Hamza Yusuf, Islamic Scholar in U.S., Claims That Western Pornography Drives Young Muslims to Jihad

I’ve seen my share of porn, and it’s never made me want to blow someone up. Not everyone is so lucky, says Hamza Yusuf, née Mark Hanson, an Islamic scholar who is the co-founder of an Islamic liberal-arts college in Berkeley, California, an institution whose curriculum includes “rigorous training in traditional Islamic disciplines.”

During a recent panel discussion at Georgetown University, Yusuf declared that young Muslims become drawn to jihad because they feel morally contaminated after watching too much Western porn. Obviously, then, acts of terror are their path to purification.

Yusuf offered a theory in which young men “become deeply defiled” by [their] pornography habits and blame the West for providing the corrupting influences. They turn to jihad for religious purification and redemption.

“I really think that we underestimate the amount of people that have this experience of wanting to restore some kind of purity to themselves,” Yusuf said, “and the only restoration for them is blowing themselves up and get rid of the part that is the source of my defilement which is [the] body.

A fellow panelist cited a poll that ostensibly reveals that Muslism join the jihad more for political than for religious or moral reasons. Yusuf would have none of it.

“They’re always going to tell pollsters that crap. They’re not going to say, ‘The real reason I decided to get into terrorism was that I was watching pornography 24 hours a day.’

I feel a lot filthier for having read Yusuf’s words than I did after I last visited mormongirlz.com. Go figure.

(Photo via Wikipedia)

Cake wars: Christian turns up the heat

The man pictured above is Theodore Shoebat, of the lunatic right-wing Christian site, Shoebat.com – and he set himself up for an earful of abuse by phoning 13 gay-run or ‘pro-homosexual’ bakeries and asking for a cake bearing the words ‘gay marriage is wrong’.

According to this Christian News Network report, all 13 bakeries refused to honour his request.

The case of Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland, which got into trouble for refusing to put the words “Support Gay Marriage” on a cake – plus several similar incidents in the US – prompted Shoebat to embark on his experiment, which culminated in a series of videos deemed:

Too vile to be published by Christian News Network.

While some  of the bakeries quickly ended the conversation by stating that they did not feel “comfortable” with fulfilling the request, others became more hostile to the idea.

Shoebat said:

One baker even said all sorts of profanities against Christians and ended the conversation by saying that she will make me a cookie with a large phallus on it.

Appropriate for a dick, dare I suggest.

Even after we completed our experiment, we got a ton of hate messages saying that we were ‘hateful’ for simply giving them a taste of their own medicine. They argued that the slogan ‘Gay Marriage Is Wrong’ is not the same thing as ‘Support Gay Marriage’ as if an opposite view of a view is hateful.

Shoebat said that his experiment proved that even pro-homosexual bakeries won’t violate their beliefs since they refused to serve the Christian, and Christian bakeries shouldn’t be forced to violate their beliefs either.

A Christian making a homosexual cake with ‘Support Gay Marriage’ goes against his faith and a homosexual putting ‘Gay Marriage Is Wrong’ goes against his faith as well. Now of course we honor their right to say no – this is not the issue – but what about honoring the Christian right to also say no?

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

Happy Winter Solstice

The longest night has come once more, the sun has set, and darkness fallen. The trees are bare, the earth asleep, and the skies are cold and black. Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night, embracing the darkness that enfolds us. We welcome the night and all that it holds, as the light of…

An Atheist Delivers an Invocation in Pennsylvania, Eliciting Gasps from the Crowd

This past July, atheist Tracy Jones delivered the invocation address at a meeting of the Chester City Council (in Pennsylvania).

In a video of that speech, which was just brought to my attention, Jones spoke about how “the fact that we have a prayer before we have these meetings, I find it uncalled for,” to audible gasps from the audience:

His request was simple and sensible: Unless you can invite people of all faiths to deliver these speeches, you should do away with this ritual altogether.

Given the reaction, you’d think he suggested all babies within a 5-mile radius be burned at the stake.

I’ve asked Jones what the reaction was from the audience after he finished his speech and whether anything changed for the better. I’m not optimistic.

