Cleanliness is next to…what was it again?

Mar 19th, 2012 10:59 am | By

My friend EllenBeth Wachs and other Florida atheists have been teasing the Polk Under Prayer crowd.

County Road 98 in Polk County, Fla., was scrubbed today by a group of atheists who are protesting the “Polk Under Prayer” campaign, supporters of which poured olive oil on the road last year in an anointment ceremony.

“Mainly we want this to be a safe haven for folks who want to raise their families,” explained Polk Under Prayer organizer, Dr. Richard Geringswald, according to ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa. “Asking God’s protection from ne’er do wells and evil doers.”

Ellen Beth Wachs, the president of Humanists of Florida Association and Atheists of Florida, said that she feels unwelcome as an atheist in the county.

Not surprisingly, when the PUP crowd includes most local government and law enforcement officials.

Last week, Polk Under Prayer campaign members buried bricks that were engraved with Psalm 37:9-11 beside the 12 major roadways leading into the county, praying for criminals to become Christian or be incarcerated, according to WFTV.

Scott Wilder, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said this claim was so ridiculous he’d rather not comment.

Oh it’s ridiculous all right…

Update: Much more from an actual participant, including a press release:


This Saturday, atheists are gathering on the Polk County line. The atheists will perform a counter-ritual in opposition to a ritual performed previously by the Polk Under Prayer campaign. In early 2010, Polk Under Prayer (also called “PUP”) – a group of Christian religious and political leaders in Polk County – ritually anointed all roads entering Polk County with a strip of oil.

According to Pastor Frank Smith of Frank Smith Ministries in Winter Haven, the oil ritual was intended to bring those in Polk County to a “full knowledge of Jesus Christ” and to ask “God to have angels inspect every vehicle that travels into or out of this county” and “if they will not submit to God’s way of living, then the prayer is to have them incarcerated or removed from the county.”

Atheist and Mark Palmer, Executive Director of the Humanists of Florida Association, said, “To spread oil on the roads of Polk County and pray for the incarceration of all non-Christians is dangerous, bigoted, and un-American.” Secular leaders from the Humanists of Florida Association, the Atheists of Florida, the Tallahassee Atheists, the Freethinkers FSU, and more will gather at State Road 35 on the north border of Polk County. There they will anoint the road with pure water, because as Palmer said wryly, “oil and water don’t mix.” Palmer called the ritual a “symbolic gesture with two goals. The first is to welcome all people, regardless of their beliefs, to travel in and through Polk County, as is their legal right. And the second is to make Floridians aware of what religiously motivated political machines are doing in some rural counties. PUP is not just some fringe group of religious zealots, but is the major political force in Polk County.”

On March 1, 2011, PUP held an event at which Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, Polk County Schools superintendent Sherrie Nickell, and Polk County  Grady Judd were the guests of honor. PUP Organizer, Richard Geringswald declared that these three “are coming on board with enthusiasm. Each representative touches three major factors in our county: Government, Education and Law Enforcement.” Below is pictured a billboard whereon these leaders endorse PUP with their names and their government offices.

Two days after this March 1st event, Sheriff Grady Judd arranged for the arrest and incarceration of EllenBeth Wachs, an atheist activist, after she made public records requests investigating Judd’s allegedly illegal transfers of county property to local churches. (Wachs now serves as President of the Humanists of Florida Association.)

This Saturday, Florida’s secular leaders intend to “condemn the bigoted actions of PUP and call on the good citizens of Polk County and its government leaders to remember that they are elected to support and represent all citizens of Polk county, not just the Christians.” Palmer continued, “We are Americans. We are Floridians. We must oppose religious favoritism and remember that we stand for liberty and justice for all.”

Well done, Florida atheists.

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

Theocrats spy an opening

Mar 18th, 2012 5:52 pm | By

Who do they think they are, the theocrats? Who do they think made them boss?

At least 200 Anglican primaries and secondaries could be established within the next five years as part of a major expansion plan outlined by the Church.

A report – to be published later this week – will also recommend rebranding existing Anglican schools to “reinvigorate” them in the face of competition from new academies and free schools.

So these will all be state schools, taxpayer-funded schools, run for the benefit of churches and their priests. Why?

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, chairman of the Church’s board of education, said major reform was needed to tackle “the level of   religious illiteracy in our society”.

He also said the changes – to be formally outlined in a report released on   Friday – would allow faith leaders to confront the growing influence of secularism.

But why should they be confronting the influence of secularism at all? Especially at taxpayer expense? Secularism doesn’t mean the bulldozing of churches, it means No Theocracy Thank You.

