Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Afghan Mullah Marries, Kills 8-Year-Old Girl on Wedding Night

This is a pretty horrific story that comes out of Afghanistan. The source for it is Mustafa Kazemi, an Indian war correspondent, who has been operating in Afghanistan since 2010 and has worked for AFP.

Law Protecting Afghanistan Women Blocked By Conservatives


KABUL, Afghanistan — Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked legislation on Saturday aimed at strengthening provisions for women’s freedoms, arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles and encourage disobedience.

The fierce opposition highlights how tenuous women’s rights remain a dozen years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, whose strict interpretation of Islam once kept Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes.

Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative lawmaker for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of an uproar by religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic.

"Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it," Shaheedzada said.

The Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has been in effect since 2009, but only by presidential decree. It is being brought before parliament now because lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, a women’s rights activist, wants to cement it with a parliamentary vote to prevent its potential reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hard-line religious parties.

The law criminalizes, among other things, child marriage and forced marriage, and bans “baad,” the traditional practice of exchanging girls and women to settle disputes. It makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to three years in prison and specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for fornication or adultery.

Kofi, who plans to run for president in next year’s elections, said she was disappointed because among those who oppose upgrading the law from presidential decree to legislation passed by parliament are women.

Afghanistan’s parliament has more than 60 female lawmakers, mostly due to constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women.

There has been spotty enforcement of the law as it stands. A United Nations analysis in late 2011 found only a small percentage of reported crimes against women were pursued by the Afghan government. Between March 2010 and March 2011 – the first full Afghan year the decree was in effect – prosecutors filed criminal charges in only 155 cases, or 7 percent of the total number of crimes reported.

The child marriage ban and the idea of protecting female rape victims from prosecution were particularly heated subjects in Saturday’s parliamentary debate, said Nasirullah Sadiqizada Neli, a conservative lawmaker from Daykundi province.

Neli suggested that removing the custom – common in Afghanistan – of prosecuting raped women for adultery would lead to social chaos, with women freely engaging in extramarital sex safe in the knowledge they could claim rape if caught.

Another lawmaker, Mandavi Abdul Rahmani of Barlkh province, also opposed the law’s rape provision.

"Adultery itself is a crime in Islam, whether it is by force or not," Rahmani said.

He said the Quran also makes clear that a husband has a right to beat a disobedient wife as a last resort, as long as she is not permanently harmed. “But in this law,” he said, “It says if a man beats his wife at all, he should be jailed for three months to three years.”

Lawmaker Shaheedzada also claimed that the law might encourage disobedience among girls and women, saying it reflected Western values not applicable in Afghanistan.

"Even now in Afghanistan, women are running from their husbands. Girls are running from home," Shaheedzada said. "Such laws give them these ideas."

More freedoms for women are one of the most visible – and symbolic – changes in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime. While in power, the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islam that put severe curbs on the freedom of women.

For five years, the regime banned women from working and going to school, or even leaving home without a male relative. In public, all women were forced wear a head-to-toe burqa, which covers even the face with a mesh panel. Violators were publicly flogged or executed.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, women’s freedoms have improved vastly, but Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative culture, especially in rural areas.

Saturday’s failure of the legislation in parliament reflected the power of religious parties but changed little on the ground, since the decree is still the law of the land, however loosely enforced. Kofi said the parliament decided to send the legislation to committee, and it could come to a vote again later this year.

"We will work on this law," she said. "We will bring it back."

Some activists, however, worry about potential changes to the law. Bringing the legislation before parliament also opened it up to being amended, leaving the possibility that conservatives will seek to weaken it by stripping out provisions they dislike – or even vote to repeal it.

"There’s a real risk this has opened a Pandora’s box, that this may have galvanized opposition to this decree by people who in principle oppose greater rights for women," said Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

That’s true for lawmaker Rahmani, who said President Hamid Karzai should never have issued the decree and wants it changed, if not repealed.

