On the shaming of Miss USA pageant queens, and ‘The Hunger Games’

June 17, 2013

Have you heard? At the Miss USA  Pageant, both Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, and Miss Alabama, Mary Margaret McCord, gave ignorant or incoherent answers to questions related to current events? Everyone’s talking about it (See: here, herehere, here, here, here, here, etc, etc). And two of those linked pieces come from Joe Coscarelli of New York Magazine, who decided to write short pieces ridiculing each.

Some of these articles, if not the actual video clips (which I’ve decided to not help circulate here directly, though they are embedded on some of the above links), have been circulating like crazy on my Facebook wall. Ha ha! Isn’t it funny how dumb these stupid know-nothings are? I must share their ignorance across the internet at once!

I, however, have a different reaction to this. I feel like picking on a pageant queen is not only a waste of energy but also just playing into the Hunger-Games-like system the establishment has created. It’s not Miss Utah or Miss Alabama”s fault women are systematically underpaid or that the NSA is spying on American citizens without a warrant; it’s the fault of government and corporations. Miss Utah and Miss Alabama are just the latest child sacrifices from Districts whatever seemingly used by those in power to distract us from real enemies like the big banks or our completely ineffectual Congress.

And no, I don’t mean there’s necessarily a deliberate literal conspiracy happening here. But every time the news wastes our time on mind-numbing celebrity sensationalism, that’s less time they’re talking about prosecuting the Wall Street bankers who profited off of destroying the American economy or the blatant unconstitionality of the NSA surveillance practices, or the unequal pay for women in this country. And isn’t it funny how a woman has managed to become the target of scorn in the name of a feminist issue like equal pay for women? Funny how that works out, huh.

Now to be fair, even I’ve fallen into this trap before. Several years ago, I’m pretty sure I wrote an article on this very blog skewering then Miss California, Carrie Prejean (why do I still remember her name? Argh!). And I might have also mocked 2007’s Miss Teen USA Miss South Carolina over her now infamously incoherent answer. So I’m not going to pretend I’m innocent here in this public shaming by–let’s face it–mostly over-educated liberals, of beauty pageant contestants who are asked these sorts of serious political questions for no other reason than to make a shallow, despicable contest over nothing other than which barely legal girl a bunch of random swarmy yahoos happens to think is prettier seem less despicable.

But I guess I realized what my real problem is with this after a Facebook friend suggested, “I think you’re reading too much into having a few cheap laughs at the expense of someone who deserves it.” Watching mostly over-educated liberals shame these girls is one thing. but I don’t think the news media should be using their power and influence to have cheap laughs at a 23-year old girl who merely aspires to win a beauty contest.

The reason this is such a cheap and lazy story for news outlets is it feeds off the audience’s own smug sense of self-satisfaction. Everyone gets to congratulate themselves for knowing more about at least one thing than she does. What an accomplishment! Good comedy makes targets of the powerful. I guess where I disagree with my friend is I just fail to see in what way these girls deserve it.

DJ Grothe responds to misogyny accusations

January 10, 2012

Ever since “Elevatorgate”, there’s been a great deal of discussion among skeptics about an alleged misogyny problem within the skeptical community. Having seen at least some of the vitriol thrown at Rebecca Watson in particular, I’ve been inclined to support these efforts.

But since the new year began, it seems like there’s been a new alleged scandal over feminist issues almost every day. And it seems like the same few prominent skeptical bloggers have been at the center of these controversies, not as the victims of inequality or as the alleged perpetrators of an injustice, but as the ones bringing these stories to light.

This recent string of accusations as well as the behavior showed to individuals who have been accused has forced me to grow concerned. And apparently, I’m not alone.

The latest skeptic to be accused of unfair treatment towards women was DJ Grothe himself, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. In her most recent blog, Greta Christina charged him showing a pattern of “defending sexist language and behavior”, to which Grothe wrote a lengthy response in the comments section, which goes on to address many of the same concerns I’ve been having with what is beginning to look like a McCarthyist culture developing in our movement. Though I don’t want to put words in Grothe’s mouth and I should say that I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says.

Here’s Grothe’s comment in its entirety:

Greta: Some quick answers to your questions, although because of the nature and culture of these sorts of blogs, my comment here will be seen by fewer people than see your I think incorrect take on things, unfortunately. Such is the nature of these sorts of posts (direct responses can get buried in comments), and so I would appreciate if you link to my response here in your original post.

