Category Archives: skeptics

BBC News – Saudi Arabia ‘threatens Skype ban’ # TWIST: #interception breaks the #privacy of the #Hijab

Strange bedfellows…

Encrypted messaging services such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp could be blocked in Saudi Arabia, the telecommunications regulator there is reported to have warned.

It is demanding a means to monitor such applications, but Saudis say that would seriously inhibit their communications.

Saudi newspapers are reporting that the companies behind the applications have been given a week to respond.

No explanation has been given of why the demand has been made.

Ahmed Omran, a Saudi blogger who runs the Riyadh Bureau site, says that Saudi telecom companies may be tempted to go along with the request from the regulator – even though it will upset their customers – because of the loss of revenue they suffer from the free apps, which are hugely popular in the country.

One Saudi source goes further – with an article in the local Arab News suggesting that it may even have been the telecom companies themselves that have been demanding that action be taken against the apps.

The move is similar to attempts to rein in the Blackberry messaging service several years ago.

Simple and affordable

The explosion in social media networks has had a big impact in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest take-up of Twitter in the world, reports the BBC’s Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher.

Outside interest in the phenomenon has largely focused on how this has allowed Saudis to express themselves in a public forum on social or political issues in an unprecedented way.

Saudis see this latest threat a little differently, our correspondent says. Any move to monitor or block sites like Skype and WhatsApp would potentially deprive them of what has become an essential means of simply communicating with friends and family.

One Saudi user told the local media that she would feel uncomfortable talking to her relative on Skype without her hijab (headscarf) if she believed someone might be monitoring her.

Expatriate workers have messaged newspapers pleading with the Saudis not to stop their only affordable means of communication to their families back home.

If it did happen, though, one Saudi told the BBC that it would not take long for people to find a new way to communicate for free.

via BBC News – Saudi Arabia ‘threatens Skype ban’.

Intra-Christian Envy | Giles Fraser | Comment is free | The Guardian

Justin Welby is the theological product of Holy Trinity Brompton, the Old Etonian-run church next to Harrods that brought the world the Alpha Course and doubles up as a posh dating agency for west London singles. They are brilliant at PR and have pots of money. And if Christianity is all about success, then you have it hand it to them.

But the problem with PR Christianity is that it can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills & Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside. The Gospels, however, tell an altogether more disturbing story. And there is no PR agency in the world that could sell the message of a man who told his followers that they too would have to go the way of the cross. That’s the problem with Cheesus. He won’t really suffer and he doesn’t ever die.

via I bang my head against the wall when evangelicals turn Jesus into Cheesus | Giles Fraser | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Reading about the necessity for “real” marriage to be “consommated”; God wants married straight people to make soup?

Via this analysis, which takes this correspondent’s position to pieces:

Craig: “Are you a libertarian or something, because I’m not sensing any clear political philosophy behind your position?”

Alec: “No, I’m not a libertarian. I’m from the Internet. I’m here to help.


“If your education is to be used to shut up, placate, downplay, sweet talk, then you are better off being a carpenter”

‘I may be killed if I write this’

Lars Hedegaard, founder of Denmark’s Free Press Society, speaks from a secret location after an attempt on his life


But what of those who say, ‘Well, he ought to have known. This is what happens if you upset or provoke people’?

‘I don’t want to brag and put myself on a level where I don’t belong, but you could have said the same thing about the White Rose in Germany, the resistance group. They ought to have known that if they said something about Nazism, they would be killed. Or you could say the same thing about the Danish resistance movement during the German occupation. It was said to them: do not go out and sabotage. Collaborate and shut up, otherwise you’ll get to a concentration camp and you’ll be executed. You could have said the same thing to Winston Churchill or the British Army — why the hell make trouble? You know what’s going to happen if you resist — you’ll be killed. Yes, and many of them were.’

‘It’s not because I’m a hero or I want to be a martyr. Far from it. I take it seriously that people, Danish taxpayers many years ago, paid for me to get a university education at a very good university in Denmark, where I learnt about history, humanities, logic and philosophy, and English by the way. I feel an obligation to use my education for what it was meant to be. If not, then you don’t deserve to be educated. If your education is to be used to shut up, placate, downplay, sweet talk, then you are better off being a carpenter.’

Can’t think what or who he’s alluding to.

Looks like the Church of England just found wisdom in the words of a child #finalfee

via Tumblr, being passed around various Christian blogs:

I have just done the most amazing and scary thing I will ever do in my life.

So I was in church this morning, and in the prayers, our minister had prayed against gay marriage, and hoped that marriage will not be redefined in the UK, and so at the end of the service I went up to him and asked if I could say a few words.

Now, if you know me, you’ll know that standing up and stating an unpopular opinion infront of a few hundred people would not exactly be first on my list of things to do, and so as I walked up to the stage, I was shaking in fear and my nails dug into the palms of my hands. This was the most scary thing I had ever done.

I thanked the minister and took the microphone. Below is almost exactly what I said.


