Speaking Truth to Popularity

When the great freethought orator Robert Ingersoll died in 1899, the New York Times eulogized him thusly:...there is something more in the orator's art than the power of expression. There must also be sympathy in the sense of an electrical connection which is set up between speaker and hearers. And eminently Ingersoll had this. He never misjudged, more properly, he never misfelt his audience....He held the keys of laughter and of tears, and there are many passages, mostly, indeed, detached … [Read more...]

Getting Our Message Out

As atheists grow in political power and begin to exert our influence, we should expect to draw attention from religious bigots who will try to silence us. Three stories from the past three days illustrate this principle, showing not just atheism's increasing assertiveness, but the arrogance of religious groups and individuals who think they can prevent us from getting our message out.First is Rancho Cucamonga, California. The Freedom from Religion Foundation had placed an "Imagine No … [Read more...]

The Real Enemies of Free Speech

Liberty magazine, a publication of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, has recently published "Faith Attack", a polemic by Clifford Goldstein against the New Atheists. The entire article is little more than repetition of the modern equivalent of the medieval blood libel: that atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett want to take over the world and outlaw religion.I'll offer some more specific criticisms, but what should be noted is that Goldstein presents no evidence … [Read more...]

Speak Boldly

This weekend, I came across an outstanding editorial by the British journalist Johann Hari, "We should never pulp books out of fear of fanatics". It opens by describing "the story of a novel you cannot read":The Jewel of Medina was written by a journalist called Sherry Jones. It recounts the life of Aisha, a girl who really was married off at the age of six to a 50-year-old man called Mohammed ibn Abdallah. On her wedding day, Aisha was playing on a see-saw outside her home. Inside, she was … [Read more...]

Some More Good News

After the welcome news of the UC-Calvary lawsuit's dismissal, I'm happy to say I have two other pieces of good news to report on this week:• The Alberta Human Rights Commission, a group of petty bureaucrats who make it their mission to censor people's thoughts, has dismissed the charges against Ezra Levant that I wrote about last January, in "In Defense of Free Speech". The commission decided that Levant's republication of the Mohammed cartoons was journalistically reasonable, dismissing … [Read more...]

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...]


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