Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


A street named Qadir

Jan 8th, 2011 5:24 pm | By

Sadly, poignantly, indeed tragically, Aatish Taseer sees things more clearly than his father did.

Pakistan was part of his faith, and one of the reasons for the differences that arose between us in the last years of his life–and there were many–was that this faith never allowed him to accept what had become of the country his forefathers had fought for.

And where my father and I would have parted ways in the past was that I believe Pakistan and its founding in faith, that first throb of a nation made for religion by people who thought naively that they would restrict its role exclusively to the country’s founding, was responsible for producing my father’s killer.

For if it is science and rationality whose fruit you wish to see appear in your country, then it is those things that you must enshrine at its heart; otherwise, for as long as it is faith, the men who say that Pakistan was made for Islam, and that more Islam is the solution, will always have the force of an ugly logic on their side. And better men, men like my father, will be reduced to picking their way around the bearded men, the men with one vision that can admit no other, the men who look to the sanctities of only one Book.

Exactly. Better men and women will be wiped out by the bearded men, until there is nothing left but bearded men and their terrorized slaves.

Already, even before his body is cold, those same men of faith in Pakistan have banned good Muslims from mourning my father; clerics refused to perform his last rites; and the armoured vehicle conveying his assassin to the courthouse was mobbed with cheering crowds and showered with rose petals.

I should say too that on Friday every mosque in the country condoned the killer’s actions; 2,500 lawyers came forward to take on his defence for free; and the Chief Minister of Punjab, who did not attend the funeral, is yet to offer his condolences in person to my family who sit besieged in their house in Lahore.

And so, though I believe, as deeply as I have ever believed anything, that my father joins that sad procession of martyrs – every day a thinner line – standing between him and his country’s descent into fear and nihilism, I also know that unless Pakistan finds a way to turn its back on Islam in the public sphere, the memory of the late governor of Punjab will fade.

And where one day there might have been a street named after him, there will be one named after Malik Mumtaz Qadir, my father’s boy-assassin.

As Salman Rushdie said a couple of days ago – RIP Pakistan.



Who is responsible for the murder?

Jan 8th, 2011 3:30 pm | By

Mohammed Hanif asks who is responsible for the murder of Salman Taseer? (And who is responsible for the multiple deaths and critical injuries in Arizona? Who is responsible for the attempted assassination of a Congressional representative and the successful assassination of a federal judge outside a Safeway in Tucson? The questions are related. It’s not just a single assassin in either case – it’s also a society, a culture, a discourse, a world view, a rhetoric, a climate, a mindset, and the people who help to create them.)

When Pakistan’s television anchors and newspaper columnists describe Salman Taseer’s assassination [as] a tragedy, they are not telling us the whole truth.

Because many of these very anchors and columnists have stated, in no uncertain terms, that by expressing his reservations about the blasphemy law, Salman Taseer had crossed a line on the other side of which is certain death.

This kind of thing isn’t harmless, nor is it without any effect.

The same Islamabad where Salman Taseer bled to death in the middle of a pretty neighbourhood played host just a couple of weeks ago to a Namoos-e Risalat (Dignity of the Prophet) conference which was attended by individuals whose party manifestos include the death by murder of Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus and Jews.

Were some of our prominent politicians not in attendance?

Do these same people not inhabit our government corridors, media organisations and security agencies? Do we not break bread with them at weddings and funerals?

The same thing, mutatis mutandis, is true here.



Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang

Jan 8th, 2011 12:18 pm | By

Oh jesus god now it’s our turn – a Democratic representative and a federal judge and a bunch of aids shot at an outdoor meeting.

I’ve been to meetings with my representative, often. They’re wide open. You can chat with him up close and personal as well as during the meeting.

Salman Taseer refused to hide, Gabrielle Giffords held a public streetcorner meeting…and look what it got them.

We’re all doomed. I feel sick.



