Dr. Jim speaking in Calgary this Friday: And the Lord Human made Huey, Dewey, Louie, Wall-E, and Eve. The Deification of Humanity in Silent Running and Wall-E



Please come…. please…

The paper was originally intended for an SBL session in 2012 (Chicago), but I had to back down after another new section was approved for two sessions instead of the expected one, so I ended up over-committed. Anne Moore, my good friend from the University of Calgary was on the Bible and Film committee, so felt a little betrayed, so I will be making good my treachery! I don’t know where ST 130 is on the U of C campus, but I suspect I will get there, sooner or later!  I think I will start with a nice Midrash on Genesis.


Also, a BIG apology to Douglas Trumbull, director of Silent Running for misspelling his name on my abstract. The error is mine, not the person who made the poster at the U of C!


I will be reprising the paper (probably a somewhat longer version) in Lethbridge in a few weeks.

Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship Consultation Needs Consultants!

It’s crunch time for the 2013 Baltimore (Nov. 23-26)  Baltimore  AAR/SBL Call for Papers!  I’m on two steering committees, the Israelite Prophetic Literature section, and the Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship Consultation. the IPL has a number of proposals already in, but the MBS one is lagging behind a little. Maybe a good number will come in in the final few days but the new session is not that well known, so I thought I would plug it again.

Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship Consultation   evaluates suppositions in and underlying biblical scholarship, including how an explicitly non-religious approach differs from what is even now represented as historical-critical scholarship, especially when compared to other secular disciplines within the Humanities (history, classical studies) and the Social Sciences (e.g., anthropology, sociology). At the Baltimore Annual Meeting, we plan three sessions: (1) one assessing how scholarship has addressed biblical passages urging mass violence toward targeted groups, including scholars’ use or avoidance of the term ‘genocide,’ jointly sponsored with the Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible Unit; (2) a session on academic freedom in biblical studies, across all types of institutions; and (3) an open session, for which we welcome proposals on any subject within our Consultation’s purview.

So, if you need a home for a paper on biblical violence, academic freedom and job security, or would like to offer reasoned complaints about the state of biblical scholarship, we are your Consultation!

Academic Freedom at SBL 2013! Get your proposal written!

The call for papers for the 2013 Society of Biblical Literature conference in Baltimore (Nov. 23-26) is up and running, and I thought I would advertise one of the sessions/topics that the Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship Consultation is hosting.

The consultation is co-chaired by Rebecca Raphael and myself, and we are hoping for some good proposals and good turnouts to our sessions. This will be the first year we open the unit to all and sundry, so hopefully we will get a lot of responses and our Consultation will prove its value.

Brought on by the number of cases in which scholars have been disciplined when their academics interfere with the faith statements of their schools, the MBSC thought it would open up a conversation on the topic. Of course, the most recent example of this situation has only just been “resolved,” with Prof. Christopher Rollston voluntarily leaving Emmanuel Christian Seminary  (Johnson City TN) where he was being disciplined for criticizing in a Huffington post article the tradition of not seriously questioning the biblical marginalization of women. The ridiculous over-reaction to this by Emmanuel, and especially Prof. Blowers, would have been comical if someone’s career was not on the lineBasically, Blowers and the school’s president not only made asses of themselves, but managed a Keystone Cops series of screw ups in trying to claim the moral high ground as they were selling out to a donor who seemed to have no appreciation of real academics. Various idiots weighed in affirming the school’s right to defend itself from education (see my long post, here).

Anyway, Rollston took up a Visiting Professorship at George Washington University for the Spring 2013 semester. I hope he finds a permanent position somewhere soon! See Robert Cargill’s most recent blog post for his assessment of the situation. Cargill has been a major supporter of Rollston from the start and he has followed the story on his blog very closely.

There have been other examples of this recently, too, including Peter Enns stepping down from Westminster Theological Seminary 4 years ago or so. Clearly there is lots to talk about, even in a “secular settings” since so much good secular work is done by scholars of faith, even against the wishes of their own seminaries or doctrinally based schools.

