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.

The disgraceful Telegraph article on Dawkins

Feb 19th, 2012 9:03 am | By

The Telegraph hit piece on Dawkins is out (as many of you already know; it’s nearly 5 in the afternoon in the UK, while it’s only a fresh-faced nearly 9 in the morning here on the west coast of the US). It’s even worse than I expected it to be, and that’s saying something. It’s vicious slavering bullshit. It’s a disgrace to journalism.

He has railed against the evils of religion, and lectured the world on the virtues of atheism.

Now Richard Dawkins, the secularist campaigner against “intolerance and suffering”, must face an awkward revelation: he is descended from slave owners and his family estate was bought with a fortune partly created by forced labour.

It’s not “awkward.” We’re all descended from people who did bad shit. Count on it. God, just think, here’s me, a feminist, yet half of my ancestors are men!! Omigod that’s so awkward; how will I ever explain it?

There is no “estate”; there’s a farm. Everybody alive now depends partly on wealth created by forced labor.

He is now facing calls to apologise and make reparations for his family’s past.

Esther Stanford-Xosei, of Lewisham, south London, the co-vice chairman of the Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe, said: “There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity.

“The words of the apology need to be backed by action. The most appropriate course would be for the family to fund an educational initiative telling the history of slavery and how it impacts on communities today, in terms of racism and fractured relationships.”

Ah, Adam Lusher, that’s naughty.

What he means is, he phoned Esther Stanford-Xosei and solicited that statement from her. The way he phrases it, it looks as if “calls” are coming spontaneously (despite the fact that this article is the first anyone has heard of this “revelation” apart from Richard’s account of Lusher’s obnoxious phone calls). That’s a sneaky journalistic trick, presenting their own “calls,” or “calls” that they’ve solicited for a story, as if they were independent. That trick borders on deceit; it borders on mendacity, not to say lying. It’s technically true but highly misleading. It’s contemptible. It shouldn’t be the job of journalism to play tricks of that kind.

There’s more, in other papers. This stuff has to be bitten off and chewed one by one.

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

And another one, and more, and more

Feb 18th, 2012 5:08 pm | By

This one also from the Telegraph, by someone called Stephen Bayley (by which I mean, as you may remember, that I haven’t heard of him before, not that he’s obscure or beneath my lofty notice). It has no content, it’s just a brief volley of abuse.

…Richard Dawkins, a fanatic disguised as a scientist. And surely, in the powerful counterproductive sway of his noisy arguments, proof of the existence of God? Terrible to awake in that groggy matutinal state when things lodge in your addled brain and hear shrill, ugly, cruel arguments on the radio. Atheists seem to be very good at dogma. Dawkins seems not to understand that his own zealotry is itself a sort of religious quest. And he applies the “logic” of science, itself a fallible human construct, to a beautiful mystery. Sure, organised religion has caused appalling conflicts. But it has also caused Michelangelo, Milton and Bach. Organised atheism has produced North Korea. There is really not much more that needs to be said.

It’s dispiriting, seeing how willing and eager people are to say really filthy things about someone who doesn’t admire their religion. It’s dispiriting to see how eager the major media are to publish this kind of shit-throwing, and to commission more and more and more and more of it. It’s dispiriting to see that Andrew Brown has yet another entry, as inaccurate and intemperate and illiberal as the others. It’s dispiriting to see all this lying rage pouring out of people who should know better and published by media outlets that should do better. It’s stupid, it’s nasty, it’s coercive, it’s dishonest. It’s dispiriting.

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

Telegraph does research, discovers that Dawkins has ancestors

Feb 18th, 2012 4:41 pm | By

Well now that’s a new wrinkle – a Telegraph reporter phoning Dawkins to say, “Oi! Do you realize your ancestors owned slaves in Jamaica in the 18th century? What have you got to say to that? One was named Henry. They owned many slaves. Do you feel any guilt about it?” Then when Dawkins cuts the call short because it’s so stupid plus he has a lecture to prepare, the reporter phones back (despite having been dismissed, which seems quite ill-mannered) to say, “Natural selection has a lot to do with genes yeh? Well, some people might suggest that you could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery from Henry Dawkins.”