(Thanks to Nikki for the link)

Poll: Most Non-Believers Decry CIA Torture, While the Religious Are O.K. With It

Earlier this week, Rachel posted about Bryan Fischer‘s views on torture. Fischer says that when the CIA tortured terrorism suspects, that was OK, because they did so righteously, just like the murderers in the Bible did their work to please God.

For my money, Fischer is the Ann Coulter of the evangelical set: someone with a big mouth, a tiny heart, and a propensity to spout outrageousness. I’ve always considered his views to be on the outer edge of what most Christians find acceptable. But it turns out that at least when it comes to torture, Christians are, overall, broadly in agreement with the man.

Over at MSNBC, Steve Benen scrutinized the results of a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, and concludes:

While many might assume that the faithful would be morally repulsed by torture, the reality is the opposite. When poll respondents were asked, “Do you personally think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists amounted to torture, or not?” most Americans said the abuses did not constitute torture. But it was non-religious Americans who were easily the most convinced that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were, in fact, torture.

The results in response to this question were even more striking: “All in all, do you think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified?” For most Americans, the answer, even after recent revelations, was yes. For most Christians, it’s also yesBut for the non-religious, as the above chart makes clear, the torture was not justified.

Atheists and agnostics are much more likely to condemn the gross, inhumane actions of the worst CIA interrogators.

[N]on-religious Americans were one of the few subsets that opposed the torture techniques — and that includes breakdowns across racial, gender, age, economic, educational, and regional lines. The non-religious are effectively alone in their opposition to torture.

[The poll results are] a pretty interesting starting point for a discussion about faith, morality, the law, and the limits of human decency.

In 2009, there was a Pew poll about torture that revealed more or less the same divide between religious people and non-believers.

(Image via Shutterstock)

ASTRONOMY: “Happy Winter Solstice” ☮

Axial Tilth/t: We Fucking Love Atheism

“God’s Not Boring”: A Precocious Young Video Maker Evangelizes; Grows Up To Be An Atheist Vlogger.)

In the video below, atheist vlogger Jonny Scaramanga revisits his evangelizing videos he made as a kid. I identified instantly with the adorably earnest younger Jonny here, from the first moment of his presentation. (You can find several posts about my evangelizing Christian childhood here.) And, of course, I wholeheartedly endorse the older Jonny’s critiques. If [Read More...]


It's been a roller coaster ride these last few days. Up, down, and sideways.

Of course, my favorite movie clips is this one, from the movie Parenthood (1989) ...SO much better than the TV series it so recently spawned...

The roller coaster, of course, is life.

We're all ready for Christmas. There's presents to put under the tree, food to put on the table.

Yesterday, after reaching an absolute emotional top, things plummeted.  After driving two hours to get in to see my son, and waiting an hour in line to get into the facility, I was the second car to be turned around because they'd met their (newly reduced) visiting quota for the morning.   I had three choices:  I could come back at 12:15 and take my chances again.  I could pull over off the road and start the line for the next visit (almost 4 hours away) or I could go home.  My son called me, and told me to go home.  I did.

When I got home, I had blow number two:  I went to pick up the girls to do their grocery shopping (it was food stamp day) only to find that their food stamps hadn't been applied to their card. They can call on Monday to see what happened, but I doubt anything will be done to rectify this until the new year.

I was able to use the $15 (in quarters) that I had reserved to buy my son lunch (they use vending machines, and you can only bring quarters into the facility, nothing else) to get them some apple juice, soups, yogurt and yes, I splurged and got a chocolate bar for them to split, since Cay wasn't feeling well, and said all she wanted in the world right then was chocolate.

This morning I've split my food again (except for the Christmas stuff) and will be bringing a bag over to them, and Tuesday morning, bright and early, We'll be doing the one thing I'd hoped to not ever have to do again:  Stand in line at the food pantry with 400+ other people waiting for a holiday food basket (which we won't use for the holidays, but will keep us fed until the Social Security comes in next month).

Tay is already despairing over how to pay the electric bill AND buy food.  I'll be walking them through the LIHEAP application, as well as likely driving them to food pantries and helping out with food as I can.

