Another weird twist on the argument

When I argue that atheists ought to aspire to be better people, I always get this weird counter-argument, along these lines: Ayn Rand was an atheist, and she pretty much opposed every single thing you lousy Social Justice Warriors stand for. Are you saying she wasn’t an atheist? No. I’m saying she was a rather crappy person, and that maybe atheists ought to aim a little higher, and not insist on reducing every atheist to the same feeble common denominator. That the general term encompasses some awful people does not mean we’ve been given a pass to be awful ourselves. If the atheist movement were synonymous with the objectivist movement, I wouldn’t be proud to call myself one.

Here’s another perspective:

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It’s a big day tomorrow! First, Jamie Kilstein’s and Allison Kilkenny’s book, NEWSFAIL, comes out. I’ve pre-ordered it for my Kindle, so I’m kind of hoping my iPad will go beep at 12:01 am tonight. You can read an interview with the two of them on Skepchick right now (I’m not big enough to score an interview with them, or to appear on Citizen Radio, even though Jamie was once the opening act for a lecture I did in DC <drinks whole bottle of bourbon, wades into the ocean, drowns, weeping>).

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Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring

It’s very strange, but lately I find myself paying less attention to atheist white men on Islam, and more to ex-Muslims like Heina, Maryam, Tauriq, Taslima, and Marwa (have you noticed how deep the talent pool is here at FtB?), and those are leading me to other ex-Muslim authors like Kunwar Khuldune Shahid and the other writers at Ex-Muslim blogs, and I’m finding my view of Islam is become a lot messier and more complicated. I’m simultaneously less sympathetic to the religion and more interested in the people.

I consider increasing complexity to be a good thing. Diminishing the influence of the uninformed is also a good thing.

Actually, when it involves the Catholic church, it’s never good news

We have a major Catholic sex abuse case going on in Minnesota, and it’s slowly coming to an end. Right now, it’s like a game of “good news, bad news,” though.

Bad news:

Those claims were bolstered by an MPR News investigation last fall that showed top church officials continued to protect priests accused of abuse. One priest, the Rev. Clarence Vavra, had privately admitted to sexually abusing a child on an Indian reservation in South Dakota in the 1970s. MPR News found him living half a block from a school. In another case, Harry Walsh, a former priest who was accused of abusing two children, had been hired by Wright County to teach sex ed to at-risk teenagers.

Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Archbishop Harry Flynn did not notify police or the public about the allegations against Vavra and Walsh and kept other clerics in ministry despite allegations of sexual misconduct, according to documents obtained by MPR News. Flynn and Nienstedt also gave special monthly payments to priests who had admitted to sexually assaulting children.

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Sunday Sacrilege: The Responsible Atheist

I’ve been vicariously following the #MovingSocialJustice conference this weekend, and feeling that these are really my people. At the same time, though, my nominal people, the ones called atheists, seemed to be remarkably stirred up and have been hitting me with messages of protest: don’t you know that atheism only means you don’t believe in gods? It has zero meaning beyond that. It’s just a straightforward, simple term that has been overloaded by those nasty Social Justice Warriors.

I don’t know what has roused these guardians of the One True Meaning this week — I suspect it’s the latest idiocy from #gamergate — there is some overlap between atheist and gaming communities, and definitely between some atheists and the anti-feminists.

So I get bizarre comments like this one:

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Your child should not be your proxy victim

Anti-vaxxers sometimes go off in reprehensible directions. A woman exaggerated her child’s symptoms to blame vaccines.

A leading British “mother warrior” campaigner, who claimed that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is responsible for autism, fabricated accounts of injury to her son and persistently lied about his health, a London court has ruled.

The mother, “E”, who cannot be named so as to protect her son’s identity, concocted a story about how he reacted to an MMR shot.  She said that he became distressed with fever and then lost speech, eye contact and play immediately following his three-in-one in January 1991, at the age of 18 months.

She claimed that he screamed after immunization, and that this was followed by six hours of convulsions and vomiting, and then six months in a “persistent vegetative state”.

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God’s own pea soup

I was sort of vaguely listening to the chatter of the hordelings from my lofty perch near the continental divide (the North-South one) when I heard discussions of food, and one word leapt out at me: peas. There is much conversation about peas in the comments here, so I assume you must all love them as much as I do. So I bought peas, many peas, and I had dried peas soaking overnight, and this morning I made pea soup by tossing in carrots and onions and oregano and garlic and a bit of salt and a few other secret ingredients, and I set it to simmer.

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Go away, cold fusion

A guy named Andrea Rossi has been promoting this device call the E-Cat that produces huge amounts of energy by nuclear fusion: specifically, that it fuses hydrogen and nickel to produce copper and energy. And now there is a claim that this amazing result has been verified, in a remarkably gushing and credulous review.

I am not a physicist, not even close. I am at best a moderately well-read layman. I also understand the general principles of fusion — it’s how stars work, it’s how heavier elements have been built up over the history of the universe from lighter ones. I might be willing to naively concede that maybe you can get two elements to fuse under conditions present on earth…but then I would ask, in my charmingly simplistic understanding of nuclear reactions, what about the left over bits? You say you’ve brought these two atoms together in a high-energy reaction, you’ve got oodles of power flowing out of this, don’t these reactions always spew out a few subatomic particles? And if there really is all this energy available, aren’t they going to be flying out of the collision with tremendous power, producing what we civilians call deadly radiation?

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