I’m reading Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.

The core facts: a Mormon man [Dan Lafferty] converted to radical polygamist female-subservientist fundamentalist Mormonism and converted his five brothers. The oldest brother [Ron Lafferty] was divorced by his wife as a result. The wife [Brenda] of the youngest [Allen] resisted all of them. Ron and Dan killed her and the pair’s baby daughter.

Some particulars:

Although standing up to Allen meant standing up to the entire Lafferty clan, Brenda did not shy away from such confrontations…[S]he possessed an impressive command of LDS scripture that allowed her to more than hold her own when debating fundamentalist doctrine with Ron and Dan. They came to despise her for defying them and for her influence over Allen, whom they considered “pussy-whipped.” [Read more…]

Stay where you are

Speaking of Islamic Feminism…

In Afghanistan, it’s a crime for women to leave home without permission.

“Running away” is not an offense found in the Afghan Penal Code. However, women and girls in Afghanistan have long faced punishment from family and local governing bodies for leaving home without permission.

In response to challenges to the practice of charging women and girls with the crime of“running away,” in 2010 and 2011 the Afghan Supreme Court issued an instruction to courts that “running away” is a crime… [Read more…]

The Templeton Prize

Who won who won who won, you cry, on the edges of your chairs.

The Dalai Lama.

Say what? The Dalai Lama won a prize that’s given for doing something or other about science and religion? Where’s the science part?

NEW YORK — The Dalai Lama has been awarded one of the world’s leading religion prizes.

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader is the winner of the 2012 Templeton Prize for his work on science and religion. The honor from the John Templeton Foundation, announced Thursday, comes with a $1.7 million award.

I didn’t know he’d done any work on science and religion.

The Dalai Lama is founder of the Mind & Life institute for research on science and Buddhism. A series of talks he gave at Stanford University led to the creation of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, which brings together scientists and religious scholars. The Templeton Prize will be awarded on May 14th in London.

Oh I see, he brings them together.

In a way it’s probably better that a religious boffin should win it, rather than a working scientist. It’s less misleading that way.

H/t Cuttlefish.

Job opening in Oxymoron Studies

The Women’s Studies Program at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, will offer a one-year postdoctoral fellowship in Islamic Feminist Studies in 2012-2013.

The Women’s Studies Program at Wheaton College is pleased to announce a one- year postdoctoral fellowship supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The fellow will pursue research and teach three courses in the Women’s Studies    Program during the appointment, including Transnational Feminisms, Introduction to Women’s Studies or Feminist Theory, and a course in his or her area of specialty. Women’s Studies is particularly interested in scholars of Islamic Feminism working on critical sexualities, but welcomes applications from all scholars in this field.

What I want to know is…what the hell is Islamic Feminism?

Tariq Ramadan explains

Ramadan informs us that Mohamed Merah was neither religious nor political; he was just a confused angry guy flailing around.

He seems to have had very precise aim for someone who was just flailing.

Religion was not Mohamed Merah’s problem – nor was his politics. A French citizen frustrated at being unable to find his place, to give his life dignity and meaning in his own country, he would find two political causes through which he could articulate his distress: Afghanistan and Palestine. He attacked symbols like the army, and killed Jews, Christians and Muslims without distinction. [Read more…]

Measuring the distance

Another free speech issue, a tricky one.

France has barred a group of Muslim clerics, including one of the most prominent voices in Sunni Islam, from entering the country to attend a conference.

France’s foreign ministry said Thursday the clerics were invited by the French Islamic Union to speak at a congress in Le Bourget near Paris from April 6-9.

One of those barred, the Egyptian-born Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, says he refuses to come to France.

The ban also includes other high-profile Muslim clerics of Palestinian, Egyptian and Saudi origin.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that “these people call for hatred and violence and seriously violate the principles of the Republic, and in the current context, seriously risk disrupting public order.”

That’s the state banning a particular kind of speech, all right. Free speech liberals think the bar should be very very high for that. Is the bar high enough here?

I don’t know. I suppose I think it’s not high enough as a matter of principle, but as a matter of reality, it may be. I don’t know how to think about it any more coherently than that. As a matter of principle, it seems as if people should be able to hold congresses and invite clerics to speak at them. As a matter of reality, misogynist anti-Semitic xenophobic homophobic clerics can be very dangerous. This insoluble conflict tends to make me despair.


Another loving father

Here’s a cheerful item:

According to news reports on Wednesday, an Egyptian man and his family tied up their daughter and threw her into the Nile river as a result of a divorce to her aging husband, who mistreat[ed] her and abused the young woman.

Luckily, a fisherman saw the girl and rescued her before she died, Emirates 24/7 reported.

According to their report, the girl had initially refused to marry the elderly man, but then acquiesced to her family pressure and wed…

After she and the man divorced over abuse, she returned to her family, who when the girl refused to remarry the man, was tossed into the river in an “honor crime.”

It’s interesting how women and girls get it in both directions. It’s interesting how brutal it is to tell a girl to marry someone she doesn’t want to marry in the first place, and how brutal it is to insist on it despite her attempt to refuse. It’s interesting that fathers can be so indifferent to the possibility that their daughters will have crappy lives. And then it’s interesting that after she gives in and obeys and finds that her unwanted husband abuses her, she is not taken in and protected by her family, with apologies for their bad judgement about the man they forced her to marry, but instead, she is tied up and thrown into the Nile.

Really: it’s interesting. It seems such a bleak view of life. It’s as if all of life were a prison sentence – people have to live together but affection plays no part in the arrangement. It’s all just sex and force and servitude/domination.

Say prayer works or we will squash you

Three MPs (UK) are trying to get the Advertising Standards Authority to change its ruling about advertising that claims prayers can heal diseases.

Last month, a Christian group in Bath were banned from using leaflets that said: “NEED HEALING? GOD CAN HEAL TODAY!… We believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness.”

The ASA said the claims were misleading and could discourage people from seeking essential medical treatment. [Read more…]

Homeless vets? Let’em starve

Justin has some shocking news – Fort Bragg wont let us feed homeless vets at the atheist festival

I fought very hard for this to happen at the festival this weekend. We went back and forth for several months. The ‘pro-starvation’ camp has prevailed.

The idea was simple.

Our festival is already paid for, via a generous donation from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation (directly deposited into our accounts at American Atheists). So here we are with a free festival on our hands. We would have put the word out to bring canned food (and similar items). Next, we would drop off the food where it needs to go. [Read more…]