Did you ever? And that’s not even all of it. He dared Dawkins to deny Wilberforce was a Christian (and forgot to mention all the slave-owners who were Christians, he said Dawkins should make financial reparations, and he said the profit from the slaves probably paid for an “estate” belonging to Dawkins’s family, which in fact is a small struggling farm.

The reporter and reporters for all the UK media owe Dawkins quite a lot of money for all the pay they’ve been given for “researching” and writing this kind of dreck.

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

Beware the frumious bandersnatch

Feb 18th, 2012 10:13 am | By

Polly Toynbee thinks secularism is not such a terrible idea. She’s not completely persuaded by claims that secularism is ruining all the things.

…the faiths are glad to circle their wagons round [the queen] against the unbelievers. Each has their own divinely revealed unique truth, often provoking mortal conflict, Muslim v Copt, Catholic v Protestant, Hindu v Muslim or Sunni v Shia. But suddenly the believers are united in defence against the secular, willing to suspend the supremacy of their own prophets to agree that any religion, however alien, from elephant god to son of God, is better than none.

They can all feel their victimhood now, facing what Baroness Warsi called a rising tide of “militant secularisation” reminiscent of “totalitarian regimes”. Warsi on the warpath headed a delegation to the Vatican of six ministers, all agreeing the common enemy was not just the secularists but the “liberal elite”, too. How the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph loved wallowing in the CofE as victim against the rise of christianophobia, as if the waspish Prof Richard Dawkins had thrown them all to the lions.

And as if the Daily Mail and the Telegraph were powerless penniless orphans living in a gutter on crusts.

The prefix “aggressive” or “militant” is now super-glued to the word “secularist”, but as president of the British Humanist Association and honorary associate of the National Secular Society, I find nothing extreme about trying to keep religion separate from the state. Aggressive? You should see this week’s “burn in hell” messages to the BHA attacking “that spastic Hawking who denies God”, and many more obscene unprintables.

Or you could check out the stuff that gets thrown at Jessica Ahlquist, or Barbara J King’s standard-issue insults directed at Richard Dawkins, or any of a number of daily verbal attacks on secularists and atheists.

Rev Giles Fraser wielded a deft stiletto, accusing secularists of closet racism. “Attacking religious belief in general neatly fits alongside a hostility to Islam.” I am hostile to any religion if it ever cuts across civic freedoms, for its own people or for anyone who challenges it. Without causing gratuitous offence for the sake of it, there is a duty to stand by brave free-speech campaigners, such as Maryam Namazie, organiser for One Law for All. An anti-Sharia meeting was broken up last month at Queen Mary College. Police were called after a man came in, filmed the audience and said he’d hunt down anyone who insulted the prophet. They campaign against Muslim arbitration tribunals, whose judgments can be applied in civil courts, nobody knowing if women suffered religious intimidation to sign away rights.

I like that “neatly fits alongside” – it avoids the drawbacks of just coming right out and saying that dislike of Islam is hatred of Muslims. It’s deniable and subtle and imprecise; just the ticket for a smear that won’t get your hands dirty.

Julian Baggini, writing in the Guardian yesterday took a swipe at secularism, wondering why bother with trivia like prayers at council meetings. He omits the heart of the matter, such as the right to die. Or the third of state schools run by religions, mainly CofE, oversubscribed as their results are burnished by admissions policies that consign an unfair share of poor or chaotic families to neighbouring schools.

And as for the trivial matter of prayers at council meetings, well, the “Communities secretary” is fixing that.

The government is activating a power it says will allow councils in England to hold prayers at meetings.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles says he is “effectively reversing” the High Court’s “illiberal ruling” that a Devon council’s prayers were unlawful.

