Notes and Comment Blog

Brain, meet skull

Oct 9th, 2013 4:07 pm | By

Did you (those of you in the US) see Frontline on football and concussions last night? It was pretty fascinating. The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has been reporting a lot on hockey and concussions, too. The Frontline show made some interesting points about how violent, and intentionally violent, football is. It’s marketed as violent, and apparently people like that.

Huh. Why? What a strange thing to like.

It reminded me of a lot of things. Jousting, for instance. Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and Tenniel’s illustrations of them. Jousting must have caused a lot of concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Henry VIII received a bad head injury in a joust, and he was a monster as he aged – maybe the two were connected.

I don’t like watching athletes padded up like bolsters, so that’ll be part of why I’ve never liked (US) football. I like soccer-football, where it’s just shorts and jerseys and running like hell.

It’s all quite sick, in my view. I’ve always thought boxing is sick and shouldn’t be allowed; now I think the same about football. The game is designed in such a way that head injuries cannot be avoided. Bad idea, folks. Jousting wasn’t a good idea, and football isn’t a good idea. Fix it. Make it into a different kind of game.

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

How to funny

Oct 9th, 2013 3:04 pm | By

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle quotes Courage Campaign’s Chairman Dr. Paul Song in his SLAM of the CA GOP over the OFFENSIVE & SEXIST anti-Hillary Clinton buttons sold at their convention this weekend:</p> <p>"At the [convention], leaders in the GOP spent most of the time wondering why their party is so unpopular with women and people of color, while at the same time relying on the same TIRED, RACIST and SEXIST attacks to energize their base."</p> <p>LIKE & SHARE to stand with us and DEMAND that the CA GOP apologize for these DISGUSTING buttons.

Captions: two buttons: one says

KFC Hillary special

2 Fat Thighs

2 Small Breasts

…Left Wing

The other says

I still hate Commies…

even after they

changed their

name to Liberals

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

Al-Madinah’s our vision

Oct 9th, 2013 11:49 am | By

Al-Medinah school wants (or pretends to want) incompatible things. It says so right on its home page.

Our vision

One of Al-Madinah Schools’ strong characters is the schools extended services program in which pupils will learn independence, self-control, social skills and community conscientiousness. These skills are vital if our pupils are to become self-regulating teenagers and adults. [para 3]

One of Al-Madinah Schools’ distinct features is the offering of an Islamic Studies program, which will include Quran reading with pronunciations (Tajweed), translation of the Quran (Tafseer) and Quran memorisation (Hifz). We will also teach Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh), biography (Seerah) of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW), History of Islam, the Oneness of God (Tauheed) and Islamic Beliefs (Aqeedah). [para 5]

Those two things fight each other. Pupils can’t learn independence and at the same time learn slavish dependence via indoctrination in “Islamic jurisprudence” and the like.


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

But what if the teachings are totally against Islam?

Oct 9th, 2013 11:40 am | By

Al-Madinah school in Derby is even worse than everyone thought. The Independent reports:

A Muslim free school has been warned it faces closure if it does not take action to eradicate practices which discriminate against girls and women within a week.

The blunt warning was delivered yesterday in a letter from Lord Nash. the Minister with responsibility for free schools and academies in a letter to the chair of its governing body.

Lord Nash warned the Al-Madinah free school in Derby that the trust running it had “manifestly breached the conditions of its funding agreement by failing to ensure the safety of children at the school: delivering an unacceptably poor standard of education, discriminating in its policies towards female staff and failing to discharge its duties and responsibilities”.

An unacceptably bad standard of education? Like under the heading of Books and teaching resources for example?

In each and every department, all efforts will be geared
towards ensuring the books and resources conform to the
teachings of Islam.

Sensitive, inaccurate and potentially blasphemous material
will be censored or removed completely. If and when
teachers are required by the curriculum to convey teachings
that are totally against Islam¹ , the Director of Islamic Studies
will brief the relevant teachers and advise accordingly.
With regards to songs and music, we acknowledge that it
can be an aid for learning, in particular in primary school.
Under the guidance of the Director, it shall only be used as
a learning aid, not for entertainment and amusement

Muslims are encouraged to reflect on Allah’s beauty in his
creations. The art lessons will be used as a platform to fulfill
this religious duty. At the same time however, great care will
be taken to ensure artwork produced or shown in lessons
conform with the specific teachings of Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him).