Now the weekend isn't all dismal.  Last night we went to see the living nativity at the Baptist Church (see previous post) and today we'll be going to the dog park and meeting up with some of the seniors from my complex and their dogs.  Tomorrow I'll be going to a choral concert, Tuesday will be "downer day" with the food pantry, Wednesday will be Christmas Eve and we'll be doing the Canyon Road walk in the evening (caroling, cider, farolitos) and of course the following day will be Christmas!

I posted about the Canyon Road walk last year, and found this video on YouTube (by another user) from the year before:

This year I'll definitely try to catch more video footage, and some of the caroling as well. We're also bringing the dogs this year, which will add some fun for everyone. Cinnamon (my dog) really thrives on attention, and was so happy during La Posadas that I think she'll really enjoy the evening on Canyon Road.

The post-Christmas let down is likely to hit hard with the financial crunch (unless social services can get the food stamps to the girls), and will likely involve a few food pantry trips. But then New Years comes... and we haven't even thought about how we are going to celebrate that yet!  I do, however, have one bottle of sparkling grape juice up in the cupboard that the kids didn't drink at Thanksgiving, so maybe instead of pulling it out for Christmas, I'll save it for New Years Eve.

Life is a roller coaster.  It's got all it's breathtaking heights and frightening plunges... they seem to go hand in hand.  The trick is to remain undaunted by the falls and head toward the elation of the heights.

Muslim Woman Says in Lawsuit She Was Forced to Go to Christian Church Services While in Prison

Last year, Cleveland native Sakeena Majeed was arrested for assault and sentenced to 60 days in jail. That wouldn’t be very newsworthy, until you hear what happened in prison to the Muslim woman:

Sakeena Majeed said… that a correction officer made her and other Cuyahoga County jail inmates attend Friday afternoon services led by a Baptist minister. She alleged that she was threatened with solitary confinement if she did not attend and that another correction officer mocked her when she refused to actively participate.

Majeed has filed a federal lawsuit against Cuyahoga County, the County Sheriff, and a corrections officer.

If you read the thousands of comments on Yahoo News, it’s clear that few people understand that you don’t give up your religious rights even in prison.

If a Christian prisoner were forced to pray to Allah five times a day, maybe they’d get it.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Graham and Jaynee for the link)

What Ellen Got For Christmas: More Bible Verses and the Invitation to Repent of Her Sins

Every year, “Ellen” (not that Ellen) receives a Christmas card like this from her grandparents.

Via Imgur:

Dear Ellen,

Granddad and I are praying for the day you will repent of your sins and ask Jesus to come into your life and change you. “God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:17

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near: Let the wicked have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isiah 55:6-7

As you celebrate Jesus birth that’s what Christ mas is: Jesus came into the world to die for our sins. He was the sacrificial lamb. He died on the cross and rose again that we might have eternal life.

We hope to see you during the holidays. Remember Jesus loves you and so do we.

Grandmother and Granddaddy

I wonder how many millions of Christmas messages are almost exactly like this one, just brimming with love and acceptance.

French ‘God is great’ attacker shot dead

French police yesterday shot dead a knife-wielding man who attacked three officers in a police station  in Joué-lès-Tours while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is great’).

The man wounded one officer’s face at the entrance to the police station in Joue-les-Tours near the central city of Tours and injured two others before he was killed, according to this report.

Anti-terror investigators of the Paris prosecutor’s office have opened an inquiry into the incident for attempted murder and other offences related to terrorism.

The perpetrator was a French national born in Burundi in 1994 who was known to police for common crimes.

The attacker “shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ from the moment he entered until his last breath”.

A source said:

It looked like the sort of act called for by Islamic State.

The Islamic State group, which has seized control of swathes of Iraq and Syria using brutal violence, has exhorted its followers to mount attacks in the West.

According to a statement by the Interior Ministry, the assailant was around 20 years of age, and was:

Killed (by) police officers present using their issued firearms.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls pledged his support for the “seriously injured” officers who were “in a state of shock”.

He said the state would deal “severely” with anyone who attacked the police.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who visited the scene, said the police had been subjected to a “brutal attack”.

