Notes and Comment Blog


Guest post by Brony: Every one of us is a “God of Jokes”

Jun 19th, 2014 6:02 pm | By

Originally a comment on Penn Jillette on how to Professional Comedy With Added Misogyny.

What pompous overblown impulsive reactivity!

We all individually have a say in what is funny and what is not. Every one of us is a “God of Jokes” and a comedian should realize that. I’m pretty sure that comedians don’t totally ignore the surrounding culture and adapt to it in order to hone their craft. That culture has a structure made up of our individual dispositions, experiences and beliefs that are the source of jokes. It’s a pretty clear attempt to use his authority to bully a disliked opinion down.

We should consider why things are funny and what the effect of humor is on the subject of the joke’s objects. Why we have jokes about other people that draw on stereotypes and unflattering associations is a totally valid subject of concern. How to deal with jokes that make like more difficult for other people is a totally valid subject of concern. I definitely smell some paranoia about criticism of humor in Penn’s chosen approach here.

There is not a whole lot of research into humor, but I have looked at it because Tourette’s comes with some altered appreciation of humor, in addition Tourette’s is the subject of much social humor, thinking about these things is self-defense. It seems to me that when you scratch beneath the surface of a joke you find tension. Lots of comedians (professional and non) joke about things that they are troubled with on some level, family, age, politics, religion, sex, race, more. The joke relieves the tension and makes the person laughing at it feel better about the thing.

But not every means of reducing tension is valid and a professional comedian should be able to maturely discuss that fact. If someone is tense because of sex, gender, or race issues spreading around a stereotype to hide, or distract the source of tension is a bad idea. It’s puts an emotional bandage on a social wound that will still be leaking after the joke or show except now the persons telling and laughing at the joke can go pretending that reality is something else easier for a while. It won’t be funny to a person personally harmed by the social wound that is being replaced by an exaggeration or falsehood for the amusement of others.

And maybe we don’t want these sources of tension to be funny anyway. The worse we feel about social problems, the more attention gets directed to them, and the sooner something gets done about them. The temporary emotional salve of humor can effectively let us put things off for a while, but can be habit forming on a group level.

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



It’s not me, it’s you

Jun 19th, 2014 12:19 pm | By

So what next? American Atheists tweets:

Embedded image permalink

Yeah. I’m afraid this just isn’t working out.

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



She even includes the obligatory elevator reference

Jun 19th, 2014 12:09 pm | By

A bit of annotation on the substance of Jaclyn Glenn’s anti-feminism video.

At 45 seconds she makes an elevator sneer – “He invited me to have coffee in his hotel room; sexual harassment, patriarchy!”

But I feel like the term “feminist” is exclusionary.

She points out “humanist” is a great word too so why don’t we use that word?

But the word “feminist” has gotten such a hawwrible reputation from modern feminists and like I said it’s exclusionary.

It’s gotten such a hawwrible reputation from people like Glenn talking stupid garbage about it, too.

So stop the nonsense, stop saying patriarchy for every damn thing, and stop making everything about you [with a forceful gesture].

Which is rich coming from someone doing a video of herself talking while perched on a glammed-up bed.

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



Battling the feminist demon

Jun 19th, 2014 11:48 am | By

Jaclyn Glenn has a new video. This one is about her contempt for feminism. I’ve managed to watch 29 seconds so far.

Glenn is the Latest Big Thing among the atheists – this shit is the Latest Big Thing.

It’s the New Left all over again. Oh, it turns out I’m a second class citizen? Oh. I thought I was a citizen like any other. Bye then.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ji4t7HhIjw

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



Penn Jillette on how to Professional Comedy With Added Misogyny

Jun 19th, 2014 9:46 am | By

Well that’s one good thing: Penn Jillette has gone public – more public than before, at least – about what a sexist asshole he is.

Dave Muscato did a public Facebook post yesterday* about how to deal with sexist jokes. He was spinning off a post of Miri’s (that I had seen) about the uses of playing dumb when you hear a sexist or racist etc joke, because this puts the joker in the position of having to spell out what the joke rests on. Dave’s post was about why he prefers the calling out approach. Who knew that would motivate Penn Jillette to out himself? But he did.

jilljill2jill3

Penn JilletteWho fucking made you the god of jokes? Who gives a fuck if you think a joke is sexist? Does anyone care? Or care if you pretend not to get it.. I mean, does anyone care you think they’re misogynist? And why do you have to have strategies for social situations? How about just dealing with your friends? You really think you’re protecting someone by “getting in someone’s face” about a fucking joke? Is that noble? And what do you know about comedy? I didn’t think you were a pro, or any sort of expert on that. Why would you be better at articulating how a joke works socially than the person telling the joke? Understanding the exact POV of a joke on a sexual, or racial, or religious subject — is something that a team of pros would have to think about a lot. And then have different opinions on. If you can do this, off the top of your head, in a social situation — you should be making a metric shitton of money doing this professionally. Just an amazing post. Insane.