You ask two questions:

Question #1: Do you really think there is any context in which making threats of gender-based, sexualized violence — towards a person of any gender, but especially towards a female writer and her readers — can be justified?

No, of course I don’t. There is no justification for the use of such language, as I think you should know, since I’ve said as much many times already, including in an email exchange that you began with me the same day I made the comment that offended you on your post contra Long. I believe what Long said is unjustifiable, and I also believe that you treated him unfairly in your post against him. These two opinions are not incompatible: someone can be unfair to someone else who has done something wrong. I have explained why I hold this opinion in that email exchange you had with me, as well in numerous other comments on this blog network. You and I disagree about if/how you treated him unfairly, and you seem to be unable to allow for that disagreement. As a professional writer, maybe handling disagreement through public blogging and/or flogging is easiest or most natural for you; but publicly excoriating folks for not assenting to a view I hold is not how I am used to engaging in honest argumentation. You “fervently beg” me to agree with you, and of course I have already stated numerous times that Long’s comments were unjustifiable, but I simply do not agree that you treated him fairly.

You ask what I intend to do about it: well, I certainly don’t intend to write a punishing blog post against Long. But for the record, I wrote Long a message that day and clearly stated, among other things, how out of line I thought he was to use such language, even if he or others felt he was deliberately provoked. I do not believe he disagrees.

But again, and to repeat, threats of violence are unjustifiable, regardless who is making them.

Question #2: Do you really think that feminist bloggers in the atheist/ skeptical movements are writing about sexism and misogyny, and pointing out examples of it in our communities, primarily so we can manufacture controversy and draw traffic?

No, I do not think this, nor did I ever say this. What I do think is precisely what I have said: that I believe some of the controversies in the atheist blogosphere (certainly not limited to topics related to feminism or sexism) appear to me to be fomented for the hits that result. If I am wrong, and blog hits are no motivation in writing such posts, I will happily stand corrected. But I’d certainly hope that these “call-out” posts against various people in skepticism for real or supposed sins do in fact generate a lot of hits, because if they do not, I see little other real-world pay-off. I have been told by two people now who have been personally involved with one of the controversialist blogs that there has been explicit direction from that blog’s founder to this effect. Such controversialist posts seem like a pretty ineffective way to work to actually improve any situation, such as for example increasing women’s participation in skepticism, or at least seem to be far less effective than would be making better staffing and programming decisions, so I hope they at least result in an uptick in hits.

I do not deny in the least that you feel passionate about these issues; I also feel passionate about them, and have worked for over a decade to address issues of equality in skepticism, atheism and humanism, and to challenge instances of institutional sexism within these movements. But I submit that in your passion, Greta, I think you are sometimes just too quick to vilify and make enemies, and to sometimes encourage your fans to engage in such enemy-making. You may do this unintentionally; I think people can sometimes be blinded by their various passions. This is the in-group/out-group dynamic that I find unsettling about some of the atheist blogs — disagreement with some bloggers on various topics (not just feminism, to be sure) appears to be not at all well tolerated. It is these blogs by skeptics and atheists attacking others in skepticism that I think is an unfortunate turn in our movement(s) over the last year or so. (Note that some of these posts don’t just disagree through reasoned arguments but engage in calls for boycotts, public punishment or public shaming — Zvan’s recent blog post claiming I was a sexist actually engaged in literal ad hominem, stating that I have a problem and the problem is “me,” as a person, as an example.) (And before you could possibly misunderstand: this is not at all to say that I do not also find the vile and reprehensible things some folks have said to women bloggers to be more than unfortunate. One should be able to disagree with an opinion leader on various matters and about various approaches to these and other topics without being ugly, personally insulting, sexist and misogynistic, and it is deeply regrettable than many commenters on all sides of the issues during the various controversies did not do so.)

As you say, Zvan’s blog post cites three examples as evidence of my “hav[ing] an unfortunate pattern of . . . defending indefensibly sexist behavior by other men in the atheist/ skeptical movements.”

But the claim that I have a history of misogyny or of supporting sexist behavior is unsupportable.

Her three examples include 1) my comments on Watson’s post contra Krauss earlier in the year, 2) my “liking” a Facebook post by CFI Michigan justifying their choice of a speaker when she attacked them online for it, and 3) my comments on your blog post contra Long.

