One in six

It has come to my attention that I don’t have anxiety, and that a lot of people do, and that I’m damn lucky not to. Or maybe I mean I don’t have Anxiety, or an anxiety disorder. It’s not as if I never get unreasonably jittery about something. I’ve told you how absurdly jittery I get whenever I travel (and how promptly I get over it once I’m at the airport). But compared to real anxiety, that’s nothing.

Scott Stossel has a long article about his in the current Atlantic.

I’ve finally settled on a pre-talk regimen that enables me to avoid the weeks of anticipatory misery that the approach of a public-speaking engagement would otherwise produce.

Let’s say you’re sitting in an audience and I’m at the lectern. Here’s what I’ve likely done to prepare. Four hours or so ago, I took my first half milligram of Xanax. [Read more…]

In a missionary situation

The Vatican wants to let everyone know that it is against secular education and would prefer that everyone went to a Catholic school, although it will settle for some other kind of religious school, since it doesn’t like to be too pushy about these things.

The Catholic News Agency reports on this exciting new idea:

A recently released Vatican document is calling for a fresh commitment to Catholic identity within what it calls an increasingly secularized educational system. [Read more…]

In light of the controversial nature of these images

Catching up on a slight backlog which I will blame on…let’s see…the paucity of daylight hours at this time of year. Yeah, that’s it.

Cast your mind back to December 19, when LSE apologized to Chris and Abhishek. Chris and Abhishek issued a statement in response.

The LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society welcomes the half-apology from the LSE for the misconduct of LSE and LSE Students’ Union staff during the Freshers’ Fair of 3 and 4 October, 2013.

Professor Craig Calhoun, the Director of the LSE, issued the apology today in response to our Appeal under the LSE’s Free Speech Code, adding that “the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies”, and that School staff and Students’ Union Officers had “unfortunately misjudged the situation”. [Read more…]

A huge growth in angel awareness

The Irish Independent has a story on…angels. Not a story on the oddity of belief in angels in 2013, but rather the contrary. More like a story on angels finally getting the recognition they deserve.

Time was when you wouldn’t hear about angels from one end of the year to the next — except at this time of year, of course, when they did their duty in the Christmas story, bringing messages to shepherds watching their flocks by night.

It is in this capacity, however, as messengers and guides, that these ‘spiritual beings’ have come into the greater, everyday consciousness.

On the one hand, scare quotes on “spiritual beings,” and on the other hand, they have at last emerged into the Great Public Mind. [Read more…]

In praise of the mundane

Tom Flynn at the CFI blog is not in favor of talk about “transcendence.”

In a Guardian blog, New Humanist commentator Suzanne Moore has — if inadvertently — defined the key difference between religious humanists and secular humanists in a very few words.

Bewailing the poverty of atheist (particularly, New Atheist) argot when it comes to offering a supporting matrix for meaningful secular ceremonies, Moore writes: “We may find the fuzziness of new age thinking with its emphasis on ‘nature’ and ‘spirit’ impure, but to dismiss the human need to express transcendence and connection with others as stupid is itself stupid.”

There’s the difference between religious and secular humanism in its essence — in a nutshell, if you will. [Read more…]

Pay it forward

There’s a nice segment on On the Media about plagiarism as a new art form. A poet called Kenneth Goldsmith teaches his students to give up all ideas about creativity and focus on recycling material.

The choices that we make are as expressive of ourselves as any kind of personal narrative we might do about our family or growing up. We’ve just never been taught to value those choices.

Until now, that is. Until recently; until the internet and aggregator sites and blogs.

Or, not so much until recently, perhaps, but it’s actually not completely new. [Read more…]

More solidarity needed

Iram Ramzan gets abuse on Twitter for being a liberal Muslim.

I am the latest in a bunch of women, specifically Muslim women, who have come under attack from a group of misogynist men. Their aim is supposedly to combat Islamophobia yet ironically their appalling behaviour is unIslamic and actually fuels anti-Muslim sentiment.

It’s rather funny how our ‘Muslimness’ is questioned to destroy our credibility. Accuse a Muslim person of drinking alcohol or eating pork and you have instantly ruined their reputation. And if you’re a woman, well, that’s ten times worse. The combination of being an ex-Muslim (which I am not by the way) and a ‘whore’ is lethal. [Read more…]

Dancing like infomercial hosts

It’s good to popularize; it’s good to convey specialized knowledge to a non-specialist public (which of course means a public full of people who specialize in other things) in a way that’s accessible without being predigested to the point that it’s just thin gruel that even Scrooge or Mr Wodehouse would have rejected.

It’s tricky. Benjamin Bratton says how it’s tricky.

To be clear, I think that having smart people who do very smart things explain what they doing in a way that everyone can understand is a good thing. But TED goes way beyond that. [Read more…]

Think of the implications of this argument

Ron Lindsay raises an important point about judges and the Catholic church.

According to the Church, it violates the moral obligations of a Catholic to do anything—anything—that would facilitate the provision of contraception to an individual. (See this summary of recent court decisions for an overview of this argument.) According to the Church, this includes the simple act of filling out a form certifying that the employer has an objection to contraception. This act by itself would make the employer complicit in evil. [Read more…]