Bishop Pritchard said: “The whole national context is one in which secularist debates, whether it be on equality, gay marriage, employment in schools, a whole range of things, are bringing up the issues of secularist versus [religious] approaches to society’s life.”

Yes it does, and why should the Anglican church be helped to push its approach to society’s life by indoctrinating children at taxpayer expense?

Currently, the CofE runs 4,800 out of 23,000 state schools in England.

But the Church is keen to expand its influence on the back of the academies and free schools programme, which takes schools out of direct local authority control and places them in the hands of charities, entrepreneurs and faith groups.

Grab grab grab.


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

Reducing the influence of religion in the world

Mar 18th, 2012 4:54 pm | By

Victor Stenger’s talk on the panel at Moving Secularism Forward is at the Huffington Post, and I think it’s clear that he doesn’t think religious belief should be “eradicated” by sword and fire, but rather that it should be undermined and diminished over time by better ways of getting at the truth.

Scientists have to help the rest of the secular community to work toward reducing the influence of religion to the point where it has negligible effect on society. I don’t believe this is impossible. Astrology and the reading of sheep entrails are no longer used to decide on courses of events, such as going to war. Why can’t we expect the same for the imagined dialogues with an ancient tribal sky god that at least one recent president has used to justify his actions?

See? That’s not about force, or literal eradication. Divination and astrology haven’t dwindled to minority pastimes through coercion, they’ve been displaced by better methods and (up to a point, alas) by education.

Most scientists do not realize that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. This is not because they have thought about it. It is because they prefer not to think about it.

Fundamentalists know science and religion are incompatible, since science disputes so much of what is in the Bible, which they take as the literal word of God. To them, science is simply wrong and must be Christianized. A well-funded effort exists to do just that, while most scientists sit on the sidelines because they prefer not to get involved.

But science and religion have always been at war, and always will be. One of yesterday’s speakers said that he did not like to use the word “religion” but rather called it a “belief system.” Well, there are different kinds of belief systems. Science is a belief system based on reason and evidence. Religion is a belief system based on bullshit.

And one way for religion as a belief system to loosen its grip is for more people to point out that it’s based on bullshit.

Religion would not be such a negative force in society if it were just about going to church socials and celebrating rites of passage. However, the magical thinking that becomes deeply ingrained whenever faith rules over facts warps all areas of life. It instills superficial beliefs which, having been adopted without reason, cannot be displaced by reason. Magical thinking ignores evidence and favors whatever opinion is the most convenient or socially acceptable.

And by doing that, it gets things wrong. There really is a downside to getting things wrong. I can’t stress this enough.

Science is not going to change its commitment to the truth. And religion is not going to change its commitment to nonsense. And that is why I call upon scientists and all thinking people to focus their attention on reducing the influence of religion in the world, with the goal of the eventual fall of foolish faith. The future depends on it.

See? Reducing the influence, not eradication.

It seems like a good goal to me.

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

Last Sunday afternoon at the Manchester Mercure

Mar 18th, 2012 12:37 pm | By

Saturday night at QED one of the prizes was for Best Podcast, and it was won by The Pod Delusion. I felt enthusiastic about this, because they had asked to interview me at QED. Hooray for ME, thought I, I get to be interviewed by the WINNAZ.

And I did. We went into a nice quiet little room off the main area which alas turned out to be a little room on the way to another little room where the QED people were keeping things. That’s why if you listen you will hear several breaks for editing. It’s not because I burst into a flurry of oaths for no apparent reason.

Episode 127.

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

Belief as pickpocket

Mar 18th, 2012 11:27 am | By

I’m amicably disagreeing with Ron Lindsay at his CFI blog, where he is amicably disagreeing with Vic Stenger and PZ Myers about something both of them said at the Sunday morning panel in Orlando two weeks ago. (I was on the same panel.)

Both Stenger and Myers made various recommendations about objectives on which secularists should concentrate, but they both agreed on one point: they both asserted we should aim to eliminate or eradicate religious belief…

As I have argued at greater length elsewhere, our primary objective as secularists should be to bring about a secular society, that is, one in which public policy is free of religious influence and discussions and decisions about public policy are based entirely on secular considerations. This is an achievable goal, at least in the developed world. Furthermore, it’s a goal that does not require us to convert all or even most of the religious. We only have to ensure that a critical mass of people support the concept of a secular society, whether they are religious or not.

If religion were truly a private matter—well, then, it would be a private matter. I don’t think we should be that concerned about people having beliefs or engaging in practices that are not rationally grounded, if in fact those beliefs or practices do not result in conduct harmful to others.

