Stereotype threat

Oct 19th, 2011 5:03 pm | By

Reading Delusions of Gender. Great stuff.

On p 4 Cordelia Fine (hey I just realized we have something in common) tells us about implicit associations. We can’t avoid stereotypes just by not believing in them – they stick anyway, down below where we’re not aware of them and can’t root them out.

The principle behind learning in associative memory is simple: as its name suggests, what is picked up are associations in the environment. Place a woman behind almost every vacuum cleaner being pushed around a carpet and, by Jove, associative memory will pick up the pattern…Unlike explicitly held knowledge, where you can be reflective and picky about what you believe, associative memory seems to be fairly indiscriminate in what it takes on board. [p 5]

This is horrendously depressing.

In chapter 3 she talks about stereotypes and stereotype threat. I knew about this – remember the doll study? Remember Thurgood Marshall and the “colored doll”? I did a post about it shortly after Obama’s inauguration. Researchers had found an Obama effect. You know about this: remind people that they’re members of a group stereotyped as stupid or bad at math or bad at empathy, and then test them, and they will live up to the stereotype. Do something with an opposite effect and they will live up to that. It’s horribly easy to get the bad effect.

Stereotype threat effects have been seen in women who: record their sex at the beginning of a quantitative test (which is standard practice for many tests); are in the minority as they take the test; have just watched women acting in air-headed ways in commercials, or have instructors or peers who hold – consciously or otherwise – sexist attitudes. [pp 31-2]

Have just watched women acting in air-headed ways in commercials. Think about that. Think about tv and movies. One, women are mostly not there at all, and two, the women who are there are mostly acting in air-headed ways. Stereotype threat is everywhere. And it’s no good thinking well you can just resist it, because resisting it itself is bad for performance – it takes up cognitive space that can’t be used for better things. Frankly this makes me even more pissed off than I already was at all the smug gits who put so much energy into talking sexist shit on the intertubes. They’re doing real damage. It’s not just a matter of bruised fee-fees, it’s a matter of creating real obstacles.

Think about it.

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

The good old days on the Titanic

Oct 19th, 2011 4:25 pm | By

Libby Anne has another post on the absurdity of Vision Forum. Here’s the thing: they have a crush on the Titanic. The Titanic – you know, the big new ship that sank ten minutes after it left the dock. It’s like having a crush on a plane crash, or a traffic jam. Transportation Love.

Well but you see what you’re not realizing is that the Titanic was totes Christian. Why? Because it was women and children first. Yes it was, my darling. So much so was it that the captain took the precaution of posing for pictures beaming down on sparkling little bourgeois children in the few hours before the ship sank, so that people afterwards would be able to know how Christian it all was, and rejoice.

See? Wasn’t it nice of him to pose that way before getting busy running the ship into the iceberg? Or actually I guess that’s after the ship hit the iceberg (obviously that’s the friendly iceberg itself over there in the background, hanging around sympathetically in case it can help) – he took time from his busy schedule to smile Christianly at little Miss Purity because he was a Man and a Christian so she and her doll were going to live while he was in for a cold dunking.

Now you might think he would actually be too busy to take the time to gaze pityingly at some little girl from Ohio and put her lifejacket on, but that’s just because you’re not Christian. Oh it’s all so beautiful and Christian and touching…how I wish I could have been there too, don’t you?

Not if you were in steerage you don’t. As usual, Libby supplies a picture from Underneath, too.


The whole thing is hilarious, except that this guy has a real effect on a lot of people’s lives. They take him seriously.

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

Corporal punishment is legal in religious settings

Oct 18th, 2011 3:45 pm | By

And speaking of beating up on children -

Britain’s madrassas have faced more than 400 allegations of physical abuse in the past three years, a BBC investigation has discovered.

But only a tiny number have led to successful prosecutions.

Some local authorities said community pressure had led families to withdraw

In one physical abuse case in Lambeth, two members of staff at a mosque
allegedly attacked children with pencils and a phone cable – but the victims
later refused to take the case further.

Mustn’t annoy the imam, must we.

Corporal punishment is legal in religious settings, so long as it does not
exceed “reasonable chastisement”.