I stand by all of my comments (and “liking” CFI Michigan’s post about their speaker decision), and have never “defended indefensibly sexist behavior by other men in the atheist/ skeptical movements.” And I have seen a lot of such behavior at the organizations I have worked at over the years, and have always worked to change it. But when an author like Zvan recourses to my “liking” things on Facebook to argue that I exhibit sexist patterns of behavior, she seems to be sort of grasping at straws — they are in no sense examples of a pattern of sexist or misogynist behavior. I submit that such posts by folks like Zvan are focused moreso on whom a blogger might be more rewarded for publicly excoriating rather than for what legitimate reasons they might do so.

I have worked deliberately for many years to increase the involvement of women and racial minorities in skepticism, and to challenge institutional sexism within these movements. Of course, past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. But when I started working professionally in skepticism, there were almost no women employees other than secretaries. Of the women currently working professionally at the three national skeptics organizations, I have personally hired half of them myself, all of whom were for positions of leadership. I have worked to change, and have changed, various relevant corporate policies. In my programming decisions, I have made TAM more representative of the talents of everyone, not just of white men. (This is not because I believe in quotas — I certainly don’t— but because I think the skeptics movement benefits when it draws from and includes the talents of everyone, and doesn’t ignore the contributions of half of the population.) For contrast, look at the following:

CSICON 2011: 12 women out of 51 speakers on the program. (23.5%)
NECSS 2011: 9 women out of 27 total speakers (33.3%)
Skeptic’s Society Science Symposium 2011: 0 women out of 4 speakers (0%)
Skepticon IV (2011): 4 women out of 12 speakers (25%)

All of these events are fine and worthwhile events, and I think women and everyone else should feel welcome and safe at all of them. I regret that you now fear for your safety at TAM. Call me biased, but I think TAM stands out for the quality of its program, and not only because half of the speakers were women.

I want skepticism to flourish probably at least as much as you do, and I believe it is flourishing more now than ever, despite various internet controversies of past months. Some indications include that our organizations’ conferences are bigger than ever, attracting younger attendees than ever and have more racial and sexual minorities attending than ever, and this is not accidental; it is hard work. The press attention we win as we work to educate the public about this point of view is increasing. Our organizations are growing. Our grassroots groups are more active and numerous than ever. Our activism campaigns demonstrate measurable results and help people. I think it is a confusing turn if you conclude that you want this movement to flourish but that I do not. We merely may disagree that polarizing blog posts that result in enemies-list-making, calls for people to be fired, boycotts, etc. are the best way for our movement to flourish.

That said, I know that this movement has much more work to do for equality — concerns about misogyny are certainly not misplaced and we must all remain vigilant in addressing them. I do believe some of the reaction to real problems of sexism in our movement(s) has been hyper-vigilant, unduly polarizing, and a distraction from the actual hard work needed to fix problems. Further, I do think it is pretty ineffective way to improve things to try and publicly force assent, to bully or punish people who disagree with various approaches, to misrepresent people’s views to make our arguments seem stronger, or to be too quick to vilify. Some of these atheist blogs are sort of empty on the principle of charity in arguments, and I realize this may be because of past wounds in the blogosphere. But I’m hopeful we can adopt different, better, more effective approaches to address these problems. And just because you favor one approach and I favor another does not mean that we are not both working in common cause. People can take different routes to the same destination, and because you prize this sort of blogging doesn’t mean that I can’t prize other ways of addressing similar problems.

It seems that almost inevitably, many of the commenters over at Greta’s blog seem to be unwilling to address Grothe’s stronger points and have tried to draw attention onto his weaker ones, demonstrating his point about charity of arguments. It seems that even when an accused tries to reach out a hand of friendship, the mob seems content to set fire to it rather than seek peaceful understanding.

Like Grothe, I absolutely support further discourse regarding what might be a legitimate misogyny problem in the skeptical movement, though I think it’s important that future discussions on the subject be civil, as opposed to what I’m starting to see from some of these bloggers. They’re being too divisive, too bullying, too unwilling to accept reasonable dissent, quick to misrepresent the other side, too quick to condemn and unwilling to find peaceful resolution. And if one happens to find oneself unfairly condemned by this extremely influential in-group, there’s no mechanism for appeal. I think these bloggers have begun to abuse their influence and I’m glad someone as prominent in the movement as DJ has spoken up…even if they didn’t really give him a choice.