Illiberal? The separation of church and state is illiberal? So it’s liberal to impose Christian prayers on everyone, including people of other religions and people of no religion (not to mention Christians who don’t want to do their praying in the workplace)?

Militant secularists just can’t catch a break.

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

So long

Feb 18th, 2012 9:23 am | By

Seen on the UCL ASH page at Facebook:

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

Last night in Cranston

Feb 17th, 2012 5:51 pm | By

My brother was at the Cranston school board meeting last night. He told me he thought the day was really won by a great Irish guy named Dan McCarthy

who  got up early in the comment session and said “I went to Catholic schools, where  I said the rosary every day.  I also said it at home, with my father. In fact, I said it today with a dying friend. So I’m a practicing  Catholic.

“On the other hand, my great grandfather came here because he was not allowed to own the land he farmed, in Ireland.  Because he was a Catholic.  In a prod country.

“Don’t appeal.”

He sat down, and the atmosphere in the room changed. The  appeal nuts were no longer whooping and hollering and, when they did resume, a  lot of the spirit had gone out of them.

He had also contacted the Rhode Island chapter of Progessive Democrats of America in support of their statement (I suspect my brother wrote it, though I haven’t confirmed that):

Rhode IslanChapter of
Progressive Democrats oAmerica

The Rhode Island Chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America passed a resolution at its regularly scheduled meeting at the Rochambeau Library on 6 February 2012 against the display of a prayer on the wall of the auditorium of Cranston West High School.

RIPDA took this action in defense of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads in its entirety: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It is worth noting that Congress chose in 1791 to open the enumeration of fundamental rights to be enjoyed by all [free] citizens of the new nation with the right to be free of any state-sponsored religion. Most of them were pious church-goers; their brief was in no sense against the exercise of religion. They prohibited rather any intervention whatso­ever, for or against, by their new state in the religious realm. They could not have made their prohibition more absolute; RIPDA is arguing for respecting their manifest intent.

These men had just come through the violence of their own war for independence, but they knew the power of religious conviction to spawn conflicts of an intensity we have yet to outgrow. Europe had been convulsed by religious conflict for centuries: the inten­sity of the conflict can be gauged by their renewal in Sarajevo and Bosnia twenty years ago, but the new Americans remembered equally bloody wars within their parents’ life­times. They were determined not to allow them to begin again. So are we.

My brother is a Montaigne scholar. Montaigne knew a very great deal about Europe’s convulsions under religious conflict.

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

NPR throws mud at Dawkins

Feb 17th, 2012 11:50 am | By

Oh noes, says Barbara J King at NPR, that mean Dawkins guy is the keynote speaker at the Reason Rally. That will wreck the whole thing, right?

No, but Barbara J King does her best to make it so by predicting it, as pseudo-concerned atheist-bashers so often do.

In a 2006 interview with Steve Paulson at Salon (during his tenure as professor of public understanding of science), Dawkins suggested that greater intelligence is correlated with atheism. He also said that when it encourages belief in the absence of evidence, “there’s something very evil about faith.”

Yes; and?

Here is what he said in the full version – note first of all that it’s the interviewer who introduces the word “evil”:

My sense is that you don’t just think religion is dishonest. There’s something evil about it as well.

Well, yes. I think there’s something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence. And the reason that’s dangerous is that it justifies essentially anything. If you’re taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die — anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed — that clearly is evil. And people don’t have to justify it because it’s their faith. They don’t have to say, “Well, here’s a very good reason for this.” All they need to say is, “That’s what my faith says.” And we’re all expected to back off and respect that. Whether or not we’re actually faithful ourselves, we’ve been brought up to respect faith and to regard it as something that should not be challenged. And that can have extremely evil consequences.

And? Is that such an obviously wrong, or evil, thing to think? We see examples of the consequences here every day.

But King thinks it is obviously wrong.

Slam. That noise you hear is the sound of thousands of minds closing down and turning away from anything that Dawkins might go on to say about science.