What does that mean?  Corporal punishment is legal in religious settings in particular? Exclusively? At any rate, it’s ridiculous – corporal punishment shouldn’t be legal anywhere. It’s a mistake to trust people to know what’s “reasonable chastisement” and what isn’t.


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

The war dead

Oct 18th, 2011 3:09 pm | By

Dismal, tragic, shameful, embarrassing…but not at all surprising. The US has the worst rate of child death through violence of any industrialized country, by far. What a disgusting statistic.

Model of a child from a tv ad aimed at reducing abuse

Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That last statistic gave me a jolt, I can tell you. The soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big deal, as they should be. The four times as many children killed by family members are not.

The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year.
Why is that?

Well, frankly, it’s because we do so many things the wrong way.

Part of the answer is that teen pregnancy, high-school dropout, violent crime,
imprisonment, and poverty – factors associated with abuse and neglect – are
generally much higher in the US.

Further, other rich nations have social policies that provide child care,
universal health insurance, pre-school, parental leave and visiting nurses to
virtually all in need.

So nothing will change then.

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

God will cure you

Oct 18th, 2011 10:51 am | By

Another big win for religion.

At least three people in London with HIV have died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing
number of London churches have been telling people the power of prayer will
“cure” their infections.

“This is happening through a number of churches. We’re hearing about more
cases of this,” AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba said.

AHPN said it believed the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), which has UK headquarters in Southwark, south London, may be one of those involved in such practices.

The church is headed by Pastor T B Joshua, Nigeria’s third richest clergyman,
according to a recent Forbes richlist.

Ohhhhhh those Nigerian clergy…what a lot of damage they do. Helen Ukpabio and now this guy.

When approached by BBC London, leaders of the church described themselves as Evangelical Christian pastors.

The church’s website, which was set up in Lagos, Nigeria, shows photos of
people the church claims have been “cured” of HIV through prayer.

In one example, the church’s website claims: “Mrs Badmus proudly displays her two different medical records confirming she is 100% free from HIV-Aids
following the prayer of Pastor T B Joshua.”

“HIV-Aids healing” is listed on the church’s website among “miracles” it says
it can perform.

“Cancer healing” and “baby miracles” are also advertised.

Compassion is at the heart of every great religion.

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


Oct 17th, 2011 5:17 pm | By

On the other hand, I did like something Julian said in part 3 of Heathen’s Progress, on the putative truce between religion and science.

First he cites the bromide, science asks “how” questions, religion asks “why” ones.

It sounds like a clear enough distinction, but maintaining it proves to be very difficult indeed. Many “why” questions are really “how” questions in disguise. For instance, if you ask: “Why does water boil at 100C?” what you are really asking is: “What are the processes that explain it has this boiling point?” – which is a question of how.

Critically, however, scientific “why” questions do not imply any agency – deliberate action – and hence no intention. We can ask why the dinosaurs died out, why smoking causes cancer and so on without implying any intentions. In the theistic context, however, “why” is usually what I call “agency-why”: it’s an explanation involving causation with intention.

So not only do the hows and whys get mixed up, religion can end up smuggling in a non-scientific agency-why where it doesn’t belong.

This means that if someone asks why things are as they are, what their meaning and purpose is, and puts God in the answer, they are almost inevitably going to make an at least implicit claim about the how: God has set things up in some way, or intervened in some way, to make sure that purpose is achieved or meaning realised. The neat division between scientific “how” and religious “why” questions therefore turns out to be unsustainable.

That’s very useful.

It’s funny, too, that people do that. The idea is that a mega-meta-person is a more satisfying answer than a mere process or brute fact. But why is it? Given that you can ask “why” about the mega-meta-person, you would think that answer would be satisfying only for a few seconds, or a few minutes for the indolent. I don’t really get why “it just did” or “no one knows yet, but people are looking” is less satisfying than “a mega-meta-person did it.” Not to mention that the latter is a great deal less plausible than the former

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

The grievances of people with ordinary jobs

Oct 17th, 2011 4:40 pm | By

Paul Berman says calm down, Occupy Wall Street isn’t that bad.