[Writer’s note: This article will be open to comments but I do insist all commenters remain civil and respectful both to me as well as to each other. Abusive comments will not be tolerated and will be removed]

Elevatorgate and Rebecca Watson haters

September 29, 2011
Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

I’m pretty sure that I managed to completely ignore the so-called “Elevatorgate” controversy that’s been brewing for months until now. I still don’t know why it’s called Elevatorgate, given that whichever hotel the inciting incident occurred in, it definitely was not named The Elevatorgate Hotel. (Ya see, folks, the Watergate Conspiracy was only called that because the hotel was called Watergate, not because the suffix “gate” means conspiracy or controversy).

Anywho, I’ve tried to avoid the topic because it seemed to be a complete distraction from the core mission of skeptics and rationalists that only served to divide us. But with the recent posts by Rebecca Watson and PZ Myers, I’ve decided to briefly break my silence.

First, let be begin by saying that this shit’s got to end already.

Second, as demonstrated by Rebecca’s post above as well as various websites I’ve seen, some people in our community who didn’t like what Rebecca had to say have fucking lost their minds and have gone so far over the line that they can’t even see the line anymore. Some of the behavior I’ve seen is disgraceful and all the more disturbing given that it’s coming from inside the skeptical community.

Third, not to be one-sided, I’ve also seen some people completely overreact to Richard Dawkins’ rather idiotic  response to Rebecca by basically writing him off entirely as some kind of misogynist. That, I think, is also unreasonable.

Now it might be that both Rebecca Watson and Richard Dawkins made some mistakes. Though I think Dawkins’ mistakes are far worse than any Rebecca may have made. I also think Dawkins made another mistake by remaining silent on the issue. If it were me who had said something that stupid and I saw the enormous controversy that it sparked, I’d feel obligated to open the doors to communication and try to turn this ugly incident into a teaching moment. I’d also apologize. I don’t know what motivated Dawkins’ response, whether he was just having a bad week and vented his frustrations on the wrong person or if he didn’t fully understand the nature of what Rebecca was saying. But whatever it was, it’s certainly beneath him. And while he has remained silent, the wound has only festered and diminished his reputation among many people.

It seems to me that Dawkins breaking his silence to have a civil conversation with Rebecca, explaining his behavior would be the best thing for everyone since some people feel they needed to pick sides. The anti-Dawkins crowd could start to forgive him and the vitriolic anti-Rebecca crowd might feel less of a need to defend Dawkins’ honor or whatever.

Dawkins screwed up, plain and simple. But he’s not a misogynist and he’s still a great spokesperson for atheism and rationalism. Likewise, Rebecca Watson may not have effectively conveyed her message earlier on, causing some to think she was saying something far more unreasonable than she really was, but she too is a great spokesperson for atheism and rationalism.

So let’s cut the crap and get back to what unites us rather than waste our time on petty feuds and unproductive internet drama.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Italian Catholics against the human body

October 24, 2010

Over the weekend, I came across two news stories that seem to share a theme. The first is the story of Ileana Tacconelli, 28-year-old Italian model turned teacher who may now lose her job because she is “too sexy to teach.


So despite Tacconelli’s being completely qualified to do her job, the administrators at St Carl Catholic School in Milan are under pressure to fire the former Miss Abruzzo after a single clearly crazy mother withdrew her 12-year-old daughter on account of Tacconelli’s former life as a model.

One mum said: ‘She is not fit to teach young children. She is too sexy and it is too distracting.’ 

Too sexy? Fortunately, men like sexy women, so Tacconelli has gained the support of dads at the school who have formed a pressure group to save her from their wives.

Suffice it to say, if this were an American school, this school would be facing a 6 or 7-figure lawsuit they’d almost certainly lose unless the jury were entirely made up of sexist men.But it’s a Catholic school in Italy, so it can get away with anything…especially since young boys are around.

The other story I came across also involved Italy and also involved prudishness where the female body is concerned. An Italian seaside town is planning to pass a ban on miniskirts and “other revealing clothing” :

“Nothing too revealing” is the new policy Mayor Bobbio wants to enforce, says the BBC’s Duncan Kennedy in Rome.

