08 Mar

NYTimes.com – Brigitte Gabriel Draws Crowds in U.S. With Anti-Islam Message

Ms. Gabriel, 46, who uses a pseudonym, casts her organization as a nonpartisan, nonreligious national security group. Yet the organization draws on three rather religious and partisan streams in American politics: evangelical Christian conservatives, hard-line defenders of Israel (both Jews and Christians) and Tea Party Republicans.

She presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion. She has found a receptive audience among Americans who are legitimately worried about the spread of terrorism.

But some of those who work in counterterrorism say that speakers like Ms. Gabriel are spreading distortion and fear, and are doing the country a disservice by failing to make distinctions between Muslims who are potentially dangerous and those who are not.

Brian Fishman, a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said, “When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.”

via NYTimes.com – Brigitte Gabriel Draws Crowds in U.S. With Anti-Islam Message. Fear much like sex sells, for better or really for worse.

15 Nov

Helium – Reflections: Being an atheist

You will not vote for me for public office, but you will let me fight your battles. You will not let me teach your children, but you will let me protect them. You will not listen when I speak, but expect me to hang on your every word. You will question my morality, call me a sinner or worse, but will not see moral hypocrisy or the sins of your people. You call me irresponsible, misguided, unaccountable, but you are wrong. I am accountable to the world I live in, and whether you see it or not … so are you.

via Helium – Reflections: Being an atheist. There are atheists in foxholes.

08 Nov

TED.com – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Inside a school for suicide bombers

Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy takes on a terrifying question: How does the Taliban convince children to become suicide bombers? Propaganda footage from a training camp is intercut with her interviews of young camp graduates. A shocking vision.

via TED.com – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Inside a school for suicide bombers. A really great 6 minutes of film.

24 Jul

Friendly Atheist – An Iowa College’s Response to Blasphemy Day

This is why Blasphemy Day is so important and why I’m now such a strong supporter of it.

It’s not about mocking religion or calling a believer names.

It’s about the freedom of speech and the idea that religion (along with other strongly-held beliefs) should be open to criticism.

No one should be able to silence you because they don’t like what you say.

via Friendly Atheist – An Iowa College’s Response to Blasphemy Day. Couldn’t agree more.

11 Apr

A Psychologist Steeped in Treatment of Sexually Active Priests – NYTimes.com

Leslie Lothstein has seen them all: priests sexually active with adult men, others with adult women, others with adolescents, others with children. By his own count, Dr. Lothstein, a psychologist at the Institute of Living, in Hartford, has treated about 300 Roman Catholic priests, not only those with sexual problems, but also those with alcoholism, depression and other mental illnesses.

via Beliefs – A Psychologist Steeped in Treatment of Sexually Active Priests – NYTimes.com. A short story about one of the very few secular therapists to treat Catholic priests.

23 Mar

Last supper ‘has been super-sized’, say obesity experts – BBC News

The food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper have grown larger – in line with our own super-sizing of meals, say obesity experts.

The Cornell University team studied 52 of the most famous paintings of the Biblical scene over the millennium and scrutinised the size of the feast.

They found the main courses, bread and plates put before Jesus and his disciples have progressively grown by up to two-thirds.

via BBC News – Last supper ‘has been super-sized’, say obesity experts. Not really surprising but interesting.

03 Jan

After Americans Visit, Uganda Weighs Death for Gays – NYTimes.com

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

via After Americans Visit, Uganda Weighs Death for Gays – NYTimes.com.

Awesome to know religion (in this case Christianity) is such a force for peace, civility and human rights. The best quote is the standard, I’m friends with Group X or know people in Group X how can I be discriminatory towards Group X:

“That’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”

02 Jan

Blasphemy In Ireland

In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O’Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Dermot Ahern.

Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.

via Atheist Ireland Publishes 25 Blasphemous Quotes | blasphemy.ie.

11 Mar

My response to Glen Beck’s silly “We surround them”

Glen Beck not too long ago did a silly little thing in which he posted a list of 9 statements and said that if you believe in them to send in a picture for him to do display them or something.