He paid tribute to the “cool-headedness and professionalism shown by the police officers”.

He said two of the officers were badly hurt, while the third was lightly injured.

All three were out of danger, Tours’ public prosecutor Jean-Luc Beck told AFP.

According to the early indications of the probe, all elements point to legitimate self-defence.

The attacker was not on any watch-lists maintained by France’s main domestic intelligence service, the General Directorate for Internal Security, the source involved in the inquiry said.

But the source noted the assailant’s brother was known to security agencies for his radical convictions and had at one point planned to travel to Syria.

Cazeneuve said he had ordered “security measures to be stepped up” for police personnel and firefighters across the country.

Authorities believe around 1,200 French nationals or residents are involved in jihadist networks in Iraq and Syria.

Like other European countries, France is concerned about the risk of attacks mounted by nationals who return home after fighting alongside extremists in Syria.


The main suspect in the murders of four people at Brussels’ Jewish Museum in May, Mehdi Nemmouche, above, is a Frenchman of Algerian origin who spent more than a year fighting with extremists in Syria.

In 2012, French Islamist Mohammed Merah killed seven people in the southwest city of Toulouse. He was killed by police after a 32-hour siege in his flat.

A year later, a 22-year-old French Muslim convert stabbed a soldier in the La Defense business district of Paris.

• The picture shows a police car parked outside the police station in Joue les-Tours where the attack took place (AFP Photo/Guillaume Souvant)

Hat tip: M A Chohan

Who Loses Their Faith in God Before Santa?

I’ll admit: I’ve never heard anyone make this claim before:

I stopped believing in “God” before I stopped believing in Santa.

I’ve always considered Santa to be a stepping stone to disbelieving in God, never the other way around. Did any of you have the same experience as the card writer?

More than anything, I’m just impressed that a child could say no to God so early, when it took me another decade to do the same.

(via PostSecret)

REASON: “Reason’s Greetings” / Carl Sagan ☮

Carl Saganh/t: The Reason Stick

Another Creationist Lawsuit? It Looks Like We ARE In Kansas After All, Toto…

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

kansasboredOur creationist detractors charge that evolution is an unproved and unprovable charade-- a secular religion masquerading as science. They claim, above all, that evolution generates no predictions, never exposes itself to test, and therefore stands as dogma rather than disprovable science. This claim is nonsense. We make and test risky predictions all the time; our success is not dogma, but a highly probable indication of evolution's basic truth."[Stephen Jay Gould, Dinosaur in a Haystack

Yes, only in Kansas, people:

Judge: Kansas Science Standards Don’t Promote Atheism as a Religion

A federal judge from Kansas rejected a creationist lawsuit that alleged teaching evolution in public schools qualifies as propagating atheism as a religion. According to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, United States District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled against the lawsuit filed by creationist group Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) against the state of Kansas, saying it is without merit and worthy of dismissal.

School districts in as many as 26 states, including Kansas, have adopted a standardized science syllabus called Next Generation Science Standards, with the help of which, educators will try to close the gap between students in America and those in other developed countries, as far as their knowledge in mathematics and science is concerned. This particular science syllabus teaches students that the different species on earth developed through the process of evolution.

COPE claimed that mandating the teaching of evolution to public school students qualifies as an endorsement of atheism as a religion. As a result, they filed their lawsuit against Kansas, hoping that it would halt the implementation of the science syllabus in the state. The group called the new syllabus dangerous, claiming that it influences impressionable students to ask ultimate questions like what the nature of life is, what the cause of the universe is and where humans come from. COPE warned that this syllabus would make science teachers act as theologians, infringing upon believers’ ideological mindset and instilling a materialistic or atheistic point of view in children’s brains. The group also explained that science has not answered these religious questions and it never will.

Simon Brown at Wall of Separation wrote, “Everything about that argument is flawed. Contemplating the origin of life on this planet is not an inherently religious question that is unfit for children to ponder. And science has done a fine job of unlocking the mysteries of the universe — despite COPE’s claim to the contrary. Evolution may be a theory but no legitimate scientists question its validity. Thus learning the facts of that theory is not ‘indoctrination.’ It’s called education.”