It’s that last bit that I amicably disagree about. I do think we should be that concerned about people having beliefs that are not rationally grounded, if the beliefs are of a certain kind. Beliefs in fairies, ghosts, astrology? Well, maybe not that much, but some. Beliefs in an omni god with moral claims on us? That much and more.

But even beliefs in fairies or astrology – some of us, at least, are and should be that concerned even about those: teachers, for instance; journalists, for another instance. We do care about beliefs about the world that are not rationally grounded and that there are good reasons to think are mistaken, because we think people in general should have access to reliable knowledge about the world.

Ron makes a comparison to team fandom, which is also not rationally grounded. Yes but - a commitment is not the same kind of thing as a truth claim. Religion tends to blend the two, of course, but then what Ron cites PZ and Stenger as saying is that “we should aim to eliminate or eradicate religious belief” – not commitment, but belief. Team fandom is independent of belief. I’ve recently discovered that I actually like watching football (soccer football), and I watch it here, and the result is that I want the Sounders to win – I have a little bit of team fandom. It’s got nothing to do with any belief though, it’s just that they’re the home team where I watch. I don’t need my preference to be rationally grounded. But religious beliefs aren’t detachable in that way.

Ron concluded with:

As should be clear, I’m not advocating an “accommodationist” position. I’m not suggesting we should tone down our criticisms of religious beliefs. Integrity demands we be candid in our criticism of religion whenever the occasion for such criticism arises. Instead, I’m merely suggesting that we be clear about our goals. To paraphrase Jefferson, it doesn’t pick my pocket if a person believes in one god or twenty gods, so beliefs by themselves shouldn’t concern us. Religious beliefs should concern us only to the extent that they cause harm, in particular, the extent to which they prevent achievement of a secular society. What efforts we expend on disabusing people of their religious beliefs is a pragmatic question, to be answered by determining what is necessary to obtain a secular society—for that should be our primary objective.

The trouble with Jefferson’s quip is that it isn’t just about my pocket. It’s about education for everyone. The ability to see when beliefs – not commitments, but beliefs – are not rationally grounded, is a useful one, which shouldn’t be confined to an elite. Religious beliefs do cause harm to people’s intellectual functioning, and that by itself is a good reason to want them to erode.

I think actually Ron and I don’t really disagree about this, but are talking about slightly different things. I could be wrong though!

Go Sounders.

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

Entry 47235

Mar 18th, 2012 10:23 am | By

Yet more from the misogyny files.

On Saturday morning, after getting the news that President Obama would be giving the commencement address at Barnard College this May, graduating senior Marly Faherty did what her generation does: she went online, to a Columbia University blog called Bwog. But as she watched the comments pouring in, her excitement turned to shock, and then despair. “It was the first time I’d seen something get that nasty that quickly,” she told The Daily Beast. “It was like watching a train wreck. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.”

…commenters started attacking Barnard, Columbia’s all-women’s sister school across the street, and accusing its students of academic inferiority and much, much worse. Using terms like “feminazis” and calling Barnard “Barnyard,” commenters said the school was just a back door to Columbia, and its students deserved neither Obama as a speaker nor affiliation with the university as a whole.

By the end of the day, comments like this one, posted under the name “Blue and White Vagina,” started to appear: “While you guys were perfecting your deepthroating techniques and experimenting with scissoring and anal play, we were learning Calculus (usually by sophomore year of High School). Trust me, if you actually deserved to go to Columbia and put in the work it required, you would understand our resentment. Moral of the story is that feeble, ugly Barnyard women need to shut their jizz holes and just be happy that Columbia let Barnyard pretend it was affiliated for this long.”


Natalie Reed has an eloquent post on hipster misogyny which seems highly relevant.

Amongst hipsters, indie rockers, punks, metalheads, etc. you’ll hear all kinds of “ironic” horrendously sexist shit (“bitches be crazy”, “stop being such a pussy bitch”, “haha Cheryl is such a cunt”, “what are you, on your period or something?”, “how about I shut you up by shoving my dick in your mouth”, “make me a sandwich LOL”, “man, Ellen Page is hot! I would totally rape her in a bathroom!”, “Ann Coulter looks like a fucking tranny”) or see all kinds of horrendously sexist behaviour, (“hold my jacket while I mosh”, blatant sexual harassment, sexual objectification of any and all female musicians or artists or members of a scene, evaluating them all on the basis of appearance first, implying that women can’t possibly do certain things right like audio engineering or DJing a party, sexual assault and date rape, talking over and interrupting women, repeating a woman’s idea and taking credit for it, talking down to women, gender segregating conversational spaces, paying lip service to feminism while only actively supporting ideologies that allow them to get away with not directly confronting any actual issues of gender, allowing the “leaders” of a scene or movement to be completely dominated by men without noticing or questioning it, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.)

