Notes and Comment Blog

Big tent atheism

Jul 18th, 2014 11:52 am | By

Big big big tent. Room for all the atheists. Except feminists of course – feminists are shit, because they’re so divisive.

bigtent[Description: part of a page at the Richard Dawkins Foundation, promoting Jaclyn Glenn's latest video.]

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

Do not tell me to stop fighting

Jul 18th, 2014 10:40 am | By

Also on Dave Muscato’s Facebook wall – a public Facebook post by Jaclyn Glenn:

While many “hardcore atheists” are subscribed to any number of vloggers, you’re not always the target demographic. I’m trying to reach the undecideds, the a-curious. Each vlogger reaches, or speaks to, a different demographic. If I can reach some that wouldn’t click on Thunderf00t or TheAmazingAtheist or CultofDusy, then great!

With people who have been indoctrinated- for the majority, if not all, of their lives, repetition is necessary. Also, this subject is not as infinitely variable as you might think, and videos are going to always be somewhat derivative. I’m always trying to do things in a creative way- either by humor, including guests on videos, doing skits, or singing songs.

Why do people find it necessary to say I’m unoriginal and only achieve success because of my gender or looks? I’m fine with *constructive* criticism, I appreciate it. But if you’re determined to hate me then just don’t watch my videos. I’m not Dawkins or Hitchens, and I’m not trying to be. I’m contributing in the best way I know how. If it doesn’t work for you, move on. The infighting within the atheist community is on my last nerve. We don’t always have to agree, but constant polarization is suffocating our voice. Divided we fall.

This bullshit about “the infighting within the atheist community” is just that: bullshit. It’s a popular trope, thanks to Thunderfoot and his many fans and allies, but Thunderfoot and his many allies themselves demonstrate what’s bullshit about it: they themselves are constantly fighting, in fact for many of them it’s the only subject. Many of them spend literally hours every day tweeting about it. Yes tweeting. Not even writing blog posts or Facebook posts, but just tweeting. If that’s not “infighting” I don’t know what is.

And Glenn herself of course is not above “infighting.” She’s doing it right now. She’s doing it in her latest video about “Atheism + pussies” (her blurb) and she’s doing it in this very post.

But also, even if we (we feminists, we “social justice warriors”) were the only ones fighting, so what? No, thank you, I don’t want an atheist or secularist movement that is determinedly and sustainedly contemptuous of women. I don’t want an atheist or secularist movement that is racist or homophobic or xenophobic. You can’t make me want a movement like that by putting on blonde wigs and shouting at me; it won’t work. I’ll still be an atheist and I’ll still write about it, but I won’t be part of your fucking “movement” if that’s what it’s like.

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

Feminist atheists are divisive!!1

Jul 18th, 2014 9:19 am | By

Oh hooray, Jaclyn Glenn has yet another video attacking feminists and feminism.

Even better, Dave Muscato, the PR guy for American Atheists, is energetically promoting it. Thanks, Dave!

Updating to add the intro to the vid:

Published on Jul 17, 2014
A video about Atheism+ and pussies. How appropriate. For those of you wondering- Atheism + is pretty much atheism plus radical feminism. This is my skit explaining my feelings on it ;)


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

Salem canceled the contract

Jul 17th, 2014 6:11 pm | By

Way to deal with the post-Hobby Lobby US, Salem. (The witch thing is forgiven. It’s over. Done.)

Gordon College is a small Christian university that has publicly declared its desire to claim a special right to discriminate against LGBT students, staff, and faculty. Salem, Massachusetts, is a small progressive town with an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance. For years, Salem contracted with Gordon to manage its Old Town Hall. But when Gordon announced its desire to a special right to fire LGBT workers, Salem canceled the contract, finding that the university’s stated discriminatory intent directly violated the town’s non-discrimination ordinance.


Ah but that’s not all; that’s just step one.

After Glenn Beck’s The Blaze picked this story up, right-wing readers began calling Salem’s mayor, Kimberly Driscoll, treating her to angry and often offensive anti-gay tirades. In response, Driscoll doubled down: Rather than retract her decision, she declared that Salem would donate $5 to a local LGBT rights group for each seething call she received. Driscoll then shared her message on social media, encouraging everyone else to donate money to the group as well.