That means a tough new dress code which would effectively outlaw everything from miniskirts to low-cut jeans when people walk around Castellammare di Stabia, our correspondent adds.

Mr Bobbio, from the centre-right People of Freedom party, says he wants to target people who are “rowdy, unruly or simply badly behaved”.

"I really think Musictown is torn on the revealing garment issue. "

So he wants to crack down on girls he personally considers to be naughty.

Oh, and there’s more:

There will also be a ban on sunbathing, playing football in public places, and blasphemy, if the proposals are approved at a council meeting on Monday.

In other places they have banned sandcastles, kissing in cars, feeding stray cats, wooden clogs and the use of lawn mowers at weekends.

And I suspect they’ll also soon try to pass bans on stepping on cracks, wearing pockadots, and putting squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling.

Enhanced by Zemanta

This Week In God 7.16.10

July 17, 2010

1. Vatican equates ordaining women with raping children – Well I guess they’d know better than anyone. Still, I’m inclined to agree with PZ Myers, who in the above link, points out that this is a duel insult in that it manages to simultaneously downplay the seriousness of child rape and insult women at the same time. Seriously, who is running their PR Dept? Mel Gibson?

2. Vatican’s New Rules on sex abuse – No, they don’t say anything about reporting clergy rapists to the proper authorities. If they did that, who’d be left to run the Church?

Not like dusting crops

3. Answers in Genesis discover secret to faster than light travel…or not – Listen, if Scotty can’t violate the laws of physics, what would make AiG think they could:

Moreover, I have found both Scriptural and scientific support for this solution. This has led to the development of a new cosmological model which makes testable predictions. I have nearly finished writing a technical paper on this topic, which will shortly be sent to various experts for qualified peer-review. If it passes peer-review, we will publish the paper in the Answers Research Journal. This is our free, online journal. So be watching for it. If the paper gains the support of experts in the field, I may later write a non-technical article that summarizes the model.

Stop, stop. You lost me at Answers Research Journal.

4. Glenn Beck credits the Jews for saving all humanity– Well actually Count Beckula blamed them for Jesus’ death. But when you think about it:

A. Didn’t Jesus commit suicide?

B. Isn’t the central doctrine of Christianity that Jesus dying was the greatest news in history and the means on which he saved humanity? So wouldn’t that make killing Jesus be a good thing?

5. The Greatest Hoax On Earth? Refuting Dawkins on Evolution – Yup, there’s another book to add to the great big pile of inevitably unsuccessful and horribly unoriginally titled literature by Christians who have nothing new or original to say but try to  piggy-back on the success of far more successful rationalist literature like “The Dawkins Delusion?” or “The Devil’s Delusion”, “God Is No Delusion”, or “Letter To A Christian Nation: Counterpoint.” This is also the second of these books in which the publishers felt they required a Jeopardy title that’s in the form of a question. One wonders though if creationists are aware of the irony of their constantly selecting variations on the titles of successful rational books because it’s advantageous to piggy-back on traits that have already proven successful.

6. Creationists reframe lack of accreditation – The Institute for Creation Research was denied the freedom to issue degrees by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. But nobody seems to have told whoever writes their website, which claims they offer a Master of Christian Education (M.C.Ed.) degree. According to their FAQ page:

11. Is ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics program accredited?

Due to the nature of ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics—a predominantly religious education school—it is exempt from licensing by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Likewise, ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics is legally exempt from being required to be accredited by any secular or ecumenical or other type of accrediting association.

Enhanced by Zemanta

News From Around The Blogosphere 7.3.10

July 4, 2010

1. Age of Autism shills for no one…but themselves – And of course Lee Silsby, who sell drugs they claim can treat autism. Oh, never mind. Anyway, the website “Bling Is The New Black” is selling Age of Autism merchandise now, specifically $35.50 t-shirts, 15% of which goes to Age of Autism. Shit, did I say $35,50 t-shirts. For that price, they better have been provided by Jason and the Argonots.

