No seriously. I’m in Texas. It feels like being in a foreign country. The trees are different. The birds are different – very different.

I got here in time for the auction dinner. I sat between Richard, from San Francisco, and Glen, from Philadelphia, who had donated one of the items to be auctioned – and what an item it was: a week at a retreat he designed and built in Costa Rica. Whooo…It was a fund raiser for American Atheists. Funding buys their work, Dave told us, like that case they won at the Supreme Court this year.

And Anthony Grayling was there! It’s lovely to see him again.

Now I have to go out and see a little of Austin. I didn’t get much sleep but that’s good because it gives me time to see a little of Austin.

The struggle

There will be a book in which Malala tells her own story published in the fall.

The memoir of 15-year-old Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai will be published this fall, publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson announced Wednesday. The deal is reportedly worth about $3 million.

Titled “I Am Malala,” the book will tell the story of the young advocate for women’s education who was shot in the face at point-blank range by Taliban gunmen on Oct. 9 in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

I’m assuming she has a co-author or ghost writer or some such, because that’s a very short time for publishing and she’s in school and has only just recovered from being shot in the head and is only 15 anyway. “Memoir” seems like the wrong word for that – but I don’t know, maybe it’s not. Anyway it doesn’t matter; it’s good that there will be such a book. [Read more…]

Power to the fertilized eggs

So in North Dakota, as I mentioned in passing a few hours ago, the legislature has decided to define eggs as people.

North Dakota lawmakers voted on Friday afternoon to pass a “personhood” abortion ban, which would endow fertilized eggs with all the rights of U.S. citizens and effectively outlaw abortion. The measure, which passed the Senate last month, passed the House by a 57-35 vote and now heads to a ballot vote, likely in the next November election. [Read more…]

Not a dry eye in the house

The Onion…

Supreme Court Justices Brought To Tears By Heartfelt Testimony Of Bigot Who Hates Gay People

WASHINGTON—Listening to oral arguments Wednesday regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, all nine Supreme Court justices were reportedly moved to tears by the heartfelt and highly personal testimony of a bigot who despises homosexuals unreservedly. “It’s impossible for anyone who hasn’t spent their whole life in a state of benighted prejudice to know the pain and hardship that people like myself endure every day in our efforts to ensure that gays and lesbians remain oppressed and unequal,” said the immense homophobe, whose stirring, emotional speech about his harrowing daily struggles to impede social progress prompted a weeping Chief Justice John Roberts to halt the proceedings briefly so that he and the 500 individuals in attendance could compose themselves.

Distinctions, always distinctions

Adam Lee did a post in Amy’s series a week ago and I missed it. (Too busy stuffing my face with cupcakes, probably.)

Most of us became atheists for intellectual reasons, because we find the arguments for theism unconvincing, or for moral reasons, because we find its teachings intolerable. But it seems to me that there’s a small number of men (and a smaller number of women) who are atheists purely because they delight in being offensive, because they believe no one has the right to tell them what to do. They think this community is a place where they can indulge those impulses: where they can be as crass and boorish as they want, where they can leer at or hit on women in any way they want, or cheer on those who do. And too often, we’ve seen that when women object to this treatment, however politely, they become the targets of a campaign of violent threats, abusive hate mail and dehumanizing filth.

It’s even trickier than that, because there is some merit in being “offensive,” depending on a lot of particulars. But there’s offensive and then there’s offensive. There’s telling the Catholic church it’s an evil institution, and there’s telling a particular nun that she’s ugly and repellent. Or to put it another way, there’s offensive and there’s mean. The people Adam is talking about are blind to that distinction. [Read more…]

How can we be multicultural if we don’t allow sharia?

Anne Marie Waters had a depressing experience a couple of weeks ago.

On Sunday, I spoke at the University of Kent’s Critical Law Society conference under the heading of ‘Equality: Are We There Yet?’

I was invited to speak alongside pro-sharia advocate Aina Khan (more on her later) and a PhD student (more on her later as well) and found myself in a not-too-unfamiliar situation of having to argue against domestic violence in opposition to a room full of “feminists”.

Having described how sharia family law in Britain allows men to beat their wives – as the testimony of women who have been through it confirms – the “feminists” weren’t quite sure whether or not they disapproved. I was met with highly accusatory questions such as How can we be multicultural if we don’t allow sharia?, and comments such as We must tolerate … well, pretty much everything from what I could make out. [Read more…]