Yes!!! Every shitty call to the mayor just means more money for the LGBT rights group. The perfect revenge, and deterrent.

…if pluralism is truly about letting tolerant and intolerant people practice their beliefs unimpeded, then isn’t the Salem affair a perfect pluralist parable? Gordon College doesn’t like gay people; Salem does. Gordon demands the right to discriminate against gays; Salem, in response, tells Gordon: Do what you want on your own campus, but don’t inflict your prejudices on our public spaces. Gordon continues to discriminate on its own property; Salem continues to mandate equality. If that isn’t “allowing different understandings of social justice to be pursued simultaneously,” then I don’t know what is.

It doesn’t solve the contraceptive issue, of course, but it’s a nice move anyway.


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

An intolerant and politicised form of extreme social conservatism

Jul 17th, 2014 5:21 pm | By

The Guardian discusses the report on Islamist infiltration of Birmingham schools.

A damning report into extremist infiltration of Birmingham schools has uncovered evidence of “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools in the city”.

The conclusion emerges from a leaked draft of a report, commissioned by the former education secretary Michael Gove and written by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan police’s counterterrorism command, which is due to be published in the next 24 hours.

Clarke said there was a “sustained and coordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline and politicised strain of Sunni Islam”.

These are state schools, keep in mind, not private religious schools.

The uncompromising report may deepen community tensions in England’s second city and provoke a fierce debate on whether Britain has been sufficiently muscular in efforts to expose and uproot Islamism. It will also make uncomfortable reading for Birmingham city council as it accuses local politicians and officials of ignoring evidence of extremism for years, repeatedly failing to support bullied headteachers and putting the need to soothe community tensions ahead of all else.

Don’t go thinking it’s all Muslims on the side of the schools and everyone else on the other side – liberal secular Muslims are disgusted by this agenda and by people who are trying to cover it up or excuse it.

Last week Mark Rogers, the chief executive of Birmingham city council, said: “We’ve had to deal with a national political agenda that has deliberately conflated religious conservatism with an extremist agenda that is all to do with radicalisation and violent extremism.”

But why should state schools be shoving “religious conservatism” on children anyway? “Religious conservatism” means second-class status for girls, just for one thing. State schools shouldn’t be going anywhere near that.

Clarke’s report is backed up by graphic evidence, including social media exchanges between senior staff, and disagrees with the council’s previously expressed view, saying the offending ideology “manifests itself as the imposition of an aggressively separatist and intolerant agenda incompatible with full participation in a plural secular democracy”.

“Rejecting not only the secular and other religions, but also other strains of Islamic belief, it goes beyond the kind of social conservatism practiced in some faith schools which may be consistent with universal human rights and respectful of other communities. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to convert secular state schools into exclusive faith schools in all but name.”

“Essentially the ideology revealed by this investigation is an intolerant and politicised form of extreme social conservatism that claims to represent and ultimately seeks to control all Muslims. In its separatist assertions and attempts to subvert normal processes it amounts to what is often described as Islamism.”

Clarke’s investigation gained him access to transcripts of discussions on social media between senior figures at Park View Academy, one of the schools at the heart of the row. He asserts: “The all-male group discussions include explicit homophobia, highly offensive comments about British service personnel, a stated ambition to increase segregation at the school, disparagement of Muslims in sectors other than their own, scepticism about the truth of reports on the murder of [soldier] Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings, and a constant undercurrent of anti-western, anti-America and anti-Israel sentiment.”

In state schools. Not good. (Not good in private schools either, but those are…well, private, which complicates things.)

The report will be out tomorrow, I guess.

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

The choir invisible

Jul 17th, 2014 1:48 pm | By

Meanwhile, on the South Bank…

I wish to register a complaint! A giant dead parrot has been unveiled in London to mark the Monty Python live show’s TV broadcast:

Via Digital Spy on Facebook

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

Guest post by Josh Spokes: This is not an in loco parentis relationship

Jul 17th, 2014 1:23 pm | By

Josh posted this on Facebook yesterday and I demanded permission to post it here and he gave in.

I don’t like the message, “Trust women to make their healthcare decisions,” many organizations are using. This is not about trust. The idea of “trust” has nothing to do with the anti-choice measures. It’s not that antis don’t “trust” women to “make the best decisions.” This is not an in loco parentis relationship where the antis genuinely have the best interests of their charges at heart.