Anyway, here is our official Call for Papers:

 The Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship Consultation evaluates suppositions in and underlying biblical scholarship, including how an explicitly non-religious approach differs from what is even now represented as historical-critical scholarship, especially when compared to other secular disciplines within the Humanities (history, classical studies) and the Social Sciences (e.g., anthropology, sociology). At the Baltimore Annual Meeting, we plan three sessions: (1) one assessing how scholarship has addressed biblical passages urging mass violence toward targeted groups, including scholars’ use or avoidance of the term ‘genocide,’ jointly sponsored with the Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible Unit; (2) a session on academic freedom in biblical studies, across all types of institutions; and (3) an open session, for which we welcome proposals on any subject within our Consultation’s purview.

 I’m really glad we got these two topics and thanks to the crew at the Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible Unit, teaming up with us for the violence one (violence is best with a mob…).

Of course, there are other academic freedom issues too:



Pathetic Piety and Protected Privilege

Back in early December, the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge, Conservatively Rootin’, Tootin’, Shootin’, Jim Hillyer, published his monthly column in the Lethbridge Herald (Column now available at http://www.jimhillyer.com/media/media.php?view=58)

His latest misfire is now posted on his own website.


Jim Hillyer (Right) and P.M. Steven Harper (further to the Right).
Photo stolen from Hiller’s website.
Notice how even Harper doesn’t want to sit too close to him.

It was a stupid column, quite representative of its author with his almost completely shot-off foot, which is often in his mouth. Basically, Hillyer was trying to use our freedom of religion to affirm obligations to preserve Christian privilege (Mr. Hillyer is a Mormon).



He writes:

Freedom of  Religion does not mean that public spaces and public discourse must be free from religious expression. We should not, in the name of tolerance become completely intolerant of public worship in any form.

The difference, of course, is between public worship and  worship on behalf of their body politic by those who confuse their elected office with the right to choose for the electorate what or who should be worshipped, or that there is something worth worshipping.

He quotes a Sikh MP (Nina Grewal, Vancouver) who told Parliament about the “forces of political correctness” and said that:

 To embrace a diverse, secular, multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society, there is no need to preclude the celebration of Christmas. Rather than diluting the traditions, they should be celebrated, whether they are Vaisakhi, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Eid, Hanukkah or Christmas.

Sure, how about a public self-flegellation on Parliament Hill next Ashura. Or, in respect to those with ancient Aztec heritage, a few human sacrifices. Ah, but I forget. All religion is good (at least up to the point where you then affirm that your religion is best, or normative).


 Take Christianity for example:

A religious group practicing justice, apparently…

A religious group practicing justice, apparently…

Finally, justice catches up with the heretic, William Tyndale.

Finally, justice catches up with the heretic, William Tyndale.

Hillyer then celebrates religion’s impact on “civil virtue”, which he then defines as

the Christian values of responsibility and accountability, of loving your neighbour as yourself, of stewardship, of self control, and whatever the word would be to describe the opposite of the sense of entitlement that seems to be creeping into the public mindset more and more.

Hillyer also makes the completely asinine claim that the name of our fair country, “Dominion of Canada” implies that this is a Christian country. He is probably thinking of “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth (Psalm 72:8)”. But isn’t the dominion a democracy? Isn’t it supposed to be “WE shall have dominion”?


Now, Canada is not a republic. It should be, but not in that sort of way. But I digress…

Our honorable MP also complains of the “tyranny of tolerance” whatever the hell that is. Anyway, the Lethbridge District Skeptics, a motley group of folks who don’t collectively drink enough, wrote a response after wrangling over the wording for a few days and it finally got published. Here are some excerpts.

Mr. Hillyer fails to understand that our federal government should not be involved in encouraging religion. What he calls the “tyranny of tolerance” asks only that the privileged recognize theirs is not the only faith and respect the inclusive nature of Canadian society.

There is no evidence that “dominion” was used by the founders of Canada to mean “Godly kingdom,” and to suggest otherwise is historical revisionism.