Taseer had been abandoned by his own party

Jan 6th, 2011 12:53 pm | By

Back in Pakistan…Salman Taseer is buried.

Taseer’s three sons, men with black shirts and red eyes, flung rose petals into the grave. A bugle sounded; graveyard workers shovelled sticky winter clay on to the fearless politician’s coffin. And across Pakistan, people wondered what was disappearing into the grave with him.

Liberals have long been a minority force in Pakistan, reviled for importing “western” ideas and culture; now they are virtually an endangered species.

As Taseer was laid to rest in Lahore, his assassin, 26-year-old policeman Mumtaz Qadri, was also being showered with rose petals, in Islamabad. Cheering supporters clapped Qadri as he was bundled into court.

Oh dear god…it’s such a nightmare. That people like that exist and are happy with the way they think and feel and act. That Pakistan is full of them. That savage mindless cruelty and bullying are the norm there. That neighbors can first refuse to drink water from a glass offered them by a woman of the “wrong” religion and hence caste, and can then accuse her of the capital crime of “insulting” a guy who’s been dead for 14 centuries. And then rejoice at the murder of a man who tried to protect and support her.

It’s a nightmare.

Taseer had been abandoned by his own party.After Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws on 8 November, Taseer visited her in jail with his wife and daughter to show his support. Shortly after, an Islamic mob rioted outside the governor’s house in Lahore, burning his effigy and calling for his death. On television, prominent media commentators joined the chorus of criticism.

Senior figures in his own party turned tail. Awan, the law minister, said there was no question of reforming the blasphemy law.

A nightmare.



Recursively political

Jan 6th, 2011 12:39 pm | By

Furthermore, Rosenau’s misreading is itself political, in the sense that I dislike. It’s what one might call a little too convenient. It frames me (as I just told him in a comment on his post) as dogmatic and unreasonable and nuance-free and kind of stupid. Well that’s how accommodationists like to frame gnu atheists, isn’t it – so how helpful it is that his foot slipped just as he was reading what I’d written so that he got it backward.

It’s the usual, usual, usual thing. Claim that new atheists say what they don’t say. Claim that new atheists in general say what one new atheist once said in a bilious moment. Paste in what one new atheist said and still claim that she said something much more simple-minded and doctrinaire.

That is what it is to be “self-consciously political.”



In which Josh Rosenau does not read carefully

Jan 6th, 2011 12:13 pm | By

To say the least. To say it more politely than he deserves.

He did a post a couple of days ago on my post about Ben’s post. None of that now; I know you can follow along. It’s a pig’s life in the British army. Pull your socks up.

First he quotes Ben:

[Mooney's] stance is self-consciously political. At least to some extent, there is a “difference in goals” between Mooney and the activist atheists — by which, I think, he means a difference in priorities. Mooney does not think that speaking out against religion is a priority, and that it is on the whole detrimental to science education; while others think it is a priority, and that it supports science education in some respect.

Then he quotes me:

I think that’s right, and it is the self-consciously political aspect that I have always found somewhat alien. I say “somewhat” because I can’t possibly reject all politics. I realize one has to weigh consequences (as we were just discussing with reference to the Vatican and a life-saving abortion) and consider priorities. But I think when serious discussion becomes too entangled with politics, then it simply stops being serious discussion and turns into some form of campaigning.

Then he responds:

But this is exactly what I find so strange – the ambivalence and even aversion to politics. I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t know why she, and many others in the gnu camp, seem to equate politics with “campaigning” with some sort of sleaze or dishonesty, and think that this is totally distinct from the bullshit that bloggers do on blogs (including gnu atheist bloggers on gnu atheist blogs).

And so on, for the rest of the post.

Do you see? Do you see where his reading skills deserted him? It’s in the part where he responds to me. He ignores what I said. He ignores what I said, and responds to what I didn’t say. I specifically said “I can’t possibly reject all politics” and then said why, yet he responds to me as rejecting all politics.

Bad blogger. No cookie.