By choosing words hurtful and harsh, Dawkins closes off a potential channel of communication about science with people who hold faith dear in their lives.

Maybe, some, but maybe some others – assuming they read the interview itself and not just King’s six word gotcha – will see his point. King, however, does her best to prevent that.

Will Dawkins rally The Reason Rally’s secular pilgrims with the same scorn towards the faithful that he’s shown to date? We’ll have to wait and see. If he does, he’ll drive a stake in the heart of the Rally’s stated goal. He will confirm that some of the negative stereotypes associated with the nonreligious — intolerance of the faithful, first and foremost — are at times aligned with reality.

In the meantime, the rest of us, scientists, science writers, and followers-of-science alike, can opt to rally around a different principle.  Whatever our position on the continuum from deep faith to ardent atheism, we can lose the sneers. We can explain and, when necessary, defend science with rigor and passion and genuine civility.

But it wasn’t a sneer. It was a very serious point, and it’s not obviously wrong. Arguably it’s the people who insist on protecting the feelings of people who “hold faith dear in their lives” who do the most harm.

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

Next up for Cranston

Feb 17th, 2012 9:59 am | By

Steve Ahlquist – Jessica’s uncle – has a plan for what to do next, to benefit Cranston public schools, which he posted at the Facebook group Support the Removal of the Cranston High School West Prayer.

Awhile back, the Cranston school committee cut funding for music at their schools, because of budgetary concerns. In response, a group of concerned parents formed a group called BASICS, which I’ll find a link to soon, with the aim of restoring the programs. Raising money for the City of Cranston or the school committee would not allow them to “learn their lesson” but funding BASICS will put money directly into cut programs. The school committee will still have to pay, but the kids could still have their programs, no thanks to the recalcitrant members of the Cranston political elite.

He mentioned that he wants to get the big atheist bloggers like Hemant, PZ, and Rebecca to support it - so I figure he wants to get average-size atheist bloggers to support it too.

Pass it on.

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


Feb 17th, 2012 9:32 am | By

Andrew Copson at the BHA on Warsi’s theocratic bullshit:

…it is surreal to hear secularism being condemned as intolerant – it is not secular schools that select pupils according to their parents’ beliefs, it is not secular agencies that reserve employment opportunities for staff according to their beliefs, and it is not secular organisations which lobby to maintain privilege and have exemption from laws – like equality laws – that should affect everyone equally.

Terry Sanderson at the NSS on the same subject

…why is the British Government courting the Holy See in this way? Why should the last absolute theocracy in Europe be invited to participate in the affairs of the British Government?

Well, it might be argued, the Holy See participates — indeed in some cases, interferes — in every other Government’s affairs. Only last week it succeeded in forcing President Obama to compromise his health reforms and in Britain it is gearing up to give the Cameron plan for gay marriage a real kicking.

Lady Warsi talks of “militant secularism” with some distaste. But secularism’s militancy is as nothing compared with the aggressive tactics of the Catholic Church when it is not getting its way.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars on the same subject:

What world does she live in? The progress over the last couple hundred in creating more just, free and equal societies is largely the result of the diminishing of religious influence over governments. At nearly every turn and in every country, the most important advances in freedom and equality — ending slavery, giving women the right to vote, protecting the equal rights of racial, ethnic, sexual and, yes, religious minorities — have required overcoming the opposition of the dominant religious creeds and dogmas.

If only we had a secular pope who would help us fight the militant theocracy of Sayeeda Warsi.




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

What could possibly go wrong?

Feb 17th, 2012 9:14 am | By

Just the people we want informing Congress about contraception:


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

What does contraception have to do with women?!

Feb 16th, 2012 5:46 pm | By

In the US Congress today a hearing on birth control and religion, chaired by a Republican, included on the panel a Catholic bishop, a rabbi, a minister, and two male academics, but no women.

No women.

No women on a Congressional panel discussing birth control.