Penn Jillette Amazing. I guess there are people who really think they understand the way jokes work in culture enough to make these calls. I have sat for hours with professional comedians tearing about on phrase of one joke trying to understand some of the ramifications and you people think you can just do it, cold, off the top of your head. A little learning is a dangerous thing — drink deep or taste not. I have to go in when someone is performing surgery, and tell them what I think off the top of my fucking head. It’s good to speak from complete ignorance. Man, the fucking presumption. Have you all read “Going Too Far” by Tony Hendra? Are you familiar with Michael O’Donahue’s writing on whether his “Hellen Keller Joke” was a joke about her or an epistemological joke. Are you people even aware that Sarah Silverman exists? I worked 5 years of my life on a fucking movie just looking at one small aspect of one taboo joke and didn’t scratch the surface And you’re doing this all off the top of your heads? Do you all really think you’re that fucking smart, to enter someone else’s area of expertise and ignore it?

Penn Jillette Drop your friends because you don’t like their joke? What are the chances you’re dropping a friend because you don’t understand their fucking joke? Has it ever occurred to you that when you think a joke is a rape joke, you might just be fucking wrong. You know, wrong wrong wrong. Like it’s not even a rape joke. Or are there magic words that can’t be said around you, and if anyone says those magic sounds they are evil. Yeah, let’s stop reading Mark Twain, because he didn’t understand humor in society the way you fucking geniuses do.

Penn Jillette So, the argument is “magic words.” Okay, so these are people who believe in magic words. I have no argument for that. Someone says a magic word and they are wrong and you are right. Good, so Mark Twain and George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce, aren’t as enlightened as you. Yeah, Prior was a fucking idiot. Amazing.

Nola Olsen But part of telling a joke is playing to your audience. And part of it (for many) is a way to make social commentary and make things better for the oppressed. That is why so many comedians fail miserably and no one likes them. Telling a joke is easy. Making it universally funny without being at the expense of a single person or singled out minority is hard. Anyone can be a bully.

Penn Jillette Who are you to say you understand who the audience was supposed to be? No one is going for universal. Who would go for universal.?

Penn Jillette Yup, I’ll fuck off. Bye bye.

Dave Muscato I’m about to start a live podcast so I have to go, but Courtney Alexandra Caldwell I don’t allow people to tell others on my wall to shut up—I’ve deleted your comment. There are appropriate ways to disagree and inappropriate ways and that’s the latter

Courtney has a post on Skepchick pointing out that Dave deleted a comment of hers telling Jillette (in gif. form) to shut up. Think about it.

*Now deleted.

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



Everything normative Islam stands for

Jun 18th, 2014 6:17 pm | By

It’s helpful when reactionary theocrats spell out how reactionary and theocratic they are. There’s this guy Ghulam Esposito Haydar for instance. He’s not pleased that a liberal Muslim has been invited to speak at the Living Islam festival.

So at this years Living Islam, the ISB have invited a speaker from the BMSD.. who’s also a part of Tell Mama..

Don’t feel it’s appropriate. Wasn’t required. .

Really? He doesn’t want the founder of British Muslims for Secular Democracy there? So he disapproves of secularism and democracy, and thinks they’re not “appropriate” at such a festival?

Wow. Good to know.

His last comment on that post is even more informative.

 I know fairly well who she is. She’s from the group ‘British Muslims for Secular Democracy’ & ‘Tell Mama’ as well. She’s pretty much against everything normative Islam stands for, and I mean the things that are agreed upon by the people who call themselves traditional Sufis, Salafis, Brewlvis, Deobandis, Ikhwanis, Ahlul Hadith, etc

So “normative Islam” is against democracy and secularism?

Good to know. I hope it gets taken over by people like Tasmina.

