On Desecration

I've resisted commenting on this until now, but I have to give in. I'm sure you've all heard the story of Webster Cook, an unsuspecting college student who got himself into a great deal of trouble because he took a consecrated communion wafer home with him from church rather than eating it. On cue, professional victim Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and his legions of squalling bigots descended on Cook's school, some demanding he be punished or expelled, others threatening his life.The … [Read more...]

Words That Burn

The winter of 1777-1778 was a bad time for the American revolutionary army. General George Washington had encamped his army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania - an excellent position tactically, but a source of terrible misery and suffering for his weary, poorly equipped troops. The Continental Army was assailed by bitter cold and plagued by chronic shortages of food, shelter and warm clothes. Almost a fifth of the soldiers died of frostbite and disease, and the survivors' morale sank to its lowest … [Read more...]

Doubting the Sun

Imagine, in some medieval monarchy or modern-day oligarchy, that the government passed a law which made it a crime to deny that the sun exists.No country either ancient or modern has ever done this, and it's easy to see why. Who would ever be tempted to deny the existence of the sun? The evidence to the contrary is undeniable. It's large, it's obvious, it's blindingly brilliant - it's just there. There are no rational grounds for claiming the sun does not exist; only a fool or a madman would … [Read more...]

A Free Speech Outrage

Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician, an elected member of that country's Parliament, infamous for his right-wing views on immigration and social policy. In 2008, he released a short film, Fitna, which criticizes Islamic radicalism by interspersing video footage of terrorist attacks with quotes from the Quran and from prominent Islamic religious authorities praising the use of violence. The film can be viewed here - caution, contains some graphic images.Now there's some news that's incredible … [Read more...]

Respectable Infidels

The Volokh Conspiracy has a fascinating excerpt from the writings of Anthony Comstock (HT, Dispatches from the Culture Wars):The respectable infidel is not even referred to, but simply those who stand in the forefront, zealous to be known as opposed to God and religion, and who by their blasphemous speeches and publications are putting to shame honest infidels. Every person must respect the infidel who says, "I cannot see nor understand these matters of religion as you do; I wish I could." … [Read more...]

Images of Mohammed

This is an image of the Muslim prophet Mohammed:So's this:And also this:I bring this up because, as you might have guessed, free speech and Islam are again in the news. Last month, over a dozen Danish newspapers reprinted one of the twelve drawings of Mohammed that caused such a furor after they were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. The artist of this particular cartoon, Kurt Westergaard, has been under police … [Read more...]

In Defense of Free Speech

In the last few days, both Ed Brayton and Glenn Greenwald have written about the story of Ezra Levant, a Canadian conservative who's currently under investigation by the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Levant's "crime" was republishing the Mohammed cartoons first printed in 2005 in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which spurred the filing of a complaint by a Canadian imam named Syed Soharwardy.Before saying anything more, let's get this out of the way: if Levant's political views are as … [Read more...]

Free Speech Under Siege

Since the Enlightenment, fundamentalist religious leaders the world over have railed against the idea of free speech, for understandable reasons. By permitting other people to point out the fallacies in their arguments and dispute their claim to be the infallible voice of God, the right of free speech is the single most effective countermeasure to prevent theocracy and tyranny from taking hold. Religious extremism can be found in many places, but it rarely becomes truly dominant unless it can … [Read more...]

A Legal Development

I've said on previous occasions that Daylight Atheism is a weblog devoted to commentary and analysis, not breaking news. However, I've heard of a case sufficiently noteworthy that I think it merits an exception.Last month, the indomitable P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula posted a review of Stuart Pivar's book Lifecode, which purports to explain the embryonic development of organisms through topological manipulation of an initially fluid form. Myers' review, though sympathetic to the principles … [Read more...]

Banning the Bible

A very entertaining story has come out of Hong Kong recently. After the Hong Kong goverment's "Obscene Articles Tribunal" censored a Chinese student magazine as "indecent" for publishing a sex column asking if readers had ever fantasized about incest or bestiality, over 800 residents protested by calling on the government to classify the Bible as indecent also. (Such material is not outright barred from publication, but must be sold in sealed bags with a legal warning and can only be sold to … [Read more...]


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