nuts; and they know that those who deny the Holocaust, no matter what so-called facts and statistics they marshal, are just bad people; and they know that those who want creationism taught in the schools are just using the vocabulary of open inquiry as a Trojan horse.

That’s shockingly ignorant as well as smug. I’d like to see him tell Richard Evans that nonsense about the Holocaust; I’d like to see him tell Barbara Forrest that nonsense about creationism.

But the desire of classical liberals to think of themselves as above the fray, as facilitating inquiry rather than steering it in a favored direction, makes them unable to be content with just saying, You guys are wrong, we’re right,  and we’re not going to listen to you or give you an even break. Instead they labor mightily to  ground their judgments in impersonal standards and impartial procedures (there are none)  so that they can pronounce their excommunications with clean hands and pure — non-partisan, and non-tribal — hearts.

Not for the first time, I have a strong desire to see Stanley Fish in a situation where this kind of irresponsible coat-trailing would be an unaffordable luxury because he depended on the findings of properly conducted inquiry for his very life.


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

Ecclesiastical interlude

Apr 1st, 2012 10:56 am | By

PZ is at this very moment in a church. Not a joke this time, he really is – he’s there to observe Chris Stedman in action. His tweets sound very…restless.

  • You know what would be a crappy April fools joke? If I said I found Chris Stedman persuasive. So I won’t.
  • It’s a very *nice* room, with very *nice* people. Jeez, but I detest “nice”.
  • I learned that Stedman did good rewarding work in assisted living home. How NICE!
  • Stedman: religion studies major. Seminarian. Pro-religion advocate. Atheist? Not one word for atheism today. Weird.

Not weird; typical.

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

Urban renewal

Apr 1st, 2012 7:28 am | By

Oh damn, wouldn’t you know it, grumble grumble. Here I’ve been friends with Maryam for years but we hadn’t met, so three weeks ago we did at last meet, to our mutual joy, and what happens? She leaves FTB and her heretical ways to get in touch with her fun feminine side. She tells me she’s always loved fashion, and she’s going to go into the trendy decorative hijab line.

“I love beautiful fabrics and colours,” she told me on Skype, ”and what a great canvas you have in a burqa! Yards and yards of the stuff, to fill up with your own creative genius.”

Well yes. You know the sort of thing she means.





All very decorative and creative, to be sure, but couldn’t she just work with T shirts and jackets instead? Couldn’t she design clothes that are…you know…secular?

“They don’t use as much fabric!” she explained with a merry laugh.

Ok, then why not curtains, quilts, murals, tablecloths? Why not paintings, for that matter?

“Ah,” Maryam said dreamily, “but think how beautiful it is to decorate our cities with all these sparkling brightly-coloured women. Imagine all the cities in the world crowded with magenta and peacock-blue and scarlet embroidered women. I can see it now.”

She has plans for a Fashion Calendar for 2013.

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

The Muslim Brotherhood calls it beautification

Mar 31st, 2012 6:06 pm | By

Via Deeyah, via Mona Eltahawy: Azza El Garf of the Freedom and Justice Party – the Muslim Brotherhood party – disapproves of the ban on FGM.

She condemns the notorious “virginity tests”  that military officers and doctors are accused of perpetrating on a group of female  protesters in March 2011.

But she disagrees with Egypt’s 2008 ban on female cutting,  which opponents call genital mutilation. The World Health Organization defines it  as the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury  to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

“It is a personal decision and each woman can decide based on her needs. If she needs it, she can go to a doctor,” El Garf said,  adding that the Muslim Brotherhood refers to the practice as beautification plastic  surgery. She was adamant that it was a woman’s choice, and hers alone, to have the  outlawed procedure and should be done in consultation with a trained medical professional.

But it’s not about “women” making a “choice” to get their external genitalia sliced off. It’s about women “choosing” to have that done to their very young daughters. Prattling about “choice” as if it were a fucking manicure or a haircut is insulting.


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

On second thought, let’s keep women down after all

Mar 31st, 2012 3:42 pm | By

From the F Word -

The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific) and Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) have released a joint statement on the failure of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to adopt agreed conclusions at its 56th session earlier in March.  They draw particular attention to the role that arguments about protecting “traditional values” have played in preventing consensus on the human rights of women.

We say NO to any re-opening of negotiations on the already established international agreements on women’s human rights and call on all governments to demonstrate their commitments to promote, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms of women.

