30 September 2022

For Blasphemy Day

September 30 is Blasphemy Day International, the date having been chosen in 2009 to commemorate the original publication of the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2005.  Its purpose is to affirm that freedom of expression must explicitly include the right to criticize, ridicule, and attack religious beliefs and ideas -- that religion is not granted any special exemption or sanctity different from any other kind of ideas.

Made by Pliny

Made by Pliny

28 September 2022


Atheist Revolution blog recently posted about the issue of non-religious people who are reluctant to call themselves "atheists".  His assessment appears to be that this reluctance is a problem and such people should be encouraged to embrace the label; you can read his views for yourself at his post.  My own position is different.

In general I don't attach as much importance to labels as some people do.  It's the thing itself that matters, not what label we attach to it; labeling something often encourages people to pigeonhole it and not seek a more nuanced understanding of what it actually is.  For example, I don't think it's of any interest to discuss whether Giorgia Meloni is "fascist" or not.  That's just an argument about a label.  If you want to know what her election signifies, you need to look into the details of her political views and why people voted for her, without bothering your head over whether a specific label fits them or not.

Labels carry connotations beyond their literal definitions.  In the case of "atheist", I think a lot of people reject the label because words ending in "ism" or "ist" carry the implication that one is a member of a group or an adherent of a cause, something which emphatically should not follow from the plain fact of not believing that any god exists.  Most people who don't believe in a god seem to simply identify as "nones" when asked, and it's really a more accurate term, since it conveys the lack of religion without suggesting being a member of, or crusader for, anything.

I increasingly tend to do this myself.  When I'm filling out a survey that asks about my religion, I generally just say I don't have one, if that's an option.  It better addresses the issue of people who wrongly claim that atheism is itself a religion or a belief system. Rather than waste time arguing that point, it emphasizes that there isn't a thing called atheism which I'm putting in the "what's your religion" slot -- that I simply don't put anything at all in that slot.

I feel similarly impatient with the hairsplitting some people do about "atheist" vs "agnostic".  Some will say, you can't absolutely prove that no god exists, so you should call yourself agnostic rather than atheist.  While technically true, this defines the terms in such a way as to make the distinction between them useless.  My position on this point is that I put "God" in the same category as unicorns, dragons, and leprechauns -- I can't absolutely prove it doesn't exist, but it's so implausible that it's not worth spending any time or mental energy on the question.  This may technically be agnosticism, but in practical terms it is unbelief.  "Agnostic" should be reserved for people who consider both the "God exists" and the "God doesn't exist" viewpoint to have some genuine plausibility.

I don't believe there exists any kind of "god", and I view religions as ridiculous nonsense.  This does not make me a member of a group or a crusader for a cause, any more than my lack of belief in unicorns does.  In a sane world, not believing in any god wouldn't require a label at all.

26 September 2022

Video of the day -- Hank

This one's been around for a while, but is well worth watching if you haven't seen it.

25 September 2022

Link round-up for 25 September 2022

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

The tire pressure is low, better pump it up a bit.

Let's go for a spin!

See misbehavior by goats, cats..... and crayons.

Chickens are stupid.

Put the car back in the garage!  Or maybe not.

We need to find out whether or not Trump really declassified those documents.

Cats struggle with existence.

Doughty!  Phlogiston!  Ratoon!

Large animals should be taken seriously.

Win the game by moving the goal line.

I got nine out of thirteen.

There's a lot more to getting a novel published than just writing it.

Now this is a chair.

Halloween is already manifesting itself in stores.

What things inspire you?

Teach kids to handle emotions in a mature way.

AutisticAF blog could use some help, and has some perks available.

Colorful pictures here of St Johns, Newfoundland (click for bigger).

Lots of background here on Doctor Dolittle.

Blogger Daal looks at reading habits, AIDS, and the Iran uprising.