According to Crabtree, COPE’s lawsuit failed to prove that sufficient harm was being caused to it or its well-being, for the allegations to qualify as a court case.

One of the more frustrating things that religious do (at least for me), is that they constantly use the old tu quoque – by assuming that the religious and the atheist both ‘believe’ but that the atheist is in angry denial. It is also based on the misperception that atheism is an emotional choice when it is in fact, the complete opposite. “I am religious, ergo so are you. Don’t deny it” kind of thing. It’s right about there that my voice goes up a few decibels.

And these COPE clowns (how ironic – obviously they can’t cope, and objective? Honky, please), these self-appointed deluded neurotics, they just keep on wasting everyone’s time, resources, and money with the quintessential non-debate of this century and the last.

It’d be comic relief, if it wasn’t so scary.

So, the best I could come up with for word substitution in their acronym is:

COPE = Clowns Operating Primitive Equations

Feel free to play with that in the comment section.

Till the next post then.

Despite Silent Protests, Bill Maher Encourages Berkeley Graduates to Be Freethinkers and “Fight Oppression”

***Update***: A video of the speech and an exclusive transcript are below.

A couple of months ago, we learned that comedian Bill Maher was invited to deliver the commencement address at University of California, Berkeley’s winter graduation ceremony.

The problem was that students were petitioning to stop him from speaking there:

Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for. In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment. Bill Maher’s public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities. Too many students are marginalized by his remarks and if the University were to bring this individual as a commencement speaker they would not be supporting these historically marginalized communities.

It was a pointless effort from the start. Maher’s job is to share his opinions and make jokes about touchy subjects. As far as opinion-leaders go, his biggest liability is that he talks about topics (like religion) most people want to avoid at all costs. While the bigotry charge was over-the-top, the racism charge was just baseless.

More importantly, I didn’t think Maher ever created a “dangerous learning environment” by pointing out the problems with religion and those who follow it a little too devoutly. If anything, he should be commended for inviting people who disagree with him on his show.

The “Californians” were the campus group that invited Maher to speak — and they rescinded that invitation following the public outcry. Thankfully, UC Berkeley’s administration wasn’t having it. In a public statement, they announced that Maher would be welcome on their campus:

The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech. For that reason Chancellor Dirks has decided that the invitation will stand, and he looks forward to welcoming Mr. Maher to the Berkeley campus. It should be noted that this decision does not constitute an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements: indeed, the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context, since we fully respect and support his right to express them. More broadly, this university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative.

That is how you do it. There are genuine hateful people out there; Maher isn’t in that group. He may go after sacred cows, which some people never want to criticize, but that doesn’t mean he should be disinvited from campus.

Earlier today, Maher gave that speech. It was hardly controversial, though Maher encouraged students (especially at Berkeley) to defend free speech, even if they disagreed with it:

“C’mon, it’s Berkeley. I think I can speak freely here,” he said. “I mean, I hope I can.”

The audience responded with cheers.

Maher indirectly referenced the controversy in his remarks, saying: “Liberals should own the First Amendment the way conservatives own the Second Amendment.”

“If you call yourself a liberal, you have to fight oppression from wherever it comes … that’s what makes you a liberal.”

He also urged UC Berkeley graduates to avoid the perils of group think. “That’s the last thing I’ll suggest to you — be a free thinker,” he said. “One reason our politics is so screwed up is that it’s gotten so tribal.”

That’s not to say there weren’t protests, but they were silent (and, it seems, pretty ineffective):

A handmade sign outside the arena read: “I’m oppressed by Islamophobia, not Islam.”

At one point during Maher’s speech, a group of protesters silently rose in the audience, holding up a series of placards that read,” Dear (administrators), don’t Maher our commencement.”

Not sure how Maher’s comments on religious extremism “oppress” moderate Muslims (or non-Muslims) at Berkeley, but at least that’s a better response than trying to boot him off campus. The Yale Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics could learn something from all this.

