Amnesty International is in Ferguson.

In an unusual move, the global rights organization Amnesty International has dispatched a delegation of observers and organizers to Ferguson, Mo., to provide direct support to community members and to observe the police response to protests. The 13-person delegation, which arrived late last week, was the first of its kind deployed by Amnesty within the United States, the organization said.

Not the first time it’s ever been needed though. [Read more...]

More from the Brown files

Andrew Brown has invented a concept he calls “hard secularism” and cites as an example of it “attempts to ban prayer before council meetings.”

Mark Hammond, chief executive of the EHRC, points out that of the four cases on religious liberty that have gone to Strasbourg in the past three years, his organisation has sided with the Christians in two and against them in two. The commission took the view that Christians were not allowed to discriminate against gay people, however sincerely they want to, but it backed their right to wear crosses at work even when the secular courts disagreed. [Read more...]

If you listen

Look, what you see is not all there is, aka the availability heuristic, comes up again, this time at Alex’s, in a post about the fact that some people have every reason to be passionately angry at and about religion, and the related fact that others shouldn’t be telling such people to tone down their anger.

People like us are infamous for words like ‘privilege’, ‘splaining’, ‘problematic’; part of the power of concepts like these is that when transferred between activist contexts they expose parallels. I’m deeply aware there can be only limited analogy between atheism and the concerns of more marginalised groups, and would hate to devalue their language. But I’m convinced of the following:

It is a form of privilege to be an atheist who’s never experienced religious abuse, as many of us have who are antagonistic.

[Read more...]

Summer school with sprinkles

The summer school where Sue Blackmore gave that talk is called Oxford Royale Academy. Yes really – with the e on the end of Royal. Maybe you’re not allowed to call your consumer item “royal” unless you have permission from a royal? So you call it Royale instead? But the trouble is then it sounds like ice cream.

You probably shouldn’t be allowed to call it Oxford either, because it’s misleading, but there you go. My uncle put the Gallup Poll in Princeton to get the appearance of academic credibility. It’s what people do. He called it The American Institute for Public Opinion for the same reason. Templeton puts “Institutes” and “Academies” in Oxford and Cambridge for the same reason. It’s a widespread wheeze. It’s a wonder Oxford and Cambridge aren’t so full of shady “Institutes” there’s no room left for the universities. [Read more...]

Another bunch left, then another

Sue Blackmore gave a lecture at a summer school yesterday and was left shaken and depressed by how it went.

I was told they were of 45 nationalities and I assumed many different religions. So I prepared my lecture carefully. I tried it out the day before on my husband’s grandson, a bright mixed-race 16 year-old from Paris, and added pictures of the latest craze for ‘Fatkiniposts’ and more videos, including my favourite Gangnam Style parody (Python style), but I wasn’t going to avoid the topic of religious memes – religions are an example, par excellence, of memeplexes that use wicked tricks to ensure their own survival. I simply made sure that my slides included many religions and didn’t single one out.

We can see the clouds gathering already. [Read more...]

Meet Pro-life Waco

So, thanks to artymorty, here is Pro-Life Waco and its campaign against Planned Parenthood complete with STOP Planned Promiscuity sign.

Right at the top you get its ideal, which is a pretty and dainty white lady lying down flat with a baby pasted to her front. That’s how we like our ladies: white, and pretty and dainty, and recumbent, and pasted to a baby.


They had a campaign against a sex education program by Planned Parenthood, with its own website that looks a lot like the original website, complete with recumbent white lady pasted to baby.

[Read more...]

Planned what?

Talking Points Memo has a piece about anti-abortion protesters collecting the license plate numbers of people entering clinics.

What interests me about that story is the photo they used to illustrate it. It’s an AP photo credited to Duane A Laverty, and it shows people wearing huge red stop sign-shaped signs that read

STOP Planned Promiscuity [Read more...]

What you see is not all there is

Just because you don’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.*

You don’t see everything there is to see. I don’t, we don’t, everybody don’t.

By the same token, just because you do see something, doesn’t mean it’s all there is to see. (That’s the same thing really.)

Jeffrey Saltzman cites Daniel Kahneman on the subject.

Daniel Kahneman coined the acronym WYSIATI which is an abbreviation for “What you see is all there is”. It is one of the human biases that he explores when he describes how human decision-making is not entirely based on rational thought. [Read more...]