1. Women are not their charges. 2. They don’t care about women being “trustworthy.” They don’t want women to have options. That’s it.

They want to take the ability away from women to have rights over their body. That’s it. That’s all. This “trust women” message concedes too much. There is NO situation in which the antis could “trust” a woman to “make the right decision.”

And it concedes illegitimate authority. Why are you asking authoritarians to “trust” women? Why are you *asking* them anything? This is typical liberal politics: concede things that shouldn’t be conceded, even rhetorically. Then act like being “nice” will work.

How do women feel about this? I can tell you I’d be fucking FURIOUS with a gay advocacy group saying to Republicans, “Trust gays to make the right decisions.” Words matter. Tone matters. Rhetorically conceding to an enemy an illegitimate form of power contributes to the very problem we fight.

Antis aren’t sitting around saying, “OK. I’ll trust her. If she’s really trustworthy and decides on an abortion, then I’m satisfied.” Come the fuck on.


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

“I don’t fucking care if you like it.”

Jul 17th, 2014 1:17 pm | By

Now that’s how to say it. Rebecca Traister at the New Republic on that much-discussed much-disliked (for good reason) about that Esquire piece saying, with immense generosity, that not all 42-year-old women cause projectile vomiting on sight.

I thought the article was a piece of sexist tripe, celebrating a handful of Pilates-toned, famous, white-plus-Maya-Rudolph women as having improved on the apparently dismal aesthetics of previous generations; my primary objections to the piece have been ably laid out by other critics. Chait tweeted that he viewed the piece as a “mostly laudable” sign of progress: a critique not of earlier iterations of 42-year-old womanhood, but rather of the old sexist beauty standards that did not celebrate those women; he saw it as an acknowledgment of maturing male attitudes toward women’s value. 

Oh, goody; being told that not all 42-year-old women cause projectile vomiting on sight is such a huge gift to women; thank you for the favors. Traister is happy that she doesn’t feel any obligation to feel grateful for that kind of favor.

Instead, I’ve been thinking about an anecdote in Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Amy Poehler, then new to “Saturday Night Live,” was engaging in some loud and unladylike vulgarity in the writers’ room when the show’s then-star Jimmy Fallon jokingly told her to cut it out, saying, “It’s not cute! I don’t like it!” In Fey’s retelling, Poehler “went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him,” forcefully informing him: “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. Just this week, the journalist Megan Carpentier wrote a piece about the evolving public appraisals of Hillary Clinton’s facial expressions that concluded with her suggestion that we get over the idea of 2014 being “the year of the strong female politician” and aim instead for “the year of the strong female politician who doesn’t give a fuck if you think she’s pretty.”

Because believe it or not there are other things women are interested in. Strange but true.

I suspect that a lot of this irritation over the small stuff right now is directly related to the fact that we’re mired in a moment at which lots and lots of women are not good*, for reasons far graver than anything having to do with Esquire, Jimmy Fallon, John Legend, or Hillary Clinton’s Bitchy Resting Face.

*not “good” meaning not “fine thanks without kind offers of tiny havors”

Jada’s story recalls too many otherrecentheadlines, but happens to have come out at the same time as last weekend’s lengthy New York Timesinvestigation of Hobart & William Smith’s handling of charges that football players sexually assaulted a freshman girl. The Times story was about a lot of thingsdifferences between campus and police investigations, a heightened public awareness about the frequency of coerced or violent sexual encounters on college campuses. But at its heart, it was a story about how women are assessed: by disciplinary committees, police departments, their friends, the public, and by the people they identify as their assailants. It was about how female availability and consent and intoxication are appraised based on how women look, dance, dress, and act, even when those appraisals are at odds with medical evidence, eyewitness accounts, inconsistent stories from accused parties, and certainly with the woman’s own interpretation of her experience or intentions.

This comfort with group assessment of femininity in turn reminds me of the ease with which women’s choices regarding their bodies, futures, health, sex, and family life are up for public evaluation. Women are labeled as good or bad, as moral or immoral, by major religions and “closely held corporations,” whose rights to allow those estimations to dictate their corporate obligations are upheld over the rights of the women themselves by high courts.