***Update***: Here’s video and an exclusive transcript of his speech:

This is your first graduation. This is my first commencement speech, so I’m just excited to be here. Is anybody here a college graduate or is that just a rumor? Is anybody graduating college today? Oh, I see…

Well, you’re both very fortunate and very deserving because this is a school that demands academic excellence. And in a way, we all start life twice, once when we’re born, and once when we leave school.

Now, I found the first years of my life after graduating college to be the hardest of my life, because in that second life that you’re now starting, you’re now infants in the adult world. You’re the youngest ones, the ones with the least experience, the least power, the least control… unless your father is Bill Gates or something like that, in which case you may not need this speech.

But if not, I have been given the privilege of talking to you for the first 15 minutes of your second life. It’s like you just came out of the womb and I’m the doctor who’s slapping you now.

So I’d like to take your first 15 minutes, with the phones off — maybe the last time in your life all the phones will be off — to try and save you anguish by passing onto you the important lessons that I’ve learned in my life. To do anything else is really not to understand why we’re here today, after all the hard work that you put in in those buildings out there.

This institution is all about passing on knowledge. You know, humans have gotten as far as we have because we’re selfish about a lot of things, but not about knowledge. When humans learn something good, they tend to pass it on. The guy who discovered how to make fire gave that shit away for free. I mean, at least until he figured out how to sell [unintelligible].

So the first thing you have to know is: It goes fast. Your life. I’m gonna be 59 next month and I know when I thought of 59 at your age, I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it was something that was never going to happen to me. There was just too big an ocean of time out there before I got there. No. It’s actually the blink of an eye. And because of that, people often say “Make each second count.” Don’t. Don’t do that. That’s too much pressure. That sounds like one of those vacations where there’s something scheduled every minute.

No, actually, some of the greatest times of your life and going to be idly goofing around. Like I have to tell you, a bunch of college kids! However, the other side of that is, don’t goof around too much. Taking time off to travel or to find yourself, that’s cool. But if you do it until you’re 30, you’ll probably find it harder to elbow your way into the rat race. Now you may not want to be in the rat race. That’s cool. But it’s also cool if you want to be in the rat race. It doesn’t make you a rat! This is America. There’s nothing wrong with competitive people wanting to win… Just do it with compassion and perspective.

Not like a Republican.

I’m kidding, of course. No, keeping perspective is maybe the most important way to stay sane throughout your life, and losing it — losing perspective — is a great way to sabotage what otherwise could’ve been a really good life. Do you know that opinion polls this year, in America, were very bleak? People thought that this country, and the world in general, were going to hell in a handcart.

They saw a passenger plane just disappear. They saw black-hooded ISIS fighters behead innocent people on YouTube. They learned that Ebola can get across the globe in less than 24 hours. Unless it’s on United.

My point is: We all want perspective. The world seems scarier than ever, but the truth is, is that the world, although still very troubled, is actually less violent, less engaged in war, and more prosperous than it’s ever been.

As a species, we do seem to be advancing. And when I think about my own life, I feel very lucky that I was born in what could prove to be a real sweet spot in history. I was born after electricity, after antibiotics, and (thank you Jesus) especially after indoor toilets. I was born after those things, but I was born before climate change and environmental destruction could make life a living hell. Which could happen in your lifetime.

You know, I had my fun with the planet, but you need it to be around and in good shape for another 50 years. So I hope all of you here today consider the environment to be paramount among the many challenges we face, because unless we solve that issue, there are no other issues.

It’s true. We need a place to live. We’re humans. We need a crib! And the world desperately needs a generation — your generation — to make this a priority the way the Vietnam generation — on this very campus — made stopping that war a priority.

Now some people would say, well, the Vietnam kids, they had skin in the game. They didn’t want to get drafted. You have skin in the game! You don’t want to get roasted!

All over the world, we see the devastation that pollution is causing: heat waves, oceans that are dying and rising, glaciers melting, species disappearing, droughts, wildfires, Frankenstorms. This is an awful lot for Pat Robertson to blame on gay sex.

We have no more time for dithering on this. Here’s a lesson I’ve learned: No politician is perfect. But in every election in your life, there will be one choice that is better than the others. Go out and vote for that one.

