The Morning Heresy 9/17/12: The Vast Chasm

September 17, 2012

Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

Most of the news today, folks, is about the protests and mob violence ostensibly in reaction to hurt religious feelings. A lot of the commentary is rather surprising, and much of it disappointing. 

Reacting to the spreading violence and unrest across the Muslim world, UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay says the right thing, and then the wrong thing, decrying violence as a response to religious offense, and then reminding us that those giving offense could be in legal trouble. 


I fully understand why people wish to protest strongly against it, and it is their right to do so peacefully. However, I utterly condemn the killings in Benghazi, and other violent and destructive reactions to the film, and urge religious and political leaders to make a major effort to restore calm.


The UN human rights chief noted that there is a legal framework – in particular Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which offers strong protective measures to all forms of expression, while at the same time giving States the possibility to impose restrictions that are provided by law and which are necessary for the respect of the rights and reputations of others. 

NYT reports on "spasms of violence" in Afghanistan and Indonesia. 

Islamist militant leader in Pakistan demands that the US criminalize blasphemy, reports the IHT, and declares that President Zardari "must announce jihad" against the US. Taliban in Pakistan encourages youth to rise up against blasphemy.

At WaPo, Fouad Ajami seeks to understand the sensitivity to criticism of Islam:

A vast chasm separates the poor standing of Arabs in the world today from their history of greatness. In this context, their injured pride is easy to understand. 

Mustafa Malik in the San Francisco Chronicle thinks the West should be exempting insults to Islam from what is considered free speech. Yeah, you read that right.

Egyptian blogger Alber Saber has reportedly been attacked and arrested for insulting Islam by running an atheist Facebook page. Sound familiar?  

Russia legislature moves to make it official, and criminalize blasphemy. 

Holy crap! Even Canada has a blasphemy law!!! 

Law professor Geoffrey R. Stone on the whole crazy idea of blasphemy laws:

If we punish American citizens for engaging in otherwise constitutionally protected speech in order to prevent foreign terrorists from engaging in violent acts, then we cede to those very terrorists the meaning of the First Amendment. That doesn't sound very promising, does it? 

In other news... 

We atheists argue a lot. Ricky Gervais thinks it's not worth pointing out

The Humanist publishes the text of Susan Jacoby's address on "The Dearth of Women in the Secularist Movement" from CFI's Women in Secularism Conference. Video of her presentation is here, since reading is hard.

And remember, Women in Secularism 2 comes next year! Sasha Pixlee says, "I will be there in May 2013 and you should be, too — especially if you’re a dude."

SCA opens a chapter in my adopted home state of Maine. They did not ask my permission or anything, but I'll allow it. MPBN radio reports

New York Review of Books looks at Where the Conflict Really Lies by Alvin Platinga, who asserts, “there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.”

Kimberly Winston profiles he of the "sleepy eyes and hangdog expression," Jacques Berlinerblau.

If you're in the US, you can now listen to the BBC's documentary on African American atheism. (I think folks in the UK can actually watch it, but I'm not sure.)

io9 highlights Coffee Shop Atheist's series on how to come out as a nonbeliever.   

Topeka Capital-Journal reports on the rich slathering of Christianity going on openly at the Kansas Statehouse. 

Florida's proposed Amendment 8, which would allow for state funding of religious organizations, may not be so popular. (The court case mentioned in this article is the Council for Secular Humanism's, but they don't name us.)

Hendrick Hertzberg surveys the hubbub over god-talk at the conventions. 

This would be very sad if true: New car sales may take a hit thanks to fear of owning a "2013" model. Yep. The 13.

Tennessee pastor dares the IRS to come after his church when he tells people who to vote for

Symphony of Science brings us a new autotuned bit of learning on climate change. 

Norton Sociology has an infographic depicting the relative sizes of various religious affiliations in the US. As you can see, the "nones" fair pretty well. Look out, Catholicism! 

Meanwhile, a new study shows how folks vastly overstate the numbers of religious minorities. 

Rebecca Watson has the dirtiest terms in astronomy. My favorite? "Coronal Hole." I think Beavis might have used that one.

Sharon Hill laments what gets passed off as "news" in Nigeria: A woman reportedly giving birth to a horse-monster-thing. (For more from Sharon, check out my interview with her, in which she helps me deal with people who are wrong.)

Quote of the Day       

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

I so strongly believe that the great religions of the world are stronger than any insults. They have withstood offense for centuries. Refraining from violence, then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is absolutely the opposite, a sign that one’s faith is unshakable.

I post this quote not for its encomium to faith (obviously), but for its political and rhetorical deftness. Well played, Madame Secretary. 

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

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