2. In related news, Mr. Andy Wakefield is coming to NYC – He of course is the former Doctor Evil and now just Mr. Evil since he’s been stripped of his medical license 12 years after it should have been taken away. But for some reason an organization calling itself the National Autism Association is hosting him. They even have the stones to call him “Dr. Wakefield” while making a brief acknowledgment that he’s not a doctor. Yeah, and they pretty much gloss over the whole part about him being completely discredited in their description of the event. Fortunately, he’s chosen the wrong city to pollute and I vow to help lead the charge to make his stay in NYC as unpleasant an experience as possible.

3. Vampire slaying kits too rich for my blood – Mark Edward has an interesting piece on the growing number of vampire slaying kits being sold online. I’d love to keep one in my home as a conversation piece because they really are beautifully made. Just not at the prices they’re being sold, which would frighten both Van Helsing and Buffy.

4. Jimmy Carter calls religion one of the basic causes of female oppression – Holy shit this guy becomes more awesome with age!

5. Judge orders medical care for child instead of faith healing – In another perfect example of what’s the harm in religion, Circuit Judge Douglas V. Van Dyk gave the state temporary custody of the child and ordered medical treatment as directed by doctors at Oregon Health & Science University for a child of parents who believe in faith healing.

Timothy J. Wyland, 44,and Rebecca J. Wyland, 23,of Beavercreek appeared in court without an attorney. The couple, members of the Followers of Christ church, seemed stunned by events and close to tears.

The 1,200-member Followers of Christ church has received extensive media attention in recent years. The church rejects secular medicine and relies on faith-healing rituals — laying on of hands, anointing with oil, prayer and fasting — to treat illnesses.

At least a dozen Followers of Christ members attended Thursday’s hearing, including Carl Worthington, who was convicted last summer of criminal mistreatment for failing to provide adequate medical care to his fatally ill 15-month-old daughter.

Great job, judge. You may have single-handedly saved this kid’s life.

News From Around The Blogosphere 6.23.10

June 23, 2010

1. Creationists lose in court again – The Institute for Creation Research (ICR – don’t let the name throw you; they don’t really do any research) have now been denied the right to continue granting their own Masters Degrees. Texas didn’t recognize their accreditation given the fact that everything the ICR promotes is bogus, so the ICR filed to get it approved. Texas Higher Education Coordination Board the organization accreditation, which led the ICR to appeal. But in the meantime, they tried to extend their ability to  grant their own temporary Masters Degrees to whoever they pleased until a court makes a decision. The court has just denied that request on the grounds of it’s complete incoherence:

It appears that although the Court has twice required Plaintiff [the ICR] to re-plead and set forth a short and plain statement of the relief requested, Plaintiff is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information.

Is it gay to fuck someone of the same sex?

2. Anti-gay Lutheran pastor Tom Brock is a gay homosexual – He was found out by a reporter who infiltrated his support group. Don’t worry though. It wasn’t a real support group, just another bullshit one like Alcoholics Anonymous. The goal of this “support” group was essentially to channel their guilt of homosexual attraction into pure hate. Will the real heterosexual homophobe please stand up? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

3. Will Phillips to be the Grand Marshal of the Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade – Yesterday, I wrote about Constance McMillen being invited to the White House and to be Grand Marshall at this year’s Gay Pride Parade in NYC this Sunday. But I didn’t hear until today that young 10-year-old Will Phillips, whose refusal to stand for the Pledge in school over gay rights issues I’d written about last year, is to be the Grand Marshall of the parade in Northwest Arkansas.

“It’s wrong for anyone to be treated differently just because of the way they are born,” said Phillips, who declares himself as an ambassador for equal rights.

Congrats Will!

4. Will science bring us immortality within 20 years? – I wouldn’t bet on it. I know Carl Sagan said that science delivers the goods but that’s a little hard to swallow. Though the Telegraph did print this very interesting piece about Ray Kurzweil discussing the potential future medical ramifications of genetic manipulation and nonotechnology. I surmise he probably threw in the 20 years date to get media attention. While we are making amazing advances like those mentioned in the article, we’re still a long way off from anything resembling “immortality.”

5. PETA offers to build a new ‘Touchdown Jesus’ – Last week, I wrote about the flaming destruction of the tackiest Jesus statue in the world outside a mega church due to a lightning strike. Well PETA did what they always do and saw an opportunityto seize some headlines. So congratulations PETA. I’m talking about you. Fortunately, one thing I share in common with the Solid Rock Church is our equal dislike of PETA and saw through PETA’s transparent attempt to co-opt scripture to fit its ideology. And as a result, they turned PETA down…or at least they would have turned them down if they saw PETA as even worth responding to at all…which they didn’t.