No women.

No women on a panel discussing birth control. For the government.

Three clerics, and no women.

They have more in common with the Taliban than they have with me.

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

Underpants bomber is proud to kill in the name of god

Feb 16th, 2012 5:28 pm | By

There were almost 300 people on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

In [a] statement to the BBC, the family of Abdulmutallab said they were “grateful to God that the unfortunate incident of that date did not result in any injury or death”.

Grateful to “God”? But without “God,” the incident wouldn’t have happened in the first place.  Abdulmutallab thought he was doing a good deed for “God.” It’s ridiculous to thank “God” for Abdulmutallab’s failure to make the bomb go off.

A video from the FBI showing the power of the explosive material found in Abdulmutallab’s underwear was also shown at the hearing. As the video played Abdulmutallab twice said loudly “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “God is great”.

Abdulmutallab himself made a brief statement. During the short trial, he had fired his lawyer and attempted to represent himself.

“Mujahideen are proud to kill in the name of God,” he said in court. “And that is exactly what God told us to do in the Koran… Today is a day of victory.”

See? Piety. Might as well thank god for that.

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

They kept beating us with sticks

Feb 16th, 2012 4:54 pm | By

More religious bullying. (Of a much worse variety. Of a nightmarish variety. That’s how it is – we lurch from the bad to the horrendous, day by day and hour by hour. But the horrendous doesn’t make the bad something we should shrug off. We have to pay attention to all of it.)

Shakila, age 8, was grabbed by a bunch of men with AK-47s, and held for a year.

…the taking of girls as payment for misdeeds committed by their elders still appears to be flourishing. Shakila, because one of her uncles had run away with the wife of a district strongman, was taken and held for about a year. It was the district leader, furious at the dishonor that had been done to him, who sent his men to abduct her.

A man did something so another man sent a bunch of men to do a horrible thing to a girl of 8. Makes sense.

“We did not know what was happening,” said Shakila, now about 10, who spoke softly as she repeated over and over her memory of being dragged from her family home. “They put us in a dark room with stone walls; it was dirty and they kept beating us with sticks and saying, ‘Your uncle ran away with our wife and dishonored us, and we will beat you in retaliation.’”

Despite being denounced by the United Nations as a “harmful traditional practice,” baad is pervasive in rural southern and eastern Afghanistan, areas that are heavily Pashtun, according to human rights workers, women’s advocates and aid experts. Baad involves giving away a young woman, often a child, into slavery and forced marriage. It is largely hidden because the girls are given to compensate for “shameful” crimes like murder and adultery and acts forbidden by custom, like elopement, say elders and women’s rights advocates.

And then after that cheerful beginning it gets a bit grim.

Views of baad differ sharply between men and women, with more men seeing it as a way of preserving families and stopping blood feuds, and women seeing it in terms of the suffering of the young girl asked to pay for another’s wrongs.

“Giving baad has good and bad aspects,” said Fraidoon Mohmand, a member of Parliament from Nangahar Province, who has led a number of jirgas. “The bad aspect is that you punish an innocent human for someone else’s wrongdoings, and the good aspect is that you rescue two families, two clans, from more bloodshed, death and misery.”

He also said he believed that a woman given in baad suffered only briefly.

“When you give a girl in baad, they are beaten maybe, maybe she will be in trouble for a year or two, but when she brings one or two babies into the world, everything will be forgotten and she will live as a normal member of the family,” he said.

Not so, said the Afghan women interviewed, especially if she is unlucky enough to give birth to a girl.

“The woman given to a family in baad will always be the miserable one,” said Nasima Shafiqzada, who is in charge of women’s affairs for Kunar Province. “She has to work a lot. She will be beaten. She has to listen to lots of bad language from the other females in the family.”

Shakila’s experience was horrible. Read on.