In the new testament, Jesus said “love your neighbour as you love yourself.” He said all the other commandments and teachings follow this, and if we act upon this we are following God.

Rosa Parks is one of my favourite women in history. She took a stand, or rather, didn’t stand *insert chuckles from the congregation here* because of what she believed. In her time, people were being treated as inferior because of something as little as the colour of their skin.

Let me repeat, Jesus said “love your neighbour as you love yourself” not, “love your neighbour as yourself, unless they’re gay.” I believe those who want to, should be able to marry whoever they like, because surely they are following that teaching? They are showing love.

This is me, refusing to give up my bus seat to a homophobic society, thank you.”

As I walked back to my seat, about half the congregation applauded me. The minister didn’t look to happy, but he said he admired my bravery, although he later repeated that he disagreed with me.

They were going to play another worship song but everyone was talking about what I had said, so they just ended the service there. One of the girls who sings at the front came down to my seat in tears, and shook my hand and thanked me, and I cuddled her and told her not to cry, and that it was alright.

I am so glad I did this, and I have received facebook messages since, telling me that if they had the bravery, they’d have done the same.

I hope I channeled the bravery of Rosa Parks there.

[edit: My name is Fiona Morris, I’m Female and I live in Worcester, UK.]

“…a Baptist minister who lives with same-sex attraction…” #evangelical #lgbt #wtf

You can’t make this shit up:

Evangelical Alliance general director Steve Clifford

Steve Chalke is a friend of mine. We go back many years. I am convinced that when the history of the Church in the UK is written, Steve’s contribution over the last 25 years will be recognised as profoundly significant. So with this as a backdrop I am writing my response to Steve’s article in Christianity magazine. While I understand and respect Steve’s pastoral motivations, I believe the conclusions he has come to on same-sex relationships are wrong.

It is with both sadness and disappointment that I reflect on how Steve has not only distanced himself from the vast majority of the evangelical community here in the UK, but indeed from the Church across the world and 2,000 years of biblical interpretation.

Steve has raised issues which touch on deep areas of human identity. At a Soul Survivor seminar last summer, a Baptist minister who lives with same-sex attraction introduced his talk to a marquee full of young people by indicating that he would love to find a theology in the Bible which would support a sexually-active gay life. But, he said: “I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not there and I don’t want to live in rebellion to the one that I love.


Here’s a tip: you live with a disease like cancer or some other sort of disability; if someone – however ministerial – has been coerced into thinking their legitimate sexual preference is a disability, it’s probably a bad thing to do to them.

What repressed thinking they might then communicate to their flock, horrifies me.

previously, previously


God may forgive them, but the Evangelicals surely never shall …

Church of England drops gay bishop opposition

The Church of England has dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops.

The announcement, from the Church’s House of Bishops, would allow gay clergy to become bishops if they promise to be celibate.

Conservative evangelical Anglicans say they will fight the move in the Church’s ruling general synod.

The Church of England has already agreed to allow people in civil partnerships to become clergy, provided they promised they would remain celibate, and repent for active homosexuality in the past.

I can’t determine whether this is the CoE adopting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, whether the evangelicals don’t accept God’s acceptance of penitence and the forgiveness of sins, or both.

I benefited today from a dose of #AwesomeScience; let me share it with you:

It’s very simple.


Then read:

Then read:

Then read:

Update: if you just want some pretty, try this video of this asteroid

Orbital mechanics rocks!

Unified theory of Cthulhu # includes white paper on gravitational distortions and madness ; HT @jimfinnis

In 1928, the late Francis Wayland Thurston published a scandalous manuscript in purport of warning the world of a global conspiracy of occultists. Among the documents he gathered to support his thesis was the personal account of a sailor by the name of Gustaf Johansen, describing an encounter with an extraordinary island. Johansen`s descriptions of his adventures upon the island are fantastic, and are often considered the most enigmatic (and therefore the highlight) of Thurston`s collection of documents.

We contend that all of the credible phenomena which Johansen described may be explained as being the observable consequences of a localized bubble of spacetime curvature. Many of his most incomprehensible statements (involving the geometry of the architecture, and variability of the location of the horizon) can therefore be said to have a unified underlying cause.

We propose a simplified example of such a geometry, and show using numerical computation that Johansen`s descriptions were, for the most part, not simply the ravings of a lunatic. Rather, they are the nontechnical observations of an intelligent man who did not understand how to describe what he was seeing. Conversely, it seems to us improbable that Johansen should have unwittingly given such a precise description of the consequences of spacetime curvature, if the details of this story were merely the dregs of some half remembered fever dream.

We calculate the type of matter which would be required to generate such exotic spacetime curvature. Unfortunately, we determine that the required matter is quite unphysical, and possess a nature which is entirely alien to all of the experiences of human science. Indeed, any civilization with mastery over such matter would be able to construct warp drives, cloaking devices, and other exotic geometries required to conveniently travel through the cosmos.

via Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn | The Titanium Physicists Podcast.