Pastor Lawrence Bishop said he wouldn’t have expected such an offer from PETA. “It’s kind of amusing to me,” he commented, adding that he didn’t think he’d contact PETA to respond.

6. Saudi women threaten to breastfeed drivers – I love this story. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. You see, because Mohammed is such a lover of women’s rights (see previous blog entry). So when a cleric recently issued a fatwa calling on women to give breast milk to their male colleagues or men they come into regular contact with so as to avoid illicit mixing between the sexes, a women’s group saw this as the perfect launching pad for their own campaign.

If they’re not granted the right to drive, the women are threatening to breastfeed their drivers to establish a symbolic maternal bond.

“Is this is all that is left to us to do: to give our breasts to the foreign drivers?” a Saudi woman named Fatima Shammary was quoted as saying by Gulf News.

Obeikan argued in his decree that if the women give their drivers their breast milk, the chauffeurs would be able to mingle with all members of the family without having to worry about violating Islamic law. Some Islamic scholars frown on the mixing of unmarried men and women. Islamic tradition, or hadith, stipulates that breastfeeding establishes a maternal bond, even if a woman breastfeeds a child who is not her own.Drawing from the cleric’s advocacy, the women have reportedly chosen a slogan for their campaign that translates to, “We either be allowed to drive or breastfeed foreigners.”

Awesome. Just awesome.

7. Naturopaths throw other quackery under the bus – Typically, so-called “alternative” “medicine” practitioners will stick up for each other because they all have the mutual enemy of real medicine to contend with. But on a recent Canadian program so-called “Naturopaths” were quick to call just about every other brand of quackery nonsense.

New Islamic ads – dishonesty at its finest

June 23, 2010

The Exploring Islam Foundation has introduced a series of “Inspired by Muhammad” ads on buses in London:

Now on the surface they seem to merely be conveying a positive message of tolerance but in actuality, it’s just the latest whitewashing campaign to depict modern Islam as a force for good in the world and to depict Islam’s critics of being “Islamophobes,” a manufactured term designed to make Islam look like a protected class rather than simply an bad ideology.

Now you’ll notice that while they attempt to attribute social justice, women’s rights, and environmentalism with Mohammed, they don’t actually cite any scripture to back these claims up. The reason of course is that no such passages exist. Also, the unintentional irony of using the one woman in the ad wearing the mandatory hijab in Islamic cultures is the one claiming Islam as a source for female rights is just outstanding.

Fortunately, some have taken steps to correct these ads. I particularly like this one (which incidentally DOES cite the appropriate scripture):

Also, journalist Douglas Murray does an excellent job of addressing Mohammed’s position on women’s rights.

But I also really thought Hemant Mehta hit some important points at the end of his piece, linked to at the top:

Radical Muslims, no doubt, have done awful things and continue to do them.

But Moderate Muslims aren’t helping their cause.

They don’t do nearly enough to criticize the radicals. Sure, they denounce violence in the name of Islam, but how often do you hear them denouncing things like the female face coverings? Anyone remember when they got mad at us for drawing images of Muhammad? One of the most outspoken moderate Muslims, Eboo Patel, compared atheists’ harmless stick figure drawings to a swastika!

You’ll never see an ad in this “Inspired by Muhammad” campaign that says “I believe in free speech. So did Muhammad.”

Or “I believe in peace. So did Muhammad.”

Or “I believe in religious freedom. So did Muhammad.”

Because even the ads creators know those posters would just lead to raised eyebrows and laughter.

While there are many Muslim moderates out there who are very good people, they’re not doing their part to condemn the fanatics and Islam itself doesn’t seem to be the force for any good at all in the world today. At best, the moderates can claim positive contributions today DESPITE the tenets laid out in their holy book.

This Week in God 6.7.10

June 8, 2010

1. If Cat Stevens wants to sing out, he can’t sing out. If he wants to be free, he’ll have to abandon Islam – Yusuf Islam aka the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens may soon be banned from Australia thanks to a member of the Australian Parliament, Peter Kavanagh. The reason Kavanagh doesn’t want Stevens/Islam to perform in the country is that he’s publicly stated that he wants Salman Rushdie to die because of the Islamic fatwa against Rushdie over his book, The Satanic Verses:

“Yusuf has evaded on this matter for years,” he said. ”I call on the Minister for Immigration to deny Mr Yusuf a visa to enter Australia unless he publicly and categorically states that he does not and will not support the murder of any person for the expression of views, no matter how offensive.”

