Maryam also gives a very good talk

I’m not one of those wacky free speech absolutists. I am generally in favor of free speech, but I do think there are also obligations and responsibilities. Let me give you a few examples.

There have been a few instances where I was scheduled to speak somewhere, and officials tried to get me kicked out. That’s inappropriate. They also failed in every case, probably because I’m not as scary as Maryam Namazie. But it’s not right in her case, either.

I’ve had people picket and protest at a few of my talks. I thought that was cool — I encourage my critics to exercise their free speech privileges. My response is usually to talk to picketers and invite them to come inside and listen. Maryam Namazie isn’t one to back down from an argument, either.

I’ve never had anyone threaten to riot if I dared to speak, but that has happened to Maryam Namazie. In those cases, though, whose demands should be respected, the one who is giving a non-violent talk, or the ones who will turn violent if someone disagrees with them?

If someone is truly awful, these events can be a wonderful opportunity to deflate the bad guy. Back in 2004, David Horowitz, complaining about campus speech codes and censorship, gave a talk at St. John’s University. Yes, it was ironic that he was bitterly whining about how universities censor him while speaking at a university. But even more ironically, in part of his speech he railed against the Peace Studies course that was apparently inimical to his ideology…and students spoke up and said that they were taking that course, and that the instructor had given them class time off to specifically attend the Horowitz lecture. Imagine if Maryam Namazie’s opposition to Islamism could have been addressed by thoughtful, peaceful Islamist students showing up to listen attentively. (No, I know, wasn’t going to happen.)

There are limits to what we should tolerate on campus, though. For example, in the case of Condoleeza Rice being disinvited from the University of Minnesota campus a few years ago, I approved. I thought it was great that students were campaigning actively to stop her, because they were exercising their right to free speech, too. But mainly, there were two reasons I thought Rice should have been booted from campus. First, she’s part of an administration that was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and I don’t think war criminals deserve respect. How many people is Maryam Namazie responsible for murdering? Second, the university was going to pay her $150,000 for an abbreviated lecture, a gross waste of money. How much does Maryam Namazie get paid?

But otherwise, you may disagree with Maryam Namazie, in which case you should be out protesting and making your case, but to pretend that speech by someone with whom you disagree will cause some kind of imaginary harm puts you in the same boat with Saudi fundamentalists.

If Trump is going down, why not Ben Carson?

A few people have been arguing that Trump’s tolerance of anti-Muslim bigotry will kill his campaign at last; I doubt it. If so, though, shouldn’t Ben Carson be washed up?

Responding to a question on “Meet the Press,” the retired neurosurgeon said, I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

He also said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.

Carson, who is near the top of several early presidential polls, said a president’s faith should matter depending on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter, he clarified.

The first amendment to the US Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It’s also in article VI of the body of the Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

I guess Carson hasn’t read it, if he thinks he can claim that someone holding a particular religion can be prohibited from holding office.

Although it is an interesting idea — I think Christianity, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution. Can we tell all the presidential candidates to go home now?

Gotta go

It’s the first week of biology labs here at UMM, and I caught most of the morning sections — I’m expected to put on my lab coat, get into the lab, and do my job in a half hour. Except that I have just learned that if I invoke God’s authority, I can shirk all I want for as long as I want. I think I’ll just go back to bed for a while.

Except…here in the real world, if I refused to do my job, I’d be fired so fast. It doesn’t matter that I have tenure — refusal to fulfill the obligations of my employment, the basic, necessary work for which I was hired, would get my ass launched out the door like I was loaded into a cannon. I could squabble futilely for a good long while, throw lots of money at irresponsible lawyers (the only kind who would take my case), but the conclusion would be foregone.

I guess I better get moving. I’ve got a few hours of teaching sterile technique to cell biology students ahead of me, even though it is not mentioned in the Bible.

His generosity knows no bounds

The Pope has made a proclamation.

I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.

Gosh. In the spirit of reciprocity, I am compelled to make an equal offer. I know that it is an intellectual ordeal, and that deep in their hearts priests are scarred and regretful at their abandonment of the integrity of their minds, their lifelong commitment to an amoral and corrupt institution, and the emotional stunting involved in a life of celibacy.

I have decided that all atheists have the discretion to forgive and accept the apologies of any priest who willingly renounces the church, now and forever, and for that matter, at all times in the past. It’s not really a power for me to give, but hey, I’m just returning his favor.

By the way, all atheists have the discretion to say “Fuck you” to patronizing priests who think they have the power to forgive you for acts for which you have no regrets.

It’s amazing how powerful we all are.

Another Bangladeshi blogger murdered for atheism


Atheists neither need nor want martyrs, so could the mindless fanatics of the world please stop creating them? Niloy Neel has been hacked to death with machetes in Dhaka.

Imran H Sarkar, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, told the BBC that Mr Neel had been an anti-extremist voice of reason.

“He was the voice against fundamentalism and extremism and was even a voice for minority rights – especially women’s rights and the rights of indigenous people,” he said.

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Go for the enablers


Good news in Minnesota: the Catholic church is getting slammed with criminal charges.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Friday his office is filing criminal charges against Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for “failing to protect children” from an abusive priest.

In a noon news conference Choi said the charges stem from the archdiocese’s handling of complaints about former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is now serving a prison term for abusing two boys while he was pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul.

It’s not just that they gave an abuser access to children, it’s not just that they tried to cover it up, it’s that they ignored the church’s own rules on how to handle the pedophiles in their midst. It exposes the fact that Catholic priests tend to mouth one kind of piety while diddling the meaning of those words with their hands.

It beats Vacation Bible School

A church, Panama City Beach’s Life Center is no longer tax exempt, because authorities decided that they didn’t like its sacraments…which involved nude body-painting events (but the human body is one of god’s greatest creations, how can you object to celebrating it?) and selling sexually explicit t-shirts (again, sex is holy, isn’t it?). They were specifically appealing to college youth who were in town for spring break.

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