Weekend Coffee: July 5

• Iceland repeals its blasphemy law, which they apparently had until now?• Three cheers for California! The state legislature ends all non-medical exemptions for mandatory vaccination, despite vociferous protests from die-hard anti-vaxers.• In the wake of the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, some Christians are writing optimistically about the last-ditch option of retreating into their own closed enclaves. One homeschooling parent explains that "relative … [Read more...]

Drawing Mohammed in Spite of Violence

The American religious right loves to play-act as martyrs: bemoaning how cruelly the government oppresses them, fantasizing about how they're on the verge of being imprisoned or killed for their beliefs. Usually, these claims are pure fiction. But this weekend in Texas, for once, the pretense became reality.The American Freedom Defense Initiative, a religious right group run by the flamboyant anti-Muslim activist and Ayn Rand devotee Pamela Geller, held a contest for cartoonists to draw the … [Read more...]

Some Thoughts on Trigger Warnings

The latest thinkpiece that's consumed the internet is an editorial by Judith Shulevitz about trigger warnings. A trigger warning, if you don't know, is a warning label intended to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. It's meant to give advance warning of material they might find distressing so that they can avoid it and keep from suffering a flashback, panic attack or other recurrence of their trauma. It's become a popular concept on college campuses, such as at UC-Santa Barbara, … [Read more...]

Bangladesh Is Killing Atheists

There's horrific news from Bangladesh: the atheist activist and writer Dr. Avijit Roy was murdered on the street in Dhaka, hacked to death by two assailants wielding machetes as he left a book fair at Dhaka University. His wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna was seriously wounded in the same attack. An Islamist group calling itself Ansar Bangla 7 issued a statement claiming responsibility for the murder.Dr. Roy was the author of books such as The Philosophy of Disbelief and The Virus of Faith, as well … [Read more...]

When the Pope Excuses Violence

Last week, Pope Francis made some startling remarks about the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Speaking to journalists, he not only said that freedom of speech shouldn't include the right to ridicule religion, but that if anyone does ridicule religion, violence is an appropriate response!Asked about the attack that killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo - targeted because it had printed depictions of the prophet Muhammad - he said: "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: January 10


• A can't-miss account of Charlie Hebdo's first editorial meeting since last week's horrific attack.• One-man outrage band Bill Donohue didn't kill anyone at Charlie Hebdo, but he's understanding and sympathetic towards the Muslims who did. They made fun of the Pope, after all!• "The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism."• The "radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left … [Read more...]

The Suppression of Richard Dawkins

Following up on our little contretemps in September, Richard Dawkins has granted an interview to Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service about the remarks that have made him infamous to pro-social-justice atheists. And although he seems a bit chastened, he insists he has no regrets:"I don't take back anything that I've said," Dawkins said from a shady spot in the leafy backyard of one of his Bay Area supporters. "I would not say it again, however, because I am now accustomed to being … [Read more...]

The Mabus Problem: Fighting Anonymous Harassment on Social Media


I'm not much of a video gamer (I spend my free time writing!), but I've been following the work of Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic whose non-profit group Feminist Frequency critiques sexism in popular culture, with a special focus on video games. Her series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games points out lazy, sexist clichés that game designers resort to repeatedly: damsels in distress, women in refrigerators, scenes of sexual violence just to make the game world darker and "grittier", and so … [Read more...]

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...]