It has lately been made perfectly clear, for example, that while in many places women should not be allowedand increasingly are not allowedto run their own independent calculations about whether or not to get abortions, other people, unspecified people standing outside clinics, should be allowedare now allowedto get in those women’s faces and publicly render their judgments and voice their opinions about those women and their circumstances.

One way to put it is that women are treated as public property in a way that men are not.

I wish it were different. I wish that every woman whose actions and worth are parsed and restricted, congratulated and condemned in this country might just once get to wheel aroundon the committee that doesn’t believe their medically corroborated story of assault, or on the protesters who tell them that termination is a sin they will regret, or on the boss who tells them he doesn’t believe in their sexual choices, or on the mid-fifties man who congratulates them, or himself, on finding them appealing deep into their dotageand go black in the eyes and say, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”

Which leads nicely into a guest post by Josh.



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

On whether she is, in fact, a mother first

Jul 17th, 2014 12:29 pm | By

From the Onion:

LINCOLN, NE—Loudly demanding an immediate statement on the issue, Nebraska voters clamored this week for more information from female politician Elaine Romero, an Omaha businesswoman running in the state’s upcoming gubernatorial primary election, on whether she is, in fact, a mother first. “Elaine Romero has made her stance on the social and economic issues facing Nebraskans abundantly clear, but we will not rest until she states clearly and on the record whether she is a mom first and foremost, and a politician second,” local resident Martin McGlynn said on behalf of 1.9 million restless Nebraskans, all of whom were vehemently pressing for answers on whether the 45-year-old public servant prioritizes her family above all else, considers her three children to be her proudest accomplishment, and—most crucially—sees her role as a mother as her most important job.

There’s more. It’s funny, but not funny.


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

There are limits on what democrats “must” accept

Jul 17th, 2014 11:54 am | By

Sometimes there’s a conflict between the majority will and human rights. That’s one reason there’s a need for such things as high courts and international courts: to adjudicate between them.

It can be alarming when legislators seem to be blankly unaware of this. Commonplace, but alarming.

Today in Ireland for instance.

Tanaiste Joan Burton has ruled out an abortion referendum being held in the lifetime of this Government.

Ms Burton was responding to an impassioned plea from Independent TD Catherine Murphy who said many women were suffering needlessly because the law on termination of pregnancy on medical grounds was too restrictive.

Deputy Murphy said the referendum to safeguard the right to life of the unborn child was voted in 1983 and the country had changed a lot in the 31 years since then.

“Tanaiste we need a referendum to change this,” Ms Murphy told the Dail.

The Tanaiste said both she and her party had urged rejection of the abortion amendment in 1983.

But she said as democrats everyone must accept the will of the people.

Not true. Suppose the will of the people is that all children of unmarried parents must be imprisoned from birth to the age of 18, as so many such children were in Ireland until very very recently? Is it true that democrats “must” accept that? No. It would be a gross violation of the rights of those children and of their parents, as it was in Ireland and elsewhere for many decades.

Also, Michael Nugent points outthe UN Human Rights Committee has just told Ireland that that argument is “totally unacceptable.”

…just this Tuesday, in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Committee had told Ireland that this was a “totally unacceptable” reason to deny Irish women their right to an abortion consistently with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The UN Human Rights Committee told Ireland that human rights cannot be denied by a majority vote in Parliament or in a referendum, and that the whole point of international human rights law is to avoid the tyranny of the majority.

The UN told Ireland to withdraw that argument as a reason for denying Irish women abortions, and after a break in the session, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald did withdraw it. She accepted that “the will of the people” was not a justified reason to derogate from giving people their human rights under the ICCPR.

You know what else isn’t? The will of the bishops. Just saying.

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

Great gams on the new Secretary for Hotness

Jul 17th, 2014 10:46 am | By

Cameron does Cabinet reshuffle. Cameron increases the number of women in the Cabinet. News media report on reshuffle and increase in number of women.

What’s the next sentence? You know this one.

Today’s coverage in the London Evening Standard was shocking. The male subjects who were profiled had standard bios – career highs and lows, nothing about their personal lives. Michael Gove was said to have “one of the most acute political brains of his generation”, while Philip Hammond apparently has “a hard edge” and set up his own companies at a very young age.