¹Darwinism, for example

This is a madrassah trying to pass itself off as a school which can get funding from the government as a state school.

Ofsted shut the school down over an issue about background checks on staff but allowed it to reopen on Monday after that issue was settled.

But then there was the issue about girls being made to sit at the back and women teachers being made to wear religious costume regardless of their religion and their preferences.

In his letter to Shazia Parveen, who chairs the Al-Madinah Education Trust, Lord Nash delivers the sternest warning ever given by a government minister to one of its flagship free schools, saying: “Unless swift action is taken to address these concerns in a comprehensive way I will be compelled to terminate the school’s funding agreement.”

In particular, he wants the Trust to ensure by next Tuesday, that all Criminal Records Bureau checks on staff have been completed and written references for every employee taken up.

In addition, he wants written confirmation that any discriminatory practices which have led to women and girls being treated “less favourably than men and boys” have ceased – and that staff have been told they are not required to cover their hair if it is contrary to their religion or beliefs.

One law for all, in other words.

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

The proud tradition of a free press

Oct 8th, 2013 6:24 pm | By

The Independent reported on the LSE Student Union’s interference with the LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student society yesterday, including quoting one of Dawkins’s tweets.

It included one panel from the toon – an especially daring one.

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

We shan’t say unless you force us

Oct 8th, 2013 4:04 pm | By

In case we’re not already sufficiently fed up with the Catholic church today, we learn that

The Catholic Church tried to strike an agreement with New South Wales Police that would have helped shut down investigations into paedophile priests and placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.

Police records, accessed under freedom of information laws by Greens MP David Shoebridge, show two attempts were made to finalise memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between police and the church over how to deal with complaints of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic Church personnel.




Disgusting, isn’t it. “Church authorities shall cover up crimes committed by church employees unless prevented by court order.” Because after all it’s just child rape, nothing that matters.

Barrister Geoffrey Watson SC says the agreement would have placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.

“If you become aware of a serious criminal offence, you’ve got to tell the police,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program.

“When I looked at the MOUs they were really in effect trying to get the police to condone the failure to comply with that law, or even perhaps worse, get the police to participate in that.”

Dear police, can we please break the law? Thank you very much, the Catholic church.

In June 2003 Michael McDonald from the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations wrote to the Child Protection Squad: “I, therefore, seek your confirmation that the unsigned memorandum of understanding with the police remains in place.”

The Catholic Church could not tell Lateline why Mr McDonald was writing to the police, but Kim McKay from the Child Protection Squad was unequivocal in her written response to Mr McDonald.

“Please note that his (sic) draft unsigned MOU has not been approved by the NSW Police Service, and the arrangements proposed by the MOU are not currently in place,” she said.

“The arrangements proposed by the draft MOU appear to be in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crime Act.”

Before this letter was sent by Superintendent McKay, the church was under the assumption the agreement was in place.

It’s so unfaaaaaaair.

After Superintendent McKay had made it clear in her letter that the unsigned agreement would have breached the Crimes Act, the church and police started negotiations to draft another agreement.

The second draft agreement, dated August 2004, includes a clause that states: “The Catholic Church or (additional party) shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if authorised in writing by the accused or if required to do so by court order.”

Mr Shoebridge says the second draft agreement goes even further than the first one.

“The church wanted to effectively give the accused priest a veto power about whether or not to provide crucial information to the police – utterly extraordinary when you think that that’s less than a decade ago.”

It is, isn’t it. Just jaw-dropping.

H/t Leonie Hilliard.


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

More on forced pregnancy in Nebraska

Oct 8th, 2013 3:16 pm | By

Pteryxx collected more material on this and it’s damning, so I’m just going to add it all. Commentary Pteryxx’s.

The Nebraska Supreme Court refused to hear the girl’s appeal.  Here’s the decision she was appealing.

After advising the girl that “when you have the abortion, it’s going to kill the child inside you,” lower court judge Peter Bataillon denied her request for a waiver. Bataillon, who according to RH Reality Check, had been an attorney for extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, found that the girl was not mature and informed enough to make the decision to have an abortion. He also found that the girl should have sought consent from her foster parents, even though the girl’s foster parents are not her legal guardian and the state regulations governing the Department of Health and Human Services gives minors in its custody the right to consent to abortion, without seeking permission from the Department.