… but the men involved “aren’t sexists”. They’re cool. They’re totally down with feminism. That stuff about Newsom? That because they “respect her as a female artist”. And when they say things like wanting to rape Ellen Page, they mean it “ironically”. They’re “making fun of sexism”. They can do, say, believe or think all the sexist shit they want, because as long as they’re not “them”, “the sexists” (who vote republican and stuff), they’re exempt from criticism. And if you do criticize them? Well that’s because you’re hypersensitive, or sex-negative, or have no sense of humour, or don’t understand nuance, or are just being a drama queen, or a petty bitch, or you’re on your period, or you have some kind of personal issue, or you’re trying to co-opt the conversation, or you’re disrespecting cultural differences, or you just don’t “get” the issue or what someone meant and what’s really going on, or it’s “art” and you’re trying to “censor” it, or you’re being too politically didactic / too politically correct, or there’s a worse problem somewhere else which makes this complaint irrelevant, or “first world problems!”, or blah blah blah. Because if sexism is only done by sexists, who explicitly think men and women shouldn’t be equal, and I don’t explicitly think that, then I’m not a sexist, so I can’t be being sexist, so therefore whatever stupid cunt is saying I’m being sexist MUST be wrong. QED, bitch!

Or you think words inherently mean X or Y when in fact the meaning of words is always social, so wow are you ever dumb.

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

That would be never

Mar 17th, 2012 4:43 pm | By


Bill Maher explains that it’s fine for him to call Sarah Palin a cunt.

No it isn’t.

In a brief interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper, Bill Maher explains why calling Sarah Palin a “cunt” or a “twat,” as he has, is in no way equivalent to calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” or a “prostitute,” as Rush Limbaugh did.

I don’t care whether it’s equivalent or not; I care that it’s sexist and bad. Jacob Sullum notes:

Maher seems sincerely oblivious to the fact that “different tastes and different opinions” tend to color people’s views about when sexist epithets are acceptable and when they are so “disgusting” that they are beyond the pale.

And here’s another thing that tends to color people’s views about when sexist epithets are acceptable: being the object of them. It’s easy for Maher to think it’s fine to call Palin a cunt, because Palin’s a woman and he’s a man. It’s a great deal too easy. It’s not attractive for white people to shrug 0ff racist epithets, and it’s not attractive for men to shrug off sexist epithets.

Nick Gillespie – also in Reason – offers more putative liberals talking sexist shit.

At The Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers provides a somewhat more in-depth catalog of vagina dentata imagineering by liberal asshats.

Olbermann, for instance, suggested that that the best way to take Hillary Clinton out of the 2008 presidential race “was to find ‘somebody who can take her into a room and only he comes out.‘” And that conservative commentator S.E. Cupp should have been aborted by her parents. Enchante!

Matt Taibbi, whom Noah tags for calling Andrew Breitbart “a douche” in his obit, is similarly scampish toward the ladies, writes Powers:

Left-wing darling Matt Taibbi wrote on his blog in 2009, “When I read [Malkin’s] stuff, I imagine her narrating her text, book-on-tape style, with a big, hairy set of balls in her mouth.” In a Rolling Stone article about Secretary of State Clinton, he referred to her “flabby arms.” When feminist writer Erica Jong criticized him for it, he responded by referring to Jong as an “800-year old sex novelist.” (Jong is almost 70, which apparently makes her an irrelevant human being.)

Boy, those jokes are fall-down funny, aren’t they?

And then there’s Chris Matthews, the leg-tingled MSNBC host and stalwart JFK defender, who particularly seems to thrive on attacking Hillary Clinton in gender-specific terms:

Over the years he has referred to the former first lady, senator and presidential candidate and current secretary of state as a“she-devil,” “Nurse Ratched,” and “Madame Defarge.” Matthews has also called Clinton “witchy,” “anti-male,” and “uppity” and once claimed she won her Senate seat only because her “husband messed around.”

Sexist shit, all of it. Not ok, any of it. It’s not any more ok because it’s liberals doing it. On the contrary: it’s a deal-breaker. (We know that. We remember all the deals that got broken last summer.)

Update: forgot to h/t skepticlawyer for the link.

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

And now a word for the laydeez

Mar 17th, 2012 11:34 am | By

Another treasure from @UCCB – a patronizing ode to wimmin, from a boss of an organization that excludes women from all power and thinks its “God” is a man. You know what it says without reading it. Women are special, women are lovely, women raise the children, bless their little hearts and their soft heads.

During this month, our minds turn toward the great gift of what Blessed John Paul II in his letter Mulieris Dignitatem calls the feminine genius and its positive impact on the life of the Church and society.

