Sam Harris Responds to Dust Up with Ben Affleck on Real Time

"It's not people, it's ideas." Sam tries to say to Affleck who rudely talks over him over and over

“It’s not people, it’s ideas.” Sam tries to say to Affleck who rudely talks over him over and over

For those of you who haven’t seen and/or read about Sam Harris’s dust up with Ben Affleck on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday, October 3, you can view the exchange here.

Today, Sam Harris addressed his discussion (if you can all it that since Affleck rudely interrupted Sam every time he tried to clarify or make a point about his position) in a post on his site titled, Can Liberalism Be Saved From ItselfAs soon as Sam announced the link on Twitter, his site slowed down so be patient, I’m sure many people are scouring it for “evidence” that Sam is a racist.

I personally found both Sam’s points/behaviour on Real Time and this response well argued and factually supported. Here is one of my favourite points that backs up Sam’s position:

After the show, Kristof, Affleck, Maher, and I continued our discussion. At one point, Kristof reiterated the claim that Maher and I had failed to acknowledge the existence of all the good Muslims who condemn ISIS, citing the popular hashtag #NotInOurName. In response, I said: “Yes, I agree that all condemnation of ISIS is good. But what do you think would happen if we had burned a copy of the Koran on tonight’s show? There would be riots in scores of countries. Embassies would fall. In response to our mistreating a book, millions of Muslims would take to the streets, and we would spend the rest of our lives fending off credible threats of murder. But when ISIS crucifies people, buries children alive, and rapes and tortures women by the thousands—all in the name of Islam—the response is a few small demonstrations in Europe and a hashtag.” I don’t think I’m being uncharitable when I say that neither Affleck nor Kristof had an intelligent response to this. Nor did they pretend to doubt the truth of what I said.

Do read the entire article.

via Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself? : Sam Harris.

Colanders for some

A pastafarian has been denied his religious freedom. He has been banned from wearing his colander for a drivers license photo. Seems silly that he would want to do this, but also silly that he would be denied.

The logic is that he was unable to produce proof the colander is a requirement

But the insurer balked, telling him in a later letter, “we understand there is no religious requirement that prohibits you from removing the colander.” Adam Grossman, a spokesman for ICBC, would not disclose whether the provincial insurer has a list of religions it recognizes, or how it makes decisions as to whether a form of religious headgear will be accepted. He said in a written statement that “we will always try to accommodate customers with head coverings where their faith prohibits them from removing it. Mr. Canuel could not provide us with any proof that his faith prohibits it.”

…wonder what sort of evidence for doctrinal truth would suffice…

Noodlee 1:1
I declare a schism!
I refuse to pay the tithe!
And as prophet of the chosen people of… Spaghettinini I hereby declare that all Spaghettininis must wear the colander, when getting their picture taken(both still and video). If they fail, they are excommunicate, and may not participate in the eternal feast.
(Note: As prophet, I exempt myself from this rule, prophet’s privilege.)

There, an *official* blog post should do it. Now, all who wish the colander of Spaghettinini, repeat after me:

Noodlee 1:2
I wear the colander!
No likeness of me without the colander!
I am of the self chosen Spaghettinini
The eternal feast is ours
Ramen ramen bobamen

And in case a blog post is not enough, I just printed the first scripture of ‘the Noodlee’ on my blessed printer. But feel free to print directly from your browser. Religious freedom must be free…

Now he has proof!

More verses to follow… As I feel the divine inspiration…

Legal Discrimination in Ontario?

Action God


St. John Catholic Elementary School in Peterborough, Ontario uses an outdoor sign to signal the emphasis it puts on education:

Faith: Through Words and Action

This blatant flaunting of religious privilege wouldn’t be quite so irritating if St. John Catholic Elementary School were not a publicly funded Ontario school.  Faith is not one of the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic; it certainly isn’t science, history or critical thinking. So why are publicly-funded Catholic schools in Ontario teaching faith?

The Questioning Show asks the same question:

The inaugural episode of the show [Legal Discrimination in Ontario?] puts the public funding of Catholic education in Ontario to the question. Plainly and admittedly discriminatory, we question the origins of the funding through Canada’s history as a beautiful compromise turned ugly monster.


Sam Harris on Big Think: Divorcing Mindful Meditation From Religion

Some atheists are uncomfortable with Sam Harris because he practices meditation and uses the word “spiritual”; this allocates him to the woo pile of public figures, along with Deepak Chopra and Oprah. Truth be told, I can’t stand the word “spiritual” either but I accept the context in which Sam uses it and I think he is about as far from a woo meister as you can get.

As you may know, Sam Harris recently released a new book called, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion and made the first chapter available free to read or listen to from his web site.