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



A morbid fascination with human credulity

Jun 18th, 2014 5:04 pm | By

PZ has some thoughts on skepticism. He starts with a continuum of belief, with the very gullible at one end and conspiracy theorists at the other.

And then, somewhere in the middle lie science and skepticism. People readily conflate those two, unfortunately, and I think that’s wrong. Science is all about following the evidence. If a bit of evidence supports a hypothesis, you willingly accept it tentatively, and follow where it leads, strengthening or discarding your initial ideas appropriately with the quality of the evidence. You end up with theories that are held provisionally, as long as they provide fruitful guidance in digging deeper. It is ultimately a positive approach that winnows out bad ideas ruthlessly, but all in the cause of advancing our knowledge. I am far more comfortable with science then skepticism, because I’d rather be working towards a goal.

Skepticism is the flip side. It’s all about falsification and disproof and dismantling proposals. I think it is the wrong approach.

Consider one classic example: Bigfoot. Skepticism is all about taking apart case by case, demonstrating fakery or error, and demolishing the stories of the Bigfoot frauds. That’s useful — in fact, skepticism is most useful in dealing with malicious intent and human fakery — but it doesn’t advance our knowledge significantly. The scientific approach would involve actually studying forest ecology, understanding how the ecosystem works, and getting a handle on what lives in the forest…and at the end, you’re left with something informative about the nature of the habitat, as well as a recognition that a giant ape isn’t part of the puzzle.

I still have a morbid fascination with human credulity, but I also think that’s all it really is: just a gossippy, aren’t humans weird, hobbyish kind of interest. I don’t think it’s useful enough or profound enough to be the kind of thing that Movements can be built around. Skepticism’s pretensions to being a movement increasingly seem a little infatuated to me, although that could be because so much of the US branch of that movement is so very full of smug narcissistic shits.

So we get skeptics who argue against the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke, or anthropogenic climate change— it’s OK, because they’re being critical — and these same skeptical entertainers are lauded for berating an MD and throwing him out of a party, because he had criticized their pandering to a quack…and also their climate change denialism. Do I even need to get into their contemptible sexism or their Libertarian bullshit?

And then the movement as a whole has been wracked with this bizarre denial of sexual harassment, and refusal to deal with the issue. I think part of it has to be a culture of dealing with complications by rejecting them — that the movement is full of individuals whose favored approach to the deplorable messiness of human interactions and the existence of malefactors is by retreating into a Spock-like insistence that the problem does not compute, and therefore can be ignored. It’s a culture of explaining away, rather than explaining.

Yes; those are the ones I can’t stand: the ones who label everything that’s not empirical as “ideology” and treat it as an illegal alien.

PZ ends with a hilarious/disgusting example of obsessive hyperskepticism about…a letter that PZ got from a teenage fan. Yes really. People are weird.

 

 

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



Girls

Jun 18th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

Soraya shared a pretty astounding ad from about 1967 (I’m estimating) on Facebook.

Photo: The text on this is really priceless.

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



The adult table

Jun 18th, 2014 4:19 pm | By

Ed is underwhelmed by Peter Boghossian.

 

I have to agree with Taylor Carr’s assessment of Peter Boghossian and his often simpleminded and childish jabs at religion. I think he’s an example of exactly what we don’t need in atheism, someone who is content with making the lowest common denominator insult rather than the thoughtful criticism. A perfect example is this recent Tweet:

Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.

Uh, no. Making a stupid statement like that disqualifies one from sitting at the adult table.

Funny he should mention it, because I’ve disputed one or two of Boghossian’s tweets for the same kind of reason – they can be oversimplified and crude in the manner of Dawkins at his Twitter worst. I’ve even done a post about one such tweet, and there are lots of informative comments. Damn you guys are good.

More from Taylor Carr’s assessment:

I’ve seen a few comments on Facebook calling Boghossian “our version” of young earth creationists, saying that he almost seems like a viral marketing gimmick for the God’s Not Dead film. To this I’ll add that he’s like the Deepak Chopra of atheism. Chopra is a new age ‘guru’ who spouts wisdom that’s eaten up by his followers, yet is less wisdom than it is gibberish. In similar fashion, Boghossian plays to an audience that he knows, one that disdains anything and everything remotely connected to religion. These “cultured despisers” of religion, as Schleiermacher once called them, are quite happy to agree with whatever fits the us vs. them narrative they’ve constructed, along with its clear emphasis on the inherent and unavoidable evils of religion, while little things like arguments, facts, and honest dialogue take a backseat.