Uh huh. Let’s have a look at good ol’ muley dig, shall we?

even the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words “He shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the “masculinization” of women. In the name of liberation from male “domination”, women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine “originality”. There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not “reach fulfilment”, but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness.

Plus we’ll have to share our toys, and they’ll tell us we’re wrong about stuff. We don’t want them. They have to stay inside with the children. Next question?

We are blessed in our archdiocese that everywhere we look, we see the stamp of women who have responded faithfully to God’s call. First and foremost, in our mothers who nurture the faith of our children. The history of our archdiocese is marked by the many communities of religious women who have established a rich network of Catholic education and welcomed lay women to partner with them in continuing to serve our schools…

As a Church we can take great pride in the fact that hospitals established by religious women remain the largest private provider of healthcare in the country. They continue to be staffed by religious and lay women who faithfully bring the healing love of Jesus to their professional work.

They make just the best assistants. Amen.

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

Normally there’s a big cozy plinth

Mar 17th, 2012 10:36 am | By

Interlude. (By the way it’s snowing here right now. Quite hard. This is very odd for March 17 in this particular spot on the globe. A few miles east, in the mountains, it wouldn’t be odd, but down here it’s very odd.) One of the entertainers at QED last Saturday, as I mentioned, was Alun Cochrane, and I thought he was dam’ funny. This is what he’s like.

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

The marketers advise them

Mar 17th, 2012 10:20 am | By

Deep breaths taken. Onward. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, formerly archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, tells us what keen supporters of women’s rights he and his friends in the church are. He also explains how unfair it all is, and how hard done by they all are, and how mean everyone else is, and what whoppers everyone tells about the church.

I could go on and on:  if you want to see creative, daring, lifegiving healthcare for women and their children, look at what the Church is doing.

And now understand why Catholics rightly bristle when politicians and commentators characterize the Church as backwards and insensitive when it comes to women’s health.  Yes, the PR experts advise them that this tactic is a proven ploy to take the attention off the current urgent issue of religious freedom.  The marketers advise them that, if they can reduce the issue to one of contraception, stereotyping the Church as opposed to women’s rights, they have a chance of clouding the towering issue of the First Freedom.

Other way around, dude. Your tactic of yelling about your “religious freedom” is a ploy to take attention off the way you interfere with secular government and what ought to be secular laws in order to impose your warped views on the entire population.

And the issue is one of contraception, along with other things. Without contraception women’s rights are never secure, but it is your church’s settled view that contraception should not exist, period.

But more than that: don’t you dare pretend to be a defender of human rights when you bar women from all positions of power and authority in your organization, and when you treat attempts to give women such positions as a terrible crime, deserving the worst punishment in your arsenal. Don’t you dare.

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


Mar 17th, 2012 9:47 am | By

Oh hey gee what do you know, the US Conference of Catholic bishops is on Twitter. One can keep up with their theocratic doings so easily…

Here’s yesterday’s press release. It’s about their plans to pray for success at imposing their filthy theocratic laws on the entire US population.

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), at its March 13-14 meeting in Washington, called for a nationwide prayer campaign for protection of religious freedom and conscience rights from several threats, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious ones, to provide contraception/sterilization in their health plans.

What about my religious freedom? What about my conscience rights? And by “my” I mean those of people like me, who don’t agree with your arbitrary retrograde vicious ideas about contraception. I mean our religious freedom and conscience rights. I mean our right not to be governed by a group of Catholic bishops.

“We call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the restoration of our First Freedom—religious liberty—which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great Nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition,” the bishops said in “United for Religious Freedom” a March 14 statement. “Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength—for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.”

Their “freedom” to block the freedom of other people, is what they mean. Their “freedom” to prevent other people from getting contraception; their “freedom” to make it more difficult for other people to get contraception.

There is also of course their treasured “freedom” to try to compel all Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide life-saving abortions. There is their treasured “freedom” to conceal child rape from law enforcement, and to demand the right to deal with child rape according to canon law instead of the secular law of the relevant country.

I’d better take some deep breaths before I read any more of their press releases.

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

Frivolous law suit dismissed

Mar 17th, 2012 8:03 am | By

Remember Tom Martin, the MRA who was suing LSE for sexism? The one who likes to call women “whores!” when they disagree with him? His case has been dismissed; he has to pay LSE’s costs.

Representing himself at his application for a trial at the Central London County Court on Tuesday, Mr Martin complained of a lack of men-only sessions in the university’s gym and the preponderance of posters in the corridors advertis­ing services for women without the presence of similar materials geared towards men.