The profiles of the three women who’d been promoted, although containing factual and some complimentary descriptions, all mentioned their marital status and how many children they had. The unmarried woman – Esther McVey – was singled out for special treatment. In the West End final version of the paper, there were not one but two photos of her, one as a young TV presenter in a revealing crop-top and skin-tight satin trousers, and the other as she was this morning, the wind blowing up her otherwise respectable business skirt such that the slit parted and revealed a bit of thigh. In the text, of all the thousands of phrases she’s ever uttered in her time on GMTV, the journalist chose one in which she mentioned sex, and readers are also helpfully informed that she once flashed her underwear on air. Most disturbingly, she has an entire paragraph about her relationship status that would not be out of place in a gossip column. In it, we learn that although she’s “unmarried”, she’s been “linked” with two prominent men, one of whom proposed marriage. (One cannot help suddenly picturing her as a feisty Lizzy Bennet, spurning not only Mr Collins’ advances, but Mr Darcy’s as well!) Coyly, the piece concludes that she “shares a flat” with a male MP, and allows readers to draw their own conclusions.

Well what else can a newspaper possibly say about a woman in the Cabinet? Come on – be sensible about this. Obviously there can’t be anything substantive to say about their political views, their political record, their work – I mean get real. So what’s left? Their looks and their sex lives, duh. That’s all there is to women when you get right down to it.

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

Guest post: He just knows there are lots of sexist nerd-boys out there

Jul 16th, 2014 5:44 pm | By

Originally a comment by the philosophical primate on Not Thorita.

I think Lees’ criticism is… just damned silly. Yes, I get the critique of the “another strong woman” nonsense, but the idea behind this move in the comic is that Thor is a particular ROLE — a warrior deity — that a woman can fill as effectively as a man. The quoted passage about “Lady Thor,” “Thorita” and so on (which I’m confident has nothing to do with a transgender Eurovision contestant) is simply writer Jason Aaron explicitly saying that he is NOT going down the route of remaking the character in pink and fluff and ribbons and offensive feminine stereotypes just because said warrior deity is going to be a woman instead of a man in the upcoming reboot.

And although it would be nice if he could go without saying so at all, Marvel is making the announcement of the comic in *this* world, not a hypothetical possible world where no one would ever think that was something that might happen: Aaron mentioning such stereotypes to make it clear that he rejects them should not be used to infer that HE is inclined to think that way automatically; he just knows there are lots of sexist nerd-boys out there who will make that sort of criticism, and he is clearly (if perhaps a little clumsily) anticipating and responding to such criticisms.

It’s one thing to be annoyed that the only way women are portrayed positively in so much fiction is by being remade into a “man” as viewed by traditional, narrow gender-binary stereotypes. It’s another thing — a strange, foolish, axe-grindy sort of thing in my view — to single out a superhero comic about a warrior deity who wields a lightning-flinging warhammer against foes as a specific target in such a critique about those general patterns. There definitely SHOULD be more positive portrayals of women in media who aren’t just a gender-bent version of a stereotypical “masculine” hero; but that doesn’t logically entail that it’s always and necessarily wrong-headed and harmful and stereotype-perpetuating to portray women who do have some of those qualities. (Is “Aliens” less feminist because it’s an action movie whose women are portrayed as tough and capable of violence? I don’t think so.)

I found it especially amusing that Lees mentioned possible future movies in the context of this particular critique. Did she actually see “Thor”? In the first movie, the title character regains his divine power and the right to wield Mjolner when he learns not to be a macho, arrogant, violence-is-the-answer-no-matter-the-question, self-involved asshole, and instead demonstrates caring, compassion, and a willingness sacrifice his own interests for the welfare of others — you know, genuinely good human qualities often derided as “feminine”? That’s exactly the sort of narrow-gender-role-defying narrative Lees should be able to get behind, if she weren’t so busy putting axe to grindstone. (Mind you, that transformation happens far too quickly, and is undermined by being a part of a cliche woman-in-peril/love story narrative; I’m not saying it’s thought-provoking feminist cinema. But the story DOES make the unsubtle and explicit point that when Thor is a stereotypical macho-man type, he ISN’T really a good person or a hero to be admired — even though many DO admire him.)