From Operation Rescue lawyer to judge… seems fair and impartial.

More from RHR, both about the case and about Bataillon.

After holding the minor to the same pleading standards as attorneys, then punishing her for failing to meet them, the justices continued to ignore the law that clearly states minors in state custody have the right to consent to abortion on their own, by stating that because of the 2011 change from parental notification to parental consent those regulations were no longer valid. Since that 2011 change, the department hasn’t issued any new regulations, meaning that the even if those regulations were still valid thanks to this decision they likely aren’t anymore.

With the issue of whether minors in state custody can consent to their own abortions now upended, that leaves the petitioner in this case, and future wards of the state in similar quandaries, with only the possibility of convincing a judge via a judicial bypass proceeding that she’s sufficiently mature enough to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy on her own. And we know how those decisions turn out for the minors involved.


Not surprisingly, the trial court judge has a history of anti-choice sympathies. In 1990, as a private attorney, Bataillon successfully defended 17 Operation Rescue protesters in Omaha against charges of clinic trespassing, by advancing a “necessity defense” and arguing their trespassing was necessary to prevent the “grave evil” of abortion. Scott Roeder tried unsuccessfully to advance a necessity defense during his trial for the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Three years later, Bataillon represented an anti-abortion activist accused of stalking an abortion provider including approaching him at an Omaha airport and telling him, “You deserve to be blown away.”

Extracts from the court filing and more references to Bataillon’s history here:

The trial court judge, Peter Bataillon, went against her at every turn, deciding that even though her biological parents had relinquished their parental rights, she still required a foster parent’s consent under the law; that the “victim of abuse” exception to the consent requirement only applied to abuse by one’s current parents, and not to the abuse she had suffered from her biological parents; and that she was insufficiently mature to make this decision without their consent.

Today’s 5-2 decision affirmed Judge Bataillon’s decisions on the facts and law, with much deference to his evaluation of this young woman’s maturity:

   In evaluating her maturity, a trial court “‘may draw inferences from the minor’s composure, analytic ability, appearance, thoughtfulness, tone of voice, expressions, and her ability to articulate her reasoning and conclusions.’” The latter items are matters that we cannot discern from the cold record before us and are another reason why we elect to give weight to the fact that the trial judge heard and observed petitioner in finding her not to be mature and well informed.

Below the fold, why Judge Bataillon really can’t be trusted to protect women’s rights to make their own health care decisions. You’ll be appalled.

The girl’s attorney testified to the court that Bataillon should have been recused, but the SC refused to address that point.


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

She’s not in purdah

Oct 8th, 2013 2:59 pm | By

Kamila Shamsie talks to Malala for the Guardian.

Learning from her parents is something Malala knows a great deal about. Her mother was never formally educated and an awareness of the constraints this placed on her life have made her a great supporter of Malala and her father in their campaign against the Taliban’s attempts to stop female education. One of the more moving details in I Am Malala, the memoir Malala has written with the journalist Christina Lamb, is that her mother was due to start learning to read and write on the day Malala was shot – 9 October 2012. When I suggest that Malala’s campaign for female education may have played a role in encouraging her mother, she says: “That might be.” But she is much happier giving credit to her mother’s determined character, and the example provided by her father, Ziauddin, who long ago set up a school where girls could study as well as boys, in a part of the world where the gender gap in education is vast.

She misses Swat though. Birmingham is not as beautiful as Swat.

Perhaps meditating on the value of peace and mercy is an entirely sane way of coping with bullets and invective. But, all the same, it must hurt to find yourself reviled – and not only by the Taliban. In her book she writes of how her speech at the UN received plaudits around the world, but in Pakistan people accused her of seeking fame and the luxury of a life abroad. When I ask her about this, it is one of the only times in the conversation that she turns to Urdu to express herself: “Dukh to insaan ko hota hai jab daikhta hai kay uss ka bhai uss kay khilaf hai.” (“Naturally it’s hurtful when you see your brothers turn against you.”) Her voice is pained, but she quickly switches to English and the more philosophical tone emerges again. “Pakistanis can’t trust,” she says. “They’ve seen in history that people, particularly politicians, are corrupt. And they’re misguided by people in the name of Islam. They’re told: ‘Malala is not a Muslim, she’s not in purdah, she’s working for America.’ They say maybe she’s with the CIA or ISI [Pakistan's intelligence service]. It’s fine; they say it about every politician too, and I want to become a politician.”