A little comic relief

Jan 5th, 2011 11:58 am | By

Mooney in Playboy is funny, you must admit. The tasteful illustration is funny, given Kirshenbaum’s (laudable) concerns about sexism. The title is funny. The post is funny. The comment is funny. It’s all funny, except for the article itself, which is more goofy than funny.

It could be a good piece, if it were re-done, by someone with a different agenda. It could be about the charge of discovery without the baggage of “reconciling religion and science.” It could be about the wonder of nature without the axe-grinding of

Doherty is among a growing number of nonreligious researchers who view scientific inquiry itself as a spiritual quest—a trend that has the potential to dramatically upend the idea that science and religion must be in conflict.

As Jerry Coyne puts it,

There is absolutely no doubt, unless you’re obtuse, that the purpose of Mooney’s piece is to show the commonality of scientists and religious people—as both are “spiritual”—and thereby make common cause of the two magisteria.

And the next thing you know you’re trying to explain how Adam and Eve can be both metaphorical and real, or whatever the latest dodge is.

PZ is also not convinced.

…trying to coopt an honest scientific appreciation of the wonders of the universe as support for religion is a dishonest attempt to prop up bogus superstitions with an appeal to emotions — any emotions.

It contaminates the emotions, too. Do I have to look over my shoulder every time I gaze slack-jawed at a sunset now? I hope not.



Huge pressure 2 cow down

Jan 4th, 2011 12:47 pm | By

The murder of Salman Taseer just fills me with rage and disgust. I don’t have anything more intelligent to say about it.

Just a month ago we were reading about him:

Hundreds of Islamist hardliners took to the streets of Pakistan’s main cities yesterday in support of the country’s prejudicial blasphemy laws and against two leading politicians they have threatened for speaking out against the persecution of a Christian woman. At rallies in Karachi, Lahore and other cities, the crowds of protestors warned the political class against any attempt to amend or repeal the laws. They also chanted slogans denouncing Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and Sherry Rehman, a liberal parliamentarian. 

Mr Taseer and Ms Rehman were singled out for speaking out against the treatment of Aasia Bibi…

But Mr Taseer refused to give in, as I noted at the time:

Mr Taseer responded with characteristic insouciance. “It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Who the hell are these illiterare maulvis to decide to whether i’m a Muslim or not?” Earlier, he tweeted: “Tomorrow mullahs r demonstrating against me…Thousands of beards screaming 4 my head.What a great feeling!”

Brave and funny, and the malevolent reeking bastards who hated him for saying a woman shouldn’t be killed for belonging to an outsider religion have shut him up. It makes me sick.

Salman Rushdie told me on Facebook that Taseer’s last Twitter post 4 days ago said

“I was under huge pressure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.”

Which makes me want to scream.



Tell all the truth but tell it slant?

Jan 3rd, 2011 3:57 pm | By

So to return to the core of the issue that Ben was talking about - the utility of atheism for atheists, science communication, conflict as a way into discussion rather than an impediment to it, passion as a motivator. I talked to him about it at Facebook, and tried (not for the first time) to take a hard look at why I feel so strongly about the subject.

I said that I have a visceral reaction to advice about framing. I do. Why do I?

First of all, I’ve had it for a long time; maybe as long as I’ve been thinking about anything. I dislike all the manipulative “professions” – advertising, PR, political operative stuff. I dislike trickery and pandering. I dislike them in an objective sense; I think they’re harmful. I can see their utility for some purposes, but I think they do some harm in the process even so. For some jobs and vocations, they’re simply disastrous – they’re the exact opposite of what people should be doing. Scholarship, teaching, and journalism are among those vocations.

And that perhaps explains why I dislike them even more in a subjective sense – why that’s not what I want to do. I want to spend my time trying to tell the truth about things, to the best of my ability, as I see it, and all the other qualifications. I want to do that, I don’t want to coddle or manage or mollify. I also don’t want to be coddled or managed or mollified.