Make a difference. That’s what you owe everyone who came before you and died so you can live free. And that’s what you owe everyone who’s sacrificed for you, like your parents. And it’s also what you owe yourself, because you’ll feel a whole lot better if you do make a difference. And also: making a difference is why I’m liberal.

Now, you don’t have to be a liberal… although, c’mon, it’s Berkeley. I think I can speak freely here. I mean, I hope I can. [Pause for effect]

But let me say something about liberals. I think most liberals would agree that their liberalism springs from one thing above all: compassion. Mine does, because that’s how I was brought up by two liberal parents. In my family, we were always on the side of the underdog and those who were being treated unfairly. I grew up in an all-white town in the 1960s, but my parents made sure, that even as a little kid, I understood whose side we were on in the civil rights battles that were going on. We were with Kennedy and against Southern governors who wanted to stop certain people from merely going to school.

Now, there are people in the world who have the goal of stopping people from going to school. We see it on the news all the time. But what my parents taught me about Southern governors standing in doorways has stayed with me my whole life, no matter who was getting the shaft: black people, the poor, immigrants, gays, women, people who were bullied, people getting raped in the military, veterans, victims of police brutality, people getting poisoned by greedy corporations, you name it. In my house, the only thing we did not have tolerance for was intolerance.

You don’t have to be a liberal, but if you call yourself a liberal, you have to fight oppression from wherever oppression comes from, especially of women, gays, minorities, and freethinkers…

That’s what makes you a liberal.

And that’s the last thing I’m going to suggest to you: Be a freethinker. One reason our politics is so screwed up is because everyone has become so tribal. As you go down the path of life, ask what’s true, not who else believes it.

Be unique. Stay vigilant for busting yourself for falling into groupthink. You know, everything good and smart started out not by the mainstream.

Steven Hawking once said, the think about smart people is they seem to be crazy people to dumb people. Don’t be afraid to be a crazy person.

You know, I had a funny moment recently. I was sitting in a promo meeting in my office. You know, in television, at the beginning of every new season, networks buy billboards and TV ads for their shows. And they put on the billboard some short punchy advertising slogan like “He’s a robot! She’s a lesbian!” You know.

But for my show, and for what I do, over the years, we’ve had slogans like “Enter at your risk” or, you know, “With this Bill, you get change.” You know. Some of them are lame, it’s true. But this year, the promo department was showing us the new slogans for the new season, and I could tell they were a little afraid to show me the last one, and I said, “C’mon, let me see it! how bad could it be?” It was a picture of half my face, no smile, and it said, “He’s not in it for the Likes.”

I said, “I love it! It’s so bad ass! It’s the best one ever! It’s exactly what I wanted to grow up to be!” Don’t be afraid to be a crazy person and understand that the truth is not always popular.

I recognize that this university, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Berkeley free speech movement, made a statement by choosing me for this speech, and I would like to say I appreciate that, and I’d also like to say: I think you made the right statement.

Never forget that we are lucky to live in a country that has a First Amendment. And liberals should want to own it the way conservatives own the Second.

Thank you so much for having me.

(Top image via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com. Large portions of this article were published earlier)

Living Nativity

One of the things Cay missed most about Albuquerque was the Christmas celebration in Old Town, and especially the living Natvity at Filipe de Neri Church, so I was happy to find, earlier this week, a sticker ad on the newspaper for the First Baptist Church's living nativity here in Santa Fe.

As it turns out, this was no small production.  The church creates a comprehensive scene, with different areas of the grounds set up as different parts of the nativity story.  There is a "merchant's village" where the villagers were conducting business unaware, while Roman soldiers roamed the street.  There was a field of sheep and shepherds, and of course the stable and nativity scene itself, with multiple levels of building where angles looked down onto the scene.  This year they even added a camel.

The bactrian camel was quite the draw.  Both girls were amazed at how large it was.

Heading toward the church hall, farolitos  lined the walkway and fires were lit in the merchant village:

Across from the stable is the field where the shepherds watched over the sheep:

Inside the church hall, the choir and children's choir sang while visitors enjoyed cookies, hot cider and hot coffee.

The living nativity is an annual event put on by First Baptist Church of Santa Fe.