H/t Sunny

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

In Cranston right now

Feb 16th, 2012 4:35 pm | By

JT has a post live-blogging (via informants) the Cranston school committee meeting to discuss whether to appeal the judge’s ruling on the goddy banner. It features a lot of grown-ups bullying a teenage girl for upholding the law.

WPRO, the Cranston radio station that has been nothing but horrible to Jessica makes the following tweet.

RT @WPRO_newsroom: Change of location for Jessica Ahlquist at #prayerbanner meeting tonight: she’s in the back instead of front row, crouching way down #WPRO

These are adults, and they’re acting like they’ve achieved some form of noble triumph when a young girl who has endured an environment of threats and is probably worried for her safety is trying to stay out of the line of fire from a crowd that doubtlessly contains some of the people who have threatened her.

Fucking bullies and their religion of love.

Randomfactor Someone tells me they’re now passive-aggressively singing “God Bless America”.  I can only assume the song will be retired as false advertising if the board decides not to appeal.

Large segment of the crowd just stood and yelled the pledge of allegiance at Jessica.

Pledge recited, “Under god” yelled obnoxiously.  One can only wonder if god is so concerned why he didn’t show up himself.

Religious bullying - it just never gets old for some people.

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

God gonna torture you so ha

Feb 16th, 2012 10:40 am | By

Update: I missed the date, which is 2009. I probably blogged about it three years ago. Possibly word for word, in which case I think I’ll take up basket-weaving.

More entitled bleating from an entitled Christian about the requirement to “respect” her religious beliefs no matter how vicious they are.

A five-year-old child at a school in Devon told a classmate she would go to hell if she didn’t believe in god. The school told the child not to do that kind of thing, and the child told her mother, and her mother pitched the usual kind of fit.

Mr Read defended the school’s treatment of the matter and said they encouraged all children to “think independently”, but would not condone one child “frightening” another.

He said: “We have 271 children in our school from a diversity of backgrounds.

“We encourage all our children to think independently and discuss their beliefs with their teachers and classmates when it is appropriate to do so.

“What we do not condone is one child frightening a six-year-old with the prospect of ‘going to hell’ if she does not believe in God.

“We conveyed to her mother, in a perfectly respectful manner, that we do not expect it to happen again.”

Sharp intake of breath in shock-horror. The school dared to tell the child’s mother that threats of hell are not wanted in the school??! How dare they!?

[Jennie] Cain, who has worked part-time at the school for two-and-a-half years, said her and her children’s beliefs had not been respected.

“My daughter said, ‘My teacher told me I couldn’t talk about Jesus’ — I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” she said.

“She said she was taken aside in the classroom and told she couldn’t say that. I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to do.”

Cain added: “I feel my beliefs are so central to who I am, are such a part of my children’s life.

“I do feel our beliefs haven’t been respected and I don’t feel I have been treated fairly.”

She does feel her beliefs haven’t been respected to the point that her children are allowed to thrust them on other children at school, no matter how frightening, squalid, bossy, depressing, and wrong they are. She feels it is not fair for her children to be told not to thrust frightening threatening “beliefs” on other children.

What if another child with a vivid imagination and a sadistic streak made up a story about a troll that lived under a nearby house and caught the occasional child and ate it, slowly, for lunch? Would it be unfair for the school to tell the child not to do that?

I say no. I don’t know what Jennie Cain would say.

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

Nick Cohen on a culture that pretends to be brave

Feb 16th, 2012 9:55 am | By

At the Rally for Free Expression.

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

Another nightmare

Feb 15th, 2012 5:36 pm | By

Another story of children whose parents think they are witches, sent to me by Leo Igwe.

Seoul (CNN) — A pastor and his wife are in custody accused of killing three of their children by starving them to ward off evil spirits, police in South Korea said Wednesday.

The couple told police the children — aged nine, seven and three — had been ill, which they believed was a sign they were invaded by evil spirits after eating too much on Lunar New Year.

They then cut the children’s hair to chase the spirits out and starved them from January 24 until February 2, only allowing them to drink water. Local media reports said the parents had beaten the children with a belt and a fly swatter numerous times.