We are particularly concerned to learn that our governments failed to reach a consensus on the basis of safeguarding “traditional values” at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedoms of women…

…it is alarming that some governments have evoked so-called “moral” values to deny women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Sexual and reproductive rights are a crucial and fundamental part of women’s full enjoyment of all rights as well as integral to gender equality, development and social justice. Social and religious morals and patriarchal values have been employed to justify violations against women. Violence against women, coercion and deprivation of legal and other protections of women, marital rape, honour crimes, son preference, female genital mutilation, ‘dowry’ or ‘bride price’, forced and early marriages and ‘corrective rapes’ of lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and inter-sexed persons have all been justified by reference to ‘traditional values’.

“Traditional values” are just what get in the way of women’s rights. If you make an exception for them, you’re giving up on the whole idea.

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

Livingstone promises to cement London

Mar 31st, 2012 3:26 pm | By

Glory for Ken Livingstone: Iran’s Press TV reports

Ken Livingstone to make London a beacon of Islam

Ken Livingstone, Labour party’s candidate for mayor of London has promised to turn London into a “beacon” for the words of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) in a sermon at one of the British capital’s mosques.

Livingstone pledged to “educate the mass of Londoners” in Islam, saying:  “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet (PBUH).”

Livingstone described the Prophet (PBUH)’s words in his last sermon as “an agenda for all humanity.” He praised the Prophet’s last sermon, telling his audience: “I want to spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands [its] words and message.”

What happened? They forgot the last (PBUH). A disgraceful lapse, if not outright blasphemy!

But anyway, how lovely of Ken, forcing Islam on all Londoners that way. Good that he won’t be frittering away his time on things like public transport or libraries.

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

Galloway’s dog whistle

Mar 31st, 2012 3:14 pm | By

In a letter or pamphlet before the election:

God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you. Let me point out to all the Muslim brothers and sisters what I stand for:

I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if you believe the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully.

How does Galloway KNOW that God KNOWS what Galloway says it knows? How does Galloway KNOW that there is such a thing as “God”?

Oh, he doesn’t, it’s just electioneering, I know. But I wanted to say anyway.

It appears that Cristina Odone wrote a piece blaming Merat’s killing spree on – wait for it – secularism, but alas, the piece has been removed and can no longer be found. A bit too much, was it?


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

Her family refused to attend her funeral

Mar 31st, 2012 2:50 pm | By

A young woman of 19 in Mersin, Turkey, Hatice Ferat, ran away from home to live with her boyfriend. Her brother Mahsun did not approve.

Mahsun visited her in her new home and invited her out to take a walk along the beach. He then lured her in[to a] secluded area, slit her throat, stabbed her forty times, and disposed of the body in a river. When it was eventually found, her family refused to attend her funeral.
The investigation is ongoing – no trial has yet taken place. The funeral was held by 50 women, who took the opportunity to make it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated under their watch, shouting slogans that included “We are not going to be anyone’s honor,” “End honor killings,” and “Hands that hurt women should be broken.”


 H/t Deeyah.

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

Who me?

Mar 31st, 2012 11:55 am | By

Rock Beyond Belief is going on right now. Toooot!

Dan Fincke has a post saying that, and that Ed Brayton is the MC, and that he had a good time hanging out with Ed at the Reason Rally, and that Jessica Ahlquist rocked the Reason Rally, and that you can buy evil little thing T shirts which go into her scholarship fund…

…and that the evil little thing T shirts were my idea. Whoa, what?!

Oh yes, so they were. I’d actually forgotten that!

That’s too bad, because it means I didn’t think to introduce myself to Jessica that way in Orlando. “Hi, I’m the one who had the evil little thing T shirts idea.” If I remember correctly I just did the bumbling fan thing, instead.

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


Mar 31st, 2012 10:31 am | By

Two things.

One, will someone please explain to me how Republicans keep getting away with playing the “anti-elitist” “I hate Harvard/Yale/people who speak French” card when they themselves went to Harvard or Yale and speak French?

How did Bush keep getting away with it? I’ve never understood that. Andover, Yale, Harvard Business School, grandfather a Senator, father the President, oil money up to the eyeballs, and he got away with pretending to be a Texas workin’ stiff just by drawling and being pig-ignorant.

Now apparently Romney’s getting away with it.

Mitt Romney likes to take jabs at President Barack Obama for representing the values of the Harvard faculty lounge. He should know.

Like the president, the former Massachusetts governor is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Unlike the commander-in-chief, Romney also has a second Harvard graduate degree, in business.

