PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins Discuss Aliens and Evolution

This video is rather old but I enjoyed watching it immensely, so I thought I’d share it anyway. It’s funny, and it’s very informative. They joke around and speculate how alien life would look like based on what we know about evolution and delve a little bit deep into evolution and what is common and what is rare and it all ends with a very funny anecdote. Watching it also makes me feel very good. Watch and enjoy.

Ideological Persecution Complex and Gambling on the Oppressed

Many ideologies are shaped in reaction to real social ills and real oppression. They are in fact inspired by oppression, they are a plea for justice in an unjust situation. They are most of the times revolutionary ideologies, meant to overthrow and oppressive regime or social system. They are naturally considered liberating forces and attract well-meaning people who support them and leagues of angry supporters. Then a revolution happens, and that ideology becomes the regime or it becomes the dominant ideology. Then, to everyone’s surprise, it’ll turn out to be actually as repressive as the previous system or more, and soon it will lose all the respect it held as a liberating ideology.

But why? Was it because the power corrupted them? Was it because they were never sincere? I think among some individual believers this is possible, but ultimately the problem is somewhere else, somewhere integral to all revolutionary ideologies which makes them potential oppressive opportunities, and what makes them appealing in the first place.

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Link Round-Up 8/17/2014

Story of the week: Robin Williams passed away. David Wong of Cracked has a moving article on the link between comedy and depression. Salon has an interesting compilation of his best moments and Vulture has more moments. Jerry Coyne has the best overview of the reactions of the atheist community to his death. Ashley Miller discusses the role of depression in the light of his death. This is some teachers inspired by his role in Dead Poets Society, a sentiment I expressed in my own obituary as well.

JT Ebehard and Dan Fincke have both touching tributes.

Lauren Bacall was another great actor we lost. Here is a review of her great career. Richard Brody explains how being a strong woman shaped her career. This NPR article includes some of her interview highlights. But my favorite article after her death was Amy Davidson’s. And you can see her life narrated in pictures.

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On Harm, Truth, and Hegemonies: Another Response to Libby Anne

Libby Anne honored me by responding to my response, and I want to than her very much for taking the time to do this, and I appreciate the opportunity to continue this dialogue.

This is her original column, this is my response, and this is her counter-response.

In short, Libby argued about why she opposes the rhetoric which calls religions intrinsically incompatible with modern values, and I argued why I disagree. If you would like read the links and keep up with the discussion.

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The Intellectual Mandate to Criticize Progressive Theism: A Response to Libby Anne’s Article

I have repeatedly defended the position that atheists have a right to say that a particular version of a religion is “true”, and they have the right to call out progressive religious people as being incoherent and presenting odd defenses of their religions. Of course, since I’m an ex-Muslim I have focused on Islam, but I think that is true about every religion. Religions are much older than progressive or humanistic values, and no one expects us to interpret Homer or Virgil or Plato or Aristotle in the way that corresponds to our values today, but we somehow give that sanction to the religions, because as I have said any atheist who argues in favor of progressive religion either buys into religious hegemony and gives a special status to religion or does so for political reasons. It’s funny how skeptics suddenly become poststructuralist when it comes to religions and believe in the infinity of valid interpretations, and then switch back to being skeptics after satisfying their conscience that they haven’t been mean to progressive theists.

Anyway, if you are interested in reading what I have said about this topic before, in this piece I have reasoned why (about Islam) this position is rationally true, in this one I have shown why it is politically useful, and here I post about the internal contradiction of giving a special status to religion when it comes to letting its progressive proponents define it.

But last night I read a very compelling article by the ever amazing Libby Anne, in which she argued for not doing this. I want to write a response, but also add a point to the points I made above. This is the link to her article: On Creation, Evolution, and Criticizing Progressive Christianity.

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Welcome Hiba to FTB!

So, my favorite ex-Muslim blogger is on FTB. I have mentioned Hiba Krisht (previously known as Mawa Berro) on this blog many times before, and if you are interested in ex-Muslims issues, I personally don’t know any better blogger to turn to. This is really an honor for FTB to host her. Read her author bio:

Hiba Krisht is a writer and professional translator from Beirut. An apostate from Islam, she grew up between an international expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah guerrilla warfare culture in Lebanon. Her literary work appears in or is forthcoming from The Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, 580 Split, Mizna, and the Evergreen Review among others. She is a recipient of the 2012 Jane Foulkes Malone Fellowship from Indiana Univeristy and the 2013 JoAnn Athanas Memorial Award in literature from the National Society of Arts and Letters. She received her BA in English literature and her MA in philosophy from the American University of Beirut. In her blog, she explores womanhood and politics post-Islam, with a recurring focus on the residual effects of 15 years of wearing the Muslim veil. She is working on a memoir expansion of her blog in book form.

