Ashley, Heina and I talking about rape, comics and conventions

Three disparate topics, not exactly light conversation to start off, but we got progressively less ragey at least. It was an interesting conversation tonight on the Ashley F. Miller Show. (The F stands for “Fuckin'”. [No it doesn't. And you'd know that if you'd watched FtBCon!])

It was a relief to be on a panel I wasn’t running, with people who needed no prompting to set things up appropriately, after having done that all weekend long. Though I think I might be burned out on public appearances for a little bit. Let me restock on spoons for a bit, then we’ll see.

Also: I can’t believe I misattributed the nude revolutionary calendar to Taslima Nasreen. Now both she and Maryam Namazie are going to hate me. :(

Solidarity at #wiscfi

You might have seen this FtB solidarity photo from Women In Secularism 2 floating around, where the members who were on-hand after Maryam’s talk got a group photo taken with our signs expressing solidarity with the atheists in Muslim countries who are being persecuted for daring to think freely — whose lives are made miserable, and in some cases made forfeit, because they dare disagree with the majority.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Left to right, signs say:

Free
Happy
Defiant
Ateist
– Stephanie Zvan

WE ARE ATHEIST
WE
ARE
WITH
YOU
– Ophelia Benson

Recognize The
WORTH of
Non Believers –
– Respect The
RIGHTS of
Non Believers
I stand in SOLIDARITY with
ATHEISTS!
– Brianne Bilyeu

THOUGHT
IS
NOT
A CRIME
– Jason Thibeault

We stand
with you
– Kate Donovan

Secularism for
ALL women –
NOT just Western!
– Miriam Mogilevski

ATHEISM
IS A VIRTUE
NOT A CRIME
– PZ Myers

Together
We are
Stronger
– Ashley Miller

(You might also have seen a photoshopped version of this photo stripping it of its important message and making it all about a certain self-promoting asshole. That’s, I’m sure, SLIGHTLY more important than decrying the human rights violations perpetrated on fellow atheists, right?)

But you may not have seen the full scope of this effort.
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WaPo: Homegrown radicals opposed “US actions in the Muslim world”. See what they did there?

I have hardly had any time lately to blog (or much of anything leisure-related, honestly), but I’ve been trying to keep an eye on how the media’s been reporting on the Boston Marathon bombing. With Glenn Beck and the rest of the right-wing desperate to make this bombing about Islam, to fuel the rampant anti-Muslim racism in the States presently, this particular news article jumped at me as just a little too blatant about drawing links that aren’t there. It takes some ridiculous contortions to make the Boston bombing suspects’ actions have anything whatsoever to do with Islam, and the Washington Post was more than willing to pretzel themselves in an article purporting to explain how the brothers are essentially home-grown domestic terrorists with non-existent ties to outside influence.

The wording here is just too precious:

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, said Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police as the two attempted to avoid capture, do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.

Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.

Emphasis mine.

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FYI: This is what censorship looks like

Remember the charge that we bloggers who moderate our comments are actually engaging in censorship? This will surely come as a surprise to the howler monkeys making the claim that we’re censoring them: censorship actually exists, and is actually significantly more onerous than you folks thought! Via our blog-compatriot Aliasalpha, Ars Technica brings news of a list of 1600 words that are to be censored in text messages in Pakistan within seven days, with the penalty of legal action if telecom companies do not comply.

Phrases such as “beat your meat,” “fairy,” and “lovegun” are among the list of words banned in text messages by the Pakistani Telecommunication Authority.

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Science vs. the Qur’an

I received a comment on my post Religion as a mental parasite from Hashem, an Ohio native studying abroad at a university in Cairo. He converted to Islam, and believes its teachings to be divinely inspired due to the scientific information it conveys that was not available to its author(s) at the time of writing, in 600CE.

jthibeault, I like your article, and I have been in your place some time ago and truly understand what your thinking and trying to convey. But I got out of this, after extensive re-search on religion, and found, as always, how the strongest and most fearful things have extensive degrading rumors around it. From here I’m trying to say the religion I found, and I am not a preacher, but someone open to new thoughts that would shed “light upon me” and help me understand the truth, like letting up on my religion, have more faith in it, or whatever the outcome would be. I talk about Islam, and till today I haven’t found any flaw in the texts of the holy Q’uran regarding science, or anything which changed to adapt to science, or anything which ever prevented in the search of science. Actually its quiet the opposite, since it always calls for us to look for science and advance more in this world that god gave us. The scientific facts, philosophies, and explanations were never out of date, and is actually much ahead of its time. Please ask questions, I would love to have this conversation/debate, if you may, with you.