While bashing Harvard is intended to paint Obama as an ivory tower theorist out of his depth in the presidency, Romney owes his chief White House credential — his business career –to the school.

That Ivy League pedigree undercuts Romney’s appeal to many Republicans who already doubt that he shares their values. So as he heads for his party’s nomination, Romney lacerates his alma mater on the campaign trail, seeking to channel the resentments of voters soured on elite institutions.

“I didn’t learn about the economy just reading about it or hearing about it at the faculty lounge at Harvard,” Romney, 65, said on March 18 in Illinois, in a swipe at Obama.

Why don’t people just shout “You pathetic liar!” when he tries that?

Two, oh for the good old days.

Brains and determination were taken for granted at Harvard, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, institution that is consistently ranked among the world’s top universities. Romney, seen as smart, though not exceptionally so, stood out for the intensity of his work ethic and his commitment to his Mormon faith.

“He was very serious about his religion and his relationship with God,” says Mark Mazo, a member of Romney’s law school study group. “That was highly unusual at the time.”

Ohhhhhhhhhhh wouldn’t it be nice if it were still highly unusual?



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

A confrontational mindset

Mar 30th, 2012 4:16 pm | By

Rachel Maddow on Fresh Air the other day.

On why she came out in the Stanford student newspaper when she was 17

“I think because I was 17 and incredibly cocky and full of myself, and I thought that everything I had to do had to make a statement. I think I had a confrontational mindset. I think I was frustrated by the casual anti-gay stuff that I saw among college freshmen in the milieu that I was in. And my attitude toward that was not to try to bring people along gently, gently, and show people by my evident humanity their callousness. I just wanted to throw something up in peoples’ faces. I’m not sure that I would do it that way now. I don’t really have any regret about it. I wish I had been more sensitive to my parents. But I certainly don’t regret coming out. I think that everybody has to find their own way on coming out issues. And some people decide never to. I tend to think it is always better to be out than not out. But not everybody has the option. And when I was a freshman in college, I felt like I had the option, and I exercised it with an exclamation point. I think it says more about being 17 than it does about being gay.”

Not everybody has the option – but some of us do, so we go to Reason Rallies or we write confrontational blog posts. Ya.

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

Leo in Geneva

Mar 30th, 2012 3:15 pm | By

Leo Igwe has an excellent article about religious laws versus human rights, which I think is a statement he made to the UN Human Rights Council a few days ago. Leo has very concrete, in your face, up close and personal experience of the relationship between religious “laws” and human rights, since he spends much of his time trying to repair the damage done by witch hunts and witch hunters and people who make claims about child “witches” in order to get money from the children’s parents to get rid of the “witches.”

Religious laws are legalised religious doctrines. They are “revelations” turned into rules to govern society. Religious laws are sacred dogma institutionalised. They are sins criminalised. They are religious hatred, intolerance, discrimination and fanaticism turned into state policies. In most parts of Africa, the negative impact of religious laws on democracies and human rights systems is clear and compelling – from the wars, conflicts and anarchy in Somalia, Northern Uganda, and in the Sudan, to the threats posed by Islamism to the Arab Spring in North Africa and the peaceful coexistence of people in Nigeria; from the witch hunts in Malawi, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea Conakry, Mozambique and the Central African Republic, to the wave of homophobia sweeping across different countries with overt and covert support from the OIC, the Vatican and other religious agencies that foster religious laws and its discontents across the globe. How we address this ‘sensitive’ issue of religious law – particularly here at the Human Rights Council – will go a long way in determining the future of democracy and human rights in the world.

I hope the HRC listened very attentively to Leo, and thought hard about what he said.

Also inspired by religious laws are those persecuting alleged witches in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, the Congo, Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Angola. Even where there are enabling state laws to address the problem, in many cases the religious laws in the minds of the people overwhelm, and take precedence over state laws. Or the existing law will be twisted and misinterpreted to convict the alleged witch and acquit the accuser.

Hence it should not surprise anyone that theocratic agencies like the Vatican, the Church of England, the OIC and their member states have not come out openly and categorically to condemn accusations of witchcraft and spirit possession sweeping across Africa and Asia and among African and Asian overseas communities.

It’s a good question, isn’t it. The Vatican is terribly terribly concerned about fetuses…why is it so unconcerned about children accused of being witches? The OIC is terribly terribly concerned about “defamation” of religion and “blasphemy” and cartoons and the like – why is it so unconcerned about children accused of being witches? Why do theocratic organizations have such horribly twisted priorities?