I hope she does become a politician, and survives and prospers.

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

Bishops to babies: drop dead

Oct 8th, 2013 12:25 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte reminds us what popes and bishops really care about.

Remember Pope Francis said some pretty stuff about how Catholic authorities need to be less obsessed with their attempts to control human sexuality and more interested in helping the poor, and how a bunch of liberals who are grading the pope on a massive curve got excited? Remember how meanie atheists said that it doesn’t matter and we can tell you right now that nothing will change?

It turns out we were wrong?


Think Progress reported yesterday that the United Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter urging House Republicans to shut down the government rather than let women use their earned insurance benefits to buy contraception without their employers’ permission. So important is it for the Catholic bishops that your employer get veto power over how you spend compensation you paid for with your labor that they are now openly ranking it over….feeding babies.

That’s because keeping women down is the most important thing.

The government shutdown means that WIC is going to run out of money to feed infants. (At first, it was assumed they would only have enough to last a day, but they’re funded through the rest of the month, something the bishops could not have known when they sent the letter.) More than half of babies born in the U.S. get some of their nutrition through WIC.

God will provide. God will feed all those babies, but women getting contraception, that has to be stopped, by bishops.

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


Oct 8th, 2013 12:17 pm | By


Nick Cohen explains,

Martin Bright and I thought that what with one thing and another we should take some flowers to Ralph Miliband’s grave.

People on Facebook were very curious about the uncanny anachronistic boy in the background.

Photo: Martin Bright and I thought that what with one thing and another we should take some flowers to Ralph Miliband's grave

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

Except those that support the infidels

Oct 8th, 2013 11:50 am | By

The Pakistani Taliban hasn’t fallen asleep on the job. It wants everyone to know it still plans to murder Malala Yousafzai.

Islamabad: The Pakistani Taliban on Monday said it would target 16-year-old rights activist Malala Yousafzai again…

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said Malala was targeted because she was used in propaganda against the militants.

There is no “because” for murder.

The Taliban would target her again if given the chance, just as it would target anyone who opposes the group, Shahid told a news channel.

“She accepted that she attacked Islam so we tried to kill her, and if we get another chance we will definitely kill her and that will make us feel proud,” he was quoted as saying by a news channel.

“Islam prohibits killing women…except those that support the infidels in their war against our religion.”



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

Nebraska changed its abortion laws two years ago

Oct 8th, 2013 11:11 am | By

The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that a 16-year-old foster child may not have an abortion because she’s not mature enough to decide on her own whether or not to have one.

Well if she’s not mature enough for that how is she mature enough to bear and raise a child? Oh that’s ok, they might say, she’ll just hand her baby over for adoption. How is she mature enough for that? If she’s not mature enough to decide whether or not to have an abortion she’s surely not mature enough to be pregnant at all. Children shouldn’t have babies, even babies they intend to give up for adoption.

The 5-2 decision denied the unnamed child’s request for an abortion, saying the girl had not shown that “she is sufficiently mature and well informed to decide on her own whether to have an abortion,” according to the ruling.

That necessarily means they think she is mature enough to decide to remain pregnant. But being pregnant is a momentous decision; surely it takes at least as much maturity and being well informed as does deciding to stop being pregnant.

The girl is not named in legal records, but is living with foster parents after the state terminated the parental rights of her biological parents after physical abuse and neglect. At the confidential hearing terminating those parental rights, she told the court that she was pregnant, and that she would not be financially capable of supporting a child or being “the right mom that [she] would like to be right now,” according to the court ruling. But she also told the court that she feared losing her placement in foster care if her highly-religious foster parents learned of her pregnancy.

Well the judges don’t care about that, because they’re mature enough not to need stable foster care. Lucky them.

The Omaha World-Herald interviewed her attorney, Catherine Mahern, who said “It is not in my client’s best interests to comment,” while noting that her client could go around the restrictions of Nebraska law by going to another state.