The pastor, named only by his surname Park, and his wife, Cho, told police they tied the children’s arms and legs with stockings. All three died on February 2, the first around 2am, the second at 5am and the third at 7am…

The horror of it.

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

First order of business

Feb 15th, 2012 11:41 am | By

Whatever else we do, whatever metaphysical view gets us there, the first order of business has to be shackling women. We always have to make sure women don’t have too many rights. We have to make very damn sure they’re not as free to decide how to live their own lives as men are.

We have to carve away their genitals so that they won’t have sexual feelings.

In the rural areas of Egypt, in Upper Egypt, however there is scant respect for the law. You hear the words “tradition”, “custom”, “honour” uttered like a mantra when people justify their decision to circumcise their daughters.

The belief there is that it is the female who is sexually rampant and that her sexual desire must be arrested at a young age, before she can disgrace the family.

It is important that she loses that part of her body that awakes sexual desire. If not, she may play with herself or ask a boy to touch this part for her, not specifically a stranger, but one of her cousins for instance, and she might enjoy it,” Olla told me. “When she feels the pain of it she will be more careful about this part.”

We have to give a fertilized egg full human rights so that the woman the egg is inside of will lose many of her human rights.

Virginia lawmakers took a step on Tuesday toward trying to outlaw abortion by approving “personhood” legislation that grants individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception.

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates voted 66-32 in favor of defining the word person under state law to include unborn children “from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.”

The woman that putative “person” is occupying becomes less than a person; she becomes an incubator, with truncated rights over her own body and life.

Whatever else you do, keep those women down.

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

The non-skeptical “Skeptiko”

Feb 15th, 2012 9:55 am | By

Ah, this brings back memories – Jerry Coyne did an interview with Alex Tsakiris of “Skeptiko”- which is “Skeptiko,” please note, not “Skeptico.” There’s a difference. I didn’t know that in September 2010, which is why I accepted Tsakiris’s invitation to do an interview.

It was a complete dog’s breakfast. The guy’s an asshole. He’s not a skeptic at all, and the name is pretty obviously meant to trap people in just the way that several people – including me – have been trapped. He’s a woo-meister. He didn’t tip his hand for the first few minutes, so we had an amicable conversation for that long, but then he did, and we hit a brick wall.

He bullshitted Jerry Coyne, too.

When I first agreed to the interview, I was told we’d talk mainly about my book and about evolutionary biology.  Several readers acquainted with the show warned me that Alex was a woo-meister who was into things like parapsychology and near-death experiences. Forewarned, I emailed Alex and he verified that we would indeed talk about evolution with perhaps a bit of discussion on the side about free will. He told me I wasn’t going to be “sandbagged.” LOL!

Quite. He’ll tell you anything. He’s an asshole.

Here’s a bit of the one I did:

Alex Tsakiris: [Robert Price] was on the show a couple episodes back. A very, very smart guy, funny guy, entertaining guy. Very competent New Testament scholar and also an Atheist. But the kind of dirty little secret, if you really read, is from a historical perspective we have to accommodate the idea that these visions, these kinds of experiences, these kinds of miracles, are well attested historically. Now, they’re not well attested in the way that Christians might want to fit them in, or they’d want to take this one and leave those ones out.

But from a historical perspective, even historians who are Atheistic agree that from the normal means that we have for looking at history-analogy, and how well the accounts are corroborated by different sources–we’ve got a lot of miracles there that we have to deal with. And this idea of…

Ophelia Benson: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Historians agree to that?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, the New Testament scholars like Bob Price and people of that ilk and I’d imagine other folks who you’d-I mean, this is really what you find from the Jesus Project if you really read what they’re saying…

But what they say is probably true is that these different people had an encounter with someone who is dead. In this case, it was Jesus. They had some kind of experience that they thought was very real, with someone who died. So that has to be incorporated in and yet it’s kind of glossed over depending on which side. Glossed over if you’re of that ilk and you want to see things that way.