This is my response to the list.

  1. America is good. Right a country is now a person and is good. And that person has never overthrown multiple governments that torture/murder/enslave/eliminate due process all so that they support us and not Russia? And what the heck does good even mean?
  2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life. – Please, I don’t believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny but I believe in a man 2,000 yrs ago that someone how died and rose again. And just happens that half of the belief structure of my faith has been written in the past 500 yrs. Or the now 15% who are atheists.
  3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. Well at least more honest than the last time I cheated on my taxes or the last time I work on personal stuff while on company time.
  4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government. Right, I get to beat my kids, my husband gets to rape me and my daughter, control what my kids think, because I know better than thousands of other people that really having a house that is about to fall apart is good survival instict, oh and teaching my kids that the earth is the center of the universe is what I want to do. We wouldn’t want the government trying to provide for a more just and educated society, much more fun teaching kids to hate and not understand or listen to logic and reason.
  5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it. Except for the president, you know because he is allowed to break the law at will and not be held accountable for it. Oh and the people who help him break the law they get medals. Or if you are rich enough and have a really good reason for doing what you did, then it’s all cool.
  6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results. Except if you are gay, female, black, trans-gender, bisexual, or really just think or act different, then you have no equal freedoms and thus defiantly no equal results. Oh and just because you were raised in a poor school district and thus received a poor education means you should some how magically overcome a limited education expect there are no libraries for you to educate yourself at because:
  7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable. Yes they can it’s called taxes, and next time you feel reluctant to pay taxes because you want to hold onto what’s yours we’ll go back to pre-government days and let you fight to hold onto it and see how that works out. I really only want my friends to get the benefits of what I make and I really don’t want to try and help society advance by providing education, or help for people who are less well off than I am, unless they go to one of my pre-approved charities will they will be told they have to believe in God to get a warm bed and meal.
  8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion. – Unless you disagree with me, or with what America does or what the President (unless he’s a Democrat), or you can make stupid jokes about it and call the person fat, ugly, stupid, claim they should fail, etc.
  9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me. Unless they lie their way into a war, torture innocent people, tap my phone and record what I do online and where I travel overseas.
26 Jul

Freedom of Speech Means Freedom to Say Anything

Freedom of speech, means the freedom to say anything irregardless of it being stupid or mean. Now granted you do have to have reasonable limits of freedom of speech in order for society to operate, the standard screaming fire in a crowded building clause. But freedom of speech means just that, you can’t operate in society without people sometimes saying things that are just plain stupid, mean or wrong. It’s the nature of being human that some people are just plain stupid or mean. This gets multiplied via the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory in an online environment.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t create an environment whereby experts can debate topics. What it means is that those debates are not going to be decided by pundits or other experts or the intellectuals of the world, but average citizens who will discuss a range of issues without any formal training in the area or any real understanding of the issues.

Just this week I had two people ask if atheism (No religious preference is acutally the fastest growing answer to what religion you are and one if four people aged 188 to 22 consider themselves atheist) meant that the person worshiped the devil. Ummm, no. These were both college students and fairly intelligent. They just didn’t know. That’s a problem, but does that mean those students shouldn’t be allowed to comment on religion in America. I would argue it may make their opinion not as valuable but it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have a voice.

One of the students in particular once understanding what atheism was able to express reasons beyond a standard “The Bible says so” or “Because I feel God” response to why atheism wouldn’t fit for her.

So no Robert Scoble I don’t think the comment trolls should be deleted. Are they stupid, absolutely, are they wrong, almost certainly yes, should their voice be deleted, never.

That isn’t to say that he can do whatever he wants to on his blog and delete who he wishes. That also isn’t to say that I don’t desire meaningful and intelligent conversation. There is however a problem when to have a meaningful conversation you have to lock everyone out who you perceive has nothing to add to the conversation.

I don’t want that and I won’t do that.