There’s a kernel of truth to this statement — while the Christian world suffered through the anti-knowledge Dark Ages, the Arabic world, predominantly Muslim, enjoyed a period of flourishing scientific discovery in astronomy and mathematics, owing largely to their disinclination to describe physical properties of objects, preferring instead to describe their Platonic ideals. Since they disliked the idea of trying to “unweave the rainbow” and take glory away from Allah, they largely avoided over-scrutiny of any of this world’s actual physical properties, so other disciplines languished while mathematics and astronomy benefited.

The challenge, however, is this: show the Qur’an had special scientific knowledge unavailable to mankind in ~600CE. That’s a tough nut to crack.
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How strawman arguments and shitty authors undermine #atheism

I haven’t read anything by Anthony DeStefano aside from his anti-atheist screeds on various news journals like USA Today, but I have no doubt merely by looking through the title list that he is a man of deep conviction in that which he cannot see. He’s written a book for children called Little Star, all about how the baby Jesus is very tiny but is our Lord. He’s written a book for grown-up children about how awesome a place Heaven is. And he’s written a book about all those things you can’t see but that the Bible assures you are really really real. And since you know other people believe it, they must really really REALLY be real.

So today we have a Serious Author writing a Serious Article in a Serious Journal about how atheists are superstitious “Materialists” who are simply incapable of comprehending that the parts of this natural world that we haven’t figured out yet are actually impossible to decipher, because God wants it that way.

Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that atheists believe in nothing. They do believe in something — the philosophical theory known as Materialism, which states that the only thing that exists is matter; that all substances and all phenomena in the universe are purely physical.

What nonsense.

We’re off to a running start.
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My Formspring brings all the hits to the blog

Seriously, a disproportionate number of blog hits are going to an old post wherein I syndicated from my Formspring account a bunch of random Formspring questions. It’s not particularly interesting, or informative, or even remotely deep. But it’s got almost four times as many hits as the next most read post, due to its high placement on Google for the search terms used in its title.

And since I’m a total blog-hits-whore, I might as well try to duplicate my past success!

If you want to ask me an anonymous question via Formspring, there’s a box on the left column for just that purpose.

Would you rather be really hot or really cold?
As in, hypothermia or hyperthermia? Or just having the temperature gauge a few degrees on either side of “room temperature”? Because when really cold, I can put on layers. And when really hot I can take them off. I suppose it’s a matter of scale. But I’d probably rather be hypothermic than hyperthermic if forced to choose how to nearly die.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
My short list is Dirk Manly, Brock Samson, or Penis Largehuge.

What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
“*grumble grumble* coffee. Wait, first, need to pee.”

What the the thing you regret saying the most, what has come out of your mouth that you wish you could take back?
Saying “I’d do anything for you” to someone that, in retrospect, didn’t deserve it.

when was yr first love? :)
I was 16. The girl I fell for was a compulsive liar. Not a very happy end. First loves never work out quite right.

people, people facing laptops (or screen if it matters), who is the prettiest woman in the world?
Every woman I’ve met is pretty in some way or another. Physical attractiveness isn’t everything. (Well, okay, there have been some women with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but I’m trying to be optimistic here.)

If you could eat one kind of vegetable, what would it be? Pretend that the color of the vegetable tastes like a corresponding body fluid (red = blood, yellow = urine, green = fungus or something)
First, you’d be dangerously nutritionally deficient if you only ate one kind of vegetable, and second, you’re trying to turn me off of that vegetable after saying it’s the only thing I can eat. I call shenanigans.

What is your favourite season?
Fall, when it’s still warm out but the leaves start to turn.

Favorite movies in horror, scifi, comedy, drama, indie, and overall?
Horror: Army of Darkness. I don’t go in for anything gorier than that.
Post-answer amendment: also, Shaun of the Dead doesn’t really count as horror, but it is fantastic.
Sci-Fi: Firefly/Serenity. If you limit me only to movies, it’s difficult to just say Serenity, but I’ll stand by that.
Comedy: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Pure AWESOMESAUCE.
Drama: Casablanca.
Indie: Don’t watch them often enough. Last good one I saw was Diary of a Nymphomaniac. Though, Run Lola Run was really good.
Overall: The Princess Bride. It’s got it all! :D

The last thing I do before I go to bed at night is __________________.
Brush my teeth. Well, technically, immediately after that I get undressed, and immediately after that I pull the covers back so I can get in bed.