And I think that’s a reasonable commitment. I think the opposite commitment is more dubious, because it’s more apt to damage people’s cognitive abilities. I think in general clarity and honesty are better than tactful arrangement when it comes to public discourse.



Blaironfaith

Jan 3rd, 2011 12:22 pm | By

Tony Blair preaches the gospel according to Armstrong.

Common to all great religions is love of neighbors and human equality before God.

That’s a falsehood. I won’t even bother to elaborate, because it’s too obvious. It’s just a pious, smarmy, conventional, wishful falsehood.

Blair admits as much himself in the very next paragraph.

Unfortunately, compassion is not the only context in which religion motivates people. It can also promote extremism, even terrorism. This is where faith becomes a badge of identity in opposition to those who do not share it, a kind of spiritual nationalism that regards those who do not agree – even those within a faith who live a different view of it – as unbelievers, infidels, and thus enemies.

Which rules out both love of neighbors and equality (before “God” or otherwise). So why the bromide? Because…I don’t know, because it sounds good, I suppose.

…for those for whom religion matters, globalization can sometimes be accompanied by an aggressive secularism or hedonism that makes many uneasy.

Nice. He pairs secularism with hedonism, and labels it “aggressive” for good measure. Passive-aggressive theocracy meets “aggressive” secularism. I’ll take the latter.

Aggressive secularists and extremists feed off each other. Together, they do constitute a real challenge to people of faith.

Even nicer. He pairs secularists with Islamists and other theocratic thugs.

Happy new year to you too, Mr Blair.



Atheism and utility

Jan 2nd, 2011 2:15 pm | By

Benjamin Nelson has a very interesting post on science communication and atheism and passion at Talking Philosophy. Much of it transcribes a conversation he had with Chris Mooney in 2009, in which both of them agreed on some common ground.

…the most important point that I’m going to emphasize here is that [Mooney's] stance is self-consciously political. At least to some extent, there is a “difference in goals” between Mooney and the activist atheists — by which, I think, he means a difference in priorities. Mooney does not think that speaking out against religion is a priority, and that it is on the whole detrimental to science education; while others think it is a priority, and that it supports science education in some respect.

I think that’s right, and it is the self-consciously political aspect that I have always found somewhat alien. I say “somewhat” because I can’t possibly reject all politics. I realize one has to weigh consequences (as we were just discussing with reference to the Vatican and a life-saving abortion) and consider priorities. But I think when serious discussion becomes too entangled with politics, then it simply stops being serious discussion and turns into some form of campaigning.

I would have liked to discuss Ben’s post in situ, but I’m banned from commenting there so I can’t, so I’ll do it here.

The post was barely posted, though, before the subject was changed to “why the new atheist crowd can’t just disagree with Mooney instead of despising him.” That wasn’t what Ben was talking about, but that became part of the discussion. I’d have thought the reasons would be well known, since they were certainly discussed a lot.

Here’s one reason. The fans of Mooney argue that he is passionately concerned about climate change and other, similar issues, and that’s why his priority is better science communication right now so that voters will make better, more informed decisions. But if that is true, I don’t understand why he has refused to engage with critics and answer genuine questions. The thing is: I couldn’t do what Mooney thinks I should do even if I wanted to, because I don’t know what it is. I really don’t. That’s why I asked him, from the outset – I really didn’t know. He said Jerry Coyne’s “Seeing is Believing” was bad strategy. I thought and still think Coyne’s review is an exemplary bit of reasoned discussion. These two facts together mean that I cannot figure out what is wanted. I’m not bullshitting when I say that; I really cannot figure it out.

And that’s a puzzle. If Mooney’s thinking really were political and strategic…then he would have engaged with questions. He didn’t. That’s a puzzle.

I know this is old old news, but it’s being discussed again, and a book I co-wrote is being cited, and Ben’s post is interesting and enlightening, so here it is anyway.