Occupy Wall Street is a festival. It is declaiming truth, and this is good. Wall Street has led the country and the world over a cliff. Somebody needs to say so. The damnable conga-drummers in the downtown streets have appointed themselves to say so. The drumming is not too articulate, but the job of festivals is not to be articulate. (It is the job of magazines to be articulate.)

Anyway, the demonstrations, in their anarchist spirit, leave room for other people, more sensible or more sophisticated or, at least, more elderly, to put the protests in a properly institutional form. Last week I marched with the trade unions in support of Occupy Wall Street. The unions may not always be right, but they were not in fantasy’s grip. They were expressing the grievances of people with ordinary jobs, which is, in fact, the right thing to do. My particular delegation was the Jewish Labor Committee. The New Republic editorial worries about a danger to liberalism. The Jewish Labor Committee poses not the slightest danger to liberalism. On the contrary!

Solidarity forever.

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

Alert us to the issue

Oct 17th, 2011 2:31 pm | By

Salty Current did a post the other day about a page at SourceWatch that had come to be a site of woo-promotion and HIV-AIDS denialism. Next day Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/SourceWatch, left a note saying the post was helpful and more help is welcome.

Without the Google alert, I might not have discovered your criticism of one of
the tens of thousands of articles on the site. If you have future suggestions
for correction or improvement, please help us in updating the article at issue
or alert us to the issue. We are a small ngo with a small staff of editors along
with some who volunteer on SourceWatch.

So there you go – a chance to do some crowd-sourcing work.

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

A more secular approach to education

Oct 17th, 2011 10:32 am | By

One of the UK’s oldest public schools has demolished its chapel and replaced it with new science classrooms.

Oh my god somebody call the cops!

The decision has upset the Church of England and brought complaints that the   institution is turning its back on its Christian heritage in favour of a more secular approach to education.

Yes, and? A secular approach to education is bad or wrong why, exactly?

We’re always being told how liberal and mild and lukewarm and basically harmless the C of E is. But what’s mild and harmless about thinking theocratic education is better than secular education? What’s mild and harmless about protesting secular education?

Churches don’t do education. Religion doesn’t do education. Churches and religion do religion, which is different from education. Education is what schools do. It is fundamentally secular – it is about the world, and exploring and learning about the world. Like newspapers, like forensics, like medicine, like so many human institutions, it is supposed to get things right. It is supposed to teach what is true, not what is false. Churches and religions are not. That is the fundamental radical difference between them. A secular approach to education is the only legitimate approach there is. A god-inflected approach is not education properly understood.

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

A tedious impasse

Oct 16th, 2011 4:47 pm | By

I see Julian has a new series at Comment is Free, Heathen’s Progress. (I saw it the other day via a post of Eric’s.) It’s about telling believers, atheists and agnostics how they’re all doing it wrong, and how to do it right.

In a debate that has been full of controversy and rancour, there is one assertion that surely most can agree with without dispute: the God wars have reached a tedious impasse, with all sides resorting to repetition of the same old arguments, which are met with familiar, unsatisfactory responses. This is a stalemate, with the emphasis firmly on “stale”.

Oh dear, I’m so bloody-minded. The first sentence of a long series, and one which says surely most can agree on just this one thing without dispute…and I disagree. Wouldn’t you know it.

I don’t disagree that that describes part of what’s happening, but I disagree that it describes what’s happening, period. Yes there’s a lot of repetition; no that’s not all there is. So, no, I don’t agree that “the God wars have reached a tedious impasse.” I think things are happening, not to say changing. I think “the same old arguments” have become much more widely known to far more people, and I think that by itself makes a difference. I think it’s way way way too soon to come over all jaded and bored and declare that that’s all there is to it. I don’t think it is a stalemate, not least because religious apologists and pontificators can no longer have things all their own way. Now that the intertubes have come along, religious apologists and pontificators get pushback whenever they publish anything. Part of what’s happening with all this repetition of the same old arguments that Julian finds so stale is that religious commentators are becoming aware that their claims are not unanswerable. It takes time for that kind of awareness to spread and to bite. Relax; be patient; put up with the repetition.