Mr Martin, who describes himself as a feminist, said “hard” chairs in the library were uncomfortable for men and that a “male blaming culture” was evident in course materials, which “ignored men’s issues” and focused on wrongs done by them.

Hard chairs. I never knew hard chairs were a feminist invention. So in patriarchal societies chairs are always cushioned? The norm is thick upholstery, and it’s only in decadent egalitarian societies that the hard chair becomes possible? I did not know this.

However, barrister Nick Armstrong, for the LSE, successfully argued that there were no grounds for moving to what would have been likely to be a long trial.

He said Mr Martin’s claim lacked legal coherence, adding that the bar claimants in discrimination cases had to cross to be successful had been set “fairly high” because of the subjective aspects of these cases.

He said Mr Martin would have had to prove that he experienced a “bullying-type scenario” at the LSE, adding: “Whatever Mr Martin says about all this, no objectively reasonable person would feel degraded or humiliated by posters on the wall or course content.”

The whoriarchy wins again. Tragic.

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

Mark your calendars

Mar 16th, 2012 3:52 pm | By

And speaking of going to things – for people in the Seattle area – Richard Dawkins, Elisabeth Cornwell, and Sean Faircloth will be doing a talk in Bellevue on April 1. Details at RDF.

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

Well that went awry

Mar 16th, 2012 3:47 pm | By

Rock Beyond Belief has an official statement from Fort Bragg saying they are allowed to be critical of organized religion. Chris Rodda explains how that happened.

So, why are we thanking Major Dowty? Well, because it was his blog post about his “concern” over the lyrics of a Rock Beyond Belief performer being picked up by FOX News that caused Fort Bragg officials to scrutinize the Rock Beyond Belief lineup and attempt to require additional promises from the performers and speakers that they would not be critical of religion.

But Justin stood his ground, as he always does, and got it in writing that the speakers and performers at Rock Beyond Belief can be critical of religion (just like the speakers at similar religious events are, by the very nature of the promotion of their beliefs, critical of non-religion or what they deem to be “false” religions).

The Christian Fighter Pilot (as Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty is not-always-fondly known) made a boo-boo. This is good.

If any of you are able to get to Rock Beyond Belief, do. They need a big turn-out. Go hang out with a bunch of foxhole atheists and other good people.

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


Mar 16th, 2012 3:32 pm | By

We were talking about Hazlitt on the Baggini/de Botton thread, and it appears that some of you know not of him. Do not die before you have remedied this!

There is a sample of his essays online along with entire books. From The Spirit of the Age, the chapter on William Gifford, editor of the Quarterly Review:

Mr. Gifford, in short, is possessed of that sort of learning which is likely to result from an over-anxious desire to supply the want of the first rudiments of education: that sort of wit which is the offspring of ill-humour or bodily pain: that sort of sense which arises from a spirit of contradiction and a disposition to cavil at and dispute the opinions of others: and that sort of reputation which is the consequence of bowing to established authority and ministerial influence. He dedicates to some great man, and receives his compliments in return. He appeals to some great name, and the Undergraduates of the two Universities look up to him as an oracle of wisdom. He throws the weight of his verbal criticism and puny discoveries in black-letter reading into the gap, that is supposed to be making in the Constitution by Whig’s and Radicals, whom he qualifies without mercy as dunces and miscreants, and so entitles himself to the protection of the Church and State. The character of his mind is an utter want of independence and magnanimity in all that he attempts. He cannot go alone; he must have crutches, a go-cart and trammels, or he is timid, fretful and helpless as a child. He cannot conceive of anything different from what he finds it, and hates those who pretend to a greater reach of intellect or boldness of spirit than himself. He inclines, by a natural and deliberate bias, to the traditional in laws and government, to the orthodox in religion, to the safe in opinion, to the trite in imagination, to the technical in style, to whatever implies a surrender of individual judgment into the hands of authority and a subjection of individual feeling to mechanic rules.

Hazlitt. Bucket list. Really.

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

Another week, another inch of heathen progress

Mar 16th, 2012 11:08 am | By

Oh dear god, Julian is still boring for Britain. What in hell do the people at Comment is Free – Andrew? David? – think they’re doing? Do they really think the series – Heathen’s Progress – is so brilliant or witty or enlightening or whatever to be worth carrying for all this time? Didn’t it start last October or something?

[pause to look]

No. Even worse: September. September 30, but still September.

Maybe the subhead for the series is all the explanation needed.

Julian Baggini sets out on a pilgrimage towards the truth, picking his way past the noisome swamp of New Atheist controversies…

It’s a chance to stick a finger in the eye of the noisomely swampy gnu atheists, and Andrew wouldn’t want to pass that up.