I already know that memoir is going to be one of the best memoirs I will read.

This is her blog, Between a Veil and a Dark Place, and this is her first post, in which she thoroughly introduces herself. Read it! You will see why she’s amazing.

Read My Deconversion Story at A Tippling Philosopher

Jonathan MS Pearce was kind enough to run a guest post of mine at his fantastic blog, A Tippling Philosopher. In it I tell the story of my deconversion. This is the introduction to that piece:

I already have written a very long book as my memoir to narrate my experience as an atheist in the theocratic Iran, and its name is the same as my blog,On The Margin of Error.First I wanted to choose some various excerpts for this guest post, but ultimately decided to choose one single excerpt which chronicles my deconversion. This is in the honor of Jonathan’s (and Tristan Vick’s) book,Beyond an Absence of Faith, a book which I greatly enjoyed. Chapter three of the book is the shortest chapter, and here it is.

You can read the piece here.

The Sin of Joy

Maybe you have come across Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç saying that laughing loudly is not allowed for women in Islam.

Women should not laugh out loud in public, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said while complaining about “moral corruption” in Turkey.

Speaking during an Eid el-Fitr meeting on July 28, Arınç described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness,” Arınç said, adding that people had abandoned their values today.

That of course is not his personal opinion – many Muslim theologians say the same thing, about men and women. Look at this site for example:

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Link Round Up 7/26/2014

The Story of the Week: Our friends over at Skptic Ink publish a joint book. Read about it here. Skeptic Ink writers visit Skeptic Canary Show to discuss their new book. I personally don’t have access to the book, but you might want to check it out.

Other Story of the Week: Make sure to continue reading the Ex-Hijabi Photo Journal. This is Mahmoud’s story about sneaking in food, for example.

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Check Out Avicenna’s Very Important Post on a Rape Case in Afghanistan

This is really important. I wanted to put it in my link round ups, But Avicenna brought up some major concerns in Facebook so I decided to do the best I can. Please share this as it needs to be read. This is the post: No Honour – The men have to wash their shame with blood. It deals with this piece of news:

The story goes as follows. A 10 year old girl was raped by Mullah Mohammed Amin in a mosque. The mullah claims it was consensual which is puzzling. Since this is rape and in Afghanistan? The spectre of honour crime raises it’s head. Family members openly planned to kill the girls. In order to protect her, the rapist agreed to marry his victim.

The girl was moved from the local shelter where she was staying and returned to her family. The legal ruling in Afghanistan is that no shelter can keep a woman if her family demands her back. The workers at the shelter believe that she is at risk.

Dr. Hassina Sarwari runs Women for Afghan Women. Remember how A Voice for Men guffawed about the lack of feminists in Afghanistan? Hassina Sawari is such a feminist.

Hassina has been recieving death threats from… pretty much everyone. She is one of the people who ran the shelter. In order to play down the rape, both sides have gotten involved as such a case brings great shame to the family and the Mullahs (for reasons only understandable to Pashtun honour culture). Sarwari was forced into hiding by threats from the girl’s family and mullahs. The Mullah defence is that the girl is actually older than 10. She has recieved threatening text messages.

Dr. Sarwari wishes to flee Afghanistan, her life in peril.

But Avicenna’s excellent post covers much more than that, providing context, nuance, everything. Should be considered one of the greatest posts I’ve read.

Why it is so important and why I thought it’s urgent to post it? These are what Avicenna said in a Facebook discussion:

I actually regularly point out that my REAL blog posts are thoroughly ignored. Everyone likes the drama, no one likes the stuff. So for every accusation of “drama blogging” I have like ten different posts of stuff I think is rather cool or rather important that never gets read by all the naysayers who keep telling everyone that I drama blog only.

Yesterday I wrote about an aquaintance getting turfed out of Afghanistan for trying to ssave a 10 year old girl from her rapists who is a Mullah. Afghan Government Officials sent her death threats, Taliban sent her death threats, The Mullah send her death threats and the Child’s Family sent her death threats.

WE don’t know if the child is alive anymore. Just that her family was planning to kill her and the child was given back to them.

Nope. People wanted to discuss Jaclyn… The things that hit and miss and go viral are so weird that I have no ideaa what is and what isn’t good blogging anymore.

Yeah considering I had to read the medical examination of a 10 year old rape victim…. That was fun….

But such is the issue with blogs. You never know what will go viral. Some of the stuff that goes viral has me going “Seriously? I wrote that on a train because I was bored”.

So, read it, share it, let everyone know about it.