As readers know, I'm no fan of The Stone blog at the New York Times, which too often features lightweights and hacks (usually "friends of Simon"), and in which even good philosophers don't always come off too well, with occasional exceptions. But one steady exception has been regular contributor Gary Gutting (Notre Dame), and I want to especially commend to the attention of readers this recent piece. The Catholic Church was a horror for much of its existence, but intra-religious slaughter and then the Enlightenment, cured Christianity. In significant parts of the Islamic world, this transformation has not occurred as Prof. Gutting discusses.
(1) Over the last year, the gender breakdown of academics criticized on this blog was nearly 75% male, about 25% female. This fact (which is what it is) won't stop, however, some benighted souls from asserting otherwise. Why? Group polarization: when some malevolent dope says on Facebook that I criticize more women than men, other malevolent dopes concur, thus reinforcing the false belief.
(2) Those who make the most outrageous assertions about me, including contradicting the facts in #1, are, it turns out, overwhelmingly from religious Christian backgrounds, especially Catholic and various Southern Protestant denominations. This is true of the most extreme cases, as well as the more run-of-the-mill casual defamers. I hadn't really registered this until a reader pointed it out, and some checking confirmed many cases. I'm not sure what to make of this fact; possibilities are (a) they are already ill-disposed towards me because of my critical comments about religion; (b) they're (explicit or implicit) anti-semites; (c) they are simply timid and fearful people, perhaps drawn to their religion because of that, but in any case easily frightened by pugnacious criticism directed at anyone. Of course, all of this may simply be an accidental correlation: the numbers are small (a dozen or so diehard obsessives) and of course most philosophers with Christian upbringings do not engage in the ugly distortions and casual defamation characteristic of my special small "anti-fan" club.
That was the title of a lunchtime talk I gave today for law students here, organized by our OUTLAW* chapter, and also sponsored by the Labor & Employment Law society. There was a lot of talk about some themes from my book, as well as constitutional doctrine, the federal RFRA, state RFRAs, Kim Davis, Title VII, Hobby Lobby (basically following my discussion in this paper), and a few other things. But the main theme was that we are on the verge of a ton of litigation in which the new anti-discrimination norms against LGBT people, reflected in the gay marriage decision of the Supreme Court, as well as many state laws, are going to come up against claims of "religious liberty," the liberty in question being the liberty to discriminate on the basis of LGBT status. We no longer have that kind of litigation seeking religious exemptions from laws prohibiting race discrimination, and my expectation is that in a generation, norms against anti-LGBT discrimination will be sufficiently entrenched to make such litigation unviable in that context too. But until then, or until an authoritative resolution by higher courts, we are going to see lots of anti-gay bigotry seeking validation through America's (generally misguided, in my view) scheme for "protecting" religious liberty. The important case out of New Mexico a few years ago illustrates what's in store; the New Mexico High Court reached the sensible result on behalf of equality values, but I'm sure other courts will not do as well.
*"OUTLAW" is the usual name of the LGBT student group at American law schools.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)