But it’s a dumb move, because Julian just isn’t a lively enough writer to carry it.

This time he makes the exciting unthought-of claim that reasonableness is preferable to unreasonableness. Wo! Who knew?

Of course, in reality there is no neat divide between the reasonable and the unreasonable: it’s a case or more/less, not either/or. But divisions are real even when the boundaries between them are fuzzy, and I really do think that the most important divide in the religion debate is not between believers or non-believers, but between those who show the virtues of reasonableness and those who do not. That’s why I’ve often had more fruitful dialogues with some Catholics and evangelicals than I have with some fellow atheists.

See that’s typical – “I’ve often had more fruitful dialogues with some Catholics and evangelicals than I have with some fellow atheists” – that’s a terribly clumsy way of putting it. It doesn’t work to combine “often” with “some” and then another “some” in that way; it sounds as if you’re so desperate to hedge that you can’t make sense. When I was his sub-editor I fixed things like that for him.

But more to the point, it’s the same old shit – pretending it’s a toss-up between atheists and theists. Yes there are some unreasonable atheists; no that doesn’t make theism and atheism equally reasonable as long as the individual atheist or theist is in some sense “reasonable.” It doesn’t, but it’s popular to say it does.

Maryam talked about Julian as a representative apologetic atheist in her talk at QED last week. She interjected, as she continued, “I don’t want to pick on Baggini, but – ” – I whispered to Author, “I do!” and we sniggered. It’s fair to pick on him, because he’s a prominent popularizer of philosophy, and he does a lot of this kind of thing. I think it’s bullshit. I think when you compare theist unreason with atheist unreason, you realize which set produces more and which does more harm with it.

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

Bishop to hospitals: let women die, that’s an order

Mar 16th, 2012 8:34 am | By

Yes really. This isn’t my usual hyperbole, it’s exactly what the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmsted, tells the president of Catholic Healthcare West in an official letter dated November 22, 2010.

I now ask that CHW agree to the following requirements by Friday, December  17, 2010. Only if all of these items are agreed to, will I postpone any action against CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital. Specifically, I require the  following in order for me to postpone any further canonical action directed  against St. Joseph’s Hospital:

1. CHW must acknowledge in writing that the medical procedure that resulted in the abortion at St. Josephs’ hospital was a violation of ERD 47, and so will never occur again at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The medical procedure that resulted in the abortion at St. Josephs’ hospital was done to save the life of the mother when the only alternative was that both the mother and the fetus would die.

People don’t believe this when you tell them.

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

December 2010: Episcopal evil

Mar 16th, 2012 8:13 am | By

Here’s the December 2010 post in which I became aware that it’s explicit Catholic church policy that women should be allowed to die rather than have a life-saving abortion.

December 26 2010

The ACLU letter to the administrators of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says something I hadn’t known, something quite staggering. The trouble is, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere else, so I can’t be sure it’s accurate. I would email the ACLU to ask, but they say they get too much mail to answer.

…just last week it was revealed that the Bishop of Phoenix threatened to remove his endorsement of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center – where, as discussed in our previous letter, doctors provided a life-saving abortion to a young mother of four in November 2009 – unless the hospital signed a written pledge that it would never again provide emergency abortion care, even where necessary to save a woman’s life.

You see why that’s staggering. It says that the bishop demanded that the hospital sign a written pledge not to do an abortion even where necessary to save a woman’s life – the bishop explicitly demanded that the hospital let a woman die rather than do an abortion. I knew he’d been saying that in effect all along, but I didn’t know he’d been willing to spell it out himself.

[pause to say - fuck I hate these bastards. I hate them I hate them I hate them.]

At any rate, even without confirmation of that part, he said way more than enough. The Phoenix diocese kindly makes his saying available to us. It’s disgusting.

…earlier this year, it was brought to my attention that an abortion had taken place at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. When I met with officials of the hospital to learn more of the details of what had occurred, it became clear that, in the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld; but that the baby was directly killed, which is a clear violation of ERD #45.

There was no baby. There was a future baby inside the body of the woman who was on the point of death. It wasn’t possible to uphold “the equal dignity of mother and her baby” because the mother had fatally high blood pressure.

In this case, the baby was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy; rather, the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed. This is contrary to the teaching of the Church (Cf. Evangelium Vitae, #62).

That’s just outright dishonest. A healthy 11-week-old baby is just that, it’s not a fetus of 11 weeks. Does the bishop consider a newborn infant a 9-month-old baby?

Not to mention of course that treating the disease without killing the fetus wasn’t an option, so it’s dishonest of this reactionary woman-hating theocrat to imply that it was.

