Valerie Tarico isn’t afraid to use the word “terrorism”

She knows what’s up.

On November 27, a mass shooting left three dead and nine wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic just miles from the headquarters of the Religious Right flagship, Focus on the Family. Was the shooting exactly what conservative Christian presidential candidates and members of congress wanted? Maybe, maybe not. But it is what they asked for. Republican members of the Religious Right incited violence as predictably as if they had issued a call for Christian abortion foes to take up arms. Inciting violence this way is called stochastic terrorism:

“Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. In short, remote-control murder by lone wolf.”

In an incident of stochastic terrorism, the person who pulls the trigger gets the blame. He—I use the male pronoun deliberately because the triggerman is almost always male—may go to jail or even be killed during his act of violence. Meanwhile, the person or persons who have triggered the triggerman, in other words, the actual stochastic terrorists, often go free, protected by plausible deniability.

She’s also not afraid to name names.

We can be confident that communications teams for Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and others are scrambling at this very moment to figure out the nuances of plausible deniability—weighing how best to distance themselves from the violence that killed a police officer and two others without making their protestations of surprised dismay sound as hollow as they actually are—without actually denouncing the disgust and dehumanization of women who have abortions and those who provide them.

But of course they’re going to get away with it. They’ve got obedient masses who were trained in the churches to obey authorities.

Consider the possibilities, atheists!

Let’s look on the bright side of this infuriating story.

Khalil, 29 and Ayyad, 28, moved to Philadelphia from Palestine 15 years ago. Khalil now owns the Feltonville pizza shop — Pizza Point — that gave him his first job. The friends were in Chicago visiting each other’s families and met back at the airport Wednesday night to take the same flight home. The gate agent told them apologetically they wouldn’t be allowed to board because a passenger was afraid to fly with them after overhearing the men speaking Arabic.

So they called the police, and argued, and finally, after a delay, were allowed to board the plane. It’s totally unjust that someone can just whine about a fellow passenger’s religion or language and get them kicked off.

But…you know, last time I was on a flight, there was a Catholic priest in all the sombre regalia boarding the plane with me.

You can see where this is going.

Can I go to the gate agent and claim that I am afraid to fly with a member of a child-raping cult that worships death? Because that is just as reasonable as claiming I’m afraid that a couple of pizza guys were a danger because they didn’t speak English to each other. But hey, if airlines are going to bend over so much to avoid defying the bigotry of their passengers, we could start acting as stupid as those fools and be really annoying.

Except, unfortunately, that I have no interest in competing in the idiocy race with bigots, and generally when I’m boarding a plane I just want to get the process over with and get to my destination.

Also, I doubt that they would care what an atheist fears, anyway.

Bristol Palin gets something right for a change


She has declared the current Starbucks holiday cup ‘controversy’ stupid.

Do not buy in to the media hype surrounding this story!! It is just another attempt by the LEFT to make Christians look stupid.

She still gets some things wrong. All of us on the “LEFT” are shocked and bemused by the fact that anyone on the “RIGHT” thinks this is a matter of any significance at all…but the original instigator, people like Joshua Feuerstein, are most definitely not part of any left-wing conspiracy.

I am also amused by one other little fact. She thinks the controversy is stupid, but…

But even Palin said that she had chosen to buy her coffee at the local Mocha Moose instead of patronizing Starbucks.

But then maybe that’s entirely because Starbucks coffee is terrible.

Religion makes you selfish


You can read this new paper in Current Biology titled The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World and see for yourself — religiosity is not a good thing for fostering generosity, it seems. The authors are a truly international group who tested children from Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa with a set of games, and got a set of results that showed a statistically significant difference in the degree of altruism for different religions, or lack thereof. Here’s how the results look:


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Christians aren’t oppressed, they’re entitled

Christians are adamant that they are persecuted, despite being a majority in this country and despite controlling all of politics — not only is it almost impossible to get elected to high office unless you’re Christian, but one of the most common complaints about politicians people don’t like is that they are non-Christian, as if that’s enough reason to impeach. Look at Obama, who’s always getting called a Muslim. He’s clearly not, by all that he says and does, and besides, it shouldn’t matter if he were a Muslim or a Satanist.

As a vocal and activist atheist, I’m in a peculiar position. I ought to be in a position to hammer young minds with godless propaganda, but I don’t — I’m actually very conscientious about avoiding making students think about the anti-scientific nature of religion in the classroom, because we’ve got more than enough topics to cover. Yet over and over again, I learn that Christian educators have no such compunction, and are happily engaged in indoctrinating their students, while at the same time, whining that they get no respect and are oppressed by godless scientists.

Zack Kopplin interviewed students in Louisiana. It’s all preachin’ and bible-thumpin’.

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Todd Starnes, entomologist


Todd Starnes, Fox News wingnut, must really love insects, because he’s begging his god to send more.

When the public schools tell students that our Founding Fathers were a bunch of terrorists: Send the hornets, Lord! Clear the field! When a teacher tells a little boy he can’t pray over his meal: Send the hornets, Lord! Clear that field! When the Pentagon tells them to take down a cross on a Christian chapel: Send those hornets! Clear the field! When the Supreme Court says they know better than God: Send the hornets, Lord! Clear the field! And, when the president says that America is no longer just a Christian nation: Don’t send the hornets, Lord. Send the mosquitoes and the gnats, and the bumblebees and the lightning bugs and the cicadas! Send every critter you got, Lord! Clear the field!

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The One True Christian™ Big Boat

From that last post, I wanted to single out one of the criticisms Answers in Genesis has of other people’s renderings of the book of Genesis.

10. Ark looks like a bathtub with happy animals sticking out of it

That’s an odd complaint. So children’s books are all bad because they have cartoonish simplifications of the old myth? This collection of medieval and more recent art showing the Ark is all wrong?


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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?