Sharris_CUHe also recorded a Big Think talk called, Divorcing Mindful Meditation From Religionwhere he advocates for the secular form of meditation that he covers in more detail in his book. I find the way Sam explains the value of mindfulness helpful when he distinguishes between thinking (to plan or reason) versus being lost in thought, for highly analytical people tend to reject mindfulness because they misunderstand what it entails and think that it means they must ignore their ability to plan, reason or even think:

The enemy of mindfulness and really of any meditation practice is being lost in thought, is to be thinking without knowing that you’re thinking. Now the problem is not thoughts themselves. We need to think. We need to think to do almost anything that makes us human – to reason, to plan, to have social relationships, to do science. Thinking is indispensable to us but most of us spend every moment of our waking lives thinking without knowing that we’re thinking. And this automaticity is a kind of scrim thrown over at the present moment through which we view everything. And it’s distorting of our lives. It’s distorting of our emotions. It engineers our unhappiness in every moment because most of what we think is quite unpleasant. We’re judging ourselves, we’re judging others, we’re worrying about the future, we’re regretting the past, we’re at war with our experience in subtle or coarse ways. And much of this self-talk is unpleasant and diminishing our happiness in every moment. And so meditation is a tool for cutting through that.


It’s interrupting this continuous conversation we’re having with ourselves. So that is – that in and of itself is beneficial. But there are features of our experience that we don’t notice when we’re lost in thought. So, for instance, every experience you’ve ever had, every emotion, the anger you felt yesterday or a year ago isn’t here anymore. It arises and it passes away. And if it comes back in the present moment by virtue of your thinking about it again, it will subside again when you’re no longer thinking about it. Now this is something that people tend not to notice because we rather than merely feel an emotion like anger, we spend our time thinking of all the reasons why we have every right to be angry. And so the conversation keeps this emotion in play for much, much longer than its natural half-life. And if you’re able, through mindfulness to interrupt this conversation and simply witness the feeling of anger as it arises you’ll find that you can’t be angry for more than a few moments at a time.

Be sure to watch the entire talk on Big Think; as always, Sam Harris is an engaging speaker and if you like what you hear in this talk, you may be interested in hearing what he has to say about one of my favourite topics, how the self is an illusion, in an earlier Big Think episode.

Dagmar Gontard-Zelinkova

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, an opportunity for Canadians to learn about women’s and girls’ valuable contributions to our country’s history – and to the quality of our lives in the 21st century.

Dagmar 2

Dagmar Gontard-Zelinkova, who died at her residence on Baptiste Lake, Ontario on August 12, 2014, deserves a a special place in the history of women’s valuable contributions to our country’s history – and to the quality of our lives in the 21st century.

In the Spring of 2012,  Dagmar published an article in Humanist Perspectives, “Secularist Crusade Frees Three Municipalities From the Lord’s Prayer,”  summarizing the success of her “crusade against [the recitation of] the Lord’s Prayer” in municipal council meetings. In her article, Dagmar remembers her friend and fellow crusader Bill Broderick:

On the morning of October 1 Bill Broderick . . . quietly left this world. These are the words from his last message to his fellow Humanists: “It comes to all of us in time. I’m proud to have been of some service to [Humanist Canada] and humanism along the way. But the time has come to pass the torch.”

Dagmar’s concluding words in the Humanist Perspectives article are for Broderick:

Rest in peace, dear Friend. The torch is burning bright. When the time comes, I too will pass it on.

As I read Dagmar’s article shortly before Dagmar’s death, I thought,

Thank you Dagmar for sharing the torch with me.

Atheist Freethinkers’ “Hommage to Dagmar Gontard-Zelinkova” highlights Dagmar’s strength and determination:

Dagmar was a very active and diligent freethinker. Her criticism of religious anti-modernism was effective and rigorous. She defended and promoted secularism with courage and determination at a time when many around her reacted with a cowardly silence or opposition. We will remember her as a woman enthusiastically committed to the causes which she held dear and as a person of great serenity both in life and in death.

Dagmar, who arrived in Ontario in the 1980s, “considered herself a citizen of the world”; her courageous and unfaltering contribution to the history of secularism, humanism and freethought in Canada places her in the annals of Canadian women’s history.

Thank you, Dagmar, your torch is burning bright.

Put your blood where your mouth is, atheists

Logo for Canadian Blood Services

Canadian Blood Services

One of the biggest cultural challenges facing nonbelievers is overcoming the deeply ingrained belief that being religious means being good, charitable, non-altar-boy-rapey, etc.. Despite all the lengths the religious go to toward proving the stereotype false – btw thanks, guys! – we still haven’t had much luck changing the zeitgeist. Continue reading

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