What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties

Jan 1st, 2011 6:13 pm | By

I mentioned in a comment yesterday that the way bishops and theologians pride themselves on not letting compassion or empathy trump their mindless Absolute Rules reminded me of something Hannah Arendt said in Eichmann in Jerusalem -

The Nazis prided themselves on exactly that – to the point that they got maudlin about it. “Nobody knows how difficult it is for us” sort of thing. Seriously. They did a lot of quiet boasting about their ability to rise above their sympathies.

I found the passage I was thinking of – pp 105-6 in the Penguin edition.

The troops of the Einsatzgruppen had been drafted from the Armed S.S., a military unit with hardly more crimes in its record than any ordinary unit of the German army…Hence the problem was how to overcome not so much their conscience as the animal pity by which all normal men are affected in the presence of physical suffering. The trick used by Himmler – who apparently was rather strongly afflicted with these instinctive reactions himself – was very simple and probably very effective: it consisted in turning these reactions around, as it were, in directing them toward the self. So that instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!

Ronald Conte, with his “no matter the cost, no matter the cost, no matter the cost,” reminds me of that kind of thinking.



Pants on fire

Jan 1st, 2011 11:58 am | By

This is an old item (December 2) but it’s only now been drawn to my attention, and I want to say about it because it’s so remarkably and revealingly malicious and inaccurate. You won’t be surprised to learn that it comes from someone who presents himself as of The Party of Nice. It is Mark Vernon, smearing Richard Dawkins, in a post ostensibly about Christmas frenzy.

(It seemed appropriate that the Guardian should launch it’s [sic] Advent calendar with a piece from that now most hysterical of writers, Richard Dawkins. Ostensibly it celebrated the moral courage of Christopher Hitchens, which I don’t doubt is worth admiring, only 50% of the piece was against the Pope, and 25% of the piece was about himself.)

Ostensibly yourself, bub.

If you look at the linked Dawkins piece, you will see for yourselves how shamelessly wide of the mark that announcement is. Two sentences are about a pope or popes. The first paragraph is partly about himself, but it’s also about newspapers, headlines, spoiling jokes, irony and hero-worship, and more. In short, it’s an introductory paragraph, which touches on various things to draw the reader in and set the scene. It’s just standard practice – it’s far from being a grotesque display of egotism, as Mark Vernon more than implies.

The entire rest of the piece – the second half of para 2 through paras 3, 4 and 5, all the way to the end – is about Hitchens.

So that’s Mark Vernon’s way with the truth.

Well of course this is an attack on gnu atheism. The rules are suspended.



Ten years ago, and last week

Dec 31st, 2010 5:27 pm | By

I was browsing through Katha Pollitt’s Subject to Debate this morning and read a great piece from September 2000, Freedom From Religion, ¡Si!

…that’s the official American civic religion at the opening of the twenty-first century: What religion you have may be your own business–rather literally so, in the case of Scientology–but it’s society’s business that you have one. Modernity may have eroded some of the distinctions between previously antagonistic belief systems–Quick! Explain the difference between Presbyterianism and Methodism!–as is suggested by the increasing replacement of the word “religion,” with its connotations of dogma and in-groupness, by the warm, fuzzy propaganda term “faith.”

See? I’m not the only one who has noticed the replacement and thinks it’s a plot of warm fuzzy propaganda.

Facing the common enemy, secularism, devout Christians and Jews dwell lovingly on their similarities as part of a “Judeo-Christian” ethos, when historically the ethos of each faith was precisely that it wasn’t the other…

Yep. Ten years on, that hasn’t changed. (It’s probably more defensive though, thanks to the scary gnu atheism.)

Because the most energetic religions tend to be the ones most invested in keeping women subordinate, women in particular have nothing to gain from the burgeoning involvement of religion in the public sphere. The wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals is already depriving women of crucial reproductive services, from contraception and abortion to in vitro fertilization and the morning-after pill, even for rape victims. Indeed, wherever you look, religion is the main obstacle to providing women with modern reproductive healthcare: The fig leaf of “conscience” becomes a justification for denying others basic human services. Thus the Catholic Church throws its weight against making health insurers cover contraception (Viagra’s fine, though) and anti-choice pharmacists claim the right to refuse to dispense birth control, emergency contraception or, should it be approved by the FDA, RU-486.