In any case things are churning in other places too. Atheist and secularist groups are forming and growing; books are being published; blogs are starting and continuing; people are talking. It’s not just a matter of the same old arguments repeating like an endless rerun of Seinfeld.

My heart sinks whenever I am invited to talk or write about the existence of God, whether science is compatible with faith, or whether religion is the root of all evil. I struggle to say something new, knowing that this is such well-trodden ground, the earth is packed too firmly for any new light to get in. The only hope is to start digging it up.

Really. Five years or so of “the new atheism” and the ground is so well trodden that now it’s time to dig it up. I don’t think so. I think there are things to say about, for instance, the eagerness of so many people to end the conversation. I think there are things to say about the silencing tactics that have been used – some of which are not entirely absent from Julian’s piece. I think this very “oh it’s all so stale” note is one such tactic.

I do not blame the quagmire on the intransigence of any of the three sides in the debate – believers, atheists and agnostics – but on all of them. Broadly speaking, the problem is that the religious mainstream establishment maintains a Janus-faced commitment to both medieval doctrines and public pronouncements about inclusivity and moderation; agnostics and more liberal believers promote an intellectualised version of religion, which both reduces faith to a thin gruel and fails to reflect the reality of faith on the ground; while the new atheists are spiritually tone-deaf, fixated on the superstitious side of religion to the exclusion of its more interesting and valuable aspects.

One, are they, really? All of them? Are all new atheists really tone-deaf to the more interesting and valuable aspects of religion? I don’t think so. I think most of them pay some attention to those at least some of the time. Two, given what a vast army of people there are who are already doing that, would it really be so terrible if all new atheists did focus on the superstitious side of religion alone for a time? I don’t think it would. Given the row upon row of shelves devoted to hooray-for-God in the bookshops, I think a few books devoted to the opposite of that are not such a terrible (or “tone-deaf”) thing.

A plague on all their houses: all are guilty of becoming entrenched in unsustainable positions. For there to be movement, all are going to have to recognise their failings and shift somewhat. The battlelines need to be redrawn so that futile skirmishes can be avoided and the real fights can be fought. This is the first in a series of articles which together will attempt to do just this. Over the coming months, I’ll be fleshing out the charges I have made and suggesting what the right responses to them should be.

But there is movement. Even without shifting, there is movement. Even if the basic arguments are repetitive, there is still movement. I’m still busy with the battle lines drawn where they already are, and I want to fight the fights that I think are real, not the ones that Julian thinks are real. I haven’t nominated Julian to be my general, so I’m not shifting.

As a querulous member of the atheist camp, one of my aims is to end up with a richer, more constructive vision for what should follow the “new atheism”, which may well have been needed, but does not appear capable of taking us much further. To use another military analogy, the new atheism seems designed for effective invasion, but not long-term occupation.

People keep saying that. Over and over and over and over again. (Talk about stale!) It’s bollocks. The “invasion” is a long term thing, to put it mildly. We can keep doing that while other people do the “occupying.” The new atheists don’t have to stop what they’re doing and do something else, because what the new atheists are doing isn’t finished yet. We get that lots and lots of other atheists really hate it and wish it would shut up, but that’s just too bad. If other atheists want to occupy, by all means occupy, but don’t try to make us join you. You do what you want to do, and we’ll do what we want to do, and that will be fine. Telling us what to do, on the other hand, not so much.

One key characteristic of this new, new atheism must be more modesty. Although it was not intended to be a boast, advocacy of the noun “bright” to describe atheists illustrates how they have too often come over as smug and over-confident.

Sigh. Yes, no doubt, but almost no new atheists do advocate the use of “bright” so that’s a boring (and stale!) strawman…and silencing tactic. And speaking of smug, and more modesty – what is all this “must” talk? Who is Julian to tell new atheists what we “must” do or be? I might just as well try to tell the new heathens (if that’s their title) what they “must” do. I’m not smug and over-confident enough for that.

Not a great start for the campaign, I think. I expect the later, substantive articles are better. I haven’t read them yet…



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

Men couldn’t hear the girl’s screams

Oct 16th, 2011 12:27 pm | By

One small bit of good news, for a change.