Homophobia: And now compare the deafening silence and indifference of African states to combating witchcraft related abuses with their vehement and strident opposition to recognizing the human rights of gay people. The reasons often cited to justify and sanctify homophobic legislations in the region are as follows: That homosexuality is unbiblical, un-Koranic and ungodly! In other words, the African states have these sacred texts, not their constitutions, as their grundnorm.

Recently, many African states and most of the OIC member states walked out of the session convened by the Council to discuss violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With that walk out, they have made their position clear:  they do not want these human rights violations to be discussed or addressed, nor will they be party to addressing them. They should not be held responsible and accountable. In other words, they are saying that the human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should continue, because that is in accordance with the ‘divine’ law in these countries.

Exactly so. How terrible it is that Leo’s voice is such a singular one.

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

Sliding back

Mar 30th, 2012 11:20 am | By

Shannon Rupp went to a “Wellness show” in Vancouver.

The Wellness Show — or as I think of it, Current Trends in Snake Oil — attracts an audience of about 30,000 to see a disparate collection of businesses hoping to find new customers in the demographic that’s chasing wellness…

Office assistants act like barkers pulling in the punters, and on hearing I have no back problems one swears her boss can cure my allergies with a spinal adjustment. On hearing I have no health problems at all, another assures me chiropractic is about prevention. It’s like going to the gym, she says: it’s how you prevent illness!

Then there’s the guy selling “transnasal light therapy” – a new gizmo that shines a light up your nostrils and promises to heal everything from diabetes to dementia along with a variety of viral infections.

It’s funny, in a Duke and Dauphin sort of way, but then there’s

Dr. Divi Chandna, a licensed medical doctor and a “certified medical intuitive”…

Last year Dr. Divi billed the Medical Services Plan $294,290.53 for services rendered to patients in her conventional medical practice. Simultaneously she runs a user-pay business peddling the sort of magic and mysticism usually associated with the dark ages. She runs The Bridge Health Center with husband Ed Light, an energy healer, and she offers readings based on her “gifts for intuition.” She explains that this includes being clairvoyant and “clairsentient” — she gets messages from spirit guides…

Dr. Divi doesn’t mention what her very own six week long “holistic” program for treating depression and anxiety costs, but the brochures list her medical intuition readings at between $99 and $199 a session. The deluxe reading comes with a written report and a little energy healing.

Dr Divi peddles woo, and she uses her genuine medical training for extra credibility. Regulators are leery of messing with “anyone’s spirituality” so generally nothing is done.

Ironically, the American Association for the Advancement of Science is sharing space with the Wellness show at Vancouver’s convention centre, and they’re discussing climate change and its deniers. President Nina Fedoroff is widely quoted as saying she is “scared to death” by the anti-science movement that is sweeping North America and most of the western world.

“We are sliding back into a dark era,” she tells The Guardian. “And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms.”

I’d like to say something optimistic here, but I got nothin.

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


Mar 30th, 2012 10:26 am | By

I’m reading Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.

The core facts: a Mormon man [Dan Lafferty] converted to radical polygamist female-subservientist fundamentalist Mormonism and converted his five brothers. The oldest brother [Ron Lafferty] was divorced by his wife as a result. The wife [Brenda] of the youngest [Allen] resisted all of them. Ron and Dan killed her and the pair’s baby daughter.

Some particulars:

Although standing up to Allen meant standing up to the entire Lafferty clan, Brenda did not shy away from such confrontations…[S]he possessed an impressive command of LDS scripture that allowed her to more than hold her own when debating fundamentalist doctrine with Ron and Dan. They came to despise her for defying them and for her influence over Allen, whom they considered “pussy-whipped.”

When Ron’s father was dying of diabetes, Ron had called a family meeting…Allen brought Brenda to the meeting, which made Ron furious. He called her a bitch and worse, and berated her with such unrestrained spleen that Brenda finally left in tears. But she did not remain intimidated very long. [p 153]

“A bitch and worse” – well we know what that means.

Ron “received revelations” which he wrote down on a yellow legal pad. One went:

Thus saith the Lord unto My servants the Prophets. It is My will and commandment that ye remove the following individuals in order that My work might go forward. For they have become obstacles in My path and I will not allow My work to be stopped. First thy brother’s wife Brenda and her baby… [p 163]

Dan took it upon himself to inform his youngest brother, Allen, with whom he had always been especially close, that God had commanded the ritual murder of Brenda and their baby girl, Erica, and that Ron and Dan intended to see that the commandment was carried out.