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

All French restaurants will have 5 stars. I mean 3 stars.

Jul 16th, 2014 5:18 pm | By

A French blogger has been fined for writing a harsh restaurant review that got a high Google ranking.

I’m not making it up.

Ms Doudet was sued by the owner of Il Giardino restaurant in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France after she wrote a blogpost entitled “the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino”.

According to court documents, the review appeared fourth in the results of a Google search for the restaurant. The judge decided that the blog’s title should be changed, so that the phrase: “the place to avoid” was less prominent in the results.

The judge sitting in Bordeaux also pointed out that the harm to the restaurant was exacerbated by the fact that Ms Doudet’s fashion and literature blog “Cultur’elle” had around 3,000 followers, indicating she thought it was a significant number.

Really? There are more of you than that. (Yes really. You’re a good-sized mob by now.)

The judge told Ms Doudet to amend the title of the blog and to pay €1,500 ($2,000; £1,200).

In her article, which has now been deleted, she complained of poor service and what she said was a poor attitude on the part of the owner during a visit in August 2013.

Restaurants can sue critics for writing bad reviews? And win?


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

I never can keep my temper when reading a bishop

Jul 16th, 2014 4:56 pm | By

The bishops are still demanding more and more and yet more theocracy. They think the US should simply be run by the Vatican, period; nothing less will do. They hate anything that’s not total enslavement by the imaginary god and its loathsome minions.

Despite the recent Hobby Lobby court victory, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb. stressed the need for Catholics to continue to evangelize and fight against the prevailing culture of secularism.

“The victory is not unqualified and the fight for our religious liberty is not complete. Churches, hospitals, and universities are still threatened by the HHS contraceptive mandate,” Bishop Conley said in his July 11 archdiocesan column.

The lying dog. They have their “religious liberty”; their religious liberty does not imply a right to impose their anti-liberty anti-women authoritarian fascist dogma on the whole population. That’s nothing to do with liberty, it’s tyranny and oppression.

In his column, Bishop Conley said the repercussions of the Hobby Lobby decision have indeed established that “believers have a place in the public square – that all of us should be free to conduct our business without compromising our basic moral beliefs.”

However, the Supreme Court decision also relayed the overwhelming assertions of secularists, “whose loyalties lie more closely with unfettered sexual libertinism than with respect for fundamental rights of conscience, of religion, or of personal dignity,” the bishop said.

Disgusting pig. He’s a high-up in a church with a long and festering history of allowing its priests to rape children, and of shielding them from the law, and he has the fucking gall to accuse all of us of “unfettered sexual libertinism” – because contraception! It’s raping children that’s wrong, you piece of shit, not having adult sex with contraception.

Although the fight for religious freedom in litigation is important, Bishop Conley suggested that the root issue is secularism.

“Religious liberty will be threatened in our nation as long as secularism is the prevailing cultural leitmotif.”

“The Hobby Lobby decision has exposed the secular tendency towards atheocracy – the systematic hostility and marginalization of religious believers who engage in American public life, a kind of practical atheism established as the norm.”

He’s such a liar. Religion gets massive deference in American public life. Massive. Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska is a damn iying liar.

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

Not Thorita

Jul 16th, 2014 4:02 pm | By

So what about THOR?

Paris Lees at the Guardian asks.

Hurrah. Marvel comics have revealed that Thor, the God of Thunder, has become a woman. Not in a transgender way, not in a “When Mr Thor gets back from the summer holidays he will be wearing a dress and called Ms Thor” way. No, Thor is simply a woman now and that’s that. And you needn’t worry about her going all soft and silly. As Jason Aaron, writer of the new Thor series, puts it: “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

Excuse me?

Why would it be She-Thor or Lady Thor or Thorita?

That’s like thinking a woman who writes has to be a writeress, and a woman who flies planes has to be a pilotess, and a woman who sciences has to be a scientistess.

We’re not that weird, you know. We’re not that different. We’re not so weird and different that a gender switch necessitates the addition of layer upon layer of fluff and lace and ribbon and meringue.

Anything that breaks up our rigid ideas of just what men and women are supposed to be is a good thing. I’m just not entirely sure that a female THOR does anything to truly challenge the status quo around gender.