And if the bishops had their way, abortions would be illegal and ruled out even for women who would die without them. I’m hoping Katha will light into the bishop of Phoenix.

Happy new year, all.



No one is permitted to ask

Dec 31st, 2010 1:10 pm | By

Eric has an excellent post on Catholic casuistry, compassion, and authority today. It’s a bit like Google Earth, examining this subject – we get closer and closer and closer. The closer we get, the more ridiculous Karen Armstrong’s claim that compassion is central becomes. Compassion is not only not central, it’s nowhere. Compassion is beside the point altogether.

Ronald Conte, as I pointed out yesterday, simply says what the rules are, over and over again, and quotes popes also saying what the rules are. He quotes JP2 saying what they are:

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral…

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law…

Authority and obedience are the issue here, not compassion, not the needs and sorrows of the pregnant woman and her four young children, but the authority of an imaginary god and that imaginary god’s putative representatives.

In the same passage, the pope said something perhaps even more chilling:

Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly…

No matter what the torture, no matter how certain the end, no one is permitted to request escape. We’re not even allowed to ask. This is the demand for absolute authority run totally amok.

I saw the start of some adventure or espionage movie on tv not long ago – I didn’t watch the rest and don’t know what it was, but the opening was striking: a father and his daughter and son were mountain climbing, the father lowest down on the rope; he fell and pulled the other two off with him, and then the pitons started to pull out of the rock. The drop was huge, survival impossible – but the younger two could almost reach a hold – but not quite. The father cut the rope above his head while the daughter and son screamed at him “No no no no don’t!”

Was that “immoral”? Please.



A dab more theology

Dec 30th, 2010 6:01 pm | By

I’m reading Ronald Conte’s laying down of the law more calmly and thoroughly, and along with the vicious brutality of it, another thing that strikes me is the plain stupidity. It doesn’t jump out at you at first, partly because the vicious brutality takes up most of your attention, but also because the sober language obscures it; but after awhile it becomes more salient. It is just stupid. There’s nothing to it but repetition and insistence. He says the same thing over and over, interpersed with popes saying it. It’s just a long long string of stupid assertions – which if heeded of course can ruin people’s lives.

This is the bit I was reading when the stupidity started to waft off the page like a smell:

In the Phoenix abortion case, the abortion was willed as a means to save the life of the mother; saving a life was the good intended end. And the circumstances were such that the abortion resulted in the good consequence that her life was saved. However, the end does not justify the means. Intrinsically evil acts are never transformed into good acts by intention, no matter how noble, nor by circumstances, no matter how dire.

See? It’s just dumb. Does not; are never; no matter how. Sonorous, and stupid. It’s not like that. It’s not like “that is intrinsically evil the end,” because it depends. It isn’t just yes or no, good or evil, haram or halal. It depends. It depends on exactly the kinds of things that were at stake in the Phoenix case, and just dully saying it doesn’t for thousands of words is stupid.

Every knowingly chosen act without exception is subject to the eternal moral law. If a physician decides to directly kill a patient, whether a prenatal patient, or a terminally ill elderly patient, the act is murder under the eternal moral law.

Aaaaaaaaand I have again hit my limit. That’s enough of Ronald Conte for now. He and people like him talk steely but moronic effluent about “the eternal law” while not caring in the least about real problems of real people with real lives. It’s the banality of evil all over again – the guy isn’t thinking, he’s refusing to think, he’s just self-importantly reciting Doctrine.

Good night.