Don’t be the Deepak Chopra of anything.

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



The content is now available again in Pakistan

Jun 18th, 2014 11:53 am | By

Hey, Twitter reversed itself on blocking those “blasphemous” tweets in Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities had requested the removal of the material, much of which mocked Islam and other religions, claiming that it was “blasphemous,” “unethical” and violated Pakistan’s Penal Code. Twitter used its Country Withheld Content tool, which blocks content in a particular nation, for the first time in Pakistan, the social network said.

And now it has decided to unuse it.

Twitter issued the following comment Tuesday about its restoration of the blocked content:

“We always strive to make the best, most informed decisions we can when we’re compelled to reactively withhold identified content in specific jurisdictions around the world. On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Consistent with our longstanding policies we provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximize transparency regarding our decision. We have reexamined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan.”

  • The Chilling Effects blog post on restoration of the content

Result!

Try to get it right, Twitter. Harassment of individual people? Block that. “Blasphemy”? Don’t block that.

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



A scorching emptiness

Jun 18th, 2014 11:35 am | By

A heart-rending piece by Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, who is still in a Saudi prison for the “crime” of setting up an atheist website.

I still pursue that mirage… two years have passed and I am still faced with a scorching emptiness and a series of agonizing questions.

When will he be back, and in what condition? What will I put on, and how will I react? Should I hug him, kiss him, or should I cry?

I wake up to the torture inflicted upon me by our children’s questions, like: “Mom, will we be leaving tomorrow without Dad, to fly from Beirut to Canada? Will I be afraid of flying? Dad used to help me overcome my fear.”

That’s our ally, Saudi Arabia.

First thing one recent morning, a telephone call from one of Raif’s friends woke me up. He had attended Raif’s trial back in Riyadh on 7 May 2014, and without further ado he said – in a coarse, sad voice – that they had increased Raif’s original sentence of seven years and 600 lashes. I hung up the phone and was overcome with anxiety and stress before bursting into tears! I pulled myself together and recalled that Raif had promised me that he will come back – I do not know when, but he promised me he will!

Every opportunity I get, I always reiterate the same message to the Saudi government. They know very well that Raif is no criminal; instead, he is a prisoner of conscience. The authorities have to abide by the international treaties that provide for the freedom of expression. I wonder whether or not they will ever heed my words.

Saudi Arabia.

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



Ofsted does the decent thing

Jun 17th, 2014 6:20 pm | By

The BHA reports a bit of good news:

Ofsted has today withdrawn and committed to update a briefing for inspectors on ‘faith’ schools that endorsed gender segregation in lessons, as well as restrictions on the teaching of art and music. The British Humanist Association (BHA) criticised the guidance on Thursday after the Times brought it to light, pointing out that it contradicted negative findings from Ofsted and the Education Funding Agency into the practices of schools in Birmingham and of the Al-Madinah School in Derby last year, as well as the stated policy of the Department for Education. The BHA wrote to Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw about the briefing and has welcomed the decision.

It quotes from their statement, which is written in the most impenetrable officialese…I mean, check it out:

In line with the advice provided to the Secretary of State for Education, HM Chief Inspector is considering any lessons for Ofsted following its recent inspections of 21 schools in Birmingham.

You can read this statement on the Parliament website.

As part of this undertaking, he has given instructions for a number of documents under the headings of Subsidiary guidance to support the inspection of maintained schools and academies and Briefings and information for use during inspections of maintained schools and academies to be temporarily taken down while their content is reviewed.

This guidance, updated where necessary, will be re-published shortly.

That third paragraph is a real doozy. Anyway, if the BHA tells me that’s what it means, I’ll take their word for it.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome the news that Ofsted is revising its briefing for inspectors on “faith” schools. It is vital that every young person receives a broad and balanced education free from discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic – regardless of the type of school they are educated in. That Ofsted previously hosted a briefing that was discriminatory on some of these grounds was concerning and we are pleased that it has taken prompt action to rectify this issue.’

Good. Now don’t do it again, Ofsted. Pull your socks up.

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



Horrified at what the survivors were saying

Jun 17th, 2014 6:08 pm | By

Sufiya Ahmed has written a novel about forced marriageSecrets of the Henna Girl

Published in 2012, it tells the story of an everyday teenager, waiting for her GCSE results, looking forward to college and dreaming of the day she will meet her one true love.