Separation of church and state “doesn’t mean the elimination of church.” Neither does it mean the encouragement of the church by the state. It means that no flavour of religion has a role in governance by the state. This protects the religious as well as the non-religious…

(Signed by 11 people, including myself and the Real Mrs. Dr. Jim).

Folks that want to read or comment on the letter can do so on the Herald’s websiteHeck, you can comment here, too.

Note how in the quotes above Hillyer switches from “freedom of (any) religion” to affirming Christian privilege. At one point he refers to Ghandi’s peaceful resistance to Britain to demonstrate that virtue can be found in other religions, saying

Acknowledging this historic fact in no way offends my Christian sensibilities nor does it insinuate that non-Hindu values are inferior or that only Hinduism is capable of uniting a society to help bring about a better world.



My, isn’t that gracious of him? He’s not offended.  But just to prove to his Mormon/Christian readers that his tolerance is not tyrannical, he then is quick to point out that this does not challenge non-Hindu legitimacy. Of course, one of the major principles of the imperialism Ghandi was resisting was the “bettering” of the world through the invasion, coercion, exploitation and religious conversion of non-Christian nations, efforts that lead to tremendous hardship, injustice, torture, etc. etc. (all for the heathens’ own good, you understand). Indeed, both the LDS (i.e., the Mormons, not the Lethbridge District Skeptics 😉 ) and hundreds of “mainstream” Christian sects stil devote a tremendous effort at proselytizing not only Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, etc. BUT EACH OTHER!

The “tyranny of tolerance” is merely the pathetic rhetoric of appropriating the “other” to uphold the privilege of the powerful.

Protestant triumphalist tradition falls victim to tyranny of tolerance
Photo from ITV.com

Sometimes tradition has to change.

Dominated Native students of the "Dominion" of Canada in a residential school, learning Christian tolerance of others.

Dominated Native students of the “Dominion” of Canada in a residential school, learning Christian tolerance of others.



God Hates Chipmunks?

Stolen from James McGrath who stole it from some other guy.

Ok, it gets a little preachy at the end, but the very end is still pretty darn good


Christmas shopping surprise! It’s all done, and now for the Lamentations

I’ve been a good boy this year! All of my Christmas shopping arrived on Friday all at once and I never ordered ANY of it!

I got my copy of a volume I contributed to last year!

Remembering and Forgetting in Early Second Temple Judah

Ed. by Ehud Ben Zvi and Christoph Levin

This volume collects revised versions of essays from a 2011 workshop held in Munich onRemembering and Forgetting in Early Second Temple Judah . The authors of the essays address these issues from both general methodological perspectives and through case studies emerging out or associated with a wide range of texts from the prophetic literature, the Pentateuch, the historical books, Psalms and Lamentations. All these texts share one main feature: they shape memories of the past (or future) and involve forgetting.

Contributors: Bob Becking, Ehud Ben Zvi, Kåre Berge, Diana Edelman, Christina Ehring, Judith Gärtner, Friedhelm Hartenstein, Michael Hundley, Jörg Jeremias, Sonya Kostamo, Francis Landy, Christoph Levin, James Linville, Zhenhua Meng, Bill Morrow, Reinhard Müller, Urmas Nõmmik, Juha Pakkala, Hermann-Josef Stipp





Now, I’m not giving this away but the publisher, Mohr Siebeck, bless their souls, included TWENTY FIVE OFFPRINTS of my essay!
YES! Christmas shopping is DONE, DONE, DONE! Muwahahahaha!

