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."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
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.
This barbaric form of execution is on the rise, and campaigners are calling on the UN to act.
Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.
Arifa Bibi’s uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It’s unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Women’s rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social media to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to denounce the practice.
"Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment. It is a form of torturing someone to death," said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. "It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms."
She said activists will also push the UN to adopt a resolution on stoning similar to the one passed last year on eradicating female genital mutilation – another form of violence against women often justified on religious and cultural grounds.
Is it not telling, for example, that the party that tells us that America is exceptional is also the party that endorses torture but will not call it by its proper name? And the logic is very tight: because America is morally superior, it can act in ways others morally and legally cannot, and when Americans torture, it is not torture, precisely and only because Americans are doing it. It’s the kind of perfect self-justification one finds among some of the more self-righteous “born-again”, a hermetically sealed circle of self-love, designed not to expose and root out sin, but to reaffirm self-worth regardless. It’s a very modern form of solipsism, the kind of thing conservatives would usually condemn if told to a child as a way to build his or her self-esteem. But that’s how they see Americans, as children, whose memories evaporate instantly, who are only beguiled by the cliches of lost eras, who need to be told repeatedly, even as they slip behind, that they are still the best.And not just the best. But the Best Ever!
— Andrew Sullivan