Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Wanting to Smack Tavis Smiley

I like NPR.  I have been a supporter of local NPR stations.  Sometimes, though, something on NPR is so unbelievably stupid that a part of my brain actually dies.

On 5/25/2010, Tavis Smiley aired an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (click here for transcript, video, and audio).  Please note: I'm not a fan of the American Enterprise Institute, but there's much about Hirsi Ali to admire.

Here's an excerpt from the transcript of that interview.

Ali: ...Major Nidal Hasan, the military guy who in November shot 13 of his colleagues and injured 32, he's going to be on trial pretty soon, I think this week, the young man, Faisal Shahzad, in Times Square who tried to blow innocent people that he doesn't know up, these guys are acting on conviction. Somehow, the idea got into their minds that to kill other people is a great thing to do and that they would be rewarded in the hereafter.
Tavis: But Christians do that every single day in this country.
Ali: Do they blow people up (unintelligible)?
Tavis: Yes. Oh, Christians, every day, people walk into post offices, they walk into schools, that's what Columbine is - I could do this all day long. There are so many more examples of Christians - and I happen to be a Christian. That's back to this notion of your idealizing Christianity in my mind, to my read. There are so many more examples, Ayaan, of Christians who do that than you could ever give me examples of Muslims who have done that inside this country, where you live and work.

Smiley isn't generally stupid, so I can only guess that he is deliberately conflating acts by Christians with acts motivated by Christianity.

C'mon, Smiley- let's hear about all the Christian terrorism that has been committed in the 21st Century.

At least Hirsi Ali schooled Smiley:

Ali: Well, I think you and I disagree, not so much on is there extremism in Christianity - I fully acknowledge that. There are people who want to take the bible and use passages from the bible as justification for violent behavior. I'm not denying that in the least. But mainstream Christians in the 21st century are more like you.

I'm an atheist, I'm not a Christian, but they are more like you - accepting of other religions and tolerant. The latest example, "South Park," where Jesus Christ was made fun of, watching pornography, people, Christians, maybe have been annoyed by it but the producers of "South Park" were not threatened by Christians.

They were not threatened by Buddhists. They showed Buddha snorting cocaine. Muhammad, whose picture wasn't shown, there was a line saying "censored" and he was imagined to be in a Teddy bear, some of the followers of Muhammad got very angry. A few of them posted threats about the producers, and this is very mild.

Embedded video of Smiley's idiotic comments below:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!

At last, the day is here!

My purpose in posting Mohammed drawings here is not to offend (though it will certainly offend some), but to stand in solidarity with those who have been threatened or attacked as a result of violent threats from religious extremists for depicting Mohammed.

Let me put it another way: If Orthodox Jews threatened or attacked non-Jews for eating bacon, I would happily celebrate "Everybody Eat a Ton of Pork Day."

Civilized nations have freedom of expression, not freedom to go through life unoffended. To those who DO take offense at these, please understand that I am outraged by a hundred religious practices daily- but I certainly don't threaten your life and limb for adhering to them. On the contrary, I support your right to participate in whatever religious observances you like that involve only consenting adults and do not harm others. Don't eat pork. Don't work on Sundays. Don't depict Mohammed- that's cool. But if you think you can threaten others for failing to SHARE your beliefs/practices, you're a loon and I'm happy to offend you.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tim Minchin: If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife)

"If anyone can show me one example in the history of the world of a single Psychic who has been able to prove under reasonable experimental conditions that they are able to read minds

And if anyone can show me one example in the history of the world of a single Astrologer who has been able to prove under reasonable experimental conditions that they can predict events by interpreting celestial signs

And if anyone can show me one example in the history of the world of a single Homeopathic Practitioner who has been able to prove under reasonable experimental conditions that solutions made of infinitely tiny particles of good stuff dissolved repeatedly into relatively huge quantities of water has a consistently higher medicinal value than a similarly administered placebo

And if anyone can show me just one example in the history of the world of a single Spiritual or religious person who has been able to prove either logically or empirically the existence of a higher power that has any consciousness or interest in the human race or ability to punish or reward humans for there moral choices or that there is any reason - other than fear - to believe in any version of an afterlife

I’ll give you my piano, one of my legs, and my wife"

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hitchens Overreaches on Banning the Burqa

I dislike burqas but I think banning them by law is not civilized behavior for a modern nation.

Hitchens, however, is fine with banning them. In discussing the proposed French ban on burqas:

The French legislators who seek to repudiate the wearing of the veil or the burqa—whether the garment covers "only" the face or the entire female body—are often described as seeking to impose a "ban." To the contrary, they are attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority, and a ban on the right of all citizens to look one another in the face. The proposed law is in the best traditions of the French republic, which declares all citizens equal before the law and—no less important—equal in the face of one another.