But her parents have other plans and, in Pakistan for the summer, Zeba’s world is shattered as her future is threatened by an unthinkable – and forced – duty to protect her father’s honour.

That’s one for the list.

Sufiya was working in the House of Commons as a researcher for an MP when she encountered countless brave Asian women who shared their harrowing experiences with parliamentarians so awareness of the issue could be raised on a national level.

She said: “I was horrified at what the survivors were saying.

“I was shocked that British-born women who were brought up in this country were going through this in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

“We had this attitude that it’s the Asian culture, we mustn’t interfere.

“We had this liberal idea that we can’t interfere in other people’s cultures.

“Actually no, we need to talk about these things.

“Talking about it does raise awareness.

“The survivors talk about just 15 years ago, they were on the receiving end of hatred, people would attack them.

“They had their tyres slashed and windows broken, just for speaking out.

“It’s no longer okay to say, this is our community — you can’t interfere.

“If there’s a human abuse going on, social services and the police should be involved.”

The tide is turning.

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



All the little cuts

Jun 17th, 2014 4:08 pm | By

Are threats really threats?

Well, you can’t always tell, but you don’t always want to risk it, either.

The Supreme Court is about to consider Facebook threats to murder the ex-wife brand of threats.

The US Supreme Court is to decide whether violent threats or images posted on Facebook and other social networks constitute free speech or a criminal act, in the case of a man who made comments about his estranged wife.

Anthony Elonis wrote about killing his wife publicly on Facebook and also posted other comments and images about her, about his co-workers and about the law enforcement officials who investigated the threats.

“There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you,” he wrote about his wife. “I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

Looks like a threat to me.

Elonis claims that the posts were just artistic expressions and his way of dealing with his personal problems, not indications that he wanted to harm anyone. But both the lower court and the appeals court ruled that the posts were criminal threats, because even if he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, a reasonable person would have felt threatened by them.

“Although the language was — as with popular rap songs addressing the same themes — sometimes violent, petitioner posted explicit disclaimers in his profile explaining that his posts were ‘fictitious lyrics,’ and he was ‘only exercising [his] constitutional right to freedom of speech’,” his filing to the Supreme Court said.

In order to frighten his ex-wife. I don’t consider that a “right.”

Elonis and his legal team have pushed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, with free speech advocacy group the Thomas Jefferson Centre for the Protection of Free Expression also supporting his attempt to have the court consider the issue.

It’s a threat. There shouldn’t be a right to make credible-looking threats.

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



There isn’t some kind of magic root

Jun 17th, 2014 3:35 pm | By

Yes!

Photo: "I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true!" </p>
<p>Thank you, Senator Claire McCaskill for directly questioning the baseless claims of the pseudoscience-peddling Dr. Oz! See the video: http://www.c-span.org/video/?320015-1/weightloss-product-advertising</p>
<p>Join CFI's fight against religion and junk science in health care with our Keep Health Care Safe and Secular Campaign: http://safeandsecular.org/

Look, he’s pouting.

Don’t forget to send me your stories.

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



Think universal, act universal

Jun 17th, 2014 2:50 pm | By

The Muslim feminist and women’s rights activist Shaista Gohir summed it up in a tweet:

Forced marriage is criminalised today and the media irritatingly try and link this to British values! This is about human rights!

Yes it is! And human rights are not the monopoly of any one country or any one section of the globe or geographical direction or stage of development or anything else. Skip the patriotism, please, it’s beside the point.

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



Cameron wraps his head in the flag

Jun 17th, 2014 2:43 pm | By

Oh shut up, David Cameron.

He’s talking nationalist bullshit about “British values” again, which is a really bad idea.

People in the UK should stop being “bashful” about being British, the prime minister has urged.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, David Cameron said the country should be “far more muscular” in promoting its values and institutions.

He backed the promotion of “British values” in the classroom amid claims conservative Muslim governors had tried to influence some Birmingham schools.

This should include teaching children about Magna Carta, Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron wrote that in recent years, the UK had sent out a “worrying” message: “That if you don’t want to believe in democracy, that’s fine; that if equality isn’t your bag, don’t worry about it; that if you’re completely intolerant of others, we will still tolerate you.”

That is a stupid, reckless, destructive thing to say. Democracy is not a “British” value; nor is equality; nor is tolerance. He’s basically talking about human rights, and human rights have to be treated as universal; treating them as part of nationalism makes them provincial at a stroke, and thus undermines the efforts of all human rights workers in other countries. Don’t undermine the efforts of all human rights workers in other countries, David Cameron.