My papers first page or so:

 Lest we Forget our Sins: Lamentations, Exilicism and the Sanctification of Disjunction


George Santayana is remembered for saying that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I would offer my own little twist. Those who do remember the past are doomed to repeat it and recreate it in a myriad of ways through stories, myths, rituals, and art, sometimes in traditional ways and sometimes with great innovation. Memory is subjective and the same event or idea may be remembered in different ways at different times, in association with a variety of other memories. As Francis Landy has reminded us elsewhere in this volume, social memory is made up of the individual memories of the people within a society. My contribution is to think around the edges of Lamentation in terms of the interplay between personal and socially transmitted memories of the fall of Jerusalem and to explore the notion of exilicism – a term I coined for better or worse in my doctoral work on the book of Kings. I concluded that Kings was a Persian-era text best characterized as exilicist in perspective as opposed to exilic in date. I find the typical historical periodization based on the Exile ill conceived since we cannot find a definite end to the exile that all ancient Jews would have recognized, a recognition that would have influenced the content of their writing. As is well known, some Jewish writings from the second century BCE, including Daniel and Enoch, construed the state of the Jewish people as remaining in exile up to the contemporary period. This is so despite the facts that Jerusalem had for centuries a functioning temple cult and, according to the ideology in some now-biblical books, was populated by a community that was restored from their exilic state.

Barefoot and Nerdy

Found this on I Can has Cheeseburger. I’m not a gamer, but I think this is pretty true of some aspects of the secular movement too, so I thought I would share. It’s also reflective of some attitudes in the Bible-blogging sphere. And politics. And… In fact, it’s reflective of a lot of the modern world.


A (P)Salm: Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

First, we need some music!

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would have liked since I’ve been so busy with the end of term and two conferences: the AAR/SBL in late November in Chicago and Eschaton 2012 in Ottawa over the first weekend in December. But now that I am desperately seeking distractions from marking (darn you, diligent students!) I thought I would address some of the aftermath of the SBL.

In particular, I’d like to thank the folks who commented on my paper on  “The Royal Scam: Josiah, Joseph Smith and Believing One’s own Pious Fraud” and especially Diana Edelman, the respondent for the Metacriticizing Biblical Scholarship session. I don’t think the paper is really publishable, but it was fun, and I hope I raised a few questions. The session also featured papers by Kurt Noll, Robert Price, and Rene Salm.

Salm posted about one of my papers on his blog, Mythicist Papers, and his comments do require a response from yours truly, even after a few weeks. They were quoted on Neil Godfrey’s blog, Vridar.

Salm came to his own session on Pious Frauds just barely in time for his Nazareth paper, and so he missed all three of the previous papers including mine on Josiah and Joseph Smith. It seems as if he planned on that). He did come for the second Metacommentating Biblical Criticism session on the Sunday in which I presented another paper: On the Fairytales of Bronze Age Goat-Herders. Ancient Israel as the New Atheists’ Foil.  Salm commented on it thusly:

 Among the others (besides myself) who presented in the Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship unit was James Linville (Univ. of Lethbrige, Canada). I missed his first paper but the second, on Sunday, was a rousing broadside entitled “On the fairytales of Bronze Age goat-herders: Ancient Israel as the New Atheists’ foil.” Linville is not one to pull punches. He described ancient Israel as “rude, crude, ignorant, misogynist, unjust, and unpleasant—everything we don’t like.” Turning to the contemporary scene (BAR should have been listening), he observed that religion in North America is ultimately consumer driven, that the media overlooks secular scholars in the field, that archaeological discoveries cater to religious conservatives (“nutcases”), that the SBL “does the Church’s work,” and that further separation between secular and religious scholarship is needed. Here here!

I don’t really see much of my paper in most of that description of it.  The most accurate are my purported claims that

” SBL “does the Church’s work,” and that further separation between secular and religious scholarship is needed.” 

On the one hand, Salm is quite right about my views concerning the need for further separation. I mentioned a number of other people who think so too, including Jacques Berlinerblau, Michael Fox, Hector Avalos, and Phillip Davies. This is not controversial. I also mentioned that I have critiqued the SBL for doing the Church’s work by having various overtly churchy sessions on its program in years past. Here is what my paper actually said:

I’ve joined in the fray and complained on my blog about the SBL doing the Church’s work with such program units as “Homiletics and Biblical Studies.” I claimed that, “there is no more reason for the SBL to help improve Christian preaching than there is for the American Academy of Religion to suggest ways the ancient Mayans might have made bloodier human sacrifices.”  (You can see my views on these earlier blog posts, Here, and Here).