In other words, he wants the artist who once sang Peace Train to publicly condemn violence. I’m sure that will happen any day now. Yup, any day now.


And speaking of fatwas:

2. Saudi Clerics are advocating adult breast-feeding because of fatwa – A fatwa has been declared calling for adults to breast-feed to establish “maternal relations” and preclude the possibility of sexual contact.

Some have found the debate so bizarre that they’re calling for stricter regulations about how and when fatwas should be issued.

Stricter regulations? But c’mon. If this doesn’t warrant a fatwa, nothing does (and I sincerely mean that).

3. Oh, and in more Islamic related story, here’s a look into the secret school for girls:

It’s a loving religion, isn’t it?

4. Some Christian fundamentalists see the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a sign of the apocalypse – Really, wouldn’t it just be easier to compile a list of things that aren’t a sign of the apocalypse to these people?

5. South Australia overrules Jehovah’s Witnesses right to let their kids die

In a South Australian legal first, the Supreme Court this afternoon gave the Women’s and Children’s Hospital the right to give a 10-year-old boy – a member of the Jehovah’s Witness faith – transfusions as part of his cancer treatment.

The decision, in line with similar rulings from around the world, paves the way for hospitals to take action in future debates with religious parents.

Sorry kid but you’re just going to have to wait a while before going to heaven.

News From Around The Blogosphere 6.3.10

June 3, 2010

1. Al-Jazeera’s female anchors fleeing over ‘immodest’ dress

Five female anchors at Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news network, have quit after being pressured by executives to wear more modest clothing. Lest you think Al-Jazeera is anything like Naked News, you should know that these anchors usually don’t wear anything sexier than a blouse under a suit jacket.

I guess these women should just be grateful Al-Jazeera allows them to speak at all, right? It sounds like we need another boobquake.

2. Australian officials investigating $cientology’s slave wages – I look forward to hearing Spokesman Tommy Davis reversing the accusations of these ungrateful asshole former members who felt they were above making a few thousand dollars a year and that it was really the accusers who criminally underpaid $cientology.

Janette Lang, who worked for the church for seven years, says the most she was paid in a year was $3,114 in 2001.

Yeah, but that was back in 2001. I mean wasn’t that like equivalent to a bajillion dollars today?

3. Are our airports being protected with pseudoscience? – Airport security has begun using a program called Screening Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) where TSA employees supposedly learn how to identify suspicious travelers:

SPOT is supposed to help pick out people who are trying to hide their cruel intentions. The pushy, cranky guy behind you in line who’s yelling at his kid = no. Sneaky terrorists trying to look innocent = yes.The problem, of course, is that there’s no evidence this system works any better than a lie detector. Which, just to be perfectly clear, means it doesn’t work.

While we’re at it maybe we should start using dowsing rods to detect bombs.

4. Crazy Christian bringing Jesus to high schools – Bradlee Dean of “You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministries” convinces schools to let him “perform” for the kids with a rock concert with an anti-drug and anti-sex message only to then turn around and proselytize to them. Oh, and did I mention that Dean believes in killing gay people:

5. Ellie Wiesel calls for censorship – I share Orac’s disappointment over Wiesel’s call for the censorship of Holocaust denialist rhetoric. Not only do idiots have the fundamental right to voice their idiocy but even if this could be morally justified, it’d only help spread Holocaust denial as then scumbags like David Irving would have an excuse to argue that their views are being censored. Irving and his cohorts would shout, if we’ve got truth on our side, what do we have to hide? And he wouldn’t be wrong. We don’t have anything to hide.

In case Wiesel hasn’t noticed, Holocaust denial was been successfully relegated to the fringe and shows no signs of that changing. I fear Wiesel is far too emotionally attached to this one issue and is just guilty of applying special pleading here.

6. The Little Black Book of Scams available for free – If you follow the link, it will take you to a .pdf file containing a 46-page e-book exposing all kinds of common scams. Because we’re all capable of being fooled by con artists, I highly recommend everyone check this out.