Putting women in men’s roles only gets you so far. Sexism didn’t disappear when women started wearing trousers. It’s wonderful that the fairer sex were able to undo their corsets and take on things that were traditionally seen as masculine – whether that be sports, political careers or plain old dungarees – but it has done little to challenge the scapegoating of femininity. We live in a society that still systematically celebrates masculinity while ridiculing all things feminine.

Oh well, give it a few more centuries.

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

An inordinate and unpredictable period of delay

Jul 16th, 2014 3:23 pm | By

Wow. Breaking news – Federal judge just declared the California death penalty unconstitutional.

A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago.

Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed.

He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed.

“For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.

Well that does sound like torture.

Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said.

In overturning Jones’ death sentence, Carney noted that the inmate faced “complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether” he will be executed.

The “random few” who will be executed “will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary,” Carney said.

You’re there 20 years, you’re a different person, and then finally the state comes ambling along, yawning and picking its teeth, and says, “yeah ok we’re ready to off you now. Sorry about the wait.” It does seem pretty pointless.

And if it’s pointless after 20 years…then it’s pointless anyway, right? If it doesn’t accomplish anything after a long delay, how much can it accomplish if it’s done promptly?

Natasha Minsker, a director of the ACLU of Northern California, said Wednesday’s ruling marked the first time that a federal judge had found the state’s current system unconstitutional. She said it was also “the first time any judge has ruled systemic delay creates an arbitrary system that serves no legitimate purpose and is therefore unconstitutional.”

And it’s a Bush judge, a Bush 2 judge, a judge appointed by the Shrub. There’s something satisfying about that.

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

Return to Mars Hill

Jul 16th, 2014 11:55 am | By

Damn, I’ve been neglecting to pay attention to Mars Hill church – which is local to me – and clearly that’s a mistake. It’s been melting down, and people have been spilling truckloads of beans.

There are emerging stories of sensational kangaroo courts and “sex demon” trials, like something out of the Salem witch hunts of the 1600s. Even more devastating to individual members are the ways in which they are shamed, taught to blame themselves and each other when they see problems, and to formally shun people who step out of favor with church leaders. Shunnings, both formal and informal, have caused the outcast to spend years in isolation, cut off from friends, sometimes suffering deep clinical depression, nightmares, disillusionment and shattered faith.

Ah yes shunning, one of the gems of human ingenuity.

The problems in the church haven’t always been so obvious. In the beginning, Mars Hill church was a grassroots Seattle start-up with a 90s indie rock approach to organized religion.

Exuding charisma, the church’s young leader, Mark Driscoll, managed to make stories from the Bible entertaining and accessible. Unlike many other Christian evangelicals, he did not think that beer, electric guitars, married sex and mixed martial arts were at odds with Jesus.

Driscoll preaches a theology that counts homosexuality as a sin. He casts females as destined to play a supporting role, always orbitting the male lead. Though many didn’t like what Driscoll had to say, or how he said it, quite a few people did.

Apparently there are always quite a few people who like that way of casting “females”; not all of them are men, by any means.

Patterns of abuse, particularly the psychologically damaging practice of shunning, first came to widespread attention for many outside Mars Hill with reporter Brendan Riley’s Kiley’s 2012 expose, “Church or Cult?” published by the Stranger, which detailed the shunning of a young man for not repenting to the degree that church authorities thought he should.

“To them, repentence is groveling at their feet as if they are god,” said former member Rob Thain Smith — who was pushed out of the church and has a blog, Musings from Underneath the Bus.

Hm, we seem to have a theme today – male personality cults and the abusive behavior they foster.

Smith’s reputation was destroyed, he said, when Driscoll labeled him “divisive.” In the highly charged environment of Mars Hill, this became one of the most feared words in the English language, akin to being labeled a counter-revolutionary in Maoist China. Repentence trials seemed more like class struggle meetings. Still, many stayed quiet, out of fear or misplaced loyalty, sometimes even coming to believe the charges against them, and quietly leaving the church in shame. Though the only weapons were words, the words were like a spiritual death sentence.

Oh gawd, even that is familiar – we (we rebels against The Cult) are constantly called “divisive.”