Allen expressed shock, then asked, “Why? Particularly why Erica, being an innocent child? Why would she be involved?”

At which point Ron angrily cut in, “Because she would grow up to be a bitch, just like her mother!” [p 169]

What’s that we keep being told about sexist epithets not being misogynist?

One more. From an accomplice’s testimony at the trial:

According to Carnes, Ron said that

as soon as he went into the house, he punched [Brenda] as hard as he could, and she fell down again on the floor. And he said that he was calling her a bitch, and, you know, telling her what he thought about her. [p 280]

And he kept beating her, and he choked her with an electrical cord, and then he cut her throat.

What’s that we keep being told about sexist epithets not being misogynist?

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

Stay where you are

Mar 29th, 2012 4:11 pm | By

Speaking of Islamic Feminism…

In Afghanistan, it’s a crime for women to leave home without permission.

“Running away” is not an offense found in the Afghan Penal Code. However, women and girls in Afghanistan have long faced punishment from family and local governing bodies for leaving home without permission.

In response to challenges to the practice of charging women and girls with the crime of“running away,” in 2010 and 2011 the Afghan Supreme Court issued an instruction to courts that “running away” is a crime…

The authorities typically bring “running away”charges when family members file a complaint after women or girls have fled from spouses and family, often in the context of domestic abuse or forced marriage. There is no prohibition on men leaving their homes without permission. When men face charges related to “running away” it is due to their having assisted a woman in doing so.

In 2010 and 2011 the Supreme Court issued statements that“running away” should be treated as a crime whenever a woman flees to a “stranger” as opposed to a “relative” or “legal intimate.” In the 2010 statement, the court stated that running away from family or spouses, even in cases of abuse, “could cause crimes like adultery and prostitution and is against Sharia principles” and determined that the act is “prohibited and prosecutable based on discretionary punishment.”

Ah it’s against Sharia principles – well that’s all there is to be said then.

The court called for women and girls facing abuse to “refer their cases to judicial institutions and to the government…and solve their problems via government channels rather than resorting to personal actions” such as running away. The Supreme Court concluded that “running away” is not a legitimate response to abuse: “For resorting to personal actions may create various crimes and violence rather than eliminating the violence.”

So by the same token, if a stranger kidnaps you and rapes and beats you, you should refer your case to the government rather than running away?

It makes every bit as much sense. Have you ever read anything so brutally stupid? If a woman or girl is being abused and beaten, how is she supposed to refer her case to the government without running away first? Men who abuse girls and women aren’t going to stand back and politely wait while they call the police, now are they.

Human Rights Watch has case studies.

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

The Templeton Prize

Mar 29th, 2012 3:30 pm | By

Who won who won who won, you cry, on the edges of your chairs.

The Dalai Lama.

Say what? The Dalai Lama won a prize that’s given for doing something or other about science and religion? Where’s the science part?

NEW YORK — The Dalai Lama has been awarded one of the world’s leading religion prizes.

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader is the winner of the 2012 Templeton Prize for his work on science and religion. The honor from the John Templeton Foundation, announced Thursday, comes with a $1.7 million award.

I didn’t know he’d done any work on science and religion.

The Dalai Lama is founder of the Mind & Life institute for research on science and Buddhism. A series of talks he gave at Stanford University led to the creation of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, which brings together scientists and religious scholars. The Templeton Prize will be awarded on May 14th in London.

Oh I see, he brings them together.

In a way it’s probably better that a religious boffin should win it, rather than a working scientist. It’s less misleading that way.

H/t Cuttlefish.

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

Job opening in Oxymoron Studies

Mar 29th, 2012 3:18 pm | By

The Women’s Studies Program at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, will offer a one-year postdoctoral fellowship in Islamic Feminist Studies in 2012-2013.

The Women’s Studies Program at Wheaton College is pleased to announce a one- year postdoctoral fellowship supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The fellow will pursue research and teach three courses in the Women’s Studies    Program during the appointment, including Transnational Feminisms, Introduction to Women’s Studies or Feminist Theory, and a course in his or her area of specialty. Women’s Studies is particularly interested in scholars of Islamic Feminism working on critical sexualities, but welcomes applications from all scholars in this field.

What I want to know is…what the hell is Islamic Feminism?

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