"Just Some Guy" reviews episode four of The Rings of Power, and assesses more general problems with the show.  Whatever they spent that billion dollars on, it apparently wasn't the intro.

Here's why all these crap remakes of classic movies are doing real damage to our culture.

World-War-II-era German submarine bases on the French coast stand as a monument to the brutality of war.

Essential facts about ancient Egypt here, from a real Egyptologist.

This is what you can do where there's no asshole HOA to tell you to mow your lawn.

When you check into a hotel, don't put your suitcase on the bed.

She got banned from a banned-books group for talking about banned books.

Twenty million billion ants!

Studying whale brains is extremely difficult.  We still know very little about these creatures' minds.

Biden is right -- the pandemic, as a pandemic, is over.

Humans are not the only species to have developed culture.

This new malaria vaccine looks like a world-class game-changer.

There's more grounds for optimism about global warming than ever before.

Wingnut excuse-making for Trump has become so formulaic you could make a bingo game out of it.  And Republican propaganda is getting comically sloppy.

How important is it that atheists call themselves atheists?

Some people persist in believing nonsense even when it's proven false.

Windows 11 seems to be just as big a nightmare for privacy as Windows 10.  This advice and this advice may help -- I'm no expert.

Orwell's warnings are more relevant today than ever.

One type of organized crime is pretty much like another.

Presumption of innocence is of vital importance in law, even in cases where it's not popular.

TikTok censorship forces users to resort to ridiculous work-arounds.

This post claims that "Amazon devices" will soon start "sharing your internet with neighbors".  I'm not sure what that means, but if you have any "Amazon devices", you should probably look into it.

Don't let bullies weaponize being offended.

Covid death rates continue to be much higher in Republican-leaning areas of the US.

This man is not worth remembering (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

61% of Republicans support declaring the US a Christian nation, even though 57% are aware that this would be unconstitutional.

A polygamist cult in Utah is being sued by former members who were exploited.

We'll soon be hearing a lot more personal stories like hers.

Unlike in other rich countries, life expectancy in the US is still falling.  We now rank 54th in the world and it's getting worse.

The Fed has openly declared itself the enemy of the American worker.  The rate hikes will hammer the most vulnerable while doing little to curb inflation.

Women voters are fed up, and it's not only about abortion.

Not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.

Tara Rule can't get proper treatment for chronic pain because of local hospitals' pregnancy fetishism (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Bruce Gerencser, a veteran of the IFB movement, describes its cultish practices including ostracism of those who question or leave.

Getting raped in the US will cost you $3,500 (found via Miss Cellania).

Republicans just can't stop attacking Social Security and Medicare.

66% to 80% of Americans favor tough policies to fight global warming.  The denialists are a smaller minority than most of us believe.

74-year-old gay-rights activist Fred Sargeant was viciously beaten by a homophobic mob in Vermont.

Respect the integrity and needs of ex-Muslims.

Krysten Sinema's behavior isn't popular with anybody.

Religion poisons everything, even death.

Some tips here on interpreting political polls, and more on whether they're overstating Democrats' chances.

In the current cultural environment, voting involves difficult choices.

If you change your mind, we'll kill you.

With a concerted effort, the world could reach 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The ranks of global-warming denialists are dwindling, but what drives the remaining hard core?

They called a baby a fascist.

What's already happening in Europe shows how trans ideology will be defeated in the US and Canada.

The world's two top gangster-regimes try to challenge the dominance of the democracies, and get slapped down.

Here's one blogger who doesn't take Putin's nuclear threats seriously.

Over time, Russia's isolation is wrecking its economy.  The global consensus against Putin's war is hardening.

Putin, and Russia, may yet pay a high price indeed for the botched Ukraine war.

Putin's mobilization triggered a spike in internet searches on "how to leave Russia" and a scramble for flights out of the country, plus traffic jams at the bordersMore reactions here.

Russian torture chambers have been discovered in liberated Ukrainian territory.  A survivor of torture describes his experiences.