The president of St Joseph’s hospital, Linda Hunt, pointed out that it wasn’t an option.

“If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case,” Hunt said. “Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.”

But that is exactly what the bishop is demanding that they do, and exactly what he is making a condition of the hospital’s “Catholic” status. You don’t get to call yourself “Catholic” unless you’re willing to let a woman die along with her fetus rather than kill the fetus to save the woman. (Notice that the bishop neglects to mention that the fetus dies either way. He’s not even demanding that they let the woman die to save the fetus, he’s demanding that they let her die to make a point.)

Dr. Charles Alfano, chief medical officer at the hospital and an obstetrician there, said Olmsted was asking the impossible from the hospital.

“Specifically the fact that he requested we admit the procedure performed was an abortion and that it was a violation of the ethical and religious directives and that we would not perform such a procedure in the future,” he said. “We could not agree to that. We acted appropriately.”

That’s close to a confirmation of the ACLU item. I don’t doubt the ACLU item, I just would like to see it in writing somewhere else.

Catholic News Service gives a slightly evasive account.


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

Catholic thanatophilia, December 2010

Mar 16th, 2012 8:04 am | By

Some readers of the Texas Taliban post have expressed surprise that some rules against abortion can be downright murderous, so I thought I would go digging through the archive. I too was surprised in December 2010 to learn just exactly how explicitly murderous the policy of the Catholic church and in particular the US Conference of Catholic bishops actually is.

Here is one post on the subject (click on the link to the original to read the comments) -

December 28, 2010

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops insists on exactly the same murderous policy that the rebarbative bishop of Phoenix does. The CCB is very clear about it. The CCB doesn’t mess around.

“Surgery to terminate the life of an innocent person, however, is intrinsically wrong… Nothing, therefore, can justify a direct abortion. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.”

No circumstance whatsover, including the circumstance that the fetus is already doomed and will not survive no matter what, can make it licit to remove the placenta to prevent the woman’s death, since it is contrary to something that does not exist.

The bishops don’t know that there is such a thing as “God” or that it exists or ever has existed. They don’t know what the “Law” of that “God” is. They know nothing whatsoever about it. They know they’ve been told things, but anyone can tell anyone anything, and often does. Mere telling is not enough, especially when ordering medical workers to let patients die on the authority of the telling.

The putative law of the putative God is not “written in every human heart.” It’s not written in mine, and the bishops have no business saying it is. They’re bullshitting, and they’re doing it in aid of backing up a rule that would let women die when they could be saved, on the grounds that their fetus can’t be saved too.

Defenders of this revolting policy are bullshitting, if not outright lying, too: they are calling this policy a “right to life” policy, but of course it’s not, because the whole point is that it kills a woman and a fetus instead of only a fetus. That’s not “pro-life.” This policy results in the death of an adult, not life for a fetus.

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

We don’t need altar boys

Mar 15th, 2012 4:18 pm | By

I know, I’m kind of spamming you, but there were all those days when there was only a placeholder or two, plus I keep finding things.

Like the Catholic church again forgetting that it’s supposed to occupy the moral high ground and revealing itself to be as brutally self-serving as any other set of thugs.

Turning the tables on an advocacy group that has long supported victims of pedophile priests, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Church and priests accused of sexual abuse in two Missouri cases have gone to court to compel the group to disclose more than two decades of e-mails that could include correspondence with victims, lawyers, whistle-blowers, witnesses, the police, prosecutors and journalists.

They could do something different you know. They could refrain from fighting back. They could refrain from “turning the tables.”

The network and its allies say the legal action is part of a campaign by the church to cripple an organization that has been the most visible defender of victims, and a relentless adversary, for more than two decades. “If there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes, “it definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re going after. They’re trying to find a way to silence SNAP.”

Lawyers for the church and priests say they cannot comment because of a judge’s order. But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”

Enter the arch-thug himself. SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church and therefore the church can and should fight just as dirty as it knows how. The Catholic church is all-important and the victims are just dirty little peasants getting in the way.

Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.”

He said bishops were also rethinking their approach of paying large settlements to groups of victims. “The church has been too quick to write a check, and I think they’ve realized it would be a lot less expensive in the long run if we fought them one by one,” Mr. Donohue said.

Could it be any more ruthless and cynical? Could Donohue sound any more like an enforcer? Mind you, maybe that’s the fault of the Times for talking to him in the first place – he’s notoriously thuggish and his “League” is not a big organization, to put it mildly. Last time I looked it seemed to be a League of one, with Donohue interviewing himself and quoting himself in every press release. But then Donohue gets his way of thinking and talking and behaving from somewhere.


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