The movement to end genital cutting is spreading in Senegal at a quickening pace through the very ties of family and ethnicity that used to entrench it. And a practice once seen as an immutable part of a girl’s life in many ethnic groups and African nations is ebbing, though rarely at the pace or with the organized drive found in Senegal.

But good news of that kind is of course always too late for some…for many.

Bassi Boiro, the elderly woman who was Sare Harouna’s so-called cutter, said she always performed the rite before dawn under the spreading arms of a sacred tree, away from the settlement.

“Men couldn’t hear the girl’s screams,” she explained. “They are not part of this.”

Four women would hold down the arms and legs of each girl, usually ages 5 to 7. For years, Mrs. Boiro said, she used a knife handed down through generations of cutters in her family until it became “too dull to even cut okra.” She then switched to razor blades.

But Mrs. Boiro says she has now accepted Sare Harouna’s decision to end the practice and speaks about the harm caused by her life’s work. “I didn’t realize it was my doing,” she said.

Muusaa Jallo, the village imam, was convinced of the need to stop the practice and has spread the word in many other villages. As his toddler impishly poked her finger through a hole in his sock, he placed his hand gently on her head and said, “I have already decided this one will not be cut.”

His 8-year-old, Alimata, sat solemnly to the side, her eyes downcast.

“I will abandon it like my parents,” she said, almost inaudibly. “I won’t do it to my daughters. It’s not good to do that, and they did it to me.”

8 is very young to know that it’s too late for you.

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


Oct 15th, 2011 4:16 pm | By

I got a package in the mail today and it turned out to be two copies of Does God Hate Women translated into Polish. Yip!

Dlaczego Bóg nienawidzi kobiet?


Dlaczego Bóg nienawidzi kobiet?  - Benson Ophelia, Stangroom Jeremy

Someone has read it.

This feminist and human rights activist likes it.

Greetings, Poland.

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

The good of the faith community takes priority

Oct 15th, 2011 3:46 pm | By

Valerie Tarico interviewed Janet Heimlich last May, on the subject of Heimlich’s new book on religious child maltreatment.

Tarico: Some people would say that religion prevents child abuse – that a supportive spiritual community or a personal relationship with a higher power, or a strong moral core is the antidote to maltreatment.
Heimlich: As I state in the book, families generally benefit from participating in religious activities. Still, we are only beginning to understand how children are harmed in certain religious communities.  In my research, I found that, in these problematic cultures, the good of the faith community as a whole takes priority over members’ individual needs, and this is particularly true with how those communities view children.

And women.

Tarico: Are some kinds of religious communities more prone to maltreatment than others? What are the patterns?
Heimlich: In writing Breaking Their Will, I felt it was imperative not to simply expose problems but answer the question: What makes religious experiences healthy and unhealthy for children? I came to the conclusion that children are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect if they live in religious authoritarian cultures. There are three perfect-storm factors that identify a religious culture or community as authoritarian: one, the culture has a strict, social hierarchy. Two, the culture is fearful. And three, the culture is separatist. The more intense these three factors are—the more authoritarian the culture is—the more likely children will be harmed. It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter whether the community is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim; whether people worship a deity called “God,” “Allah,” or “Jehovah”;  or whether they read from the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon. Any religious culture has the potential to subscribe, and be subjected, to authoritarian “rule.”

A very important point. We’ve been learning about how it plays out lately from Vyckie Garrison and others at No Longer Quivering and Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism and the people at Broken Daughters.

I met Tarico and Heimlich, and a lot of other great people, last night. Not an authoritarian in the bunch.

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


Oct 15th, 2011 12:51 pm | By

Jesus and Mo are too deep for the barmaid.


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

When in doubt, threaten

Oct 15th, 2011 12:44 pm | By

Definitely; the thing to do when you disagree with a woman or girl is to threaten violence. Absolutely. It’s only weak feeble worthless people – like women and girls - who hesitate to do that.

A high school girl objects to a prayer on a wall of her school; Fox News reports; the threats come in.

I say just take her out to the parking lot, put on some gloves so as not to leave any marks, and just  b e a t  her selfish little  a s s  for her. If she tells on you,  b e a t  her  a s s  again. What have you got to lose? I can guarantee that throwing bibles at her isn’t going to help.