Background here on the Iran rebellion.  Iranians being silenced by the theocracy need outside help to get the truth out.

Iran went backward under the mullahs' regime.

Christiane Amanpour called the Iranian president's bluff.

A member of Iran's "morality police" is confronted by an angry mob after attacking a woman.

Video here of a joyous hijab-burning in western Iran.

More links at Fair and Unbalanced and Angry Bear.

My own posts this week:  a Jonathan Pie video on the petty madness of our times, an image round-up, and the rebellion in Iran.

o o o o o

Whoever says "do as I say, not as I do", especially to a child, has forfeited all claim to be taken seriously.

I've made no secret of what I think of Amazon's abusive employment practices, but its deployment of the slur of "racist" against Tolkien devotees who object to its bastardization of his work is the final straw.  I will never forgive this.

Inflation has been raging for a year or so, but only now, as the election approaches, has the Fed gone all-out with insane rate hikes calculated to strangle growth, destroy jobs, and crash the value of everybody's retirement accounts. It sure looks like a blatant and clumsy attempt to manipulate the election outcome.

22 September 2022


It began on September 13 when Iran's "morality police" arrested Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, who they claimed had been wearing her headscarf incorrectly.  That might well have been the case; women in Iran commonly express their defiance of the theocracy by wearing headscarves in ways which push the limits of the mullahs' onerous laws.  Within four days, Amini was dead.  The regime's thugs claim she suffered a heart attack, but her family denies that she had any history of heart trouble, and there's evidence that she was brutally beaten in custody, as detainees in Iran often are.

(I have seen it claimed that her real name was Jina Amini, but that she was not allowed to use that as her legal name because "Jina" is Kurdish and ethnic Kurdish names are banned by the regime.)

Almost immediately, huge protests erupted across Iran, with women engaging in mass burnings of their hijabs in scenes reminiscent of US feminists decades ago burning bras.  Men rapidly joined the protests.  Protesters openly fought the police, and in one northern town they tore down pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei from the façade of a public building.

Amini's death acted as a trigger, unleashing a wave of repressed anger in a society long seething at theocratic repression.  See how protesters in Rasht swarmed and kicked one of the regime's enforcers, who was lucky to escape with his life.  Others attacked police cars.  This is the justified rage and hate of people who have suffered all their lives under religious tyranny, with no freedom of speech or action, with arrogant thugs roaming the streets enforcing religious dress codes, and with arrest, beatings, and even death as the potential price of any dissent.

While the regime is a theocracy, Iran itself is not a particularly religious society.  A 2020 survey showed that self-identified "nones", atheists, agnostics, and humanists add up to about 30% of Iranians, comparable to the US.  Real adherents of Shi'ite Islam, the official religion of the regime, are less than a third of the total population.

This is not a medieval country being ruled by a regime natural to it.  It's a fairly modern society in which the religious-reactionary minority (a class that exists in many countries, including ours) are organized and empowered and rule over everyone else by brute force.  It's not too uncommon for Iranian women to push back against the dour turban-wearing bullies who roam the streets being assholes to anyone whose clothing or behavior they disapprove of.  The theocracy originally seized power during the chaos that followed the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 -- meaning that the Iranian people have been subject to this dreary religious totalitarianism now for 43 years.  It's no wonder that anger and impatience are reaching a breaking point.

As the protests escalate, the regime has tightened restrictions on the internet in the hope of blocking people from communicating with each other, and of hiding the reality of the situation from the outside world.  Even without that, some Western social media such as Twitter have long helped the regime hide its crimes.

The current wave of protests probably won't bring the regime down.  But its rule, resting on nothing but force, can never be stable.  The day will come when it will fall.

21 September 2022

Image round-up for 21 September 2022

A few more pics from my collection.....

Birds are basically assholes

Just wait till he's heading downhill..... and needs to slow down.....

Fairy Pools, Scotland