Ophelia Benson: Yes, it doesn’t seem glossed over to me. It’s more a matter of saying that having an experience that you think is X is not the same thing as actually having the experience of X.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, maybe.

Ophelia Benson: But the people who saw Jesus could have been hallucinating it. Plus, the record differs in different accounts. None of them are historical accounts as properly-as normally understood.

Alex Tsakiris: Now, there’s a couple different things to tease out there. Yeah, there’s differences. Yeah, there’s contradictions. But this is a pretty well-for that much of ancient history, we have pretty good records. We have pretty good testimony on the different accounts in terms of what historians would normally piece together. And…

Ophelia Benson: I’m not sure that’s right. The way I understand it is that Mark is the earliest one and Mark doesn’t say anything about a vision. And the other stuff came after that and was a development of it. So it was basically confabulation. It was storytelling.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, I’m going to cut it off again here because on this show we haven’t talked too much about this New Testament scholarship stuff and it can get really geeky and really detailed.

So he simply edited out part of the interview. He edited out quite a lot of it, in fact, and substituted his own after-the-fact commentary.

The guy’s an asshole.

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

Less mealy-mouthed about their beliefs

Feb 15th, 2012 7:28 am | By

Now I’ve seen everything – now that I’ve seen an editorial in the Telegraph saying how swell Islam is compared to those other timid religions that won’t stand up for themselves.

It’s another Warsi-flatter, saying how right she is to order everyone to be intrusively religious and to go urge the pope to be more intrusively religious along with her.

It is unsurprising that it has taken a Muslim member of the Cabinet to speak out clearly and forcefully on the importance of faith in the life of the nation; followers of Islam tend to be less mealy-mouthed about their beliefs than many Christians.

Why yes, yes they do. Some are so much less mealy-mouthed that they threaten cartoonists and novelists with death for failing to submit to their god and their prophet. Some actually try to do the killing themselves. Some actually succeed. Countries governed by “followers of Islam” are all nasty authoritarian places at best, vicious theocracies at worst. Is that really what the Telegraph is admiring and promoting?

 …politically correct fawning by public bodies over the sensitivities of other faiths has left many Christians feeling inhibited about asserting and celebrating their own beliefs. It has also left many wondering exactly when it was that Britain stopped being a Christian country. Combine that with the aggressive intolerance of the militant secularists, and it is little wonder that the Church of England frequently feels beleaguered.

Diddums. It “feels beleaguered” while it has bishops in the House of Lords and quite a lot of air time on the BBC. It doesn’t get to shove people off the sidewalk the way it used to, but it has hardly lost all of its very real power.

Last week, we had the perfect illustration of this baleful process, when the National Secular Society succeeded in a High Court attempt to prevent Bideford Town Council doing something it had done for centuries – holding a short prayer service at the start of its meetings. The atheist former councillor who pressed the case argued that the council had no right to “impose” its religious views on him, conveniently ignoring the fact that no one had forced him to attend the prayers, and failing totally to see that it was he who was seeking to impose his views on others, not the other way round.

That atheist former councillor is “an evil little thing,” isn’t he. Theocracy speaks the same language everywhere. No one “forced” him to attend the prayers but it’s awkward and inconvenient to opt out. That’s how majoritarian bullying works. The Telegraph’s approval of majoritarian bullying is a squalid spectacle.

Such instincts, Baroness Warsi notes, are “deeply intolerant”, and have historically been the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. Her warning that the removal of faith from the public sphere is dangerous is, therefore, both timely and right, and all credit to her for sounding it. It is high time that many of our religious leaders were similarly assertive, and stopped seeming so apologetic about their faith.

Totalitarian regimes is it? You mean like Franco’s Spain? Like Saudi Arabia? Like Iran? For that matter, like Elizabethan Britain?

Does the Telegraph really want that? If it doesn’t, what the hell is it playing at?


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