She should be removed…PERMANENTLY…Nothing here but a wannabe future aclu   w  h   o   r    e….

Did they forget the ever-popular “If I was a girl, I’d kick her in the cunt. Cunt.”?

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

Duct tape and baling wire

Oct 14th, 2011 3:27 pm | By

An interview with Valerie Tarico.

How and why she left evangelicalism:

I would say that from adolescence on I struggled to fend off moral and rational contradictions in my faith, evolving  more and more idiosyncratic ways of holding the pieces together.  In particular, I couldn’t understand how I was going to be blissfully, perfectly happy - indifferent to the fact that other people were experiencing eternal anguish.

Bingo. That’s something that always troubles me (to put it as mildly as possible) about non-questioning evangelicals - that indifference to the fact that other people are experiencing eternal anguish. It’s a horrible, unspeakable thought, yet some people are apparently perfectly fine with it.

The final straw came while I was completing a doctoral internship at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  My job was to provide psychological consultation to kids and families on the medical units.  I was working with kids who were dying of cancer or enduring horrible, frightening treatments in order to survive it.  As I listened to the explanations offered by people who believed in an all powerful, loving, perfectly good interventionist God, it seemed to me these “justifications” were comforting, but they didn’t make things just.  I re-read The Problem of Pain, and the resident rabbi offered Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.  Both rang hollow.  Finally I said to God, “I’m not making excuses for you anymore.” And suddenly it felt like I had been holding my God together for so long with duct tape and bailing wire that all I had left was tape and wire.  So I walked away.

She took the problem seriously, as so many people fail to do.

Morality doesn’t come from religion.  Healthy human children come into the world primed to become moral members of society, just like they come into the world primed to acquire language. Moral emotions like empathy, shame, guilt and disgust begin to emerge during the toddler years regardless of a child’s cultural or religious context. A toddler may pat an injured peer or offer a grubby toy to an adult who is distressed. A preschooler may hide behind a couch to cover a transgression. As a child’s brain develops, moral emotions are joined by moral reasoning. By age five or six, kids can argue long and loud about fairness.

Research is just starting to show how our moral emotions and reasoning are guided by powerful moral instincts.

Cf Patricia Churchland’s Braintrust – see here and here and here.

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

Meanwhile, in Calabar

Oct 14th, 2011 1:52 pm | By

The Nigerian columnist and public intellectual Edwin Madunagu has written a piece about Leo Igwe and the Nigerian Humanist Movement.

I first  met Leo Igwe a couple of years ago when he came to the free library I oversee in Calabar to do some research.  From the type of books he consulted in the library and the books and papers he had with him, I guessed he was interested in philosophy, sociology and human rights.  Later, I learnt from him that he was working for a higher degree or diploma at the University of Calabar.  I also learnt that, simultaneously, he was active in a human rights organization called the Nigerian Humanist Movement…

…when Leo Igwe sought audience with me his request was promptly granted.  He told me he was organizing a number of seminars on child abuse in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states as well as a national conference on human rights.  I have forgotten the theme of the conference, but I think it was to take place in Ibadan.

I could not personally attend Leo Igwe’s events, but I encouraged the young persons around me to attend and participate actively.  Our interest in the seminars was strong on account of its specific subject, namely: rescuing, and defending the rights of, children accused of “witchcraft”.  Unrescued or undefended, these named “child witches” faced gruesome death or serious permanent disfigurement  carried out, of course, criminally or extra-judicially.  The victims of the anti-witchcraft “crusades” were mainly children from poor families and the campaigners were usually fundamentalist church groups, aided and abetted by the victims’ parents and older family members who, in almost all the cases, initially identified the “child witches” and then  invited churches to “deliver” their “evil” children.

The seminars were invariably subject to attack, and Leo was assaulted every time.

Edwin Madunagu seems to be my kind of guy.

In addition to the public library, I ran a programme aimed at developing anti-sexist, anti-patriarchal and critical consciousness in adolescent boys.  As we all should know, the prime victims of patriarchy or patriarchal system are women and children (of both sexes). Other victims include strangers, the poor, the “outcasts” and the minorities (ethnic and religious).  You will therefore appreciate why the adolescent participants in our conscientisation programme were interested in Igwe’s pro-child seminar and why I encouraged them to attend and participate actively.