In the wake of Ofsted’s findings, Mr Cameron said “British values” included: “A belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law.”

These were “as British as the Union Flag, as football, as fish and chips,” he wrote in the newspaper article.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it had “deep concern at the tone and tenor over the debate on British values”.

In a motion passed at its AGM, the MCB said it had “no objection to British values” and believed in a “tolerant, more free and more equal society”.

But it said it wanted a “real debate that does not regard us as conditional Britons…. It is not Islam or Muslims that stand in the way of full participation; It is the active and vociferous campaign to exclude Muslims from the public space.”

For once I think the MCB has a point, although they’re the wrong people to make it. But yes: by calling them “British” values when they’re universal and universalist values, Cameron does tell Muslims and other exotic people that those values are foreign to them. Bad idea, on many levels.

 

 

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



Natural light

Jun 17th, 2014 12:19 pm | By

Another ex-hijabi post, this time from a convert.

One poignant detail:

People will often tell you that a Muslim woman can wear whatever she wants in the privacy of her own home, but even there I felt myself being monitored.  Crossing the living room in t- shirt and shorts would immediately prompt my then husband to close the curtains, so I had to choose between comfort and having natural light in the room. 

That sounds so stifling. I have a horror of any kind of stifling.

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



Chaplains in state schools??

Jun 17th, 2014 9:17 am | By

I got a tweet asking me to share this and it’s well worth sharing, so here it is.

National Campaign: STOP the National Schools Chaplaincy Program

They have that? Yes, they have that.

Since 2006, the federal government has used taxpayers’ money to pay for religious missionaries to access schools throughout Australia, including public schools.

Despite a recent budget that targeted education, health, and funds designated for children with disabilities, the current government has extended the National Schools Chaplains Program (NSCP) at a cost to the taxpayer of $670 million since its inception, and removed funding for non-religious welfare workers in schools. Poorly resourced state schools, in particular, desperately need properly qualified and experienced teacher aides, counsellors and social workers. That money has, instead, been diverted towards evangelists.

Reasons why our schools need properly qualified people with no religious agenda include:

  • The NSCP was initiated by religious lobbyists. No research has identified any need for chaplains in schools. Public schools in lower socio-economic areas, however, are in dire need of more resources.
  • Most chaplains have been recruited by fundamentalist religious organisations, whose agenda to ‘make disciples’ of children has been well documented.
  • Religious fundamentalists often hold negative views towards homosexuals and other members of the LGBTI community, do not advocate safe sex, and do not always advocate full equality for women. Properly trained, experienced and regulated teacher aides and counsellors are far better qualified to care for the emotional needs of young people.
  • Nearly 3/4 billion dollars has been spent on or allocated for chaplains since 2006, money that could have resourced the educational needs of children, in addition to evidence-based programs that demonstrate effective results in assisting vulnerable young students.
  • The NSCP has been criticised by teachers and mental health experts, including organisations such as Sane Australia, the Australian Psychological Society and by the ACSSO, the peak body representing the parents of state school students.
  • Religion in schools is divisive. In particular, In particular, faith-oriented chaplains, usually Christian, are not appropriate in multicultural Australia, where a typical state school is made up of students from many different backgrounds, including families of no faith.

How you can help:

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



How to skeptic

Jun 17th, 2014 9:10 am | By

A skeptic wrote a taking-stock how-can-we-improve post soliciting suggestions on how to make a better skeptical “movement.” Suggestions and advice came in. One piece of advice was:

Treat your allies better than you treat your opposition. This doesn’t mean anyone who claims to be on your side gets a blank check. It does mean you should keep their intentions and goals in mind when someone is imperfect.

I laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I laughed some more.

Update Ok I thought it was obvious what was so funny but it’s not; sorry.

Reasonable people – which self-proclaimed skeptics are a subset of – are not supposed to treat allies well and the opposition badly. That’s neither ethical nor epistemically sensible.

(Actual war is the exception here, but then that’s what makes war such a shitty thing, isn’t it.)

Saying you should “keep their intentions and goals in mind when someone is imperfect” about “your side” only is simply to embrace the fundamental attribution error in a permanent bear-hug. It’s groupthink elevated to a principle. It’s cognitive dissonance treated as a tool rather than a distortion.

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