There was an arrogance, an independent and defiant air

Dec 30th, 2010 12:18 pm | By

Maniacal Catholics are still explaining that the bishop was right. Gerard Nadal even explains that the bishop was right to “push back against a culture of death.” By insisting that a woman should have been allowed to die along with her fetus, the bishop was pushing back against a culture of death. How does that work?

Nadal explains the “principle of double effect” to our wondering eyes.

In essence the principle states that a lifesaving procedure that cannot be delayed, such as the removal of a cancerous uterus before the baby can be taken in a Cesarean section at viability (~25 weeks gestation), is permissible so long as the death of the baby is the indirect and unintended effect…

Such circumstances are extremely rare, given how early a baby can be delivered before full term at 40 weeks. The mother’s life must be in immediate danger and the treatment of her disease, which would also result in the death of the baby, cannot be forestalled.

Do you see what Nadal is doing there? He’s saying that if the woman’s life is in danger that is less than immediate, it is not permissable to do an abortion in order to remove or reduce the danger. He’s saying that doctors and hospitals should force women to risk their lives rather than abort an early fetus.

Keep constantly in mind that Nadal himself will never be put in danger by this policy. Neither will the bishop of Phoenix. Neither will a single one of the members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Neither will any of the Vatican honchos who pronounce on these matters. These rules and laws and policies are created entirely by men and they apply entirely to women. Women are a subject race when it comes to the Vatican.

Patients who seek Catholic healthcare do so because of the assurance that the facility and its clinicians adhere to the ERD’s. They do so because they seek the assurance that they will be told the truth and treated in accord with Catholic moral norms, and not railroaded down the disastrous path American medicine has decided to follow.

Bullshit. Not everyone in a Catholic hospital does “seek Catholic healthcare”; lots of people are stuck with it because it’s all there is; others want some features of Catholic healthcare without signing up to every crazed item of Vatican dogma.

I opined, and was pilloried for it, that Sister McBride was presiding over a shadow healthcare system that was active in promoting an agenda that ran counter to the mission of the Church. Nobody commits first-degree murder as a first crime. No Catholic hospital administrator, especially a professed religious, signs off on such an abortion for the first time in the manner in which Sister McBride conducted herself.

He’s implying, in a deniable sort of way, that McBride committed first-degree murder.

There was an arrogance, an independent and defiant air about it that pointed to something deeper and darker, something that would eventually come to light.

Aha! Now we have it! A god damn woman had an arrogant independent defiant air, and that points to something deeper and darker, which is female independence in general. Kill the beast! Mark its forehead!



Godless women

Dec 29th, 2010 5:20 pm | By

Jen McCreight has a second Most Influential Female Atheist contest, and I’m nominated again, which is my reward for being notoriously obnoxious, which I would be even without a reward, but rewards make it even more fun.

But other sweller more influential people are also nominated, and you get three votes, so vote. Allow me to put in a plug for Maryam Namazie, who rocks. They all rock, but allow me to put in a plug for Maryam anyway.



So long and thanks for all the links

Dec 29th, 2010 5:02 pm | By

It’s sad about Denis Dutton. ALDaily is all in black.

Denis was a friend to B&W, from very early in its career – about three months into it, I think. He added it to Favorites, and soon after that he started linking to articles. He helped B&W get an audience.

It is melancholy that he’s gone.



The relevant self-development training modules will be helpful

Dec 29th, 2010 11:27 am | By

The US Army requires its soldiers to have something called “spiritual fitness.”

The US Army distributes a mandatory survey called an SFT, which stands for “Soldier Fitness Tracker”.  The purpose of this survey is to measure an individual soldier’s competency in four areas, Emotional, Social, Family and Spiritual.

Yes really.

Here is what they tell someone who scores badly in that last area:

Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you. You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles, and values. Nevertheless, who you are and what you do matter. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal. Change is possible, and the relevant self-development training modules will be helpful.

Extraordinary, isn’t it? The dreaded gummint instructing people in how to have a sense of meaning and purpose? The gummint imposing a particular sense of meaning and purpose on a very captive audience?