Meanwhile, officials in Nigeria are throwing up stupid obstacles to keep the Nigerian Humanist Movement from registering as a corporation. Madunagu is trying to help.

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

Did a wolf howl?

Oct 14th, 2011 1:20 pm | By

What’s going on, has ERV blown a new whistle or what? Suddenly Teh Menz are popping up on an old thread to display their vocabularies.

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

Fallows on anti-Mormon “bigotry”

Oct 13th, 2011 5:42 pm | By

James Fallows is irritating in a different way from Andrew Sullivan. He’s reliably…middle. Safe; predictable; good at thinking what Everyone thinks.

Sometimes what Everyone thinks is just wrong. Fallows as Everyone thinks anti-Mormonism is simply another bigotry, like racism.


I do understand the political handicapping aspect of stories about the “Mormon angle.” It’s like asking three years ago whether America was “ready” for a black president. Or whether we’re “ready” for a Hispanic, female, Jewish, Asian, Muslim, atheist, gay, unmarried, overweight, etc President.

Not quite. Some of those items are based on ideas or beliefs, while others aren’t. It’s not sensible to treat them all as the same kind of thing for this purpose.

To be against Mitt Romney (or Jon Huntsman or Harry Reid or Orrin Hatch) because of his religion is just plain bigotry. Exactly as it would have been to oppose Barack Obama because of his race or Joe Lieberman because of his faith or Hillary Clinton or Michele Bachmann because of their gender or Mario Rubio or Nikki Haley because of their ethnicity.

No, no, no, no, no. Not “exactly as” - differently from. Religion is not the same kind of thing as race or gender or ethnicity (it is however the same kind of thing as “faith” – does he really think Lieberman has a “faith” as opposed to a “religion”?).

It’s very very simple. Race and gender aren’t systems of ideas; religions are. It really is necessary to know what candidates think and believe, because what they think and believe will (obviously) influence what they do in office, even if all they think and believe is “I will do whatever it takes to stay in office.” It really is necessary to know, for instance, whether or not a given candidate can separate her religion from her work. Some people can, but it’s no good just assuming that everyone can. It’s also no good just assuming that Mormon beliefs couldn’t possibly inspire or motivate any whacked actions in office. “Mormon” isn’t just a label or an identity and we can’t treat it as such. Imagine if a Dominionist were a candidate for president – we would really have to discuss that!

 I do understand that voters assess a whole suite of traits, including race and gender and class background and religion and family status, in deciding whether or not they are comfortable with a candidate.

See what I mean about Fallows? That’s so…what is it, it’s so normal and so clueless. He’s not a clueless guy but he has this instinct for the wrong-by-banality. It’s not about being “comfortable” with a candidate, it’s about doing our best to get a sense of what the candidate will do in the job.

But for people to come out and say that they won’t back a candidate because he’s Mormon and therefore a “cult” member is no better than saying “I’d never trust a Jew” or “a black could never do the job” or “women should stay in their place” or “Latinos? Let ‘em go back home.”

Not the same thing. Mormon beliefs and political beliefs are the same kind of thing; being black and political beliefs are not.

 I disagree with most of the LDS church’s political stances, and I hated the role it played in the California Prop 8 struggle last year. But to be against candidates because of their religion? That should be seen as bigot talk — yes, even when applied to Mormons.

So there he just comes right out and says it (yet apparently still doesn’t realize he’s said it). “I disagree with the candidate’s politics, but to be against candidates because of their politics? That’s bigot talk.”

Really? So does this also apply to libertarians, socialists, communists, anarchists, centrists, reactionaries, fascists? You disagree with their politics but to be against candidates because of their politics is bigotry?

It’s nuts.

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


Oct 13th, 2011 4:23 pm | By

Three long-term holds at the library all just turned up at once (long-term as in there are a lot of people on the list ahead of you).

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.

Rubs hands with glee.

(I know, very horse-and-buggy. But I still like books.)

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