26 March 2008

U.S. tour kicks off in New York City

This week I kicked off my U.S. book tour in New York City. We had some laughs about the newly released Deadly Sins, but once we got into my material, I began to encounter some serious push-back on my thoughts about secularism and Islamism. I was more than happy to reciprocate.

This Monday I had the pleasure beginning with a reading at The Half King in Chelsea. Many thanks to Clay Ezell and Sebastian Junger at the Half King for making this happen. We had a room full of sharp people, many of whom were eager to discuss the state of the American Left and the Democratic Party. Afterwards I engaged in a polite fight with a woman from Revolution Books, who wanted to turn me on to Bob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Lucky for me, she bought The Secular Conscience before realizing that I consider the Islamists a bigger threat than the Christian fundamentalists.

Last night I spoke at Columbia University, hosted by a student group the Columbia Skeptics. One audience member seemed to defend Ahmadinejad's statement on gays, suggesting he had been misunderstood. The NYC-based composer and secularist blogger Richard Einhorn wondered whether by reprinting the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, Free Inquiry magazine and others were playing into the hands of conservative bigots. Perhaps under the influence of cold medicine, I just blared that I didn't care. Should it matter to our defense of his free expression that Theo van Gogh was an asshole? Richard, a friend of mine, invited me to do an interview for his blog to discuss further. The leaders of the student group, Alon Levy and Jennifer Bernstein, presented me with some of the most probing questions yet. Thanks to Alon and Jennifer for bringing me on campus.

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