But speaking to the Houston Chronicle, Mahern said the girl didn’t need consent under the regulations of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which states that “if a ward decides to have an abortion, the consent of the parent(s) or Department is not required.” Notification of the girl’s foster parents might be required, however.

Nebraska changed its abortion laws two years ago from requiring that parents of minors be informed to requiring written and notarized parental consent for an abortion. Exceptions may be made in cases of parental abuse, medical emergencies, or cases in which the minor is “sufficiently mature and well-informed” to decide whether to have an abortion.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the child did not meet that standard in this case.

Chip chip chip away at abortion rights. Mess up a life here and another life there, to make baby Jesus smile.

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

Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine!

Oct 7th, 2013 4:13 pm | By

Via PZ – Scalia explains heaven and hell and the devil to an incredulous journalist, and then bullies the journalist for being incredulous. Yeah, gee, how dare anyone be surprised that an adult intelligent Supreme Court justice thinks there’s such a thing as The Devil.

Whatever you think of the opinion, Justice ­Kennedy is now the Thurgood Marshall of gay rights.


I don’t know how, by your lights, that’s going to be regarded in 50 years.

I don’t know either. And, frankly, I don’t care. Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. At least standing athwart it as a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy.

You believe in heaven and hell?

Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?


Oh, my.

Does that mean I’m not going?

[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!

Wait, to heaven or hell?

It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.

So it’s Catholic doctrine, so what? You can’t just assume that people believe in everything that’s “doctrine” even if they do belong to the church whose doctrine it is. “Doctrine” isn’t really something that rational adults should subscribe to in that way.

It’s Catholic doctrine, but is it reasonable? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is it likely? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is there evidence that it’s true? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is there any good reason to believe it?

Can we talk about your drafting process—

[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

You do?

Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …

If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

But why be faithful to Catholic dogma? Why do that? Why not see dogma for what it is – intellectual coercion, nothing else – and walk away from it?

And why talk as if it’s belief in the dogma that’s reasonable and the journalist’s surprise that’s weird? Why say “Hey, c’mon” as if you were being nothing but reasonable?

So what’s he doing now?

What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?

I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?

Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.


What happened to him?

He just got wilier.

He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?

You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

Ah now that’s the true bully note – how dare you disagree with “most of America,” how dare you think the devil is a ridiculous and cruel old story when most of America doesn’t, you commie weirdo faggot feminazi slut.

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

Think carefully

Oct 7th, 2013 3:15 pm | By

Question for the day, from Mike Booth @somegreybloke:

 Would you rather fight a thousand wasp sized mountain lions or one mountain lion sized wasp?

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

Guest post: the exploration is fun, but it leads to an answer

Oct 7th, 2013 2:59 pm | By

Originally a comment by Eamon Knight on She is too enraptured by the mystery of the divine.

I’ve occasionally found myself caught up (the literal meaning of “enraptured”) in a bit of mathematics or physics, such that I would ponder on it during otherwise mindless moments (like long drives, or when falling asleep at night). And there’s this sense of exploring a mysterious, fascinating territory. Eventually I either figure it out, or write a program to brute-force it, or (these days) consult Google and find that real mathematicians and physicists (ie. people who aren’t me) have already been there and devised tools to describe it. Sometimes I get into a similar mindset when trying to figure out how to do some personal project.

The point is: the exploration is fun, but it leads to an answer — I get an expression, or a number, or the thing gets built, and there’s an esthetic satisfaction to the experience. My “seeking understanding” actually finds something.

Can theology ever say it’s found something out about the Divine? Something that isn’t just a reflection of the theologian’s own mind? Can it ever know that, eg. Paul Tillich was right and Rick Warren is wrong in the way we know that Einstein was right and classical mechanics was wrong, or this bridge design will stay up whereas that one will collapse?

Or do theologians just enjoy being “enraptured” and “seeking understanding” too much to ever spoil it with anything so mundane as, you know, answers?

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

No schools for you

Oct 7th, 2013 1:49 pm | By

Amnesty International issued a new report a few days ago, Education under attack in Nigeria.

In the week that saw more than 50 students killed by gunmen in an agricultural college in Yobe State, Amnesty International publishes a new report assessing attacks on schools in northern Nigeria between 2012 and 2013.