It was during this period, around the mid-2000s that Driscoll started using more violent language to discredit people.

“I think these guys were trying to do due diligence and to rein Mark in in a healthy way, and at some point he got tired of being reined in,” said Wendy Alsup, who led theology classes for women at Mars Hill. She recently helped start the website “We Love Mars Hill,” one of many sites where former members are posting stories, and has her own blog Theology for Women.

Driscoll would talk about an ex-elder having been “put through the wood chipper.” He also likened someone to “a fart in an elevator.” At one point, on a church social networking site, he told a man to “shut up your wife or I’ll do it for you.”

“He was just brutal,” she said. “When he said these things, we all just hung our heads.”

Alsup quickly learned to fear the power of group disapproval.

“They’re going to project onto me that I am a bitter, nagging, contentious, gossip, manipulator. I learned to rein in my own voice.”

Check, check, check, check.

We humans just aren’t very good at group behavior, are we. We rely on it but we’re bad at it.

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

Will they never learn?

Jul 16th, 2014 10:58 am | By

Via RH Reality Check

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

Where the male professors became intoxicated

Jul 16th, 2014 10:31 am | By

Did somebody mention sexism in science?

The accused is Dr. Aurelio Galli, whose research deals with dopamine transport and signalling.

At a conference the professor “… required the female graduate students to attend a boat party where the male professors became intoxicated and were allowed to make romantic and sexual advances on the students.”

Then there’s this: The professor “would routinely call her ugly, fat and … a stupid in front of other students.”

The suit alleges he knew the graduate student was a recovering alcoholic and told her he wished she “would start drinking again because she would be more fun,” and that “… she would be less stressed out if she had more sex.”

She would be less stressed out if the professor didn’t keep calling her ugly, fat, and stupid, too.

How did the department chair handle it?

According to the lawsuit, when the student reported the conduct to the professor’s supervisor he informed her “that in his opinion it was nothing but a personality conflict.”

Unsurprisingly, Vanderbilt says it will “vigorously defend itself.”

It’s all a personality conflict, isn’t it – between the normal, male personality and the crazed moon-ridden unfathomable female personality.

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

There would be people who would bend over backwards to protect his reputation

Jul 16th, 2014 9:45 am | By

Mathematigal has her views on Feynman and the hero-worship of Feynman and what that hero-worship implies for women in science and mathematics.

She starts with some of the special treatment she has received, such as…

I have had men in academia disparage me to others, and dismiss both my interests and accomplishments as trivial. I regularly deal with comments like “PRO TIP: Mute the video, sit back, and admire the cute girl” regarding my outreach work. I have had jobs (multiple) where I was harassed and propositioned by my own boss.

And then she goes on to explain how Feynman and the cult of Feynman relates to that kind of thing.

Because every time I hear someone in my department or in one of my classes go on about how Feynman was so awesome I mean he was kind of a jerk to women but whatever, I file him (and it is almost always always a him) away as someone who would have sided against me in every single one of the situations I’ve mentioned. Every time I see a joking tweet or post about how Feynman’s second wife divorced him because she didn’t like that he was always doing calculus in his head, while totally ignoring the fact that the divorce papers indicate that he would fly into a rage, attack her, and break furniture whenever she interrupted said mental calculus, my world gets a little bit smaller.

Now, that may not be totally fair to every Feynman fan out there, but let me tell you, life as a woman in phenomenally male-dominated fields is pretty damned unfair. I put people into boxes about stuff like this – not because I think all of the people who hero-worship Feynman (and countless other mathematicians/scientists with similar track records) approve of how he treated women, but because there are actually some that do. As in, there are people today who think that lying to women and treating them like prizes to be won is totally fine. And some of them are researchers, professors, PhD candidates. And I know from personal experience that if I found myself once again in a situation where a prominent man was abusing his power, there would be people who would bend over backwards to protect his reputation, to the detriment of mine. That is the ugly side of hero worship. People like me get the message that great scientific achievement will totally outweigh reprehensible and hurtful behavior towards, well, people like me.

And it is exactly the same way out here outside the academy, in the secular / atheist / humanist movement, where hero worship and cults of “leaders” are also endemic. The heroes and “leaders” are all male, and people – especially women – who criticize or challenge them are treated like enemy agents in wartime.

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