On the other hand, here is something else I said:

I agree with Michael Fox that there is a sharp distinction between secular academic and confessional biblical research and that the former may contribute to the latter but not vice versa.  But as Fox observes, secular does not mean “atheistic” or that believers cannot do secular work by bracketing out their own beliefs. I think that most of the work done in the SBL is oriented towards the secular side of things, and that much of this work is done by confessing Jews and Christians (see: Michael V. Fox, ” Bible Scholarship and Faith-Based Study: My View,” SBL Forum , n.p. [Feb 2006]).

I hope this casts a different light on my presentation. A good part of it was attempting to undermine the sharp “Us” vs. “Them” attitude that marks a lot of modern discourse about religion. Indeed, one of my paper’s primary points was to critique the New Atheist movement’s caricature of the Bible as the fairy tales of Bronze Age Goat Herders that I characterized as a symptom of the “Bronze Age Goat Herders Syndrome”.  Here is what Salm said I said and what I really said.
 Salm: “He described ancient Israel as “rude, crude, ignorant, misogynist, unjust, and unpleasant—everything we don’t like.”
I did not and I really don’t know who this “we” is Salm is talking about, but there is more wrong than that:
ME:           The [Goat Herders] syndrome is a frame of mind in which the Bible, the god it purports to describe, its writers, and indeed, the entire ancient Israelite and Judean society, represent almost everything that an ideal atheistic world would not be: rude, crude, ignorant (perhaps willfully so), superstitious, fear-ridden, violent, racist, xenophobic, clannish, homophobic, misogynistic, unjust, and generally unpleasant: and often, but not always, rural, as opposed to the more urban and urbane atmosphere of the atheists’ utopia…On some levels the syndrome serves a myth-creating function. It informs and shapes how many atheists portray the development of religious behavior as a kind of primordial “Fall.” As Dawkins would have it, religion is a byproduct of otherwise helpful evolutionary adaptations: it is not an adaptation in itself. It is a “misfiring,” and a “virus of the mind” that infects generation after generation. The Fall into a religious dark ages finds its remedy in the heroic, emancipatory struggles of scientists, rationalists and free thinkers; a mythic battle that must be refought as chaos reasserts itself in the guise of a resurgent fundamentalism, a situation that all believers, including moderates and liberals, enable.
Salm had me say something exactly opposite to what I was really talking about! I spent a good part of my talk critiquing Dawkins’ handling of some key biblical passages, even as I was calling on secular scholars not to shy away from adding their voices to the overall discourses over secularism in popular discourse. Thus, even while joining the “New Atheists” in critiquing religious privilege we have to find a way to correct the wildly inaccurate and dehumanizing portrayal of the Bible and ancient societies that seems so central to some of the New Atheists discourses.
Salm:  “Turning to the contemporary scene (BAR, [Biblical Archaeology Review] should have been listening), he observed that religion in North America is ultimately consumer driven”
 ME:         ” It [Goat Herders Syndrome] depends on the Secularization Theory: that is, that with the spread of Enlightenment rationalism, growing scientific literacy, and increased standard of living, people would slough off religion as redundant. But the modern era has seen not so much the failure of religion but the development of new consumer driven and anti-modernistic modes.”
Again, I think Salm entirely missed my point. I was talking about the rise of  “do-it-yourself” religions and spirituality, and neo-conservative strands that discount modern intellectualism. These provide a major counter-example to the Secularization Theory. That was my point, not that all modern religion is consumer based and hence evidence against the integrity of Herschel Shanks and BAR. Now, perhaps Mr. Shanks is simply after cash and does not care if he misrepresents the ancient world or sells unprovenanced antiquities or whatever. But you can’t get to that accusation fairly from what I said in Chicago. But damn, its worth a cat…
Salm: “that the media overlooks secular scholars in the field”

Now this is more or less but not entirely accurate.