Hitchens is usually much better than this level of nonsense. What about women who CHOOSE to wear it? What's next? Would you favor banning orthodox Jewish men from wearing hats or yarmulkes? Would you ban orthodox Jewish women from wearing wigs?

On the door of my bank in Washington, D.C., is a printed notice politely requesting me to remove any form of facial concealment before I enter the premises. The notice doesn't bore me or weary me by explaining its reasoning: A person barging through those doors with any sort of mask would incur the right and proper presumption of guilt. This presumption should operate in the rest of society. I would indignantly refuse to have any dealings with a nurse or doctor or teacher who hid his or her face, let alone a tax inspector or customs official. Where would we be without sayings like "What have you got to hide?" or "You dare not show your face"?

A bank, as a private business, can have whatever rules it likes. If a bank sets a policy that they will not provide counter service to people who are concealing their faces, I have no problem with that at all. This is NOT the same thing as a federal law that bans the garments being worn ANYWHERE.

Ah, but the particular and special demand to consider the veil and the burqa as an exemption applies only to women. And it also applies only to religious practice (and, unless we foolishly pretend otherwise, only to one religious practice). This at once tells you all you need to know: Society is being asked to abandon an immemorial tradition of equality and openness in order to gratify one faith, one faith that has a very questionable record in respect of females.

Well, the burqa shouldn't be exempted from the bank's rules, period. Your problem here, Mr. Hitchens, is with the bank's inconsistent policy.

Let me ask a simple question to the pseudoliberals who take a soft line on the veil and the burqa. What about the Ku Klux Klan? Notorious for its hooded style and its reactionary history, this gang is and always was dedicated to upholding Protestant and Anglo-Saxon purity.

Comparing women who wear a veil to the klan is a low, irrational blow. The klan wore hoods to conceal their identity as they did illegal and reprehensible things like lynching people.

I do not deny the right of the KKK to take this faith-based view, which is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I might even go so far as to say that, at a rally protected by police, they could lawfully hide their nasty faces. But I am not going to have a hooded man or woman teach my children, or push their way into the bank ahead of me, or drive my taxi or bus, and there will never be a law that says I have to.

No, Mr. Hitchens, you are not required to do ANY business with someone who wears the veil. Why are you suggesting that this could be expected of you?

It might be objected that in some Muslim societies women are not allowed to drive in the first place. But that would absolutely emphasize my second point. All the above criticisms would be valid if Muslim women were as passionately committed to wearing a burqa as a male Klansman is committed to donning a pointy-headed white shroud. But, in fact, we have no assurance that Muslim women put on the burqa or don the veil as a matter of their own choice.

Well, you could ASK them. I think a lot of men and women wear particular clothes or groom themselves in particular ways because their spouse/family/culture demands it. If a woman chooses to throw off this tradition and is PUNISHED for it, a civilized nation would seek justice against anyone who metes out such punishment.

But this argument is sooooo weak. How do I know, Mr. Hitchens, that you don't constantly look sweaty and drunk because your wife intimidates you into wearing woolen undergarments and sucking down endless amounts of scotch? Would you have us ban woolen underwear and scotch to protect you from your wife?

A huge amount of evidence goes the other way. Mothers, wives, and daughters have been threatened with acid in the face, or honor-killing, or vicious beating, if they do not adopt the humiliating outer clothing that is mandated by their menfolk.

This is of course true. Again, if a woman in a civilized nation chooses not to wear the veil and is mistreated as a result, THAT is a crime we can prosecute.

Many women of all religious and non-religious backgrounds in western nations are routinely intimidated into subservience by their families/husbands/communities/religions. The best we can do is seek to make such women aware of their real legal rights and ensure that any who seek to get between women and their rights are promptly smacked by the law.

This is why, in many Muslim societies, such as Tunisia and Turkey, the shrouded look is illegal in government buildings, schools, and universities. Why should Europeans and Americans, seeking perhaps to accommodate Muslim immigrants, adopt the standard only of the most backward and primitive Muslim states?

Well, now Hitchens is just being dishonest. The western nations will NEVER pass laws requiring that citizens wear veils, yarmulkes or crucifixes. To equate France with Saudi Arabia because France doesn't ban the veil is disingenuous.

The burqa and the veil, surely, are the most aggressive sign of a refusal to integrate or accommodate.

Here in the United States, Mr. Hitchens, we don't force people to integrate.

While is not illegal to wear a ski mask, we cannot outlaw the veil.

I cannot adequately express my disappointment in Hitchens, whose work on religion and civil liberties I usually find quite worthy of admiration.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This is an awesome exchange of emails between an Australian father and a "school chaplain."

Many thanks to the Archbishop of Cedar Creek for sharing this with me. :)

James Randi TED Talk

Randi gives an entertaining talk about psychics, homeopathy, and other irrational beliefs.