The Hypocrisy of Tolerance at the Touro Synagogue

I'm on vacation this week in New England. Yesterday I visited the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island - the oldest Jewish synagogue in North America, dating back to the colonial era. It was founded by Jews fleeing a long history of persecution in Europe: first the Alhambra Decree expelling them from Spain, then the Inquisition, which harried them from Portugal to the Caribbean. They settled here in Newport and built a synagogue, which survived the Revolution, when most of the city was … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: IOKIYAR

Janus

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VIIIFrancisco is just beginning to let Dagny in on the secret of the capitalists' strike, when the two of them are interrupted by some emergency exposition:"Ladies and gentlemen," said the panic-pregnant voice of a radio announcer, breaking off the chords of the symphony, "we interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special news bulletin. The greatest disaster in railroad history occurred in the early hours of the morning on the main line of Taggart … [Read more...]

Meet the American Religious Right Figures Thrilled by Russia’s Brutal Anti-Gay Laws

Kremlin

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.In the past few years, Russia has become a dangerous place for dissent. Its ex-KGB president, Vladimir Putin, has accomplished what Republicans in America only dream of: he's built an electoral majority by appealing to the most religious and conservative elements of society, including by courting the alliance of the Russian Orthodox Church. And with his victories, he's becoming increasingly autocratic, dispensing with even the pretense of … [Read more...]

The Wall of Silence Around Michael Shermer

Earlier this month, I wrote about the serious allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault made against skeptic "thought leader" Michael Shermer by three women, who agreed to be named in an article published by Buzzfeed. That article, as you'd expect, has provoked an enormous amount of controversy and outrage.But what I find more surprising is who isn't discussing it. Some prominent individuals in the atheist and skeptical community are either minimizing this story, treating the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Ad Baculum

Fist

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VHank and Dagny are returning to New York after their trip to Colorado. Hank's wife Lillian, by now, has come to suspect that these "business trips" are about more than just business, so she arranges to be waiting for him on the platform:Her first sight of Rearden in the crowd came as a shock: she had not seen him step out of a car, but there he was, walking in her direction from somewhere far down the length of the train. He was alone. He was walking … [Read more...]

I Get Religious Mail: Help Us Solve This Problem We Created

As I've written before, I get a huge quantity of junk mail from charities begging for money, some of which are religious. (Poor targeting.)Lately, I've gotten several of these come-ons in a row, and most of them are either ironic, galling or both. Here's an example, a solicitation from a group called the Catholic Medical Mission Board. Take a look at what they have the chutzpah to ask:Dear friend,I wish I could send you a box of greeting cards or some personalized … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: September 6

Coffee

• This week, Bob McDonnell, a.k.a Virginia's former "Governor Ultrasound", was convicted by a jury on multiple counts of corruption. The schadenfreude-y part is that McDonnell ran for office as a religious-right, pro-marriage, Christian-family-values candidate, whereas his defense at trial basically consisted of arguing that his own marriage was a shambles and that everything he said on the campaign trail was a lie.• In weird and cool biology news: two unclassifiable animal species … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: Real Religious Persecution

Big news today! I'm very pleased to announce that I've published my first original column for the Guardian, the venerable progressive newspaper, in their Comment is Free opinion section.The column is titled "'Help, help, I'm being repressed!': How conservatives make a mockery of the oppression of religious minorities. It concerns those American Christian conservatives who shriek that their religious liberty is being cruelly denied, while steadfastly ignoring those who experience genuine … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: June 14

Coffee

• Chris Hedges, the left-wing firebrand who really, really despises New Atheists, is apparently a serial plagiarist, according to a lengthy and damning article this week in the New Republic.• In the why-all-atheists-are-Hitler department: Part of the SS oath in Nazi Germany was to swear their allegiance to God and say that atheists are "not one of us".• I wrote in 2007 about José Luis de Jesus Miranda, a kook and would-be cult leader who claimed to be Jesus reincarnated. I … [Read more...]

#800deadbabies: A Fresh Catholic Horror

In the last few years, Ireland has been reckoning with a shameful part of its history: the Magdalene laundries. Established in the 1700s and surviving well into the 20th century, these were church-run institutions, overseen by nuns, where women were sent for transgressing against conventional morality or custom, or simply because they were viewed as a burden to society. Prostitutes, unwed mothers, rape victims, orphans, the mentally and physically disabled, or those who were deemed too … [Read more...]


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