“Reality is worth defending, it’s worth getting angry about.” My FB ‘religion’ is now something I grabbed from a comment on ‘friendlyatheist’. “Atheism isn’t a religion, it’s a personal relationship with reality”
I love this quote. The next time someone calls their religion a relationship, I’m so using it. Great find!

If you’re opinions are always so great, why doesn’t everyone agree with you?
Because then I’d be the founder of some sort of dogmatic religion, and then my opinions would be inherently worth less. Seriously, what kind of passive-aggressive bullshit is this? I don’t want everyone agreeing with me! I’m sure I’m wrong about stuff, I just want people to bring proof when they say so.

are your parents atheists too?
No, my parents were both religious. I believe my mother was raised Baptist in her hometown, and my father Catholic in his, which if you weren’t aware are both splinters of Christianity. My mother moved to live with my father in another province, and I was brought up Catholic in my hometown, which was 95% Catholic. My father is still pretty religious, and I only told him that I’m an atheist last year. My mother broke contact with us when she divorced my father and left to live in the States with some guy she knew from the internet, and I’ve been ignoring her attempts to restore contact since, so I don’t know what she is any more, as far as religion is concerned.

then what triggers you to be an atheist?
I believe the evidence is insufficient for any specific god(s) that people have postulated. Atheism is pretty much just the fallback position — if you can’t prove your god exists, and if the evidence contradicts your specific god, then why believe in any god at all?

I do still have mental traps wherein the concept of god that I’m talking about, is often the monotheistic Abrahamic god of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Because that’s the framework I was brought up in, that’s, to me, the most easily disprovable god. I am agnostic about gods like pantheism or panentheism, mostly because no evidence is presented either for or against, but I default to “why worship such a being” when presented with no evidence for. I’m atheist about specific gods, like Yahweh the Abrahamic god, because certain things have to be true for such a god to exist that just plain aren’t true.

Wikonspiracy

From an infosec perspective, the US losing over a gig and a half of classified material to a mid-level military goon with a CD-RW labeled “Lady Gaga” is nothing short of a bloody nose. It means several things: the database is unprotected and/or the database was available to people who had no business with it; there are working CD burners (and probably working USB ports, allowing for more easily concealable USB drives, for that matter) on computers with access to this database; and no physical screening is done on the military personnel entering and exiting the building to audit for what data is being transferred over the premises’ borders. It means that military security is nowhere near as invasive as has been recent TSA airport security changes. It means that military informational security, to put it bluntly, fucking sucked.
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The removal of specific words that could save specific lives

Our Lady of Perpetual Win (seriously, you should subscribe to her RSS, or better yet, don’t, so her pageview stats inflate somewhat), blogged today about a disgraceful bit of discriminatory politics at the United Nations.

Unless you speak up and tell the world that gays, lesbians and other sexual and gender minorities are due the same protection of their human rights under the law that the rest of us have, this is what you’re supporting.

United Nations — African and Arab nations succeeded by a whisker in deleting three words from a resolution that would have included gays in a denunciation of arbitrary killings. Europeans protested in vain.

The reference in the three-page draft came in the sixth of 22 paragraphs and urged investigations of all killings “committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation.” The provision was among many that had been proposed and analyzed by a “special rapporteur” (investigator) on the subject.

Benin, the chair of the African group of nations, proposed the amendment and Morocco, on behalf of the Islamic Conference, argued that there was no foundation for gays in international human rights instruments as there was in cases of race, gender and religious discrimination.

Because the words “including sexual orientation” were struck from this passage, and despite the “committed for any reason”, countries that kill based on sexual orientation including most of the Muslim states that follow Sharia law will continue to do so with impunity, because the especial force behind those words were stripped away. The denunciation of arbitrary killings is good, because arbitrary discriminatory killings happen every day in every country around the world, but the killing of gays and lesbians is practically institutionalized in some countries like Iran. And it is so, mostly because of their religion.

Religion fucks everything up. And not just certain zealots within the religion — the religion itself fucks everything up. Because it always trumps vague wordings like this. Unless the UN speaks up explicitly about the systematic murder of gays and lesbians in these religiously tainted countries, the religion will always take precedence over the explicit denunciation as inhumane of this religiously motivated practice.