ME: As many scholars have noted, when the press needs an expert opinion on the Bible or ancient Israel they often don’t recognize that there is a difference between the secular and the confessional biblical scholar, or that secular scholarship even exists.

“Often don’t recognize” is not a blanket accusation. I also said that secular approaches to the Bible have some common ground with the atheist activists.

ME:    ” Of course, there is some overlap between the kind of secular world the New Atheists value and the intellectual space in which secular biblical criticism takes place.  As is well known, Syro-Palestinian archaeologists and historians frequently bewail the sensationalism of media reports about new discoveries that cater to religious conservatives  and those to whom we give the academically useful, if still poorly theorized, label, “religious nut-case”.

Again, I am not implying that ALL media reports have a pro-religion bias. Also note that my joking reference to “nutcases” is in addition to religious conservatives. Here is how Salm represented that:

Salm:  ” that archaeological discoveries cater to religious conservatives (“nutcases”)”

 The “nutcase” clause (which I ad-libbed a little from my original text) marked a different set of people from religious conservatives, and I had in mind seekers of Noah’s Ark, Atlantis, UFOs, etc. It was also a bit of joke pointed at scholars who employ the term as if it had some kind of agreed upon meaning when it is really a subjective term.

Most importantly, I did not want to imply that the situation with the media was a lost cause, or that nothing was being done except my (and Salm’s) bitching about it.  I did, however, indicate that scholarship needs to make its reasoned, secular approach to the Bible and ancient Israel accessible to religions’ sharpest detractors:

Me: I would propose today that secular scholarship should be publicized not only as an alternative to theological claims but also as a vaccination against the Goat Herders Syndrome. Efforts to popularize the results of academic research into ancient Israel and the Bible, such as Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s BBC television series, The Bible’s Buried Secret and NOVA’s similarly named broadcast, are to be celebrated. The SBL’s “Bible Odyssey Program” also looks promising and is certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the popular critics of the Bible and Bible based religions will employ it.

Anyway, I hope I have cleared some of this up. I realize that it is often hard to remember just what someone else said, but this does seem to be a case of Salm hearing what he wanted to hear.

How Dachshunds almost went extinct

A giggle for my Mary…

Click and vote for the little puppies!

Reflections on the Lake of Fire at the End of the World: Eschaton 2012



But I get to go home and see my Mary! HORRAY!

I wrote this sitting on the plane coming back from Eschaton 2012. I’m at Chili’s Grill at the Calgary Airport now, waiting for my connection.S0, some reflections on the event and I’m posting a few pictures from my PowerPoint presentation just for laughs and giggles.

The first job is to thank everyone associated with Eschaton and CFI Ottawa, it was great time, and I met some very interesting and intelligent folk. Particular mention must be made of Marlowe Filippov, Seanna Watson and Evan Frank. Also very grateful to Ania Bula driving me to the airport at 5:45 am.


It was quite an honour to be on the bill as Eugenie Scott and the closet cat-lover PZ Myers. Myers did not attend my presentation, which is just as well, as I made this in his honour:

There were a number of good sessions. Mine was the first of the day and ran at the same time as Eugenie Scott’s so we didn’t get much of an audience. Steven Tomlins spoke right before me on Saturday morning. Steve is  PhD candidate at the U of Ottawa and he did a very good job explaining Religious Studies to the crowd. His own research is on atheist communities and so I feel very well ethnologized. I also owe Steven an apology because I got all muddled and paranoid that my PowerPoint presentation would not work, while another fellow was worried about the projector switching off (we had a hassle getting it to talk to my Mac). He went to adjust the machine while Steven was talking, and I touched the mac to make sure hadn’t died and on went my looping introduction… Very bad form.


Steven and I were also on a panel with an ex-Anglican minister, Eric MacDonald who is now an activist for assisted suicide, and Vickie Garrison, a mother of many who escaped the evangelical Christian “Quiverful” movement and now helps other women do the same. The panel was labeled “Scholarship vs. Faith” but none of us really had a clear idea of what we should be doing. Anyway, Steven and I raised a hackle or two and we had some disagreements with Eric MacDonald and some audience members about what religion really is. Poor Vickie was kind left out of the picture.