“Hundreds have been killed in these horrific attacks. Thousands of children have been forced out of schools across communities in northern Nigeria and many teachers have been forced to flee for their safety,” said Lucy Freeman, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director.

“Attacks against schoolchildren, teachers and school buildings demonstrate an absolute disregard for the right to life and the right to education.”

According to the report Education under attack in Nigeria, this year alone at least 70 teachers and scores of pupils have been slaughtered and many others wounded. Some 50 schools have been burned or seriously damaged and more than 60 others have been forced to close.

The Islamist group commonly known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for many, but not all, of the attacks.

Between 2010 and 2011 attacks were mostly carried out when schools were empty. However since the beginning of 2013 they appear to have become more targeted and brutal. They frequently happen when schools are occupied, and according to reports received by Amnesty International, teachers and pupils are now being directly targeted and killed.

Trying to wipe out education is as fascist as it gets.

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

She is too enraptured by the mystery of the divine

Oct 7th, 2013 10:55 am | By

There’s another odd thing that Meghan Florian said in that Religion Dispatches/Salon article that’s been nagging at me.

I can’t pull off atheism. I am too enraptured by the mystery of the divine, too convinced of human limitations, too busy continuing this life of faith seeking understanding.

In a way it’s not worth trying to make sense of it or pointing out why it doesn’t make sense, because it’s just normal religious bafflegab – just a string of poeticky words that don’t actually mean much, but sound nice. That’s what they do. They have license to do that, because religion. That’s one of the many reasons I dislike religion: because it not only allows, it encourages empty bafflegab, and expects everyone to be impressed by it. It’s yet another subhead in the major category Cheating, and I’m seriously annoyed by religious cheating.

So in another way it is worth trying to make sense of it or pointing out why it doesn’t make sense, because it disrupts the social habit of politely ignoring the emptiness of the bafflegab.

1. She can’t pull off atheism because she’s too enraptured by the mystery of the divine.

What is the divine?

Does she mean “God”? She must sort of mean that, since the subject is atheism, not adivineism. I don’t bother being an adivineist, because I don’t know what “the divine” refers to.

I suppose she sort of means “God,” but also sort of means something more nebulous and poetical and “mysterious” and pretty.

What does she mean when she says she’s “enraptured” by it? I suppose that it’s nebulous and poetical and “mysterious” and pretty, while also being “God,” who both is and is not mysterious and distant.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she means something much deeper and also more sophisticated and also full of particulars, that she learned from Duke Divinity School, where she earned a Master of Theological Studies. But if so, what?

What does she mean about being enraptured by the mystery? What’s enrapturing about it? Why is it never instead seen as a cold cruel heartless withholding? At least, never except by people who actually take “doubts” seriously as opposed to brandishing them at outsiders as a badge of haha skepticism. Imagine a cold starving ill child whose parents hide themselves. Is that child “enraptured” by the “mystery” of the hidden parents? Or, to look at it another way, is anyone “enraptured” by the “mystery” of the non-appearance of Hamlet or Medea or Huckleberry Finn? Of course not, because we know they’re characters in stories. So why do people bother to be “enraptured” by the “mystery” of the “divine”? What is that melodious phrase but an endlessly repeated advertising slogan?

2. She can’t pull off atheism because she’s too convinced of human limitations.

Wtf? What, because atheism is not convinced of human limitations? Atheism thinks humans are infinite?

Why isn’t it the other way around? Why isn’t it theists who aren’t convinced of human limitations? Theists think we’re immortal! It’s ludicrous to claim that atheists as such are not convinced of human limitations. You don’t have to subscribe to the idea of “sin” to be convinced of human limitations.

3. She can’t pull off atheism because she’s too busy continuing this life of faith seeking understanding.

No, she’s not. She’s kidding herself. “Faith” is not the right way to try to achieve understanding. It’s exactly the wrong way. Atheists have a much better shot of achieving some understanding, other things being equal, because they’re not impeded by the need to defend all the things that are accepted on “faith.”

I take it that what Florian means is that she doesn’t want to be atheist. She should just say that.

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


Oct 6th, 2013 4:56 pm | By

Meghan Florian in Salon (via Religion Dispatches) notes that Teresa MacBain isn’t a reason to bash atheists. What she goes on to say after that got my rather annoyed attention.