"We cannot have an Islamic country with basically Western laws," he said.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

Karzai Calls for Arrest of Taliban in Public Execution

hatefulatheist:

A video of a woman being publicly executed, supposedly for adultery, sparked outrage in Afghanistan—and now President Hamid Karzai has ordered the arrest of the Taliban involved. Officials actually believe the woman was killed—shot nine times as a throng of people cheered—because two Taliban commanders both had a relationship with her and ended up fighting over her; the adultery charge, they believe, was simply an attempt by the Taliban to safe face.

The two commanders “faked a court to decide the fate of this woman and in one hour, they executed the woman,” a provincial governor tells CNN. But both commanders were then killed by a third commander, he claims. Karzai ordered today that everyone involved be arrested and punished, and the commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan has offered the help of NATO troops. The video has sparked concern over the 2014 NATO withdrawal and the consequences it has on women in the country.

The above link also includes a CNN video related to the story where it mentions that dozens of men sit on a hillside nearby watching it all happen and chanting “God is great”. It is unfortunate to say but these stories will likely not stop anytime in the near future as troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

Panetta Vows ‘Enduring Presence’ in Afghanistan | Antiwar.com

theamericanbear:

♪ ♫ “It’s beginning to look a lot like 1984, endless, endless war…” ♪ ♫ (to the tune of It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas h/t Jello Biafra):

Speaking today on ABC’s “This Week,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta downplayed the 2014 “end” of the Afghan War that every other official seems to by hyping, saying that US ground troops would have an “enduring presence” in the country long after that date.

“We’re not going anyplace. We’re gonna, we have an enduring presence that will be in Afghanistan,” Panetta insisted. President Obama signed a deal at the start of the month to keep US ground troops in Afghanistan through 2024.

Panetta’s comments reflect a bizarre attempt by the administration to have their cake and eat it too on the Afghan War. Officials hype a deal to “end” the war in 2014, even though it did nothing of the sort, when targeting an audience opposed to the war.

Yet with Gov. Mitt Romney slamming the administration for setting a date, Panetta feels perfectly comfortable in trying to outhawk him by insisting that the war isn’t, in fact, going to end. So far this sort of “targeted” message, despite the obvious contradictions in the comments, seems to be getting more common, not less, and interviewers don’t seem interested in getting a straight answer about the matter. [++]

Get us the fuck out of there, now! How many more people have to be sacrificed in order to keep the gears or war moving?

justraiseyourhead:

infamousvikas:

destined-to-be-damaged:

tw0way:


Traci Wise:
“I found my son sitting having a moment with his daddy (SFC Benjamin Wise) the other day. We lost him January 15 in Afghanistan… we cannot forget about the incredible loss these children must undertake.”

Every follower of mine should reblog this. 

idgaf that this is color. it is so touching and tragic. everyone should reblog this no matter what your blog type is!!!

OMG ;( Stay strong little guy. </3

Be brave little man!


Instant tears. Ever since becoming a father this type of thing just ruins me. Especially since I lost my dad when I was 8.

justraiseyourhead:

infamousvikas:

destined-to-be-damaged:

tw0way:

Traci Wise:

“I found my son sitting having a moment with his daddy (SFC Benjamin Wise) the other day. We lost him January 15 in Afghanistan… we cannot forget about the incredible loss these children must undertake.”

Every follower of mine should reblog this. 

idgaf that this is color. it is so touching and tragic. everyone should reblog this no matter what your blog type is!!!

OMG ;( Stay strong little guy. </3

Be brave little man!

Instant tears. Ever since becoming a father this type of thing just ruins me. Especially since I lost my dad when I was 8.

NATO spends $2 billion a week on the Afghanistan War while half the planet lives on less than $2 a day.

