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The Out Campaign

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

What is Buddha?

Myanmar Sentences 3 to Prison for Depicting Buddha Wearing Headphones - NYTimes.com:

YANGON, Myanmar — A bar manager from New Zealand and two Burmese men were sentenced to two years in prison in Myanmar on Tuesday for posting an image online of the Buddha wearing headphones to promote an event.

The court in Yangon said the image denigrated Buddhism and was a violation of Myanmar’s religion act, which prohibits insulting, damaging or destroying religion. "It is clear the act of the bar offended the majority religion in the country,” said the judge, U Ye Lwin.

A monk asked Sriniva San, "What is Buddha?". Sriniva said, "A few million bits and a pair of headphones" - my adaptation of a koan from The Gateless Gate (Wumenguan)

Is religion acting like a cornered rat?


H/t The Morning Heresy, Center for Inquiry

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The Color of Relativity

India's Daughter and BBC – Belgian Professor speaks out:

The fallacy of hasty generalisation is commonly used in propaganda and the politics of fear. Now, it is part and parcel of the discourse about rape in India... India and the West could together look for solutions to the problems that we share. Instead, Western commentators reproduce old colonial stories about India as an immoral culture.

Oops! Do I see a "hasty generalization" lurking somewherwe in there? Hint: It's not only "India as an immoral culture".

If I were to respond to this article, will it be a response from an Easterner or a Westerner? After how many years as a US citizen do I qualify as a "Westerner"? How many generations should have passed before Leslee Udwin's India's Daughter is not deemed an "old colonial story about India as an immoral culture"? When is Einstein's "General Theory of Relativity" a White idea, and A.R. Rahman's "Maa, Tujhe Salaam" a Muslim song?

Ah, well, "identity" is a statistical fiction anyway, so let's stop belaboring that of the messenger, shall we? What is left?

In empirical analysis, identifying outliers (read also as deviants) and how to deal with them is a difficult problem. There is no incontrovertible solution, and practical modeling remains a black art. If you are unfamiliar with the statistics of outliers but interested, you may read this for starters: Outlier.

Rapists are outliers and rape is a deviant phenomenon, anywhere in this world, including in India. So is murder, pedophilia, and terrorism. How we deal with it, what laws we enact and enforce to curb the deviants, requires a rigorous and thoughtful analysis. And, do not expect everyone to agree with the conclusion. I know, because I have dealt with it often at the risk of several years of data collection, modeling and analysis being thrown into the trashcan.

One thing for sure. Do not can it before debate and analysis. Certainly not because the data was collected by a "Westerner", modeled by a colonialist's compatriot's great grand child, presented by a human with a womb, or whatever.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what the Government of India did by banning the film.

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India's Daughter

India’s Modi takes on rape issue in his first Independence Day speech - The Washington Post:

Today, as we hear about the incidents of rapes, our head hangs in shame,” Modi
said. “I want to ask parents, when your daughter turns 10 or 12 years
old, you ask: ‘Where are you going? When will you return?’ Do parents
dare to ask their sons: ‘Where are you going? Why are you going? Who are
your friends?’ After all, the rapist is also someone’s son. If only
parents would decide to put as many restrictions on their sons as they
do on their own daughters.”

Think about this for a minute. What did Leslee Udwin's India's Daughter show that's different from what Modi said?

Will the Home Minister of India look into this speech, and ban it
please, so the "prestige" of the nation is protected? Thank you.


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Identity, or How I Learned to Balance on One Foot on a Small Piece of Earth

Guest Post by S.B. Divya

I was born female. I'm starting out on pretty firm ground.
But girls aren't supposed to have short hair.
Dig a circular hole around me.

I liked watching "The Smurfs" and "Scooby-Doo" and "The Dukes of Hazard"and "CHiPS" when I was a kid.
But Indians have no claim to American 80s culture.
Dig another hole.

I love Star Wars with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.
But Star Wars is for boys.
Dig another hole.

I love books by Asimov, Herbert, Clarke, Bradbury. I liked Timothy Zahn's first Star Wars sequel books. I subscribed to Analog, Asimov's, and SF&F for years.
But hard science-fiction is not for liberals.
Dig another hole.

I studied physics and astronomy. I love math. I have degrees in electrical engineering. I work in the tech sector where I'm often the only woman in the room.
But women don't like STEM fields.
Dig the holes a little deeper.

I like to paint and draw and dance.
But engineers aren't creative.
Dig the holes a little wider.

I like parties and books by Jane Austen and wine.
But that's not geeky.
Dig them deeper still.

I've played Master of Orion and World of Warcraft, Halo and Portal, Pac-Man and Tetris.
But girls aren't gamers.
Dig them wider still.

I speak Tamil. I know how to wear a sari and cook sambar.
But that's not American.
Turn the holes into pits.

I dated before marriage. I married a white man.
But that's not Indian.
Turn the pits into craters.

I took his last name. I had his child.
But that's not feminist.
Turn the craters into canyons.

I was happy to leave the child and go to work every day.
But that's not motherly.
The canyons grow deeper.

I hate shopping. I like romantic comedies. I hate high heels. I love dressing up.
But that's not ... anything!
The canyons look bottomless.

Now I'm standing on a tiny bit of land, enough to balance on one foot, and staring into the abyss. Everything that's part of who I am is falling away.

typedef void ME;

So to all the lonely, sad [your identities here*] who are feeling marginalized right now, who feel like everything they believe in is being taken away, I have this to say: Guess what?

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL.

But I am stronger than the abyss.
I can dance on foot and be who I am.
So can you.

And if we stand together, side by side, we'll find ourselves together on level ground, and we can stop shouting at each other across chasms.

*Possible examples:

  • * white male nerd
  • * gay conservative
  • * geeky black woman
  • * female atheist
  • * LEGO-loving princess


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We are all Africans!

What better way to demonstrate how "We are all Africans"1 than two music and dance traditions that had drifted apart thousands of miles over millennia!



Oromo Dance, Ethiopia


Santali Dance, India

1Richard Dawkins from the talk "Dialogue of Reason: Science and Faith in the Black Community."

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voices of reason

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