Sympathy for the Devil

I wanted to write about something important this week, like the Greece v. Galloway decision, but events have conspired to thwart me. The story I covered earlier has had some dramatic new developments that cry out for a followup. So: Satanism.On Monday, I wrote about the Harvard student club that wanted to stage a Satanist Black Mass on campus and the ensuing onslaught of fury from Catholics. Some commenters demanded that the university forbid the event from taking place; others demanded that … [Read more...]

No Segregation in the Marketplace of Ideas

Last month, Universities UK, an umbrella organization representing institutions of higher education in the United Kingdom, published guidelines for how colleges could host controversial speakers on campus in a way that respects both free-speech and anti-discrimination laws. Among their case studies was the hypothetical example of a fundamentalist religious speaker who wanted his audience to be segregated by gender. Shockingly, Universities UK concluded that such a demand can and should be agreed … [Read more...]

Please Ban My Books

SocietyForTheSuppressionOfVice

This week is Banned Books Week, a free-speech campaign founded by librarians and publishers to call attention to the ongoing problem of censorship. Although we've come a long way since the days when Anthony Comstock got James Joyce's Ulysses outlawed and prosecuted Margaret Sanger for mailing pamphlets on birth control, librarians and schoolteachers still face legal and political pressure to remove books that annoy cranky, censorious malcontents. And in some corners of the world, things are … [Read more...]

Free Speech vs. Freeze Peach

FreezePeach

Last month, a broad spectrum of feminist activists and organizations published an open letter to Facebook, demanding that the social-networking colossus crack down on pages that glorify or promote violence against women. Although Facebook's moderators had long disallowed anti-Semitism, gay-bashing and other kinds of hateful content, they often excused misogynist pages, even graphically violent ones, as mere "distasteful humor".If anything ever seemed like a David-versus-Goliath battle, it … [Read more...]

Why the New Atheism Isn’t Islamophobic

Kaaba

In the past few weeks, there's been a barrage of attacks on the so-called New Atheists, accusing them of inciting bigotry against Muslims or of fostering irrational hatred for Islam. This charge has been laid by Murtaza Hussein on Al Jazeera, Nathan Lean on Salon, and Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian, among others.Now, it's true that some high-profile New Atheists have made serious missteps when speaking about Islam. But it's equally true that New Atheism is a freewheeling, disputatious, … [Read more...]

Weekend Presents: December 23

XmasTree

It's two more days before you can open the gifts under the tree, but I have some early presents:• Now hear this: I'm on the New Books in Secularism podcast, discussing my book Daylight Atheism.• Big news out of the Philippines: The legislature has finally passed a national Reproductive Health Bill, defying fierce objections by the Roman Catholic church. The bill, which had been stalled for years by church pressure, would create government-run health clinics to dispense contraception in th … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: October 21

Coffee

Some links from the last week: • As you may have heard, my good friend and awesome secular activist Greta Christina was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It's fully treatable, but she needed some help to cover her living expenses while she recovers, and the atheist community came through in spades, meeting and exceeding what she had hoped to raise in barely 24 hours. • Dinesh D'Souza, the well-known Christian apologist, showed up at a conference last week with a much younger woman … [Read more...]

The Age of Mockery

Although the initial riots and flare-ups of violence over the "Innocence of Muslims" video were over a month ago, the global battle over blasphemy laws is still raging. In London this week, thousands of Muslim marchers assembled outside Google's U.K. headquarters to demand the banning of ideas that offend them:Organiser Masoud Alam said: "Our next protest will be at the offices of Google and YouTube across the world. We are looking to ban this film. "This is not freedom of expression, there … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: October 7

Coffee

Some links gathered over the week for you to peruse: • Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK's opposition Labour party, is a nonbeliever. He says he doesn't hold religious faith, but rather a faith in human progress. This column by Fraser Nelson admits that this may be a smart move in increasingly secular Britain, which is no longer a Christian country "but... still a country of compassion and principles". • A UK judge rules that parents have "no sacred right" over the education of their … [Read more...]

How Do You Start an Islamic Reformation?

Since my post on the U.S. embassy riots had so many good comments, I thought I'd write a sequel and continue the discussion. I'd like to offer some further thoughts about Ayaan Hirsi Ali's article in Newsweek, on the mindset of "Muslim rage" and what this violence means for the future of Islamic and Western civilization. In general, I agreed with the article (its awful, lazily prejudiced title aside [would anyone ever write about "Christian rage"?]), although there are some points where I think … [Read more...]


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