Andy Thayer (via occupyallstreets)

Will we ever have people in charge that know that this is fundamentally wrong?

ih8religion:

Boy, girl killed in Afghan acid attack ‘over friendship’

GHAZNI — A 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy have been killed in an acid attack in Afghanistan, an official said Saturday, with witnesses claiming it was because of their friendship in what is an ultra-conservative country.
The bodies were discovered on Friday in wasteland in the Esfandi area of Ghazni province in south central Afghanistan, provincial police chief Zorawar Zahid told AFP.
“Their bodies and faces were burnt by acid,” he said.
The police chief said officers were investigating the motive for the attack, but witnesses who found the bodies told AFP the two were probably killed because of their friendship.
No one has claimed the bodies, which are still in Ghazni hospital, police said.
The attack is the latest incident to highlight the dangers still faced by many young men and women in Afghanistan 10 years after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban, notorious for their oppressive policies against women and conservative attitude towards relationships.
On December last year, a 17-year-old Afghan girl and her family were sprayed with acid, apparently after rejecting a marriage proposal. The girl, Mumtaz, was seriously injured when several masked gunmen broke into her home in the northern city of Kunduz and sprayed acid in her face.

[Source]
Fucking outdated religious beliefs!!

They really like their acid over there.

ih8religion:

Boy, girl killed in Afghan acid attack ‘over friendship’

GHAZNI — A 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy have been killed in an acid attack in Afghanistan, an official said Saturday, with witnesses claiming it was because of their friendship in what is an ultra-conservative country.

The bodies were discovered on Friday in wasteland in the Esfandi area of Ghazni province in south central Afghanistan, provincial police chief Zorawar Zahid told AFP.

“Their bodies and faces were burnt by acid,” he said.

The police chief said officers were investigating the motive for the attack, but witnesses who found the bodies told AFP the two were probably killed because of their friendship.

No one has claimed the bodies, which are still in Ghazni hospital, police said.

The attack is the latest incident to highlight the dangers still faced by many young men and women in Afghanistan 10 years after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban, notorious for their oppressive policies against women and conservative attitude towards relationships.

On December last year, a 17-year-old Afghan girl and her family were sprayed with acid, apparently after rejecting a marriage proposal. The girl, Mumtaz, was seriously injured when several masked gunmen broke into her home in the northern city of Kunduz and sprayed acid in her face.

[Source]

Fucking outdated religious beliefs!!

They really like their acid over there.

What makes the Panjwai massacre even more bitter is that it comes at a moment when the war in Afghanistan appears all but hopeless. No one in this country sees the point of more fighting there, except maybe some of those experts, and the politicians who hide behind them. Obama’s surge failed, as Bush’s surge in Iraq ultimately failed, because we don’t have the means to solve these problems other than by fighting—and fighting alone won’t solve them. Counterinsurgency turned out to be a tactic, not a strategy, and a limited one at that. That’s the wonkish way to put it. The straightforward way is to say that all the deaths, Afghan, American, and other, are proving to be a colossal waste.

Sergeant Bales’s Shame and Ours | George Packer

As though warmaking in the spirit of revenge and bloodlust could have ever been anything but a “colossal waste”.

(via theamericanbear)

simply-war:

Tarana, age 12, stands screaming, surrounded by the bodies of men, women and children who were just killed by a suicide bomber who detonated a bomb during a religious ceremony in Kabul on December 6, 2011. “When I could stand up, I saw that everybody was around me on the ground, really bloody. I was really, really scared,” said the girl, whose name means “melody” in English. Out of 17 women and children from her family who went to a riverside shrine in Kabul that day to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashura, seven died including her seven-year-old brother Shoaib. More than 70 people lost their lives in all, and at least nine other members of Tarana’s family were wounded. The blast has prompted fears that Afghanistan could see the sort of sectarian violence that has pitched Shiite against Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)


Religion poisons everything.

simply-war:

Tarana, age 12, stands screaming, surrounded by the bodies of men, women and children who were just killed by a suicide bomber who detonated a bomb during a religious ceremony in Kabul on December 6, 2011. “When I could stand up, I saw that everybody was around me on the ground, really bloody. I was really, really scared,” said the girl, whose name means “melody” in English. Out of 17 women and children from her family who went to a riverside shrine in Kabul that day to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashura, seven died including her seven-year-old brother Shoaib. More than 70 people lost their lives in all, and at least nine other members of Tarana’s family were wounded. The blast has prompted fears that Afghanistan could see the sort of sectarian violence that has pitched Shiite against Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)

Religion poisons everything.