I felt kind of bad for Vicky. Here she was, a recovering victim of grotesque patriarchal privilege  and she gets put on a panel with 3 guys who get into an debate about how to conceptualize religion and she really doesn’t have a horse in the race.  Her own presentation about the Quiverful movement and the work she does was fascinating, and it really did open my eyes about how abusive that whole movement is: the wrecked health of these women who have to keep pushing out the babies, the shame if they don’t push out enough babies, (think of the LAUNDRY cause by various pushing outs of babies)! the homeschooling chores, and, of course, the poverty. Vicky left when she realized the effect of this on her kids.

Alas. According to Dawkins’ anthropological studies of religion amount to a catalogue of “human gullibility”. But as I’ve said elsewhere, a history of democracy, advertising, or college students’ mating rituals can do the same.

I’m sorry to have missed Ian Cromwell’s (Crommunist Manifesto) presentation on “Discussing race and racism in the zombie apocalypse” but I did see him on a panel on Godless Ethics and Godless Communities with Chris DiCarlo (cdicarlo.com, author of How to be a Really Good Pain in the Ass), Udo Schuklenk, and Hank Fox.

As we know, today’s unbelievers would never vilify Muslims and Arabs, or boast of shrugging off old “religious” stereotypes while verbally assaulting and threatening atheist women who call attention to sexism in the atheist community… That was sarcasm…

There was a session on Islam that was pretty good. Anila Ashgar from McGill University surveyed some of her research into teaching Evolution in Muslim communities. I thought this was really interesting. As in Christianity, there is a debate as whether Islam is compatible with Evolution. She showed a list of over sixty institutions in predominantly Muslim countries in which Evolution is taught as the ONLY explanation for speciation, although in very many cases there is also a recognition of Allah’s role in creating the system. In some instances textbooks include Qur’an passages that are interpreted in a way to show that evolution is an Islamic principle. It was a great presentation that really undermined the Western atheist stereotype of Islam as utter opposed to science and education. Heina Badabhoy (one of the Skepchic bloggers) is an ex-Muslin and her story of her leaving the faith and her family’s reactions was fascinating.

The unpleasantness and contradictions found in the Bible’s portrayals of Yahweh reflect one peoples’ handling of the contradictions of life that are still with us. Are we fooling ourselves if we think that the Israelites were utterly unlike us? Moreover, the folks who put the now biblical literature together probably never herded a goat in their lives. They were scribes, the egghead scholars of the day, writing elitist literature for an elitist audience. What Terry Pratchett says of Priests also goes for these Temple Scribes: “Many feel they are called to the priesthood, but what they really hear is an inner voice saying, ‘It’s indoor work with no heavy lifting.’”

I had a nice little chat with Eugenie Scott who is one of the most pleasant people on the planet. Had a little chat with PZ Myers about his coming to Lethbridge. Hopefully schedules etc. will work out. His own keynote address at the Ottawa Museum of Nature (which is a fantastic place) was fun: “Chance in Evolution” and educational.

It was nice to meet Veronica Abbas who blogs at Canadian Atheist.ca and to hear about her attempt to get the Scarborough city council to drop its “invitiation” to recite the Lord’s Prayer before meetings.  I also met Dan Mayo, her lawyer, who does that kind of thing. They are seeking an injunction and the decision should be made sometime in January.

I also  met Jack Laughlin from the University of Sudbury, another Religious Studies geek, and we drank way too much at the reception, which we closed down ca. 1:00 AM. We then found a bar, which we closed down about 2 hours later. Basically Jack was haranguing a fellow from Toronto on the nature of religion. I forget this fellow’s name but he was cheery enough.


All in all, it was a great time. Very glad I went.

All the talks I believe will be up on the Internets at some point, I think. “Atheist TV” filmed them all.