(I haven’t said anything here about Teresa. That’s because I don’t want to. I like her a lot, so I don’t feel like it. I’m assuming that you already know the story.)

Florian recounts the recent events and disclosures first.

What strikes me as inappropriate is to use this as an opportunity to bash atheists—even those who we might feel misrepresent the Christian faith. Did it irk me when MacBain said, in an interview on Religion Dispatches,“I’d always been a thinker so when questions relating to my faith began to pop up, I ignored them at first. You see, questioning and doubts were sinful in my faith tradition”? Of course it did. I wanted to jump up and raise my hand, to shout, “I am a thinker too!” and “Doubt is not sinful! Who the hell told you that?”

But I am pretty sure that’s not the right thing to do here. After all, growing up in a conservative Christian subculture myself, I wrestled with doubt for years also. In college I encountered professors who modeled a “faith seeking understanding” approach to both the study and practice of Religion. For me, that process of asking questions—of seeking—actually saved my faith. For MacBain, it appears to have been the opposite. I respect that, as I hope anyone who has seriously wrestled with doubt can respect that.

That seems like bullshit to me. Self-flattering bullshit. It annoys me, the way religious people use “doubt” that way as some kind of empty badge of honor that doesn’t make any actual difference to anything. It’s just something they “wrestle” with for a little while in order to come out anyway on the side of Team God. People don’t wrestle with “doubts” about whether or not Elmer Fudd will be coming over to play poker. Adults don’t bother with “doubts” about Santa Claus. People shouldn’t brag about their precious “doubts” if they’re going to go right on believing the legless stories just the same. It’s nothing but pious preening. “That process of asking questions” – only to end up with the authority-based answers. “Seeking” – forget seeking and try filtering or razoring, instead. Doubts that do nothing but “save faith” are just posturing.

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

The goldfish quiz

Oct 6th, 2013 4:11 pm | By

Ok you wanted a Sunday afternoon quiz, so here is one.

Friendly wags on Facebook have been creating new “Should Miri Mogilevsky…” pages – be given a goldfish, be given a cheesecake, be given a goldfish, a cheesecake, and a tardis. So on the goldfish one, I commented

Yes but make sure she remembers where the car is before the fish goes into the plastic bag.

What is the reference?

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

All forms of defamation, derision or denigration of religions and prophets will be considered crimes

Oct 6th, 2013 3:45 pm | By

Oh great, the return of the great push to enact global blasphemy laws. This time it’s not the OIC but a group of Arab countries.

Manama: Arab countries are working on a draft law that bans the defamation of religions and empowers them to take abusers to court even if they are not residents.

The draft, presented by Qatar, is being reviewed by delegates from several Arab countries at the Arab League.

Under its provisions, all forms of defamation, derision or denigration of religions and prophets will be considered crimes.

Is that sweeping enough? Under that wording, anything could be considered a crime – something that doesn’t explicitly mention religion could just be treated as allegory or sarcasm.

Oh and also? Fuck you. Seriously. Religions depend for their survival on everyone just politely not noticing that there is no good reason to believe any god exists or that any humans know what any putative god wants. They’re frauds, in short. If you start making it a crime even to have a laugh at them now and then, the politeness is over. (No, I haven’t been all that polite as it is, but I can get much worse, I promise you.)

“The main feature of the draft is that it gives every state the right to put on trial those who abuse and hold in contempt religions even if they are outside the country,” Ebrahim Mousa Al Hitmi, the Qatari justice ministry assistant undersecretary for legal affairs, said, local Arabic daily Al Arab reported on Wednesday.

Well that will keep people out of your countries, for sure.

The official insisted that the draft law does not clash with freedom of expression.

“The law does not interfere in any way with the freedom of opinion and expression which is well protected and guaranteed. All penal laws in Arab countries criminalise defamation of religions but there are no specific sanctions when an abuser is outside the country. Therefore, the main goal of this law is to deter all forms of defamation of religions and give each country that ratifies it the right to file lawsuits against those who offend religions, even if they are not residents,” he said.

What an imbecile. Deterring all forms of “defamation” of those persistent frauds called religions does interfere with the freedom of opinion and expression, in fact it terminates it. If people aren’t free to question and mock open cheats like religion then they have very little freedom at all.


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