Bill O'Reilly Covers The "War On Christmas" More Than Actual Wars

nonplussedbyreligion:

Every year, “Culture Warrior” Bill O’Reilly devotes considerable time on his Fox News show to the “War on Christmas.” This December, O’Reilly has covered the imaginary “War on Christmas” more than three times as much as the actual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

O’Reilly’s years-long…

mohandasgandhi:

newsweek:

Soldiers seem to be a bit peeved at Joe Biden for his comments in this week’s issue stating the Taliban aren’t our enemy in Afghanistan.

Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.

But are they actually our enemy? We originally went to Afghanistan in search of the terrorists behind 9/11. Now, Al Qaeda’s mostly moved on to other countries. But the Taliban, many argue, are just as guilty for harboring the terrorists in the first place—not to mention their continuing to kill American troops. What do you guys think?

[h/t BuzzFeed, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus]

It depends on what one means by “enemy” and in this case, Joe Biden is right. Sure, the Taliban’s ideology may be contrary to U.S. “values” but are they a force we need to be actively fighting in Afghanistan over? No. What are we doing to do, kill every last Taliban member? Continued Western presence in the Middle East is “radicalizing” people who don’t want us there. The UN coalition troops stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War helped fuel the “radicalism” that brought down the Trade Centers. If you look at the Taliban numbers, they decreased after the initial invasion of Afghanistan because we were killing them but they’re nearly back up to their original numbers. Why is that? Because we’re occupying the Middle East! Are we supposed to stay forever to prevent the Taliban from ever taking power over Afghanistan again? No. We need to get out. We “lost” these ridiculous “wars on terror” and we need to end them because they’re counterproductive. As long as we’re in Afghanistan and occupying the Middle East, “radicalization” will grow.

mutualaddiction:

thedailywhat:

This Is All Kinds Of Wrong of the Day: A woman in Afghanistan who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the crime of being raped by a relative has been pardoned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai after she agreed to marry her rapist.
The woman, identified only as “Gulnaz,” was convicted of adultery after reporting that she had been raped by her cousin’s husband. According to Gulnaz’s lawyer, marrying her rapist was not a condition for release, but she has agreed to do so in order to “legitimize her daughter.”
“In my conversations with Gulnaz she told me that if she had the free choice she would not marry the man who raped her,” attorney Kimberley Motley said.
Gulnaz had been raising her daughter, who was conceived as a result of the rape, in jail.
Her rapist was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but later had  his jail time reduced to 7 years. Gulnaz also had her 12-year sentence reduced to 3 years. Authorities said she would not serve all 12 years, but would still have to spend time in jail for not reporting the rape soon enough. 
[cnn / bbcnews.]

Holy fucking shit


This is the kind of shit you&#8217;d expect when the law derives from ancient holy books.

mutualaddiction:

thedailywhat:

This Is All Kinds Of Wrong of the Day: A woman in Afghanistan who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the crime of being raped by a relative has been pardoned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai after she agreed to marry her rapist.

The woman, identified only as “Gulnaz,” was convicted of adultery after reporting that she had been raped by her cousin’s husband. According to Gulnaz’s lawyer, marrying her rapist was not a condition for release, but she has agreed to do so in order to “legitimize her daughter.”

“In my conversations with Gulnaz she told me that if she had the free choice she would not marry the man who raped her,” attorney Kimberley Motley said.

Gulnaz had been raising her daughter, who was conceived as a result of the rape, in jail.

Her rapist was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but later had  his jail time reduced to 7 years. Gulnaz also had her 12-year sentence reduced to 3 years. Authorities said she would not serve all 12 years, but would still have to spend time in jail for not reporting the rape soon enough. 

[cnn / bbcnews.]

Holy fucking shit

This is the kind of shit you’d expect when the law derives from ancient holy books.

(Source: thedailywhat)