30 September 2023

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 the newspaper Jyllands-Posten 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.

The publication of the cartoons came about a year after the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands by an Islamist after he had made a short film about the oppression of women under Islam.  The cartoon controversy drew a hard line between the defenders of Western values and human freedom and their enemies.  The Danish prime minister stood firm for free speech, refusing to meet with a group of eleven ambassadors from Muslim countries who demanded he act against Jyllands-Posten.  The French magazine Charlie Hebdo later reprinted the cartoons.  On the other side, mobs of violent Muslim thugs attacked Western embassies in several countries.  Shamefully but predictably, several major Christian authorities including the Vatican condemned the cartoons.

This condemnation, of course, was well in line with the centuries of Christian persecution of scientists, nonbelievers, independent thinkers, gays, women, adherents of different religions, and even adherents of the locally "wrong" form of Christianity, during the thousand years of darkness and stagnation in which the West was submerged between the fall of Roman civilization and the Renaissance.

I have always held that religion in general is the most malignant and reactionary force acting across the course of human history, and that in particular the Abrahamic religions, notably Christianity, are a toxic alien contaminant within our civilization, inherently inimical to true Western culture and values.  The absolute right not only to criticize and argue against religion, but to subject it to mockery and ridicule, is an integral and essential part of freedom of expression, necessary for any hope of freeing our minds from this dangerous psychological infection.

28 September 2023


Most committed atheists are presumably familiar with Bill Maher's documentary Religulous (2008), but many of us who are simply non-religious may not be; I hadn't seen it until a week ago.  If you're at all interested in the subject, though, it's well worth a viewing.  The film is available on DVD.

Most of the movie consists of Maher interviewing religionists of various stripes -- Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Jewish -- both "leaders" and ordinary believers.  His questions focus his usual cutting wit on the innate absurdity of religious claims; many of the believers obviously have never heard of or thought of such challenges before, and their responses mostly fall somewhere on a spectrum from befuddlement to anger.  Two Catholic representatives who appear are notably more rational, while two ex-Mormons Maher interviews give a strong sense of the psychological barriers to leaving a tight-knit, cult-like religion.

At one point Maher himself takes on the role of preacher, proclaiming the doctrines of Scientology to a bewildered crowd.  These doctrines sound obviously preposterous, but of course it's only the fact that more mainstream religions are so familiar to us that makes us think their doctrines any less absurd.

Maher finishes with a grim warning about the special dangers posed by religions obsessed with the end of the world -- the Apocalypse, the End Times, Islam's Last Day, and suchlike -- in an age of nuclear weapons.  Primitive thinking needs to be kept away from modern technology.

Thanks to Lady M for the opportunity to watch this.

26 September 2023

Image round-up for 26 September 2023

More pictures, some slightly NSFW -- click for full size.

(For the link round-up, click here.)

What's that dog doing?

Don't worry -- it's a microphone

It will never happen, but if it did, you know this is how it would end up

1910, possibly France

Wheelchair, late 1860s -- note rear wheel for stability

Socotra island, Yemen

Córdoba, Spain




Ossuary of San Martino della Battaglia, Italy